Archive for the ‘2016 Election’ Category

Letter From Claverack 10 21 2017 Dinner parties and politics…

October 21, 2017

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Last Saturday night was one of the most magical nights ever at the Cottage.  Six friends from the train community came over for dinner and it entirely worked.  The food was good, the menu seemed to please everyone, the wine pairings were appreciated, the dinner setting seemed to please, the conversation flowed.  People arrived around 7 PM and left around 1:15 AM and it felt as if no time had passed.

We worked our way from cheese and crackers, to radishes with butter and kosher salt to a potato and leek soup, followed by a salad with beets and candied pecans, salmon filets with a mustard mayonnaise sauce, finished by a chocolate ganache meringue cake.  We laughed and rejoiced in each other’s company.

Early on, it was determined we would avoid politics which is a choice that only limits and does not eliminate the conversation.  How could it be otherwise?  So much is going on that the tumult cannot be completely ignored but it can be limited.

One person reminded us that Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the war years, had a weekly cocktail party for Cabinet members and aides and the one thing they could NOT talk about was the war.  Anything but the war.  Their children, their gardens, their hobbies, fly-fishing but not the war.  The President said something like:  we need to have lives.

Saturday night, for the most part, we chose to have lives.  We talked of upcoming plans, recent vacations, upcoming things that would bring us joy.  But not politics. Much.  Just a little.

The week just past had been tumultuous.  Healthcare is in shambles and Trump’s order to stop paying subsidies will be challenged in courts by some states, including New York.  Some New York congressmen, Republicans, are suddenly calling for bi-partisan action to fix the ACA.

The president is not going to certify the Iran agreement and is throwing it to Congress to fix it while the Secretary of State seems to contradict the president on the Sunday morning talk shows.  Our allies in Europe are scratching their heads about us and how to absorb that a far-right party seems to be coming to power in Austria.

Reading the papers today, everyone seemed to have advice on how to mentally escape the chaos.  Watch and read Harry Potter again.  Rom-coms are just the thing.  Murder mysteries are quite a diversion.

And we do need diversion.  My mind hurts more than it doesn’t.  Every morning I get up, read the NY Times, the Washington Post and WSJ and find myself going what the…

Sometimes I avoid the headlines until later in the day, particularly if I have things to do.

If I don’t, I fear a kind of madness.

 

This epistle was started last Sunday evening.  Monday morning found me wretchedly ill; the vague sense I wasn’t well the week before suddenly became the reality.  Monday and Tuesday were devoted to sleep and recuperation, Wednesday my radio show.  It had been my intention to go to the city on Wednesday for dinner with a friend and I could not quite muster the energy, fearful of pushing too far, too fast.

And now I am home from a meeting, curled up in the cottage, finishing a letter started nearly a week ago.

The madness goes on and I do my best to maintain my balance.  My friend Lynn speaks frequently to me of her difficulty of maintaining balance these days; she feels assaulted on a daily basis.

Some Facebook friends post things that cause me to wonder why they are my Facebook friends as we are so politically divergent?  One California friend posted something and asked for comments.  All I could say was: ah, I don’t know what to say.

Harvey Weinstein, producer extraordinaire and, allegedly, serial sexual predator, has fallen from grace as woman after woman after woman has come forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct.  He has been ejected from The Academy of Motion Pictures Sciences; the Producer’s Guild is working on doing the same.  The TV Academy is considering it.  Organizations are making moves to strip him of honors.

Is this a turning point for Hollywood?  Perhaps.  Certainly, it is putting out notice that the game is changing.

Mr. Trump is involved in another brou ha ha with Gold Star families.  John Kelly has Trump’s back, which I find interesting.

The common wisdom seems to be that our president can’t help himself from wounding himself and, from my vantage point, it seems plausible.

Without invoking his name, both George W. and Obama have delivered rebukes to the president.  Wowza!  W and Clinton have found themselves friendly.  Will the same happen with W and Obama?  Time will tell.

