Archive for the ‘Syrian Refugee Crisis’ Category

Letter From Claverack 07 07 2017 Musings on being home…

July 8, 2017

As I begin writing, it is twilight at the cottage.  The day began damp and grey, changing mid-day to blue and lovely.  Sitting on the deck, the torches burn to ward off mosquitoes and to give a sense of atmosphere.  It is lovely.

Of course, as soon as I typed those words, I felt the first of the raindrops and had to scutter back into the cottage.

Out there in the world, momentous things have been happening.  Trump and Putin met for the first time. Trump:  It’s an honor.  Putin: ?

It’s certain we will be hearing the parsing of the meeting for days to come.  They talked election tampering.  Putin: we didn’t.  Trump: okay. [At least according to some early reports.]  No agreement on Crimea.   Not expected.

We are to agree on a ceasefire in southwest Syria.  Good for everyone if it holds.

In Washington, Mitch McConnell faces the daunting task of passing the Republican version of healthcare legislation.  It seems to be the single most unpopular piece of legislation of the last thirty years.

Over the weekend, I listened to some interviews with people from around the country who were absolutely opposed to Obamacare and absolutely loved the ACA, not realizing they are one and the same.  It left me shaking my head in amazement and then, why should I be amazed?  We, on both sides of the fence, don’t always analyze and we just react, ideologically, and that seems to be on the increase.

In a bright moment in the world, Malala Yousafzai, a young woman targeted by terrorists, terribly wounded, and who miraculously clawed her way back, graduated from high school today.  She is also a Nobel Peace laureate. She celebrated graduation by tweeting her first tweet.

Amazing human being…

Closer to home, Etsy has cut its workforce by 15% and I wonder how that is going to affect the offices on Columbia Street in Hudson.  While that is happening, the stock has been upgraded to a buy by some brokers.

It’s interesting to me to walk down Warren Street and see all the businesses that are there that weren’t when I came and to see the ones that are still here, still pulling along.  One of my favorites is Carousel, next to the CVS on Warren.  One of my friends collects mid-century hammered aluminum pieces and I go in there and sometimes find things for her.

The Red Dot has been here since I arrived and I remember the transition of Brandow’s to Swoon Kitchen Bar.  Seems Ca’Mea has always been there since I arrived, though I am not sure about that.  That’s a little foggy.

It’s been interesting to watch all of this.  The cottage has been my home longer than any place I have lived, including the home I grew up in.  That’s sobering.  That’s rooting.  I like the sense of roots I have created here.

Yesterday, I had my car serviced at Kinderhook Toyota and ran into someone I knew.  At the Red Dot, I am always running into people I know.  Same for Ca’Mea.  It’s wonderful to go into places and be known or to know people there.

The places I’ve lived are many:  Minneapolis, Toronto, Carbondale, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Eugene, OR, New York City and now Claverack.  The places I have visited seem innumerable. They’re not but…

Of all those places, including my hometown of Minneapolis, the only place that has felt like home is here.

And I am enormously grateful for that.  It is sweet and satisfying and that is how, I think, it should be as I enter this third act of my life.

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.

5A39D4CA-998A-4E97-A7A6-D7B0232B9B52

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 the Train 04 06 2017 Thoughts through mist and fog…

April 6, 2017

It is dusty grey; mist and fog lay lightly on the Hudson River as I head south toward New York City and then on to Baltimore to visit Lionel and Pierre.  It will be a long weekend; I return on Monday.

IMG_1741

It had been my intent to drive but when I woke this morning to predictions of thunderstorms and tornadoes along my route, I opted for the train.

Last night, I sat down to begin a letter and could not find words.  Ennui swept over me and I wandered off to bed, watched an episode of “Grace and Frankie” and fell asleep, waking early to prepare to leave.

Yesterday was my first day as host of the Wednesday version of WGXC’s “Morning Show,” from 9 AM to 11 AM.  The night before, I had a night full of crazy dreams in which I got to the studio on Wednesday morning only to find they had changed all the controls and I had no idea on how to work them.  In another dream, I decided to sleep at the station the night before to make sure that I didn’t miss the program but did anyway.

No psychiatrist is needed to interpret these dreams.

And the program went well; there was much praise from friends and colleagues and I relaxed, thinking I can manage this.  It was fun and for my first guest, I had Alana Hauptman, who owns my beloved “Red Dot.”

