HAILIN’ THE SAILIN’ OF HISTORIC HENRY

April 6, 2009 at 1:41 am Leave a comment

FORGET the transit-fare increase, forget the taxi surcharge, forget whatever name they’re calling the Freedom Tower, forget you shouldn’t eat pista chios, forget that a dinner in one of our still-open restaurants still costs a couple hundred bucks, forget any higher tolls on the Triborough, which is now the Robert F. Kennedy, which someday could be the Al Sharpton, forget that Plaxico has to watch his Bur-ass, important is that today marks the dawn of history. Yesterday, April 4, in the year 1609, was when Henry Hudson Himself steered his Half Moon sailing ship into what’s now New York City.

The guy was English. And probably in search of a decent meal. Not to rap the Brits or anything, but in this town with a thousand places to eat Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Hungarian, Indian, Italian, anybody ever hear of any New Yorker on his way out for dinner telling a pal: “Hey, how about we go out tonight for British?”

Looking for a way to China through North America, navigator Henry obviously had no sense of direction. After blowing it in 1607 and 1608 — I mean, even Dora the Explorer could’ve told him he was going wrong, right? — he set off a third time. So broke he’d have taken wooden nickels as well as wooden shoes, he collected a few guilders off the Dutch East India Company and took off with a crew of only 18. That’s less people than I’ve seen in my dentist’s waiting room. The poor man hit icebergs, and it was a mess, so, finally, he did the only smart thing. Dropped anchor in what’s now New York Harbor. He’d have to be a real idiot to keep schlepping to maybe Rhode Island, right?

Encyclopedias say Henry then sailed around a few days. Historians say that all his life he’d wanted to see glorious downtown Utica, the prize of the Empire State’s upstate. How long he spent sailing north, who knows? I only know it was probably quicker than the Taconic. Imagine taking that on a Friday. He’d still be bumper-to-bumper in New Rochelle.

With his GPS on the fritz, Henry ended up in what’s now Albany, which, as we all know, is where everyone desperately wants to go. Even Andrew Cuomo. Even Rudy Giuliani. Even something named Tom Suozzi. Had Henry stayed there, he might’ve helped Gov. Paterson with the budget stuff but . . . anyway, he sailed up this river and, like Trump, right away named the thing after himself.

Henry was not a bad guy but, for whatever reason, his crew from the Netherlands eventually got him in Dutch. They mutinied and cut him adrift long before he could ever picnic in Bear Mountain or partner with his burgomeister pals for one lousy exacta in Saratoga.

Look, as a New Yorker, I’m personally really glad he discovered us. And this year, I know the reason he did. To give the rest of the country a place to borrow money from.

Anyway, in his honor, as of this week, the Museum of the City of New York is presenting the exhibition “Amsterdam/New Amsterdam: The World of Henry Hudson.” Nice. And, listen, he’s entitled. I for one have nothing against folks from the land of the Zuider Zee. I love Hollandaise as much as the next person. But how come nobody fusses over Giovanni da Verrazano, who discovered our West Side river before Henry? In 1524. For whatsisname, the king of France.

We also make a big hoo-hah over Columbus finding us, although we’re so big I don’t know how he could have missed us. When Chris discovered this land, everybody else thought the world was flat — and 500 years they’re right. He had three ships — the Ni񡬠the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Today, we’re all in the same boat.

So everybody fusses over Columbus, who got himself a town in Ohio and a circle in Manhattan. And now we’re celebrating Hudson, who not only has a town and a valley in his name but a hotel on West 58th, a street in the Village, which includes a Hudson Gourmet Shop and a Hudson Falafel place, plus we used to have Rock Hudson, plus we now have Jennifer Hudson and Kate Hudson and Hudson the polar-bear cub in Chicago’s zoo, plus there’s the Henry Hudson Parkway, Hudson River School of art, Hudson Bay Co., even a Hastings-on-the-youknowwhat — all for this 315-mile waterway, which, next to the 2,348-mile Mississippi, is just a leak.

Wilbur Cross got a parkway in his name. Whoever Merritt is, he got a parkway in his name. I don’t know who Sprain is but he got one, too. So did Van Wyck. There’s also Floyd Bennett and Anne Hutchinson, some New England pioneer who did borscht for New York yet got herself a parkway. Gen. Pulaski even got a skyway. And all poor Mr. Verrazano ever got for his trouble was some bridge that nobody can spell and which most people still don’t know where it goes.

Maybe it’s that early on nobody liked names beginning with V. Remember Amerigo Vespucci? If someone hadn’t liked his first name better, our passports today would be stamped “Citizen of the United States of Vespuccia.”

Now that I think about it, I have no idea why I’m doing this whole thing on Henry Hudson. I’m told he never read me.

By Cindy Adams
New York Post

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