Time to say good-bye for this missive but not before circling back to last Saturday’s dinner which may well have been the best the cottage has ever seen.

Thank you, Robert and Tanya, James and Susan, Maria and Dairo.  You have made your mark on the history of a special place.

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 10 12 2017 Thoughts on what I would preach…

October 12, 2017

At sea

Monday, I sent out a blog inspired by Mother Eileen’s sermon at Christ Church on Sunday and forwarded her a copy as she is not on my list.  She wrote back the following day and jokingly suggested I might preach this Sunday, which led me to think about what I would preach.  What would I say if I had to, this Sunday, preach at a church?

I looked up the gospel for next Sunday and its essential line is:  many are called but few are chosen.

Certainly, that fits with last year’s election cycle which started with more candidates for the Republican nomination for president than I remember in my life.  Many were called and, in the end, the one that was chosen was Donald Trump and he went on to become President of these United States.

It will probably surprise many who know me but every week at church I light a candle for the man.  No, I don’t like him.  His policies seem mean spirited, quixotic at best.  His relationship with the truth, as I experience it, is equally quixotic.

And he is President of these United States, a man with great power, influence and the ability to shake the world on more levels than I believe he is aware of or understands.  But he is the president and I pray for him, hoping, on a very fundamental level he doesn’t do anything that will prevent me from being back at church next Sunday to pray for him.

He appealed to a disenfranchised part of America we, all of us, have not been listening to or acknowledging.  They gravitated to Donald Trump as people in the water after the loss of Titanic, desperate to be saved, crying for help.  Do I think he will save them?  No.

But I want us to hear their cries and find a way to address them and to help them.  They are Americans.  With very real issues.

Today I read there are the most job openings than there have been for a very long time.  Those jobs are harder to fill because we have a massive opioid crisis and many people cannot pass drug tests.  Companies are beginning, in desperation, to turn a blind eye, not asking for drug tests for dangerous jobs because they can’t find enough people to fill them.

Not so long ago, there were two Amtrak employees killed, men not much younger than me and their autopsies revealed they had non-prescribed opioids in their systems.  Our local paper, the Register Star, gave a face to the epidemic by highlighting on the front page a young woman, full of hope, who overdosed.

It is time we faced this epidemic, its causes and its ravages and did something and quit pretending everything is going along just fine.

President Trump, weren’t you going to make this a national emergency?  What happened?

Nothing much.  Why not?

Even the beauty of the cottage is not soothing my soul these days.  What am I to do?

Many are called but few are chosen.  What is it I am called to do in this tumultuous time?  Every day I ask myself that question.  What am I to do?  What am I called to do?

Whether you are a supporter of Donald Trump or not, what is that you can do, personally, to change the awful things that are happening in this country?

Many are called, few are chosen.  What will make me chosen?  What thing can I do to make this awful time better?  I want to.  I do and I am not sure what it is that I should do.  Pack a bag and fly to some war-torn part of the world and put up my hand and say: I’m here to help? What can I do?

A friend suggested I do that.  Maybe I will.

We all need to ask ourselves how we are going to respond to Jesus’ call?  I am not a raving evangelical.  Far from that.  I respect, at the deepest level of my soul, the kindness Jesus worked to insert into the human dialogue and which has resonated for both good and ill since then.

Since I was a boy, I have thought Jesus would be appalled at what has happened to what he started.  He preached love and love is not often what has happened.

Many are called but few will be chosen.  Be one of the few.  Practice what Jesus taught.

 

Letter From Claverack 10 09 2017 My country ’tis of thee…

October 9, 2017

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There are times when even the quiet beauty of the cottage is not enough to soothe the soul; this has been one of those times.  Since the shootings in Las Vegas, I have found little solace in anything, except, perhaps, sleep.

Sunday, Mother Eileen captured the anguish, pain and despair I feel in her sermon.  After the Prayers of the People, the bell tolled once for each person killed in Las Vegas.  The service closed with “My Country Tis of Thee.”