Probably no one remembers Texas Guinan anymore; she ran the biggest, best, brassiest, funniest, speakeasy in New York during Prohibition.  She was loved and admired and imitated.  She was known for her big heart and saucy character.  Alana is all of that and is the Texas Guinan of Hudson.  The Red Dot has stood for nineteen years and been an anchor to the town and certainly my world.

There is a slew of people lined up to be guests on the show including the folks who run Bridge Street Theater in Catskill, world premiering a new play shortly and Jeff Cole, who is the CEO of the Center for the Digital Future at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication as well as Howard Bloom, who is a multi-published author and once press agent to every major rock group in the 1970’s and ‘80’s.  And Fayal Greene, who has lived in Hudson for a long time, civically active, and is leaving at the end of the month for Maine, where she and her husband will live in a retirement community near their summer home and many relatives.

The farewell party will, of course, be at the Red Dot.

All of this is very hygge.

And I roll around in the hygge-ness of my life as outside my bubble I am often stupefied by my world.

Politics has never been this raucous in my lifetime and perhaps not this much since the founding of the Republic, which, I understand, was a very raucous time.

As I was getting ready to board the train, Representative Devin Nunes, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has now recused himself from the Russian investigation over ethics concerns.

In Syria, eighty plus people, including children, died in an apparent gas attack.  Trump says the incident crossed “a lot of lines for him.”  Tillerson has said that it was undoubtedly Assad’s regime.  Assad is saying bombs ignited a store of gas weapons in the attacked town.  Russia is demanding the US lay out its cards on how to solve the Syrian problem.

This all sounds like a lot like another replay of the last few years, with some new players and no new results.  In the meantime, Syrians continue to suffer; something like five million of them are refugees, many living in squalor with their only drinking water coming from septic tanks causing typhoid and a further circling down into this hell that has been created.

A radio report from a Syrian refugee camp yesterday may have been the cause of last night’s ennui.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is meeting with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago today and tomorrow.  It is a high stakes meeting reports say.  Wide chasms exist in trade with Trump the candidate picking on China through most of the campaign and the Chinese, unlike some Americans, have long memories and play a long game.

If this turns out to be the pivot point for the United States, future historians might look at our tendency to be focused on short term goals as a factor in creating this pivot.

And in this miasma of non-hygge news, is a report that Jeff Bezos, second richest man on the planet, is selling a billion dollars of Amazon stock a year to finance Blue Origin, his space venture.  That makes me smile.  Money at work on building the future.

 

 

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 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.

2017

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.

 

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 10 10 2016 What might have been…

October 11, 2016

Well, it’s Monday evening and nearly twenty-four hours has passed since the debate.  It was as close to X rated as any debate in the history of the Presidential Elections, what with Hillary bringing up Trump’s vile language in his 2005 tape and Trump bringing up Bill Clinton’s well-documented infidelities.

Oh my!  Personally, I thought Trump looked terrible.  And that sniffling…

The NY Times [and my conservative readers will not like this] said that there was only one adult on the stage and it wasn’t Donald Trump.  I agree.

Trump had a little get together before the debate with four women who accuse Bill Clinton of sexual assault.  Look, Bill was a philanderer.  We all know that now thanks to Monica Lewinsky.  We know Hillary was brutal in her defense of her husband.

AND Hillary is running for President.  Not Bill.  Bill Clinton was JFK without a compliant press.

It was down and dirty, Trump dominating the stage, sniffling all the time, while Hillary [IMHO] was doing her best to both go there and not go there.  Trump’s tape was the elephant in the room.

It’s getting near the end of the day, thank God.  There’s not much more of this I can stand.

However, there was one bright spot in the debate.  His name was Ken Bone and he asked a question, wearing a bright red sweater and looking like the guy next door that we really like.

He asked about what the candidates would do to both protect legacy power and create environmentally safe sources going forward.  He was respectful, he was clear, he was concise and because he looked like the neighbor you wanted to live next door to you, the Internet went wild.  He was everywhere.

And that red sweater he was wearing?  There are now all kind of Internet leads that will help you buy that sweater.

He was sweet and real in a moment that felt neither real nor sweet in any other way.

Bravo, Mr. Bone.

But in the meantime, Paul Ryan has said he will no longer defend Trump and will concentrate on keeping the down ticket seats safe.  It is one of the rare things Paul Ryan has done with which I agree.

It is pitch black outside and the control to turn on the floodlights is broken, soon to be repaired.

This is the night I turned on the heat, the temperature will fall near to freezing this evening.  Soon, I may light a fire in the Franklin Stove and watch some video.

The new season of Poldark has started on PBS and I am catching up.

