Archive for January, 2015

Letter From New York 01 21 15 After the State of the Union Address…

January 21, 2015

Last night I finished dinner earlier than I had expected and before the State of the Union speech so I headed to the Café du Soleil and secured a place at the bar to watch as several years ago I cut the cord and do not have cable in either the cottage or in the apartment in New York.

The sound was off but I thought I’d be able to read the captions. Unfortunately, they were smaller than I would have liked and I may need to have my eyes examined as it was very hard to read and I caught just bits and pieces and so have spent part of the morning reading about Obama’s penultimate SOTU address.

He was combative, facing a Republican controlled Senate and Congress, coming out as far as I could tell as if he and his party had won the fall elections. But they didn’t. Obama laid out a populist plan for middle class relief paid for by enhancing taxes for the rich and big banks. I don’t think it stands an iceberg’s chance in hell of getting very far but, as I’ve said, he is now looking to his legacy.

It will be interesting to see what the legacy is of this President, elected in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, African-American, relatively untested in government. We will see.

In the meantime, it is early afternoon in the city and I was awoken, once again, by the beep beep beep of a truck backing up outside the apartment. I thought it was my alarm and I woke wondering how I had managed to change the alarm tone on my iPhone.

Even though a great Bose radio sits next to my bed, I use my iPhone as my alarm.

Drinking coffee, I used it to start reading about the world. Many of the stories and articles were exegesis of last night’s speech and I roamed through them. The first nine stories on the NY Times app were devoted to Obama and the speech.

It has been a quiet morning, emails, the Times and coffee. I have missed the quiet of the countryside and my desk which looks out both on the woods and the drive, have missed the deer crossing the yard and the flocks of geese inhabiting the creek but I have had things to do in the city and so I’m here.

It’s a grey, chilly day with promises of snow for tonight though nothing like the snow that paralyzed the city a year ago, something like twelve inches fell then. The tony Upper East Side did not get promptly plowed which caused some to accuse the then newly elected Mayor DeBlasio of waging class warfare.

I think that’s subsided.

Beyond the fallout to the President’s speech, the world has been buzzing on. In France, more police are being hired to fight terrorism. In Germany, the head of the Anti-Islam movement, Pegida, has resigned after pictures of him as Adolf Hitler surfaced. In Japan, Prime Minister Abe is attempting to find a way to save two Japanese citizens from being beheaded. ISIS is demanding $200 million for them.

The Republican race for President is heating up. The Koch brothers, richer together than Bill Gates, are holding an invitation only event for politicians sympathetic to their beliefs. There’s a bum’s rush going on to get there. Though Jeb Bush won’t be; he has scheduling conflicts. Chris Christie is off to Iowa to court that state’s Republicans, hoping for a warm reception to burnish his tarnished star.

And today, the list of worst passwords was released. Apparently, we are not very inventive when it comes to them. The worst? 123456. Second worst: password. Come on, we can do better than that!

So, all in all, it is a rather ordinary day in America, post the SOTU address. We have a lot of talk about it and we have chosen bad passwords. We can do more about one than the other.

Letter From New York 01 20 15 After Viewing El Greco…

January 20, 2015

Waking to the sounds of the city this morning, I sipped coffee while listening to the beep beep beep of trucks backing up on the street outside the apartment. After the quiet of the countryside, it was interesting to be surrounded by the urban roar.

This is the closing week for the El Greco exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and I met my friend David Wolf there just as the museum opened so that we could explore without the midday crowds. Once we knew where to go to find El Greco, we found ourselves waylaid by the wonders of the museum.

Eventually we reached the exhibit, not monumental but incredibly impressive. Gathered in the R H Macy Gallery were perhaps forty of the master’s works, each one demanding time to process.

It is easy to see why El Greco is considered a major influence on modern painters. Picasso, Monet, the German impressionists, all claimed he inspired them. His work seems out of sync with the times in which he painted, his works bolder, brighter and more dynamic than those of his contemporaries. At least that is how it seemed to me.