My head bowed, I fought back tears.

There has been Las Vegas.  Jeff Sessions is claiming that bans on discrimination don’t cover transgender people.  The Trump Administration is rolling back rules that help women have birth control as part of their medical coverage.

The United States joined Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China and a few other repressive regimes in refusing to declare it immoral to execute people for being gay.

What?

As the bell was tolling [and it tolls for thee], I thought of a long ago, rainy, cold November afternoon and looked at my mother and said: what kind of country are we?  It was the afternoon of the day Kennedy had been killed and that moment is etched in my brain, looking out the front windows at a sad world and wondering just what kind of country would kill someone who seemed to be having so much fun and was doing good things?

There was nothing my mother could say.  To this day, I remember the look she gave me, wanting to have an answer and having none.  The silence still rings in my ears all these years later as does the memory of the slick, wet street, a yellow and red city bus moving slowly down the street.

Last night there was another torch lit march in Charlottesville, VA.  A return of Richard Spencer and his white supremacists.  Listen to their chants: “The South will rise again. Russia is our friend. The South will rise again. Woo-hoo! Wooo.” [Washington Post, October 7, 2017]

Russia is our friend?  The South will rise again?  Russia is not my friend and the South envisioned by these chaps is not a South in which I would be comfortable.  It’s one in which I think I might be afraid for my life.

Today is Columbus Day, the day everyone makes noise about old Christopher Columbus and his “discovery” of America.  Personally, I suspect it was the Vikings a few centuries earlier but they don’t get credit [maybe I think that because my mother’s family were Swedish].  However, as we have discovered Christopher Columbus was brave and not a model of morality in the way he treated native Americans.  White people, in general, have not been very kind to native Americans.

Thirty years ago, my friend Ann Frisbee Naymie and I had a conversation about this and she just said to me:  bad karma for what we did.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has announced he is not seeking reelection, electrified the world yesterday with a tweet saying the White House was an adult care center and someone had missed their shift.  Really?  A Republican lawmaker is talking about a Republican President in this way?  Wowza!  You go, Corker.  And I agree with you that Trump runs the White House like it’s an episode of the President and, like you, I think it is possible Donald Trump could stumble us into a nuclear war before he realized what he’d done.

Two hospitals have been evacuated in California and at least 50 structures destroyed in fires that are causing people to flee from Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties while in southern California fires are raging in Orange County, south of Los Angeles.

The Four Horseman are riding.

Thank you, Mother Eileen, for giving shape to the inchoate agony I was experiencing when I walked into church yesterday. Thank you for ringing the bell for the deaths in Las Vegas.  Thank you for asking the painful questions we all should be asking ourselves.  What kind of country are we?  What kind of country do we want to be?

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 10 03 2017 Not making sense of Las Vegas, or much else…

October 3, 2017

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It’s a day of exquisite autumnal beauty and I am squirreled up on the deck, dressed warmly as there is a chill in the air but I want to be here, surrounded by the peace of this setting, this day, because out in the world, it is a grim and gruesome place.

It has not been possible for me to process the Las Vegas shootings.  There are only two people I know who live there, my friends Chuck and Lois, and I found out they are only a couple of hours from me, visiting their daughter, safe.

But safe? We might need to find a new definition of safe.

Until about ten years ago, I made an annual or bi-annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for conventions.  While I don’t have a soft spot in my heart for the place, I have, because of business, visited regularly since 1980 and have a sense of familiarity.  The Mandalay is a hotel I’ve been in more times than I can count and I’ve walked that part of the Strip.  All before we began to need a new definition of safety, which is what the last sixteen years have been about, since hijackers used box cutters to attempt to bring down an empire.

It has seemed the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are running rampant and there are some who are reading into these events a portending of the end times.

And it’s a little hard to blame them.

