Archive for May, 2016

Letter From New York 05 30 2016 Memorial Day thoughts from the Vineyard…

May 31, 2016

A dense fog is beginning to settle on Edgartown harbor after a wet, chill day; rain pummeled down in sheets for a time and then there was the damp aftermath.   I was delighted that I had thought to bring a sweater with me to the bookstore.

There was a steady stream of customers through the store and while it didn’t seem busy, when we closed out we had had a rather good day, he said, sounding like a shopkeeper.

Bookstore front

I have a whole new respect for people who work in retail.  I have always attempted to be nice to them.  I will work even harder. 

One elderly lady was in the store, with her daughter I think.  My colleague, Stav, took care of them.  Her credit card said her name was Gimbel and he asked if she was any relation to the department store Gimbels?  And they nodded and said yes, they were.

It was Gimbel’s Department Store in New York that started the Thanksgiving Day Parade, watched by millions every year, now the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  But back when they made the original “Miracle on 34th Street” it was Gimbel’s that was making the parade.

Gimbel’s and Macy’s were both sold to Federated at some point and they phased out the Gimbel’s name in the 1980’s.  The daughter said that no one young remembers them but Stav is younger than me by far and he remembered them.

Macy’s was the child of Isidor Strauss, who went down on Titanic with his wife, Ada.  She would not be parted from her husband as the ship was sinking. 

There are several memorials to their love in New York, most famous is the small park near 106 and Broadway, by which I have often walked.

It is Memorial Day and I don’t want that to go unnoticed.  I thought about it when I was swinging, at last, out of bed today.  I went to bed early last night, incredibly tired and slept long, having wild murder mystery dreams.  [One of the things Joyce asked me to do was make suggestions for new mysteries to order…]

It is Memorial Day and I was thinking of all the men and women who have served  the US in all its wars. 

And always, on Memorial Day, I think about Greg Harrison, with whom I went to high school.  Older than me, he enlisted in the Army after high school and died in some rice patty in Viet Nam.

He was a gentle soul.  He once teased me about something and when he realized he had touched a chord that hurt, became protective of me.  And I remember him every Memorial Day.  I went to his funeral in Minneapolis and could not comprehend he was not with us anymore.

I still cannot quite comprehend that he is not with us anymore.  I still remember the moment when he realized the tease hurt me.  He had not meant to and after that, he was very good to me.

When this day comes, I mourn him.  And will, until I die. 

I am not in Minnesota and so cannot bring flowers to my parent’s graves; my brother does that, thankfully, as he does to our Uncle Joe, who was the most important father figure in our lives.  Our father was a reticent man, not much given to social interchanges.  Uncle Joe, however, was, and living next door to us, embraced us all. 

When I was twelve, my father died and Uncle Joe did his best to be the best uncle he could be to me.  He loved all his nieces and nephews and did his best to be fair and generous to us all. 

He is remembered, too, this Memorial Day.

In the meantime, politics plunges on toward whatever end.  I am weary and wary, fearful and fretful and it will be what it will be.  And when I return from my summer sojourns, I must do what I can to see Trump is not the next President.

Ah, fog envelops the harbor.   At this moment, no boats at anchor can be seen.  Time for dinner, a little time and then to sleep, perchance to dream…

Letter from New York 05 26 2016 Thoughts while overlooking Edgartown Harbor…

May 27, 2016

It is blissfully quiet this moment, except for the drone of the Harbor Patrol boat in Edgartown Harbor.  I am sitting, at this minute, on the veranda of my friends’ home overlooking that harbor.

View from the room

Yesterday, I arrived on Martha’s Vineyard.  I am here for awhile, that while yet undetermined. My friends, Jeffrey and Joyce, own the Edgartown Bookstore.  About six weeks ago, reading “All The Light We Cannot See,” a book I purchased last year at their bookstore, it occurred to me they might need some help at the beginning of the season.  So I volunteered.  And here I am.

