Archive for the ‘Hudson New York’ 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 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 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 Claverack 09 12 2017 Memories, hard and bittersweet…

September 12, 2017

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Living disjointedly in time, apparently, I woke up thinking yesterday was September 10th and, as I read the morning paper, realized I was out of step with time.  Yesterday was the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11 and I had a deep heaviness fall on me as I listened to a young woman on NPR who had been born after that day and for whom it is an event heard about in history classes, not something she can return to in her mind as so many of us can, particularly if you were in New York City, Washington, or Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

It’s not often I go there in my mind and today, for the first time, I haven’t felt an emotional ouch of the kind I have every other year.  Much of that is that I am monitoring Irma as friends and family are enduring her as she moves up the peninsula.  My sister and brother-in-law are without power but seem okay while I have friends not yet heard from in Jacksonville which is suffering “historic” flooding.

Yesterday was not dissimilar to that day sixteen years ago; bright sun, hardly a cloud in the sky, warm, waking on a day that seemed God had made to put smiles on our faces.

So, it is I ended my day with a moment of silence, thinking on the thousands that died that day and all the many, many thousands more that have died since in the ripple of effects of 9/11.

For perhaps the eighth or ninth time, I re-read the last few pages of “Call Me by Your Name,” a novel by Andre Aciman, a brilliant and, for me, painful read.  It is the story of seventeen-year-old Elio, son of a professor, living on the Italian Riviera who has an affair with Oliver, a twenty-five-year-old graduate assistant to his father.

Andre Aciman’s writing is so exquisite it is hard for anyone who works with words to read because that kind of beauty is so hard to achieve and I know I will never achieve that kind of beauty in my own work.

It was also hard for me to read because during my 17th year I had my own Oliver, though we never consummated our affair.  On a sunny, spectacular Minnesota fall day I walked into my first Spanish class of my freshman year and there was Marvin, my T.A., a man slightly taller than I, exotically handsome.  He looked Latin, as if he walked out of Andean village.

He was from Queens, who had been in the Peace Corps in Chile.  As I came into the room, he greeted me with “Hola, rubio!” “Blonde one” and that is what he called me during the year.  And I am not sure how it was I became friends with Marvin but I did as well as his two closest friends, Maryam and Caroline.

We had dinner together at the old Nankin restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, a palace of Chinese deco and good food.  Marvin and I talked through the night on many nights, wrapping each other in words when we probably wanted to wrap our arms around each other.  Maryam lived in Mexico when she was not in school and was addicted to Coca-Cola and we made a hysterical search for a real coke one winter night, tearing around in my Acapulco Blue Mustang.  Place after place served Pepsi and that was no alternative for a Maryam in need of a fix.

Early on, Caroline and I sat drinking coffee in Coffman Union and she suddenly looked at me and said:  why am I telling all of this to a seventeen-year old?  But we told most things to each other and I loved them all and Marvin most of all.

Not seducing me was his way of loving me.  And I remember the last summer, drinking Cuba Libres and hearing how he was not coming back to work on his Doctorate but leaving for New York to become a rent boy, which shocked the other three of us.

He left one day, leaving me with a sadness that still can be called up in my heart.  Caroline went on to more grad school; Maryam back to Mexico and that magical year slipped into the wake of my days, coming back to bittersweet life as I read the story of Elio and Oliver, remembering a time when I had an Oliver.

 

Letter From Claverack 08 29 2017 Praying for Houston…

August 29, 2017

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There are days we take to catch up and today was one of them for me.  Once it had warmed enough [and yes, we are reaching that part of the year], I went out to the deck and set up shop, sipping my morning coffee while Amazon’s “Sarah Vaughn Station” played [and plays] in the background.

A backlog of work got done today; some of it in preparation for “Prison Alley Tales” which will broadcast live from the Red Dot Restaurant and Bar on Warren Street in Hudson at 7:00 PM tonight.  If you’re in the listening area, that’s 90.7 on your FM dial and, if you’re not, it’s available at www.wgxc.org/listen.

It’s the umbrella title for a collection of stories, recollections, monologues and performance pieces from the WGXC Diamond Street Radio Players, an ad hoc group of local artists and performers.  It appears to be shaping up as a fun night and I’m really glad; I like fun nights.

The day resulted in my recycling about three pounds of paper that had piled on my desk and now, at the end of the day, I am on deck, working on one of my “letters.”