Just in the last weeks, we have had Harvey, Irma, Maria, two enormous earthquakes in Mexico, heart wrenching images of refugees from all over the world, from Myanmar to Syria, from Libya to the coasts of Italy and Greece.

And now, Las Vegas, an event I can’t process.  What made Stephen Paddock decide to gun down hundreds, killing 59 at last count?  What? What?

And the number of dead will likely mount as dozens of the injured are in critical condition.

The numbers could have been worse, if not for the many acts of individual bravery, like Jonathan Smith, who led at least thirty people to safety behind a row of cars before a bullet found his neck.  He will live.

There are tears in my eyes and there have been tears in my eyes too many times recently, crying for people who are suffering and for brave people who scorned danger to save others.

Maybe it’s a good thing it’s hard for me to process Las Vegas because it will live with me just as Sandy Hook lives with me, like 9/11 will never not be part of my life while I live.

It’s no wonder we are searching for distractions, which is what the twenty plus thousand people at the Las Vegas concert were doing.  Looking for fun, celebrating life, seeking joy and then were subjected to unbelievable violence.

Following is a great summation of what late night hosts said, men who are finding themselves in the uncomfortable place of feeling society is demanding they raise their voices.  Here.

Paul Ryan announced today that because of Las Vegas a vote will be delayed in Congress about making it easier to get silencers for guns.

Trump was in Puerto Rico today handing out supplies and, according to some reporters, making sure “the optics” were good.  Not particularly caring about optics, read what this DC chef is doing in Puerto Rico. Here.

Tonight, as I finish this letter, I find myself feeling very alone, not personally frightened but frightened, in a broader sense, in the sense I can’t make sense of Las Vegas or fill in the blank.

Come Sunday, I will light more than one candle for Las Vegas.  And before I sleep tonight, I will say prayers for the victims and will pray for Spain as Catalan announces it will be declaring independence within days and I will pray for the refugees streaming out of Myanmar and for people who are undoubtedly being tossed about the Mediterranean tonight as the summer season winds down, before heavy seas prevail.

There is no end of things for which to pray.

 

Letter From Claverack 09 25 2017 Fear, fear mongering, theater and more…

September 25, 2017

While it is now officially fall, the weather is summer-ish, scraping at ninety degrees today.  The train is rumbling into the city where I will be attending a talk today by my friend Jeff Cole of the Center for the Digital Future on “Driverless Cars and the Battle for the Living Room.”  I’m eager to see how those two very disparate topics get pulled together – or not.

Yesterday, I returned to the cottage from Provincetown where I had been visiting friends and attending the Tennessee Williams Festival, now in its twelfth year.  Mixing Shakespeare with Williams this year, I saw five plays, the most laudable being “Gnadiges Fraulein,” an absurdist Williams from the tail end of his career in which some see an allegory for that career.

The Festival was marred by weather from the last of Jose for the first three days; yesterday was magnificent.  Leaving after Shakespeare’s “Antony & Cleopatra,” I drove home, listening to the omnipresent exegesis of President Trump’s Friday comments on kneeling during the national anthem and Sunday’s reaction by athletes and owners of teams.

Trump had said that owners and coaches should get “the son of a bitch” players who kneeled during the national anthem off the field, suspending or firing them.

Owners and athletes defied the President.  Even Tom Brady locked arms with his teammates.  The Steelers stayed in the locker room until after the anthem had been played. All but two of the NFL’s owners and CEO’s issued statements calling for unity.

Some fans booed.  Most didn’t walk out.

Trump praised those who booed.

Such is life in today’s America.

And I’m on the side of the players and the owners in this kerfuffle.  The right to protest is as American as apple pie.

My weariness is growing daily with this President’s ability to be divisive.

Defying top aides, he has escalated the war of words with North Korea to the point that as I am writing this, the foreign minister for the pudgy, pugnacious little man who is the ruler of that country has said that Trump has declared war and they have the right to shoot down American planes.

This will not end well, I fear.

