Archive for January, 2016

Letter From New York 01 30 16 Uncommonly happy…

January 30, 2016

Hudson Valley  Lionel White  Pierre Font   Downton Abbey  iTunes  Hillary Email Crisis  Hillary Clinton  Bernie Sanders  Iowa Caucuses  Zika Virus  Putin  Russian Economy  Ammon Bundy 

It is a beautiful day in the Hudson Valley, the sun generously warming us into the mid-forties with a high of fifty promised for tomorrow.  The light glints off the creek and the wind is shaking the branches of the trees just outside the dining room window.

When I found myself cognizant this morning, I realized I was happy — for no particular reason, just caught up in a pleasant kind of joy that has remained with me during the day.

Tonight I am cooking for Lionel and Pierre and we’ll watch a movie from my collection.  Having subscribed to iTunes in order to watch the program, I now am in possession of the rest of the season of “Downton Abbey” and can binge if I so choose.

Not one of my students had heard of “Downton Abbey” when I asked them.

A LOT, I suspect, is going to be heard in the next few days about the twenty-two “top secret” emails found on Hillary’s server.  The question remains whether they were “top secret” when she received or sent them; there has been much classification after the fact with her emails.  One of the “top secret” ones seems, according to sources, to have been a publicly published article. 

Whatever the truth, it will be made much of in the days to come and it is especially inconvenient as it is only three days to the Iowa caucuses and Hillary has been losing ground to Bernie.

Suddenly, the Zika virus has become a major health threat, spreading rapidly through the Americas but nowhere more prevalent than in Recife, Brazil.  An impoverished city is being made more miserable by the mosquito born virus which results in some infected mothers to give birth to children with microcephaly, with heads and brains smaller than normal.

At least five countries have advised women not to get pregnant until more is known.  Some are saying Zika could be more of threat than Ebola.

A Russian plane violated Turkish airspace again.  Turkey did not shoot it down but did warn of consequences.

One wonders if Putin is playing with fire because he needs diversions from the rapidly declining Russian economy?  His budget has been slashed again because of the declining price of oil.  The Russian budget has been built on the basis of oil at $50.00 a barrel, which it’s not. 

There are reports that the average Russian citizen is beginning to get restless and are beginning to protest, particularly in towns away from Moscow.  Retirees are having their pensions cut.  And, after a taste of a better life, Russians may not want to suffer silently for Mother Russia.

While I sit watching the placid Claverack Creek, the European Refugee Crisis continues; 37 drowned yesterday while attempting to reach Greece.

Three dangerous inmates escaped from an Orange County, California jail and all three have been returned to custody.  One turned himself in and the other two were captured in a stolen van in a Whole Foods parking lot in San Francisco after an alert woman notified police of the presence there of a van matching the description of one being used by the escapees.

While Ammon Bundy is in custody, the Oregon stand-off continues with some of his followers still at the refuge even though Bundy has told them to stand down. 

The sun is beginning to set, a golden light is falling on the barren trees across the creek.  It is time for me to sign off and begin to cook, distracting myself from the world’s woes.

Letter From New York 01 27 16 Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Michael Jackson all get in a car…

January 27, 2016

As I type, the train is sliding south towards New York City.  To my right, the sun is setting and the fading glints of golden sun are reflecting off the ice floes in the Hudson.

Friends warned me yesterday when they heard I was coming in to bring my boots.  The city is warming up and the snow is melting, creating rivers at the intersections.

There are a couple of meetings and then I get to see Kevin, my nephew, and to give him his wedding anniversary present to carry back to Washington, DC, where he and Michelle live.

Ammon Bundy, of the Oregon Stand-Off fame has been captured while one of his top lieutenants and frequent spokesperson for the group, was shot down after, reportedly, charging at the police.  According to reports, the dead rancher, LaVoy Finicum, had vowed to die before he went to jail.

About eight occupiers are still within the Refuge and are managing a live YouTube stream from there.  One faced the camera and said, “They’re coming to kill us.”  The FBI has been taking a patient stance on this one, letting time play out.

Playing up, or perhaps acting out, is Donald Trump who won’t appear on the Fox Republican Debate because Megyn Kelly is one of the moderators.  He used the word “bimbo” in relation to her in a tweet.  The tweet went : “I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!”

What would a day right now be without another piece of mind from The Donald?

