Archive for the ‘IS’ Category

Letter from the train… The rhythm continues…

September 18, 2017


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 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?


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 12 2017 Memories, hard and bittersweet…

September 12, 2017


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 04 21 2017 The past fights the future…

April 21, 2017

Apple blossoms dressed the trees in the orchards as I drove along 9H earlier today, the first, best sign of spring I’ve seen though, once having noticed them, I was aware that small buds of green were appearing on other trees.  The ones outside my windows don’t seem to be sporting them and I’m sure they will come eventually, which is how this spring has seemed – eventually we will get there – just not yet.

It has been a quiet sort of day.  Earlier I spent some time at OMI, an art center near me that I have known about but had not visited and that was my loss.  The two-hundred-acre campus is dotted with sculptures, the main building with art exhibits.  Today quite beautiful children were painting, running around in young life’s exuberance, bringing smiles to all the adults.  I offered up a thought for good lives for them; the future does feel cloudy right now.

It’s not just that this is a gray day.  Generally, I am an upbeat sort of person [or at least I think of myself as that] and today I’ve not been.  The state of the world has been weighing on me, both close to home and far from here.

Close to home, I am burdened because a friend sent me suicidal texts and I was incredibly concerned and finally asked the police to do a “welfare check.”  They did.  He then texted me he wanted nothing more to do with me.  Truthfully, I did the right thing and, at this moment, it hasn’t turned out well. For me and, I expect, not for him as he is in deep trouble and won’t admit it.

Candles to be lit; prayers to be said and to continue, as best we can.

Paris is continuing as best it can after a policeman was shot yesterday and two badly wounded by a terrorist who was killed as he was fleeing.  IS claims responsibility and France is having elections on Sunday.  The far-right candidate, Marie Le Pen, is threatening to remove France from the EU so that it can control its own borders.

She has a chance of winning.

The far right is making its might felt all over the place.

And that is so worrying to me.

For a brief, shining moment in my life it seemed we might actually be headed toward a global society and it has not happened.  It was around the time the Berlin Wall went down, a moment I will forever remember.  Driving down Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, headed west, my bestest friend, Tory Abel, called me on my car phone and said: do you know what’s going on?  As I was listening to classical music, I didn’t.  The wall was falling.

There are all kinds of suppositions about why that magic moment did not result in a better world.

Right now, I am reading a book about “the weekend” in British homes in the 1930’s and one of the revelatory bits was about a British Lord who became a Muslim because he saw Islam as the bulwark against women getting the vote and having shorter skirts and working.

He would probably have a lot in common with IS.

Change is hard.  And changing centuries of tradition is hard and people will fight it.  IS is fighting it.

When all of this works itself out, I won’t be here.  It will take more than a lifetime.

And that is history in the making.  It takes lifetimes to work itself out.

If you are not aware of it, Chechnya is conducting a campaign against gays.  It is putting us in camps, not unlike the Nazis; there are tales of torture and death.  Can this be happening in the 21st Century?  Apparently so.  The reports are horrific.

The President of Chechnya has declared he will eliminate the gay community by the beginning of Ramadan on May 26th.

Putin has declared there is no evidence this is happening and that is Putin’s view of the world: no horrible thing is happening.  There is no sarin gas is Syria, there is no campaign against gays in Chechnya, there is no fill in the blank.




Letter from the Train, returning… Passover arrives and Tillerson departs…

April 10, 2017

The train is rumbling north from Baltimore to New York City where I change trains to Hudson, arriving there around 3:30 this afternoon.  It is a sunny day and the fleece pullover and winter jacket needed on the way down are unnecessary on the way home.

Hudson River

As I travel north, I have trimmed down the email inbox, sent some electronic Passover cards and started reading how to make large quantities of scrambled eggs as this coming Sunday is Easter Sunday and I am in charge of preparing the Easter Brunch that follows the 10:30 service.

It’s my hope that Mother Eileen’s clipboard filled with some people to help me. If not…

The weekend visit with Lionel and Pierre and Marcel, the poodle, was wonderful, overflowing with good food at various venues:  Modern Cook Shop, Peter’s Inn, Red Star, Rusty Scupper, Nanimi, Petit Louis.


On “The Avenue” [36th Street] I shopped the antique stores and found some Christmas presents, tucked in my luggage; that it is expandable saved me from buying another piece.  At BJ’s with Pierre, I stocked up on Excedrin, Prilosec and more.

Long train rides give one a time to think and I enjoy them for that, for being able to see the countryside glide by without the responsibility of driving.