Yesterday, I left the cottage and had a giddy thought.  If I should decide not to teach in the fall, after the Vineyard, there is no place I have to be for the rest of my life.  It was both liberating and frightening.  I felt like my head was filled with helium.  I have acknowledged, at last, I am adrift in the world and that the boundaries I am now setting are the ones of my own choosing and no one else’s.  

I took a picture of the rhododendron as I left the house.

IRhododendrens at cottage

As I also took a picture of the creek before I left.The creek on May 25th 2016

As I was sitting in my car on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, Jeffrey texted me: don’t eat!  They also own “Behind the Bookstore,” a restaurant that has a great reputation on the island.  We were treated to a tasting course of everything on the dinner menu and dinner service begins tonight.  It was all extraordinary, with the exception of the sweet pea gnocchi, which is still a work in progress.

The young chef is fresh out of Chez Panisse in Berkley, Alice Waters’ signature restaurant.

Tonight, after my first day in the bookstore, where I did my best to earn my keep, I am sipping a martini and looking at Edgartown harbor and thinking how fortunate I am to have this experience.

I am enjoying the moment.

Unbelievably but not perhaps unpredictably, Donald Trump has cinched the number of delegates he needs to be nominated.  I am appalled and don’t want to think about it.  So I am enjoying my view.

Let’s admit it.  I am scared to death if he wins the election.  Scarred to death.  He has no credible credentials to be President of the United States.  And I must decide if I will engage in this fall’s election to defeat him or stay on the sidelines and pray to all the gods in all the universes.  I suspect I will do my best to defeat him.

But Hillary!  As we were driving to “Behind The Bookstore” last night, Jeffrey said, and rightly, that there was no problem that the Clintons couldn’t make worse.

And it is so effing true.  They stumble into things and don’t claim responsibility and just manage to make things worse and worse and worse.  And the polls are showing that Hillary could lose to The Donald. 

Oh my! Lions and tigers and bears… Oh my!

I am going to focus on the moment right now.  I have to.  I am sitting on a veranda on Martha’s Vineyard, looking out on Edgartown Harbor, calm and peaceful.  The storm may be about to erupt on our heads but not tonight.  I will savor tonight because not to do so would be foolish.

Letter From New York 05 23 2016 Letter From New York Thoughts from the train north from Baltimore…

May 23, 2016

It is Monday morning and I am riding an overcrowded train from Baltimore to New York after spending the weekend there visiting friends.  At one point I thought I might end up sitting on the floor but found a seat at the very front of the train.

Outside ruined building pass; we are somewhere just north of Philadelphia.  Exotic graffiti adorns them while the sun blasts down.  Beyond the ruins lie bedraggled row houses that probably will someday be gentrified.  What contrasts we have in this country.

Baltimore is in a resurgence, at least near the water, where my friends live.  We dined on Saturday night at Peter’s Inn, a wonderfully, quirky little row house restaurant, rough around the edges with handwritten menus, food arriving in the order that the chef has prepared it which is not necessarily the way you ordered it.  Good chill martinis and a nice little wine list, friendly people and that wonderful thing called “atmosphere” that has not been scrupulously concocted but which emerges from the quirkiness of the place and people.

It was a time of sitting around and visiting with Lionel and Pierre and my friend Allen Skarsgard, with whom I had some long philosophical conversations over the weekend.  We had known each other in the long ago and faraway, reconnecting just enough that we can mark the present without dwelling in our past.

There was, of course, talk of the brutal politics of this election cycle.  I don’t remember a question that was asked on MSNBC on Sunday morning but recall the response:  it’s 2016, ANYTHING can happen.

So it seems.

As it seems all over the world.  A far right candidate is deadlocked with his rival in Austria.  If Herbert Norber of the right wins, it will be the first time a far right candidate will have won a European election since the end of Fascism, a warning shot across the bow of the world.