We tarried a good long time and then went our separate ways, David to his lawyering, me to an inbox chock a block with emails.

While I was taking in the works of El Greco, the Mayor of New York, Bill DeBlasio, was in Paris, paying respects to the victims of the recent terrorist attack there. He laid flowers at a memorial.

And while I was perusing El Greco, the Mayor of Paris announced that she was going to sue Fox News for defaming her city by declaring there were “No Go” zones in the city, off limits to anyone who was not Muslim.

Fox has apologized at least four times for the inaccuracy of its statements. Apparently it is not enough to placate Madame Hidalgo. One of Fox’s terrorism “experts” declared that Birmingham in England was also a “No Go” zone. That nearly caused Prime Minister Cameron to choke on his porridge.

As I sit writing this the residence of the President of Yemen appears to be under attack, causing fears of a coup in that country. The brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack proclaimed their allegiance to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen.

I doubt anyone wants more instability there.

Tonight, President Obama goes in front of the nation to deliver his sixth State of the Union address. He will be going back to his theme of raising taxes on the wealthy and increasing fees on banks. I doubt he thinks he will get this accomplished with a Republican Congress and Senate but I am sure he is framing the conversation for the Post Obama era, which is rapidly approaching.

I hope no ones boos him this year. Remember that?

Usually, I don’t watch the State of the Union address because I have unwittingly made a social engagement for the same evening, as I have done this year. As President Obama outlines his plans for the coming year, I will be sitting at dinner with a friend who works for Fordham. I will catch up later, when I get home and all the dissection is happening.

Out in space the Dawn spacecraft is closing in on the dwarf planet, Ceres, and soon we’ll get a look at the largest chunk in the asteroid belt. Scientists are all a titter over their first close look at this celestial body.

And in Herculaneum there is a villa destroyed in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius some 1900 years ago. In its library there is a treasure trove of manuscripts, which were scorched and have been unreadable. With technology, it looks as if they will be able to be read again without damaging them.

It is nice to think that we may recover more knowledge from the ancients after all this time. It should be a good library; the villa was owned by Julius Caesar’s father-in-law.

Letter From New York 01 19 15 Thoughts on MLK Day…

January 19, 2015

The sun is setting in New York City, the world outside turning grey and dark. I am back at the apartment for the first time in a week, settling in for a few days in the city.

It is Martin Luther King Day and I came into the city to have lunch with my old friend Kevin, as well as John, his traveling companion. It was a long, leisurely lunch at one of my favorite spots, the café above the Fairway Market on 74th and Broadway.

After lunch, not quite finished visiting, we went to the Starbucks across the street, where I have always found a seat but today it was crammed to the gills and we wandered into the Viand Café across the street. Kevin wasn’t surprised it was full – after all, it was a holiday.

And, yes, it is, a holiday set aside to remember one of the most remarkable men of the 20th Century. As I was sitting, thinking about what I might do for today’s blog, I found myself back in 1968 when I was a teenager and heard that Martin Luther King was dead. I don’t remember where I was, exactly, as I did when JFK was shot but I remember the dread I felt when I heard he was dead.

As I felt when JFK was shot, as I felt when RFK was assassinated, I felt something good had gone out of the world, forcibly and wrongly and before his time. For all the ‘60’s were a swinging time, they also were dark and violent, a time when all our best hopes seem to be taken from us by madmen with guns.

Today in Mobile, hundreds marched; in Philadelphia, there were thousands. The last Freedom Train ran today, sold out, in California.

It is nearly fifty years since his death but Martin Luther King stands as an example for us all. As I was thinking about what to write today, I read an article on The Daily Kos about the real legacy of Martin Luther King. This writer posited that what MLK really did was to end the terror of living in the South, that by facing and experiencing their worst fears, black men and women learned to live without fear.

Not only did he give great speeches and lead marches, he led men and women to an interior place they had never known.