Perusing the entertainment news this evening, I fell upon a story of a new film, based on a Vanity Fair story, that has Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando all jumping into a car together to reach New York after 9/11.  The movie that will star Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor and Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson.  Brian Cox is Marlon.  Wait, Joseph Fiennes is a white actor best known for “Shakespeare in Love.”  Ahhhhhh, what are they thinking?  We’ll find out someday.

But what a concept, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Michael Jackson in a car crossing America, together!  Sounds like an absurdist play… I think.

The Iranian President is visiting Italy.  A museum there covered its statues of naked men and women to be sure he wasn’t offended. When Italian journalists questioned this, no one has taken responsibility.  It happened but no one seems to have ordered it.  President Rouhani didn’t ask for it.  The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, didn’t suggest it.  The head of the museum is shrugging his shoulders.

Do you remember the DeLorean?  It is making a comeback!  A company has been formed and will make about four a month, to be sold for about $100,000 a piece.   It’s the car Marty McFly and Doc Brown flew into the future with in the “Back to the Future” series of films.

The Fed has hinted today that it is possibly still on track for a March rate hike which caused another day of market swoons.  But not for Facebook, it soared on rising revenue! But Apple, darling Apple, fell after reporting its best quarter ever but folks are worried it doesn’t have much up its sleeve for the future.

After the Nazis occupied Denmark and began ordering Jews to wear a yellow star, the Danish King started doing the same in an act of solidarity with his Jewish subjects.  Today Danish lawmakers passed a law that allows Denmark to seize the valuables of refugees seeking asylum there. 

It doesn’t seem a very Danish thing to do and underscores how frightened Europe is about the influx of immigrants.  The Danes are going to make the immigrants live in specific areas or camps which is going to increase their isolation and their dependance on the Danish government.

The US, historically, simply lets immigrants in and lets them go about their business, making us incredibly diverse and relatively peaceful in our diversity.  Europe doesn’t seem to be following our example — we haven’t done it perfectly but over time we have gotten more right than wrong.

The golden tinged sun has set; it is dark, the city approaches…

Letter From New York 01 25 2016 A bit of anger at the end of the day…

January 26, 2016

Columbia Greene Community College  Media & Society  Hudson Valley   Kevin Malone  Flint Michigan Water Situation  Governor Snyder  Detroit Teachers’ Sick Out

It is Monday evening and I am home, safe and sound.  I taught my first full class today and I survived.  I had a good time and they seemed to have a good time, thank God.

One student told me he had been advised to take by his advisor and he was not happy.  I think he is happier tonight.  There is a young man who sits to my right when I am facing the classroom, quiet and withdrawn.  I will have to work on him as one-fifth of his grade depends on engagement in the class.  He has a heavy air about him.

Anyway, I was relieved.  I had a good time.  It’s been 35 years since I was in charge of a class and I was afraid I had lost my touch.  Not yet, I hope.

The sunset tonight was pinkish so I am hoping for a good day tomorrow.  I stayed in the Hudson Valley where there is no snow, forsaking the city while it works to dig itself out.  My nephew, Kevin, will be in the city, I think, Wednesday and Thursday and, if his schedule permits, we will get together.

He is finishing his law degree and will be joining a law firm in DC that specializes in medical issues which is where he has been working for the last four or five years.  He is an extraordinary young man and I am extraordinarily proud of him.

Not proud I am of the Flint, Michigan water debacle. What happened that lead found its way into the water supply?  What a tragedy… It’s being called “economic racism” by some.  In the same state a Judge has refused to stop a “sick out” of Detroit teachers who are protesting things like vermin carcasses in the schools along with black mold.

Any wonder they’re upset? 

Governor Snyder of Michigan shouldn’t look for a national post anytime soon, methinks.  Really!  What was this about?  Abandoning the poor and desperate?  What state did he think he was Governor of?

I might go on a rant here about what are we doing?  How can the Governor of Michigan ignore what is going on in Detroit, once the jewel in the crown of that state?

How was it that his administration chose to mock reports of bad water in Flint?

I am confused.  Is this not government failing?

Yes, I think so. 

A Republican Governor in Minnesota did not support maintenance of infrastructure and a bridge collapsed there.  He is not the current Governor.

Governor Snyder of Michigan ignored, it appears, reports that Flint’s water had gone bad.  How can one morally not investigate? How?

I am angry tonight.  And I am carrying forward the anger that I heard from students today about issues like this.

It was pleasantly surprising that they are more outward focussed than I thought they might be.

