Archive for September, 2015

Letter From New York 09 28 15 Dealing with Putin, Obama, VW, NASA and IS

September 28, 2015

Super Moon. Putin and Obama at the UN. Water flowing on Mars. An independent Catalonia? Taliban rising, again. Living on $17 a day. More on Volkswagen.

Last night, when the eclipse came at 10:47, I was already deeply in the arms of Morpheus. I had thought I might be able to make it but I was asleep before ten, drifting off, like many other days, reading a book.

Now I am on my way into New York City to have dinner with my godson, after a meeting this morning in Hudson. The day, which I thought was going to be sunny, has turned gray and mournful. The Hudson River looks like a sheet of beaten silver. Leaves are beginning to turn though I suspect it may not be a too colorful fall; the leaves that have turned haven’t much color and look as if they had just surrendered to winter, without a final burst of brilliance.

Both Putin and Obama spoke today at the UN. Even though he is meeting Putin today, Obama questioned Russian motives while leaving the door open for a constructive working relationship. That feels a little hard to imagine, a day after Russia, Syria, Iraq and Syria made an agreement to collaborate with each other on IS, without alerting or consulting the U.S.

But who knows what will happen behind closed doors with the two of them?

NASA now says that water flows intermittently on Mars. While it may be briny, it does flow at times which opens the doors wider for life on the Red Planet at some point in its past or present. Wouldn’t that be amazing? [And you’re correct, I am eagerly awaiting the Matt Damon starrer, “The Martian.”]

While I was wrapped in the arms of Morpheus, worshipping the god Somnus, the Taliban seized most of the city of Kunduz in Afghanistan, giving them a prize they have long desired. Afghan Security Forces and UN Personnel fled to safety as defenses collapsed.

It is the first time in fourteen years that the Taliban have managed to swarm into a city rather than attack with isolated bombings and individual acts.

Far to the west, in Spain, the Catalonian region held elections yesterday. A year ago, the region held a referendum on independence from Spain and those who wanted to leave outvoted those who wanted to stay. Madrid declared it unconstitutional and Catalonia remains part of Spain.

In yesterday’s elections, secessionists won a majority of seats but conventional wisdom seems to be thinking that Catalonia doesn’t really want independence but it wants a better deal from the Central government. This election helps strengthen their hand.

17 Florida legislators, mostly Democrats, are going to live on $17.00 a day for a week in a gesture to support a law to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. They figure that $17.00 is what a minimum wage worker has left over to live on when all the basics are paid.

We all know that Volkswagen had some really good code writers for the software they used in their diesel cars. It fooled testers into believing the cars weren’t emitting pollution when they were.   Now the former head, who stepped down after the scandal broke, is now being investigated for fraud. Martin Winterkorn intimated he knew nothing but the German authorities aren’t so sure.

VW has lost a third of it market capitalization since the crisis exploded and the 78-year-old company is facing its biggest challenge.

More dull economic news from China resulted in more losses for the markets today. No denying it’s a global economy.

Nor can I deny that the sun has come out as I am passing the slowly rising new Tappan Zee Bridge. It burst through clouds and now glimmers off the silver water.

The train is well over an hour late and the conductors are being bombarded by questions as to when we’ll get to New York. One poor man is attempting to catch a plane out of Kennedy. He might JUST make it.

I will make my dinner with my godson and for that, I’m grateful.

Letter From New York 09 27 15 From Syria to Claverack…

September 28, 2015

The Pope is preached brotherly love in Philadelphia. Putin and Obama will meet. The GOP is in disarray. Watching the Super Moon. Finishing the Tennessee Williams Festival. Death visits while on the Haj. Iraq, Russia, Syria and Iran are all playing footsie with one another.

All of these are things I was thinking about while I was crawling down US-6 from Provincetown, working my way slowly to get home. I left before 10:30, thinking I would miss the traffic. I was wrong.

It gave me much time to think. I had had a more than pleasant five days in Provincetown with my friends Dawn McCall and Gail Williams. I attended four performances at the Tennessee Williams Festival in Provincetown, all of them thought provoking.