In Germany, Angela Merkel is on her way to a fourth term though diminished.  The far right AfD has won a troubling 13% of the vote and will have a place in the German parliament, a feat that no other far right German movement has managed in decades.

It is representative of the fear that threads its way through our societal fibers, in Germany and here at home, in France and the Netherlands.  The world is changing and change often results in fear and the world is changing so quickly right now.

Abe in Japan has called a snap election, riding high on North Korean nuclear fears.

The Senate is desperately working to pass another bill to repeal Obamacare but with McCain, Rand Paul and probably Collins and possibly Murkowski against it, tough sledding is a generous description of what is facing McConnell.

Trump is saying today that Congress doesn’t have “the guts” to repeal Obamacare and I’m hoping he’s right as this version seems to be the most mean-spirited of all the versions proposed so far.

I’m off soon to the presentation.  I’ll let you know how driverless cars and the battle for the living room fit together!

Have a good day!

 

Letter from the train… The rhythm continues…

September 18, 2017

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Last night, there were insects buzzing around me as I typed out on the deck, following a warm summer like day, wearing shorts all day, even to church.  How scandalized the good Sisters would have been at my temerity to do so sacrilegious a thing as to wear shorts to church on a warm day.  But I did.

I knew Leonard would and so I wouldn’t be alone.  In fact, there were about six of us out of about fifty attendees who were wearing shorts.  It occurred to me that God was happy we were there and not concerned about what we were wearing.

Sunday’s sermon from Mother Eileen was about forgiveness and I thought about someone to whom I felt I owed an apology; I had said harsh things to her about her sister and had felt crummy about it since so I sent myself an email to myself to remind to seek her out.

She was seated at a table at the Red Dot when I walked in, we spoke and she hadn’t remembered the incident.  It was a good moment.

Post lunch, I crossed the Hudson and went to the little gem that is the Bridge Street Theater to see the current play, “How to Pray.”  As always, John Sowle’s sets were inventive and fun.  The cast was superb.

Three actors play myriad roles.

Steven Patterson played what seemed a dozen roles, including an aged transgender chanteuse who finally gets her moment as well as a dog and a cat.  His dog was spectacular; I got it and rolled in laughter.  He is a wonderful actor, having now seen him do several things, including a one-man performance of a play on Frankenstein.

Morgan Cooper must have mastered a half dozen, claiming each one with authority.  His three-year old was especially endearing.

Susan Slotoroff is the only actor who plays only one part.  She, too, held the stage and held my interest as she made a journey which an unexpected ending.

The playwright, Michelle Carter, has won several awards, rightfully so, for the work.

If you are in the area, you have one more weekend to catch it, next weekend, the 21st through 24th. Advance tickets available at http://howtopray.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 800-838-3006.

Today, I am going into New York, which is going to be a zoo because the U.N. is gathering global leaders.  Trump will be there and most of the global leaders are – and I don’t care if you are pro-Trump or not – trying to figure out what to make of President Donald Trump.

Aren’t we all?

Truly.

And if you are not aware of it, something strange is going on at the American Embassy in Cuba.  21 Embassy staff are having health issues that stem from who knows what but staffers are suffering hearing and cognitive issues from some unexplained and undetermined attack.  Raul Castro has offered to allow FBI agents to come to Cuba to investigate and the entire diplomatic community in Cuba is concerned because no one knows what’s going on.

A case for the X-Files.

The trees are beginning their turn as I ride the train into New York City.  A heavy fog played over the creek when I woke.

The rhythm of life continues.

Letter From Claverack 09 05 2017 On my knees, praying…

September 6, 2017

Today, earlier, as I sat sipping morning coffee, two huge geese came crashing through a tree fallen across the creek, landing hard, splashing as they hit creek water.  It was startling.  Geese, once so abundant on my creek, have been rare these last few years.  Mature birds these, I wondered if they were from one of the many families of geese I have seen growing up while I have resided at the cottage, come home to roost for a moment.  Sailing majestically up and down for a time, they departed and I’ve not seen them again.

