Letter From New York 05 10 15 On Mother’s Day and the existence of real world problems…

Today is the 10th of May. It’s Mother’s Day. My mother is long gone though I still am surprised that there are moments when I think: I need to call Mom and tell her this. So does my brother once in awhile.

So Happy Mother’s Day to all and sundry; when I was having my haircut today the woman cutting my hair asked me what I was doing for Mother’s Day and I had to tell her nothing. My mother has now been dead for twenty years. It seems impossible but it’s true. The last time I saw her she thought I was her brother Ted. It broke my heart.

And those are the things we have to face with aging parents and to worry about for ourselves as we age. I do, for myself. On Sundays I read the Wedding section of The New York Times and the Obituaries. Today there were a few people near my age who had died and it struck me how fragile our time on life earth is and how fleeting.

But these are existential questions and probably first world problems.

In Yemen, they are hoping that the conversation about a ceasefire will become reality. It will help get supplies to folks who are on the edge of starving. That’s a real world problem.

Apparently, there is an attempt being made to get a five-day truce to start on Tuesday to allow for the delivery of humanitarian supplies. There is also going to be a meeting between Arab leaders and Obama at Camp David this week though today King Salman of Saudi Arabia announced he would not be attending. Instead he is sending his Crown Prince and his Deputy Crown Prince in a gesture intended to communicate his displeasure with the US and its effort to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.

In Liberia today the churches celebrated that the country now seems free from Ebola. That’s a real world celebration.

In devastated Nepal, efforts are being made to provide sanitation for all of those who have lost their homes in an effort to prevent cholera and other diseases in advance of the coming Monsoon season. It is critical for the country that has in the past few years made major progress in creating better sanitation; much of that has been reversed by the earthquake. That is a very real problem. And it’s not a first world problem.

In our first world set of problems, security has been increased at US bases in this country because of a heightened concern over ISIS attacks in the homeland.

“Homeland” is a word I don’t remember being used for this country before 9/11, before there was a Department of Homeland Security. It is vaguely unsettling to me – like the Nazis who called Germany “The Fatherland.” It evokes a sense of siege, which I suppose we are in, in a way.

ISIS is a very real world problem all over the world.

Raul Castro met with Pope Francis. He is now thinking about going back to church. That’s a “Saul on the road to Damascus” moment if there ever was one.

Two days of mourning have been declared in Macedonia for the death of eight police officers that were killed in a raid against a terrorist organization, which seemed to have been made of ethnic Albanians. In the story, there are threads of organized crime, heroin and the continued instability of countries that once made up Yugoslavia.

Speaking of a Yugoslavian kind of situation, the hegemony of the television networks is really beginning to splinter this year as we go into the “upfronts,” that moment in the year when television networks get as much as 75% of their inventory purchased by advertisers.

Television ratings, overall, are down 9% from last year to this. Digital is getting more dollars and networks are facing a moribund upfront. It will still be huge but probably flat or down. It is an amazing thing to watch.

What is also amazing to watch is the sunset happening outside. Today was supposed to be a day of thunderstorms but instead there were crisp blue skies and the warmest day of the year. Clouds are beginning to form and we’ll probably have rain tomorrow but today was spectacular.

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