The world in which he grew up is nearly incomprehensible to me. I never experienced it. I barely knew anyone of color. In my Catholic boys high school, there was one African-American, and two Asians out of 1600. Of those, only one graduated with us, one of the Asians. We had no neighbors of color. I lived in a very white bread world and didn’t even realize it until I was older.

But growing up, I was aware of the sea change that was coming to the country. On the nightly news there were the horrific scenes of human beings being bashed and sprayed by water hoses.

Television made it impossible to hide the reality of what was happening, contributing to changes. The whole world was changing before my young eyes. Viet Nam was the first war that was televised and hundreds of thousands marched against that. There was a feeling that nothing would ever be the same again.

Civil rights were part of the changes being wrought.

Today’s march in Philadelphia found many carrying signs that said: Black Lives Matter. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have called into question how far we actually have come. The questions of fifty years ago still have to be asked it seems.

We have come a long way. We still have a ways to go.

It is right to pay honor to Martin Luther King and the best way of paying honor is to continue to work to achieve his goals. His dream has been partly realized. Let us hope the next fifty years sees the completion of that dream, with hopes it will not take so long.

Letter From New York 01 18 15 On the value of friendship…

January 18, 2015

It is a quietly miserable day in Claverack. When I woke yesterday the temp was 8 degrees; when I woke this morning it was nearly 38 and a steady, dank rain has been making an icy mess of the driveway. All through the Northeast, the roads are reportedly terrible.

I only ventured out to make a quick trip to the grocery store for supplies for tonight’s dinner; friends are coming over.

The rest of the day, I have huddled inside and stared out at the grey and misty mess outside my windows. I can hear rain steadily falling on my roof. It’s a day that could feel quite hopeless. Returning from shopping, I put on some big band music to lighten the mood and turned on a bevy of lights to combat the dark.

It was a typical Sunday, waking to read the news on my NY Times app while sipping some dark, rich coffee. Waking early, I dozed back to sleep for an extra hour despite my best intentions to get the day going. It is that kind of day.

The fall in oil prices has not been good for Wall Street but it is making a huge difference on Main Street where winter heating prices are being alleviated by the fall in oil. In Maine, it could make up to a difference of $3,000 to the average family of that often brutally cold state.

Days like this are meant for contemplation or conversations with far away friends, which I did this morning, having a long call with my old, dear friend Tory Abel. We met in Los Angeles a long time ago and are still close despite not having lived near each other for a long time.

So it was good to catch up with her and plan a get together in the summer.

Ah, it is 4:15 and my deer have just crossed the yard, picking their way slowly across the ice. It’s what we’ll all be doing in the morning, I’m guessing, picking our way carefully over the ice.

Shortly, I will light a fire in the Franklin stove and settle in for the evening. I am fixing simple things for dinner this evening, salad, chicken, risotto, green beans. Tomorrow I go back to the city to have lunch with an old friend who is in from Minnesota on some business. Kevin went to high school with me and we reconnected some years ago and see each other whenever he is in New York or I am in Minnesota.

I’m lucky. I have friends who go back to grade school and high school and one from college days. I always thought that I would have more friends from my college days but almost everyone seems to have scattered across the globe and fallen out of touch.

But it is good to have old friends who can commiserate with you on what it was like to have Sister Neva teach you in third grade – an experience that is indelibly etched into the psyche of everyone who was her student. Ah, Catholic Elementary School!

But now as this grey day grows darker, I will wrap up and begin to prep for dinner and be grateful for the coziness of the cottage, while reminding myself of the luck I have in friendship.

Letter From New York 01 17 15 Far from the world’s troubles…

January 17, 2015

The bitter cold has continued. My kitchen faucet is still dripping steadily to keep it from freezing up. The kitchen cupboards are kept open and the house is steadily warm. All day yesterday, I burned logs in the Franklin stove, warming the house.

I went to have my hair cut this morning and I was shivering by the time I got into the shop, which was still chill from the night before and hadn’t warmed up. I did my best not to shake while my hair was being cut.