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Irma has become a Category 5 Hurricane and will reach Saba tonight, the Caribbean island I visited earlier this year.  Two friends from my Los Angeles days have retired there and will be facing her fury as I write this.  For a while, I got lost on Facebook to see if they had posted anything new but they hadn’t.  It’s now that time when you get on your knees and pray, which I will tonight and have not done since my very Catholic days and that was a long while ago.  And I am worried for them because Irma is as fiercer than Harvey.

Hopefully, I will know tomorrow more than I know tonight.  Tonight, they are battening down the hatches and waiting, hoping, maybe praying though I don’t think either of them are religious.  There have been posts from people I met there.  They will be in my prayers, too.

Tonight, across the country, “Dreamers” are praying because Jeff Sessions announced the end of Obama’s DACA order and Congress has six months to fix it or all those “dreamers” will begin to be deported.

Color me cynical.  How cruel can this Administration be?  Trump is playing to his base but not to the interests of the country.  Color me angry and not surprised.  So little surprises me anymore.  And there are all kinds of folks who think this is just wonderful.

And that scares me and makes me hopeful because all the rage in America is boiling to surface and maybe we will finally deal with it.  It would be good if we did because we are in a very delicate place.

Back in the day, long, long ago, I was in Canada to be in my roommate’s wedding to a Canadian woman and, as I was preparing to leave, a group of my Canadian friends did an “intervention.” They did not want me to leave. Viet Nam was in play.  They wanted me to stay, become a Canadian.

I didn’t.  Because I was an American.  It was a very profound moment in my life, making the decision to return.  Those were people I loved, who loved me and I might have been happy there – a completely different life but not unhappy.

But I am an American and so I returned, got lucky, didn’t go to Viet Nam, didn’t serve in the military and made my life here.

But here is not the here I know.  This here seems very strange to me, like the clock has been turned back and I don’t get it.  Something is afoot and we need to fix it, once and for all.  Maybe electing Trump will be the catalyst to fixing the festering wound that has damaged our national soul.

Letter From Claverack 09 04 2017

September 4, 2017

It is an excruciatingly beautiful day at the cottage, the sun is warm, a wind blows to temper it, the only sound is soft jazz in the other room.  I have just finished a late lunch of eggs, sunny side up, steak and toast, eaten on the deck.  The first leaves have begun to fall, scattered on the table top, reminding me of the fleetingness of time.

Soon we will be in another season, fall, which I love and loathe, as I always seem so alive in the fall and, at the same time, so painfully aware life is short and death is long. It’s been that way ever since I was a kid, walking down the leaf strewn streets of south Minneapolis, knowing winter was coming and being entranced by the magic in the air.

It is Labor Day, 2017.

“According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the holiday is ‘a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.’ Labor Day is a ‘yearly national tribute’ to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and wellbeing of our country.          Newsweek, 9/04/2017

And it is a holiday with a bloody history.  “Labor” wasn’t always celebrated.  Suggested reading: Walter Lord’s “The Good Years.”

The summer is unofficially ending when this day becomes part of history.  When I was a kid, it meant school was starting the next day so this was a day I always endured fearfully.  Today, I am not fearful about returning to school.  There are other things…

Kim Jong-Un has me a little fearful as does having Trump be the president who is facing him.  There was some analysis this morning that the timing of Kim’s tests of bombs and missiles has more to do with tweaking President Xi of China than with President Trump.  The latest bomb test came just as Xi was greeting officials from the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China.  Took the wind out of Xi’s sails in terms of making news.  Kim does these things lately just as Xi is set to make some news.  Hey, I’m HERE, President Xi!  Got it?  I’m here and I’ve got some pretty big toys!

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has said North Korea “is begging for war.”  President Trump is saying, “All options are on the table.” This might not end well.

