Posts Tagged ‘Joe Tombers’

Letter From Claverack 06 11 2017 Returning to hygge…

June 12, 2017

It is delightfully quiet as I sit on the deck, the fierce heat of the day receding and all the noise of the city left behind.  About four o’clock, I returned to Columbia County from four days in the city, a delightful time, packed with adventures and sights and people.  And I was glad to return to the quiet of the cottage and knit it all together.

The occasion of my trip was that it was my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding anniversary.  They were married in New York four years ago and return every year to celebrate.  Last year, I was absent, selling books in Edgartown, on Martha’s Vineyard.

dessert

This year, I was present.  On Wednesday, they went for a private celebration of their anniversary while I had dinner with my wonderful godson, Paul Geffre.  We had a wonderful dinner and then went to the Parker Meridien for after dinner drinks with Joe and Deb, who had not met him.

Joe, Deb and I went, over the days of the visit, to the Intrepid, Ellis Island, the site of the deadly Triangle fire, to “Spamilton,” which Deb and I enjoyed more than Joe as we got the Broadway references.

JoeandDeb

As I type, the Tonys are being broadcast and I am not watching.  It seems more important to gather myself together after these hectic days, wonderful, full of visiting and fun and feasting and I’m sure my waist has expanded and I must handle that.

Today, after Joe and Deb had left for the airport, I brunched with old friends from California, one of whom has residences in both places and Meryl and Ray, who were in for a visit and work for Meryl.

Before I met them, I had a quick coffee with my bestest friend, Nick Stuart [Lionel, you are more than friend; we are family of choice], and we spoke of things and we talked about how I have been working on living in an “attitude of gratitude,” appreciating the good things in life and not yearning after what I don’t have and celebrating what I have, which is quite, quite wonderful.

Deb and Joe gave me a wonderful book about hygge and I laughed at getting it because I have been writing about hygge ever since I heard about it and, gosh, don’t we need it now.

hygge

At this moment, I am having a very hygge moment.  Sitting on my deck, the creek is calm, birds are chirping.  My neighbor’s dogs are romping some distance away.  Far away there is a sound of a truck traversing the road a third of a mile away and I am not caught in the cacophony of New York, which is wonderful and now wearying for me.

When I was moving to DC, I lived for a time in an apartment in Georgetown, across from Dumbarton Oaks, and thought: wow, Mathew is getting to live in some of the great cities of the world.  That has continued.  And now, in the third act of this life, I am always glad to return to the quiet and the hygge of the cottage.

At dinners and brunches, we all discussed the political madness of our time, which is, at least to me, the most serious since Watergate, and all wonder how we got here and where will we go.  The Democrats are in disarray; the Republicans fleeing or feeding the strangeness that is Trump [the kindest way I can describe this presidency].

The Clinton impeachment was a distraction, a hounding of a serial sexual player who didn’t want to admit in public what we all knew.

This is not a distraction.  It is serious.  This is Watergate level.

Theresa May in the UK, having lost [and it is almost impossible to believe she did] her gamble to get a greater majority to support her Brexit negotiations, was described tonight in some UK papers as “dead woman walking.”

Macron, in France, has seized the government in a way no one has since De Gaulle [I think] and we have a new day there.  Angela Merkel looks to be re-elected in Germany.  The political scene is exciting, if more than a bit scary.

 

Letter From Claverack 12 24 2016 Ho Ho Ho…

December 25, 2016

Tonight is Christmas Eve.  The floodlights illuminate the creek in front of me; my trees are lit and Christmas carols are playing on my Echo.  Shortly I will leave to attend Christmas Eve festivities at the Red Dot, closed this evening to the public and home to the party Alana, the owner, has prepared.

Every year the Dot is decorated to the nines.  This year is in honor to Wendy Frost, the artist who helped Alana every year create magic and who passed away during the summer, not long after moving to Florida.

When I was a wee boy, Christmas Eve was Christmas.  It was the night we celebrated and opened presents.  My Juettner cousins would come and we would all frolic in the basement or play games in the living room until it was time for the Christmas Eve feast and then we would rip into our packages.

When they had gone home, we opened our own family presents, then sleepy I would head off to bed while my older siblings and parents attended Midnight Mass.

As things do, the traditions changed and the Juettners ceased coming and things toned down a bit.  My older siblings departed, my brother to medical school, my sister to the convent.  The next Christmases were quiet.

After my father’s passing, it seemed Christmases picked up again after a while.  My brother returned to Minneapolis, post internship, a year in Honduras giving medical care to children and a couple of years in the Air Force.

In college, it was fun to leave where I was living and return to my old bedroom, sometimes with an out of town roommate in tow.

For me, tonight is Christmas.

Christmas Day always seemed a bit anti-climactic.  The big presents had been given and Christmas exhaustion had set in.

Tonight, this Christmas of 2016, I wish all of you who celebrate the holiday, the merriest of Christmases.

It is also the beginning of Hanukkah, which rarely coincides with Christmas but it does this year.  So Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!

I am off to a party, with two quiches and some gag gifts, as Alana requested.

 

May this day be very merry, safe and happy for all of us.

Letter From New York 10 12 15 You can’t go home again, even if it’s nice…

October 13, 2015

It is 7:30 PM and it is dark already. I’m headed north on the 7:15 Amtrak out of Penn towards home after two weeks of wandering. Baltimore followed by Indianapolis followed by Minneapolis and now home. I made a stop in New York and listened as Howard Bloom recorded his podcast, “Howard Bloom Saves the Universe.” Look him up in your iTunes store. He’s very good, very funny and very wise.

Having not had very much to eat today, as in almost nothing, I stopped and got some California Roll from Penn Sushi and ate it while waiting for the train to start its journey north, which it has. I would love to be able to watch the river but it’s too dark, the river is hidden.

