Archive for November, 2016

Letter From Claverack 11 25 2016 Thankfulness after Thanksgiving…

November 25, 2016

Outside the window, it is grey, darkish and chill.  Judy Collins is playing on my Echo [Alexa!  Play Judy Collins!  And she does.]. It is the day after Thanksgiving, the kind of day to curl up with a good book, a blanket and a fire, which I will do after finishing this missive.

My friend, Sarah, sent me something she had received from one of her dearest friends, who now lives in a Buddhist monastery.  “May you enjoy a peaceful day of gratitude for everything that is good and right in the world.”

A great thought for the day after Thanksgiving.  There is, after all, much that is not right in the world.

The list of things wrong in this world is endless.

And so, too, is the list of all the things right in the world.  When I wake in the morning, I do my best to take a moment to be grateful that I have awakened, that I live, that I am surrounded these days by the soft winter beauty that is my little patch of earth.

Yesterday, Lionel, Pierre, their dog, Marcel, and I wandered up the road to Larry and Alicia’s home, with a view down to the Hudson River.  We ate, drank, were merry, and grateful and then gathered around the baby grand piano and Lionel “bashed” out tunes to which all but me sang along.  I cannot carry a tune; sitting instead on the sofa, I listened with joy.

We stayed last night at the Keene Farm, Larry and Alicia’s guest house, a wonderful, smaller house than their home at Mill Brook Farm, which is the main residence. That is a house with its foundations in the Dutch settlers in the 1600’s, added onto in the 18th Century, restored in the 20th, added onto again in the 21st.  As we left there today, I was thinking I have what I have and I am happy with what I have, content in this third act time.

One of the things I have in this world are wonderful friends.

On Holidays, I have a tradition of texting everyone I have texted in the last year with a “Happy Thanksgiving” or a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year.”  Yesterday, my friend Jeffrey texted back he was grateful I was in his life and tears sprung to my eyes.  We’ve known each other a long time; been a constant in each other’s lives.  It felt so good to know.

Kevin, my nephew, texted me that he loved me as did my godson.  Smiles played on my lips.  Two such wonderful men; so lucky to have them in my life.

After last night’s feast, we brunched today at the Keene Farm; Lionel and I cooked while Pierre walked, Marcel sniffing around, enjoying the wonders of a new place.

The world is scary.  Terrible things are happening and I know that.  I am sourly aware that a bomb exploded yesterday in Baghdad, killing Iranian pilgrims.  In Iran, a train derailment took 43 lives.  Refugees are pawns in the political war of wills between the EU and Turkey.

And outside my window, the Claverack Creek slowly makes it way to the pond at the edge of Jim Ivory’s land, full this year of geese, after their absence for nearly five years. It feels a little order has returned to the universe.

Yesterday, a bald eagle swooped up the creek and took momentary residence on a tree limb across from my window.  Then he spread his wings wide and soared up creek, to the north, seeking I know not what.

The bald eagle, symbol of the American Republic, a troubled Republic we all know, yet I quote my great friend Jan Hummel:  we will survive this.  We survived Warren G. Harding, after all, and Grover Cleveland, who was a scoundrel of the worst sort.

Google it…

Dried, dead leaves scatter my deck, an Adirondack chair sits looking lonely over the creek, the dull grey of the skies has continued now for two days.  Now I am listening to Joan Baez, thinking back, gratefully, to those days in my youth when I first heard Judy Collins and Joan Baez.

We are all tender right now.  Being grateful for the good things in our lives will help us heal, I think.




Letter From Claverack 11 21 2016 Join me on the barricades, please…

November 22, 2016

It is November 21st.

Three days after my birthday, a time of extraordinary celebration.  Starting on the night of the 17th, I had dinner with my friends Annette & David Fox.  Leaving them, I connected with my friend Robert Murray and I kept him company while he ate at Thai Market.  Feeling frisky, we followed that by a stopover at Buceo, a Wine Bar on 95th Street.  Things got a little hazy about then.

