Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

Letter From New York 11 02 15 Working on not to being a cranky old man…

November 2, 2015

Henry Hudson.  Hudson River. Russian Jet Crash. Halloween. The Red Dot. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  Amazon Prime. Benedict Cumberbatch.  Hamlet. Ophelia. European Refugee Crisis. Sumte, Germany. Nazi. Turkey. Erdogan.

I am gliding south on the 8:45 out of Hudson, down to the city for a few meetings this week and then will head back Wednesday evening. The Hudson River is still and mirrors the muted colors of fall. A barge makes its way north to Albany. In certain stretches, it is possible to imagine that this was the way the river looked when Henry Hudson first sailed north.

It is so placid a scene that it is almost possible to detach from the battering of the news.

It has been two days since I have written; Saturday afternoon I was having a late, for me, brunch at the Red Dot before heading home to service any Trick or Treaters. Several people were sitting not far from me, chatting rather loudly and raucously about their summer exploits of jet skis and pool parties, dancing and dating.

At the moment, I was reading the New York Times and was feeling very aware of the various crises that are engulfing the planet. A Russian jet had crashed in the Sinai earlier that day. More had drowned in the Aegean and Germany is preparing to settle nearly a million refugees within its borders.

The conversation happening not far from me grated on me. Unreasonably, I wanted to walk over and say to them something like: you fools! Don’t you know serious things are happening?

I didn’t.

They were having a harmless conversation. I have had harmless conversations about silly things, too. And I am also aware of what is happening in the world. It bothered me at the moment because on the Saturday of Halloween it seemed no one was paying attention except me. I was having a cranky old man moment.

Last year, there had been a few Trick or Treaters. This year, there were none. As I waited, I watched “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” from Amazon Prime. When I finished, I went off to bed to read a book, soon falling into the arms of Morpheus.

Early up on Sunday, I went off to Christ Church, slipping away after communion because I had a ticket for an HD version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Hamlet.” He and the production were superb. It is the first time I have witnessed a production that indicated that Ophelia was fragile even before the Prince of Denmark’s attentions.

At home, afterwards, I did some paperwork and read some more and am now heading down to the city.

The Russian airliner is much in the news; it apparently broke up in mid-air and it is being posited that some “external event” resulted in the loss.

In Germany, one small town of 102 individuals is being asked to take in 750 refugees. The Mayor of Sumte’s wife thought it was a joke when they were first notified. It has energized a youngish local Nazi who has a seat on the town’s council: it will be good for his brand of politics he thinks. This is a harbinger of the challenges facing Germany and those challenges also threaten Angela Merkel’s position as Chancellor.

Erdogan has won a big victory in Turkey, giving him the impetus to push forward once again with a plan for an executive presidency, not that it has been a de facto executive presidency since Erdogan took that office. He has been playing the role of both Prime Minister and President as he feels like it, a bit like the arrangement Putin had with Medvedev.

The day, which began gloriously, has turned grey as we have moved south. Mild temperatures are expected this week, a last gasp of Indian summer.

Loving to entertain, I am having two sets of people in for dinner this week.

We will talk, I’m sure, of silly things and serious matters and I will do my best to not be a cranky old man.

Letter From New York 10 30 15 Thoughts riding north through the autumn colors…

October 30, 2015

Autumn. Hudson River Valley. Obama. Syria. John Kerry. Saudi Arabia. Douma. European Refugee Crisis. Halloween. Marco Rubio. GOP Debate. Donald Trump. Jeb Bush. Ben Carson. The Donald. One child policy. China. Alexander the Great. Gordian knot.

The autumn colors on the trees may have just past their peak but they are still wonderful as I ride north on Amtrak. The west bank of the Hudson is awash with shades of orange, red and some green. I am heading home for the weekend, having been in the city a bit longer this week than I had planned.

As I waited for the train to exit the tunnels so that I might have Internet again, my phone buzzed twice. First it was AP and then it was the BBC, letting me know that President Obama is sending fifty special operations troops to Syria to assist the rebels we support.

While he was announcing this, Secretary of State Kerry is in Vienna, dealing with the countries that have a stake in Syria, though Syria is not, apparently, there itself. The eyes of the world are on how Saudi Arabia and Iran will react to being the same room together. They are positioned so that they don’t have to look into each other’s eyes.

Meanwhile, on the ground in Syria, at least 40 have died in Douma, a town ten miles north of Damascus, with another hundred wounded. So far a quarter of a million people have died and ten million have fled their homes.

The resulting refugee crisis means that millions of Syrians are living in camps or attempting to go west, sometimes dying in the effort. 570,000 individuals have transited through Greece this year, making the crossing from Turkey in small boats or rubber dinghies. Yesterday 22 more died and 144 were rescued.

It is all far from here as I move north, along the Hudson River, absorbing fall colors and contemplating a quiet weekend at the cottage.