Interesting days, these…

Letter From New York 01 24 16 Thoughts while missing Snowmaggedon

January 24, 2016

Winter Storm Jonas  Columbia County  JFK Airport  The Red Dot  Transform Films  “Newtown”  Nick Stuart  The Donald  Iowa Caucuses  The Revenant Leonardo di Caprio  Star Wars  Jeff Bezos  Blue Origins

The coastline of the United States has been brutalized by Winter Storm Jonas.  I fled on Friday so that I could be at home when he/it hit.  However, strangely enough, not a flake of snow has fallen in Columbia County.  It has been cold with a bruising wind but nothing like the snow in the city.

JFK had 30 inches of snow on the runway with thousands of canceled flights.  My friend Larry was stranded in the city on the way to spend her birthday with his wife in Mexico.  My friend Jerry was on one of the last flights out before they shut the airport down.

And here we are, in great shape.  It was my intention to go to the city tomorrow afternoon and I think I won’t, giving New York a few more days to clean itself up before I head in.

Down in Washington, DC my nephew Kevin is part of a group of volunteers who are shoveling the walks of the elderly and shut-ins.  So like Kevin, which is one of the reasons I am so proud of him.

In one of the most tragic of storm related deaths, a good Samaritan pulled over to help a motorist who had slid off the road only to have the motorist shoot him to death.

Up early today, I prepped for class this week, went to church.

It is my habit these days to light candles at church for a variety of things — a friend in the UK who is fighting a brain tumor, another friend whose daughter is suffering from traumatic brain disorder, for myself, for the world in which live.  Today there was only one match and so I managed to light only one candle for all those things.

I started lighting candles as thanks and hope when I was in my early teens after an incident in which I nearly drowned.

Following church, I was off to the Dot where I sat doing lesson plans until I either had to order or not.  After Eggs Benedict on potato latkes, I headed home to do some more work.

One of the things I did was to log on to Twitter and follow #Transformfilmsinc.

Transform Films is premiering a film at Sundance this year, “Newtown.”  It follows the ravaging of lives that has occurred since the mass shooting there a little over three years ago.  Nick Stuart, my best friend, is Executive Producer.

As I type, they are screening.

As I grow older, I am aware how lucky I am and have been.  I have had Death nip at my heels a couple of times and am still here to tell the tale.  The loss of my friend Paul has been sobering and a reminder of my own mortality. 

It is the course of life.  None of us get out of here alive.

While I am here, I will continue to observe and to comment as best I can, savoring the ability to shape words to some meaning.

In the fireplace, a small fire is burning.  The dishwasher is running.  The flood lights illuminate the creek.  I have missed Snowmaggedon.

To my political amazement, Trump has gained 15 points in the last two weeks in Iowa.  The Donald is a juggernaut to be sure.

In film, everyone I know is talking up Leonardo di Caprio’s “The Revenant.”  So much so I feel I must see it sooner than later.  I am late to seeing “Star Wars.” I will, eventually but my passion for The Force has cooled.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, also has another company, Blue Origins.  It successfully sent up a rocket and had it return to land upright, successfully, twice now.  Pretty impressive, I think.  One more step to realizing the reach out to space.

One of the things that has saddened me in my life was that having once reached the moon, we seemed to stop striving.  Now it is Internet billionaires who are revitalizing the race to space.  Good for them.

Letter From New York 01 22 16 While waiting for Jonas…

January 22, 2016

Winter Storm Jonas  DC  Claverack  James Green  Magnetic Media  Jerry May  Stock Markets  European Refugee Crisis  Alexander Litvinenko  Putin  Film Academy Diversity Crisis  X Files

I slipped out of the city today on the 11:20 and headed north.  It was chill in the city, feeling colder than the temperature. Once I reached the cottage I decided to remain in for the rest of the day.  A fire is burning and jazz is playing on Pandora.  I will probably turn in early, watch some video, read a book, have a rest…

The eyes of the East coast are all turned on Winter Storm Jonas, which threatens havoc to the coastal cities.  Washington, DC might get as much as two feet of snow and the Mayor there is calling it potentially life threatening.  And it well could be; DC is not particularly adept at dealing with severe winter weather.

Just now I looked at the weather forecast for Claverack and it looks like the storm might miss us.  Precipitation forecast is only 10%. The storm will batter the coastal areas and leave us relatively unscathed.  But that could, of course, change.  I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Thursday I had lunch with an old boss, James Green, who is now CEO of Magnetic Media and they are doing very well, thank you.  It was good and comforting to spend a couple of hours with him.  He is a warm and generous soul.