And that was okay.

The following day, I took the train north and met my friend Larry Divney and his friend, Mark, at Ca’Mea for a birthday lunch.  Then dinner with Lionel and Pierre.

Saturday, I spent the day doing my best to respond personally to everyone who had wished me “Happy Birthday” on Facebook or in emails.  I am still doing that.

It was great.  It was wonderful.  It was a great and lovely distraction in this most confusing time.

Donald Trump, billionaire reality TV star, is the President Elect.

My friend, Pierre, husband to Lionel White, more than best friend said it was [and he is right] that it’s a little bit like we’re Italy and we have elected Silvio Berlusconi as President.

For days, I have done my best to adjust to this.

Over the weekend, for my birthday celebrations, people entered the evening doing their best not to talk politics but that lasted maybe five minutes. How can you not talk politics at this moment?  Once people realized they were in a “safe” place there were revelatory expressions of emotions…

In whatever way you want to think about it, there has been a major shift in American politics.  What I saw this weekend was a beginning of a counter-revolution, a sudden and decisive movement by the left to become a “loyal opposition.”

For years, they/we have felt we had the moral high ground and that was just whisked away from us.  So who are we?

We are faced with the rightfully disenfranchised who voted to place Trump in office. [Let us make note that he did not win the POPULAR vote.]  He won the Electoral College vote, an arcane system I haven’t really thought about since I studied it in high school civics and so I need to understand it better as TWICE in this short century, a President has been elected who won the popular vote but did not win the Electoral College.

As I said, I need to study this but it seems the Electoral College was weighted to help slave states be reasonably represented.  So much to relearn… Or learn for the first time!

We are entering a decisive time and, I think, everyone call feel it.  Politics in this country will never be the same.

Nor should it.  A registered Independent, I am resolutely Liberal and now I have found I must actively fight for the liberal ideals in which I believe.

Join me on the barricades!







Letter From Claverack 11 15 2016 What George Washington said…

November 17, 2016

It has been a spring like day today in Claverack; the temperature scraped sixty degrees and it was possible to walk around with only a light jacket.  It was delightful and I reveled in the day.  Patches of yellow leaves float like Ophelia down the creek.

In this hard time, I have very little to say.

There is a popular blogger I follow named Shelly Palmer.  He wrote a blog today that I read and then tweeted but what was most important for me was that we, the Republic which is the United States of America, has been through times like this before and we have survived.

This is what George Washington wrote to a friend about why he did not seek a third term as President.

“The line between Parties,” Washington wrote Trumbull, had become “so clearly drawn” that politicians would “regard neither truth nor decency; attacking every character, without respect to persons – Public or Private, – who happen to differ from themselves in Politics.” Washington wrote that, even if he were willing to run for president again, as a Federalist, “I am thoroughly convinced I should not draw a single vote from the Anti-federal side.” For Washington, the nation’s political parties had soured discourse and created a climate in which, as he predicted in his 1796 farewell address, “unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.” Referring to the Democratic-Republicans, Washington wrote, “Let that party set up a broomstick, and call it a true son of Liberty, a Democrat, or give it any other epithet that will suit their purpose, and it will command their votes in toto!”

The times we are living in have been experienced before and we will survive what is coming and will, hopefully, emerge as an even better Republic than we are today.

It is what I pray for at church on Sundays when I light my candles for all the things for which I have said I would light candles:  myself, the family of a friend who recently passed after a horrific battle against brain cancer, the daughter of a friend whose daughter has traumatic brain issues, for my family, for peace in this agonized world.

It was a tradition started when I was in high school after a group of us went sailing; a storm came up and we had to swim to shore when the boat capsized.  All of us, except one, were Catholic and we walked to our parish that night and lit candles for our survival, which was not assured.  People waded out into the water to help us to land, exhausted as we were from the efforts of swimming too far with inadequate lifebelts, through waves that had been unmatched.