It is Halloween this weekend and I’m not sure I am going to do anything. Generally, I have gone down to the Red Dot for their annual party. Last year I dressed as a Roman Emperor. This year, I am not feeling quite so festive. I was thinking more of a martini and a movie at home.

Since last I wrote, there has been another Republican Debate. Not well wired in the city, where I was, I have had to get a feel from it from written articles. General consensus, Marco Rubio won and CNBC, the platform for the debate, lost. The debaters turned the table on the moderators, putting them in their place. Trump wasn’t as Trumpish and Jeb Bush was still Jeb Bush.

Trump is genuinely surprised to find himself trailing Ben Carson in Iowa. Perhaps the Donald will learn a bit of humility.

China has revoked the “one child” only policy though most are indicating they won’t have more than one child. It’s too expensive in time and money now. More and more couples are choosing to remain childless. China will begin to look like Japan, with an aging population. Hard to fathom…

As I finish writing my letters, I find myself pondering the state of the world, working to grasp it. I don’t always get it, usually not at all. The complexity of the politics in the Middle East are so knotted that it is probable that they may never get undone. It will take an Alexander the Great to undo this Gordian knot. He didn’t undo it; he cut through it with his sword.

Letter From Columbia County 09 09 15 Thinking about life, ruminating on its joys…

September 9, 2015

It is getting dark as I sit here on my deck, there are still some small glimmers of light off the creek and the sky to the east is pearl grey. A wind has come up in the last few minutes, a bit of blessed relief after a day when it hit 95 degrees with humidity nearly as high.

It has been a gentle day, spent here at the cottage and in its environs. I woke late for me; the alarm went off and I continued to hit the snooze alarm, up until the moment the plumber arrived. He will come on Friday and replace the device that increases my water pressure. Until then, I am to use as little water as possible. I feel a bit like a pioneer.

A few weeks ago I went to an event for the Hudson Library that was a joint venture of DISH, a relatively new store in town on lower Warren Street and the wonderful Olde Hudson, run by my friend Dena. At the event, I spotted something that would make a wonderful Christmas present for my friend, Nick. I returned today to buy it as well as other things that went into the armoire that is in the guest bedroom. In it I place gifts that I have collected throughout the year for Christmas giving.

After dropping shirts at the cleaners, I went to Lowes for some cleaning supplies I hadn’t found at the grocery store yesterday. Summer is gone; Halloween is here. I was met at the entrance by all sorts of Halloween supplies. At CVS there were displays of Halloween candy. The year is moving on.

Relish, my favorite little sandwich joint, has just moved to their winter hours, closing an hour earlier than before. Winter hours? It’s 95 degrees out there! But yes, the world is moving on. Summer is unofficially over.

As I mentioned yesterday, a few leaves have begun to turn. Acorns are falling all around me. One hit the ancient metal chair to my right and scared me.

I am relishing sitting here on the deck, with the wind blowing, all too aware that the days that I can do that are now numbered. So I am doing the best to enjoy it. After the plumber left this morning, I was out here, reading the Times, sipping my coffee. It was a most pleasant way to start the day.

Now it is getting dark and I am here ending the day, sipping a martini and thinking about life.

The Week is one of my favorite magazines and I read in it an essay by Oliver Sacks, the doctor who wrote “Awakenings,” made into a movie starring the late, great Robin Williams. He wrote as he was dying; it was filled with the sense of wonder of having been alive, of having made his own unique journey through this thing called life, a mystery that we often fail to appreciate. As he was dying, he viewed his life as a rich experience and prepared to go gently into that good night.

Now that I am entering what is the third and final act of my life, I hope that I can face the reality of my own inevitable death with the same awareness that Oliver Sacks did, appreciating that he had been alive.

In the last year, I have learned such lessons of gratitude. That I am alive this day, that I have the resources to survive this day, that my health is good, that I can see and breathe and resonate with the world and give something to it.

My friend, Medora Heilbron, mentioned last week in our weekly call that she does her best to leave in her wake, goodness and gratitude, shown in courtesy to clerks and strangers and the people she loves. I work to do the same.

I do my best to remember the names and the faces of the people who I interact with, such as Heather and Dana at Relish and the cab driver I met yesterday. I do my best to be easy for people who have to interact with the public because so many people don’t make it easy.

Night falls. I am joyful. I hope you are too.

Letter From New York October 2, 2014

October 2, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…

As I write this, a doe and her fawn are scouring my drive for acorns – at least that’s what I am guessing they’re looking for, noses to the ground. And if that’s is what they’re looking for, I have a surfeit. I can hear them bombing the roof night and day right now.

It’s a great, pastoral fall scene. Yesterday was the beginning of deer hunting season – or so an eager fellow passenger told me on the 2:20 up from New York. He was waiting for it to get a bit cooler before he went off hunting. It didn’t feel quite right to be deer hunting when the weather was about 70.

