Roger Wolfson’s voyage to the sea started with him leaving Washington DC and moving, by boat, to New York.
But it started in Brussels, Vienna, and Cyprus,
Roger Wolfson started his journey, leaving the Senate, by flying from New York to Brussels, where he spent the day touring the city. He’s not the only one to lament that there is not much to see in Brussels. As expected, he went to Le Grande Place, which is a stunning plaza with ancient, tall, rowhouse shaped buildings, the city hall, and a museum that is apparently most beautiful at night and even more so every two years when they lay out a patterned carpet of roses in the square.
Yes, he visited the famous statue of a pissing boy, truly as thrilling as it sounds, whose urine, as legend has it, diffused a bomb that would otherwise have destroyed the city. (Quite the mixture of phallic imagery). To be fair, he also paid tribute to the nearby statue of a pissing girl, no joke, far less visited but for his money much, much cuter. He liked to see cities from above, so he took the metro to the Arcade du Cinquantinaire, where he planned to climb a well-placed arch and review the town. It was closed, so he lay in the sun around the Montgomery fountain.
Then he went to Vienna.
When he woke up in Vienna, Roger Wolfson went on an early morning jog in order to see the major sights in the time that he had available. He ended up visiting St. Stevens, the cathedral which is the pride of Vienna. It was extremely dirty on the outside, just black with soot. Inside, it just didn’t’ stack up to the cathedrals he’d experienced elsewhere. The roof of the cathedral interested Roger, bearing an Aztec-like checkered pattern, seemingly anachronous. He then and there that roofs are what distinguish Europe from the US. The buildings are more intricate, yes, but, more so, their red tiled roofs are more visible.
He also jogged past the Opera and the Parliament (extending his practice of visiting the senates of each country he visits), which looks just like the US capitol except that the middle part doesn’t have a dome, it has a third Senate-shaped house. He also visited two parks and a massive and impressive theatre, which he preferred over the Opera building. Then, Roger Wolfson bumped into the statue of Mozart, in a little park; it was filled with bravado.
Cyprus was next.
On the plane to Cyprus, Roger Wolfson stopped up front to visit the pilots, who challenged his impression of how great it must be to fly professionally when they complained about their hours, low pay, etc. Being in the front of a plane is interesting; you lose a lot of the sense of speed that you have when you look through side windows. It looks like the plane is heading at no speed straight into a static painting of sky. But you have a wider view up front, and Roger asked them, and was pleased by their affirmative response, if they never tire of looking at clouds.
In Cyprus, Roger met up with his best friend, Mounir Bashour, who like Roger was going through tremendous professional changes. He had finally finished his medical training and when he returns from Cyprus, he’ll be starting three new jobs; head of Ophthalmic Surgery at a hospital; lecturer at Montreal’s McGill University Medical School (his alma mater), and surgeon in a Toronto laser practice. Both Roger and Mounir were dying to recreate and vacate and they were damn irritable about it.
Thankfully a car was waiting for them, sent by Mounir’s uncle, which took them to the resort hotel owned by Mou’s family. They threw their stuff into their rooms, changed into their bathing suits, and were floating in the Mediterranean within two minutes flat. The resort is gorgeous, very fancy, and the sea is beyond belief. Completely transparent and green in the shallow areas, a Caribbean kind of blue in the deeper water.
During the week Roger parasailed and loved it. Floating in the air above the sea, looking down at the horizon and the waves and the boat and the resort. Wind against him. He loved it. He also banana boated with Mou, his cousins Farrah and Michael, and Mou’s friend Coco. Banana boating, for those of you who don’t know, means climbing on a large, yellow, hotdog shaped raft, grabbing handles, and being yanked by an overpowered speedboat (whose manic operator is egged on by seemingly suicidal 18-year-old Michael) through waves larger than trucks. It’s totally insane, they all fall off more than once, instantly inhaling lungsful of Mediterranean. But, at the end, they have to be pried off the float (in a good way).