So I now will light a candle for the Republic every Sunday I attend church and pray we survive this time that seems so riven.

Let us find hope in the fact our Republic has been through times as troubling as this and has survived.



Letter From Claverack 11 14 2016 The world we are waking to…

November 15, 2016

On Sunday, as I was returning to my pew post communion, one of my fellow parishioners, Susan Schuette, reached out her hand to me and asked if everything was alright?  She had noticed a dearth of postings since Election Day.

Wednesday, the day after the Election, I had cataract surgery [which went very well] and it gave me the perfect excuse to be at home with the blinds drawn, to not listen to the news, to eat comfort food and to binge watch on Amazon Prime.  I ate enough mashed potatoes with gravy AND butter for a family of five.

In the slightly hungover state from the relaxants they gave me while working on my eye, I sought to absorb the absolute fact the Donald Trump, television reality star, billionaire real estate mogul, orange tinged with the magnificently weird hair, was President Elect.

Rejoicing is being had on the right while the left is shattered and, quite frankly, totally at a loss as to what has happened.

My dear, dear friend Sarah, known since we were three, and I spoke today.  She lived for seven years in Franco’s Spain and feels we are moving in that direction, to be living in that kind of fear.  A social worker, her Hispanic clients are terrified, if undocumented they fear a door to door search for them.  If documented, they simply fear being profiled and harassed or worse.

Events since the election have fueled all our fears.

At an Episcopal Church in Maryland, the times for Spanish language service were torn down, replaced by graffiti that said: Trump Nation.  Whites only!

At the University at Pennsylvania, incoming African American students received emails from a group called “Mudmen,” announcing a “Nigger” lynching every day.

In Wellsville, NY a dugout was spray painted with the words:  Make America White Again, with a swastika.


The swastika seems to be a much used symbol for those who are doing these things.

It has been reported in St. Louis a group of high school students marched through their school halls with a Trump sign shouting, “White power!  White power!”

A Muslim woman at the University of Michigan was approached by a white man, demanding she remove her hijab or be set on fire.

Ah, yes, the milk of human kindness…

When asked what I think, I say that I expect the next few years are going to be experiential.

A friend phoned me on Thursday and we talked about the election and he said, well you don’t have anything to be worried about.  After all, Pence is the one who is going to be running things after all.

Pence is homophobic.  Mentioning that to my friend, I said I did not feel safer as a gay man in America since this election.  Some of Trump’s supporters say unpleasant things about us though Trump did say in an interview with Lesley Stahl for “60 Minutes” that gay marriage was the law of the land.

He also told, in a bit of milk toast sort of way, that his supporters who might be doing anti-Semitic actions or harassing Hispanics to stop it.  It didn’t sound all that forceful.

The New York Post has called “fake” incidents of hate crimes since the election.  Maybe they would have happened anyway.  I’m not convinced.

It is a sobering time.  It is now my responsibility to be vigilant and to work against moments of hate.  It is my responsibility to work to restore a more liberal voice in this country and I will.  I’m not sure how but I will find some way to do it.

Republicans own the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives and 32 of 50 gubernatorial posts.  They have the run of the land.  Let us see what they do with it.

And let us be prepared to be the loyal opposition.

At Christ Church Episcopal on Sunday, safety pins were given out.  They are to say to those who are frightened because of color, sex, race, religion, disability that you are a person they can be safe with.

Safty pin.jpg

Mine will be worn tomorrow.  It maybe I will offer them to my students.  It is my hope we all continue to be safe and that we are not falling into my friend Sarah’s fear that we are living in a time that will evolve into Franco’s Spain.


Letter from Claverack 11 07 2016 God help us, it is almost over…

November 8, 2016

How could this not be a strange night?  Tomorrow we will be voting [if we haven’t already] for the next President of the United States.

This has been the wildest, most contentious, most upsetting campaign I have ever witnessed in my life.  It has been appalling.

