Archive for February, 2017

Letter From Claverack 02 20 2017 Musings while seeking Morpheus…

February 20, 2017

My day began at 4:00 AM EST, 5:00 AM AST [Atlantic Standard Time] on the sun blessed isle of Saba where I woke, finished packing, drank some coffee and was picked up by my friends on the island and went to the airport to begin an epic journey back to Claverack.  Cars, planes, automobiles and trains.  Had them all covered today.


Flying to St. Martin, I went on to New York and from New York went by train to Hudson, got to my car and came home.

Earlier this week, I was wide awake in the early hours of the day and now I am awake in the late hours of the night and so, instead of staring at the ceiling, decided to open the laptop and do a letter…

When I came into the drive, I realized how hard this winter has been on the gravel drive and I have some work to do in the spring to redistribute the gravel pushed aside by the snow plow.

It did feel  wonderful to pull into the drive and see the little cottage, all snug and waiting.  Coming in, I turned up the heat a bit, made myself a martini and started to unpack.  Some things I shipped home from Miami as they would have been burdensome to carry out to Saba and back.  One of them was a winter coat, keeping with me only a lighter one.  A wise choice as when I stepped off the plane in New York it was almost balmy.  It was so warm; I almost didn’t need my fleece pullover.

As I rode in the taxi to Penn Station for the train part of the trip, we were held up by road work and I contemplated the extraordinary world in which we live.

My friend, Jan, was afraid I would spend the next four years overflowing with anger at Trump.  I’m not.  I don’t have the energy for that.  Often I am bemused, disgusted, concerned, frightened, surprised, shocked. But not angry.  Not yet.

As I was driving in from JFK, I was thinking about his comment in speech yesterday about what happened in Sweden last night.  Nothing happened in Sweden last night.  Our President baffled an entire nation, wondering if there was something he knew they didn’t.  He didn’t.  It seems he conflated a Tucker Carlson interview into something that wasn’t – or something like that.

The Swedish Government asked for a clarification and President Trump tweeted that he was referring to a Fox News report about Swedes and immigration and rising crime.  But he did say “last night.”

The Swedes are wondering if his tweet was the official response they requested.  The State Department hasn’t gotten back to them.

And I wrote about Shep Smith in my last letter, the Fox News anchor of “The Majority Report” taking on the untruthfulness of President Trump.  The very thought of anyone at Fox News taking on Donald Trump brings a smile to my face.  How could it not?

Alas for them, he has also labelled them as “fake news.”  Or maybe it is alas for him?  Fox News is the media organ of choice for his base and if they are questioning him…

So, no, I am not angry.  Yet.  And I am an activist.  Our little group, Blue DOT Hudson Indivisible is now up to about two hundred members and growing.  We’re demanding accountability from our Representative in Congress, John Faso, and our Senators, Kristin Gillibrand and Charles Schumer.  Faso is Republican and Gillibrand and Schumer are Democrats.  No one is off the hook here.

It is interesting that historians are listing Obama as the 12th best President in our history.   If you’re interested in the list, look here.

Tomorrow, after all, is President’s Day.

There will be a march in DC to say “Not My President,” to let Donald know where he stands with some people.

In New York today, music mogul Russell Simons, once a longtime Trump friend, organized an “I am a Muslim, too” gathering to protest Trump’s positions on his Muslim brothers.

Friends of mine were there.  If I had been in the city, I might have been though my discomfort with crowds has grown as I have grown older.

And I am glad I have grown older.  It gives me some good perspective.  It helps me realize that while I have no children, I do have a responsibility to the next generations.  And it is interesting to accept that I have that responsibility.










Letter From Saba 02 18 2017 When Morpheus departs…

February 18, 2017

It is still pitch dark outside; a few buildings are illuminated at the foot of Mt. Scenery.  From my balcony, a cock crows in the distance, harbinger of the coming dawn.

For reasons unknown, I woke an hour ago and discovered Morpheus had fled and I was now a participant in the day, whether I wanted or not.