Pierre sings in the choir at the Church of the Advent in Baltimore.  While Lionel and I were preparing to go to hear him at church, the television flashed pictures and video of the Palm Sunday explosions in Egypt, targeting Coptic Christians, who represent about ten percent of that country’s population.  Last word I heard, forty-seven have died and scores are injured.  At Christ Church this week, I will light a candle for them.

In response to the bombings, responsibility for which was claimed by IS, Egypt has declared a three-month state of emergency.

Rex Tillerson, our low-profile Secretary of State, heads to Moscow for meetings, either strengthened or weakened [depending on your view] by the US bombing of the airfield in Syria where chemical attacks against a rebel city were initiated.  Tillerson called the Russians incompetent for allowing Assad to keep chemical weapons.

Putin is thinking of revoking the award he gave to Tillerson.

This should be an interesting week for watching Syrian affairs.  How are they all going to react?  Niki Hailey is talking regime change; Tillerson is not. Trump is unpredictable and Putin a risk taker; Assad seemingly a wily survivor who managed to turn peaceful protests into a civil war no one seems capable of winning or willing to negotiate an end.

Syria is bringing five questions about the situation to the head, outlined in an article in Bloomberg, available here.

We have ships moving toward the Korean peninsula, possibly to be in place in case there is a decision to attack North Korea and its pudgy, vindictive, unpredictable little dictator, Kim Jong Un.

President Xi of China and Trump managed to get through their summit without damaging each other and we will await to see what China will do vis-à-vis North Korea.

In 2013, Democrats used the “nuclear option” and McConnell said they would live to regret it, which they did last week when Gorsuch was successfully nominated to the Supreme Court and sworn in this morning.

Marine Le Pen, the far-right French candidate for president, has declared that France was NOT responsible for the deportation of Jews during WWII, a statement that has created, as one might imagine, more than a soupcon of controversy.

New York is the first state offering free four-year public college to its students in families with incomes under $100,000, a move to help residents avoid crushing college loans and to help the state have a work force ready for the future.

May it work.

For all my friends celebrating Passover tonight, Chaq Kasher veSameach! [Happy Passover!]

Letter From Claverack 03/02/2017 From Saba to a Trump Speech…

March 3, 2017

It has been about ten days since I’ve written; I just went back and looked.  Last time, I was on Saba, writing when I wasn’t able to sleep.  Tonight, I am back at my dining room table, floodlights on, looking out over the creek, having just returned from Coyote Flaco with Pierre, sharing chicken fajitas.

When I reached the cottage this afternoon, I felt I’d been away for a week, at least.  Monday morning, I went down to DC for some meetings for the Miller Center on the Presidency and then to New York last night to have a wonderful dinner with my friends, David and Annette Fox.  It’s a quarterly event; we gather at their marvelous UWS apartment, order Indian and catch up on our lives.

It is very hygge.  As was the dinner party I gave last Friday night for Fayal Greene, her husband, David, Ginna and Don Moore, Lionel and Pierre.  Leek soup, sautéed scallops in a brown butter sauce, and carrots in a lemony oil garlic sauce, with a baked polenta to die for, followed by a flourless chocolate cake provided by Ginna and Don, via David the baker.


It was an extraordinary evening.

And I, at least, need evenings like this to keep me sane in these extraordinary times.

On Tuesday evening, in Washington, after an early dinner with my friends Matthew and Anne, which followed drinks with my ex-partner and his now fiancé, I watched the address to Congress by our President, Donald Trump.

To the great relief of almost the entire world, he did not go off the rails and sounded presidential.  It was, Tuesday night, all about the delivery.  Wednesday morning people started to parse what he said.  Even the conservative writers that I read, and I do read some, found a lot of flaws with the speech.

Short on specifics.

Fact checkers found a lot of fault, pointing out Trump claimed as victories some things which had been in play for a year at some corporations.  Ford isn’t keeping production in the US because of Trump; they are pulling back on their Mexican plans because those plants would have built small cars and people aren’t buying them.  They’re buying gas guzzlers because gas is cheapish again.

When talking with David and Annette, I said that if Trump had not held it together last night, his presidency would have begun to unravel.  He would actually be President but, in reality, his claim to power would have begun collapsing.  Lots of people on his side of the aisle are slightly unhinged by his behavior.  McCain and Graham are frankly, I think, apoplectic.

And he held it together and while he should have been able to take a victory lap, Wednesday morning brought the revelation that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had said in confirmation meetings he had not met with any Russians in the run-up to the election, actually had two meetings with the Russian Ambassador, one in his office on Capitol Hill.

Republicans are excusing while Democrats and some Republicans are accusing.