Reading Steven Saylor’s mysteries set in ancient Rome, the democratic process then was even more horrible than now and maybe not by that much.

In some ways I have worked to insulate myself from the craziness.  Returning home from New York after a quick round trip, I came into the cottage, turned on the floods over the creek and reveled in my home and the beauty that surrounds it.  It is my anchor in this time of troubles.

While it is unbelievable to me, there is a path to victory for Trump.  On Sunday, I lit a candle at church, praying that path would not be found.

Soft jazz is playing as I write this, another comfort in all of this.

Because I am having cataract surgery on Wednesday, I may go to bed not knowing who will be President.  If that happens I will be afraid to open myself the next morning to the news.  In the past week or two I wrote to a Republican friend of mine that I was terrified Trump would become President.

I have not heard from her since…

Apparently, his team has found a way to control his access to Twitter and has “cut him off.”  No more Tweets from The Donald.

Several newspapers have reported that Ivanka Trump is attempting to distance herself from the campaign.  On my way to lunch at Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor, I passed the Ivanka Trump Collection.  No one there.

What I find horrible is that Trump’s supporters feel that even if loses, they win.  He has given legitimacy to their radical views.

We have always been a flawed republic and I am just praying that we get through this most flawed moment successfully.

In the meantime, the jazz plays and will continue to play no matter who wins.  No one will take that away from me in my lifetime.

Comey is, I suspect, on the coals after announcing today that the emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer amounted to nothing and so there will be no FBI movement against Hillary.  The Daily News trumpeted:  NOW you tell us.

The Dow jumped 371 points once Comey announced there was no reason to pursue Hillary Clinton.

I speculated that Comey is cooked, having lost the respect of nearly everyone.

Today, Janet Reno, the first female Attorney General, passed away.  Sadly, I had almost forgotten her, though she weathered all the storms of the Bill Clinton administration.

Oklahoma suffered an earthquake today, linked, perhaps, to fracking.

And, really, can I make a request of the universe?  Let’s end daylight saving time, okay.  I am sorry. It just doesn’t seem worth it.  I am discontented this year, as I am every season when it happens.  Is there really a reason for this?

In New Delhi, the air is terrible and schools are closed.  It is worse than Beijing.

As the Iraqis advance on Mosul they are finding mass graves with beheaded men and I have no idea how they justify their behavior.  But they do.

It is not late and I am tired.

I am tired of this election season which has worn me beyond all reason and it will be over tomorrow, after which will come the next rancorous season and I will be here.


Thank you for reading.

I am honored.





Letter from Claverack 11/05/2016 All about Hudson…

November 6, 2016

It is fall like but not November fall like.  In Minnesota my brother went to a football game wearing Bermuda shorts; it was 75 degrees there.  In Claverack, it scraped 65 and I was warm in my pullover fleece.

When I left home this morning, I wandered the Farmer’s Market, picking up a few things I craved like the Sea Salt and Onion cashews from Tierra Farms and some of their Free Trade Honduran coffee.  Meandering over to the Red Dot, I had the omelet of the day and then went wandering the streets of Hudson, marching up one side of Warren Street and returning on the other side, an adventure that took me three hours.

There are all kinds of changes on Warren Street and while I have been aware of them, I haven’t walked the street the way I used to when I first arrived here.  Some antique stores are gone and seem to have been replaced by clothing stores.  Several times I thought I could be in SoHo in Manhattan.

A fancy pizzeria has opened and Olde Hudson has expanded beyond belief.  Dena, who owns it, is a friend so I had seen that.

Many of us have been joking lately about the number of expensive cars seen on the street.  Not so long ago I spotted a Ferrari parked on Warren Street as I was on my way to meet Larry Divney for lunch.  We both said it was the beginning of the end.

When I arrived here fifteen years ago there were no expensive cars on the street.  My Acura was an anomaly for the time as was Larry’s Infiniti.

Hudson is becoming a destination.  For better or worse.  Better for my house value but perhaps worse for those who liked the edge Hudson had when I arrived, a little bit of rebelliousness that was a treasure.

