Letter From New York December 9, 2014 Not unlike the folks at Downton Abbey

I am on the train, plowing south, toward the city. Outside there is an ice storm, making streets treacherous. Deciding caution was the better part of valor, I called a taxi to take me to the station. The Prius isn’t great when the roads are icy. Once I slid through the intersection at the end of the road, straight to the other side. I was lucky.

A kind man picked me up. Turns out he had been coached in football by my late neighbor, Hank Fonda. We talked about him for a while; the goodness I knew in him was underscored by what my driver told me: Hank had kept him out of a lot of trouble when he was young.

Tonight, there is an event in celebration of Downton Abbey at the Hudson Theater in New York; if it weren’t for the fact I had snagged a ticket, I wouldn’t be going into the city but would be cozying up to the Franklin Stove, listening to Christmas Carols and doing Christmas cards.

That’s a lot of what’s on my agenda for the next few days. I am mostly prepped for Christmas with only a few things left to order, mostly food baskets for those far and away.

It feels like a particularly well-organized Christmas this year, perhaps because I have more time on my hands than usual. I woke this morning feeling quite the country gentleman. Not sure why. Perhaps it was because the day could start lazily with good strong coffee and a perusal of the Times.

Once the things that needed doing were done, I showered, shaved and prepped for going down to town. To my great surprise, all the trains have been running on time. Often ice is worse than snow for them.

This brand of weather is likely to continue for the next few days with a break finally coming at the weekend. I’ll be doing a lot of homebound things I suspect tomorrow when I get back to Claverack, all the way through to the weekend. It’s not very safe on the roads and I think I’ll be living on what’s in the cupboards as opposed to making trips to the Price Chopper, which is about to get a new name, more upscale, better to position themselves against the behemoth down the road, Walmart.

Tonight at the Downton Abbey event will be Hugh Bonneville [Lord Grantham], the actresses who play Lady Edith and Mrs. Patmore as well as Robert Collier-Young, who plays the scheming Thomas. There will be highlights from Season Five, which is to premiere next month.

It is amazing the cult like following that has surrounded the show. I know folks who have Downton Abbey parties, expecting guests to show up as one of the characters. Each premiere episode results in many a bottle of champagne being uncorked. We seem to be fascinated by the doings of the very, very upper crust Crawleys and the adventures of the dozens of minions who care for them downstairs.

Julian Fellowes, the writer of Downton Abbey, every episode, is to be commended on the richness of his writing and his careful depiction of class differentiators in that time.

When Downton Abbey began it was 1912, the new season brings us up to 1924. It will be interesting to see how the Crawleys and their staff deal with the 1920’s and the social changes that are beginning to shift the landscape beneath them.

Perhaps that’s why the program resonates, we, too, feel the landscape changing under our feet. If you are not a digital native, the world in which we live seems confusing, with old ways rapidly evolving into the new and unfamiliar.

Perhaps nowhere has this been more evident than in the world of media, a world in which I have been a denizen for many a year. Just this morning I read a report in which network television viewing has declined 11% year over year and even more among Millennials. It is a shattering decline for the status quo.

At the same time, SVOD viewing is rising [Subscription Video On Demand (think Netflix and Hulu)] rapidly.

Television content providers, ad agencies, cable distribution companies, networks, everyone is scrambling to adjust and to survive in a future they can barely see.

Not unlike the Crawleys.

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