Troubling for Hillary are national polls, of which we have several a day it seems, that have her potentially losing to Trump.  They have Bernie beating Trump by 10.8 points.

Predictions are that a “Brexit” from the European Union will spark a year long recession.  The drive for a British exit from the European Union is, at least partially, being driven by anti-immigration and nationalistic feelings in the country.

Is this a bit like what the 1930’s felt like? 

In the meantime, Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” fame and fortune is playing Belle in a live action version of “Beauty and the Beast.” Somehow that seems comforting to me this morning.

In Syria, IS has claimed the responsibility for killing scores in that poor, broken country in areas considered Assad strongholds.  A suicide bomber killed many Army recruits in Aden, Yemen.

And a drone strike killed the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mansour, who opposed peace talks.  His death was confirmed by Obama, who will be the first sitting President to visit Hiroshima, struck by the US with an atomic bomb in !945, a move which forced the Japanese to move to surrender.  He has been in Viet Nam, where he lifted a fifty year old arms embargo, a move to help counter the rise of China in the South China Sea.

Moves and counter moves, the world is in play.  It always has been.  It just took longer in other times for the moves to be made and to feel their repercussions.  Now it’s almost instantaneous.

Letter From New York 05 20 2016 Thoughts from yesterday and today…

May 20, 2016

It is a bit hazy as I rumble south, down the river, toward the city.  I am having dinner tonight with my good friends Annette and David Fox.  About once a quarter, we get together, order Indian from Indus Valley near their West End Avenue apartment and visit, over wine and an Indian dinner.

All day my mind has wandered back to the Egypt Air flight that crashed on its way from Paris to Cairo, in the Mediterranean off Crete.  My phone screen was clustered with updates when I awoke this morning. 

It is appearing that the plane’s crash is likely the result of terrorism though nothing can be known until the plane’s debris is studied.  Why did it make wild turns just before it disappeared?  What must have the passengers been experiencing?  I shudder to think.  It’s one thing to be there one moment and another not but what must have been in their minds as the plane made a 360 degree rotation?

Chaos erupted on the floor of the House today over a bill that would have denied contracts to Federal contractors if they discriminated against LGBT individuals.  It was lost by one vote and reporters heard jeers and shouts from the House floor.  Championed by Representative Sean Maloney, Democrat of New York in a district just south of me.  Moments before the vote, the measure had 217 votes and House Leader McCarthy twisted Republican arms to change their vote as the presiding officer kept the vote open longer than is normal.

Ah, politics…  All the remaining candidates, Trump, Sanders and Clinton hurled invectives and innuendoes today, as they do every day.

To put it kindly, Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump have been “at odds.”  They had a sit down at Trump Tower and then another on Megyn Kelly’s premiere of her new interview show as she pursues becoming the next Barbara Walters.  It was roundly panned and accusations flew that she played easy with her former adversary.

A week ago the legendary CBS reporter, Morley Safer, retired.  A long planned special tribute to him aired on “Sixty Minutes” this past Sunday.  Today, he died.  He covered the world, from war to art, with panache and precision, exuding a style that is hard to find, particularly now.

The wonderful Hubble Telescope, hovering in space for twenty-five years now, has sent home spectacular views of Mars which is swinging in and will be as close as it gets to earth on Sunday, May 22nd.  From these photos we have learned there were mega-tsunamis on Mars in the long ago.  With luck, it will continue working at least until 2020 or, perhaps, a little longer.

This week,  a Chibok girl, kidnapped two years ago by Boko Haram in Nigeria was freed.  Today, another girl has been rescued, two out of two hundred.  The first one has met with the Nigerian President but it may be hard for any rescued girls to be reintegrated.  The first girl has a Boko Haram “husband” apparently.

In Venezuela, Maduro is cracking down as his regime seems to be cracking up.  Tear gas was fired on a crowd of thousands who were demanding his recall.  Chants of “food, food, food” are being heard in the streets of many cities.  Hospitals are often without power or medicine.  Patients are reported to lie in pools of blood.