Dinner was with my long time friend, Jerry May, a chance to catch up, hear about the heart valve replacement he had had last year and to cherish each other’s friendship.  I am hoping his plane gets out of JFK tonight for Seattle, where he lives.

All the major financial indices were up today after a brutal week that challenged anyone faint of heart.

My well seasoned wood is burning wonderfully.  The music is lovely and I am glad to be home, snuggled in the warmth of the cottage.  There feels no reason to stir from here tonight. 

It has been a week to recover from…

Paul’s Memorial Service took more from me than I thought it would though being there gave back to me and I am so glad to have been part of it. 

The world remains a brutal place.

Dozens have drowned in attempting to flee Syria, continuing the flow toward Europe even though the seas are dangerous this time of year.  In ancient days, no ships sailed during this part of the year.  The dozens included more than a dozen children.

It has been ten years since Alexander Litvinenko died as a result of drinking polonium laced tea in London.  Once a Russian operative he became a fierce critic of Putin.  One of the things he accused Putin was that Tsar Vladimir was a pedophile. 

And there are creepy, creepy photos of Putin on a stroll in 2006 calling a five year old boy over to him, pulling up his shirt and kissing his stomach. Seems really inappropriate.  Litvinenko said that Putin had the films of him and underage boys destroyed when he gained power.

And it is those accusations think some that made Litvinenko a marked man.  A British judge said today that “probably” Putin ordered the removal of Litvinenko.  And polonium poisoning is not a pretty way to go.  The poor man lingered in horrific pain for three weeks.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is embroiled in a controversy about the lack of diversity in its nominations.  It’s the second year there have been no people of color in them. 

The Academy says that it is going to work to broaden its membership.  As it should.  It is primarily male, white and the average age is 63.  Less than 2% are African American and less than 2% are Latino.  There are about 6,000 members. 

Charlotte Rampling, an actress that was very big in the 1960s and is nominated this year decried the protests as “anti-white racism” during an interview in Paris, where she now lives.  I used to really like her.

The “X Files” are returning in a six part mini-series.  Looking forward to that.  Hopefully better than the films.

It’s dark but not late.  No snow yet. Looking forward to the morning.  I’m going to believe we’ll miss the hit and I will be just fine.

Hope you are just fine too!

Letter From New York 01 20 2016 May we all succeed…

January 21, 2016

Today was a long day.  It was my first day of class and it reminded me of how much work teaching is and how much work I will have to do to prepare for each class.

Class was dismissed early because I had to drive down to Livingston, NJ for my friend Paul’s Memorial Service.  I dismissed class at 11:45 and made it to Livingston, NJ at 1:58.  The service started at 2:00.

I was the fourth person to speak.  It was hard for me to make it through.  The sense of loss caught in my throat though I did not break down but it was all that I could do not to.

That was true of almost everyone who spoke.  The last speaker was his mother, now 105.

His grandson Daniel was riven by grief, hard to see, hard to bear.  When I arrived, his daughter hugged me and said, “You had fun, you two.”  And we did.

As I drove down, I listened to the radio, always attempting to find a station to listen to that could be picked up.  It was hard.  I heard about the stock market plunge and there was naught that I could do about it driving down New York 87.  The market dive seems to be driven by the fall of oil prices.  One commentator said that the markets weren’t factoring in the good that might come of lower oil prices.

With sanctions being lifted on Iran, it is about to start selling its oil which will further depress prices.  It is going to be a wicked winter, I fear.

I had thought to drive from Livingston, NJ into the city and spend the night but had decided against it as there is a storm brewing which could make driving tough as early as Friday.  So I came home and will train in tomorrow morning for some meetings and a dinner with an old friend, Jerry May.

He and I have known each other for thirty-two years, having met when we were young, in advertising.  I was at his 30th birthday party, having helped planned the surprise party that night.

He lived in San Francisco then and was my client when I was at A&E.  Now he lives in Seattle, at a new agency.  His now wife, Gail, lured me to Seattle on the pretext she was throwing a big birthday party for Jerry.

They punked us.  They threw a surprise wedding for themselves.  I was so pleased that across the years Jerry would want me at his wedding.  We had seen each other little but had remained in contact through LinkedIn and I looked him up when I passed through Seattle on one of my train journeys.