It’s fine.  If I am tired later there is nothing keeping me from napping.  It is my last day on Saba before I return home to the cottage.  This a rock of an island and doesn’t sport the voluptuous beaches of other Caribbean islands and I have grown, in a few days, quite fond of the place and hope I get to return this side of paradise.

Yesterday afternoon, I almost felt I lived here.  Donna, the taxi driver, took me on a tour of the island and then left me in Windward Side to do some shopping.  By the end of the tour, Donna felt like my new best friend.


As I strolled around, Hemmie, who owns the hotel where I am staying drove by and gaily waved at me as did several people I had seen in restaurants.  Recognition deserves friendliness here.

It is almost but not quite chill this morning.

It is also probably chill in quite a few places back in America, where everyone, it seems, is talking about President Trump’s Press Conference.  One of the best takes on it is from Shep Smith on Fox News.  If interested, you can find it here.

Because I am on a spec of an island in the Caribbean with not much to do but enough that I’m not following every step of President Trump’s progress – or lack thereof, I saw only bits and pieces, most of them disturbing.

In the pre-dawn darkness, with cocks crowing the coming dawn, seated on my bed, I am thinking that I am living the Chinese curse:  may you live in interesting times.   For these are “interesting” times.

In the White House sits a man who seems disconnected from reality, incapable of telling the absolute truth, also incapable of spinning a good untruth.  The Russian questions aren’t going away until they’re answered and calling them “fake news” is only going to make more of us want to know what the “real news” is about what was going on while Trump’s folks were apparently cozying up to Russian officials.

It is disturbing to watch.

Mr. Trump proclaimed his administration is acting like “a finely oiled machine.”  Oh, please, Mr. Trump…

Ah, but here I am on the island of Saba, part of the Netherlands, which is having its own struggle with the “alt right” movement.  And that seems far away to the inhabitants of this little island which seems to want nothing more than to live in harmony with each other as best they can.

There was a murder here back in 1989 and not another one until 2015, which happened at the medical school that’s here, educating men and women who want to be doctors and who couldn’t find slots in the States.

Donna told me she’s never fearful about wandering around on the island and I haven’t locked my doors since I arrived.  There is a lock; I just haven’t used it.  I don’t feel the need.

And that’s very hygge.

Just as this moment is, sitting on my bed, typing away, feeling a little sleepy again and thinking that when I am finished, I’ll see if Morpheus will return to my side and give me an hour or two more rest.

Letter From Saba 02 16 2017 How unbelievable it is…

February 17, 2017

The North Star has been the guiding light for thousands of years for sailors and I have never seen it in more glory than I have here on Saba.  The night I arrived, I asked Hemmie, who owns the hotel where I am staying, what that bright light in the sky was and he said to me, as if I were a little thick, that’s the North Star.  It is the star that has guided sailors for millennia and I had never seen it as clearly as I have seen it here.

Saba is an island that is quiet, not much night life to offer, though at this moment I hear disco music from somewhere, floating up to me. A few dogs yelp.  The darkness surrounds me and I cannot see out to the sea.

It is wonderfully mellow.  Today I had a fair amount of work to do and I did it from the couch in my room where I could look out and see the Caribbean below me as I am high on the island.

How fortunate am I?  Very.  Another moment of seeing a place I never would have thought I’d see when I was a youngster and here I am.  Glad to be here and hoping I might come back this side of paradise.

And while I have been busy sending emails, I have also been participating in island life – a meal at Island Flavors down in The Bottom, a town named, apparently, because it was the place goods came in and were lifted up to the rest of the island – it was the bottom of the ladder.

Even here, though, there is no respite from the news at home.

Trump held a news conference to announce his new nominee for the Secretary of Labor, which turned into a bit of a free for all.  He declared he had inherited a “mess” from Obama though there aren’t statistics to support that.  He also declared his administration was a “finely oiled machine.”  I’m not sure anyone agrees with that, Republicans included.