Last night, Dawn and Gail invited my friends Nick and Lisa to dinner and we had a wonderful time. We started with martinis and made our way through an extraordinary dinner of steak and grilled vegetables. Dawn works the grill better than anyone I know.

On the way home, I listened to a variety of NPR radio stations, a mélange of music and news.

Pope Francis did preach brotherly love in Philadelphia and met with survivors of sexual abuse. He has, as I write this, departed Philadelphia and is headed back to Rome. I am sure he will be sleeping soundly on the flight; it has been a busy ten days between Cuba and the U.S.

With Boehner leaving Congress it will be fascinating to see what will happen next with the Republicans. It seems John Boehner had had enough of his fractious colleagues and just decided to pack his toys and go home. It probably means there will not be a government shutdown this go round but who knows what mayhem will come next?

Iran is demanding an apology from Saudi Arabia over the deaths at this year’s Haj. I doubt that will happen but it does point out how dangerous and volatile the Haj has become in recent years. It’s the equivalent of a rather large city on the move, all at one time.

Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia have come to an agreement to work together to defeat IS. Russia is out there, working to claim its place in this mess. They support Assad. I’m not sure whom the other players actually support but it now seems like they have aligned themselves with Russia, and Assad.

Tomorrow, Putin and Obama will meet. Neither of them claims to have requested the meeting but they will meet. It, hopefully, will be a good thing.

Returning home tonight, I was peckish and went down to the Dot for a bite. David Drake is the bartender on Sundays and Mondays. When not bartending, he paints. I have two of his paintings in my home. I love them.

As I was driving home, I saw the full moon, huge, low in the sky. I probably will not be able to see it when it turns blood red and there is an eclipse of it. I am home and when the eclipse happens, the small forest of trees that surrounds my home will hide the moon. But the moon was huge tonight.

As I sit here writing, the heat is now on, the first time this year. When I entered the house after my return from Provincetown, it was cool to the point of uncomfortable.

Tomorrow will be another day. I think. There are those who claim that tonight’s Super Moon, the fourth in a succession of them, is a harbinger of the end of the world.

I don’t think so.

Letter From New York 09 25 15 Chasing a perfect sunset…

September 25, 2015

Xi Jinping. Syria. Refugee crises. Pope Francis. Stampede at the Haj. Jeremy Corbin. Greece. John Boehner. And so on…

The world continues to rattle along, mostly badly if you read the headlines. I haven’t for a couple of days, while whiling away my time here in Provincetown. At this moment, I am sitting in the kitchen of my friends Dawn and Gail’s incredible home, sipping coffee and thinking how lucky I am to be alive and in this place today.

It’s the weekend of the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown. Dawn and I went to “The Parade” yesterday, a little known Williams’ play, featuring his emotional hallmarks. Everyone in the play is slightly or greatly tortured. Set on sand dunes, it was performed on a platform on real sand dunes, as the tide was slowly rising. I was facing west, the sun slowly descending in the pallid blue afternoon sky.

It was a near perfect experience. Sitting with a friend, watching performers, outside, with a light wind blowing off the sea.

Later we chased the most beautiful sunset and I stood at water’s edge to take a photo.

Sunset

Before setting off to retrieve our tickets and to attend the play, we watched Pope Francis speak to Congress. Speaking in halting English, sometimes a little hard to understand, Francis called out to all our better angels. At one moment, I felt tears form in my eyes. As they seem to be doing with John Boehner, Speaker of the House.

Just now, I received a flash alert from AP on my phone that he is stepping down at the end of October and not just as Speaker but also from the House itself.

While I slept the night before last over 700 people died in a stampede at the Haj, the holy journey every Muslim is extolled to take once in their lives. Nearly a thousand were injured. If I were Muslim, I am not sure I could be extolled to make the Haj. I don’t like big crowds. I don’t mean to be flip; this is a tragedy and I have said a prayer for those dead and injured.

Tsipras of Greece is pledging to enact the necessary reforms for Greece’s bailout quickly. He needs to move quickly on several fronts. Greece is the center of the refugee/migrant crisis as well as having huge financial issues.

