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Metaphor for Western society

Metaphor for Western society
July 23, 2010, 08:43:57 PM
Rokeby, a 195-year-old, 43-room stucco house on 420 rolling acres, one of the last family-owned properties in the Hudson River landmark district, where Astors once roamed.

Populated by a colorful but mostly impecunious cast of Livingston and Astor descendants — who are struggling, sometimes with each other, to keep the house from falling down while tending to their own deeply individual destinies — Rokeby is a study in contrasts, a lively dialogue, as one inhabitant put it, “between the creatives and the historians.”

Here, a Polish-born artist studies shamanism in a tiny one-room log cabin with a stone medicine circle; her converted Orthodox Jewish daughter keeps a kosher kitchen in an old pantry and writes a memoir; the daughter’s cousin creates giant puppets for New York City’s Halloween parade in a disintegrating barn; and the designer’s sister carves a lusty organic farm in the dense clay soil.

Not many venture into the vast, shadowy front rooms, which are kept as a shrine to previous generations — a practice that irritates some members of the younger generation — and the French wallpaper is pocked with moisture stains and peeling off in sheets. In the shuttered, paneled Gothic library, Teddy Roosevelt’s photograph sits on a shelf thick with dust (Roosevelt was a pal of great-uncle Wintie Chanler); in a parlor, a bust of Julia Ward Howe, the abolitionist, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and a great-aunt, is propped on a chipped radiator.


We take over with our commune, subsidized by wealth from the dying regime, and make one last dramatic show before time sweeps us away.