Minneapolis is a lovely town. There are an infinite number of things to do in the city of my birth. Often I have described my youth as being what it must have been like to grow up in one of the great provincial capitals of Europe. It has the Minnesota Orchestra, back to making music after a crippling strike. The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, the Walker, the Guthrie, an amazing theatre scene. One Uber driver said to me that in Minneapolis/St. Paul you found a college on almost every corner. Which is almost true.

The city is freshly spruced. Every building looked like it had just been splashed with a fresh coat of paint. Everything was sparkling clean and looked like the glistening city of the future. Unemployment is low and the city is prospering.

But I sampled none of the intellectual delights of my hometown. I spent all my time visiting with people, my friends and family, people that have been important to me over the years.

When I taught high school there I became close to one of the families involved with the school, the Elsens. I spent an afternoon with them at a restaurant. Don is 88 and his force of nature wife, Betty, has been dead now almost ten years. Julie was there as was her cousin Brenda. After Don and Julie left, Brenda stayed to chat with me. She wanted to let me know that I was the only teacher she had in her life she felt “saw” her. I was humbled.

There were long mornings of coffee with my brother and sister-in-law, Deb, and a long and lovely lunch with my ex sister-in-law, Sally, with whom I laughed and cried.

I have deep roots in Minneapolis though one morning, driving to some get together, I also realized that the old phrase, “ You can’t go home again,” is true. I have roots but I no longer belong there.

All was familiar but I am no longer a citizen of that place; I am a citizen, for now, of Columbia County, where I have lived for, for me, a long time. And now I am on the train, headed back to the little cottage by the creek, looking forward to being in that space, surrounded by my things, to be able in the morning to sit on the deck while having coffee and to think about the future and not the past.

Letter From New York 09 04 15 Refugees, destruction and murdering grandmothers…

September 4, 2015

It started as a lovely day here in New York that has gradually become grey but it is not blistering hot, as it was yesterday. My brother, sister-in-law and his daughter and her husband, are out at the U.S. Open and so the weather should be kind to them as they are going to be out there all day long, not expected back until near midnight.

I met them for breakfast and then came down to Broderville to do some work though I found myself easily distracted today as we slip into the Labor Day Weekend, the unofficial end of summer.

The advent of this weekend always makes me a little sulky, as I know the winter is in front of us; we can’t quite touch it but it is definitely coming. The feel of fall was in the wind that channeled through the concrete valleys of the city this morning.

Tonight, while my family watches tennis matches, I will be having dinner with my friends David and Bill at their West End apartment, where David has lived since he was in law school at Columbia. His decision to go to law school was triggered by a conversation with none other than Ruth Bader Ginsberg, now sitting on the Supreme Court.

Their refusal to hear Kim Davis’ appeal regarding providing marriage licenses to same sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky, and her continuing refusal to obey the law, has resulted in her finding herself in jail, in contempt of court.

Rachel Held Evans [@rachelheldevans] tweeted today: No one’s being jailed for practicing her religion. Someone’s being jailed for using the government to force others to practice her religion.

Much re-tweeted and frequently shared on Facebook, including by me, I thought her insight offered a bit of clarity.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have leapt to the defense of Kim Evans and she is becoming a potent symbol for the Christian right. I wonder where the Christian Left is on this; don’t recall hearing anything from them.

While some of us are melting down over the Kim Davis situation, IS has blown up three “Tower Tombs,” ancient artifacts that were uniquely Palmyran. UNESCO is calling their actions: intolerable crimes against civilization. The ancient world must have felt the same toward the Romans when they tore down buildings as they conquered towns or the barbarians as they overtook the Romans. We have a new set of barbarians loose in the land and they are taking with them what we had at long last started to preserve.

The death of little Alyan Kurdi, the three year old who died with his mother and brother, attempting to cross to Greek Kos from Turkey, was brought home to Kobane in Syria for burial.

The heartbreaking images of the boy seem to have stirred the EU into sorting out what they are going to do with the masses of refugees swarming upon them.

Cameron of the UK has said it will take 65,000 refugees. Individuals in the UK are gathering together, offering to help. Local Councils are beginning to do the same. Iceland has a movement agitating for their government to listen to the individuals and organizations that are willing to help with refugees.

A little boy has died; he will not soon be forgotten.

Hungary has been attempting to contain refugees there but they have broken out and are walking toward the borders. Nearly a thousand refugees are marching across Hungary after trains and buses to Germany were denied them.

Viktor Orban, Hungary’s right wing Prime Minister, has had the borders closed and raised a razor wire fence to prevent refugees from crossing the border. His actions have been denounced across Europe.

Right and Left are at odds all across Europe as the crisis continues.

An Egyptian billionaire has said he wants to buy an island from Greece or Italy to provide a new homeland for refugees.

Putin has admitted that Russia is giving logistical support to Assad’s government in Syria, something that has been suspected but had remained unconfirmed. The Russian President has left the door open for Russian troops though he has said he wants to keep conferring with his “partner,” the United States.

And, out of Russia, came the story of an elderly woman who has been jailed, suspected of perhaps as many as eleven murders. She was caught on video as she was disposing of a woman after having used a hacksaw to remove her hands and head. She then boiled them.

Her home contained books on black magic. The latest victim was a 79-year-old woman who was in her care. The Russians are calling her “Granny Ripper.”

Today is Force Friday. I hadn’t a clue about it until I read the Times this morning. Stores like “Toys R Us” and Walmart opened at midnight to start selling merchandise related to the upcoming Star Wars movie that is premiering in December. There is a new version of the Lego Millennium Falcon; an item that is on the top of many lists of must have items.

The day is ending. The sky is less grey and there’s more sunlight. I am heading out to buy a bottle of wine to give to my dinner hosts.