Even his fellow leftists are beginning to think him crazy.  One called Maduro “crazy like a goat.” But maybe that’s a compliment?

The train arrived in New York and then I was off to dinner and sleep.  Now it is a beautiful Friday morning in the city, sunlight streaming through the blinds and shortly I’m off to Baltimore to visit friends. 

Yesterday’s drumbeat continues today.  Debris has been found from the Egypt Air flight.  Accepting the inevitable, the Republicans are rallying behind Trump and it will make an interesting fall campaign as Trump and Clinton seemed to be disliked in comparable numbers, meaning no one likes either of them much.

Oklahoma has passed a bill making it a felony to perform an abortion thereby making it virtually impossible to get an abortion in the state.

Israel’s Defense Minister has resigned, accusing Netanyahu of “extremism.”  And if  he continues on the current path, Netanyahu’s government will become the most right wing in Israel’s history.

Now, as it is nearing noon, I need to prepare to leave, with another coffee in my future and some work for WGXC.

Letter From New York 05 15 2016 Isn’t interesting…

May 16, 2016

This is one of the most enjoyable moments I have in a week, sitting at the dining room table, jazz playing in the background, the sun setting, looking across the deck to the wild woods across the creek, pulling together my thoughts as the sun slowly sets.

This morning I re-read my last online post [www.mathewtombers.com].  In the last part I wrote about Islam and the West having to come to terms with each other and as I read it I thought: whoa, Islam must come to peace with itself.  IS is mostly killing other Muslims.  Those numbers dwarf the numbers they have killed in Paris and Brussels and New York and London.  They die by the hundreds and thousands in Iraq and Syria alone.  Not to mention Yemen, which seems to be to Sunni and Shia what Spain was to Fascists and Republicans in the 1930’s.

We note with great care and deep exegesis the murders in the West and the daily drumbeat of death in Baghdad, Aleppo and Yemen is a footnote.  Muslims are mostly slaughtering other Muslims.

Not unlike the way Christians slaughtered other Christians in the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries.  We had the Thirty Year War, which started as a religious war and became so much more.  The Muslims seem to be having their Thirty Year War and it is much scarier because technology is so much more advanced.

And while they fight amongst themselves, some of them  rage against the West, those who are Fundamentalist Muslims.  They see us as abominations.

One late night here at the cottage I wondered if I was living a bit like a Roman in the 2nd or 3rd Century CE, knowing the darkness was coming and unable to prevent it so enjoying the present as much as possible. 

That’s a bit melodramatic I suppose.  Events are still playing out.  Outcomes can be changed. 

The forces at work in our lives are terrifying.  We have a saber rattling Putin, who denies everything negative, and a major religion that is going through an existential crisis, manyßåå of them thinking nothing of killing as a policy. 

In college, I took an Honors course on Medieval Islamic Civilization and they were civilized.  Something has gone very wrong there and, hopefully, for all of us, they will sort it out.

In the meantime, the rest of the world keeps moving.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. 

Not being mentally healthy is a debilitating stigma many carry.  As someone who has been in therapy since he was sixteen, I empathize.  It is not, in many places, åstill, now, acceptable to talk about.

And it saved my life. And in the years between then and now, many members of my family have taken me aside to thank me for having broken the dam.  I was the first and I was pretty loud about it too.  Everyone knew. Everyone rolled their eyes at me, then they began quietly to look for their own therapists.

We are still dealing with racial issues and we are still dealing with mental stigmas. So good there is a Mental Health Awareness Month.  We need all the mental health we can get.

Our politics continue to look like a sideshow. Friends who live in Japan, Australia, Europe ask me what is going on?  I don’t know.  Does anyone?  There has been nothing like this in my lifetime and it is a bit scary.