The center of it was the Red Dot, owned by Alana Hauptman who is the Texas Guinan of our town.  Don’t know Texas Guinan?  She ran the hottest speakeasies in New York during Prohibition.  After 16 years, the Dot is still here and still a center of life in Hudson.  And Alana is our Texas Guinan.

And walking Warren Street today, I was astounded by the changes.  To think that I would be thinking it was a bit like SoHo, which is where I was living when we bought the house, is something I would never have thought then.  Sometime, long after I am gone, it will be a lot like Provincetown, I suspect.  Or Edgartown on The Vineyard.  It’s becoming that kind of place.

But will never be exactly that kind of place.  That’s what makes Hudson so special.

There were Porsches everywhere on the street today.  When I went back to the Dot after my tour of the street I ran into James Ivory, the director of films like “A Room with a View.”  He’s become a bit of friend,  has been at parties at my home and dinners too, and one Christmas I spent with him at his house.  With Alana…

It has been an interesting escapade to have lived here through all this, to witness the transformation of a community from rough and tumble to almost respectable.  It was and is an artist’s haven, a place where writers and painters and actors gather.

Across the river in Catskill, there is the Bridge Street Theater and I went last week to a performance of “Frankenstein.”  It was brilliant.  And I mean brilliant.  Steven Patterson, who did every role, was as riveting as Paul Scofield [“A Man For All Seasons”] when I saw him in London on my first trip there.  It was a forgettable script but his performance was transcendent.  Steven Patterson’s performance was like that.


John Sowle directed.  Equal kudos to him.

Tonight, I am not talking about politics or world events.  I can’t tonight.  We are at the near end of the most awful political period I have ever experienced.  No matter who wins, the contentiousness will not end.


The creek at night.


Letter From Claverack 11 03 2016 Crowing proud…

November 4, 2016

Kevin James Malone is not my nephew.  He is the child of my oldest friend, Sarah McCormick Malone, whom I have known since we were three.  There is a picture of the two of us on her parents’ couch in our rain gear on our first day of kindergarten.  [We were adorable.] We were already fast friends then and have been ever since.

From the time he was born, I was around about as much as any of his maternal uncles as the Malones lived in New Mexico and Michael, Bill and John, her three brothers, lived in the Midwest and on the East Coast, where her parents had settled.

On one wonderful Mother’s Day weekend, Sarah and Kevin came to visit “Uncle Mat” when I lived in Santa Monica.  We flew kites on the beach and road around in my convertible, watched movies late into the night, Kevin outlasting both his mother and me.  Kevin was maybe three years old.

When the eldest McCormick daughter, Mary Clare, celebrated her 25th anniversary to her husband Jim Eros [I had brunch with them last weekend], her parents threw a dinner at their country club on Long Island.

It seems to me that I was still living in California but was in New York at that moment and John and Eileen, Sarah’s parents, told everyone there would be a surprise guest.  [Me.]

Kevin was then about eight or nine then.  At some point in the evening Kevin went to his grandmother and asked her why Uncle Mat had a different last name than her other brothers, leaving Eileen to awkwardly attempt to explain.

Forever captured in the photo album of my brain is Kevin Malone walking up to me at that dinner, dressed in a suit and tie, putting his hands on his hips and looking up at me and demanding to know:  what do you mean you’re not one of my mother’s brothers?

It was a hiccup in our relationship we survived.

Years later, when he and his father and I were visiting him at work, we met his boss.  Kevin introduced his father and then me and said, this is my Uncle Mat.

When he was married to Michelle, I gave a toast at the Rehearsal Dinner.  We shopped for a shirt for him that day, together.

Kevin is not my nephew by blood but he is my nephew by choice.  His and mine.  I refer to him as my nephew when I talk about him to other people.  There is no other way to describe my relationship with him or his to me.