People make the fabric of our lives.  Riches come and go.  But it is the people we touch that really, really, really matter. 

For Paul’s Memorial Card, his daughter Karen chose a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.  I pass it on tonight to you.

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by healthy child, a garden patch, or a reformed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.”

Paul’s grandson concluded his speech with saying his grandfather had succeeded.  He had made Daniel’s life breathe easier.  He made many peoples live breathe easier, mine included.

May we all succeed.

Letter From New York 01 18 2016 Hotel California to present day travails….

January 19, 2016

Minnesota Los Angeles Fred Pinkard Rocky II Ron Bernstein Adagio Nik Buian The Eagles Glenn Frey  Hotel California Paul Krich David Bowie Donald Trump British Parliament about Trump Martin Luther King Day JFK RFK Nazis Genocide

In the long ago and far away, I left Minnesota and ended up in Los Angeles.  Volunteering at a theater as an usher, I met Fred Pinkard, an African American actor who guest starred in television shows and was in Rocky II; never famous but almost always working. 

I needed work and he put me together with Ron Bernstein who owned Adagio, a little “Cafe California” kind of restaurant down the street from Paramount.  As a favor to Fred, Ron hired me.  I was not good.  I was actually going to be fired.  I could feel it. 

Staying up half the night one night, I kept thinking about it and worked out a system.  The next day everyone on the staff gathered round me at the end of my shift and asked:  what happened?  I had worked out a system.  I went from being the worst to the best.  

Late at night after all the customers had left, Nik Buian, the manager and I, would crank up the music system and pull out all the bottles of wine that had been left behind with something in them.  We’d drink them, talk about life and fold napkins for the next day, sometimes to four in the morning.

We’d listen to The Eagles non-stop.  They were his favorite and I can never hear “Hotel California” without thinking of those nights with Nik, folding napkins, learning about wines and sharing good times with a good friend.

Eagles founder Glenn Frey died today at 67.  Not much older than I am. 

I am surrounded by mortality this week.  Wednesday I will be giving a eulogy for my friend Paul, much of it written but in need of a bit of burnishing.  My friend Paul, David Bowie, Glenn Frey and I now find I am at the time of my life when friends are beginning to go and it is sobering.

Life is sobering.  As I am sitting in my dining room the world is full of all kinds of travails. I know that and am frustrated because I can do so little to change any of it.

This morning I had a conversation with an old work friend who confessed to me how scared he is about this coming election.  No one appeals to him; they all frighten him and he will vote based on which one frightens him less.

This is not good. It seems worse than the choice between the lesser of two evils.

Extraordinarily there was a debate in Parliament today about whether to ban Donald Trump from the UK because of “hate speech.”  Now it is the purview of the Home Secretary to ban someone from the UK but it was an extraordinary opportunity for the Brits to weigh in on the American election process.  One member of Parliament described Trump as “an idiot.”

He is far from that.  He is manipulative, decisive and pandering.  He is bringing out the worst of us.  He reminds me of the crass politicians of ancient Rome and that’s not good.

What is good is that today is Martin Luther King Day and we are remembering an extraordinary man who changed the fabric of American life. He taught black Americans to move beyond their fears and called to white Americans to be the best they could be.  When he died I was but a boy and already reeling from the death of JFK.  His death and that of RFK mangled my mind, probably for the rest of my life.  I still reverberate with all those deaths from the ’60’s when I was young and realizing the world for the first time, making my first realizations of what life was about and what life seemed to be about in those days was killing.

And it hasn’t changed.  We have not had many high profile murders as those but we have fallen into the grinding news of killings on a daily basis all over the world, killing that is disgusting, motivated by twisted religious beliefs as the Nazis twisted people into genocide.

Letter From New York 01 16 16 A Paean to Paul…

January 16, 2016

When I woke this morning, the grey sky was sheeting rain and I could hear it pound on the roof.  It was a somber morning, reflecting my mood.

Yesterday, as I was about to go into a meeting with the Associate Dean at the college where I begin to teach on Wednesday, I listened to a voice mail on my mobile.  It was Andrew, the son-in-law of my good friend Paul Krich.

As soon as I got the message I knew what would be waiting for me when I returned it.  Paul, who had been fighting a stoic battle against cancer, had succumbed.

It was news that stunned me almost more than I could handle.

