Posts Tagged ‘Istanbul’

Letter From Claverack 03/02/2017 From Saba to a Trump Speech…

March 3, 2017

It has been about ten days since I’ve written; I just went back and looked.  Last time, I was on Saba, writing when I wasn’t able to sleep.  Tonight, I am back at my dining room table, floodlights on, looking out over the creek, having just returned from Coyote Flaco with Pierre, sharing chicken fajitas.

When I reached the cottage this afternoon, I felt I’d been away for a week, at least.  Monday morning, I went down to DC for some meetings for the Miller Center on the Presidency and then to New York last night to have a wonderful dinner with my friends, David and Annette Fox.  It’s a quarterly event; we gather at their marvelous UWS apartment, order Indian and catch up on our lives.

It is very hygge.  As was the dinner party I gave last Friday night for Fayal Greene, her husband, David, Ginna and Don Moore, Lionel and Pierre.  Leek soup, sautéed scallops in a brown butter sauce, and carrots in a lemony oil garlic sauce, with a baked polenta to die for, followed by a flourless chocolate cake provided by Ginna and Don, via David the baker.

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It was an extraordinary evening.

And I, at least, need evenings like this to keep me sane in these extraordinary times.

On Tuesday evening, in Washington, after an early dinner with my friends Matthew and Anne, which followed drinks with my ex-partner and his now fiancé, I watched the address to Congress by our President, Donald Trump.

To the great relief of almost the entire world, he did not go off the rails and sounded presidential.  It was, Tuesday night, all about the delivery.  Wednesday morning people started to parse what he said.  Even the conservative writers that I read, and I do read some, found a lot of flaws with the speech.

Short on specifics.

Fact checkers found a lot of fault, pointing out Trump claimed as victories some things which had been in play for a year at some corporations.  Ford isn’t keeping production in the US because of Trump; they are pulling back on their Mexican plans because those plants would have built small cars and people aren’t buying them.  They’re buying gas guzzlers because gas is cheapish again.

When talking with David and Annette, I said that if Trump had not held it together last night, his presidency would have begun to unravel.  He would actually be President but, in reality, his claim to power would have begun collapsing.  Lots of people on his side of the aisle are slightly unhinged by his behavior.  McCain and Graham are frankly, I think, apoplectic.

And he held it together and while he should have been able to take a victory lap, Wednesday morning brought the revelation that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had said in confirmation meetings he had not met with any Russians in the run-up to the election, actually had two meetings with the Russian Ambassador, one in his office on Capitol Hill.

Republicans are excusing while Democrats and some Republicans are accusing.

This is a wild ride and I’ve never seen anything like it.

Sessions has since recused himself from all investigations regarding anything Russian but there are those on both sides of the aisle who smell blood in the water.

While we were having political meltdowns, Amazon’s vaulted cloud computing world went offline yesterday for 4 hours and 17 minutes because of a typo in a command.  OOPS.

It’s a little scary.  150,000 websites were affected.  Amazon is the king of cloud storage and that’s a big oops for the King.  I would not have wanted to be the head of that division yesterday.

And, before Tuesday’s Trump speech, we had the foll der wall of the biggest Oscar mistake in history.  First “La La Land” was announced as Best Picture but it really was “Moonlight.”  Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were humiliated and PwC, the accountants, were more than humiliated.  They handed out a wrong envelope.

OOPS.

When it happened, I was safely in the arms of Morpheus, having strange dreams of Mike Bloomberg dating the pastor of my church, Mother Eileen.

Snap Inc. had a very successful opening on the market today; it was the biggest initial offering since Facebook and they have a rocky road to travel and they are a force to be reckoned with and it will be wonderful to see how it plays out.  The next Facebook? Or the next troubled tech company, which is where Twitter is today.

It’s time for me to say goodnight.

By hygge.  Regardless of your political persuasion, it will help us all get through.

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 01 02 2017 Welcome to a new year and a new era…

January 3, 2017

Not yet quite six o’clock in the evening, the sun is gone and floodlights are on the creek.  Soft jazz is on the Echo and I am winding down from some writing I did today along with emails and a couple of loads of laundry.  An ordinary day at the cottage, most of it cozied up with my laptop while watching Marcel, Lionel and Pierre’s sixteen-year old poodle sleep on the couch.  I’m dog sitting again while they are off in Boston.

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New Year’s was surprisingly good.  My expectations were low and the reality great.  There was a feast at my friend Matthew Morse’s house with thirteen people, followed by going down the road to friends of his who have restored as their home a 19th Century roadhouse.  There is a balcony looking down into the tavern area and I was standing there looking down at a crowd that seemed like a hundred, sipping Moet Chandon as the New Year came in…

New Year’s Day was spent in recovery with a game of Clue over cocktails, followed by roast chicken.  Not bad.

