Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Letter From Claverack 10 12 2017 Thoughts on what I would preach…

October 12, 2017

At sea

Monday, I sent out a blog inspired by Mother Eileen’s sermon at Christ Church on Sunday and forwarded her a copy as she is not on my list.  She wrote back the following day and jokingly suggested I might preach this Sunday, which led me to think about what I would preach.  What would I say if I had to, this Sunday, preach at a church?

I looked up the gospel for next Sunday and its essential line is:  many are called but few are chosen.

Certainly, that fits with last year’s election cycle which started with more candidates for the Republican nomination for president than I remember in my life.  Many were called and, in the end, the one that was chosen was Donald Trump and he went on to become President of these United States.

It will probably surprise many who know me but every week at church I light a candle for the man.  No, I don’t like him.  His policies seem mean spirited, quixotic at best.  His relationship with the truth, as I experience it, is equally quixotic.

And he is President of these United States, a man with great power, influence and the ability to shake the world on more levels than I believe he is aware of or understands.  But he is the president and I pray for him, hoping, on a very fundamental level he doesn’t do anything that will prevent me from being back at church next Sunday to pray for him.

He appealed to a disenfranchised part of America we, all of us, have not been listening to or acknowledging.  They gravitated to Donald Trump as people in the water after the loss of Titanic, desperate to be saved, crying for help.  Do I think he will save them?  No.

But I want us to hear their cries and find a way to address them and to help them.  They are Americans.  With very real issues.

Today I read there are the most job openings than there have been for a very long time.  Those jobs are harder to fill because we have a massive opioid crisis and many people cannot pass drug tests.  Companies are beginning, in desperation, to turn a blind eye, not asking for drug tests for dangerous jobs because they can’t find enough people to fill them.

Not so long ago, there were two Amtrak employees killed, men not much younger than me and their autopsies revealed they had non-prescribed opioids in their systems.  Our local paper, the Register Star, gave a face to the epidemic by highlighting on the front page a young woman, full of hope, who overdosed.

It is time we faced this epidemic, its causes and its ravages and did something and quit pretending everything is going along just fine.

President Trump, weren’t you going to make this a national emergency?  What happened?

Nothing much.  Why not?

Even the beauty of the cottage is not soothing my soul these days.  What am I to do?

Many are called but few are chosen.  What is it I am called to do in this tumultuous time?  Every day I ask myself that question.  What am I to do?  What am I called to do?

Whether you are a supporter of Donald Trump or not, what is that you can do, personally, to change the awful things that are happening in this country?

Many are called, few are chosen.  What will make me chosen?  What thing can I do to make this awful time better?  I want to.  I do and I am not sure what it is that I should do.  Pack a bag and fly to some war-torn part of the world and put up my hand and say: I’m here to help? What can I do?

A friend suggested I do that.  Maybe I will.

We all need to ask ourselves how we are going to respond to Jesus’ call?  I am not a raving evangelical.  Far from that.  I respect, at the deepest level of my soul, the kindness Jesus worked to insert into the human dialogue and which has resonated for both good and ill since then.

Since I was a boy, I have thought Jesus would be appalled at what has happened to what he started.  He preached love and love is not often what has happened.

Many are called but few will be chosen.  Be one of the few.  Practice what Jesus taught.

 

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 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.

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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.

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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 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 Thinking about a boy in Aleppo…

August 19, 2016

I am cozied in the cottage, the Smooth Jazz station playing on Amazon Prime Music, having returned only two hours ago from two days in the city.

Yesterday, I was in the city to have lunch with my friend David Arcara, a quarterly event for many years now; our conversations are wide ranging, deep, emotional and to the core of what is happening in our lives.  Yesterday’s underscored my appreciation for them.

There were drinks last night with Nick Stuart of Odyssey and Greg Nelson, formerly of Odyssey, who has returned from some weeks in Peru and that, too, was good. It gave me a chance to catch up with Greg, whom I have not seen for some months and, of course, to spend some time with Nick, my great friend.

When I woke this morning, I made my morning coffee at the apartment on the Upper West Side, and while sipping it, pursued the news of the day.  I read the NY Times and scrolled through the BBC News.

There I found a haunting image of a five-year-old Syrian boy in Aleppo, an image that has now gone viral.  Frightened and alone, covered in blood and dust, he sat on an orange seat in the back of an ambulance.  You may have seen the picture already.  If not, here it is:

Boy

It shattered my morning.  I sat staring at this image for many, many minutes and my heart screamed to the universe.  It became hard to move on, to not want to go and do SOMETHING to stop the madness.  It reminded me of pictures I had seen taken during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s; comparisons between that conflict and this will be made.