Following that, I went down to the Red Dot for something to eat. Sitting there, I read a book, a real book, not one on my Kindle. I got some great pleasure out of turning the pages and having the tactile experience of feeling paper.

It was nothing deep; a well-written mystery by Susan Hill entitled “The Soul of Discretion.” Very well done. My friend, Linda Epperson, suggested her to me and I have enjoyed each of the books in the series. It’s a bit of escapism, which doesn’t seem a bad thing for a Saturday afternoon.

Though I have piles of papers next to my desk that need sorting, I decided to read rather than sort. It is, after all, Saturday. Though I will need to do it tomorrow, before I head into town on Monday.

The days have a rhythm and I like that. Getting up in the morning, coffee, the New York Times on my iPhone or iPad, a check of the weather, a quick game of solitaire on the phone. Then the work of the day begins, whatever it might be that day.

Most of it is about searching for what I might be doing going forward. I have a few things lined up but it is the quietest time I have had in a long time.   Getting restless, I am starting to see if I can stir up some “trouble.”

Around this time of day, I turn my attention to The Letter From New York and, about this time, with great regularity, the deer cross my yard. They were a little early today, a herd traveling east, off toward the open field behind my property.

The geese are like a flotilla on the creek, making noise through day and night. I don’t mind for some reason. They don’t keep me awake and feel comforting somehow in their presence.

It is calm and peaceful here, sunny and chill, but above all peaceful.

Far away are the storms of the world.

Two are dead in a mall shooting in Florida. Five have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism in Belgium. A truck fire closed the Chunnel for a while but there were no injuries. Rebels have abducted the Chief of Staff for the President of Yemen. I could go on. There is never a shortage of troubles.

But right now, the sun is shining here in Claverack. The troubles of the world seem far away and I am going to let them stay far away today. I am doing those ordinary things that are part of the beat of life, reading a book and doing some laundry. Getting ready to join friends for dinner.

Tomorrow, the temperature is expected to rise up and perhaps I can stop letting the water drip. That would be a change.

Letter From New York 01 16 15 Settling into a winter evening…

January 16, 2015

The setting sun is casting golden slashes of light across my snow-covered drive. The day is ending, a little later than yesterday. The days are growing slightly longer and I can see it, here at my desk, working, caught here almost every night about the time the sun begins to set. The cold-water faucet in my kitchen is set to drip continuously as a way to keep it from freezing again. The temperature tonight will fall again into negative territory, a sure danger place for the kitchen pipes.

While the temperature rose into the mid-20’s today, it felt much colder. That troublesome wind chill factor…

When I drove down into Hudson on an errand earlier, I found that Warren Street, which usually starts coming alive on Friday afternoons, was pretty deserted – people probably staying huddled in, as I have been doing. The Franklin Stove is helping warm the cottage; I have gone through most of the wood I have in the house and will have to haul in more tomorrow. For a while, big, puffy flakes of snow fell and I thought we might be in for a good snowfall but they didn’t last long and the forecast is for a chill but dry day tomorrow.

My work today was to edit some pages on my website and that I did, with more work to go. I have left my website go fallow these past months as I was doing a long consulting assignment. Have to spruce them up to reflect what I have been doing recently.

While I have been doing that, there was another hostage situation in Paris at a post office. No word yet that it was terror related or not. Cameron and Obama today announced they would take on the “poisonous ideology” of radical Islam. The Paris attacks against Charlie Hebdo have accelerated and focused the attention of governments.

Late this afternoon, while I was out doing my errands, SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the United States] determined it would take on gay marriage. The world will watch. 70% of Americans now live in states where gay marriage is sanctioned. Something I never expected in my lifetime. I doubt anyone expected it would happen as quickly as it has over the last few years.

We live in an interesting world in which some rights, like gay marriage, are expanding while privacy is whittled away. In many ways, we are giving it up ourselves. Is there anything Facebook doesn’t know about us or that we haven’t confessed on Facebook? I’ve read some of the posts from my friends’ children and I wince. They admit things I wouldn’t publicly admit even now. It’s stunning how much I know about some of them, much which I don’t think I need to know. But they are of an age when they have no qualms about surrendering this kind of information. I don’t know whether to admire them or not but certainly I note their audacity.