As Pope Francis left Washington for New York, President Xi Jinping of China arrived. Obama is having a busy week with international leaders. It’s being said that China and America are going to strive for cooperation, especially over cyber affairs, after a period of tension over that and several other things.

Russia is settling into being a player in Syria and seems to be working on beefing up its communications with Iran on how to deal with that country.

Jeremy Corbin is the new head of Britain’s Labour Party. He is a staunch Republican and has an upcoming audience with the Queen. He has not decided whether he will kneel, as is traditional.

At his very moment, I am listening to Francis speak at the United Nations, speaking on the environment. He has given so much hope to so many and I am hoping that his words echo with life long after he is gone.

Letter From New York 09 22 15 The Pope, Putin, Syria, Refugees and so much more…

September 22, 2015

As I am sitting in the Acela Club at Penn Station, I am watching CNN, which is covering the arrival of the Pope. He landed at Joint Base Andrews and at this moment is arriving at the Diplomatic Mission of the Vatican in Washington, DC, on Massachusetts Avenue.

When Francis touched down, President and Michelle Obama and Vice President Biden were present to greet him, an unprecedented honor. He is waving to the crowd as he slips into the residence for a night of rest.

Tonight is Yom Kippur, the holiest of nights to Jews, and Pope Francis does not want to detract from that. Tens of thousands have been mobilized to keep him safe. The Secret Service sent a man to Rome to watch how Francis interacts with crowds so they might anticipate what they needed to do.

While waiting for Francis to address a Joint Session of Congress [a first], we are, once again, facing a shutdown of the government. The Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood and the Democrats are opposed to that. Somehow I fail to see why the Republicans are SO against Planned Parenthood.

My Republican respect keeps descending.

While all eyes are watching Francis and his movements, EU leaders have been meeting, working to decide how to handle the thousands of refugees and migrants. I found the information a little confused and oriented to dealing with the future rather than the present.

While the EU is determining what to do with the refugees there, Turkey and the US are working to figure out what Putin is up to in Syria. He intends to start bombing ASAP. They’re not sure who it is he will be bombing. Will it be IS as he says OR will it be the anti-Assad Syrian rebels who are also fighting IS? Turkey and the US fear it will be the latter as Putin and Assad have been playing footsie for decades.

I’m now on the train, heading north, on my right the Hudson River glides by with the setting sun glinting off its surface. It’s been mostly a grey day in New York but now the sun is bursting out from behind the clouds as it descends in the west.

All the way out west, in Burbank, CA, a 24 year-old man was taken into custody after he punched a 78 year-old in the face over Nutella Waffle Samples at a Costco. It seems like something that should be in “The Onion” and not real news. But it is real. The young man could face up to 11 years in prison.

There is a soft, golden glow in the west as we move north. The landscape is inescapably beautiful. I am closing down now for the night, wanting to enjoy the beauty around me before the sunset and we are gathered in the dark.

I am coming to the end of reading Steven Saylor’s Roman novels – at least all the ones he’s written so far. Another one is coming out in October. But they remind me that world has always been full of travail and that gives me hope that we will survive this time and find our own next future.

Letter From New York 09 21 15 Some stories are hard to comprehend…

September 21, 2015

It is dusk here in the city. I have just come from the taping of one of Howard Bloom’s podcasts. Sometime this week it should be live and when it is, I will share the URL. Today we talked about sin. The show’s title: Howard Bloom Saves the Universe.

As I left Howard and was descending into the subway, I realized it was cool. It had been my intention to go to Thai Market and write but I realized by the time I was finished it would be chill. I’m going to need a jacket tonight so I came back to the little apartment and opened my laptop.

It has been an okay day, up early to do some work and then a few other errands. Tomorrow I’m moderating a panel for the Religious Communicator’s Council on blogging, followed by coffee with the producer for that, my friend Mary Dickey, and then a meeting in Chelsea and then off to the train.

On Wednesday, I am driving over to the Cape.

There’ll be many things that will occupy my mind as I drive, I’m sure. The world is a rocky place these days.