Later, I went to have lunch at the Ace Hotel with my friend David McKillop; we talked of new, upcoming adventures for him.  We talked of the: what WERE they thinking? moment of Ryan Lochte and the other swimmers claiming to have been robbed when in reality they were a bit drunk and screwed up. What were they thinking?

And, unfortunately, this is what will follow them for the rest of their lives, this moment of dishonesty.

And then, there was the moment of what was President Obama thinking when he said that the $400,000,000 turned over to the Iranians wasn’t “ransom” but a previously scheduled release of funds.  Today it was revealed that the US wouldn’t let the plane with the cash take off until prisoners were released.  Dancing with the truth?

The Syrian boy’s picture has colored my whole day.  I have thought about what can I do to stop this debacle the world has created, so complicated, so odorous, so lacking in humanity, so not a moment of “our better angels.”

When I wake up in the morning, I do my best to have a moment of gratitude.  I am not living in Aleppo.  Today that came home so much because of the photo of the five-year-old.  It is a picture that has come to represent the Syrian crisis as much as the photo of the three-year-old dead child washed up on the coast of Greece did to galvanize the world about the refugee crisis, much of it a result of the Syrian war.

Closer to home, the Blue Cut Fire in California has consumed 31,000 acres and it still rages.

In Louisiana floods have consumed 40,000 homes and at least thirteen lives.  A preacher man who “testified” that natural disasters were God’s way of punishing us for same sex marriage was forced to flee his home in a canoe.

I have been so lucky to have been born when and where I was.  Our world is changing.  It is becoming global and integrated and reactionary and frightened and fundamentalism is having a heyday. But we still care…

The answers aren’t in front of me right now.  But seeing that little boy in Aleppo makes me realize I must do better. That we all have to do better.

Letter From New York 08 16 2016 A nation of immigrants, in case we don’t remember…

August 16, 2016

It has been a grey and gloomy sort of day here in Claverack; at one point the skies opened and torrents of rain slashed down.  Mostly, I have curled into my cottage and put nose to grindstone on some volunteer work I am doing for the local community radio station, WGXC.  It serves Columbia and Greene Counties and is, I have discovered, always unique, always surprising.  It is the voice of this part of the Hudson Valley and I have gone in some months from not even knowing of it to realizing I can’t fathom not having its voice.

Over a hundred volunteers keep it afloat, programming by “civilians,” which cannot help being eclectic.  From health and wellness to Broadway tunes to vinyl cuts with programmers from 13 years old to 83 years old, you have quite a mix.

So I am working to help them out and, like a good Catholic, realizing I wasn’t as good over the summer as I should have been, I am working extra hard now.

For fifteen years, I have always been a member of Amtrak Select Plus, which gives me access to their lounges.  I am in serious jeopardy of losing it this year and am plotting how to make the points to keep it.  And then I think, I am not traveling as much as I was.  Should I even worry about this?  I probably will find a way.  The Acela Club in Penn Station is my “home away from home.”

So it is a Tuesday night.  I have made myself a martini and Beatrice, my rapidly growing banana plant, and I are in the dining room, looking over the creek, a scene of grey mixed with incredible green.  Classical music plays in the background, moving from the delightful to dirge like.

All this pitter patter about my life is a way of saying I have retreated from the news a bit.  These are the dog days of August; the fall is coming upon us.  It has been special here at the cottage this week and I have not wanted to disturb the week, the peace.  I have gathered friends for get togethers.  We have all avoided politics because we are worn out by the never ending campaign of 2016, which has been going on, it seems, since before I was born.

Rudy Giuliani, who was Mayor of New York, when 9/11 happened, said in a speech today that before Obama there were no attacks by terrorists on US soil.  He has claimed it was a mistake; he MEANT to say NOT another until Obama.  But it has come out badly for him.  Excuse me, he lived through it, with me.  I was there, listening to him tell us it was going to be devastating.  How do you screw up so much, you, Mr. Giuliani, who lived through it with me?

For several minutes, I liked you.  Now I don’t.  Especially after today.  The kind of speech making mistake today makes me wonder if you are holding the thread together, Rudy.

Trump is touting that if he loses the election, it will be because it is rigged.  I fear that if he does lose, which I sincerely hope he does, there will be violence in the streets because that is what he is setting his followers up for.  And they are not pleasant people, these Trump supporters.  They seem nasty, angry [not without reason, which Hillary should speak to] and prone to violence.

I receive emails from my brother-in-law, who is definitely not a Democrat.  They are a stultifying drone on how bad Obama is.  He has not been all I hoped he’d be but no President ever is and I do believe a hundred years from now, history will be far kinder to him than my brother-in-law.

He was the first man elected President who was not “white.”  And that has elicited furor from those who never thought that could happen.  I hope he is a bridge to the future because soon, the US will no longer be “white.”  It will be the mélange of immigrants of the 20th Century, the Hmong, the Vietnamese [who were vilified in places because they were so hard working], the Asians of all stripes who outstrip “Americans” who don’t want to work harder.

