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Nyack Sketch Log: Roaring Into 2020

by Bill Batson

There is a word that describes a decade that began with a President Obama and ended with a President Trump: schizophrenic. Typically locally focused, on occasion, Nyack Sketch Log has documented national policy mood swings, weighing in on issues of broader impact like school shootings, health care, unionized labor, climate change and the loss of giants like Nelson Mandela and our own Toni Morrison.

I hope this round-up of the 2010s provides some edifying winter-break reading as we prepare to roar into the 2020s

Thank you for following my illustrated column over these tumultuous years. It is always an honor to share words and images with you each week.

Have a safe holiday season. Looking forward to another year of Nyack Sketch Log!

Nyack Sketch Log: A “Dirty Rat” on Route 59
November 8, 2011

Earlier this month, a super-sized rat was seen near the corner of Main Street and Midland Avenue in Nyack, NY. No doubt, some motorists were startled. And others maybe mystified or just amused. Some even honked their horns at the sight of a 12 ft. tall inflatable rat keeping an eerie vigil at the gate of the construction site of a new Walgreens.

Nyack Sketch Log: Brand New Normal
November 6, 2012

On a recent phone call with President Barack Obama, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo observed that we seem to have a one hundred year storm every year now. Fortunately for us, the senior levels of government are providing more than gallows humor in the aftermath of the super storm Sandy. As a resident of a county declared a disaster area, I feel well represented by the federal, state, regional and local governments that are overseeing this natural catastrophe. But are we ready for the next storm, like the one that is coming literally and figuratively tomorrow?

Nyack Sketch Log: 25 Days Since the Newtown Massacre
January 8, 2013

For the first 17 days after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the flag at the Soft Cloth Car Wash on Route 59 flew at half-mast. The massive flag dominates the view from my kitchen window. The custom of flying a banner at half-mast is to allow the invisible flag of death to ceremonially occupy the top spot. The flag returned to full mast on the first of January, but I detect a specter of despair that still hovers around the summit like a fog, dimming the stars and blurring the stripes. I wish that flags in our country could remain at half-mast until something concrete is done to restore domestic tranquility.

Nyack Sketch Log: Hail to Health Care Reform
January 22, 2013

I spent four nights at my 91 year old father’s bedside last week. Before his hospitalization, I had already decided that I was going to sketch log about the Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama’s singular achievement from his first term, as he took his second oath of office. When my  father was admitted to Nyack Hospital on the morning of January 10 with pneumonia, he became the subject of my column and the involuntary model for this drawing. That he was discharged five days later, smiling and on the mend, is a minor medical miracle and made my interest in the issue of health care more than just academic.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013: Full House of Kings, Queens and Presidents to Attend Funeral
December 7, 2013

According to a somber South African President Jacob Zuma, Mandela will receive a state funeral. Mandela’s service will be on the scale of the late British statesman Winston Churchill and Pope John Paul.  As many as five kings, six queens, over 70 presidents and prime ministers and over 2 million faithful are expected to bid the internationally respected leader farewell. President Barack Obama and all living American Presidents that are healthy enough to attend will join the US delegation. This global full house of heads of state is a fitting tribute for a person of Nelson Mandela’s impact and stature.

Nyack Sketch Log: Earth Day Edition
March 31, 2015

Each April, Earth Day gives us a chance to add environmental healing to our spring cleaning. To inspire you, here is the story of a local climate scientist, Robin Bell, who travels to Antarctica to monitor global sea levels; and a local merchant, Maria Luisa Whittingham, whose campaign to reduce waste has become a formal resolution adopted by the Rockland County Legislature. Once motivated, you will find a list of upcoming clean-up dates and sites from Keep Rockland Beautiful so that you can engage in a day when local activities are globally beneficial.

Nyack Sketch Log: GW Bridgegate
February 11, 2014

Having grown up within walking distance of the George Washington Bridge, namesake of our country’s most recent scandal large enough to warrant the suffix “gate,” I was already intrigued when I read the first headlines. Then it got personal. Governor Chris Christie rudely rebuffed an inquiry into the matter by New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg, the mother of a dear high school friend. Driven by umbrage, I began dredging through the reporting to see what was at the bottom of the traffic-themed political pile up

Nyack Sketch Log: National Student Walkout Tomorrow
March 13, 2018

The last time a wave of student protest reshaped the political landscape of a country, Nyack High School students attended  classes in a building with a clock tower. After the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, (17 dead, 14 injured) the nation has witnessed a cadre of student activists who are making progress where adults have failed for decades. In the wake of shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 (15 dead, 24 injured) and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 (28 dead), a Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired and no major gun control measures have passed.

Nyack Sketch Log: Lake DeForest, Where Eagles Have Landed
May 21, 2019

I have lent this space to my friend Ray Wright, a passionate naturalist, who wants to put his opposition to a proposal by the Suez Water Company to build a new headquarters near Lake DeForest on the record. This Nyack Sketch Log will be submitted as testimony at a public hearing at Clarkstown Town Hall on Wed May 22 at 7:30p. We are hoping to others will attend and share their concerns.

Nyack Sketch Log: Toni Morrison’s Full Measure
August 13, 2019

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” These words, uttered by Toni Morrison when she received the Nobel Prize for Literature have gone viral since her death on August 5, 2019. Not only do they capture the blunt style of her prose, they boldly invite us to judge her by her own high standard. In a verdict delivered by countless voices, as an editor, educator, novelist, scholar and public historian, Toni Morrison gave her full measure.

Bill Batson is an artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Roaring Into 2020” © 2019 Bill Batson. To see more, visit 


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