It has been a day of calm and music and fun work.

Every hour or so, I checked on Houston and it’s not good.  At last count, 2,000 rescues had been performed and another 185 were waiting to be performed.  Ten are dead which seems a blessing after Katrina and its hundreds.

My friend, Janice McDonald, is in Houston, reporting on it.  Look her up on Facebook for her first-hand reports.

There is some irony here.  Texas is experiencing one of the most horrific of natural events and its Federal legislators voted against help to Hurricane Sandy victims.  Let us hope that legislators in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy aren’t as mean spirited when Texas asks for help, as it will.

It will be years before this is undone.

Mark me in the column of glad I have a hybrid car as Hurricane Harvey may cause gas prices to rise by a dollar or more as 15% of the refinery resources in the country are being pummeled by this storm.

Also, mark me glad I quit smoking.  The price of cigarettes in New York City are now at $13.00 a pack, highest in the nation.  I feel better and I’m not as cash strapped as I would be if I were smoking.  It’s now been at least 15 years and only once in a great while do I feel the pull to a smoke; usually in a bar, martini in hand while having some deeply intellectual conversation that probably won’t be remembered in the morning.

That was another day.  Not today.

Today the creek is astoundingly clear; water rippling in the soft wind that has arrived.

While I was sitting on the deck, in the quiet of my life, the pudgy little dictator in North Korea sent a missile flying over Japan which is just inflaming those regional tensions.

Oh, yikes.  He needs a lot of attention that boy.

As does our President.  And that is part of what makes me creepily uncomfortable with him – the amount of attention he needs.  And demands.  And gets.

The Washington Post is reporting that while seeking the presidency, Mr. Trump was also seeking a deal in Russia to build a Trump Tower there.  Felix Sater, a Trump associate, was running around bragging the deal would get The Donald elected.  This one hasn’t/can’t be completely parsed out yet but the Russia thing is not going away and I wonder what is happening in Robert Mueller’s office at this very minute.

As I go to bed tonight, I will pray for Houston and be grateful I have not had to experience anything like what they are going through.  My whole life, for the most part, has been lucky.  I’ve not had any Sandy’s or Harvey’s in my life.  Irene went through here a few years ago and spared me; around me there was catastrophe but in my sweet spot of the earth, not much.

Let’s think of Houston. Pray for them.

 

Letter From Claverack 08 06 2017 Thoughts from Sunday…

August 8, 2017

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It is a quiet night; the creek is crystal clear and a squirrel has just paraded down the deck, padding along, obviously unafraid of me.

This morning I did coffee hour at church, bringing, as I frequently do, too much food though everyone was appreciative and there should be almost enough for coffee hour next week, when I am in Minneapolis.

Returning home, I put the extra food I had in the refrigerator and then returned to have a late lunch with my friends, Larry and Alicia.  Arriving early, I wrote a poem while waiting.

 

Sun and shadow dapple road,

curving toward town where

friends await.

 

A different life now,

slow, time for noticing

the dappled road;

 

for clasping close

all kind of friends.

To stretch my brain a bit, I am working to write a poem a day.  Most days I do, not always, but most days.

Looking up, there is a canopy of green above me and nature is humming around me.  It’s amazing that in the peace of my deck there is so much noise.  Insects and birds, soft sound of water, far off the sound of trucks now and again, traversing the highway almost half a mile away.

It’s been a day when I have not listened to news or read anything until just a bit ago.  There is, you know, only so much one can take.

It is interesting that Vice President Pence is going to great lengths to deny he is making “campaign style” visits to places.  Governor Kasich is, I think.  However, it is not possible to deny that even at this early stage Republicans are beginning to look to take the place of The Donald on the stage he now holds.

The Donald is in New Jersey at one of his golf clubs in a retreat from the White House will three million dollars plus in renovations are being made.  It was just last week that President Trump is reputed to have said the place was “a dump.”

Really, I hope not too much gold is being added.

Venezuela is tottering toward dictatorship and economic collapse which will not be good for gas prices, I keep reading.

Tuesday, I am heading to Minnesota where, to my dismay, a mosque was bombed in Bloomington, the suburb in which my brother lives.  That was not “Minnesota nice.”

The world is a very strange place.  I mean really, really, strange and, you know, this has gone on forever but it just seems like somehow we should have moved beyond  so many of these things and, hopefully, we will in generations to come.