In the meantime, medics are asking to be let into Aleppo as there is no longer an infrastructure to help the wounded.  When last I wrote, two of the four working hospitals had been destroyed.  Who knows if the other two are still functioning.

The pound has fallen against the dollar due to Brexit.  It was $1.57 to a pound.  Now it is $1.23 to a pound.  Mayhap I shall plan a trip to Britain.

Nigel Lafarge who helped organize the successful campaign for Brexit, praised Donald Trump for acting like a silverback gorilla in the debate last night.

Please! Really?  Nigel, you lied through it all and once you’d won, you stepped down to avoid the consequences of your actions.

It is Columbus Day.  In many places it is becoming Indigenous Peoples Day.  We are beginning to make mea culpa over the damage we had done to the people who lived here when we arrived.

We destroyed them, all in the name of progress.  It makes me wonder what the world would be like if we had incorporated their beliefs into the way we developed our New World?

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 10 02 2016 We, of this island planet…

October 2, 2016

It is twilight outside the windows; classical music plays, a gentle piano sonata.  In the trail of grey days that we have left in our time wake, the leaves have begun to change outside.  Most are still green but yellow branches now sway with the green in the twilight wind.

It is a quiet, magical moment here in the cottage.  Marcel lays sleeping on the couch, tired after taking me on a tour of his domain across the street. I am a bit tired too, for no great reason.  Waking at a reasonable hour, I did some early morning work, showered and went off to church.

Going home, I briefly walked Marcel and went off to the gym and from there to the Red Dot for my normal Sunday brunch, visiting with all the folks I know who also frequent there.

While sitting at the Dot, I read the NY Times on the phone and perused my emails.

The world was rocked today that Trump in 1995 claimed a loss of nearly a billion dollars.  It shielded him from many taxes for the next eighteen years.  It was legal and staggering at the same time.  A billion dollars in losses in one year?  In 1995?

Badly managed businesses provided that loss, especially the catastrophe of his Atlantic City Casinos.  And it seems to me that those catastrophes kept happening over the decades.

The returns were mailed to the NY Times anonymously with a return address of Trump Tower. His campaign called the NY Times an arm of the Clinton campaign.

In another report today, a commentator reminded us that several weeks after the death of Princess Diana, Trump was on Howard Stern’s program declaring he thought he could have “nailed” the Princess.  He was apparently between wives and sent Princess Diana mountains of flowers. A few years ago, a woman who had been close to Diana said that she felt creeped out by them and a bit like she was being stalked by the American billionaire.

Barely cold in her grave, he was boasting he could have “nailed” her.  How gallant!

How disgusting.

A person very close to me sent me an email, asking me to disseminate it widely.  It was in support of Trump.  Having known this woman for eons, I wondered how she possible could be thinking I would do anything to support Trump?  Perhaps she was just tweaking me, even though she knows I know she will vote for Trump.

Columbia has been at war for over fifty years with the rebellious FARC.  A peace deal was negotiated and put to a national referendum.  It appears to have been voted down, leaving all of us to wonder if Columbia is to face another fifty years of internal war?

My sister lives in central Florida and has been wondering if Matthew [spelled with two t’s} was going to land upon them but it appears it will weaken once it has scoured Haiti, a country that can’t seem to get a break.

Another young black man was shot in Los Angeles and activists are calling for transparency.

There is no transparency or mercy, it seems, in Aleppo.  The Syrian government of Assad, supported by Russia, are pummeling Aleppo into submission, apparently deliberately targeting the resources they have to handle the bombings: hospitals.  The healing capacity of the city has been halved.

And where is the boy?  Where is the boy?

We, the US, have been warned by Russia to not target the Damascus government.

We are living on this island Earth, not really paying attention to the tectonic shifts in the eco-system while we kill each other all over the place.

It is now totally dark outside but it is not totally dark in my soul.  When I witness what is happening in the world, I also remember that for every dire act there is an act of kindness, of balance, of work to make this place, this planet, a better place.

It is why I still go to church.

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 09 27 2016 Ruminating about the debate, looking over the creek…

September 27, 2016

Twilight is beginning to settle on the Hudson Valley, outside a silvery light surrounds the trees outside my window.  The trees remain mostly green, some falling, still green.  Over the weekend I listened to a report on NPR informing us that the turning of the leaves has been delayed by two weeks due to the long, hot, dry summer.  It’s fine with me; I am enjoying the illusion it is still more summery than it is.