This is a wild ride and I’ve never seen anything like it.

Sessions has since recused himself from all investigations regarding anything Russian but there are those on both sides of the aisle who smell blood in the water.

While we were having political meltdowns, Amazon’s vaulted cloud computing world went offline yesterday for 4 hours and 17 minutes because of a typo in a command.  OOPS.

It’s a little scary.  150,000 websites were affected.  Amazon is the king of cloud storage and that’s a big oops for the King.  I would not have wanted to be the head of that division yesterday.

And, before Tuesday’s Trump speech, we had the foll der wall of the biggest Oscar mistake in history.  First “La La Land” was announced as Best Picture but it really was “Moonlight.”  Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were humiliated and PwC, the accountants, were more than humiliated.  They handed out a wrong envelope.


When it happened, I was safely in the arms of Morpheus, having strange dreams of Mike Bloomberg dating the pastor of my church, Mother Eileen.

Snap Inc. had a very successful opening on the market today; it was the biggest initial offering since Facebook and they have a rocky road to travel and they are a force to be reckoned with and it will be wonderful to see how it plays out.  The next Facebook? Or the next troubled tech company, which is where Twitter is today.

It’s time for me to say goodnight.

By hygge.  Regardless of your political persuasion, it will help us all get through.




Letter From Claverack 01 02 2017 Welcome to a new year and a new era…

January 3, 2017

Not yet quite six o’clock in the evening, the sun is gone and floodlights are on the creek.  Soft jazz is on the Echo and I am winding down from some writing I did today along with emails and a couple of loads of laundry.  An ordinary day at the cottage, most of it cozied up with my laptop while watching Marcel, Lionel and Pierre’s sixteen-year old poodle sleep on the couch.  I’m dog sitting again while they are off in Boston.


New Year’s was surprisingly good.  My expectations were low and the reality great.  There was a feast at my friend Matthew Morse’s house with thirteen people, followed by going down the road to friends of his who have restored as their home a 19th Century roadhouse.  There is a balcony looking down into the tavern area and I was standing there looking down at a crowd that seemed like a hundred, sipping Moet Chandon as the New Year came in…

New Year’s Day was spent in recovery with a game of Clue over cocktails, followed by roast chicken.  Not bad.

Every time I peek into the state of the world, I want to slam the door and run into my bedroom with a cold bottle of vodka and a straw.

It sometimes feels like I have stepped into a Jean Cocteau film.

Hours after I exchanged e-mails with a friend who lives in Istanbul, working for Sony Pictures, there was a nightclub slaughter.  Responsibility for it has been claimed by IS.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber killer a couple of dozen people.  This Sunday, I will light a candle for them at church, the people of Baghdad and Istanbul.  Turkey has been assaulted this month by a whole series of attacks.  Baghdad has never not been assaulted since we invaded.

Trump tweeted something New Year’s Eve that has lots of people outraged.  It seems impossible for me to follow his tweets though I have been told the cable news channels have been spending hours attempting to decipher them.

His press secretary has pleaded with people to stop mocking him.  I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Alec Baldwin has stepped into a brand-new career on SNL and we are going to be living with it for Trump’s entire term in office.  He is just too juicy a target for satirists.  I wish I were a comedy writer.

Trump’s team is saying we should be focusing more on punishing Hillary Clinton than being concerned about Russian hacking.  Did I say something about being in a Cocteau film?  [And if you don’t know who Jean Cocteau is, Google him…]

US officials are saying Russia’s “fingerprints” are all over the hacking and Trump is saying he has inside information on the hacking which he will reveal tomorrow or Wednesday. Personally, I can’t wait.  But then I am still waiting for him to tell us how he will separate himself from his businesses.  That may be more difficult than handling the Russian hacking.

Then, of course, since I last wrote Carrie Fisher, “Princess Leia” from “Star Wars” died after a heart attack on a flight back from London, only to be followed across the River Styx by her mother, the legendary Debbie Reynolds, the following day.

Eras seem ending all around me and I am not happy…




Letter From Claverack 11 25 2016 Thankfulness after Thanksgiving…

November 25, 2016

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

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

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

The list of things wrong in this world is endless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google it…

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

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




Letter From Claverack 10 30 2016 The old clock is ticking…

October 31, 2016

As I headed north on the train, I watched mist close over the Hudson River as I drifted off to a nap after an extraordinary brunch with my friends, Mary Clare and Jim Eros, at Café Du Soleil on the Upper West Side. We laughed and giggled and ate and had a good time.

They were off to watch a flotilla of pumpkins in Central Park while I headed down to the station to head north.

