Archive for the ‘World War II’ Category

Letter From Claverack 10 21 2017 Dinner parties and politics…

October 21, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If I don’t, I fear a kind of madness.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Letter From Claverack 05 24 2017 Where is Robin Hood when you need him?

May 25, 2017

This morning one of my guests on the radio show was Tadd Mann, who is an astrologer and, in these parts, is THE astrologer.

He has been a guest at the cottage several times, including the last beautiful night of last year; the next day the damp and dark fell upon us but that night was a moment out of eternity.

He told me that among his skills are those of feng shui, the Chinese art of placement, and that he had just returned from advising some people on the best places to build on their new property.

His belief is that the cottage is so coddled in peace because of its feng shui; whether consciously or not the house was built in the perfect spot on the land, the creek flows correctly, all is good by the rules of the art.

Every time I walk in the door, I feel the pressure in my body fall.  And I need the cottage’s coddling sorely these days.

It feels like I am living in the time of King Richard, off to the Crusades, and Prince John is the keeper of the kingdom.  Prince John, with the Sheriff of Nottingham, is raping the land [and the maidens] while the King is away.

Trump is Prince John and someone is the Sheriff [there are many candidates for that role in this administration].

It feels we are living through an interregnum.  The real king will return someday.

And I am feeling much of this because Trump’s budget has been revealed and it seemed to be a steal from the poor and give to the rich kind of budget.  It is an outrageous plan for America and avoids so much we need to be worried about and hurts, deeply, many of the people who voted for him.

It is outrageous.

The policies being put forward by this administration are mind boggling.  Seriously mind boggling.

Churchill quote on Art


Everything needs to be fixed and it doesn’t need to be destroyed.  The ACA was flawed.  So, fix it.  Medicare was flawed and people worked to fix it.  There isn’t anything that can’t be improved and throwing something away isn’t always the best way of fixing.

The CBO analysis of the Republican AHCA has come out, revealed to be more harmful than the first version.

May the Senate stand strong.  On Health Care.  On this cockamamie budget.

If you have been reading me, you know I take breaks from all of this because I can’t take it.  Last week one day, I went through the wormhole and surfaced hours later, dazed, and feeling like I needed a good, long, hot shower with copious amounts of soap.

The New York Post, the mouthpiece for Rupert Murdoch, is reporting that our Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, did not reveal meetings with Russians in forms he filled out.  Nor did Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, reveal meetings with Russians he had had when he applied for security clearance.

Sessions says he didn’t think he needed to because he met them as part of his Senatorial responsibilities. Gosh.

The liberal press will be all over this.  What I find interesting is that the Post is all over this.  The New York Post.  The effing NY Post, the most conservative paper in New York, generally the excuser of all Republican foibles.  Is this the work of James and Lachlan, not fans of Trump?  Or is it that Rupert smells blood in the water and wants to be on the right side of the story?

All of this, and I mean all of this, is so extraordinary it boggles the mind.  Apparently my word for the day.

Which is why I am so glad I can return to my cottage, feng shui perfect, listen to jazz, have a martini or two, and center myself in the earth and realize that there are some things I can do and many things I cannot.

It is my obligation to be aware and to comment.

And it is my obligation to myself to center myself in the universe to survive all this, all of which feels like some dystopian novel I am living through and it is not a novel: it is reality.

So, go be good to yourselves and don’t forget we need to get beyond the interregnum.  The King will return.

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 New York 06 06 2016 On feeling as if I lived in Cloudcuckooland…

June 7, 2016

I am sitting in a bar where I stopped to wait to hear from brother and his wife, about their progress into Manhattan via Uber.  It is slow going out there.  I just arrived in Manhattan from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, having flown in on a private jet from Martha’s Vineyard.

It is not a normal occurrence in my life but I do have a friend who belongs to the private jet club and he was coming into New York and offered me a ride with him so that I could be in New York tonight when my brother arrived as opposed to tomorrow morning.

At Teterboro, there were, it seemed, hundreds upon hundreds of private jets lined up waiting for their owners to go somewhere.  It was an amazing sight.

We then looked at a plane my friend is thinking of adding to his fleet, a plane capable of making it from New York to Beijing, non-stop.  It is another world in which I occasionally waddle but do not live.

Long ago, when I was young, I was in a production of Aristophanes’ “The Birds.”  Two con men find their way to Cloudcukooland, where birds talk and rule.  It is a political satire first performed in the Fifth Century BCE.