It is there I must place hope.

In this time of my life, I am being as active as I can and, at the same time, treasuring more than I ever have the wonders of my life:  an interesting life now and in my past, a creek that flows quietly by a home I think I imagined once and made reality, good friends, good dinners, times of good conversation, some travel for good reasons, a sense I have been luckier than most in keeping alive friendships from my past and carrying than into my present.

There is a tree along the creek that is always the first harbinger of fall and it is beginning to tell me fall is coming.

I’m not ready for it.  Though I will accept it as one must.

 

Letter from Claverack 08 02 2017 Worn down but not out…

August 2, 2017

The last several days, my deck has been my living room, my office and my dining room.  It’s here I have spent the daylight hours. As I type now, a storm threatens with distant thunderclaps.

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The water in the creek is so clear I can see stones that line its bottom.  The day is cooling as I sit here; having been warm and humid.

On August 8th, I am departing Hudson and journeying by train to Minneapolis for a reunion of old friends.  Whenever I tell people I am making a trip by train they ask me if I am afraid to fly?  No, says the man who, for a time in his life, flew at least a hundred thousand miles a year.

Trains are interesting because there is a sense of a journey when taking them.  It’s not a magic carpet ride from place to place [though these days rarely is flying a magic carpet ride].  It is a journey, as you pass places and towns, sit for meals, read, look up and see surprising things and meet surprising people.  You have an incredible sense of going from place to place and I love it.

It will give me a chance to think, contemplate, speculate, dream, postulate and hopefully not pontificate.

And then, when I am ready, I will fly home from Minneapolis.  My trip is a bit open ended, a reflection of the joys of my life right now.

While the water in the creek is clear, so very little else is clear.We have lived through the extraordinary and extraordinarily short tenure of the foul-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director.  In that brief time, he missed the birth of his son and was served with divorce papers by his wife.

He texted his congratulations to her on the birth of their son.  Might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back…

Seth Rich was a young man working for the DNC.  He was murdered.  Fox News suggested he was murdered because he had leaked emails from the DNC.  A lawsuit has been filed by a Fox contributor that claims Fox colluded with the White House on the story that Mr. Rich was the leaker when he was not.

How convoluted this all is.

Politics has always been a dirty business and it seems dirtier than ever right now. Or, at least in my memory.

As “any father would,” Donald Trump helped craft the statement Donald Trump, Jr. made about his meeting with some Russians, who promised him dirt on Hillary.  That’s the story from the White House. Other, less kind versions, have him dictating the statement his son gave.

It’s another JDLR – just doesn’t look right.

After six months, I am worn out.

Really, I am. Every day when I wake up, I wonder what new roil I am going to encounter in the news.  There is no shortage of them.

General John Kelly has been named Chief of Staff at the White House.  Is there a more painful job in the world right now?  I mean, really!?  Kelly kicked Scaramucci’s butt out which shows he is exercising control and has demanded the President pay attention.

Good luck with that.   Trump’s tweets early this morning goaded his new Chief of Staff about not promoting the stock market heights it has achieved may indicate his attention span lasted the night.  It’s not your Chief of Staff’s job, Mr. Trump, to spend his second day in his job telling people how great the market under you is.  That, arguably, is for your Communications Director.

Oh, yes, you don’t have one right now, do you, Mr. Trump?

And, as several friends remind me, we will survive Trump.

Thank goodness.  At times, I think of the Roman Empire which survived a hundred bad Emperors, carried along by the bureaucracy that supported it.  As we will be, by the bureaucracy we have built but we may have lost the dream, I’m afraid.

John F. Kennedy was one of our most flawed presidents and yet he inspired us.

And, while there have been monsters enough in human history, we now have ones with nuclear weapons, like the North Korean dictator who is testing ICMB’s, an acronym whose meaning had almost slipped from my mind since the Cold War.

Yikes!

Every Sunday since January 20th, I have lit a candle for us, the people of the United States, as well as all the other people out there who are living on this crazy planet.  And for solutions to the craziness…

 

Letter from Claverack 07 28 2017 Needing places and moments of refuge…

July 28, 2017

 

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A gray, foggy morning yielded to a fairly sunny, rather cool afternoon; whenever the sun slipped behind a cloud I was tempted to come into the house from my perch on the deck while the cleaning crew spiffed the house.

