Posts Tagged ‘Hemingway’

Letter From New York 08 10 2016 Gloomy but not ugly…

August 10, 2016

In my driveway there is a floodlight with a dusk until dawn timer.  It was so gloomy this morning, “dawn” did not arrive until about 9:30.  As bright and beautiful as the days were before, today has been singularly dark, a day when one wants to slip quietly into a corner and delve deep into a mystery. 

I didn’t do that all day but some of the day, reading “The Hotel on Place Vendome,” a study of the Ritz Hotel before, during and after WWII.  Good reading, not quite a mystery, not quite a page turner but a sound non-fiction account of the place that was at the center of Parisian life in those tumultuous years. 

Of course, “Papa” Hemingway appears and his appearances further tatter the legend he built around himself even as his writing powers were beginning to fade, worn down by drinking and partying.

Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring was a morphine addict and spent at least part of the war soaking in the large bathtubs at the Ritz, attempting to wean himself off the drug.

Something like 80,000 children fathered by Germans were born in France during the war years.

It is a time we have not known.  Somewhere today, I was reading an article online and the author was saying the last 70 years had been a dream.  We had gone to peace and are now awaking into another era, not so peaceful.  Yes, perhaps, but we did “duck and cover” as children and during the Cuban missile crisis my very young mind was convinced that we would all be evaporated.

It is not a peaceful world but never has it been very peaceful.  I am peaceful this very moment, wrapped in a cloudy, gloomy day with verdant trees outside my windows, skies heavy with promises of rain, snug inside my cottage, the only sound the humming of the refrigerator.

The thunder of the campaign trail has been held at bay for the most part by my simply choosing not to delve much into it.  Trump said something about “Second Amendment” folks should do something about Hillary and Democrats are charging that he was inciting violence against her.  Of course he wasn’t, he said.

And Hillary has her blind spots, this week they’ve been showing up in relations between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department.

Though the report I was reading was released by a conservative group so I will add my grain of salt to what I was reading.  Just as I put a bit of salt into my reading of the Democratic reaction to Trump’s latest.  Don’t get me wrong, I won’t vote for the man.  He’s crackers…

The number of ill considered things the man has said has slowly become numbing, no longer outraging me.  It is just one unbelievable thing after another and, as far as I can tell, Trump’s not enjoying it much himself.

And he is embattled by his fellow Republicans.  Susan Collins, Senator from Maine, has disavowed Trump.  She’ll vote Libertarian or write in someone.  She won’t support him or Hillary but go her own way.  She is not alone.  A dismaying number of Republicans are following her.

Whereas Clinton…  I think she — and he — live for this kind of season, coming alive in amazing ways.  Though Bill looks frail these days, a shadow of the man.

The Department of Justice released its report about the Police Department in Baltimore.  “Scathing but not surprising” was one headline.  In Ferguson, MO the wheels of justice are turning very slowly there, two years after Michael Brown died.  Change is slow in coming, disheartening to many but the wheels are turning, I hope.

Like many, I have received two phone calls telling me the IRS is about to start a lawsuit against me.  It’s a scam and it makes me crazy and people are being sucked in.  One man paid the scammers $500,000 before he got wise.  So ugly…

And while it is not beautiful outside, it is not ugly in my corner of the world.

Letter From New York August 5, 2014

August 5, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…

The sun is playing hide and seek, darting in and out from behind clouds, a day that is both dark and bright, mood changing by the minute. The creek flows by, clear and steady; in a southeasterly direction, which I was informed yesterday, was very good feng shui. I’m pleased to hear that; we all need as much good feng shui as we can manage to find.

I didn’t realize it until I was scanning the headlines from the New York Times on my iPhone while having my first cup of coffee but yesterday was the 100th anniversary of World War I, the war that was to end all wars. Which, of course, it didn’t. It was merely a prelude to that greater catastrophe, World War II.

A century ago and we are still reaping the effects of that whirlwind.

The Russian Tsar was toppled in 1917 and, with his family, assassinated in 1918. Out of the ashes of the Russian Empire grew a very brief democratic government that gave way to the Soviet Empire. The German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, rolled into exile in the Netherlands on a private train where he remained for the rest of his life. The last Austrian-Hungarian Emperor abdicated. The last Ottoman Sultan got the boot in 1922.

Borders were remade.

The Ottoman Sultan decided to side with Germany and Austria-Hungary, which was not a wise decision. When the war ended, his Empire was carved away. The British chopped up the Ottoman Empire for their own purposes. The British did a lot of that, doing things for their own purposes. The sun had not yet set on the British Empire. It took World War II to finish that off.

Iraq was not Iraq before the end of World War I; it was a province of the Ottoman Empire. Jordan was born out of the great carve up of the old Ottoman Empire as was Syria.