Croatia is crying for help with the refugees and migrants that have crossed into the country. European leaders meet but seem to come to no conclusions on what to do. It feels likes million are on the move, though I am sure the numbers are not that high. Hungary has taken to posting warnings to refugees and migrants in Lebanon and Jordan NOT to come.

One of the issues Alexis Tsipras faces is that his country is a major transit point for those attempting to reach Western Europe. His is a country overflowing with crises. Reelected, he must now really govern.

David Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister, is fending off allegations he had sex with a dead pig in an initiation ceremony for the exclusive Piers Gaveston Society, named after the supposed gay lover of Edward II, while at Oxford. Oh those wacky Brits!

Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Governor, is suspending his campaign for President, warning there may have to be many more dropouts if Republicans want to stop Donald Trump, who has slipped while Carly Fiorina has risen. The merry dance goes on, Rome burning while the fiddler plays.

Bernie Sanders is the “passion” candidate for the Democrats while Hillary Clinton is the conventional one. The size of crowds they are attracting, with Bernie drawing more than Hillary, is causing Hillary’s detractors to, well, detract.

In a particularly disturbing story that was featured in the NY Times this morning, American soldiers and officers have been told to ignore the painful cries of young boys as they are sexually assaulted by their Afghan counterparts for fear of seeming culturally insensitive.

It was a story I had to read a couple of times to comprehend.

The Emmys are over. Jon Hamm got one, at last. Viola Davis won Best Actress in a drama and gave a heartfelt speech, which I read today.

Last night, leaving the reception for my friends Kris and Eric, I realized I was just a short distance from my friends, Mary Clare and Jim. I phoned them, we got together, I surveyed their new apartment and then we walked down the hill to a little restaurant near them. I’ve known Mary Clare forever and it was such fun to spontaneously join them.

I’m off now to get some food, do a little reading and get to sleep so I can do a good job moderating tomorrow.

Letter From New York 09 20 15 Getting ready to go on the road…

September 20, 2015

Today begins three weeks of travel for me. I am heading down to the city this noon to attend a party for my friends, Kris and Eric, who now live in California. They are stopping by New York on their way to Martha’s Vineyard for a week.

Monday and Tuesday I am in the city, Wednesday I leave for Provincetown to visit friends, back to the city, down to Baltimore for Lionel’s birthday, off to Indianapolis for a conference and then on to Minneapolis to visit family and friends, circling back to the city before heading home.

I am squeezing in all of this, fulfilling promises to visit, before winter hits. I do my best not to go to Minneapolis when it’s freezing.

It’s a gentle morning here, temperature in the sixties with no rain forecast either in the Hudson Valley or down in the city. It has warmed enough that I am now on the deck with my coffee and my increasingly cranky laptop. It is now three years old and beginning to feel its age. Oh well, aren’t we all?

There is a touch of fall in the morning’s air, cool with no humidity, a desire to go put on a sweater. Yesterday young Nick and I discussed the need to fill the racks near the house with seasoned firewood from the piles out by the shed. I am settling in to a comfortable fall.

Not so in Europe where refugees and migrants find themselves trapped at borders, struggling to get around them. The nights are already cool and I doubt any of them are prepared for a chill walk across Europe. The seas will be getting rougher and therefore more dangerous.

Pope Francis has arrived in Cuba and is asking for more freedom for the church. If anyone can convince the Castros to loosen their grip, it’s this man. Tuesday he arrives in New York, one of the reasons I am choosing to be gone. It will be a little bit of chaos; no it will likely be a lot of chaos. Pundits think it will be worse than when the President is in town. But the town is revving up for him.

On the west coast, Seattle is getting ready for a two day visit starting also on Tuesday by Xi Jinping, President of China, in which he will immerse himself in all things tech before heading on to visit Obama in Washington on Thursday.

Ben Carson has declared a Muslim should not be President and The Donald has had to respond, which he has done in typical The Donald style, to not having corrected a man in an audience who said the country had a problem: Muslims and the President was not an American and was a Muslim.

Staggeringly, near thirty percent of Americans still believe Obama is a Muslim. It causes me to roll my eyes and despair of the electorate.

