Location, Location

We at the TLC understand concern about our article linking the former president and Henry James. It’s all about location.

Some readers of Humor Times have emailed (a few octogenarians even have written longhand) the Trump Landmark Committee with a sense of puzzlement about the linkage of the 45th (not to be confused with the 1872 Colt 45) with America’s most polished author, Henry James (1843-1916) in my recent article, Still Another Bowl: A Henry James Souvenir.

Location Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park. By Isabella Ruffalo-Burgat, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Trump Landmark Committee (not land-fill, to be clear) understands this consternation about the alleged affinity of the former president and America’s most Proustian author. We wish, of course, to clarify and demystify the issue.

Both Cadet (not US Army) Trump and Henry James were born In New York City. Donald “Benedict” Trump was born on June 14th, 1946 at 8900 Van Wyck Expressway in Jamaica Estates, Queens before Robert Moses supervised the construction of the Expressway and divided in two the Borough of Queens.

True to his origins, the former president has managed to divide the country, much to the satisfaction of his base, into Red and Blue neighborhoods, so there is a sense of retrospective prophecy about the site of his natal inauguration into the world.

Henry James, whose many brilliant novels are the source of numerous elegant, but tedious, movies, was born on April 15, 1843 at Washington Place, Manhattan which may explain in part how he came to write, as you may have guessed, Washington Square (another lugubrious film).

As a child, he often visited his beloved grandmother who lived at 18 Washington Square North, one of the most — you guessed it – elegant streets in NYC then and now. He fondly recreates its mid-century atmosphere in – you guessed it again —Washington Square (1880). “Lest” — an arch word HJ might have used — you think the comparison between the “American First” president (no specific reference to Lindberg and the Bund) and the recipient of the “golden bowl” is a bizarre stretch, let your columnist point out that baby Trump’s home was far from humble.

In fact, the Van Wyck domicile — recently sold for $2,000,000 — is quite handsome and spacious, nothing “humble” about it; and that’s the main point about which the Landmark Committee must be mindful humility is an alien virtue to the present occupant of the pseudo-palace, Mar-a-Lago.

Unlike many of James’ characters who are humbled, even crushed, and learn from their defeats (Strether in The Ambassadors), the former wannabe duce would rather spend a night in a Red Roof Motel than admit defeat.

The Trump Landmark Committee, in its commitment to the truth of the historical record, must be true to this corner of the former president’s psychological residence, a luxury location not unlike the over-valued Trump Tower (itself a symbol of the 45th’s lofty, as he sees it, ego).

Your reporter knows something about humility having lectured once at Humboldt University in formerly East Berlin where Einstein had been an instructor for a while. As your Chair of the Trump Landmark Committee sulked into the formerly named “Stalin Hall,” he felt – forgive him – Humboldted.

Your recorder must add that the Humboldt Parkway in Buffalo, NY, his location, cuts in half a previously pastoral midway – an unfortunate synchronicity.

Howard R. Wolf inaugurated his devotion to writing at Horace Mann School in Riverdale (Bronx) where he wrote a column for the HM Reporter, “Mann About Town.” His first editor, Robert Caro (Robert Moses and LBJ biographer), taught him how to write a “lead,” so he knows something about humility. He is sort of an alumnus of Wolfson College, Cambridge, whose motto is “Ring True.” Special Collections (Frost Library, Amherst College, his alma mater), is the location of his oeuvre, as James might say.

Latest posts by Howard R. Wolf (see all)