We are an immigrant nation.  Hopefully, we always will be.  I am a second generation American.  I was lucky in my life, being born here, getting the education I did.  I was lucky being born in America, the son of people who had been born here because their parents had come here.

Immigration is the story of the US.

Letter From New York 08 02 2016 Going up the river…

August 3, 2016

The Hudson River flows south as I move north, the west bank is a wall of green and great, grey billowy clouds hover over the river with the sun now cutting between them to bathe me in light.  I am returning from a day in the city, a meeting with a client followed by a long lunch with my friend Nick.  An afternoon appointment cancelled and so I changed to an earlier train.

I haven’t written much lately.  Frankly, there has been so much to say about so many things I haven’t known where to begin or where to end.  There was the Democratic Convention last week.  I watched the finish of it the night I returned to the cottage after my Minnesota sojourn.

Hillary, who needed to be at her best, was at her best.  The Democrats were shadowed then and are today, by the hacking of the DNC’s emails, which were released by Wikileaks to the press.  Julian Assange, who is the head of Wikileaks, even while sequestered behind the walls of the Bolivian Embassy in London, timed it to do the most damage he could to Hillary, whom he reputedly despises.

Today, Amy Dacey, CEO of the DNC and two other officials resigned after the leaks demonstrated their bias to Clinton over Sanders.

Donna Brazile has replaced the much reviled Debbie Wassermann Schultz, former Chairperson.  Brazile is well liked and had been suggested by the Sanders camp as a possible replacement for Wassermann Schultz.

And we are all waiting to find out if the Russians were the ones who hacked the DNC as digital evidence seems to suggest which, of course, has led people to ask if Putin is working to influence our elections?

According to one poll, 50% of Americans think he is.  Would he try?  I am convinced there is very little he wouldn’t try.

Trump out trumps himself everyday as far as I can tell.  I am seated next to a friend of mine on the train who has confessed he has had panic attacks at the thought of a Trump Presidency.  He is not much given to panic attacks that I recall.

And Trump seems to find a new way to disturb me every day but nothing he does seem to sway his die hard supporters.

Jacques Hamel, the 86 year old French priest, who had his throat slit while saying Mass, was buried today.  He was killed by two teenage jihadists.  In honor to him, thousands of Muslims attended Mass on Sunday and appeared today at his funeral.

The Rio Olympics open this Friday and I am largely unenthusiastic.  The sports I am most interested in are aquatic and the reports of the condition of the water makes me cringe for the athletes who must compete.  I am not sure the pool water is safe and the open waters seem to be filled with human refuse and garbage.

I thought I was alone until my friend, Nick, echoed my thoughts.

The Syrian government and the Rebel forces are accusing each other of gas attacks.  It seems someone used gas in Syria.  We have forgotten the lessons of other wars or perhaps whomever did it felt justified because Saddam Hussein used it effectively against some of his citizens before he lost his place.

A friend of mine asked me a couple of weeks ago how we could still call Turkey a democracy?  Magical thinking…

As we move north up the Hudson, the heavy clouds have dispersed and the sun rules the river, silver light glinting off of silver water, reflecting against banks of green rising from river’s edge.

I tried to find something funny to end today’s post.  I googled “funny thing that happened today” and “laughable thing that happened today.”  It doesn’t seem anything “funny” or “laughable” happened today, according to Google’s current algorithms. 

But I did find this:  on August 2nd, 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the beginning of all that has not yet ended.

Letter From The Train 07 18 2016 A Pandemic of Homicides…

July 18, 2016

The New Jersey countryside is slipping by, not very attractive here, just outside New York City, just before Newark, a maze of train tracks and freeway overpasses, industrial complexes and abandoned buildings.  This is the second of the four trains I will be taking today and tomorrow on my way to Minneapolis — actually St. Paul because that’s where the depot is.

Every year I go to Minneapolis to visit family and friends.  And this year I thought taking the train would make it more of an adventure and I routed myself through DC so that I might take the Capitol Limited, the train from DC to Chicago, which I have never taken beyond Martinsburg, WV.

Trains as a way of travel are good to give me time to think.  And I and we have much to think about. Yesterday’s New York Times Weekend Briefing had a link to an article advising us on how to cope with such a bad news week.  One suggestion was to curb your exposure to news and to spend time with family and friends.  “Listening is curative.”

And that was posted before I went to Church, where I lit candles for people and causes I care about and who need caring for and as I was lighting candles, one for peace, my pocket vibrated and I saw that three police men were dead in Baton Rouge, killed, we now know, by an ex-Marine who targeted them.  In my pew, I lowered my face and felt defeated.