The Greek electorate is deciding today whether to return to office Alexis Tsipras, who was elected to defy the country’s European creditors and ended capitulating to them. The Greeks are weary; this is their fifth national election in six years. Ridiculous, says one man. It will be a very tight election.

The Conservatives are running neck and neck with Tsipras and his Syriza Party. We will know by the morning, at least, who wins.

Tonight are the Emmy Awards. Since I no longer have cable, I’ll not be able to watch them. I don’t have over-the-air service either. I’m interested in seeing if Jon Hamm will FINALLY get an Award for his iconic performance as Don Draper in “Mad Men.” A couple of others interest me too, but not terribly.

Increasingly, I feel removed from media except as a distant observer. I’ve had my fun.

Now I seem to be looking for other fun, closer to home, some still media related but on the very local level. It brings a smile to my lips.

Now I must go and get ready to go to that party…

Letter From New York 09 18 15 How lucky am I…

September 18, 2015

It is a stunningly beautiful day here in Claverack. The creek is a mirror of the trees above it, the sun is beginning to descend in the west, the temperature is perfect and I am savoring every moment I get to be out on the deck.

Those days are numbered. I needed to wait awhile this morning to come out here, as it was just a bit too cool when I woke up.

There hasn’t been a letter for a couple of days. I’ve been busy. Yesterday I drove down to Norwalk in Connecticut for lunch with a good, old friend, Bob Altman, who is the king of recipe videos. He’s done thousands of them.

We toured his studio and then went down to the beach for lunch. I had no idea Norwalk was on the water until yesterday.

It was a five-hour journey both ways but very much worth it. On the drive, I listened almost exclusively to NPR, catching up on what they were saying about the world.

There were interviews with Syrian refugees, men and women who had lives there but have found their towns destroyed. Fearing for their lives and the lives of their children, they left Syria. Many went to Turkey but there is no path there for them to legitimacy so they continued on, trusting in many cases to rubber boats to take them to Kos or Lesbos.

Hundreds if not thousands have died in the pursuit of their dream to make it to a safe place. Overwhelmed, Europe is reacting, attempting to staunch the flow coming toward them. It is a human crisis of unfathomable dimensions.

And I sit here in this blissful spot, bothered by nothing except an occasional mosquito. I cannot comprehend the misery of the millions on the move. I accept it in the abstract but I have no visceral connection with it.

My brother probably does. He has been going to Honduras for years to deal with the lack of medical care for those who live in the back of beyond, people who have no more and sometimes less than these refugees.

Sitting on this deck, overlooking the creek, I realize what luck I have had to have been born me, in the time and place that I was. I have been spared many of the world’s travails by having been born in mid-century America.

The future has always been uncertain. I am old enough to remember “duck and cover.” As if that would have saved any of us from a nuclear blast…

But here I am in the third act of my life, seated on a deck overlooking a placid creek with the luxury of looking at the world and being able to ruminate about its meaning. I am SO lucky.

In the next months, I will probably spend more of my time in Columbia County. Last night I went to Christ Church’s “Vision Meeting” and was glad to have been present. It helped me feel connected to this place.

I may be doing some work with the local not for profit radio station, helping them with their marketing and fundraising. I am settling in to being a citizen of Columbia County as opposed to being a “weekender.”

It feels good.

The god Fortuna smiled on me when it/she brought me to this place, allowing me to settle into a home that I think had been part of my dreams since I was a child. It has been great fun to have lived in New York but I think that time is passing.

Once, when I first moved to DC I though how fortunate it was I was there. I had been allowed to know several great American cities. I have lived in Los Angeles, part time in San Francisco, Washington and now New York. How lucky is that?

I’ve never lived in Chicago and I’ve never really liked Chicago so I don’t think that’s a big miss.

I’ve seen a great deal of the world, much more than I might ever have if I had remained a high school English teacher in Minneapolis and have been a witness to two generations of technological changes and been, somehow, a part of both.

F

Letter From The Train 09 15 15 Unsettling times…

September 16, 2015

As I start to write this, I am sitting in the café car [which has no service] on the 7:15 train out of New York Penn to Hudson. For the rest of the week, I’ll be upstate. On Thursday, I am driving down to Connecticut to visit with a friend/business colleague.

