Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Who's Writing this Blog, Anyway?

I am, I'm John Foreman, born on Christmas Day, 1945, at St. Clare's Hospital on Manhattan's West Side.

My mother was a beautiful girl from the South, whose fabricated past we never fully unraveled.

My father was an explorer of Tibet, a daredevil newspaperman, and an "Old China Hand." I was well into adulthood before I grasped the extent to which his life had been ruined in the 1950s. If heaven and hell do in fact exist, may the late Senator Joseph McCarthy enjoy a richly deserved roasting in the latter.

Until age 10, I grew up thinking I had two sisters. Here we are, visiting George Washington's Mt. Vernon in the late 1940s. My father, per usual, is out of the country. I am sitting on my mother's knee. Jackie, my sister who turned out not to actually be my sister, is standing on the left. Today Jackie is celebrated for her sunny, sandy, watery, beachy paintings of eastern Long Island. My brainy sister Brenda is seated on the right. Brenda, who was 15 when she left for college, is a veteran of heavy duty think tanks, the Pentagon and the Lockheed Corporation. I don't know who the other girl is.

I was a charming little boy, but not celebrated for anything in particular.

In 1958 my father drove my mother and me to Hollywood in hopes of taking a job. It didn't pan out. Harrison never had much money, but he had a lot of style. Pity I don't still have that car.

I was a typical fraternity boy in college. It took years to grow into my looks, and out of those attitudes.

After college, I became a pot smoking hippy.

I got married in 1975 and for many years we were a loving and mutually supportive couple.

We lived in a string of big houses, moving from one to another more from necessity than desire.

I don't know if we had a reputation for big parties, but we did give a lot of them. I continued after we separated.

We had a little girl, with whom I'm very close. I was a single parent for about 9 years, which is a story for a more confessional blog than "Big Old Houses."

I married for love, but after my separation fell madly and profoundly in love with Andy. It didn't last, but I am richer for the experience. After Andy, I met Joe, who literally made my blood race every time I looked at him. I guess it wasn't mutual since, as the kids say, he dumped me. Man, did that ever hurt. Joe would be pissed if I posted his photo on my blog, so I won't.

My daughter went to boarding school, and then to college...

...and then she got married... a nice guy named Mike.

And now they have a baby named Lily. Both of them work. He reps medical gas and owns rental property and she teaches special ed.

For many years, I rode with the Millbrook Hunt. The Great Recession of 2008 put an end to that - and to my horse, and to some fancy club memberships I don't miss as much as I thought I would. I still ride most weekends, albeit no longer amidst such pomp.

I don't mind getting older, but I'd like at a certain point to be able to stop aging - like, maybe at this point.

That's obviously not everything about me, but it's a lot.


  1. Very interesting! I've been a fan of your blog for several years having first come across you on NYSD. You're holding up pretty good!

  2. Really appreciate your openness and honesty John. Love your blog! Michael in NZ

  3. I recognize the porch at Shelburne House where you and daughter Jazzy are sitting ~ been there, done that !

  4. re: Shelburne House ~ Robert ~ forgot to sign.

  5. What did you mean about Jackie not really being your sister?

  6. you're great! I always love reading BIG OLD HOUSES and always wanted to know a little more about you…Thanks for the post!


    James Coviello

  7. Well poo, I just lost my post (probably why I don't Blog). For a old guy you look pretty well preserved! Thank you for sharing, sounds like you have had hurdles and have been so blessed! (I guess we all are) I have been enjoying your Thursday (sometime Fridays) blog for the past 2 or 3 years. Thanks for taking the time to entertain us every week! So what is the story of the "sisters"? My mother had a peach faced love bird for 14 years she called our brother...
    Many Thanks,

  8. I love your blog. Learning more about you made my day. My 3 year points to the pics saying, "House, oooo". She may be your youngest follower. Thanks, Apryl and Ariel

  9. Thank you for a glimpse of the man behind Big Old Houses. I applaud your candor, and admire the relationship that you and your lovely daughter enjoy.

  10. What a gorgeous life...and more to come!!

    Oh my, that '53 Cadillac...probably very symbolic of your father in more ways than one, as cars often are.

  11. Thank you for sharing a brief history of your life. What wonderful photos! Looks like you have had some great times. As an interior designer who is just starting to seriously pursue my passion for architectural history, I find your blog so inspiring and informative. Always looking forward to your next blog.


    Michael Hampton

  12. Thanks for sharing! I love your blog and passion for old houses.

  13. Enjoyed this post tremendously. I often wonder about bloggers I follow. I'm so grateful for what they give me and wish I could know them better. Not that I'd ever ask...that's creepy in this internet age. But I'm glad you shared. It was an act of courage to do so, I'm sure. You've had a very interesting life. I hope you are content. You sound so. I wondered how a real estate guy could have the time to visit these fabulous houses and do the research necessary to write an informative blog. Well, you gave it away, I think: born in 1945. So you are likely retired or partly so. You sure look young for your age, so yes, I think it is time for you to stop aging!

    Bob K.

    Bob K

  14. What a fascinating life you have had! Your comment on old Joe McCarthy and your father brought up a childhood memory. My father was a Capital policeman in the fifties and detested Joe McCarthy and his cronies as did so many. He had the pleasure one day of being on duty and seeing McCarthy climb out of his car drunken, disheveled and disgraced and go lurching into the Capital. These were the last days of his reign of terror. You may very well be right about his final destination.
    Thank you so much for your wonderful blog.

  15. How do you do, John...I'm truly delighted you've taken this opportunity to step from behind the curtain and take a well deserved bow. You, not less than those whose dwellings your chronicle here, spring from fascinating roots and have earned your respected position in the land of Blog.

    Your last snap of feet upon a chenille bedspread bespeaks contentment, albeit sans house parties and sans horse. You do have The Cat, after all.

    1. Percipient comment, Beth. We are treated to a delightful peak behind the proverbial curtain as the wizard of this historic blog steps forward to say a personal ''hello there''.

  16. Hi John,

    I love this blog. The first time I found it a few months ago I spent hours looking through the old post trying to catch up. I think I went throughout the entire blog in one night.....with very little sleep. I am fascinated by architecture of large old houses. Now that I am caught up I love seeing new posts. This one is great, thank you for sharing a piece of your life with us!

    Thank you again
    Brian in NYC

  17. Beautiful! I love your posts, and was sorry not to have met you on your visit to Baltimore.

  18. Thanks for your blog, John! I've been a fan for a few months now and can't get enough. Big old houses are my passion as well, and thankfully I've finally been able to move into my own not-so-big old house. Hopefully starting up a blog on it's renovation soon. I've also recently made the connection that you've authored one of my favorite books - The Vanderbilts and the Gilded Age. Love the genealogical research and the way you tied the family narrative to the creation/habitation of the houses. The family and their architecture have been a big interest of mine for over a decade. Thanks again!

  19. The house with the blue car in front of it... Tuxedo Park?

  20. You actually lived in the H. Winthrop Munroe House?! Did the outbuildings still exist?