In all the talk we have had, pro and con about police killing people, and now people killing police, we have not taken the time to accept that violence happens with appalling frequency and we need to take responsibility for it, each and every one of us. 

The US is not in the top ten most violent countries nor are we one of the ten most peaceful countries. Australia and Canada are in that category though.  We feel about as safe walking around in our neighborhoods as an average European  does.  That’s good…   However, CriminalJusticeDegreeHub.com says we are “in a pandemic of homicides,” as other kinds of crime seem to be “stifled.”

And what has gotten us all worked up is this pandemic of homicides, particularly ones that involve the police.  For the most part, we seem to respect our police.  But murder marches on. 

And I want to do something about it.  I want to do something more than light candles.  And I don’t know what that is.   

Many of us do feel anguish and impotence because we don’t know how to move our country into being a more peaceful place than it is.  And that is what we want for our country, to be a more peaceful place.  Governor Edwards of Louisiana said, “Emotions are raw. There’s a lot of hurting people.”

And there are.  I am hurting and I am nowhere near Baton Rouge or Dallas though will not be far from Falcon Heights when I arrive in Minnesota. This last week of violence has hit me hard and has hit everyone I know in some hard way.  My friends seem hurt and bewildered, not angry, confused not infuriated.

Mix all of this with the attempted coup in Turkey which failed and has resulted in a harsh crackdown by Erdogan on anyone he suspects, pour in the wounds from Nice, France, sprinkle with Brexit and add a dash of any personal suffering we are enduring, stir with the healthy mix of dismay we are having over our incredible political season and there is no wonder we are confused, bleak and anguished, feeling just a little more fragile than is our wont or want.

Perhaps there is some revelation that will come to me while I traverse half the country, back to Minnesota, where I was born.

Letter From New York 07 15 2016 As the Great Game goes on…

July 15, 2016

It is a warm, humid day as I trundle north on the train, back to Hudson.  The Hudson River is dotted with boats and the spray of jet skis.  A soft haze lays across the river, so it seems that what I see is in soft focus.

It’s not a bad day for soft focus.

I went into the city yesterday afternoon to have drinks with my friends Nick and David at Le Monde, a French Bistro near Columbia and then drifted from there to Cafe du Soleil, where I joined a party for Bastille Day put together by friends David and Bill.  We were festive and the mood was buoyant and I was home and asleep by the time news was coming out of France that a young Tunisian Frenchman had driven a lorry into a crowd celebrating Frances’ National Holiday, plowing on for 1.2 miles before he was killed and after he had killed at least 84 and wounded 202 others.

As I look out of the window of the train, sold out, standing room only, I see the verdant green hills which line the western bank of the river, the beginnings of the Catskills, bucolic, peaceful, welcoming.

The dead in Nice, a pleasant city in the south of France, to the east of Cannes, on the Rivera, home of the airport that serves that golden stretch of land, setting for glittery events and the place of lovely villas climbing the hills to look down on the Mediterranean, include ten children.  Fifty others from last night hang between life and death, as medical professionals do their best.

One woman talked for a long time to her dead child.  The living and unwounded began to swarm toward the beaches, away from the lorry, in case it was loaded with explosives.

On Wednesday, July 13, in Syria, 58 people died, mostly civilians of war related wounds.   Since the beginning of 2016 about 8,000 have died, since the beginning of the war over 440,000.  11.5% of Syria’s population has been killed or wounded.

On the same day in Iraq, 22 died by gunfire, bombs, rockets.

Looking out at the beautiful Hudson River, the Catskills on the other side, with gracious, magical homes occasionally dotting the landscape, it is easy to focus on the green moment and not the black news but today I cannot slip away, into the beauty.

It is all so senseless and all leaders seem to talk about the senselessness of it and do they find the senselessness of it enough of a unifying theme that they commit to actions that will stop it? 

One of the books I am reading is “The Good Years” by Walter Lord, describing the years between 1900 and 1914, when World War I began.  I am near the end of it, the war is beginning.  Devastation was released upon the European continent over the tragic death of an Archduke and his wife, which gave “permission” for the Austro Hungarian Empire and the German Empire to act to achieve political goals they had long wanted and ended up destroying themselves.

Men in power are always playing “the great game,” and as the game is played, the innocent die. 

The train is arriving in Hudson and I am winding down.  I will say my prayers tonight for all the people who died today because they are pawns in “the great game” and see if I can find a way to work effectively for change.

In the time since I’ve arrived home, run some errands and prepare to go into town for a comedy show,  the Turkish military, apparently fed up with Erdogan, is attempting a coup. Bridges across the Bosporus are closed, military aircraft are flying low over Istanbul and Ankara and gunshots have been reported.

“The Great Game” goes on.