So about this time of year I notice the number of deer crossing my land gets to be a bit higher. Somehow they know I don’t let folks hunt here.

The land is filling with leaves as they slowly, majestically drop and my little bit of woodlands is looking very fall like. Pumpkins now sit on my door stoop, a visual nod to the season.

While I am not technically in New England, I’ve always believed New England went as far as the east bank of the Hudson River. From there on, it’s the west. So I’ve always considered Columbia County where I live spiritually part of New England even if it’s not really.

Here in Columbia County, Halloween is a BIG deal. There are almost as many Halloween decorations as there are Christmas ones. So it was no surprise to me, when I went to Lowe’s today, to discover the store full of artificial pumpkins inside, real pumpkins outside, full size hanging skeletons, a twelve foot inflatable goblin and any number of things that glowed in the dark.

What I was dismayed about was that not only was Halloween being pimped but so was Christmas! The artificial Christmas trees are out. The light-up decorations are lit up and on display. I could even have a golden, blinking Eiffel Tower to grace my lawn.

My jaw literally dropped when I saw this Holiday display. It appeared they were just getting into it into place – I suspect they started yesterday, the first of October! A whole quarter of Holiday Hysteria awaits. There will be, I am sure, Christmas Carols piped into stores before we have cleared away the pumpkins!

It is unseemly. This is the season for ghosts and goblins, pumpkins and skeletons! NOT the season yet for HO HO HO. Halloween, yes! But Christmas in October? Bah! Humbug!

Letter From New York, October 30, 2013

October 30, 2013

Or, as it seems to me…

Usually I write my letters from the bucolic setting of the cottage, on quiet Sunday evenings.  Tonight, however, I am sitting in the Odyssey offices and my fingers got itchy for the keyboard and my mind needed the stretching that comes from putting words to digital paper.

It will be Halloween tomorrow night and I will likely be in the city, surrounded by a borough’s worth of children [and adults] dressed for trick or treat.  I vaguely remember being a child and working Bryant Avenue for a bag full of treats – I didn’t have any tricks up my sleeve.  There is something joyfully innocent in all the ruckus that comes with kids and Halloween.  Huge amounts of sweets will be given out and dentists all over the land will gleefully rub their hands together at the thoughts of the cavities coming.  One woman in North Dakota plans to hand out “fat letters” to obese children.  Now that’s a bummer. 

It is definitely turning nippy here in New York.  We went from a string of impossibly beautiful days to a string of days when the weather could best be described as: eh.  Which mostly describes my mood: eh.

I just passed over the headlines a while ago.  Sebelius has gently self-flagellated in front of Congress, apologizing for the blunders that have brought a harsh spotlight on the Affordable Healthcare Act, aka Obamacare.  She may be forced to resign though so far the President hasn’t demanded a head on a platter.  While she was apologizing the President was defending up in Boston while that state’s former Governor Mitt Romney went on record as blasting AHA once again.

The NSA [National Security Agency] is defending itself even as the revelations of what it’s been doing keep getting bigger.  Seems they are interested in everyone from Angela Merkel down to you and me. Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP, one of the biggest ad agencies groups in the world, has gone on record on NPR as saying that all of this has damaged “Brand America,” which it has.  Not irreparably, but damaged none the less, so Sorrell says.

Facebook, of the screwed up IPO, has rebounded and is now trading far above its original price point, making early investors finally happy.  Stocks, in general, are up, if down slightly today.  Happy we have avoided a shut down, the markets are ignoring that this is just a temporary fix and we have kicked the budget can down the road a bit – to past Christmas at least.

Vladimir Putin is, according to Forbes, the most powerful man in the world.  The President of the U.S. is number two.  Does this prove that it’s good to be the dictator?  I believe Angela Merkel of Germany is the fifth most powerful person in the world despite the fact she couldn’t keep the NSA from spying on her cell phone conversations.

We have had a lot of embarrassments lately, haven’t we?  I mean the very public, very bad, simply awful debut of the website of the AHA [Obamacare] and all this spying that the NSA has been doing, exposed by Snowden, who is holed up in Russia with the world’s most powerful man.

There’s good news.  Our deficit is DOWN to $680 billion!  Down to 680 billion.  We’re doing something right, I guess.

While the budget deficit is down, gun deaths went up again as six more people died in a North Carolina shooting today.  It appears to have been a custody dispute gone really wrong.  About 10,000 people have died from gunshot wounds since the Newtown massacre nearly a year ago.  It’s a drumbeat that just won’t stop.

And that’s sort of the way it is today, October 30th.  A bit like the constant line from the Laurel and Hardy movies:  now that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into! We move from mess to mess right now and it would be possible to get pretty discouraged from all of it.  But what else to do?

Vote!  It’s Election Day next Tuesday.  Time to make your voice heard!