Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Letter From New York 09 18 15 How lucky am I…

September 18, 2015

It is a stunningly beautiful day here in Claverack. The creek is a mirror of the trees above it, the sun is beginning to descend in the west, the temperature is perfect and I am savoring every moment I get to be out on the deck.

Those days are numbered. I needed to wait awhile this morning to come out here, as it was just a bit too cool when I woke up.

There hasn’t been a letter for a couple of days. I’ve been busy. Yesterday I drove down to Norwalk in Connecticut for lunch with a good, old friend, Bob Altman, who is the king of recipe videos. He’s done thousands of them.

We toured his studio and then went down to the beach for lunch. I had no idea Norwalk was on the water until yesterday.

It was a five-hour journey both ways but very much worth it. On the drive, I listened almost exclusively to NPR, catching up on what they were saying about the world.

There were interviews with Syrian refugees, men and women who had lives there but have found their towns destroyed. Fearing for their lives and the lives of their children, they left Syria. Many went to Turkey but there is no path there for them to legitimacy so they continued on, trusting in many cases to rubber boats to take them to Kos or Lesbos.

Hundreds if not thousands have died in the pursuit of their dream to make it to a safe place. Overwhelmed, Europe is reacting, attempting to staunch the flow coming toward them. It is a human crisis of unfathomable dimensions.

And I sit here in this blissful spot, bothered by nothing except an occasional mosquito. I cannot comprehend the misery of the millions on the move. I accept it in the abstract but I have no visceral connection with it.

My brother probably does. He has been going to Honduras for years to deal with the lack of medical care for those who live in the back of beyond, people who have no more and sometimes less than these refugees.

Sitting on this deck, overlooking the creek, I realize what luck I have had to have been born me, in the time and place that I was. I have been spared many of the world’s travails by having been born in mid-century America.

The future has always been uncertain. I am old enough to remember “duck and cover.” As if that would have saved any of us from a nuclear blast…

But here I am in the third act of my life, seated on a deck overlooking a placid creek with the luxury of looking at the world and being able to ruminate about its meaning. I am SO lucky.

In the next months, I will probably spend more of my time in Columbia County. Last night I went to Christ Church’s “Vision Meeting” and was glad to have been present. It helped me feel connected to this place.

I may be doing some work with the local not for profit radio station, helping them with their marketing and fundraising. I am settling in to being a citizen of Columbia County as opposed to being a “weekender.”

It feels good.

The god Fortuna smiled on me when it/she brought me to this place, allowing me to settle into a home that I think had been part of my dreams since I was a child. It has been great fun to have lived in New York but I think that time is passing.

Once, when I first moved to DC I though how fortunate it was I was there. I had been allowed to know several great American cities. I have lived in Los Angeles, part time in San Francisco, Washington and now New York. How lucky is that?

I’ve never lived in Chicago and I’ve never really liked Chicago so I don’t think that’s a big miss.

I’ve seen a great deal of the world, much more than I might ever have if I had remained a high school English teacher in Minneapolis and have been a witness to two generations of technological changes and been, somehow, a part of both.


Letter From New York, May 21, 2011

May 21, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

I am crossing the country by train with my friend Nick; outside the window of the compartment are the fields of the great farms of the American Heartland – having moved south from Chicago, west into Iowa, through Nebraska during the night and now across Colorado as I write. The sun is making an effort to come out through the gray overcast. On a stopover in Chicago, the sun blessed the day as we met an Odyssey member, Robert Black, of the Chicago Sunday Evening Club and his Director of Development. We had a lovely lunch and then began the long journey from Chicago to the West Coast aboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr, reputedly one of the two most beautiful rides in America on the train.

It is bucolic and beautiful, peaceful and languorous, as we move along, gently swaying, a soft clacking of the equipment becoming a steady backdrop to the ride. Despite some intrusions of small crises from the office needing to be sorted, it has been extraordinarily pleasant since leaving New York. I’m glad.

Glad that is pleasant because, after all, I am facing, we are all facing the beginning of the end of the world, starting today, the 21st of May, about 6:00 p.m. according to certain Evangelical Christians. They believe that the Rapture [where good Christians get uplifted to heaven while the rest of mankind is left behind to suffer the Apocalypse] begins today and, according the reports I have been reading, anyone still alive but not raptured will be gone by sometime in October.

