Author Wendy Bounds talks with Chuck about her book, Little Chapel on the River, set in Garrison, N.Y., a small community in the Hudson River Valley. (Steve Bransford and Mike Lindsay/MNN)
Chuck: The Mother Nature Network and Love of the Land is so pleased to be up here in Garrison, New York, a wonderful, wonderful community just about an hour north of New York City. A very eco-friendly community and we’re here with my good friend, Wendy Bounds. Wendy is a journalist extraordinaire for the Wall Street Journal, and also author extraordinaire of this very book, Little Chapel on the River. An incredible read about the community here, the history of the area, and also a wonderful character sketch of the people that live here. And this is the very building, right, Wendy?
Wendy: Yep, we’re standing in front of the little chapel, as it is and as it was.
Chuck: Right on the Hudson River here in the Hudson River Valley. So, Wendy, tell us how in the world did you come to live here in Garrison?
Wendy: Well, I was down in Manhattan and they say sometimes that you choose your homes, but I actually believe our homes choose us. And September 11th came. I lived right next to the World Trade Center. And, unfortunately after that, my apartment building was shut down for six months. Now, I always thought I’d go back to the city. I was going to, you know, be a city girl for the rest of my life. Visiting some friends up here and one of them said, “You have to come see this little Irish pub right here before you go back to the City.” I was like, “Too busy, too busy.” Made me go in. One beer became an afternoon listening to the old Irish proprietor tell these wonderful stories. And there was just, it was such an eclectic mix of people in there, and it was snug right here on the Hudson River. And, I thought, “If I could just be here for a little while, everything will be okay.” Moved here 11 days later.
Chuck: Is that right?
Chuck: And you've been here ever since?
Wendy: I’ve been here ever since. And ended up writing this book about the place and the people and, you know, at that time, everything was just crazy in the world. I mean --
Wendy: -- everybody was sort of searching for a sense of calm. And I remember sitting in that bar and the seasons and the leaves coming down off the trees. And I thought, you know, Mother Nature is still, you know, she’s working her magic and that thing made me sort of feel sane again. And I think that’s where I found my calm here.
Chuck: Wow. Tell us a little bit about the community of Garrison here --
Chuck: -- and the, you know, we’re going to talk to some of the folks that are here and some of the preservation of the land that’s going on. But it’s really an amazing community, again, just an hour north of New York City.
Wendy: I think that’s what struck me is you have strip malls to the north and you have strip malls to the south, but right here, as you'll see when you're visiting this community, it is a very well-preserved area, not just environmentally, but also historically with the buildings. I mean, people don't just raze buildings for no reason. This river landing has been preserved since the 1800’s. It’s tiny. I mean, you blink, you know, you're done, you're through Garrison. It’s about 20 square miles, 4,000 people. It’s what they call a hamlet. We don't have running water. You know, we don't even have a mayor. Jim Guinan was the official town mayor when he was here. But it is a place for people who come up from the City, I think they – you cross the bridge, the Bear Mountain Bridge coming into here, and suddenly you just feel your blood pressure drop. And it’s been that way since the railroad tycoons laid down the tracks during, you know, building this country, building the industrial movement in this country. They would come here on the weekends with their families, then they’d go back to the City and they’d, you know, they’d be the titans that were building Wall Street. And so, you see that sort of dichotomy of people still here.
Chuck: Right. Well, former Governor lives --
Wendy: George Pataki? You're pointing up at his house. He’s right up there and he actually came to the bar. He was a very good friend of the Guinan Family. Pete Seeger, he lives up this way.
Chuck: Legendary Pete Seeger, you know?
Wendy: You know, artists have come here throughout time. I think people find either a respite just from again what their wheelings and dealings in the City or, if you're a writer, it’s a wonderful place to be. Tony Kushner, he wrote, obviously, Angels in America. He lived here for a long time. But people just kind of do their own thing, you know? Again, there’s just – it’s a very good mix of white collar, blue collar, artists, red state, blue state. That’s what I loved about this bar, people agreed to disagree.
Wendy: But it never got ugly, which was a pretty amazing thing. All our politicians could learn a thing or two from being in there.
Chuck: No doubt about that, no doubt about that.
Wendy: Yeah, absolutely.
Chuck: Well, listen, we look forward to exploring Garrison and the Hudson River Valley area and we appreciate you inviting us up here. And again, I just want to point out what a great book this is, Little Chapel on the River. So, thanks for writing that book and thanks for being with us.
Wendy: Thanks for coming up here and doing the work you guys are doing.
Chuck: All right.