When he emailed me yesterday, along with others in his family, to announce he had passed the Bar in the District of Columbia, I felt so proud and glad.  Today I learned he has also passed the Bar in Massachusetts and I felt another swell of pride.

You see, I have no words to describe how wonderful a young man Kevin is.  He is one of the most unique individuals I have ever encountered.  Caring, thoughtful, whip smart without being arrogant about it, determined to be the best Kevin James Malone he can be.

I don’t remember how I met Sarah McCormick Malone but I did and our childhood friendship has endured and I am blessed to have been included in her family as a member of choice and they in mine, as family of choice.

Because of logistics we will not be able to do it this year but we have spent many a Christmas together over this last decade.

In the Strum und Drang of these last days before the election, I am comforted by the presence in this world of a man like my nephew Kevin, now a member of the Bar, a lawyer for real, who will do extraordinary things in his life.

Kevin, I am so proud of you.  Congratulations.

Kevin and his mother the weekend of his wedding to Michelle Melton…






Letter From Claverack 11/01/2016 The dichotomy of things…

November 2, 2016

After an unusually long day for me, I have returned to the cottage, turned on the floodlights over the creek, made myself a martini and am listening to the YoYo Ma station on Amazon Prime.

The bank I have used for a decade or more, First Niagara, was purchased by Key Bank.  My business account has been basically unavailable now for three weeks.  An earnest and very good young man by the name of Jeff Hannett has been working diligently to help me access it.  We’re about 80% there.  If it weren’t for Jeff, I would have transferred to another bank.  I intend to let the CEO of Key Bank know that.  A half dozen friends of mine have pulled their business from Key and gone to other banks.

That was my first stop this morning.  Then others and now I am home, looking over the floodlit creek and listening to soft and gentle music, sipping my vodka martini and finding the peace in a long day.

A week from today is the election.  I can’t wait for it to be over except that it won’t be over.  The rancor raised over the last eighteen months probably will continue until the end of my life.  Polarization has become the norm.  And worn as I am now, I will be more worn as the years go on.

Some Republicans are pronouncing they will work to see that Hillary Clinton is impeached in her first three months as President, if she is elected.

Some Trump supporters seem to be talking about violence in the streets if the election goes to her.

Earlier today while waiting for Jeff at the bank, I started reading an article that said our beloved “Founding Fathers” were even more rancorous than this election, even less civil, even more brutal.  That gives me faith we will get through this.  Please, let us get through this.  Please.

Bethany Thompson, an eleven-year-old who was left with a crooked smile after fighting for her life against brain cancer, killed herself today because of bullying.  She went home, found a gun and shot herself in the head.

My heart is broken and my soul is so angry…  So ANGRY.

Speaking of angry, Assad, President of Syria, said today that his country was better off since the civil war that has wracked his country, sent half of them away as refugees and killed a half a million of them.

He has just put his face next to the word delusional in the dictionary.

The pictures I have seen today from Aleppo will haunt me today until the day I die.  Another little boy on a stretcher, being treated, in pain and bewildered.  And I still wonder:  where is that bewildered little boy in the back of an ambulance that captured our attention a couple of months ago?  I wonder if he lives?  I wonder if he will ever be whole again, if he does live?

Also, in that part of the world, Iraqi forces are said to be on the doorstep of Mosul.  Families attempting to flee that are captured find the men separated from their families and are probably being sent off to an inevitable death.

My heart, tonight, is with them also.

In the world of corporate deal making, it is being talked about on “the Street” that Goldman Sachs is encouraging Apple to make a bid to capture Time-Warner from the clutches of AT&T.  Interesting.

Apple certainly could afford it.  AT&T seems such an odd match for Time-Warner.

Hulu will be launching an OTT service with multiple channels next year.  Its viability moved forward today with deals with Disney/ABC.

How can I be talking about the OTT opportunities in the same letter in which I am talking about the slaughter in Aleppo?

I care about both but at the end of the day, what is happening in Aleppo is far more important than what is happening in OTT.