Standing on the outside, looking at the news from both liberal and conservative points of view, it seems that the consensus is that we have an Administration that doesn’t have its act together.  Really doesn’t have its act together…

We have the Michael Flynn imbroglio… It’s not going anywhere and, in fact, I think it’s going to get messier.  The Administration’s Russian problem is not going away.  In my humble opinion, it’s going to get worse.

Today, Trump’s press conference to announce Alex Acosta as his nominee for Secretary of Labor descended into chaos.  The friends I am with on the island questioned the mental stability of President Trump who, according to them, declared how successful his first weeks in office have been.

Didn’t hear it and am not sure what he is referring to as I haven’t seen any successes.

And then I do think The Donald lives in his own reality.  Not mine but he has his.

And that’s what frightens me.

Letter From Saba 02 14 2017 Happy Valentine’s Day from a sliver of paradise…

February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  While I don’t have a specific Valentine, I do have many people to whom I would like to send Valentine’s greetings.  Consider them sent.

This is a day devoted to love.

Unless you live in Saudi Arabia where celebrating Valentine’s Day could get you into a whole lot of trouble.

When I was in grade school, we always sent everyone else in our class a Valentine’s Day card.  Years ago, I stumbled upon a cache of them and smiled at our cursive, much struggled over.  Now they don’t even teach cursive writing, which seems a shame.  Handwritten letters are such a joy to receive in this day of electronic communication.

At this minute, I am sitting on the deck outside my room at Selera Dunia, the little hotel on Saba where I am ensconced for the next few days.  It is owned by a Dutchman, Hemme, and his wife, and their raison d’être seems to be making me happy.  YES!  I’m all for that.


It is decorated lavishly with objects they have brought back from their sojourns abroad, mostly from Indonesia but beneath me, I’m told, is a treasure trove from their time in Africa to be utilized when they add the next few rooms.

I slept wonderfully last night, my doors unlocked.  Crime has not crept onto Saba yet and may it long stay away.

Ah, but here I am, far away, in a crime free piece of Caribbean paradise while at home who knows what crimes are afoot?

Michael Flynn, the NSA Advisor to President Trump, has resigned after he seems to have had discussed our sanctions against Russia prior to the time when he should have and then misled Vice President Pence as to his actions.

MIC, a website devoted to news by millennials for millennials, wrote today that the crime, to them, in the Trump Administration seems not to be the crime itself but the crime of being caught. Is this what millennials are thinking about our government?

JFK was profoundly flawed in so many, many ways.  At least his words lifted us to some better place and inspired us.  Not so in these our Trumpian days when Stephen Miller, Senior Advisor to the President, declared there would be a time when the President’s word would be absolute.

Seth Meyer mocked him, saying it could only be more frightening if he had said it in German.  And Stephen Miller is Jewish.

So, this is what millennials are seeing:  a young man [he’s 31] saying the President’s word will be absolute.  Do call me horrified.  There are three branches of government [as Trump, to his annoyance, is finding out].

Mitch McConnell is saying it’s “highly likely” there will be an investigation of Michael Flynn’s actions.  “Highly likely?”  Mitch, oh Mitch, my low opinion of you sinks even lower.  Had you said, “Absolutely,” I might have thought you were standing on the right side of history.  And you’re not.

Thanks to Lindsey Graham and a few other Republican Senators who are working to see this is not brushed under the rug until we know the truth.

The Ethics Office has suggested it would be appropriate for Kellyanne Conway to be disciplined for her “go buy Ivanka’s stuff” moment from the White House Briefing Room.  They felt it was tantamount to a TV commercial.  Let’s see if it happens.  Personally, think it should but…

If you are a millennial, you probably know PewDiePie, a Scandinavian YouTube star with millions and millions and millions of followers.  He’s been the hottest thing on the net for a few years now, making 14.5 million dollars last year.  He has deals with Disney and others and it’s all falling down today because he made some anti-Semitic jokes in his postings and Disney and YouTube are running in the other direction.