Roger also got Scuba Certified. Scuba diving is pretty nuts. It’s pretty – truly beautiful – and fascinating and all. But you are underwater. You are seconds away from drowning. All the emergency things they teach you work great if you have a second to prepare for them by taking a nice, deep breath or two. But real emergencies only happen when you’ve already got pressurized water gushing into your mouth and eyes. The regulator gets kicked out of your mouth. You inhale deeply from your nose and get a lung of mask water. Someone elbows you in the face, or accidentally gets caught in your regulator cord and yanks it out of your mouth. You can’t see or hear behind you; you back up into something you shouldn’t. All these things start a chain reaction that could lead to death by drowning. And with Roger, it almost did.
On their last full day in Cyprus, they went on our final dive for certification. Roger was underfed (both he and Mou skipped breakfast because of the feast they were scheduled to have that night, prepared over four days by Mou’s aunt), under-rested (he’d been on the phone to Mortgage Brokers all night about his new boat), sore (bright-boy-Rog worked out yesterday), crampy (the first dive was all exercises and it wore Roger out completely) and extremely nauseated (the boat rocks excessively with each passing waterjet, etc.). Roger could barely lift his head up for fear of vomiting. But he went down for the dive anyway. Roger realized, in his head, that he was probably going to die, but he did it anyway because the instructor told him he’d be less nauseated underwater than on the boat. The water did cool him down and he did feel a little better, but after another exhausting series of exercises, he felt himself wanting to throw up. He paused and thought, should he go to the surface? Or just vomit right here. Had it gotten worse, he’d probably have gone up, but not made it, and removed his mask and thrown up. As he would learn later, had he done that, the vomiting reflex would have caused him to inhale uncontrollably; his lungs would have been flooded with water, he would have thrown up more and inhaled more, and would have had to be dragged to the surface. Mind you, he’d already taken his certificate exam and had scored near-perfectly; there was nothing in the text about how you are supposed to vomit into your mask.
On the boat thereafter, clutching his “priceless” certificate, he lay on the floor, close to the center to avoid the rocking, and sought to recover. He actually felt like JFK Jr. and the Bisset sisters, having been pressured into a stupid and perhaps fatal choice. He decided from that moment on to avoid all avoidable life-threatening behavior. That means no jumping out of planes, no motorcycles; no bungee jumping, no deep diving. Life is far too precious and there is too much riskless joy to be had.
The following night was Vienna, again, this time at a lovely little place call Pension Residenz, a hop skip from the other Viennese cathedral, and Roger laced up and jogged around Vienna again. He circled this cathedral, which he preferred to St. Stevens, and then found, at the city hall, a movie festival about to begin. It was a gorgeous, warm night and he’d just had a wonderful run. He’d eaten at a place called Einstein’s that gave them pasta dumplings with lettuce and white vinegar. The film was the Viennese Orchestra’s New Year concert. Just amazing; stars were out, the night was open and large, the music sumptuous, the city hall spectacular, and he sat with a huge smile and soaked up Strauss waltzes. A perfect night and conclusion to his trip.
The next Monday Roger returned to the states, and on August 10th he got up at 6 AM and drove to Groton, CT to pick up his friend Bob McDowell, a Captain from Virginia, and his former roommate Mark Harrison, who boarded the train from DC 3 AM last night. He met up with his parents for the closing in Essex, Ct, and then had a naming ceremony on the bow of his boat. His mother said the magic words, “I hereby name you ‘Kinship’,” and then they revved up the twin Crusader 454s and took his Motor Yacht out on the water.
Kinship is a forty-one foot Mainship Meditteranean “Grand Salon.” She has two bedrooms (“Staterooms”) with double beds in each, two bathrooms (“heads”) with showers (one also has a bathtub), a living room w/ kitchen (“galley”), dining table, and a ladder which leads up to the flybridge (or “helm”) which seats eight to ten, is enclosed by canvas (which can be folded up if you want the sun). The dining room couch folds out to a Queen size bed and therefore the boat officially sleeps (has “berths”) for six. She comes with radar, loran, depthfinder, a generator capable of handling the whole boat and then some, a winch for the anchor, two stereos (one with speakers in the living room and aft stateroom, one on the flybridge), a refrigerator/freezer with icemaker, an electric stove, oven, and microwave, and a nice-sized dinghy (holds four adults) with an outboard motor. She’s a lot of boat, real pleasing to the eye, real easy to live aboard. European styled, all white and black, grey tinted windows, big gold lettering saying “Kinship” on her stern, port, and starboard.