This morning, I had a lovely breakfast with my friend David McKillop, who had been EVP/GM of A+E. He has since left and they have set him up in a production deal. He splits his time between California and New York and this week he was in New York.

My admiration of David is tremendous. He has an interesting view on what is going on in media and we have great conversations about what’s going on. It’s always an intellectually stimulating conversation and he turned me on to some podcasts I will listen to as I am on my way to Connecticut.

It’s been an interesting few days. I have been a little out of sorts and I’m not sure why. Nothing bad is going on. I just feel a little cranky after many days of feeling quite wonderful. I’m hoping a few days upstate will restore my equanimity.

There is restlessness in the world. Europe is in the midst of an enormous refugee crisis. Even Germany, with its opening arms, has regulated its borders to try to maintain some order. Hungary has raised fences and barbed wire. The flood of people is overwhelming a system that is used to open borders. Their needs are tremendous. And the resources to address those needs are not tremendous.

Putin is placing tanks and troops in Syria to bolster up the Assad regime. They are placing tanks at the perimeters of an airport in Latakia. It looks like they are setting up a base there.

Syria grows more complicated by the moment. Half its population are refugees. These are not necessarily poor and uneducated people. They are often the middle classes that no longer feel safe. I listened to a report the other day on NPR; the Syrian refugee interviewed was a successful businessman. He had two homes but no longer felt it was safe for his daughter. They were fleeing so she might have a life that was not marred by barrel bombs.

It is an extraordinary situation; it has not been seen since the end of World War II.

In Egypt, the military killed eight Mexican tourists, mistaking them for a caravan of terrorists. They were on the way to camp in the western desert. There are, of course, conflicting reports on why this happened. President al-Sisi of Egypt has apologized. Another reason not to go see the pyramids this year.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has been toppled by his own party. The liberals in Australia, including my friend Lionel’s brother, are ecstatic.

There is a new Labour head in the UK who is very left leaning. He is not off to a good start. He seems to be alienating his own party and set some veterans off because he kept a “respectful silence” during the singing of “God Save the Queen.” He is a republican.

But they’re not rid of Queen Elizabeth II yet. He has also put in place a shadow government of a mostly boy’s club and that has been met with derision.

It’s dark now. I can no longer see the Hudson River; it is lost in the darkness. Lights gleam on the west side of the river. I’m tired and will wrap up now.

Letter from Claverack 09 13 15 In a time of travail…

September 13, 2015

The sun is setting here in Claverack. It has been a grey day, mostly, with bits of rain here and there. It’s been warm but not hot. The high was at most mid-70’s today. Soon it will be cool and I’ll be lighting fires in the Franklin stove.

As has been the case of late, I had a hard time waking this morning and hit the snooze alarm an annoying number of times but, as it was my personal commitment to go to church today, I pulled myself eventually out of bed and prepped myself and got off to church.

For some reason, I found myself thinking about my Catholic childhood, all of us forced to attend Sunday Mass with our classes, filling the 9:00 service with all our bodies, a Mass generally avoided by any thinking adult. Who would want to go to church with hundreds of school children?

Sister Ann, my 8th grade teacher, announced one day that we would be persecuted because we were Catholics. I remember thinking how strange that sounded. Certainly I didn’t think of myself as being persecuted. I lived in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood and it didn’t seem to me that anyone was persecuting me for being Catholic.

I was born a couple of generations after that had happened.

It came to mind today because Mother Eileen, interim Pastor at Christ Church Episcopal, where I now attend service, talked today in her sermon about those who are suffering around the world because they are Christians.

And, while I am not in those countries, it is real that Christians in Iraq, Syria, and other places are being targeted. There is IS with its rigid and antediluvian interpretation of Islam and there is persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Muslim/Christian tensions inflame the African continent.

I thought we were beyond those times but we’re not, not at all.

