Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, New York

The ruins of a colonial-era fort on the Hudson tell the tale of a daring raid by an American general who earned the nickname “Mad Anthony.”

The Battle of Stony Point was a daring nighttime attack on July 16, 1779 by Brig. General “Mad Anthony” Wayne and 1,350 picked colonial troops on the British garrison at Stony Point during the Revolutionary War. Stony Point was not a true fort, but had been fortified with entrenched firing positions, redans, and abatis. Much of these works can still be seen today, albeit covered with grass. A lighthouse was built at the location in 1828 to guide ships along the Hudson River.

Under cover of darkness, Lt. George Knox led a “Forlorn Hope” of 20 men who volunteered to lead the attack. They knew they probably wouldn’t survive, but someone had to do the job. The men advanced across a chest-deep swamp to reach the British works. Their orders threatened death for any man who spoke, fired his musket, or retreated. Aside from a diversionary formation of two companies, most men only carried muskets with fixed bayonets and no ammunition. They were expected to overwhelm the British in hand-to-hand combat.

Though Brig. Gen. Wayne himself was wounded in the head, the attacked succeeded brilliantly. The Americans moved too swiftly up the hill for the British cannons to depress in time to be used effectively. Only 15 were killed and 83 wounded. They captured 546 British prisoners. Though the colonists carried off cannons and supplies, they abandoned Stony Point, as it had debatable strategic value.

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Shanley Hotel in Napanoch, New York

Built in 1895 and rumored to have been a brothel and speakeasy during Prohibition, the Shanley Hotel on Main Street in Napanoch, New York has gained a reputation for the unusual. Napanoch is a hamlet in Ulster County along Rondout Creek, which straddles the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley. James and Beatrice Shanley bought the hotel in 1906 and welcomed many prominent guests, including Thomas Edison and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Tragedy followed, however. All three Shanley children died as infants, as well as the hotel barber’s daughter and Beatrice’s sister, who died of influenza. James Shanley died in 1937. Sal Nicosia owned the hotel from 2005 to 2016, and his son Sal, Jr., has picked up the mantel. Since appearing on shows like Ghost Lab and Ghost Hunters, the Shanley Hotel has capitalized on the paranormal tourism market, offering special rates for paranormal investigations and marketing itself as a “haunted hotel.”

The hotel doesn’t have a website and appeared to be closed when I visited.

Further reading:

Gnome Mountain in High Falls, New York

Ellenville-based artist Sam Tufnell created this colorful display of illuminating garden gnomes in April 2017. He told Hudson Valley One, “I wanted to do something satirical on some level, but a little more playful. The gnomes and the still-lifes are pretty much my reaction to public art, figurative art, high-end art in general; sort of taking things down a notch, ‘de-elevating’ it.”

There are 13, 32-inch tall resin gnomes on the mountain. Each lights up at night in a different color. The gnomes are located on a bluff at the intersection of Highway 213 and Old NY Highway 213, in High Falls, New York along Rondout Creek.

Hudson River Valley in Summer

Bear Mountain Bridge I

The Hudson River flows 315 miles from the Adirondack Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean at New York Harbor. It’s named after Henry Hudson, a seventeenth century English navigator, and its beauty inspired an entire school of landscape painting.

Hudson River Valley in Summer II

The Hudson Highlands are particularly picturesque in the vicinity of Bear Mountain, Peekskill, and Fort Montgomery, where I took these photos.

Hudson River Valley in Summer I

Super Dark Times: A Harrowing and Tense Coming-of-Age Thriller

In Super Dark Times (2017), a teen must come to grips with his increasingly psychotic friend in this harrowing and tense coming-of-age thriller. Written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, and directed by Kevin Phillips, this indie film’s competency highlights why Hollywood is failing. Younger, more creative filmmakers are using technology and innovation to craft solid, beautifully-rendered films that put big-budget studios to shame.

Director Kevin Phillips is mostly known for his short film cinematography, and he’s spent the past twelve years honing his craft. Nearly every scene in this film is beautiful, but it’s not another example of “style over substance.” The movie is structurally sound, competently written, and the dialogue is believable. It reminds me of films from the ’80s and early ’90s, which tried to ground fantastic or extreme situations in reality.

As Super Dark Times opens, a buck has accidentally crashed into a high school and severely injured itself. Two police officers clear the scene and put it down. This dramatic and brutal scene sets the tone for the rest of the film. Enter four acquaintances, childhood friends Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan), Daryl (Max Talisman), and an 8th-grader named Charlie (Sawyer Barth). Zach and Josh both have a crush on classmate Allison (Elizabeth Cappuccino), but she eventually chooses Zach.

The kids discover a bag of marijuana and a samurai sword in Josh’s brother’s bedroom and take it to a park to mess around. Josh and Daryl get into an argument and Josh accidentally stabs him in the neck, killing him. The teens hide Daryl’s body in the woods and try to forget about the crime, but Josh’s increasingly erratic behavior stokes Zach’s guilt and paranoia. The film’s sickening climax is disturbing and difficult to watch, but the entire film has you on edge from start to finish.

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All-American Diner Tour: Center Diner in Peekskill, New York

Situated on Peekskill Bay on the Hudson River’s east bank, Peekskill is a small river town with a modern downtown. The Center Diner, opened in 1939 on Bank Street off Route 202 (Main Street), is a classic greasy spoon wedged between an alley and a plasma center. It is a rare, true diner. Classic diners were prefabricated buildings modeled on train dining cars and mass produced by companies out of New Jersey. This model is called a “National diner,” and it inspired the Sunset Diner in Little Lulu comics.

On my visit, I ordered the Golden Brown French Toast, which came with two sausage patties and a can(!) of Coke for $5.95. Restaurants selling cans of soda, rather than having a beverage fountain, is a pet peeve of mine, but it came with the meal so I guess I can’t complain. Two potbellied old men sat at the counter, talking about politics while an industrial fan whirled in the background. My waitress was a grandmotherly lady who, if she was the same waitress mentioned in countless reviews, had been working there a long time. The French toast was good, price was reasonable, and service efficient.

The Center Diner has a typical menu with a few surprises. There is a small Greek section, offering gyros, balboa, and something called chicken souvlaki served in a pita. According to Wikipedia, souvlaki is a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. I’ve eaten this before but never knew what it was called. That’s only $6.50, or $8.50 with French fries.

Center Diner has a 4.3/5 average out of 34 Google reviews and 4.0/5 average on Yelp. Customers generally enjoy the nostalgia and affordable prices. In a typical positive review, Google user Jeff Altorfer wrote, “This place is downright great! It’s the real thing: This is an OLD fashioned NY diner. I mean that in every way. Run down, neglected, NO artifice what so ever. Hard working almost painfully efficient staff that have ZERO patience for modern customers that have no idea what they want, how they want it, or that need 50 options on everything…”

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