A week’s worth of thoughts…

Letter From New York
May 18, 2009

A week’s worth of thoughts…

There are, here and there, some brighter spots in the economy – a sense we might, at last, be bumping along the bottom – certainly not out of the woods but with a sense we might actually be halfway through the dark forest. Searches online for luxury goods have gone up while those for flea markets are down.

A commentator last week noted that, perhaps because of the financial crisis, few have made much about the fact Obama is African American – ethnicity of the President is less important than the handling of this great crisis. For the most part, Americans think he is doing well while, at the same time, it appears he is now engaged in the delicate balancing of National Security issues.

Obama has been forced to look at some issues differently now that he is in the White House — what to do with those folks in Guantanamo? Right wing pundits are saying this is casting a better light on Bush’s legacy. To me, it is simply another sign of the disastrous situation in which we have found ourselves as a result of the Bush idiocies. The profound failures of the last administration would have left any new President in a quandary as to how to handle them. It is not easy to undo the Gordian knot of Bush’s regime. In this delicate world we do not have the luxury of doing as Alexander did and simply using one’s sword to cut through the knotted rope.

In New York City, Swine Flu is rearing its head. A well-liked educator, Assistant Principal Mitchell Weiner, has died from the H1N1 virus [a renaming has been going on in deference to both Mexicans and the pork lobby]. Five more schools have been closed and the number of suspected cases has been growing just as the world was beginning to breathe more easily. Upstate the flu news is calmer and locally in my part of the Hudson Valley there seems to be quiet on the flu front. It is, however, not over until the fat lady sings and she hasn’t sung yet.

Spring will not settle upon the Northeast; it has been unseasonably cool and wet. An occasional day of warmth arrives only to be followed by a week of cold and damp, with spirits following the weather lead. The never-ending winter has most everyone testy and annoyed, holing up at home as opposed to venturing out into the streets. It was, at home in Hudson and Claverack, a brutally quiet day for shopkeepers on Saturday, normal business off dramatically with a walk up and down Warren Street almost as depressing as the weather – the number of empty storefronts is growing. That’s happening in Hudson and it’s happening in the city. New York real estate is suffering and rents are falling, actually so much it is encouraging people to stop fleeing to the outer boroughs, either to remain or return to Manhattan. The impossible is happening and there isn’t much joy in Mudville these days except for those who are able to take advantage of the travails of others.

Out in space a final repair journey is being made to the Hubble Telescope, an observatory that is giving us glimpses of the magical beyond of deep space. After this mission, no more will be made and when it begins to fail again, Hubble will be allowed to drift down and burn up in the atmosphere having more than served its purpose. For the scientists who have nurtured the observatory through its life, it is hard to know it will go – a bit like having a terminally ill child who may laugh and play now while all the time you know the end is approaching.

The entire Hubble adventure has been an example to what can be accomplished. Early, almost fatal flaws, were rectified, software adjusted, work done, repair missions flown. Hubble has always seemed to me to be a living example of what Browning was describing in his line: Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?

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