Walden Pond

I had breakfast with a friend who makes it a habit to read the local paper whenever he finds himself. I really love that. It can give you a bit of insight into where you are hanging your hat.

He shared with me this piece (below) that he read in the local East Hampton Star. He wondered if this was a spoof or real. So he called the editor, who did not pick up the phone, but quite sure this is not a spoof.

As this summer has been a lot of conversation about politics and transforming democracy around the dinner table reading this hit me between the eyes. This defines being out of touch with the world around us and perhaps startling obvious why our country is where it is today.

I just had to repost this because my mouth is still hanging open.

See below.

Walden Revisited

GUESTWORDS By David Schiff July 18, 2019

A 10,515-square-foot home inspired by the owner’s favorite book, “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, has been listed for sale for $29 million, The Wall Street Journal reported. The house was built because the owner had been “traveling a lot and wanted a place to be very quiet and in touch with nature, out of the craziness of New York City life.”

We moved to the Hamptons last summer because we wanted to live simply, to embrace only the essentials of life.

Manhattan is so frenetic with work, dinners, deals, charity boards, parties. Our vacations aren’t relaxing either: NetJets to St. Bart’s and Aspen. It seemed that no sooner would we arrive than it was already time to leave. So when Memorial Day approached, my thoughts turned to Henry David Thoreau. Like him, I “want but little.” Where better to get in touch with nature and contemplate the meaning of life than our house in the Hamptons?

“Walden” always spoke to me. A lot of my college friends went into law or investment banking, but I marched to a “different drummer” and chose private equity. I knew I didn’t want to be one of those guys leading what Thoreau called “a life of quiet desperation.” He said “a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” That’s how I feel. Our house is an unassuming 10,515 square feet — noticeably smaller than those near us. We didn’t care. As Henry David put it, “Most men appear to have not considered what a house is, and . . . think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have.”

We named our home Walden. The architecture is Modernist, and it’s decorated in a contemporary-Zen style. Organic fabrics, a lot of neutrals. We really embraced simplicity. “I wanted to live . . . so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life,” Thoreau wrote.

We led a primal existence in the Hamptons. We didn’t need possessions. “Do not trouble yourself much to get new things. [People’s lives] are frittered away by details,” said Henry David. So we kept our house spare; the Warhols and Hirsts stayed in the city. We opted for Minimalism instead: Donald Judd, Richard Serra, some Ellsworth Kellys.

Embracing the austere life helped us discover what’s really important. I have a bunch of Ferraris, but didn’t even use them; I got around in my vintage Land Rover. I wasn’t trying to impress people.

We lived casually in the Hamptons. Thoreau said, “No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes.” My sentiments exactly. Tanya went in for the ripped jeans look. (Dolce & Gabbana fits her perfectly.) I got my distressed jeans at the Ralph Lauren Country Store in East Hampton.

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself,” Thoreau wrote. Those words ring true. I usually had my morning coffee on the porch while looking over an Arcadian setting consisting of our gardens, manicured lawn, and pool. I’d sort of meditate while reading The Financial Times. We were into mindfulness all summer.

I realized that the less you want, the more you have. “That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest,” Thoreau said. I’m with him 100 percent. In the afternoons I played tennis with a pro on our court out back. If that isn’t a cheap pleasure, then I don’t know what is.

We lived a quiet, bucolic life, at peace with the natural world. Many days we didn’t even go into East Hampton. “In society you will not find health, but in nature,” said Thoreau. Since we did without a cook for the summer, our one concession to society was dining out. We ate at our regular table at Nick and Toni’s. Even Henry David Thoreau would appreciate the cuisine there.

As the days grew shorter and Labor Day rolled around, I realized the time had come to return to civilization. “Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live and could not spare any more time for that one,” H.D.T. said of his decision to leave the woods. So it was for me. My firm was in the process of acquiring a global petrochemical company, and the renovation of our penthouse in the city was complete. Somewhat reluctantly, I made my way back to society. But as I move forward in the direction of my dreams, I carry with me the imprint of austerity and self-reliance gleaned from life in the wild.

This summer, inspired by my second favorite book, “Moby-Dick,” Tanya and I are going to cruise the Mediterranean on our new yacht.

Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    I was reading through this one a couple of weeks ago. A refreshing change from MSM bombardment, which i have grown very tired of; – Quaint.I had not realised who Martha was or the general backstory of the place until the MVG tweaked my curiosity. You can’t beat local knowledge. It’s about the ‘authentic’.

  2. pointsnfigures

    He should move by me. We have a cult building down the road. Here is a documentary about them… They traffic in people and since we are very close to Canada, it makes it convenient for them. They also rape and abuse underage girls, have forced polygamy etc. My little 625 sq ft place is like Walden sort of. It’s not bucolic place like the Hampton’s though. We have to chop our own wood and split it here. Can’t even get a good croissant but there are donuts.

    1. Erin

      Jesus, the trailer for that documentary is creepy as hell. That priest needs to be stopped.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Priest is a word I wouldn’t use to describe him…..Warren Jeffs is in jail. His brother Seph is building a brand spanking new compound by my place. I pass it every time I drive to town. I watched the documentary and could not sleep. It filled me with rage, fear, fright. I wish there was something that you could Constitutionally do to stop them, jail them etc. There is not. I am reminded of Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass where he describes meeting a runaway slave.The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside; I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile; Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and weak, And went where he sat on a log, and led him in and assured him, And brought water, and fill’d a tub for his sweated body and bruis’dfeet,And gave him a room that enter’d from my own, and gave him some coarseclean clothes, And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness, And remember putting plasters on the galls of his neck and ankles; He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass’d north; (I had him sit next me at table—my fire-lock lean’d in the corner.)This is probably going to happen to me when they kick abused children out of their “encampment”. I am ready for it.

        1. Erin

          Glad he’s in jail. Someday we may have constitutional grounds for making cults illegal, who knows. Freedom of speech means freedom to go down to the depths of depravity and be free to explore the darkest, most twisted recesses of the human mind without consequence. I wonder if someday we’ll have such a clear understanding of the mind that society will just agree that some things are mentally healthy and some things are not, and erecting a building for a cult will be seen as untenable for a healthy society. I would love to see some aspects of emotional intelligence embedded into the Constitution.

  3. meredithcollinz

    Wow. Just WOW. I really hope that’s a joke. #speechless

  4. LE

    He wondered if this was a spoof or real. So he called the editor, who did not pick up the phone, but quite sure this is not a spoof It’s a spoof and BS a quick check (nobody is paying me for this haha) I say with 99.9% certainty.Decide for yourself. It’s some kind of creative adaptation of this article in the WSJ which refers to a house in Colorado that was built by a casino executive, almost borders on plagiarism in a way (why give the same price and sf if fiction make it fiction):…The date on the Hamptons article is last month. The story is from roughly a year ago (2018) in the WSJ. The Hamptons article is written to give the impression that the house is somehow linked to the Hamptons in some way and built there to escape Manhattan life. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. Gotham Gal


  5. JLM

    .Haha, I enjoyed the read. Funny as Hell.What does this say that you couldn’t figure out whether it was a satire?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  6. Erin Bagwell

    My favorite line is: I’d sort of meditate while reading The Financial Times. We were into mindfulness all summer.Perfection!

    1. Gotham Gal

      It’s crazy

  7. Pranay Srinivasan

    “And as I watched those poor, hapless peasants rattle the gates of the prison, I sympathized with their plight and wondered why they couldn’t open the locks with their teeth..”