As I drove to church, I was listening to a program on New England Public Radio that was devastatingly funny in its oral portraits of what Republican candidates are saying regarding constitutionality. It was almost hysterical, except these people are serious. The constitution should be enforced when combating Muslims but shouldn’t be enforced when Kim Davis refuses to uphold the law of the land. The hypocrisy was astounding.

Post church, I went for a drive while I listened to “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!,” my favorite NPR program and then I went to the Red Dot and perused a new cookbook I had purchased the other day, realizing that we are slipping into fall and it was time to think about Holiday meals.

While the day was supposed to be cursed with thunderstorms, there were none. A bit of light rain has fallen but nothing more.

It is seven in the evening. The light has almost completely left the sky. The light on the fountain has automatically turned on.

The house is quiet. My world is quiet though I know that far away from me the world is not quiet.

The Saudis are bombing Yemen, inflicting terrible pain upon the civilians. People in the lands controlled by IS are cowering in their homes. The markets of Baghdad are not safe.

All of this seems far away. Today, though, Al Qaeda called for individuals to launch attacks in America. Europe is in turmoil over the refugee situation. 14,000 refugees arrived in Germany today. Austria and Hungary have closed their borders.

They are being overwhelmed.

People are lamenting the refugee situation without looking at the wars that are causing the situation.

These are desperate times. I am not sure what to do except to donate to charities who are attempting to help the massive flow of people, desperate to escape their desperate lives, wanting to flee to someplace where they might not be randomly killed or starved for lack of resources.

I have no answers and am not sure I have the questions. I only know we are in a time of travail.

Letter From New York 09 11 15 Memories of 9/11

September 12, 2015

At the moment I start writing this, the Acela train I’m on is gliding out of Wilmington, Delaware, heading up to New York where I will, hopefully, transfer on to a train going to Hudson. We’re running very late, the result of some unfortunate soul having been hit by a train ahead of us.

It is a warm day, beautiful. And all day today it has been on my mind that today is the 14th anniversary of 9/11. Across the aisle, a pair of women, one from Houston, one from Iowa, are chatting about 9/11 and there is a strange resentment I feel about them casually chatting the way they are.

I’ve wanted to lean over and say: please stop; don’t be flippant. I was there.

It is an inescapable part of my life, which I return to every 9/11 and odd days in between when something will trigger a return.

I was getting out of the shower when the earth moved and I thought there had been a small earthquake. It was the first plane, hitting the first building.

There was the phone call from my partner, Al Tripp, asking me if I knew what was going on? No, I didn’t. Turn on the TV. I did. And we talked for a few minutes, my watching on TV what he was seeing from his office window. We said good-bye.

Going outside, I walked to the corner, which gave me a clear shot of the WTC. Just before turning the corner, a man walked down Spring Street, his hand covering his mouth. I knew then that what I would see, rounding the corner, would be unspeakable.

It was. There was a gaping hole in the Tower and smoke flowing out of it, like blood from a wound. The first refugees were coming up West Broadway, crying and looking lost, though not as lost as those who would come later.

Somehow I was back in my apartment. Either on my land line or on my mobile, before mobile service finished, my then friend Andrew phoned me, to tell me his wife Cheryl was down at the WTC. He had told her to walk to our apartment; he asked me to be there for her.

I waited. She arrived, just as the Towers collapsed. We watched on television as it happened. We looked out on the street as the crowds ran, terrified, down Spring Street, people screaming.

Then there was the silence. Cheryl eventually left to make her way home, to wait for Andrew. When he called to check on her, he berated me for having let her go. There had no been stopping her.

Cheryl and Andrew were shortly reunited. They phoned me and insisted I join them. My partner was trapped on Staten Island; I was going to be alone for the night.

Going up to the corner of Spring Street and West Broadway, I wondered how I would get to their mid-town apartment. A bus came by. It was filled with people from the Financial District who had walked and then caught the bus. It stopped and I got on. I went to give my Metro Card. The bus driver put his hand over the card reader and shook his head. There was no room to sit. Businessmen were frantically attempting to make mobile calls. Some went through. Most did not.

