Letter From New York December 3, 2014

A light fog skims the surface of the Hudson River as I head south to the city to have lunch with an old friend and to attend a Holiday Party at other friends. Not a bad agenda for a day.

The fog obscures the far bank of the river; barely visible from where I sit, haunting in its shrouded beauty, all greys and blacks.

The view from the train window is much like life – a bit shrouded, not quite able to see from one side to the other. Things are visible but not clear; we see where we want to go but not really. Things close to us are visible; those far away – not so much.

I am smiling. That’s the way I see my life right now. I think I see the far side of the river but it’s not very clear on the other side, yet.

I am also smiling because I am sitting across from a friend of mine who is so engrossed in her conversation that she has not noticed me. That’s a bit like life too, so engrossed in what is right in front of us that we don’t see what’s around us.

As is my routine, I woke up and got a cup of coffee and then checked to see what emails had come in and then checked the headlines from the NY Times, scanning them on my iPhone.

Ashton Carter looks like he will be nominated as Secretary of Defense. It is a little amusing because the Twitterverse has apparently confused him with Ashton Kutcher. I don’t think Mr. Kutcher would be called upon to even act the part of the Secretary of Defense – at least not for a while, except perhaps in a comedy.

Also down in Washington, the political scene looks like it is much like today’s fog bound scene. We seem to be moving back to governance by crisis, everyone knowing they want to get to the other side but not quite seeing the other side and certainly not sure that they agree on what’s on the other side.

The CEO of AT&T who is also Chair of the Business Roundtable has declared that the emerging scene is Washington is putting businesses on hold. They can’t see what’s on the other side of the river and so they aren’t going anywhere until they know.

Another article reported that millions of workers are kept in the fog by unreliable incomes, part of the phenomenon that has grown in the recession with part time work and contract labor. Apparently, income volatility has grown markedly since the 1970’s. A bit like living in the fog, not quite sure you can see how the bills are going to get paid. Full time work has shrunk since the Great Recession began and even though we are officially out of the Great Recession, it certainly doesn’t feel like it to many folks.

Perhaps that’s why Black Friday’s retail sales swooned and Cyber Monday’s were flat with last year. Too many are living in the fog of uncertainty.

Though one bright spot on Black Friday was auto sales: deals and low interest rates brought out buyers, some of whom had been delaying major purchases until things were clearer. For those who bought cars on Black Friday, there apparently wasn’t too much fog or they thought they could see the other side. They had confidence.

Ah, the fog is lifting. I can now see the other side of the river and the color scheme is more than black and grey.

My friend has still not noticed I am sitting opposite her; I continue smiling.

May fog lift for all who might be living in it; may the path to the other side be clear.

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