No Fanfare

Part II


The last time out we met George, a nearly nine decade inhabitant of Hudson.

Memories of his years as a cook at the St. Charles Hotel hold a fond place in George's memory. He recalls with a smile a good friend and waiter everybody called Charlie McCarthy, because the fellow resembled Edgar Bergen's ventriloquist dummy.

He chuckles remembering how the help would all hide when one particular and frequent hotel guest would arrive. Seems the man was a traveling salesman and nobody wanted to carry this guest's 'sample' cases upstairs; he was a coal salesman.

I ask George what sort of food he cooked. "Roasted chicken and turkey, roast beef, lamb, duck, all that, it's plain American food," he says. "You didn't see so many people running around overweight, like you do now. They always said don't overdo the starch," he advises. "You never heard of pizza and all that stuff years ago, now you tune in on TV and that's all you hear. I don't care much for that, I like plain American cooking, it's my speed."

After the war, in 1946, George left the St. Charles and went to work at the exquisite and beautiful General Worth Hotel. "They should never have torn that down," George remarks. He shares an opinion held by many in Hudson, that the tearing down of the General Worth Hotel was to say the least, foolish and bordered on downright stupidity. He speaks with the same wisdom and disdain when he refers to the suspicious fires that eventually destroyed Simpsonville, the old section of Hudson, now obliterated.

George recalls the heyday of Diamond Street and the cars with out of state license plates that came from all over to partake in the pleasures of Big Min's girls and others. "They even knew about it up in Canada," he offers.

Returning to work at the St. Charles Hotel in 1962, George settled into his life as a cook, finally retiring in 1978. He spent forty-one years cooking and working in kitchens, preparing plain, simple American food for weddings and receptions and individuals just looking for a good meal at a fair price.

George is a man of simple means and simple needs. If you were to see him on the street you wouldn't give him a second look, and he likes it that way. George is one of those rare people today who is content with his life. He finds pleasure and joy in things we might consider simple, ordinary things.

A lot of people, for example, walk down Warren Street past the antique stores and take them for granted, believing they are nothing but windows filled with things they deem unaffordable. George takes a different approach. He can't afford most of those exotic items either, yet I often see him going from window to window, gazing at these exquisite and sometimes unusual items, his eyes filled with wonder as if he were visiting the Met. In many ways, Warren Street is George's private museum, it's free and available to all of us, but George takes the time to look, he takes an interest in that which is around him.

You might have noticed there have been no photographs in either this or Part I of this article. George didn't want any photographs; he wanted his privacy. George has one of the best beat up straw hats I've ever seen. I asked if I might photograph his hat, "Nope," was all he said. You have to respect that.

He has a garden that, this year, has mostly been for, "Feeding the deer." He has also taken in six stray cats. "I haven't the heart to turn them away," he smiles.

"Yeah, that's it isn't it," I say to myself, "George is a kind man, a man with heart."

In many ways I envy George and the simplicity of his life, his honesty and his uncompromising truths. His life has been formed and shaped by need rather than ego and want. George is not rich or famous, nor is he fooled by or envious of fame and fortune.

"No fanfare," he says shaking his head, "Nope, no fanfare."

The wisdom in his words is a great lesson for us all. We increasingly find ourselves living in an age where hype and self focus, re-invention and the narcissistic need to impress or control others has become the norm. In this rather lost and lonely time, George is a refreshing breath of air; he is an example of life in its purest form. George is the genuine article.

"In the time of your life, live," William Saroyan once wrote. George's philosophy if he were to espouse one, which of course he would not, would likely be, "Live, no fanfare, just live." Worthy of putting in stone, wouldn't you say?

We'll talk next time, From The Road.

Note: George Duguay died in his home on South Second Street, Hudson, NY on Friday, February 3, 2006. He was 94.

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