Soft jazz plays in the background, a playful counterpoint to the encroaching evening. And while I listen to the jazz I peruse the news, which is interesting.

Elon Musk has committed ten million dollars to help stop a robot uprising in the future. Many leading thinkers and movers are getting nervous about the rise of AI and want to stop a “Terminator” scenario. I signed on online petition about it yesterday. God forbid an Arnold Schwarzenegger coming back from the future! He’s frightening enough as is.

And speaking of science fiction sorts of things, my favorite news posting of the day was from the International Space Station. Recently, there was an ammonia leak that forced everyone to get together in one module while the trouble was sorted out. While they were there, footage surfaced of a UFO flying by the space station. What it was, I don’t know. CBS aired it. Now you know about it.

Love stuff like that. So while UFO believers and doubters debate the footage, I am going to go add another log to my fire and curl up for a quiet evening in the country. Dinner with friends at their house and then some Netflix or Amazon Prime after.

A good evening, I’d say.

Letter From New York 01 16 15 From the safety of the cottage…

January 15, 2015

The sun has nearly set here in Claverack. The western sky is tinged with pink, which gives me hope for good weather tomorrow. It has been brutally cold here though not the kind of cold that has gripped the Midwest. I do my best to remember that when I am bitching about the cold. It is not as bad as the winters I spent growing up in Minnesota.

But cold enough that my cold water faucet in the kitchen seized up and refused to flow. All day I have been nursing it back to life with success finally coming around one this afternoon as I was settling down for a conference call. All day today the deer have been crossing in front of the window of my desk where I work. Going one way or another, they have crossed five or six times during the course of the day.

I was supposed to be in the city today but it seemed all my appointments had moved to next week. Except for the one I missed so I had to email a contrite apology because by the time I realized what I had done, no train could get me to the city in time for my appointment. I felt terrible.

While I have been sitting at my desk, the world has gone on its swirling ways. Reading the New York Times this morning with my morning coffee, I found myself falling into the stories of the day while feeling insulated from them by my presence at the cottage, far from the madding crowd.

The devastation caused by the most recent Boko Haram attacks is beginning to be known. Satellite photographs show whole villages wiped out and the enormity of that has been hidden by the attention paid to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. A young Muslim who was working in the kosher supermarket in Paris saved a number of hostages by putting them in the freezer and then making his own escape to tell the police what he knew. He will be rewarded with French citizenship.

There was a fascinating article I read online about the percentage of attacks that are actually made by Muslims against the number of terror acts committed over the course of a year. The author thought that Muslims were getting short shrift in the press, being blamed for more than their fair share of trouble. Perhaps they are getting the headlines while mainstream news ignores other terrorist acts.

During the afternoon, as I was doing emails and some research, the Belgians broke up a terrorist plot in Verviers, a town in the eastern part of Belgium. It is believed they were receiving their instructions from ISIS. Two people were killed in the raid and a third was taken into custody.

This is the drumbeat of our world. We have Islamists and separatists and God alone knows whom else wanting to create terror to achieve political goals. It probably has always been so but we now live in the interconnected age and so hear about everything, everywhere.

Sunnis and Shiites are massacring each other over a dispute that happened a thousand years ago. Can’t we get over it? I guess not. At least not yet.

So dark descends in Claverack. I will watch some of the Amazon Prime pilots that are premiering today. “Point of Honor,” a Civil War story caught my attention earlier today. As a member of the Producer’s Guild, I have been mailed a number of DVDs of current films and may watch “Into the Woods” tonight too.

I am settling down, into the coziness of the cottage, distancing myself from the drumbeat of chaos that is just beyond me, taking comfort in the deer that crisscross my property and in the geese that are inhabiting the creek outside my living room window. There is little I can do to alter the world outside. There is much I can do to make my world comfortable.