And I thought about it tonight when I was looking at headlines about the current political scene.  In one of my letters recently I said that I was appalled that Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.  His position as such is causing me to come out of the closet as a liberal, which I am not exactly… 

A reader of my “Letter From New York” wrote back with a five page email about why, in the end, he is voting for Trump.  I haven’t answered yet.  I can’t quite figure out what to say.  His position is all based on the fact Trump is an “outsider” and it is time that an “outsider” was elected to shake up the system.

Well, I think it well might be time for an “outsider” to win the election but not this “outsider.”  He’s a wacko, a bigot, a looney tunes billionaire who has hijacked the Republican Party and no one in the Republican Party is actually calling him to account for that. 

The press is treating him like he is a serious person when in reality he is a serious charlatan.  He is a billionaire and has declared bankruptcy more times than Carter has little liver pills, as my best friend from high school, Tom Fudali, used to say.

I am so outraged right now that this poseur, who is stirring up the worst elements of American culture, is riding them to a nomination for President.  I am aghast.

Not that I am not aghast at the Democrats, too.  Who, riven with discord, are tearing at each other every step of the way to the nomination.  In the end, it will probably be Hillary Clinton, a flawed but qualified candidate, who will, until election day, have to deal with the bitter divide stirred by Bernie Sanders, some of whose supporters say they will vote for Trump if they can’t have Bernie. 


You would give the country to a flawed AND unqualified candidate out of spite?

No wonder I was thinking today that I am living in Cloudcuckooland.

Republicans, look at your candidate.  You are about to officially nominate a racist bigot to head the ticket of the Republican Party, Lincoln’s party, the man who freed slaves.

He is criticizing an American born judge who is presiding over a case against him because he is of Hispanic heritage and encouraging his supporters to denounce the man. 

The man, albeit a billionaire [we think], is pandering to the worst instincts in our culture and is absolutely not calling us to be better, to be greater, to actually deal with the very serious issues facing America today.  He is calling us back to a past we had thought we had escaped…

But before I go today it is the anniversary of D-Day.  Salutations to those men who served our country, waded into death and took back Europe from the Nazis.  All honor to them.  Thank you.

Letter From New York 02 20 2016 Thoughts on a Saturday night…

February 21, 2016

It’s a wild Saturday night here in Claverack.  The creek is illuminated with floodlights.  I am having one of the first martinis since I got out of the hospital, now almost two weeks ago.  My body is working very hard to be normal; I am not as tired as I was and while there are still some tests to be done I think Dr. Paolino was right:  I was sick and now I am better.

On Pandora is Hipster Cocktail Music, a channel I added by accident but thought I would try out.  What I am discovering is I’m not a hipster.  Probably time to change to another channel soon.  An interesting experiment.

Life is an interesting experiment.  Cooking certainly is.  I have been cooking for the last three hours, prepping dishes for an off the train, train party.  Those of you who know me, know that our train community is tight knit and we party off and on the train.  Tomorrow, Loretta, who is one of the conductors is throwing a party that will include her family and friends, which includes those of us from the train. 

In the slow cooker, I have BBQ ribs cooking and I have in the oven something I have never attempted before, a casserole.  Never in my long life have I cooked one so I thought I would attempt one.  This one is ham and rice and vegetables and who knows whether it will work out or not.

All of these have been diversions from the real world.   Or what we think of as  “the real world.”  Hillary has narrowly won Nevada, which she needed to do and Trump, God Help Us, has won South Carolina.  He is now in for the long haul.

Trump may very well win the Republican nomination.  I suspect it will be as catastrophic as Goldwater was in 1964 but in this campaign, all bets are off.  Everyone I know is, as the Brits would say, “gob smacked.” I know I am.  Like many others I thought Trump would burn out by end of summer but here he is, stronger than ever.

Spring is on us.  [It was 63 degrees here in Claverack today.  No need for the winter coat I wore when I left the house.  People were in shorts.] And Trump is with us more than he ever was.

Look, it’s Saturday night and people are out celebrating whatever they do on Saturday night while I am tucked away in the cottage writing and thinking about world events.

And while I am sitting here, still listening to Hipster Cocktail Music, I noticed that the last survivor of Treblinka, a Nazi concentration camp, has died.  His name was Samuel Willenberg, a man who said he survived “by chance.”  They are leaving us, the witnesses to that incredible, horrible time that was World War II.  The unspeakable horrors of that time are being resurrected in these days, with IS and its atrocities. 