Every time I peek into the state of the world, I want to slam the door and run into my bedroom with a cold bottle of vodka and a straw.

It sometimes feels like I have stepped into a Jean Cocteau film.

Hours after I exchanged e-mails with a friend who lives in Istanbul, working for Sony Pictures, there was a nightclub slaughter.  Responsibility for it has been claimed by IS.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber killer a couple of dozen people.  This Sunday, I will light a candle for them at church, the people of Baghdad and Istanbul.  Turkey has been assaulted this month by a whole series of attacks.  Baghdad has never not been assaulted since we invaded.

Trump tweeted something New Year’s Eve that has lots of people outraged.  It seems impossible for me to follow his tweets though I have been told the cable news channels have been spending hours attempting to decipher them.

His press secretary has pleaded with people to stop mocking him.  I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Alec Baldwin has stepped into a brand-new career on SNL and we are going to be living with it for Trump’s entire term in office.  He is just too juicy a target for satirists.  I wish I were a comedy writer.

Trump’s team is saying we should be focusing more on punishing Hillary Clinton than being concerned about Russian hacking.  Did I say something about being in a Cocteau film?  [And if you don’t know who Jean Cocteau is, Google him…]

US officials are saying Russia’s “fingerprints” are all over the hacking and Trump is saying he has inside information on the hacking which he will reveal tomorrow or Wednesday. Personally, I can’t wait.  But then I am still waiting for him to tell us how he will separate himself from his businesses.  That may be more difficult than handling the Russian hacking.

Then, of course, since I last wrote Carrie Fisher, “Princess Leia” from “Star Wars” died after a heart attack on a flight back from London, only to be followed across the River Styx by her mother, the legendary Debbie Reynolds, the following day.

Eras seem ending all around me and I am not happy…

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 10 30 2016 The old clock is ticking…

October 31, 2016

As I headed north on the train, I watched mist close over the Hudson River as I drifted off to a nap after an extraordinary brunch with my friends, Mary Clare and Jim Eros, at Café Du Soleil on the Upper West Side. We laughed and giggled and ate and had a good time.

They were off to watch a flotilla of pumpkins in Central Park while I headed down to the station to head north.

It is dark now and the flood lights illuminate the creek.  The ticking of my old clock is about the only sound I can hear and I am contented after a good conference in New York.  Tomorrow is my meeting with my eye surgeon before the cataract operation a week from this coming Wednesday; I am weary of my blurry vision and am grateful I live in an age when repairs can be done to things like this.

A century ago, I would have been doomed to live with it if I had been so lucky to live this long.  My friend, the philosopher Howard Bloom, always points out that we have doubled our life expectancy in the last hundred, hundred fifty years.  A great accomplishment.

Things that would have killed us quickly have been either vanquished or we have ways of coping better than ever with what would have been life ending diseases not so very long ago.

Things like that give me some hope.

This week there were articles about robot warriors who could learn to kill using artificial intelligence, making judgments that only humans could before.  While that brings to mind images from “The Terminator,” robots are being also developed to help those who are helpless and to save human lives in other ways.  The Japanese are in the forefront of this because of their aging population.

Mary Clare and Jim split their time between Shepherdstown, WV and New York City.  They describe themselves as the new “young old.”  Both are retired and both are full of energy and life and a passion to explore the world and are an inspiration to me.

The three of us have all, to one degree or another, been tuning out the din of this the last weeks of this election cycle.  It was left to me to explain the newest twist in the Clinton email drama.  Both of them had missed it.  All of us are confused by it and are wondering why the FBI ignored the guidance of the Justice Department to not say anything so as not to appear to be influencing the election.

But it is what it is and is another twist in this most remarkable Presidential election.

Last night a truckload of manure was dumped in the parking lot of the Democratic headquarters in Ohio.  I find myself somewhere between outrage and hysterical laughter at the silliness of what is going on.  Manure?  In 2016?

As I cruised through the news today, I found an interview with Jerry Brotton, an English author, who has just published a book about Elizabeth I’s alliances with the Islamic world.  Shunned by Catholic Europe, Elizabeth I built alliances with the Shah of Persia, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and Morocco.  Fascinating.

However, in this present time the US is telling the families of workers in the US Consulate in Istanbul to leave the country.  This is combined with a warning to tourists to not travel there because of targeting by terror groups of Americans and other foreigners.

At the same time, the Turkish government has fired ten thousand civil servants and is crushing any media that disagrees with it.

I am saddened beyond words.  Fifteen years ago I was in Turkey and fell in love with Istanbul and have wanted to return.  Perhaps not or at least not now…

The old clock is ticking.  I think of it as the heart of the house.  I am content tonight and am living in the now.  Mindfulness is what I think they call it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.