Posts Tagged ‘Empire Service’

Letter From New York 07 30 15 A party on the train and a missing dentist…

July 30, 2015

The moment I stepped out of the apartment this morning, my glasses steamed up. It was that kind of day. Stopping at CVS to pick up prescription, I exited into a torrential downpour. I stood for ten to fifteen minutes getting a cab, while balancing a suitcase, knapsack and CVS bag before one arrived.

The reason I was weighted down with all this “stuff” is that tonight is July 30th and I was appointed bartender for tonight’s Empire Regulars’ Retirement party for Ray, one of the most beloved conductors on the Empire Service. I think tomorrow is his last day; today is his last time conducting on one of our regular trains.

Emails have been racing back and forth all day about who was going to bring what…

Cheese and crackers and cold meats and Italian sausages, soft drinks and my “Ray Martin” drink, a concoction of limeade, seltzer, ice, and vodka, topped by a maraschino cherry.

It’s been my job for nearly ten years this fall to come up with a signature drink for our train parties. I did “Baby ‘Tinis” for a baby shower, held for a couple of regulars having their first child. One was pink; one was blue. They had opted not to know the sex of their child so I did one for each possibility. For a Halloween party, I created a “Pumpkin Tini” and so it has gone for all these years.

Ray has been great to all of us and we want to send him off in our signature style, a party on the train.

Not very much a party was Gay Pride in Israel. An ultra-Orthodox Jew named Yishai Schlissel stabbed six people in the Pride Parade. Just a few weeks ago, he was released from prison, having served his time for stabbing three people in the 2005 Pride Parade.

The plane part found on Reunion Island, a French territory in the Western Indian Ocean, is being closely examined to make sure that it is truly from a 777. If it is, it is probably from MH 370, as there are no other missing 777’s. There is no desire to give friends and relatives of the flight’s passengers anything but 100% certainty.

Ray Tensing, a University of Cincinnati policeman, has been charged with murder of a black man, Sam Dubose, after he shot Dubose following a stop for a missing license plate. Tensing was wearing a body camera. The Cincinnati prosecutor has called it “senseless and asinine.” Tensing has pleaded not guilty and is held under a million-dollar bail.

The Greek Debt Crisis continues roiling. Tsipras is being confronted by the far left of his party and he has thrown down the gauntlet to them. Germany wants the IMF to be part of the bail out. The IMP says not right now; it wants to know Greece can succeed. Who knows what will happen?

Tsipras remains incredibly popular, even after his U turn. He seems refreshing to the Greek populace, so used to career politicians.

Walter Palmer, the Bloomington, Minnesota dentist who has brought down the world’s wrath by killing Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, has disappeared. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officials have been relentlessly attempting to contact him. It’s not the first time they’ve been in touch with him. There was an incident a few years ago here in the States.

No success. Silent as a tomb, where some people would like him to be.

But if I am going to be successful at tonight’s party, it’s time for me to finish this and head for Penn Station to join my fellow revelers. Shhhh! It’s a surprise.

Letter From New York 02 16 15 A call to be better…

February 17, 2015

As the sun is setting, I am traveling on a train south to New York. After two days of brutal cold, the temperature is edging up into what feels reasonable, 24 degrees. The same brutal cold that forced me to leave the cold-water tap running for two days in my kitchen, has also hobbled train service along the Empire corridor, from New York City to Albany.

Trains were frozen this morning in Sunnyside yards and couldn’t make it into Penn Station for their appointed runs. Trains going south earlier today were delayed. Mine was on time but it is oversold and unhappy people are standing in the aisles. The conductor has suggested they call 1-800-USA-RAIL to vent their complaints rather than inflicting them upon her.

Battered Boston is in for more snow and cold; already they have had nearly double the normal amount of snowfall.

Europe is complaining about the intransigence of Greece in refusing to stick to the terms of the bailout. The Greeks are demanding new terms and Europe, so far, is unbending. Neither side has blinked. Markets have rallied but are edgy about what is happening.

In Italy, Michele Ferrero, he of the family who gave us Nutella, and Italy’s wealthiest man, has passed away. I will never again have a Nutella crepe without thinking of him.

Also, in Italy, there is talk of the Italians leading a coalition to oppose ISIS. In the video that shows the beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya, the spokesman for ISIS points across the sea, threatening to take Rome. The place where the beheadings took place is 520 miles from Italy.

Boatloads of refugees have been crossing the Mediterranean for months now, looking for a better life in Europe. What is to stop boatloads of terrorists? The UN Security Council is to take up the question of ISIS in Libya soon.

It is now a bit awkward to call them ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] since they now claim to have a province in Libya and have demonstrated better coordination between regions than the West believed was possible.

The Egyptians, who’s Coptic Christians were slaughtered, has launched a second set of air strikes against the Islamic State in Libya. It is not waiting for the United Nations. They are taking things into their own hands for now. And they are taking steps to evacuate other Coptic Christians through Tunisia.

IS has managed to do something which has been difficult to do until now and that is to get Muslim nations to join in a chorus of horror at their actions. The burning of the Jordanian pilot and now the beheading of the Coptic Christians has solidified the anger of some Muslims against IS.

Egypt, which is rising to the defense of its Coptic Christians, has often exhibited its own oppression of them by tolerating discrimination against them.

In France, five teenagers have been arrested, suspected of defiling 300 Jewish graves. It caused a wave of fear in France and resulted in President Hollande encouraging French Jews to remain in France. One of the boys turned himself in when he saw the enormous reaction to his deeds. He claimed he had no anti-Semitic intentions.

France is very concerned; anti-Semitic acts more than doubled last year from the year before, as they are rising all over Europe.

In Denmark, thousands marched today following the deaths of two there. One man was an accomplished documentarian who was attending a seminar that was also attended by the cartoonist, Lars Vik, who has been under police protection since 2007 when his cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed was published and assumed to have been the target. The other was a young Jewish man acting as security at Copenhagen’s main synagogue during a Bat Mitzvah.

In Europe, both anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia rise. I have struggled how to end today’s post. Could I find a way to loop back to some pleasant event in my life? But I can’t; I am caught thinking of the Coptic Christians who died because they were Christian and of the young Jewish man in Copenhagen who died because he was Jewish. I think of the Shia who are killed by the Sunnis and the Sunnis who are killed by the Shia.

It would be trite to say there are no easy answers. What all this does, it seems to me, is to call us all to be better, in our lives and in our support of the oppressed, in facing the complex issues that are the background of our lives.