There were two African American women sitting on one of the bus’s benches. We were stopped near 14th Street. A very old man was attempting to get up and approach the bus; we were about to pull away. The two women stood and told the bus driver to stop and open the doors again. They exited the bus and brought the old man on, a process that must have taken five minutes.

They gave him their seats. He had been trying to get home from a doctor’s appointment but he couldn’t make it to any bus in time to get on. They elicited from him where he was going and communicated to the driver. He nodded. We proceeded.

The next thing I recall, we had pulled up to another bus and our bus driver got off and conferred with the other driver. He got back on and went to the elderly man. The other bus driver would be sure he got home. The two women picked him up and carried him onto the other bus. The two drivers nodded at each other, two fighters in the same battle determined to carry out a mission. I have no doubt that man found his way home.

I still remember those women. I still cry when I think of them and that bus driver, so determined to perform a duty that they had not expected to fall to them. I felt humbled to be human.

Eventually, though I have no clear memory of leaving the bus, I found myself in mid-town, walking toward Andrew and Cheryl’s, walking stunned through streets filled with others as stunned or more than myself. People cried, people walked staring ahead, people walked as if they had no idea where they were going or where they had been.

Sometime while at Andrew and Cheryl’s it became an imperative for me to be at home. It was nonsensical. My partner was on Staten Island. But I became convinced I had to be home if he got there. I needed to be there and over great objections, I launched myself out into the crazed streets of Manhattan.

Walking for awhile, I finally found a livery service car that said he would take me as far south as he could go, which turned out to be 14th Street. No vehicles, except emergency vehicles were allowed south of there. The only people allowed to walk into the area were those with ID that showed they belonged there.

As I stood in the glare of floodlights and endless police cars were their lights flashing, opposite a line that went to eternity of dump trucks meant to start carting the debris away, I thanked God that my new New York driver’s license had arrived with my address on it.

Showing it to a police officer at a checkpoint, he nodded and let me go and I walked and walked and walked and walked until I climbed the stairs to our apartment.

I didn’t turn on the lights. The eerie ambient light of spotlights and police cars was enough to see. Sitting down on my bed, I put my head down and cried.

Overhead were the sounds of fighter jets, circling the city. The sound of them against the absolute silence of the city was beyond surreal, alone in the dark, I was inhabiting some strange world, and thrust into what was a nightmare from which I was not sure I would awake.

Somehow, I finally slept, waking early, walking out onto Spring Street in Soho, a normally bustling street of commerce. It was dead quiet. Papers from the Towers blew through the streets; the acrid smell of Delhi in the winter was in the air, a mixture of burnt rubber and acrid smoke.

It was as if I was alone in the world; like the last scene in ON THE BEACH, a movie about the end of the world, buildings intact but all living things dead.

Much of the day after, I spent sitting on the couch, waiting, not reading, not watching TV, just waiting for Al Tripp, my partner, whom I called Tripp. Eventually he returned.

I’m not sure now. It seems to me he got off Staten Island, into Brooklyn, walked the Bridge to home. I do remember him standing in the door of our bedroom and walking to him and putting my arms around him and holding him for a long time, feeling his living presence, aware that many that morning would never again hold their loved ones.

It has been fourteen years. I’ve waxed long tonight. Thank you for bearing with me.

I’ve noticed, sometimes, when people find themselves at dinner parties with those who were in the city that day, there is a need to share our experiences with each other, an ongoing, collective healing by telling our stories once again, as if, by each telling, we relieve ourselves of the burden of that day.

My brother once said to me in the days that followed that he was sorry I was there. On the contrary, I feel grateful to have been there.

I was a witness to history. Listening to the jets overhead, I knew the world would never be the same and it has not been.

It was a privilege to have been on that bus and witness the humanity of those two women. I saw the poor old man but was too much in shock to interpret his needs. They were. They responded. They rescued him. Wherever they may be today, I say a prayer of gratitude for them and what they did that day. As I do for that bus driver and all the other people who that day, did their best while their world was blowing up around them.

It is years later. We have now endured what seems like endless years of war. We do our best on some levels to pretend it is not happening. But it is and it all began then.

It is important to learn from what has been and it is important to let that inform where we go.

Thank you.