I have been reading articles about the raucous Nevada Democratic Convention and I haven’t parsed  the events quite but there was a showdown between the Bernie supporters and the Hillary supporters.  Hillary won but her supporters are worried about a similar scene playing out at the national convention.

It has grown dark now.  The sun has set.  While it is mid-May, the temperature is going down to 34 tonight so we are not actually in real Spring yet. I had to turn up the heat tonight.  I might yet light a fire.

The jazz lures me to a quiet place of introspection.

Letter From New York 05 13 2016 Thoughts on mortality….

May 14, 2016

It is Friday the 13th, a day feared by many as unlucky.  It has neither been lucky or unlucky for me, so far…

The cottage is ripe with the good feelings from a lovely dinner party last night.  There were six of us.  We had appetizers, soup, salad, fish, lamb or pork or both, baby gold Yukon potatoes, sautéed carrots, green beans with butter and ice cream and berries for dessert.  People arrived at seven and left after midnight.  A good time was had by all.

I am now in my fourth load in the dishwasher.  We had cocktails, champagne, white wine, red wine, cordials.  It was a long, delightful evening of food and wonderful conversation.  It was a moment of recognition of how lucky I am, to be in the cottage, to have friends, to be alive.

As I returned from the city on Tuesday, I got a text letting me know that Vinnie Kralyevich had died the night before.  He was fifty-two, was on the treadmill, collapsed and could not be revived.  He was someone I worked with a lot about nine years ago and I was staggered to learn he had passed.  I am older and there was another moment that reminded me of my own mortality.

I am at an age when mortality is knocking at my door.  The people who mentored me are growing older and are leaving the scene.  I have younger friends who are cursed with terminal diseases and are leaving me.

For more than fifteen years my friends Medora Heilbron and Meryl Marshall-Daniels have had a weekly call to check in and support each other.  It’s a phone support group.  Medora ran development for USA Network when I was out pitching shows.  Meryl got me involved with the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  I was on the Board of Governors when she was the Chair of the Academy.  Medora reached me on 9/11 just before I lost phone service to check on how I was.

It is a deep and rich sharing, once a week, except when one of us is out of the country.

Medora shared today that Bruce Lansbury, brother to Angela, a producer of great renown and who gave Medora her best break in the business, was suffering from Alzheimers.  Angela and Medora live in the same Los Angeles neighborhood, run into each other in markets but Medora had never introduced herself to Angela but, for some reason, she did this week at the Whole Foods in Brentwood.  She was devastated by the news that Bruce was alive but gone.

It is what all of us fear.  I do.

While I write this, on a day which has been dark and drear, a soft fog is descending around me, enveloping the creek, the end of a rainy, dismal day. And the view in front of me is a bit magical.  One could imagine woodland nymphs dancing in the distance.

However, there are no woodland nymphs dancing tonight in American politics. 

Trump has a butler who is now retired but still gives tours at his estate in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, built for Marjorie Merriweather Post, a cereal heiress whose daughter, Dina Merrill, was an accomplished actress.

He called Obama a “muzzie” who should be hung.  The Trump campaign is working to distance itself from those comments.  A “muzzie” is a Muslim, by the way.

I had a long chat with my client, Howard Bloom, who has just finished a new book, “The Mohammed Code.”  It is an exegesis of the roots of fundamentalism in Islam. We have battered back and forth about the book because it exposes the roots of ISIS and I am hoping will reflect the differentiation between fundamentalist Muslims and the majority of Muslims who have renounced the ugly parts of their religion.

This is the great conversation of today. We must come to peace with Islam and they must come to peace with us.  Not easy but must be done…

Letter From New York 05 09 2016 Thoughts on the last day of teaching…

May 9, 2016

For the first time in a week, the sun is out and the day feels spring like.  Sunlight glitters off the Hudson River as the train I’m riding heads south to the city.  I have a couple of meetings this afternoon and tomorrow and then will head back north after the last one is completed. 

