Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter from Claverack 08 11 2017 Wanting to be home before the apocalypse…

August 11, 2017

As is not unusual, jazz is playing in the background as I am sitting at the kitchen table of my brother and sister-in-law’s home in Bloomington, MN.  Last night, after my arrival, a magnificent thunderstorm slashed across the sky and I sat for a while, watching out the window.  In a strange way, it felt warm and comfortable, evoking some good childhood memory.

Sleeping in later than usual, I found myself feeling plastered to the mattress from a heavy sleep that had wrapped itself around me.  Morpheus kept blowing tenderly on my face.

The weather today promised more thunderstorms though none arrived, though the sky is mostly leaden and threatening.  Soon a friend from high school will pick me up and we’ll go off to see other friends.

When and how I return to the cottage is undecided.  I arrived by train and maybe I will train back, maybe fly or drive or…

For reasons I don’t understand but which I accept, I am wanting not to feel boxed in by a defined schedule even though I am scheduling lots of time with family and friends.

Ah, I looked up and a soft rain has started.  Best I take my umbrella this evening.

This morning, I deleted every email that contained news.  I didn’t want to know until after a couple of cups of coffee because our world does seem more and more unsettled.  A few minutes ago, I opened Google News and the top story was “Meet Kim Jung Un, A Moody Man with a Nuclear Arsenal” from the New York Times.

Well, as I pondered whether I was going to click on the link, I thought of our president, who I think of a as a moody man and he has a bigger nuclear arsenal than Kim Jung Un and I just don’t know what to think any more about much of anything.

As I am away from my home as I write this, I jokingly [but not totally] said to a colleague, I want to be back home before the apocalypse.

The president has raised the verbal ante and has declared we are “locked and loaded,” which, according to reports from retired generals, we are not anywhere near.

China has declared it will remain neutral if North Korea strikes first and not if we do.  Russia is saying we are both being belligerent and they’re right.  We are. Well, President Trump is being belligerent; everyone else is trying to keep things calm.  I feel sorry for John Kelly, now Chief of Staff.  What a job he has! And not one I would want.

The president is taking on Mitch McConnell, which pundits are saying is not a wise move.

And do we expect wisdom from this president?

Not now, not ever, I am sad to say.

 

 

Letter From Claverack 08 08 2017 Thoughts from a moving train…

August 9, 2017

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As I begin this, I am rolling through the lush green country of eastern Virginia; we will cross shortly into West Virginia and then begin moving leisurely north through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and then to Chicago for I am on Train #29, the Capitol Limited from Washington, DC to Chicago.

The sun is still high in the west, the side of the train on which I am riding, ensconced in a bedroom compartment, about the size of my bathroom at the cottage; very amenities complete.  Dinner is at 6:45 and I am eager to find out who my dining companions will be.  Everyone in the past has been a memorable character and I see no reason why this time should be different.

For reasons that have eluded me, yesterday and today, I have been on the cranky side.  Yesterday was full of errands to be done before I left and every one of them took more time than allotted.  Racing up to Albany, I made a doctor’s appointment exactly on time when I was sure I was going to be late.  There was a delicious moment when I felt I had caught up with my day.

Then I was told I had arrived forty-five minutes too early.  Stunned, I decided to go get a cup of coffee as I had yet to have any.  Returning, there were different receptionists who chided me for being late.  Disbelieving of me telling them I had been on time, I finally convinced them.  The first receptionist had apparently misread the calendar.  Discovering they were all upset because I was to have tests I had not been told I was going to have, I did something very uncharacteristic of me:  I was not a good boy.

Taking the forms, I put them down on the counter and said I was upset and would call them when I returned from my trip.

Today was much better and still, though, a little on the cranky side until I rode out to the train with a woman from Greenville, SC.  She wanted to see a picture of my creek and when I showed it to her, she said:  you’re blessed.

And I am.  How quickly we get caught up in the shoelaces of our lives and forget the bigger picture.  Taking a very deep breath, I have now settled into my compartment and am enjoying the view out my window: trees in the full flush of green, a river and a bridge crossing it with the sound of clacking train wheels.  It is a good moment.