It is dark now and the flood lights illuminate the creek.  The ticking of my old clock is about the only sound I can hear and I am contented after a good conference in New York.  Tomorrow is my meeting with my eye surgeon before the cataract operation a week from this coming Wednesday; I am weary of my blurry vision and am grateful I live in an age when repairs can be done to things like this.

A century ago, I would have been doomed to live with it if I had been so lucky to live this long.  My friend, the philosopher Howard Bloom, always points out that we have doubled our life expectancy in the last hundred, hundred fifty years.  A great accomplishment.

Things that would have killed us quickly have been either vanquished or we have ways of coping better than ever with what would have been life ending diseases not so very long ago.

Things like that give me some hope.

This week there were articles about robot warriors who could learn to kill using artificial intelligence, making judgments that only humans could before.  While that brings to mind images from “The Terminator,” robots are being also developed to help those who are helpless and to save human lives in other ways.  The Japanese are in the forefront of this because of their aging population.

Mary Clare and Jim split their time between Shepherdstown, WV and New York City.  They describe themselves as the new “young old.”  Both are retired and both are full of energy and life and a passion to explore the world and are an inspiration to me.

The three of us have all, to one degree or another, been tuning out the din of this the last weeks of this election cycle.  It was left to me to explain the newest twist in the Clinton email drama.  Both of them had missed it.  All of us are confused by it and are wondering why the FBI ignored the guidance of the Justice Department to not say anything so as not to appear to be influencing the election.

But it is what it is and is another twist in this most remarkable Presidential election.

Last night a truckload of manure was dumped in the parking lot of the Democratic headquarters in Ohio.  I find myself somewhere between outrage and hysterical laughter at the silliness of what is going on.  Manure?  In 2016?

As I cruised through the news today, I found an interview with Jerry Brotton, an English author, who has just published a book about Elizabeth I’s alliances with the Islamic world.  Shunned by Catholic Europe, Elizabeth I built alliances with the Shah of Persia, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and Morocco.  Fascinating.

However, in this present time the US is telling the families of workers in the US Consulate in Istanbul to leave the country.  This is combined with a warning to tourists to not travel there because of targeting by terror groups of Americans and other foreigners.

At the same time, the Turkish government has fired ten thousand civil servants and is crushing any media that disagrees with it.

I am saddened beyond words.  Fifteen years ago I was in Turkey and fell in love with Istanbul and have wanted to return.  Perhaps not or at least not now…

The old clock is ticking.  I think of it as the heart of the house.  I am content tonight and am living in the now.  Mindfulness is what I think they call it.







Letter From The Train 10 21 2016 Parsing the post debate world…

October 21, 2016

As the train moves north, the Hudson River is steel grey while bordered by trees with leaves of rust, gold, crimson and green.  The beautiful day on Tuesday is a but a memory; this Friday ride is on a day of grey and chill, with intermittent spits of rain.

My niece, Kristen, and I texted each other throughout the debate, commenting on both candidates.  While we both support Hillary, we are not immune to her faults.  It seemed such an effort for her to smile and when she did, it looked so forced as to be painful.  But being on the stage with Trump must have been painful for her.

The candidates did not shake hands before or after.  I don’t think I remember that happening before.

It was no effort for Trump to be dour and sour.  It is his natural state it seems.

During the first part of the debate, he held it together better than he had and looked like he was on track to do what he was supposed to do – not lose his cool.  But then he did; not as badly as before but enough that he was damaged and more Republicans are distancing themselves from him.

Somewhere after about twenty minutes, he began to lose the thread, veering off the script someone must have given him.  Calling Hillary “a nasty woman” may hurt more than he ever meant as it might well be a catalyst to some women who had been leaning toward him to back away.

The thing he said that had most up in arms was his failure to agree to accept the result of the election. He’ll keep us “in suspense” on that one.  Newspapers around the country led with his statement.

Trump clarified later.  He will accept the results of the election — if he wins.  It also seems he has backed away from that a bit more, saying he would, maybe.

Donald called Hillary “wrong” when she said he had supported the Iraq War before it began.  Hillary told people to google “Donald Trump Iraq.”  And many did.  There is the evidence, in a tape on Howard Stern’s Radio Program, of Trump supporting the idea of the war before it had begun.

Hillary claimed her plans wouldn’t raise the deficit.  That’s doubtful.  Trump refuted claims his plans would raise the deficit by twenty trillion dollars, double what it is.  He claimed that it wasn’t true because he would create so many jobs.  Also doubtful.

Every year of a presidential election, there is the Al B. Smith Dinner to raise funds for the charitable foundation named after the man who was the first Catholic to run for President.