Yesterday, I had a fire in my Franklin stove to take the edge off the chill in the cottage as I couldn’t bear the thought of turning on the heat.

Today has been a magical fall day, warm but not too warm, sunny and joyous.

It is Tuesday and therefore I taught my Public Communications class.  One of the questions I asked was, of course, who watched the Debate yesterday as it is an example of public communication with the highest of all possible stakes.  Of the twenty-one people in my class, five had watched the debate.

With the exception of one, they were millennials.  All of them found both candidates unacceptable.  And that surprised me.  Both Clinton and Trump failed to resonate with these five.  To them, Trump was a buffoon and Clinton was insincere.  They did not indicate to me which way they will vote, if they vote at all.

Last semester my students were exhausted by the campaign and turned off by it by the length and acrimoniousness of it.  And that was true today; my students, almost all of them of voting age, are bored to death with this election campaign, feeling no one is reaching out to them.

That is worrisome.

Personally, I really liked Hillary and thought she did a very decent job.  Trump started strong and then seemed to slide into exhaustion, an individual worn down and beyond really, really caring.

He did not shoot himself in the foot in the way I hoped but something was definitely off in the last part of the debate.  It seemed the helium had escaped from his balloon.

Howard Dean, once himself a potential Presidential candidate, tweeted about Trump’s sniffles during the debate, wondering if he might have used cocaine before going on.  I don’t remember sniffles but it has been retweeted across the blogosphere.  Trump said this morning there were no sniffles.

Chill Jazz plays in the background.  The silver light seems suspended over the creek, caught in a magic moment that promises it will eternally be this way…

Of course it won’t be.  Twilight will become dusk and dusk will become night.

Some weeks ago I wrote a letter that featured a photo of a little boy in Aleppo, in the back of an ambulance, traumatized, a face that haunts me tonight as the Syrian forces of Assad coupled with their Russian allies, are bombing the daylights out of Aleppo with bunker busting bombs.

Boy

All day, I have wondered if that little boy, who captured the world’s attention, is still alive?  Has he survived this new level of brutality?  The violence has become unimaginable and I feel broken for not knowing how to alleviate it.

This week I am dog sitting Marcel, the poodle of my friend Lionel, who owns the house across the street from me, my great friend I gained in the wondrous startup that was Sabela Media in the late 90’s.

He has been a magical friend to me and we have shared every Thanksgiving together since then, save two.

Marcel and I went on our afternoon walk together.  He brings me to their house and cannot understand why he cannot go home.

He enjoys me and he wants to be at home.  He is about to be sixteen and he soldiers on and I am impressed with his determination.

It is a time to be determined.  There are those who feel the future of the American experiment is on the line.  They may well be right.

What has happened in America in the last two and a half centuries has been amazing.  We have been blessed to be part of one of the most glorious experiments democracy has ever had.  We have been flawed and we have persevered.

Today I was reading all kinds of documents from Columbia Greene Community College about campus policy and I thought: we are just working to do it right.

That is the thread that has kept us going.  We are just working to do it right.  And I applaud American democracy, for it all its flaws, for trying to do it right.

Letter From New York 08 30 2016 Headed south…

August 30, 2016

The train moves south along a placid Hudson River.  I am only forty minutes out of New York and as we pull into Croton Harmon, sailboats dot the river and bob lightly at anchor.  I am in town for two days to see friends, shoot a pilot with Howard Bloom and then to head home.  I am feeling very mellow this morning.

Relieved I know what I am going to do my first day of class, I am now plotting out the rest of the semester.

It’s been a few days since I’ve written, days that seemed more hectic than I would have expected, with more to do and with unexpected delights.

Claire and Leonard, who almost always sit in front of me in church, offered for me to come by and take vegetables and flowers from their garden.  They are off for two weeks in Greece.  I went over on Friday and harvested from their garden beans and squash, flowers and potatoes, luscious tomatoes, garlic and fresh rosemary.  As we gathered, a light rain fell and it seemed right to be in the garden just then.  For a moment I was much in touch with my body and nature.  A monarch butterfly floated by and rested on a flower near where we stood.  How rarely I see them so closely.

Lionel and Pierre came for the weekend which meant long, delightful dinners with a finish of cleansing vodka and a good “chin wag.”  It feels peaceful in my world.

The rest of the world, not so much.  IS has killed fifty plus in Yemen, a country that has seen 10,000 die in its civil war, according to the UN, a number higher than previously thought.  A suicide bomber struck the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan. 6500, sixty-five hundred, migrants have been rescued from the sea near Libya, including a pair of newborn twins.  The number staggers my mind.