So, if that’s going to happen, I thought that being on a train, moving through the beauty of the American West, is not a bad place to be. I will do my best to be sipping a very good champagne when 6:00 p.m. rolls around – seems a civilized way to meet the end of times or at least the beginning of the end of times.

Also, if it is the beginning of the end of times and I do survive the initial catastrophe that will be ushering in the end, I am sure I will be far too busy to be doing my normal letter plus who knows if the Internet will still be on line? So I thought I should scurry a bit and get out a letter in advance of this potential end, reach out to all of you who have been kind enough to read my epistles over the years! Been a privilege to write them, sharing my thoughts, quirky though they may sometimes be, with all of you.

I am sanguine right this minute. I don’t think the world is going to end today. It was supposed to have ended several times in my life, once even on the day my father passed away. The same man who is predicting that it will end today, predicted it would end in 1994. When asked about why he was right now when he was wrong then, he announced that previously he had not fully considered the Book of Jeremiah and that was where he had gone astray. I don’t have time now between and the end to study Jeremiah so I won’t be able to venture a guess as to where the good Reverend went wrong.

So here I am, in Denver, momentarily, approximately ten hours from the end of times – or not. As it approaches, and I am sipping my champagne or martini, I will be thinking of all of you. If it is the end, it’s been interesting writing this for almost ten years! Thanks for reading.

And if it is not the end of times, which is more than likely, I’ll be back next week, more thoughts, more adventures, and after I have done some more thinking about what it might mean to be present at the end of times. Until then! Or not…

Letter From New York April 14, 2010

April 14, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

In the belly…

Odyssey Networks, my base client, is a multi-faith, not for profit organization, the largest coalition of faith groups and faith organizations using media to “build bridges of understanding.” So it made every good sense that they would be attending the Religious Communicators Congress, an every ten-year event that gathered together those involved with religious communications – from denominations to religious organizations. The theme this decade was: Embrace Change.

And religious organizations, as well as anyone else in the communications biz, needs to embrace change because change is breathing down the neck of anyone who is connecting with anyone else using some form of media. It is a time when older generations don’t want to yield to digital delivery and young generations are wedded to social networking communications. Conversation is down; texting is up. Facebook and Twitter are the rage – but will they be in twelve months or is there some hot new technology about to break through? Change is everywhere. Internet viewing of video is up by 12% year to year; mobile video viewing is up 57% and with the advent of the iPad and the plethora of pretenders racing up behind it researchers are beginning to believe that in less than five years more people will be accessing ye old internet via a mobile device than they will from a land based PC. Ah, the technical times, they are a-changin’. Again. Yet. Still.

Now, if a couple of years ago someone had told me that I would be finding myself at the Religious Communicators Congress, I would have looked slightly askance though would not have ruled it out – I long ago surrendered saying I would never do something as it seemed that once I did the “never” thing became reality. But it would have surprised me so, to be truthful, it was with some bemusement I found myself at the RCC [Religious Communicators Congress] in Chicago this past week. On some level, it felt like a bit of a time warp and that I had found myself amongst many of the people with whom I had taught at a Catholic High School, back in the day. One of my colleagues, himself an ordained minister, fondly called the constituents “church people.” And they were that, good, kind, deep believing people who had dedicated much of their lives to their work which was an extension of their beliefs. They are much to be admired, as a group.
And as a group they are struggling with the rapidity of technological change that is sweeping across the communications landscape everywhere. And doing it with fewer resources – the attendance at this Congress was down 50% from the last. Many denominations are being forced into severe cut backs in staffing to deal with falling financial contributions. More and more Americans are declaring themselves spiritual but not religious and certainly not denomination focused.

Core congregations are aging and dwindling while young members seem harder to reach and the technology through which those younger members communicate can seem bedeviling. In other words, religious communicators are sharing the same problems of most of media professionals. Change is sweeping through the land and to fight it is impossible, equivalent of telling the tide not to rise. It can’t be done.

And change is affecting the way mainstream media covers religion – more and more media outlets are finding covering religion an expense they must live without. The number of reporters covering the religious waterfront is falling dramatically and those that are left behind face prodigious workloads. Say, before you leave the office could you just look over that 10,000 pages of transcript about the pedophile priest accusation and get off a story about it?

So the theme of the week: Embrace Change! was appropriate for the time. Change will come, wanted or not and there is no way to fight it so best to turn to it and embrace change as the lover you always wanted but hadn’t had until now.