While they boggle our mind, they continue.  There is no World War to stop them.  All is fractious politics in the Mideast. 

It is sweet to be here in the cottage, my dining room table a mess of papers from my teaching, the lights illuminating the creek, music on Pandora, the hum of my dishwasher in the background, plans to redo my bathroom. 

All the lucky things I enjoy because of the moment in time and place in which I was born, coupled with the luckiness that my life provided me.  When I wake in the morning, I work to take time to say my mantra:  thank you for this day in which I find myself, thank you for the resources to live through this day and thank you for the luck that has brought me to this place, cozied in my cottage, surrounded by friends and living a magical life.

Letter From New York 01 27 16 Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Michael Jackson all get in a car…

January 27, 2016

As I type, the train is sliding south towards New York City.  To my right, the sun is setting and the fading glints of golden sun are reflecting off the ice floes in the Hudson.

Friends warned me yesterday when they heard I was coming in to bring my boots.  The city is warming up and the snow is melting, creating rivers at the intersections.

There are a couple of meetings and then I get to see Kevin, my nephew, and to give him his wedding anniversary present to carry back to Washington, DC, where he and Michelle live.

Ammon Bundy, of the Oregon Stand-Off fame has been captured while one of his top lieutenants and frequent spokesperson for the group, was shot down after, reportedly, charging at the police.  According to reports, the dead rancher, LaVoy Finicum, had vowed to die before he went to jail.

About eight occupiers are still within the Refuge and are managing a live YouTube stream from there.  One faced the camera and said, “They’re coming to kill us.”  The FBI has been taking a patient stance on this one, letting time play out.

Playing up, or perhaps acting out, is Donald Trump who won’t appear on the Fox Republican Debate because Megyn Kelly is one of the moderators.  He used the word “bimbo” in relation to her in a tweet.  The tweet went : “I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!”

What would a day right now be without another piece of mind from The Donald?

Perusing the entertainment news this evening, I fell upon a story of a new film, based on a Vanity Fair story, that has Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando all jumping into a car together to reach New York after 9/11.  The movie that will star Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor and Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson.  Brian Cox is Marlon.  Wait, Joseph Fiennes is a white actor best known for “Shakespeare in Love.”  Ahhhhhh, what are they thinking?  We’ll find out someday.

But what a concept, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Michael Jackson in a car crossing America, together!  Sounds like an absurdist play… I think.

The Iranian President is visiting Italy.  A museum there covered its statues of naked men and women to be sure he wasn’t offended. When Italian journalists questioned this, no one has taken responsibility.  It happened but no one seems to have ordered it.  President Rouhani didn’t ask for it.  The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, didn’t suggest it.  The head of the museum is shrugging his shoulders.

Do you remember the DeLorean?  It is making a comeback!  A company has been formed and will make about four a month, to be sold for about $100,000 a piece.   It’s the car Marty McFly and Doc Brown flew into the future with in the “Back to the Future” series of films.

The Fed has hinted today that it is possibly still on track for a March rate hike which caused another day of market swoons.  But not for Facebook, it soared on rising revenue! But Apple, darling Apple, fell after reporting its best quarter ever but folks are worried it doesn’t have much up its sleeve for the future.

After the Nazis occupied Denmark and began ordering Jews to wear a yellow star, the Danish King started doing the same in an act of solidarity with his Jewish subjects.  Today Danish lawmakers passed a law that allows Denmark to seize the valuables of refugees seeking asylum there. 

It doesn’t seem a very Danish thing to do and underscores how frightened Europe is about the influx of immigrants.  The Danes are going to make the immigrants live in specific areas or camps which is going to increase their isolation and their dependance on the Danish government.

The US, historically, simply lets immigrants in and lets them go about their business, making us incredibly diverse and relatively peaceful in our diversity.  Europe doesn’t seem to be following our example — we haven’t done it perfectly but over time we have gotten more right than wrong.

The golden tinged sun has set; it is dark, the city approaches…

Letter From New York 12 07 15 Pearl Harbor Day…

December 7, 2015

Pearl Harbor Day.  December 7th.  Japanese Empire. Second World War. Russia. England. United States. “The New History of World War II.”  CL Sulzberger.  Stephen E. Ambrose. Axis Powers. Hitler. Italy. Germany. Gestapo. SS. General Winter.  John D. McCormick.

The heavy fog that blanketed the world this morning is dissipating in the afternoon.  Sun has replaced the grey.  When I drove to the gym this morning, it was hard to see far down the road.