Letter From New York 01 14 15 In a world of contrasts…

January 14, 2015

Awaking to the bitter cold of the Hudson Valley, I ventured out and went down to the city today to have lunch with a friend, Nick Stuart, whom I had not seen for nearly a month. He had been in England for the wedding of his older daughter. When he returned, the mother of his partner, Lisa, took a turn for the worse and slipped toward death. He kept Lisa company while they watched her fade.

So it was great fun to see him today to thread together the weeks that had passed since last we saw each other. When I arrived in the city this morning, the first thing I noticed when I came up the escalator into Penn Station was the number of Amtrak police in the station. They were a swarm, complementing the armed soldiers and State Police.

It caused me to wonder if anything had happened that I wasn’t aware of. There had been a fire the day before in one of the tunnels serving the LIRR. Perhaps that was it. Or perhaps security has just been beefed up because of the Charlie Hebdo affair in Paris. It is my guess is that is the reason.

Charlie Hebdo underscored one of the great fears of security forces – hard to track lone terrorists determined on action. Also, this morning Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attacks, saying it had planned and financed the brothers who committed the killings.

Perhaps it is my imagination but the folks on the subway seemed tenser today, quieter, a little more subdued, a bit more wary. Certainly I felt that way and did from the moment I stumbled into the swarm of Amtrak police at the top of my escalator ride.

Returning to Penn Station this afternoon, I was once again aware of the beefed up police presence. It caused me to sigh; it has been this way since 9/11. Some days I notice it more and some days less. And some days it is more. Today is one of those days. Nestled in the calm of the Acela Club, I await the train that will take me back to the country, to the little patch of country that is mine, to the calming influence of the trees and creek and the ever-present deer roaming the property.

Much of the news of the day still focuses on Charlie Hebdo and its aftermath with more attention being paid to the situation in Nigeria, the Boko Haram having killed a couple of thousand there while all eyes were on Paris.

Our rock star Pope is in Sri Lanka where he met with a multi-faith delegation, something that did not happen when John Paul II went there. Francis is off after this to the Philippines where he is expected to say Mass in front of a crowd of six million. To help with the potential sanitation problems, the Philippine government is encouraging people to wear Depends. They are issuing them to all the police. Practical, if not a bit disconcerting in concept. I learned that on Saturday listening to my favorite radio program, “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!”

We live in a world of stark contrasts. The Holy Father travels the world preaching peace and reconciliation while Jihadists evoke the Prophet to justify murder. In France and Germany there are marches to denounce Islam and to support it. Hundreds of thousands in France have carried signs that declared: Je Suis Charlie while others carried placards that declared: Je Suis Juif, I am Jewish. France has declared war on radical Islam and in New York there are more soldiers and police on the streets and in gathering places.

It is small wonder that I am pleased to go home tonight to the little cottage for a moment’s respite before I return again to the city, which I will do tomorrow or Monday.

Letter From New York 01 13 15 Nothing like friendship…

January 13, 2015

It is a little before three today and the sun has already started slipping away, still bright, causing shards of light to bounce off the ice lining the edges of the Hudson River as the train trundles north. I am headed home from the city for the night to attend the 60th birthday party of a friend. He is one of the owners of Ca’Mea, one of the best restaurants in Hudson and a favorite of mine.

It’s a surprise party and I’m looking forward to it. Roy and his wife, Nancy, have always been very good to me and I was in the crowd when they were married some years ago.

The waters of the Hudson are rough today, wind blown. A biting wind is blowing out of the north, pushing down the temperature.

To my right is the massive, multi-billion dollar project that is the building of the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge. The crane they are using was brought here from half a world away, through the Panama Canal and up the Hudson River where it now soars over the old bridge as well as the beginnings of the new one.

