George Clinton

(Originally visited 29 October 2000.)


Even when looking down on the Hudson river from the top of the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge, I was stunned by the breadth of this great waterway. On that late autumn day the clouds were warning of snow and the river chilled gray with wind whipped whitecaps. I tried to imagine what a traveler of centuries ago must have felt when confronted by such a barrier. My girlfriend and I had only been traveling for a few hours over twentieth century roads and the Hudson that flowed beneath us was less a barrier than the bridge construction traffic. But a colonial traveler, on horseback or in a coach, bereft of climate controlled comfort for most of the day and with a ferry ride across rough water yet to come, must have felt more anxiety than anticipation, even though his destination, like mine, is just on the far shore.

Kingston was the home of the first New York State Senate and the site of Vice President George Clinton’s final resting place and, keeping with my tradition of courting disaster, my girlfriend and I arrived without a clue as to where in Kingston said final resting place was. Two years ago and across the river in Rhinebeck I was just barely able to find a more recent Vice Presidential grave before sunset. No one in town had heard of Levi Morton. But I knew that Kingston would be different as soon as we passed the “Governor Clinton Dry Cleaners”.

George Clinton was the first governor of New York and the Vice President for Thomas Jefferson’s second term and James Madison’s first until his death in 1812. He was originally buried in Washington’s Congressional Cemetery, not far from Elbridge Gerry. His remains were moved to Kingston almost a century later.

We followed the signs to the visitors center, which was closed on Sunday. Undeterred we walked to the nearby Senate House and discovered that it was open on Sunday, though not until one o’clock. With an hour to kill we decided to drive around this quaint old New England town. I asked my navigationally challenged lady to choose a direction and off we went. The old section near the Senate House has a very nice downtown business district. As we left the town center we found the more common and much less attractive collection of strip malls and fast food outlets. We also wandered through less affluent neighborhoods, seeing some houses with very elaborate Halloween decorations.

Having an arrogant faith in my own sense of direction, I believed I could easily get us back to the Senate House whenever we chose and so we continued following my girlfriend’s whims. It wasn’t long before she found an old church with a graveyard. Our eyes both trained on the largest monument and I abruptly swung into the nearest parking space. True enough, it was Governor Clinton’s grave. Just as first snowflakes of the season began falling, I thanked her for finding the grave for me with a kiss.

Having paid our respects, we decided to get some lunch at a little French restaurant we noticed near the Senate House. I prepared to reverse our route, but because of one way streets I had to go a little bit out of the way. Suddenly things looked eerily familiar. We turned a corner and there was the Senate House! It was as though space had folded upon itself. Spying no UFOs, I had to accept that I hadn’t noticed we’d doubled back on our route and ended up a scant two blocks from the Senate House.

George Clinton Detail

About Bartholomew Barker

Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry lovers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.
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1 Response to George Clinton

  1. Emily Cooper says:

    Superb storytelling, as usual.

    (But no mention of the time you spent with P-Funk. ;)


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