Looking back at a different time in the same place

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Lounging at the foot of the Hudson. Photo: JH.

Monday, August 8, 2022.  A very warm weekend in New York and a very hot Sun. Carl Schurz Park next door was almost empty yesterday around noontime. The Sun was too hot, and so the city was very quiet, almost as if everyone had left. I had a nice dinner on Saturday night at Sette Mezzo with several members of my family. Inside.

History of the Self on a hot summer weekend. I’ve not gone out of town at all during this time. I got out of the habit of the Hamptons a number of years ago. And ever since, the yen has yanged, and the thought of making the trip is the rain on that parade. It must be age because I love Saturdays for the simple reason that I have no deadlines or commitments. So I have more time to read. I’m always looking to learn more about life on this planet.

So I stay home with my dogs and my books and dinners with friends who have also refrained from the road trip. However, amongst my reading, I recently came upon this painting by Edward Hopper which he did in 1935. Of course at this time of year living in the city, I’m always reminded of my proximity to the ocean here in New York.  The first time I sailed the sea was at this time of year.

Hopper’s The Long Leg, 1935.

It was an overnight on a Concordia Yawl. Its “admiral” and proud possessor was Alida Milliken Camp. Mrs. Camp was a New York lady of an old and wealthy New York family. She always reminded me of Katharine Hepburn with her accent, her stance and her straight-and-narrow sense of self. She was initially my hostess when I came to New York out of college. I stayed for the first few months in her 16-room duplex at 71 East 71 Street entrance to 740 Park. Mrs. Camp spent most of her time at her enormous oceanfront property in Blue Hill, Maine.

We had been introduced by her daughter Cate, who was a college classmate (and a very generous and thoughtful person). During one of Mrs. Camp’s visits, I learned she was planning an overnight sailing on her yawl the following week. Interested in hearing about it, as I was, she asked if I’d like to join her and a friend of hers and her son Donnell.

I was secretly thrilled to experience a sailing. I loved boats from childhood. The boat was in Padanaram, a coastal village on Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod, where many moor their boats before moving to another destination.

Alida Milliken Camp’s Concordia Yawl.

It was interesting to see the very confident-like sophisticated lady become fearful as the captain. I could see that she was worried about getting it right. She really loved sailing but she was also fearful, and never liked to be out of sight of land. We sailed always within site of the shore. Donnell and I were her “hands” when needed. Despite whatever anxiety our hostess was dealing with, the entire voyage was a great pleasure.

Small World Department. A friend of mine sent me the semi-annual St. Paul’s School Alumni Horae. That’s what they call their alumni magazine. For those who are unfamiliar, St. Paul’s in one of several preparatory schools referred to as a group as the St. Grottlesex schools. The prep schools for the elite, previously very exclusive (or at least give that appearance) all in the Northeast and the prep for the Ivy League colleges. St. Paul’s had a particularly exclusive reputation from the outside looking in. I never knew much about it although I’ve known a number of its graduates. This was back in mid-20th Century. This alumni magazine was fascinating to these eyes from past references.

St. Paul’s School – often referred to in the magazine’s copy as SPS –  is a century different. First of all it’s co-ed and obviously has been for several decades. And the articles within are about its grads from down through the decades. The magazine was sent to me to read an article about a young woman grad who works in Social Media. An interesting piece to the reader who doesn’t know about the rise-and-rise of Social Media.

However, when I turned the page, I saw a photo of a man, older guy, grey/white hair sitting in what looks like a seat on a private jet, and an article entitled, “Always a Tinkerer; Serial entrepreneur MICHAEL SYLVESTER ’59 has relied on persistence, patience, and perseverance in his success as an inventor.”

MICHAEL SYLVESTER, class of ’59.

Now. I had a roommate my freshman year in college whose name was Michael Sylvester. And coincidentally, after college he was briefly married to Mrs. Camp’s wonderful daughter Cate. That marriage ended long ago. I never saw Michael Sylvester after those early years in New York. I did run into him a few years ago at Antonucci, a restaurant here on the Upper East Side. Frankly I didn’t recognize him at first. He looked like a kid in those early college years (when we were kids), and at Antonucci’s probably thirty years later, he looked different.

But this photo of him once again didn’t look like the school friend I knew. Maybe another. The article in the alumni magazine is by Ashley Festa. The man who didn’t look like himself to me was and is indeed the man whom I knew, although I never knew what he did.

Turns out he’s an inventor! Ha! He holds ten patents and has established six successful companies. I wasn’t surprised exactly although he was always one of those guys who seemed very relaxed in their good life, however that came to be.

“It’s trial and error … and it’s fun,” were his words for his work.

The results that were among the most successful invention is a special silicone that holds cameras to the back of smartphones. He developed a way to cure the silicone with UV light, rather than with moisture, the most common — and much slower catalyst. He also happened to pitch his invention to Apple at the same time they had developed the iPhone. His company, Novagard Solutions, now makes the silicone for many brands of smartphones.

I quote the reporter, Ashley Festa;

Sylvester stresses that, to be successful as an inventor and entrepreneur, persistence, patience, and perseverance are essential. While he was “always a tinkerer” growing up, it was his stick-to-itiveness that helped him find success.

“Never give up,” Sylvester advises. “Never, ever, ever give up.”

Yay Michael!

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