Down in the Caribbean sits the Dutch island of Saba, part of the Leeward Islands, which I visited in February.  Friends have retired there and are sitting directly in the path of Hurricane Irma, now a category 4 storm.  An email today said they will be in the eye of the hurricane tomorrow and were busily preparing, friends helping friends prepare for what could be a very nasty ride.  If you pray, think of them.

Michael Eros, son of my longtime friends, Mary Clare and Jim Eros, is returning to Houston today after the Burning Man Festival.  He left Houston before Harvey hit and he will now find out what it has done to his city.  He and friends built a giant figure which they burned, leaving behind the metal shell.

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Harvey will likely be the most expensive storm in history; it is believed 180 billion dollars of damage has been done.  Ted Cruz is having a hard time now explaining why he voted against Sandy help now that he is asking for Harvey help.  The phrase, “people who live in glass houses,” comes to mind.

There are joyful things happening in the world. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child.  Peggy Whitson has returned from the International Space Station, having notched more time in space than any other American.  There will be another Indiana Jones film, without Shia LeBeouf’s character.  A young girl in Harvey’s floodwaters got herself and her family rescued by asking Siri to call the Coast Guard, which rescued her as she was slipping into a sickle cell anemia crisis.

Bad things will happen.  Good things will happen.  All we need to do, to keep moving forward, is not to blow ourselves up.  I’ll pray for that.

 

 

Letter From Claverack Friday, September 1, 2017 From the safety of the cottage, tears…

September 3, 2017

Earlier today, I went to pick up the mail at the Post Office and as I was about to turn off the car, an interview started on NPR with Andrew White who, along with hundreds of other volunteer Texans, formed what is known as the “Texas Navy” and went out into the flooded streets of Houston.  With a sixteen-foot boat and a twenty-horsepower motor and the help of friends, he rescued at least a hundred people, including a man with cerebral palsy and a man who was being treated for cancer and was having a bad reaction to his treatment and needed to get to his hospital.  They got him within two blocks of where he needed to go; later the water in the neighborhood of the man with cerebral palsy rose another five feet after the rescue.

Sitting there, tears began flowing down my cheeks.  Andrew White’s story was replicated by others all over Harris County which holds the city of Houston, citizen volunteers taking care of other citizens in need.  It was the story of what is so often wonderful about this country.

Writing about it causing tears to build in my eyes and I am sniffling.

These are the stories, replicated in all kinds of tragedies around this country, that are the reasons we are great.  Oh, we’re miserable S.O.B.’s sometimes but when it comes to disaster, we rise to the challenge in an incredible way and that makes me proud.

From Louisiana came the “Cajun Navy” that formed after Katrina, men and women who knew firsthand what was happening on the ground in Texas and they brought in their bayou boats and lent a hand, calling it “paying it forward.”  Just as Texans had come to help them in Katrina.

Houston is home to thousands of refugees from Katrina, people who have found it hard to believe they are living through this twice in their lives.

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans has raised over $12 million between practices for the coming season, coming off the field to work the phones.

Watt’s hometown is Pewaukee, WI and semis are traveling from there loaded with food and water and supplies.  He started out with a goal of raising $200,000 and he just kept on going.  Texas billionaire, Michael Dell, has pledged $36 million.

A group of “monster trucks,” organized by a group called Rednecks with Paychecks, is roaming the area, rescuing people and vehicles.

440,000 people have registered for aid from FEMA, as the Mayor of Houston is appealing for an “army” of FEMA officials to help with the claims.

The area that was water covered was larger than the state of Rhode Island.  As the water recedes, it leaves behind contaminated water unfit for human consumption, filled with pathogens.  Shelters, sometimes islands in a sea of water, are running low or out of food and water.

The damaged Arkema chemical plant can no longer cool the dangerous materials stored there and authorities have evacuated everyone within a mile and a half of the facility.  There have been “pops” and plumes of smoke from the plant with no one knowing whether that’s all there is going to be or if it is just the beginning.  “Brock” Long, head of FEMA, called the situation there incredibly dangerous.