It is December 7th and today is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, resulting in the US entering the Second World War.

As it happens, I am reading “The New History of World War II” by Stephen E. Ambrose and CL Sulzberger.  The book does an excellent job of following the course of the war, point by point.

One of the things about the War that I had never really thought about was that Russia, England and the US coordinated their efforts through communications and meetings, bound by a single goal:  to win the war and, particularly, to gain the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers.

The Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan had no coordination between them.  Japan didn’t inform their allies they were going to attack at Pearl Harbor and there was no wartime coordination between them.

The book also clearly points out the number of disastrous military decisions made by Hitler, who, after his early successes, began to think of himself as the greatest general to have ever lived.

He listened to no one and no one stood up to him.  Terror is effective in silencing critics.  You don’t need the Gestapo knocking on your door in the middle of the night.

That happened often enough without disagreeing with Hitler.

Germany and Japan were brutal to the citizens of the countries they conquered.  Had Hitler not been such a monster to the Russians, they might well have rallied behind him.  When the Nazis first rolled into Russian towns, they were hailed as liberators.  Then the soldiers were followed by the SS and things got ugly.

The Japanese were equally brutal.

What I am also getting out of reading this history is what life was like for the ordinary soldier on both sides of the war.  It was a horrific business that required enduring, in the deepest sense of that word, horrific situations and surviving if one could, conditions that are almost unimaginable but for that fact they were endured.

And that was true for both sides, particularly in the Asian jungles and in the bitter Russian winters.  “General Winter” is what defeated Napoleon and went a long way to breaking Hitler.

Knowing that this anniversary was coming, I have thought about World War II and the sacrifices it demanded of everyone.  Since Korea, we’ve been fighting without asking sacrifices on the home front.  In World War II, everyone was contributing.

John D. McCormick, patriarch of the McCormick clan of which I am an “honorary” member stood on the deck of the battleship upon which the Japanese surrendered.  I didn’t know that until his Memorial Service.

And it connects me to that war in a way I didn’t feel connected before knowing that.  This wonderful man who gave me piggyback rides and twirled me through his legs along with his own children fought in the Pacific and was there to watch the final surrender of the Japanese Empire.

It is with his two oldest daughters and their families I will spend the Holidays.

The ancient Egyptians used to say that to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.

Today I speak John’s name and thank him for the sacrifices he endured so that I didn’t grow up speaking German or Japanese.  I think of Eileen McCormick’s brother who was an airman and did not return from the war, shot down on a mission.

Perhaps today we should all take the time to think, for a moment, of the people of which we know, who participated in that struggle, while the fate of the world hung in the balance.  Speak their names to yourself so that they live again, for a moment.

Letter From New York 12 03 15 Avoiding past mistakes….

December 3, 2015

Claverack Cottage.  San Bernardino shootings. Domestic terrorism. Nick Stuart.  Newtown. Milwaukee.  Milwaukee 53208. Stephen Ambrose. IS. Radical Islam. World War II.

It is six o’clock.  The world beyond the cottage is dark after a day of grey and drizzle.  I went out only to do a few errands and spent most of the day at home, working on paperwork, prepping some things for my class in January, following up on some things.  It felt positive, moving through the endless amount of “paperwork” a life in the 21st century demands, even when most of it is digital.

The world has ticked on since I last wrote two days ago.  There was another shooting, in San Bernardino.  I thought about writing something on the train coming up from the city but I felt a bit punched in the gut by it all.

They are now working to determine if this was an act of domestic terrorism.  It might well have been.

My friend, Nick Stuart, and I met for a martini last night before my train.  He arrived ebullient. Just before he came to meet me, it was announced “Newtown,” a film he is Executive Producer of ,was accepted into Sundance.   Today he found out he is about to be a grandfather; his oldest daughter Rihannon is going to be having a baby in June.  We’ll celebrate more on Tuesday and Wednesday, both days I will be seeing him.

Some had told him that “Newtown” was an old subject and its time had past but given what has been happening it is more relevant than ever.  Today I read that there is a mass shooting of some kind on an average of once a day.

So “good on you” Nick, as my Aussie friends would say for having preserved with this project. 

Another one, on mass incarceration, which is nearing completion has been requested by the White House for a screening.  Who knew that Milwaukee had the highest number of prisoners per capita than any other city in America?  It is titled “Milwaukee 53208.”

The room is filled with the sounds of the ticking of a small grandfather’s clock.  It has been part of the background sound of my life since I was born.  It was on a shelf in the hall just beneath the stairs that went up to my bedroom.  Lately, I have been calling it the “heart of the house.”