Hudson River from Train

Today, I gave the final to my class.  Once they’re graded and handed in, I am finished unless I am asked back in the fall.

It was genuinely hard for me to see my students go.  I will honestly miss them, even the reluctant ones among them.

They are all interesting characters and I worry about them because most of them are graduating and their academic skills are less, for the most part, of what I would expect of students finishing their second year of college.

They range in age from twenty to forty.  One is a mother who missed a couple of classes because she went to her own daughter’s graduation.  Another is a vet, who is back after years of service, a man of thirty something who carries weight in his soul.

They follow Facebook and spurn Twitter.  Instagram and Snapchat are their social media of choice.

No one remembers anything.  They turn to their phones for the answers for anything and everything.  As has been posited, if you can Google, why remember it?

Today was the first time they were not nose to nose with their phones.  Their phones rarely leave their hands and if they have left it behind someplace, they are a shot out the door to retrieve it.

One of my tasks was to teach them to be better, smarter consumers of media.  I challenged them to go a day without media.  The one who came closest, went out to a farm and stayed there and even he couldn’t make it the full twenty-four hours.

The rest of them barely made it more than a few minutes.  All have a better understanding of how pervasive contemporary media is.

Anxiety is apparent when they are separated from their phones, even for relatively short periods of time.  When I threatened to remove a phone from one my students as she wouldn’t stop playing with it, I was greeted by genuine terror in her face.

Most of them suffer a higher degree of nomophobia [anxiety of being separated from your smartphone] than I had expected.  The older they were, the less it was, the younger they were, the higher the degree.  It was both fascinating and a little unsettling to observe.

Many of them write as if they were texting and some, to my great concern, have almost no skill in writing at all.  I mean zip.  And while they have more than moderate intelligence, they lack the skills to communicate their intelligence in writing.  One of the smartest people in my class in native intelligence is incapable of getting his thoughts on paper.  How can I not worry about him?

Most of them have an appalling lack of historical knowledge in general.  They live in an ever constant present, skimming the waves of history, passing over it rather than through it.  And what happened centuries ago is something which seems irrelevant to them.  As I’ve mentioned, if they need to know about an event, they can Google it.  [A disturbing tendency I have found in myself.]

Major device for connecting to the internet?  The phone, of course.  Most video viewing done?  On the phone.  Music consumption?  On the phone.  Everything is on the phone.

I am convinced they came away with a better understanding of how to approach and interpret media as they experience it and I am glad I have helped make them, please dear God, better consumers of media, less open to manipulation, more discerning, more interpretive because they really weren’t when they came into class.

I am afraid that is the case of many students today, at every level.

Letter From New York 05 07 2016 Thoughts from yesterday…

May 7, 2016

The town of Fort McMurray, in the heart of Canada’s oil patch, is burning to the ground as I write.  88,000 people are being evacuated.  One who has remained to assist in fueling emergency workers described the city, according to Vice, as a “f**king ghost town.”  Reports are calling the situation barely managed chaos. Convoys are transporting people out of town and 8,000 have been airlifted out.

The Prime Minister of Turkey has resigned after a fight with President Erdogan.  As I understand it, in Turkey it’s the PM who is supposed to have the power while the President does the meeting and the greeting.  Erdogan doesn’t see it that way and has been keeping hold on the reins of power.  This resignation makes it easier for Erdogan to consolidate power.  Turkey is troubled, fighting a Kurdish insurgency, IS, wrestling with refugees and a population that is growing antagonistic to Erdogan.

I still would like to go back to the “Turquoise Coast” of that country, sun dappled and bucolic.

Not bucolic is the state of American politics.  Trump continues to rise and has no opposition on his march to the nomination.  Cruz and Kasich are gone. The Presidents Bush, number 41 and 43, have signaled they will not endorse him. Paul Ryan is “not ready” at this time to endorse Trump.  The Trump campaign approached over a hundred Republican politicos to say something good about Trump.  Only twenty responded; the others were “too busy.”