Their short cruise took him to the mouth of Long Island Sound, past many birds, several smaller boats, and into the sunset on the way in. Beautiful pictures were taken and there was joy everywhere on board; Roger truly felt that he was aboard a blessed boat. The prettiest moment, to him, was passing a quaint lighthouse with the sunset behind it, on the edge of the inlet leading to Essex.
The following day they sailed to Manhattan. They got up, pulled out of the slip, docked at the gas station so that they could cheerfully spend $380 on 300 or so gallons of unleaded. Then, they carefully followed sea charts, headed out into Long Island Sound, chasing rain, followed by storm, towards Manhattan Island.
Driving the boat iss very tense due to the unusual choppiness of the waves and the fact that theirs is a planing boat (meaning it rises out of the water as it speeds up, to gain speed and efficiency). It is difficult to keep the boat on a straight course. They slide from side to side. Also, they made the stupid mistake of showering once they were under way, and the water from the shower doused half his stateroom and the head. Water everywhere, outside, inside.
But the sky was gorgeous, no matter how busy with clouds; lightning was thrilling on the horizon line; the waves sang and danced toward them; and buoys from lobster and crab pots pounced on them from all directions.
As night arrived, they moored in Long Island, about an hour and a half from the Yacht Club.
During the day Roger found that his job at Channel One had changed. He would not be working for Channel One, he’ll be working for Channel One Interactive, a brand new, independent Internet start-up. He wouldn’t be housed in the Channel One offices, he’ll be moved to new space in Primedia (the parent company’s as-yet-unselected new digs somewhere else in the city). As of his starting date, there would be only two employees of Channel One Interactive; Roger Wolfson and John Semel, who wouldl move over from Primedia. The two of them would be tasked with the responsibility of bringing free Internet to American classrooms. Roger expected they’ll be able to bring people aboard, and they’d have a great amount of room for creative thinking. He’d have much more independence than he had thought he would have. This was very big news; a lot to swallow in a short amount of time.
On Thursday, August 12, they headed for Manhattan. About ten miles from the City, the Skyline appeared on the horizon. Immediately, he could feel the electricity of Manhattan. The skyline grew as they snaked around the tail of Long Island. The boat steered all the way to the city and up the East River toward the Statue of Liberty. The buildings loomed over them, but, in the boat, they really seemed to be on the same scale as they were. His friends hung out on the deck near the bow (front), watching the city unfold. They stayed on the flybridge and take us around Ellis Island.
Then Roger gave the helm to Bob and wandered down to the deck to lie on the bow as they headed around the city, circling the World Trade Centers, and up the Hudson. It was a truly triumphant feeling for all of them. The day was warm and clear, the boat flowed with wind and energy, and the city, at least for the moment, appeared to belong to them.
They docked at Roger’s new address, the Lincoln Harbor Yacht Club, 1500 Harbor Boulevard, Weehawken, NJ, 07087. LHYC sits on the Hudson River, directly across from the Empire State Building. The view of the city is phenomenal. Every window on the boat offered him the best imaginable picture of the Manhattan skyline. The Chrysler Building, the Empire State, and the Trade Centers glowed at him. Even the view from Roger’s parking space in the Club lot inspires awe. The Club gave Roger’s boat its electricity, water, and cable; and had parking, 24-hour security, conference rooms, steam showers, and a little gym.
Then, the expenses rolled in. New toilets, new air conditioning, new lines, new this and that; Roger didn’t want to talk about it. But he had arrived.
On Wednesday, August 20, Roger got up at 7, caught the 7:15 ferry across the Hudson, took the FerryBus to 57th and Madison, worked out at New York Sports Club, and arrived at Channel One at 9 AM. At three PM he met with the CEO of the parent company, Charles McCurdy, and at 4:30 Roger got on a plane to Cincinnati for a focus group on Phase III of Channel One Interactive. On Thursday he flew to Houston for another Focus group, and on Friday Roger returned to New York. Work had begun; time to see what happens next.