Refugees

Venice, it appears, is being destroyed by tourism.  In 65 years, the population has dwindled by two thirds and landmarks are lost to hotels.  The UN may take away its status as a world heritage site.

Gene Wilder, star of one of my favorite films, “Young Frankenstein,” passed away yesterday, of complications from Alzheimer’s.   It saddens me to think of his brilliance falling away, victim to the disease. Who can forget him in “The Producers?” That generation is leaving us.

Gene Wilder

Today in politics, John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz must win primaries if they are to stand in the fall for election. At this moment, while the voting goes on, all three are expected to win.

On the way to the train station, I listened to “Democracy Now” with Amy Goodman as she and others did an exegesis of the EpiPen scandal. If you somehow have missed it, EpiPen, a life saving device and drug for those with allergies, has seen its price increase 400% over the last nine years.  There is a public hue and cry about the issue.  One of the women on “Democracy Now” has seen her insurance co-pay for EpiPens swell from $50.00 to $300.00, a price she cannot afford.

There is going to be, I’m sure, a Congressional investigation.  The woman who runs Mylan, the drug company selling EpiPen, is the daughter of a Senator from West Virginia.  She is fighting the demonization of her on social media.

The train is sliding into New York, we have entered the tunnels and will soon be in Penn Station, a place called by New York’s Governor Cuomo, one of the seven levels of hell in Dante’s “Inferno.”

As I exited this “hell,” a lovely middle aged woman stood between Track’s Restaurant and McDonald’s, playing lovely classical music.  I stopped and gave her a dollar for the smile she had given me as I entered the subway.

Letter From Claverack, New York 08 23 2016 Generous souls…

August 24, 2016

It is later in the evening than I normally write; I did a roundtrip to the city today.  There were a couple of meetings and then I turned around and returned to the cottage.  It is dark.  I have turned on the floodlights so I can see the creek glitter with their light.  The trees are silhouetted by the light, green and verdant.  Nights like this are ones I love, with the floodlights giving an eerie beauty to what I see in the day.

Earlier today I had a long and good conversation with Sarah, who is my oldest friend.  We have known each other since we were three and except for one brief period have been a close part of each other’s lives.  She is one of the most loving and caring women I have known in my life and has always been that way.

In 7th grade, when Sister Jeron knocked me on the back of the head with a Gregorian Hymnal, humiliating me in front of our class, Sarah turned up that evening with one of her brothers and we went sledding down the hill by our house.  She knew I was hurting and came to help take the hurt away.  I remember that night as if it were yesterday.

Since I last wrote not much has changed in the world.  Aleppo is still a horror show.  Omran, the child in the photo, still haunts my dreams.

There are bombings hither and thither.  A Turkish wedding was destroyed by a suicide bomber who may have been no more than fourteen.  It was not the only bombing but it seems the most tragic with a child being used as a weapon.

Trump is attempting to moderate his tone and I hope it is too late.  Hillary is caught in the crossfire of the Foundation and her emails, which probably will never go away.  Even if she wins the Presidency, the Republicans will be chasing those emails and Benghazi into the next century.

The state of our politics this year is deplorable.  While discouraged, I remain hopeful that some good will come from all of this.  It must.

Out there in the wide world, North Korea has fired a missile from a submarine toward Japan.  Provocative as ever, the chubby little dictator is testing the limits of what he can get away with.

Remember the Boko Haram?  One of their leaders may have been badly wounded in a Nigerian airstrike.  I hope so.

The Iraqis are intent on reclaiming Mosul.  More than a million people will be displaced if they do it, according to estimates.  More refugees in this horrific war that never ends…

The Brits voted for Brexit and Brexiting are a large number of corporations who are moving their money out of Britain.  Not good for Britain who is going to have to do a lot of juggling with this Brexit thing…

It is late.  I am distracted.

Long ago and far away, I was friends with the Elsen family.  Don Elsen, patriarch of the clan, passed away today. He was 90, lived a good long life.  I saw him a year ago.  Unable to walk, he managed the world with a motorized wheel chair, mentally sharp as ever.

They were descendants of Germans and when I was with them, they could be screaming at each other and then burst into laughter and hug and hold each other.  It was amazing.  They were all full of love and Don was one of the most generous souls I have known in this life.

God rest.  Keep safe.  Be reunited in heaven with your beloved wife, Betty.  Your son, Jeffrey, and your brothers who went before you.

May I have such a homecoming someday.