Ivy Style 3.0: Live From Newport; Plus CC Reaches Midcentury Mark

It’s hard to believe, but for the first 14 months I ran Ivy Style from the state of California. I founded the site while living in a hilltop college on a street called Princeton in the LA suburb of Glendale, and then for six months — wiped out by the recession and trying to summon the courage to move to New York — I ran the site from my hometown of Santa Rosa. In November 2009, two weeks shy of my fortieth birthday, I put up a blog post entitled “Ivy Style 2.0: Live From New York.”

I arrived in New York a broken man, but with enough of a spark of determination to embark on a new life. I was writing in a journal a lot at the time, and wrote several entries about Joseph Campbell and the concept of the hero’s journey. I’d stepped into the great unknown and would meet many people along the way, some who turned out to be helpers while others turned out to be devious shadow figures. I would be forced to face a terrifying dragon — which in my mind was the borough of Manhattan — rescue a “princess,” and depart with the “gold,” the symbol of knowledge.

Kierkegaard wrote that life is lived forwards but only understood backwards. Over the past 10 years I did in fact undergo a hero’s journey, but what I failed to understand the entire time was that the whole thing was happening within me. The dragon was not New York but something in my own mind, what we call one’s inner demons, which lie in wait in the unconscious ready to jump up and paralyze you with worry and fear at the first opportunity. The “princess” turned out to be my own long-lost soul, which I had been been walling into an icy dungeon since I was 27 and the first traumas of life — failures, frustrations, deaths of family and friends— began coming one after another. And the golden knowledge I gleaned was not about of the city of New York and its inhabitants, but about myself.

Last night, as I was falling asleep in my new apartment in a charmingly eccentric 1820 building in Newport, Rhode Island (I have a secret passage, through a wardrobe!), I suddenly remembered a summer afternoon in 2018. I’d gone swimming at Orchard Beach in New York City and hiked through deserted parts of Pelham Bay Park. I picked up a tall branch to use as a walking stick, and imagined myself as the first man on earth, while the greatest lightening storm I’d ever witnessed brought up feelings of mankind’s primordial existence. On that afternoon I thought about how important the feeling of being in nature is for me. They say that for Nordic-Germanic people, the forest is our temple, and gothic architecture is meant to evoke the feeling of a forest canopy. I was suddenly struck with a vision of life in a small New England town, the kind I had dreamed of since college, even though I’d never committed to trying to make the dream a reality.

That vision was forgotten until last night, but it turned out to be prophetic. At some point over the past winter, I realized that it was time to draw my chapter in New York to a close. I later realized that I’d moved at age 29 (from hometown to San Francisco), at 39 (from LA to NY), and now in order to stay on schedule I needed to get out while I was still 49. I first opted for Charleston, SC, since I’d dreamed of moving there when I was in my twenties, informed of its historic charm and old-fashioned feel. But in the end I overrided that sentimental longing to go forward by going backward, and followed my inner compass northward. I landed in Newport, where I’d been twice before: once for a family rendez-vous, and once to attend the jazz festival with Charlie Davidson.

The nostalgic longing for the south (Greece, Rome) is said to be physical and sentimental, while longing for the frozen north is spiritual and metaphysical. I can’t quite see the Aurora Borealis from Newport, but I can see stars and church steeples pointing towards them, and floating in the air is the most deeply moving scent for people high in Neanderthal DNA (and I’m in the top three percent): the smell of a fireplace on a cold night. I believe that here my soul can feel at home for the first time, and I now understand the esoteric meaning of the saying that home is where you hang your hat. Far more than where you happen to find yourself, home is an inner orientation you carry inside yourself. When you become lost, you become lost to yourself.

It’s never too late to find yourself, however, and late is better than never. Today I turned 50, and find myself ready and willing for whatever lies ahead. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

29 Comments on "Ivy Style 3.0: Live From Newport; Plus CC Reaches Midcentury Mark"

  1. Hear, hear!

  2. Congratulations on your new move.

    New York City has lost a national treasure. At least you won’t have to deal with smelly homeless people, dirty streets and subways, and vagrants begging for spare change in ritzy Newport.