Hillary was on one side of Cardinal Dolan and Donald was on the other.  The civility and joking that is the signature of this traditional dinner was soon lost to hostility.  Trump was booed when he went over the line by saying something like:  Hillary is here pretending she doesn’t hate Catholics, a reference to a WikiLeaks released email from her campaign expressing concern about conservative Catholics.

But they shook hands at the end, an event that was announced from the stage.

President Duterte of the Philippines is in China, where he has declared that his country will “separate” from the United States as we “have lost.”  However, he didn’t give China the carrot they really wanted.  He won’t walk away from the 1951 deal that gives the US bases in the Philippines.

Duterte is quite the character.  He has been accused of mounting squads of killers when he was a Mayor.  The Philippines Senate is looking into those charges and some senior officials have been saying: oh no!  He didn’t mean separation.

He has compared his crusade against drug dealers and users to Hitler’s Holocaust.

The battle to retake Mosul carries on while at the same time, IS has launched an attack on oil rich Kirkuk with suicide bombers and gunmen targeting police.  In Mosul, Iraqi fighters have made significant gains, probably better than expected.  But Kirkuk pointed out the shift in IS tactics to “pop up” attacks rather than holding territory.  And that even when vanquished from Mosul, they will not have been defeated.

In forty or so minutes, I will be back in Hudson.  In my mailbox, it is my hope, is my Cozmo, my robotic toy, which I hope will divert me from the trials and travails of the “real” world.

Though my world has not been harsh to me today.  Last night I watched my friend Todd Broder present to the NY Video Meet-up, had dinner with a friend and, today, breakfast with my friends Meryl and Ray before a pre-op physical [my eye] and now the grey ride home…




Letter From Claverack 10 18 2016 On the cusp…

October 18, 2016

The day is diminishing; the sunset flickers through the turning leaves, a panorama of burnished gold in the west.  Classical music plays in the background and a soft wind is blowing through this, the last great weather day we will probably have until spring unfolds over Claverack Creek.  It was 86 degrees today with a cloudless sky and a fall wind in a warm day.

Once I recall a day like this when I was very young.  It is the kind of day that holds intimations of immortality.  Tonight’s sunset reminds me of the brilliant ones I witnessed on trips to Santorini, up at Franco’s Bar, poised over the caldera, thinking that in the sunset I understood the hold Greek myth has had over us for twenty-five centuries or more.

Once, at Franco’s, I wrote a poem on that and now have no idea where it is.  But I remember the moment, sitting there, pen scratching in my notebook as the golden sun turned the waters in the caldera its ripe color.

We are in the cusp of fall and summer has reached out to hold us one day more in its warm embrace, harkening us to remember its feel so we will wait, patiently, for its return in another new year.


Who would have thought? Certainly in my youth I never thought that year would see me inhabit it.  Yet chances are I’ll be here when it comes marching in or crawling in or bursting upon us.

Soon there will be an election and someone new will move into the White House.  If it is Hillary, she’ll have been there but in a very different role now than then.  If it is Donald Trump, it will, perchance, signal a new and different age in our political history.

Time will tell.  Tomorrow is the next debate and I will watch, though not waiting breathlessly for it.  But I will watch.  It is “must see” TV for me this season.

The tree tops are swaying in the wind; the burnished gold has become the color of smoky topaz.  Twilight is descending.

Iraqi troops are marching toward Mosul, meeting, as expected, fierce resistance from IS.  Some Iraqis, in a scene that reminded me of tales of our Civil War, went onto a mountain side to watch the battle unfold beneath them.

IS intends to hold Mosul at any cost and if it loses it, to make it a humanitarian disaster.  The word that crosses my mind as I type is “barbarian.”

Iraqis remaining in the city have become bolder in their resistance of late to IS, supplying Iraq with vital information.  IS is killing anyone found attempting to leave the city.

When I was with the Internet start-up, Sabela Media, Yahoo was the industry behemoth.

Its revenue declined again this quarter and Verizon is asking for a reduction in price to buy it because of the hacking scandal.

Because they were known as bullies in the early years, I have always found it hard to be empathic though it is sorry to see a once great company slowly self-immolate.  And from people I know who are dealing with them currently, some within Yahoo just can’t accept what is happening now.  Ostriches with their heads in the sand…

Dark has descended and I am sitting at the table on the deck, with candlelight for illumination, listening to the classical music but also listening to the sounds of woodland creatures making their noises.

It is very special tonight.  The world is swinging in its orbit, momentous things are happening and as they are happening, there are the sounds of birds in the night, classical music and, because of them, a murmur of hope for the future.