The sun is beginning to set; the mountain across from me is sun kissed at this moment, full of deep foliage and limitless green though now the island is beginning to move into its dry season.  Water is scarce.  My friends are taking what once was a pool and making it into a cistern for grey water to help with the plants.

Tonight, we are going down the hill to a BBQ joint in the little enclave that is their town.  Hygge.  More soon.




Letter From Miami 02 12 2017 Hygge while traveling

February 12, 2017

Around me, I am listening to a mélange of English, Spanish, Italian, French and German.

I am not in Claverack, NY but on the veranda of my hotel in Miami Beach, a cloudy morning having given way to clear blue skies with a gentle breeze blowing off the beach a short block away, sipping my third very good cappuccino of the day.

Waking just after seven, I have spent most of my morning here.  First, a light breakfast with my friend Nick Stuart, before he left for what is now a rainy New York, later, reading the New York Times on my new iPhone 7 Plus, much easier than on my old 5s.

Reading the news is a bemusing event these days.  It may just be me but it seems the Administrative Branch of our government is in disarray while the Legislative Branch appears as if it’s a group of old white men braying their success at owning the joint with the Judicial Branch holding the center of sanity.

There is a young man named Stephen Miller who is a Trumpian True Believer, architect of the Travel Ban and, before this, on the staff of Senator Jeff Sessions.  Previously known for his avalanches of ideological emails to fellow Congressional staffers, he is now close to and closely listened to by President Trump.  He is 31 and shaping policy.  We must watch him as he will be influential in the coming months, whatever your political persuasion.

Apparently, his secretive nature was part of the reason the Travel Ban wasn’t thoroughly vetted.

He made the rounds of the Sunday morning shows trumpeting the ways Trump will combat the unanimous decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to refuse to reinstate the ban.

When George Stephanopoulos asked him about the report that Michael Flynn discussed sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador before Flynn was sworn in as White House national security adviser, he had nothing to say, not having been given anything to say by the White House.

On NBC, Miller couldn’t comment on whether the President still had confidence in Flynn.  He also continues to assert there was mass voter fraud, causing Trump to lose the popular vote.  Saying so, doesn’t make it so, Mr. Miller.  If it is true, please show some evidence.  He states facts without proof, a great “gas lighting” technique.

Steve Bannon, Lord Vizier, is being scrutinized for a 2014 speech he gave at a Vatican Conference in which he referenced Julius Evola, darling of Italian Fascists.  It also appears Bannon, who is Catholic, is shimmying up to a group of Vatican insiders who believe Pope Francis is destroying the Church.

Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Trump, was herself “counseled” per Press Secretary Spicer because she encouraged people to go out and buy “Ivanka’s stuff,” from the White House Briefing Room. That crosses an ethical line, most people agree.  Perhaps not the President, who was unhappy with Spicer’s choice of the word “counselled.”

The Office of Government Ethics had its website melt down with complaints.

Ivanka has had her line dropped from Nordstrom’s because it was underperforming, which elicited a scolding tweet from the President, and then Nordstrom’s found its stock jumping 5%.

Apparently, Ivanka and Kellyanne have had words:  Kellyanne, don’t mention me or my products on television!

Poor Spicer.  He’s lost face with the President because Melissa McCarthy portrayed him on a SNL skit; the program is having its highest ratings in twenty years as a certain element in the country breathlessly waits for its next Trump skewer, though last night’s skit with Kellyanne Conway doing a “Fatal Attraction” on Jake Tapper caused me to grimace but SNL isn’t always known for its taste.

It is with unconscious competence I have chosen to be away now.  Claverack was pummeled with 12 inches of snow with another twelve about to batter it.  Hopefully, it will be over by the time I return.

Last night, I attended my friends’ party for the fifth anniversary of their art gallery, Williams – McCall, in South Beach.  Their chef was last seen providing the food for the Patriots at the Super Bowl.