Germany lost territory and a swath of Poland cut the country into East and West. The Austrian-Hungarian Empire was no longer an empire. Austria and Hungary became separate countries. A new country called Yugoslavia was created, as was Czechoslovakia.

The new Soviet Empire was diminished from what the old Russian Empire had been; new countries arose out of the demise of the old Tsarist domain. The Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were no longer subservient to Russia. Finland was no longer a Russian Grand Duchy, declaring its independence.

After the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine, America began to lean toward the Allies, entering the war in 1917. Its role in helping win the war established America as a global power and manufacturing powerhouse. It was the beginning of the American century.

Many of the best and the brightest of a generation of Europeans died during that war. The ones who survived wrote some of the greatest war stories ever told. Hemingway gave us A FAREWELL TO ARMS and Erich Maria Remarque gave us ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. F. Scott Fitzgerald became the chronicler of “The Lost Generation.” The war years were followed by the Roaring 20’s, a grand party partly fueled by a need to find distance from the horrors that had been.

World War I gave us modern warfare: tanks, gas, war planes. It wasn’t the War to End All Wars but it set the tone for all wars to follow. It gave new meaning to the horror of war. The great players in the Second World War all were present during the First War. Hitler was formed in the trenches of World War I. Churchill’s role in the catastrophe of Gallipoli marred his reputation, only fully redeemed by World War II. Stalin was formed in the crucible of the war and the subsequent Russian Revolution. Roosevelt had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy and itched to have a military command, a hope blunted by Armistice.

It was a century ago. But it seems so much of now started there, a remaking of the world order that we are still sorting out.



A Tale of Two Towns: June 26, 2009

June 26, 2009

Contemplating it all…

A long time ago in that faraway country that was my youth, I wrote papers for school in long hand and then typed the final product on a black Royal portable that had been around our home since long before I was born. Were I now my age when that portable Royal was young, I would be sitting in front of it with a pack of cigarettes and an ashtray with a martini to accompany them while I typed with the hard, tough strokes of a manual typewriter, working to make sense of the world in which I was living — rather like a Walter Winchell [anyone remember him?] or a Hemingway or Fitzgerald, were I to aim very high.

It has been that kind of week — the kind in which the world needs figuring out. Half way across the world, protests continue to sputter in Iran over the election as the Twitter posts also sputter. Once separated by nanoseconds, minutes if not hours now separate the Iranian posts. What remains to be seen is the lasting changes that will come from this. And there will be lasting changes – Iran, as much as the Mullahs may pretend, will never be the same.

There was a piece of video I watched last weekend, uncorroborated when I saw it though later it was, of a young woman shot and dying on the streets of Tehran. It was shocking, horrible, real: it was the ultimate price people pay for protest. Neda was her name, a 26-year-old graduate student who wanted to lead tours; she went out to protest the elections and was killed with a bullet fired, probably, by the pro-government paramilitary Basiji. The video has become a rallying image around the world for the Iranian Protest Movement. It will be an image that will live on and haunt the Iranian government. Beautiful, full of life and now gone, her power to galvanize will remain.

As “#Iranelection” is trending downward on Twitter, soaring upwards in the world of internet chatter are tweets about Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, two icons who died yesterday and who are being remembered by the legions who idolized them. Both of them will be remembered for their great influence on pop culture in their time and for the feeling that something went wrong for both of them, with Michael Jackson the winner in that dubious category. From beloved superstar to very, very weird dude it was a long hard bumpy ride down the superstar slope. Still beloved by many, he had become to many others a parody. Dogged by rumors of pedophilia, drug abuse, and just plain over the top weird behavior, Michael Jackson will remain a symbol of all that can go wrong with a superstar life and will be up there with icons like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland – talent that got very lost along the way.

Farrah was the epitome of beauty for every straight boy when I was much younger and the poster of her in that red bathing suit was ubiquitous; you couldn’t ignore it if you tried. That’s what she’ll be remembered for – that and some later life behavior that seemed to indicate drug troubles. What probably won’t be remembered is the depth of her performance in THE BURNING BED or the haunting portrayal of heiress Barbara Hutton in the mini-series POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL.

So it’s come to this: I think the ’70’s and ’80’s are now officially done – they have just moved into that past that is that foreign country. The iconic links we had to them, pop culture wise, are gone and we are left with individual memories, adrift now in our remembrances. Pop Culture is only part of the essence of those times.

More important than Farrah or Michael were events like the fall of Saigon and the iconic photo of the helicopter retreat from the U.S. Embassy and the crash of the Challenger. Pop Culture seems to define us while somehow failing to be the essential substance of a time.