As I gave my last lecture, the students were commenting on how exhausted they were of the political season and the near certainty that Trump will be the Republican nominee has only heightened their distaste for politics; all suspect an ugly, brutal slugfest between the two candidates, neither of whom they admire, assuming Hillary is nominated, as it looks she will. The aspirational nature of politics has slipped away from us.

And before it is done, something like $4 billion will be spent on this election, twice what was spent in 2012.

President Obama implored reporters to focus on issues and not “the spectacle and circus” that has marked coverage so far of the 2016 Presidential race.  After all, being President of the United States is “not a reality show.”  Amen…

A Fort Valley State University student, in central Georgia, was stabbed to death as he came to aid three women who were being harassed and groped near the school cafeteria.  Rest in peace, Donnell Phelps, all of nineteen.

Two are dead and two are wounded in shootings is suburban Maryland, three at Montgomery Mall, where I have shopped and one at a grocery store nine miles away.  One man is believed responsible.  If it is the man police suspect, he killed his wife last night when she was at school, picking up their children.  He was under court order to stay away from her.

It is a grey afternoon as I write this, in a stretch of chill, grey days and news like the above deepens the pall of the day.

If you are feeling grey because “Downton Abbey” has slipped into the past, its creator, Julian Fellowes, took Trollope’s novel, “Doctor Thorne” and brought it to life.  Amazon has purchased it and will stream it beginning May 20.  Fill a hole in your viewing heart.

In my heart, I want a new iPhone and I am probably going to wait until the fall when Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, tells us that the iPhone 7 will give us features we can’t live without.  What they are, I don’t know.  I am writing this on a train going north and can’t stream on Amtrak’s wifi.

Speaking of Amtrak, I booked a trip from New York to Minneapolis on the train for July 20th to visit my brother and his family.  I am taking a train to DC, the Capital Limited out of there to Chicago and the Empire Builder from Chicago to Minneapolis.  I hope it will be good fun.

Fun seems to be what we need these days.  Our politics are not fun.  The constant barrage of shootings is not fun, not remotely.  The economy, while growing, isn’t growing fast enough which is not fun.

What will be fun is that Lionel and Pierre are going to be at their home across the street from me this weekend and I will get to see them.

Letter From New York 05 03 2016 Trump triumphs and the world shakes…

May 4, 2016

Just now, a CNN update flashed across the screen of my laptop while I was finishing the final exam for my class.  It projected that Trump will win Indiana and the first thing I thought was:  I wonder how many Republicans are wishing they had hemlock tonight?

The impossible is happening.  The Donald is on pace to win the Republican nomination, a thing thought unthinkable only six months ago.  There seems no stopping him.

Cruz, I am sure is bereft, not that I feel much for him.  Cruz or Trump?  What a choice?

Speaking of bad choices, medical errors are now the #3 cause of death in the US.  I was shocked but somehow not quite surprised.  In my recent medical experience at Columbia Memorial Hospital, the gastroenterologist there diagnosed me with conditions I didn’t have.  I learned that after seeing my usual gastroenterologist in New York City.

I just went to the great god Google and discovered the US is number 37 in terms of how good its health care is though I think we spend more than any other country in the world on health care.  And now medical errors are our #3 cause of death?   What gives here?  Who is paying attention?  Frankly, I am more scared than I was…

Today is World Press Freedom Day.  Who knew?  Though it has been on my mind today as I wrote the final exam for my “Media & Society” class.  The importance of a free press to a democracy is incalculable.  And so few countries really have a free press.

It is that magical time of night when the light has almost faded and there is still just enough light to see the budding trees outlined against the sky.  There is such beauty in this place, softening the harshness of the world outside.