So right now, I am going to finish this, do a bit more culling of emails and then head to the beach for a bit of sunbathing.  While I am not at home, this is traveling hygge.


Letter from Claverack 02 04 2017 Mine eyes dazzle…

February 5, 2017

It is Saturday night at the cottage.  “Swing Jazz” is playing on my Echo, the floodlights illuminate the creek and I am cozy in the cottage.  A load of dishes is in the dishwasher and I have spent the day, partially working, running a few errands.  Every week I try to buy some canned goods for the food pantry at the church and bring them in on Sunday.  That was one of today’s errands.

When I finish this, I will rehearse the readings for tomorrow as I am lector at Christ Church tomorrow.  It all feels very hygge. [Pronounced hoo-ga; the Danish word for living a cozy life.]  It seems the best time of all to be hygge, what with everything that is happening around us in dizzying array.

Honestly, right now, I am not sure who’s on first.  The refugee ban seems to have been lifted with the ban on immigrants from the seven predominantly Muslim countries.  Or is it?  I am doing my best to keep up and it’s hard.  Really hard…

I think President Trump hung up on the Australian Prime Minister.  Mine eyes dazzle.

And then President Trump told Putin that sanctions remain until he leaves Ukraine which is not what I think Putin was thinking would happen.  Putin did a few “provocative” actions in Ukraine this past week [thing what you can do with artillery] that ended badly for him.  The pro-Russian rebels were rebuffed by the Ukrainians.  And The Donald rebuked him.

Or perhaps it was Steve Bannon, who appears to be becoming the Lord Chancellor to King Donald.  Time Magazine has a frightening portrait of the man on its cover.  It is feared this is the man who is pulling the strings. Look here.

Apparently, per reports, Kelly, the Secretary of Homeland Security, had to remind Steve Bannon, he only takes orders from the President when Bannon was bossing Kelly around.

Oh, just gosh…

Kellyanne Conway, the most skillful swinger of truths encountered this side of Paradise, is being skewered everywhere as she justified the travel ban by referring to the “Bowling Green Massacre.”  Well, a couple of men were arrested in Bowling Green for attempting to aid and abet terrorists but there was no “Bowling Green Massacre.”  She is saying she misspoke one word and is being eviscerated by “haters.”

Must say, mine eyes dazzle.

The king of Executive Orders, our Donald, is now issuing one that will roll back Dodd-Frank, the regulations that were to save us from another meltdown like 2008.  Carpe diem!

While most of me is horrified by the political spectacle around me, there is another part that is amused.  In a gallows humor sort of way, which is not a good way.  Most of the American public is not amused.  President Trump’s approval ratings aren’t good.

Well, who approves of chaos and confusion and flirting with unconstitutionality?

Ethicists are appalled at the flimsiness of Trump’s separation from his business interests.

And all of this is hurting his business interests and those of Ivanka.  Nordstrom’s has dropped the Ivanka Trump line.  In an earlier post, I mentioned I was at Lord & Taylor on 5th Avenue and there was no one in the Ivanka Trump section.  Last time I was there, there was no Ivanka Trump section to be found.  Poof! Gone.

And, frankly, I have grown a little fond of Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.  It is rumored they weighed in with The Donald and prevented him from signing an Executive Order that would have stripped the LGBTQ community of rights they had received under the Obama Administration.

On the other hand, it is, I’m sure, not making Steve Bannon happy.  Nor is it making happy the evangelicals who supported Trump despite his raunchiness.

Me?  A gay man.  I’m pleased.  Woo! Saved for another day.

Truly, I’m just a little bit scared.  And a little bit amused.  And a whole lot unhappy.

So, now it is time to return to hygge.  I’ll make myself a martini and finish reading “The Romanovs,” a six hundred plus page book outlining the rise and fall of the world’s longest ruling dynasty.  That’s a saga and it didn’t end well, as we all know.

May all this end well.