Years ago, when my now ex-partner and I first had the cottage, we quickly developed a routine.  My schedule was more flexible than his; I took the 5:35 out of Penn, went to the house, turned up the heat, laid a fire and then went down to meet the train that left Penn at 7:15.

There was a crowd always at the station, many, like me, waiting for significant others to get off.  Almost always in the crowd was an elegant man with what white hair he had, carefully shorn, always dressed elegantly.  I noticed he met an equally elegant woman who invariably got off the train with bags of food.

It became our custom to go to the Red Dot for dinner.  The other couple did too.

The man and I began to nod to each other while waiting on the platform and then, one night, the elegant woman had too many bags and my ex helped her with them as she was getting off the train.

Not more than fifteen minutes later we were at adjoining tables at the Red Dot.  Laughing, I said we really should introduce ourselves and we did.  It was Paul.

We pulled our tables together and had a lovely evening that became the first of many.

My partner and I split.  Not long after Paul and Lorraine separated. 

There came a time in the summer after Paul and Lorraine had separated when Paul and I found ourselves at the Dot, seated at the bar, eating dinner.  The second time it happened, we left the bar and got a table, starting a tradition of Saturday evening “dates.”

Paul was one of the most amazing men I have ever met.  An avid gardener, he knew so much about horticulture, Whenever we were walking he would point out to me plants and tell me their lineage.

He adored and collected botanical prints.  He appreciated antiques and taught me about tramp art.  To go with him to an antique show or an auction was to be both entertained and educated.

He savored the fine things of life with palpable pleasure.

He rode a Harley – Davidson and wore biker jewelry.

Once he told me he loved to come to the parties at my cottage because I always had such an interesting mix of people at them.  And they were an interesting mix, artists and neighbors, filmmakers, real estate agents and restaurant owners, retired state patrol officers and a former lineman for the local electric company.  Young and old, gay and straight, all fun and all welcoming of each other…

Paul was inclusive.  He had long ago shed the middle class fears and snobberies that flowed through our world as we were growing up.  He embraced people of color, the gay men and women who moved in his orbit, the musicians and the dancers and the artists.

He constantly praised my blogging, encouraging me to keep on at a moment when I was thinking of wrapping it up.

He worked at being fair to everyone, to treating them equally.  He had a ready laugh and a constant, wonderful twinkle in his eye. 

He was the man you counted upon.  Everyone who knew him, knew he could be counted upon, to work to his best to be his best.  He was a human being, not flawless, none of us are, but he worked hard at his humanity and inspired me.

He invited me to his mother’s 100th birthday party, not a large party but one dominated by warmth and caring, for Millie, his mother, and for him.  I will always look back with warmth at the softly lit room and see Paul sitting at the head of the table smiling, his eyes laughing.

The world is diminished with his passing.  I have felt bereft since I heard the news.  As I was driving into Hudson today for errands, I realized it seemed impossible to me we would not ever again sit in the garden of the Dot, the fountain splashing, chatting about our weeks and our lives.

I cannot imagine a world without Paul but that world now exists and I will have to learn how to cope with it.

Letter From New York 01 14 16 Oscars, reunions and bombs…

January 14, 2016

The sun has set and I’m freshly home from a haircut which means I’m a little itchy around the neck.  A fire burns in the stove and jazz plays in the background.  Lights illuminate the creek and I have made myself a martini to sip while writing.  I spent three hours today volunteering for Habitat for Humanity of Columbia County, helping clean up their database.

The stock market didn’t swoon again today, which is good news for almost everyone I know.  It was up 1.41% after falling 2+% yesterday.  I was at the gym yesterday on the treadmill, watching CNN.  They were tracking the market by the minute, which was too depressing to watch while on the treadmill.  So I watched an ancient Kay Francis film on TCM.

It was great to escape into a world where you knew it would all come out right in the end.

Which is what we don’t know about the life we’re living now.  It could go in any direction and we have no way of knowing what that direction might be.

And that, my friends, is why I treasure evenings like this at the cottage.  For a moment, the world seems on hold, even as I am assimilating events from the day.

In Jakarta, IS claims responsibility for multiple explosions in the capital.  At least seven are dead and there is concern that Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim State, which has a secular government, is going to be under fresh attack after several years of calm.

In brighter news, at least three people can claim a piece of the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot though others may surface. 

And today the Oscar nominees were announced.  “Revenant” with Leonardo di Caprio leads the pack with twelve nominations.  Also up there is “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Not long ago an industry insider wondered why they were even mounting a campaign.  Today provided the reason why.