As I stare out at the water, I have been finding that I am very contemplative, quiet and thoughtful. Last night, a friend endured a bout of crankiness from me with great grace. I don’t often get cranky but I did and Robert did a wonderful job of listening to me and bringing me out of crankiness into a semblance of my normal self. It has caused me today to ruminate about the value of friendships such as his, where one can be messy and still appreciated. They’re rare and invaluable. And this is not always a world where friendship comes easily. So a tip of the hat to you, Robert Murray!

What if nations and religions could treat each other with friendship and love? We would have a different world than the one we have now. There would have been no Charlie Hebdo massacre nor would two thousand dead littler the Nigerian countryside after the latest assault by Boko Haram. But, alas, that is not the world we live in.

We live in a world where Rep. Randy Weber tweeted that Obama was worse than Hitler and then apologized for it. And Mike Huckabee has blasted Barak and Michelle for allowing their daughters to listen to Beyoncé. I’m not thick skinned enough to be a politician. I like peace and camaraderie too much.

Speaking of politics, David Cameron, UK Prime Minister, seems to be promising that if he is reelected, MI5, their version of the CIA, will be able to read all emails. He’s making it sound like this is a good thing. Snapchat and Whatsapp could find themselves banned in Britain. It feels creepy to me.

In the face of OPEC refusing to slow down production, oil prices continue to skid, which in turn is causing the market to slide. Seems counterintuitive to me. I would think low oil would be good for the global economy but apparently not. One of the ministers of the U.A.E. said earlier today that those who have more expensive operations should curtail their production, like the folks in North Dakota. His statements fit in well with one of the theories behind why OPEC is not slowing production. OPEC might want those pesky folks off the oil scene.

Ah, it is so complicated out there. Personally, I am looking forward to a good birthday party tonight, hometown joys and friendly laughs in a good celebration. There’s nothing like friendship.

Letter From New York 01 12 15 Venturing back to the city…

January 12, 2015

Last night, I returned to New York City to have dinner with a friend, David, who was in town from Delaware. It was interesting stepping off the train and throwing myself into the mild mayhem that is Penn Station, so much grittier and grim than Grand Central Station.

There is always, now, a moment when I take a deep breath before plunging in to the swarm. Really, it is an assault on the senses. Parts of the station seem to be falling apart. Tarps lined one of the ceilings to keep rain from falling on our heads, I guess.

Meeting David at his hotel, we went just a half block to Angus’ in the Theater District and had a meal and a drink and a good catch-up. As I don’t have cable either at home or at the little apartment in New York, I watched the Golden Globes with David. The moment that stood out to me was in George Clooney’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award. He said something to the effect that everyone in the room had managed to grab the brass ring, they were inside the tent and getting to do what they wanted. And it is true, people in that room, for the most part, had grabbed the brass ring. Good for him for saying so.

This morning when I left the apartment building, William, the daytime doorman, reminded me it was raining outside. I thanked him for the warning but ventured out without an umbrella. I had forgotten that all the umbrellas are at the cottage. It was a wet, chill day in New York, grey and somber, streets slick with rain and everyone a little damp and miserable.

In contrast to the bucolic setting of the cottage, the city makes it easy to be reminded of all the things happening in the world. Sirens blare, ambulances screech through the streets, police cars race from one point to the next, lights all rotating madly, enough to give one an attack of some sort. Here it is possible to feel close to the chaos that was Paris last week.

Sitting waiting for an appointment, CNN Breaking News as well as the BBC announced that ISIS had hacked into the twitter account of Centcom, the US Military Command. I wondered if we had moved into the era of total cyber warfare? Centcom defined the attack as cyber-vandalism. When does vandalism cross into being an attack?

I feel less dispassionate in the city. The world is very close to you. The reality of trouble is only a fingertip away. Winding my way through the streets and traversing the subway, I felt a greater need to be alert, to be a bit more careful. Part of me wanted to slip away as quickly as I could, to once again bathe in the calm of the cottage. I am here tonight, gone tomorrow and then back again on Wednesday for a dinner meeting. I’ll stay, probably, the rest of the week. It will be interesting to see how I adapt to city life again after so much time in the country.