Now, with cottage clean, I am sitting at the dining room table, sliders open to the deck.  Birds are singing and music from the 1940’s is playing on my Echo.

Returning from the Vineyard Tuesday, I made myself a martini, wrote a poem, and found myself purchasing Christmas presents from a site that emails regularly, from which I buy irregularly and, yesterday, had some things I wanted.  Saying there were only four available, I pounced.  I think they were being clever as the number available never went below four.

Insane for Christmas shopping in July?  No.  It saves so much stress come November.  In January, I saw something I thought would be perfect for my friends, Nick and Lisa, and thought: if not now, when?  And, you know, I have been back to that store several times and not seen the item again.

All this, the creek and future Christmas shopping, visiting my friends on Martha’s Vineyard, is very hygge.  And I need all the hygge I can get.

Monday or Tuesday I received a scree from a relative who supports Trump that was filled with things that made me flinch, a repudiation of most of the things I think are advancements.  Should we go back to the days of a segregated America?

And while I look out at my sun kissed creek, I read that Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, has published a 252-page pamphlet on how to deal with a North Korean nuclear attack.  That was something I needed to read a couple of times.  Hawaii is also preparing for such an event and I am holding my head to keep it from exploding.

Somewhere along the line in my now longish life, I read that one of the contributing factors in the fall of Rome was lead poisoning.  Romans lined their wine amphorae with lead which leached into the wine they drank and we all know lead poisoning isn’t good.

Sperm count has dropped by 50% in the western world in the last forty years.  Gives me pause to wonder what historians will say about the cause.  Pesticide poisoning? Another reason?

President Trump addressed the Boy Scout Jamboree this week.  What you thought of his speech probably depends on which side of the political spectrum you are on.

Speaking of our President, his relentless attacks on Attorney General Sessions seem to have many Republicans up in arms, particularly in the Senate where Sessions was a member for a lot of years and it’s a tight club.

Republican Senator John McCain, with whom I have often not agreed [particularly in his choice of Sarah Palin as his VP choice], made a speech for bipartisanship after returning from surgery for a brain tumor.  If you want to both hear and read what he said, click here. It reminded me of the times I have liked him.

Our president is not going to allow transgender individuals to serve in the Armed Forces.  It’s not necessary for me to elucidate the storm that has created, not the least of which happened in the Pentagon, caught off guard by a Twitter announcement of a policy change.

The president made mention of medical costs for transgendered individuals which turns out to be less than what the Army spends on Viagra each year.

The cynic in me feels it was announced to please his base and divert attention from all the White House chaos.

Hello, Anthony Scaramucci!

The world in which I live seems so mad on so many levels that I am grateful I have the ability to sit here and look out at my canopy of green, look down into my creek and see the bottom of it through the clear, clear water, that I can listen to music and celebrate it, that I have had the chance to stare out at Edgartown harbor thanks to the kindness of my friends who invite me to visit them, that, even though I think the world right now more mad than it has been since my adolescence, I have places and moments of refuge.

 

 

 

 

 

Letter from Claverack 07 22 2017 Still in the land of off, praying for souls…

July 22, 2017

It is Saturday afternoon; I am sitting where I have been sitting every afternoon since arriving on Martha’s Vineyard, on the veranda of my friends’ home, gazing out at the harbor, listening to the sound of boats motoring.  There is almost no wind and so the sailboats, if moving at all, are using their motors.

It was early that I woke this morning, nudged into wakefulness by a text on my phone.  A second text banished sleep and I laid in bed and read the NY Times, edging into the day with the Food section.  Hard news seemed too much for the early hour.

Joining my friend, Jeffrey, we went over to Behind the Bookstore to pick up some things to take to their outpost up in Vineyard Haven where Igor made me a powerful coffee drink with a hint of lavender.  Back at BTB with some needed ice, I soothed the caffeine edge with a mimosa.

Now, I am back in my favorite spot, reading science fiction short stories before starting the mystery I purchased at Edgartown Books this morning, “Moriarity,” about which I had read good things earlier in the year.  Yesterday, I finished a trifle of a mystery just before a marathon nap.

Jeffrey calls this the “land of off.”  It is; I am very “off.” It is a comfortable house in both physical terms and the graciousness of my hosts.  As I wandered into the kitchen to make myself a sandwich, I appreciated that.

Later in the day, I looked at the news and winced.  Today’s twitter storm seemed to be all about our President telling the world that he absolutely has a right to pardon anyone he wants, including himself.