An American Seal today was killed in a skirmish with IS in Iraq.  The wars go on and will continue to go on.  IS is retreating but is not broken.  The Iraqis do not have a really credible fighting force in the field as far as I can tell.  The Kurds seem to be doing yeoman’s work while Turkey pushes them down.

Recently it was the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which, according to the Turks never happened.  Yet there is credible evidence it did.  Why do we get caught up in keeping mythologies alive?  Would it not be better to move beyond the past?  It was a century ago, another time.  Man up.

Putin, the problem…

When oil prices were high, he took the credit for the country’s uptick.  Now that oil prices have collapsed he his not manning up to the fact it’s a problem.  It’s the West’s fault. To keep attention off the failures of his regime, he has been pointing fingers at the West.

He is like the Tsars of old.  And that is what Russia has been always used to.

Here in New York, Sheldon Silver, once one of the most powerful politicians in the state, just received a sentence of twelve years in prison for corruption.  New York rivals Illinois in the corruptness of its politicians.  Several more are up for sentencing in the weeks to come.

The Tony nominations are in and “Hamilton” has scored a record breaking sixteen.  It is hard to see “Hamilton” as it is sold out for months to come and scalper’s tickets are almost $2,000 a ticket.  You have to be in the 1% to make that happen.  I certainly can’t.

And as I am finishing this, there is an alert from CNN that Ted Cruz is dropping his bid for the nomination after a stinging defeat in Indiana.  Is this true?  I am finding it hard to believe.  We must wait for the morning to see what happens.  Wait!  The BBC has just announced Cruz is gone…

It is beginning to look like Trump versus Hillary and that will be a slugfest to watch, if not to enjoy.

Letter From New York 05 01 2016 From Church to Bin Laden…

May 2, 2016

Five years ago Osama Bin Laden, a rich kid who definitely went bad, was killed in his hiding place in Pakistan, apparently with a stash of video porn.  Born privileged, he rejected privilege and embraced fundamental Islam and wreaked havoc on the world, partly supported by his personal wealth as a scion of a family that had made a huge fortune in construction in the great oil years in Saudi Arabia.  It was said he only wore a shirt once and then discarded it.

Fast forward and Al Qaeda is in decline while its successor, IS, is on the rise.  Or is it?   Its territory has shrunk this year and there is a full on assault about to happen on Mosul, one of the chief cities it has conquered.

However, they are not a country per se and attack places like Brussels and Paris as terrifying terrorists.  The world is a crazy place, isn’t it?  Full of anger, full of hate, full of vitriol and absolutism.  I certainly hope we survive this as well as we survived the vitriol and absolutism of Nazism.  That thought gives me hope.

On Tuesday, Indiana votes.  It looks like it is going to be another Trump victory.  Some polls have hime with a 15% lead. Others have him with a smaller lead but in all polls he has a lead.  It may be a “make it or break it moment” for Ted Cruz.

And as so much of the 2016 campaign has been, this is a fraught moment.  Cruz fights for his political life and Trump sails on, turning every disadvantage into an advantage.  It has been mind boggling to watch and frightening to contemplate. 

This is where we are in politics.  And it is Ted Cruz who helped set the stage for the current scene.

Last night was the White House Correspondents Dinner and while I didn’t watch it in real time, the video clips have been good and demonstrated that Obama has a ready wit [I am sure helped by good writers].  People I know found it great fun and I will look at clips tonight, once I have finished this missive.

The days are growing longer.  It is nearly eight and there is still light and I am looking at the creek in twilight but not darkness.  I love this time of year as the world moves towards the longest day of the year. 

It is a moment of happiness.

It has been a sweet day.  There was a good dinner party last night.  My guests were Larry and Alicia.  A while ago had been his birthday and last night we celebrated it.  Today Larry and Alicia invited me to join them at Ca’Mea for lunch after church, which I did and which was great fun.

I am sitting at my dining room table and am looking out over the creek and am so grateful for this place and this time.

May you be happy in your place and time.