Not so good is the news flash that North Korea, with its pudgy, petulant and unpredictable little dictator has probably miniaturized nuclear warheads to go on top of those ICBMS he has been testing.

Our president has warned him in no uncertain terms that if he uses them he will “face fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

So, we have an unpredictable barely man dictator with nuclear weapons facing an unpredictable aging man boy petulant president who has the nuclear codes to the biggest arsenal on earth.  Could this end badly?

Unfortunately, yes.

If it does, I want to be home. At the cottage, with jazz playing and a good martini in front of me because I will absolutely need it.

There are two very huge egos at play here and no one knows how the China card will play.  Probably, hopefully, pray God it is, this will all be okay.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, even more than my parents did, I knew, as a child, we were in a dangerous place.  We are again and don’t have a John Kennedy and his team,  for all his crazy faults, to pull us out.

We have Donald Trump, with all his crazy faults and few strengths I can find, and a team that seems more like The Three Stooges.

 

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 20 2017 Written from the “land of off…”

July 20, 2017

Edgartown harbor shimmers below me; boats bob at anchor on a quiet, very warm afternoon on Martha’s Vineyard – the warmest day I have experienced in the half dozen or so summers I have visited the island.  Seated in the shade, with a soft wind blowing off the water, it is tolerable though earlier today most people seemed intent on finding air conditioning, crowding cool restaurants and shops.

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Last year I was here to help with my friends’ bookstore, Edgartown Books.  This year, I am here for just a week, to relax, read, relax some more, eat, perhaps sail a bit with my friends, eat, relax, sip a martini, read, a wonderful and undemanding rhythm; my friend Jeffrey calls it “the land of off.”

Reading was too wearying for me and I went to my room and promptly napped, waking just in time for a conference call.

Sadie, one of the two Bernese mountain dogs who live here, is recovering from back surgery, making slow and steady improvement from a bad fall some months ago.  Every day, she has water therapy in the pool.

Sadie

Far above me, a bi-plane circles, taking sightseers on an aerial tour of the island.  It is soft, bucolic and very, very far from the madding crowd.

Which is why it is very nice, in these strange times, to be in “the land of off.”  The amount of news consumed is less.  Last year, the kitchen television played CNN.  This year, old movies run constantly.  In the background of my morning coffee, “The Great Race” played, starring Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis.

Finishing a trifle of a murder mystery by a woman who seems to knock off a book a month, I felt content with little demanded of me.

An exegesis of political affairs is a shade depressing, to make mild of a situation now more astounding by the day.

Donald Trump, Jr. is being described as a “good boy,” a “nice young man” though he is scraping forty and has five children.  It is a time honored American defense used by the Kennedys when Teddy drove off a bridge not far from where I sit and a young woman died, Mary Jo Kopechne, lest we forget her name.  It is a time-honored defense for American men though not for women.  Ponder that.

Railing to the New York Times, Donald Trump, has declared he would never have offered Jeff Sessions the job of Attorney General if he had known he would recuse himself from the Russian investigation.  Sessions has said, post Trump’s remarks, he’ll stay as long as “it’s appropriate.”  Geez, I don’t know if I would stay when I knew I wasn’t wanted, especially so publicly unwanted.

Today, at noon, Trump celebrated the six-month mark in office.  You make your own decision on how well he has done.  We are one eighth of the way through his Presidency.

In Palos Verde, CA, forty-one-year old Chester Bennington, lead singer of the group Linkin Park, was found dead, an apparent suicide, succumbing to the demons he was open about but could not, it seems, master.  Rest in peace.

Twenty-two years ago, I was in Australia when OJ Simpson was acquitted of murdering his wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman.  Today he was granted parole from a prison sentence resulting from an armed robbery.  He should be released in October.

Seeking comfort, I watch the newest season of “Midsomer Mysteries” and anticipate the return of “The Last Tycoon,” starring Matt Bomer and Kelsey Grammer, about a movie studio in the 1930’s, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last, unfinished novel.

It seems no wonder to me, we are immersing ourselves in some of the best television in history; we need escape, diversion and pleasure from a world that is more than untidy.

So, I sit, on my friends’ deck, watching boats bob at anchor or scud across the bay, with birds chirping while Sadie is ministered to, the future feels far, far away and the present oh so pleasant.

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.