Alan Rickman passed away today.  He played Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films. I saw him live in a relatively obscure Ibsen play, “John Gabriel Borkman” at BAM five years ago and he was electrifying.  His characters were mostly cold and sinister, very different from the man portrayed in the memorials today.

As I type there is another Republican debate beginning.  Politics is becoming reality TV in more ways than just having The Donald dancing on the scene.  Whose idea was it to have all these debates so far in advance of the election?  I want it over already!  Really!  What did my students used to say?  Gag me with a spoon?

There are two iconic television series I have never seen a complete episode of, much to the amazement of my friends.  One of them is “Seinfeld” and the other is “Friends.”  There will be a sort of reunion of the “Friends” cast in the February tribute to James Burrows who created the program.  Matthew Perry may or may not be there as he will be in London for rehearsals of a play.

My martini is finished.  The fire is playful.  The jazz is beautiful.  I am going to sign off and watch the newest episode of “Sherlock” and then head off to bed.  Have to be up early in the morning for phone calls and meetings.

It’s been a lovely day.  Hope yours was too.

Letter From New York 01 12 2016 No mean spirits allowed…

January 12, 2016

It’s late afternoon, Tuesday the 16th, and I am in the Acela Lounge waiting for my train north.  I could grab an earlier one but it is probable if I wait for the 5:47, I will see one or two friends I haven’t seen for a while.

Before opening the laptop and letting my fingers tap the keyboard, I was reading about the death of David Bowie at 69.  He did not much share the news of his health and the announcement of his death did not reveal the kind of cancer which felled him nor the place where he died.

I was told not long ago that he had a place up in the Hudson Valley.  The now ex-wife of my friend Paul Krich, Lorraine, was a good friend of Iman, now Bowie’s widow and she was visiting them one night when I was there for dinner.  She was quiet and shy and was with their daughter.  She and her daughter retired early, smilingly and charmingly.

Bowie has been prolific in the last months of his life, co-writing a play titled “Lazarus” along with a music video of the same name.  Now he is dead, they can be seen as his communicating to the world his time was short.

Time is short for all of us.  It’s a blip of time we inhabit this planet, no matter how old we get. 

Making the most of his blip of time, media mogul Rupert Murdoch has announced his engagement to the ex-wife of Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, the former supermodel.  This is her second marriage, his fourth.  She is 59; he is 84.  Between them they have ten children.

In Istanbul, not far from the Hagia Sofia, a sixth century Orthodox church now a museum, a young Syrian blew himself up, killing at least ten, mostly Germans, and wounding more.  The Turks believe it is IS and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has decried the event.

Putin has hinted today that if Assad ever feels the need to leave Damascus, he might well find welcome in Moscow.  If he made that choice, it would lessen the complications for a Syrian peace.

Humanitarian workers who have reached the town of Madaya have found “barely moving skeletons.”  It is the worst they have seen in the five year Syrian wars and the image causes me to think of the photos taken of Jews as the camps were liberated from the Germans.

The political circus continues.  ANOTHER Republican debate is upon us with Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina now relegated to the “undercard” debate.  Rand Paul says no way and he is off to do more campaigning in person than appearing in the second tier debate.  Paul could be smart or desperate.  Remains to be seen…

Bernie Sanders has a lead over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and has just moved slightly ahead of her in Iowa.  Chelsea has been sent out to campaign.

Though it will probably offend my conservative friends, the NY Times today did a scathing piece on Ted Cruz accusing him of exploiting evangelicals and actually espousing actions that are cruel, painful, and harmful — ones that certainly aren’t very Christian.

As Solicitor General of Texas, he went to the Supreme Court to keep a man in jail who had stolen a calculator from Walmart.  Because of a judicial mistake, the man got sixteen  years instead of two.  When the mistake was discovered, Cruz went into overdrive to keep him in jail the full sixteen.  Eventually the poor man was freed after six.  All over a calculator?  Cruz seems petty and mean and mean spirited all the way round.

Not feeling specially mean spirited and with suspicions friends would be on the train, I went down to Penn Spirits and purchased a bottle of a nice Sauvignon Blanc and a small bottle of sake.  And I got several cups.

Now the train is moving. My friends are here.  Soon we will open the bottle and enjoy good spirited company.  Here’s NOT to you, Mr. Cruz!