It makes me feel like I am living in a soft womb of a house, comforted by the sound of a heartbeat.  It is part of what makes the cottage special.

I’m also doing laundry, a grounding task if ever there was one. 

I’m reading Stephen Ambrose’s history of World War II.  It’s a bit drier than I expected but gives a look into the horrors of that war.  As awful as it was, it reminded me that America and Canada were probably the only combatant countries that were not ravaged on the home front by the war.

It also has taught me how much the world and our country were changed by that conflict.

I am wondering how our world will be changed by the current conflict in which we find ourselves? 

Perhaps I am being a historical romantic but it feels as if we are living through another tipping point in history as we struggle with IS and radical Islam.

If the couple in San Bernardino were, indeed, domestic terrorists we face ongoing “Paris style” attacks and it will be a struggle to avoid mistakes of the past such as the encampment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Letter From New York 06 24 15 But it looked good in the movies…

June 24, 2015

It is a sunny day in New York City, the temperature is in the 80’s but the air is not sodden with humidity, as it was yesterday. Pleasant enough, with breezes, that I walked a mile to the restaurant where I met a friend, Guy McCarter, that I hadn’t seen in some years. It was nice, in that we picked up again as if no time had passed at all. We visited and then he headed to a meeting and I sauntered back to Todd’s office.

Tonight I am meeting a friend at 5:30 at the Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel, home of the “Round Table” back in the 30’s, and then to dinner with another friend at Nirvana, then home to read I suspect.

Last night, I stayed up too late finishing Evelyn Waugh’s “Scoop,” a funny book about the newspaper business pre World War II.

Joseph J. O’Donahue IV, who I had the great pleasure of knowing, was born in 1912 and passed away 88 years later. He was a great bon vivant, considered one of the best looking men of his generation, and sailed, mostly, through life with grace and elegance.

Mismanaged trust funds left him hard up at the end of his life but he carried on with huge style and was a fixture on the San Francisco social circuit.

He declared that civilization had ended with World War II.

I don’t know that is true but certainly sometimes it seems that on some levels the world was more civil then.

Treatment of blacks was worse in this country. Joe once brought Josephine Baker, the African American dancer who had wowed France, to El Morocco in New York and was turned away. He never returned to the Club. If Josephine wasn’t good enough, he wasn’t either.

Now that I think about it, it wasn’t so terribly civilized then but it sure looked good in the movies.

There were the Nazis. And there had been the “War to End All Wars,” which was merely a prelude to the big show, World War II. Joe was asked to leave Germany by Adolf Hitler after protesting the arrests of Jewish friends.

And there had been the Great Depression, not a good time for anyone.

No, civilization didn’t end with World War II, a new age opened up.

And that new age, in which we live, isn’t particularly pretty either. IS militants blew up a couple of tombs in Palmyra yesterday. They were about 500 years old and held the remains of important Shia. IS is, you see, Sunni. They have also mined the classical ruins to discourage any efforts to take them back.

Palmyra was a place that was on my bucket list. It will probably have to stay in the bucket. In interesting news, if not a media stunt, is that Lexus is developing a hoverboard like the one used by Marty McFly in “Back to the Future.” They plan to test it out in Barcelona in the next few weeks. I’ll be following.

The Queen [Elizabeth II of Great Britain] is visiting Germany. While there, a small robot performed for her and charmed her.

She may not be charmed by the fact she may have to move out of Buckingham Palace for an extended period of time, as there is so much updating to be done. Wiring, plumbing and decorating all need to be brought into the modern age as, for the most part, nothing has been done for at least sixty years.

In September the Queen will become the longest reigning British monarch. She will overtake Queen Victoria that month. Given that her mother lived to be something 103 or 104, I am guessing we may have the Queen around for a while.

One of the things which has been around for awhile is the Greek Debt Crisis, described by one as the slowest moving financial train wreck in history, which could be a good thing. Had a collapse happened three years ago it would have been much worse.

Monday’s optimism that a deal could be done has faded and a meeting broke up early because of “major policy differences.” There are only six days left to the month. At the end of June, Greece needs to make a payment and it doesn’t have the money. The European Central Bank is propping up Greek banks as depositors remove a billion Euros a day.

I feel a little like I need propping up after having stayed up too late reading. I’m off soon to drinks and dinner and hopefully a pleasant night in New York.

You have one, too, wherever you are!