Witnessing these things results in some attitude I have yet to describe, a mélange of incoherence, amusement, fear, incredulity and amazement.  There must be a word for it somewhere.

A friend forwarded me an article today; it is a portrait of the man who is leading a prayer group that includes most of our President’s cabinet.  It seems he believes God only hears the prayers of Christians.  My friend is Jewish.  Her only comment:  Oy!

I concur.

Sean Spicer left the building yesterday, resigning after the elevation of Scaramucci to the office of White House Communications Director, a move with which Spicer had vehemently disagreed.  But he was named and Spicer left, replaced by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  It is hoped Melissa McCarthy can do as good a job with her as she did with “Spicey.”

The NY Times published a scathing, oh, really scathing article called, “The Mooch and the Mogul.”  You can read it here.

Googling for an article that praised Scaramucci’s appointment, I found little.  The closest was this, an article in Forbes, by Nathan Vardi.  You can read that here.  It’s not that great but best to be found.  Apparently, the NY Times called him “the mooch” because that’s his nickname on Wall Street.

Meanwhile, Congress has put together a package of sanctions against Russia that our president is not going to like.  It has broad bi-partisan support.  Imagine that?!  Insiders think the president won’t veto it despite how much he dislikes it.

John Heard, the father in the “Home Alone” movies, passed away at 71, while recovering from back surgery.  R.I.P.

And R.I.P. to Jamel Dunn, a disabled Florida man who drowned while five teenage boys recorded his demise, laughing and taunting him, doing nothing to help him.  They posted the video on YouTube and didn’t bother to alert authorities.  Florida police are searching for a statue by which to charge them.

It is a story which saddens me, sickens me and causes me to wonder about my fellowman.

Tonight, I will say a prayer for Jamel Dunn and for the souls of the young men who laughed while he died and light candles next time I am in church.

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 07 15 2017 On the Auto Train outside of Jacksonville, FL…

July 15, 2017

It is closing on 6:00 on the 15th of July, 2017 and I am riding north on the auto train from Sanford, Florida to Lorton, Virginia.  Pierre Font, married to my friend Lionel, and I are bringing his parents’ car from Miami to Columbia County, which is where they will be living while they sort out their lives.

There are no stops.  Well, except for the one where one of the engines lost power but they managed to fix it and we are going again.  It is a bit like being on a cruise, having a day at sea.

Forty years ago, in Tehran, Maryam Mirzakhani, was born.  She is the only woman to have won the Field Award in mathematics, the equivalent of a Nobel Prize.  And today, she passed away, a victim of breast cancer, a brilliant mind gone quiet.  She has been a Professor at Stanford University since 2008.  RIP.  It is hard to lose such a brilliant mind.  By the way, she was Muslim.

Yesterday, one of my relatives sent me an email warning me about a young Muslim politician in Michigan.  It was, to me, both xenophobic and un-American, and I angrily deleted it.  We were being warned he might one day become President of the United States.  Today, I wanted to retrieve it but couldn’t seem to find it.  My relative’s unhappiness with the man was simply based on the fact he was Muslim.

One of the finest people I have known in my life was Omar Ahmad, a Muslim, who when he died prematurely from a heart attack a few years ago, was Mayor of San Carlos, CA.

There was a moment when I wanted to respond.  I didn’t because it would have no effect on him as nothing I say would change his mind.  This is who he is, xenophobic and un-American and he has been that way since I have known him.

Yet, I feel guilty at not having responded.

Such is life in 21st Century America.

The election of Trump to the Presidency has given lots of people more freedom to express xenophobia and racism and all the ugly things we haven’t dealt with in America.  And all the things that more and more of the world is having to deal with as huge populations move around the globe.

France was welcoming to Josephine Baker in the 1920’s; it could afford to be.  It looked down on the United States and its racial policies.  But would a Josephine Baker from a Muslim country today still find the embrace she did?  I’m not sure.

It is one thing to be a rarity in the 1920’s and another to be part of an encroaching potential majority in the 2010’s.

I am saddened and worn by all these things and grateful I will be gone before all this plays out.

It is possible for me to look back and think, gratefully, on what a life I have had.  It is my hope that the people who are younger than me will also have a wonderful life and that a solution will be found to all of this because if we do not find a way to embrace each other, it is not going to be pretty.