Bowling alleys are filled with people; Walmart parking lots have been helipads.

And what is amazing and so wonderful and so DAMN great, is that so much of what is happening is unorganized.  It is just people getting out to help other people.  One man observed that no one was really organizing anything.  People seemed to have an instinct for what needed to be done.

Like the “Texas Navy” and Andrew White, who it turns out is the son of a former Texas governor who passed away last month, and the people in the “Cajun Navy.”

People helping other people in a way that moves me to tears, far away, in the soft safety of my cottage.

Letter From Claverack 08 15 2017 Sorting through history…

August 15, 2017

rocking horse

Staring out my brother’s kitchen, the day is beautiful after a series of grey and gloomy ones.  After prevaricating for days, I have finally determined I will return home on Friday and am now looking forward to returning to the comforts of the cottage.  My kitchen is freshly painted and I will do a re-org of it upon my return.

This afternoon, I am going over to St. Paul to visit my cousin’s ex-wife at the home where she works with her mother, caring for developmentally challenged adults.

And then, this evening, I will be dining with Christine Olson, a friend from college days.  She dated one of my roommates; we have stayed close.  He and I have not.

Being in Minneapolis is always a time of sorting memories.  Yesterday, I had breakfast with my ex-sister-in-law, which is hard for me to say as she is still, in my mind, my sister-in-law, even if she and my brother are no longer married.  We, as we always do, laughed and giggled and had fun.

Last night, I dined with my nieces, Kristin and Theresa, Theresa’s son Emile, his girlfriend, Irene, and we, too, laughed and giggled and reminisced about some good things and some hard things.

And so there is a sorting of thoughts.  The rocking horse was my brother’s and I inherited it and rode it in our “rumpus room” in the basement long after he had last touched it.  Now it sits in his bedroom, a reminder of the past.

My best friend from high school came up from Chicago to see me this weekend and as we sat on Friday afternoon, working at this kitchen table, I looked up at him and laughed.  We both settle back in to being with each other in minutes and it is a comfort from knowing him a lifetime.

It was important for me that he knew how much I loved him and how important it has been that he has been in my life.  I hope I succeeded.  We have reached the part of our lives where we definitely can’t see around the corners.

As usual, jazz plays as I write.  I care for jazz the way Sidney does in “Grantchester.”  It has become a thread in my life.

And it captures the melancholy that comes from sorting thoughts, working to put the pieces of the puzzle together, a never-ending process in life.

At dinner last night, we talked of my mother and one of my nieces shook her head.  Her grandmother was a complicated individual who sometimes delighted us and often vexed us.  Always kind to strangers, that kindness did not always extend to her kin.  As she aged and as dementia set in, her granddaughters occasionally saw her rage and it shook them.

As the rage of the White Supremacist movement shook me this weekend when one of them, barely an adult, drove his car into a group of counter protesters and killed a woman and injured nineteen in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Our president’s tepid “many sides” response to the incident has resulted in a series of resignations from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council.

The first to leave was Ken Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical company, Merck.  Trump viciously attacked him for doing so.  Critics of Trump have pointed out that Frazier is black.

The others who have left are white and, so far, have not been targeted by the kind of ire that hit Frazier. They have also not mentioned Charlottesville.

FORTUNE, a magazine I do not think of as a bastion of liberal thought, has praised Frazier’s resignation as an act of courage.

The others have only been called “grand-standers” by Trump. The latest to go is Scott Paul, head of the American Manufacturing Alliance.  And Mr. Trump knows “plenty” who will replace these “grand-standers.”

As I begin to wind down my time in Minneapolis, I continue sorting my thoughts, fitting the past into my present.   As I must sort and parse the actions of a president whose reactions and words defy my understanding of his position and the kind of deportment it requires.

Here is a link to what Jimmy Fallon had to say and it was well said.