    You made it in NYC, and as they say, “If you can make it in NYC you can make it anywhere.”

  3. Congrats on the move, and I’m glad to hear that you’ve started to settle in. I think Newport would be a wonderful place to live. I hope you won’t take this the wrong way when I say that it seems more fitting for you than Charleston. Best of luck as you acclimate to your new hometown. There’s nothing quite like the feeling that living in a new place brings as you experience your new town for the first time as a resident.

  4. Christian, I forgot to wish you a happy birthday. I would buy you a bottle of Jack Daniels if I had the money.

    Email me your address and I will send a present to you as soon as I become solvent.

  5. Charlottesville | December 2, 2019 at 12:58 pm |

    Happy birthday, Christian, and congratulations on the move. It is Charleston’s loss, and I fear mine as well, since I am much more often in Charleston than in Newport. Very best wishes.

  6. Rhett Hardwick | December 2, 2019 at 1:00 pm |

    I think you will like Newport, it can be very pleasant. Of course, there is the problem of all those New Yorkers in the summer. “Christmas in Newport” is worth viewing.

  7. Congratulations. I’ve been working in Newport for the past 10 summers as a regatta photographer.
    Currently looking for a house to buy and rent out until I can move there. Enjoy!

  8. reppupstateny | December 2, 2019 at 1:32 pm |

    congrats CC; I finally made it to Newport this summer and thoroughly enjoyed it-good luck with everything and happy birthday!

  9. Happy 50th birthday!

    I see some sort of awd vehicle in your immediate future. A Volvo or Benz SUV, for the New England winters.

    Best wishes.

    50 seems old when you’re 50. Not so. Wish I was a young pup like you.

  10. Congratulations and good luck in Newport! I, too, have only visited but it is one of my top places to live if I ever move away from NYC.

    I’ve seen you a few times while shopping at J. Press. The last time I remember being there, I think you were chatting with Thomas Davis. Though I wouldn’t dare interrupt your conversations, I enjoyed seeing you two talk as I am a fan of your respective arts.

    Best of luck in with 3.0! I look forward to following along as we evolve, too.

  11. whiskeydent | December 2, 2019 at 2:00 pm |

    Happy Five-O! I’m looking forward to a report on playing tennis —in all-while, of course — on the grass at the International Tennis Hall Of Fame. There’s a lot of history there.

  12. Many, many thanks for the well wishes, everyone! Cold and rainy but I enjoyed a walk around the wharf and lunch at The Black Pearl, as suggested to me in our Facebook group. And stoppy by for a chat at Royal Male, which is 45 seconds away by bicycle!

    Wriggles is correct that there will be some sort of vehicle in my future that can get me out into the wilds of New England and also carry my surfboard. I surfed here (by chance and shock, had no idea it was even possible) on my trip to the jazz festival and it took every ounce of disclipline to get me out of the ocean and over to the festival to meet Charlie.

    Ivy Style contributor Trevor Jones teaches at the tennis center and I already heard from him today.

    Topher, should have reached out and said hello!

  13. Richard E. Press | December 2, 2019 at 3:15 pm |

    Jealous of your Chowdah access.

  14. Happy birthday, Chens. I hope somebody gets you a wetsuit – you’re going to need it up there!

  15. Trevor Jones | December 2, 2019 at 6:30 pm |

    We’re happy to have you. Welcome home ⚓️?

  16. CC and KJP in the same state! Ivypalooza 2020!

  17. Mark Russell | December 3, 2019 at 10:11 am |

    Happy belated birthday!
    Congratulations on your new home and best wishes for your next chapter.

  18. Christian, I wish you all the best on this new chapter of your life. Somehow, I feel Newport is a more fitting location than Charleston for someone of your temperament. I just turned 35 and sometimes feel that most opportunities are behind me – but your latest move is a nice reminder of how it’s never too late to change course.

    I’ve greatly enjoyed the work you put into Ivy Style over the last decade, and was lucky enough to discover it as I was transitioning into my working life after a meandering undergraduate degree; my wardrobe, and professional sense of self are better off for it.

  19. Henry Contestwinner | December 3, 2019 at 11:24 am |

    Happy (belated) Birthday!

    You and your writings have touched more people than you can know. I hope that the move will provide you what you need, and that we will enjoy many, many more years of inspiration from Ivy-Style.

  20. Happy Birthday and congratulations on both the move and the Kickstarter campaign.

    Given that you’re now in closer proximity, how about an Ivy Style tennis match come spring – CC vs. VEA?

  21. Christian

    Welcome to the dark side. You’ll need to schedule the big C soon. Best sleep you’ll ever have.

    Cheers,

    Will

  22. Vern Trotter | December 5, 2019 at 7:32 pm |

    New York’s loss. Now a net of 50+ taxpayers outgoing daily. Belated Happy Birthday greetings. You will like Newport. The Black Pearl used to be the same owner as the long gone Locke- Ober in Boston. A friend, Dan Healy, ditched the corporate world and last I heard was tending bar at Watch Hill. You will run into him soon. Very small town. Also you are now in serious Red Sox territory. You are forewarned.

  23. René Lebenthal | December 6, 2019 at 9:24 am |

    A happy (very belated) Birthday.(just read the post today)
    Now, that I know you are in Newport, I feel this is much more the place where you belong to. Anyway, all the best for you in your new chapter of life. As you say, it’s never too late .
    René

  24. Beautifully written, your saga of discovery. Happy birthday.

  25. Late to the dance, as usual, but Happy Birthday, and congrats on the move. Can’t help but think the NE ambience will suit you better (and I’m a lifelong, 10th generation Southerner)

  26. Happy 50th, Christian! Been a follower of your blog for a mere handful of months, but it took no time at all for me to become an ardent follower and massive fan.

    I too recently moved out of NYC and up the coast to New Haven. And we also share a common heritage + literary vocation + love of woodsmoke in the cold night air, although I’m from rural northern Michigan and am, in every sense, ersatz-prep/decidedly not Ivy at all. A closetful of hard-worn Oxford shirts and beat-to-hell Weejuns (and an optimistic attitude) go an awfully long way.

    The last time I saw the aurora was above Lake Superior several years ago, when my then-roommate and I walked from campus down to the shore in our thick wool sweaters and sat on a picnic table to watch the dancing lights, puffing on cheap cigars and sipping Bell’s beer. I try not to re-live that period in my head too often. But isn’t our presence on this page evidence that we live a bit in the past? Maybe our carrying of that past, or at least of its best parts, is what keeps the present circumstances tolerable.

    Cheers, CC, to our new homes — and to new pieces of life, and to our movable feast.

  27. Happy Birthday! May the move bring everything you ever dreamt of. In the picture you look very much like a Viking Chief ready to conquer the unknown – so here is hoping that Newport will be the well deserved success.

  28. Behind Enemy Lines | December 18, 2019 at 8:13 am |

    Belated congratulations on your 50th and the move to Providence, Christian. When time zones align, you and I celebrate birthdays at the same time.

    You made a comment that rang very true to me, as I’ve just come back from overseas travel to warm sandy places and now contemplate a move to colder climates:

    The nostalgic longing for the south (Greece, Rome) is said to be physical and sentimental, while longing for the frozen north is spiritual and metaphysical.

    That certainly resonates.

    OK, thanks once again for your work over the years. I hope live’s treating you well.

  29. I happened upon IVY-STYLE this past summer. Enjoy the reads, C.C. For this man out in the California desert 150 miles from LA…your I-S evokes much of my east coast life in CT and NYC in 1960s, 70s when I shopped at J.Press, Chipp and BBs, worked in media (TV). Newport,as I recall it from the jazz and folk music fests I attended decades ago, must be a delightful,pleasant place to be, live. I-S’ads from Mercer et al have helped me replenish by tattered wardrobe. Best for a fabulous, reflective holiday seasonin ole New England!

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