Posts Tagged ‘Labor Day’

Letter From Claverack 09 04 2017

September 4, 2017

It is an excruciatingly beautiful day at the cottage, the sun is warm, a wind blows to temper it, the only sound is soft jazz in the other room.  I have just finished a late lunch of eggs, sunny side up, steak and toast, eaten on the deck.  The first leaves have begun to fall, scattered on the table top, reminding me of the fleetingness of time.

Soon we will be in another season, fall, which I love and loathe, as I always seem so alive in the fall and, at the same time, so painfully aware life is short and death is long. It’s been that way ever since I was a kid, walking down the leaf strewn streets of south Minneapolis, knowing winter was coming and being entranced by the magic in the air.

It is Labor Day, 2017.

“According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the holiday is ‘a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.’ Labor Day is a ‘yearly national tribute’ to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and wellbeing of our country.          Newsweek, 9/04/2017

And it is a holiday with a bloody history.  “Labor” wasn’t always celebrated.  Suggested reading: Walter Lord’s “The Good Years.”

The summer is unofficially ending when this day becomes part of history.  When I was a kid, it meant school was starting the next day so this was a day I always endured fearfully.  Today, I am not fearful about returning to school.  There are other things…

Kim Jong-Un has me a little fearful as does having Trump be the president who is facing him.  There was some analysis this morning that the timing of Kim’s tests of bombs and missiles has more to do with tweaking President Xi of China than with President Trump.  The latest bomb test came just as Xi was greeting officials from the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China.  Took the wind out of Xi’s sails in terms of making news.  Kim does these things lately just as Xi is set to make some news.  Hey, I’m HERE, President Xi!  Got it?  I’m here and I’ve got some pretty big toys!

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has said North Korea “is begging for war.”  President Trump is saying, “All options are on the table.” This might not end well.

Down in the Caribbean sits the Dutch island of Saba, part of the Leeward Islands, which I visited in February.  Friends have retired there and are sitting directly in the path of Hurricane Irma, now a category 4 storm.  An email today said they will be in the eye of the hurricane tomorrow and were busily preparing, friends helping friends prepare for what could be a very nasty ride.  If you pray, think of them.

Michael Eros, son of my longtime friends, Mary Clare and Jim Eros, is returning to Houston today after the Burning Man Festival.  He left Houston before Harvey hit and he will now find out what it has done to his city.  He and friends built a giant figure which they burned, leaving behind the metal shell.


Harvey will likely be the most expensive storm in history; it is believed 180 billion dollars of damage has been done.  Ted Cruz is having a hard time now explaining why he voted against Sandy help now that he is asking for Harvey help.  The phrase, “people who live in glass houses,” comes to mind.

There are joyful things happening in the world. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child.  Peggy Whitson has returned from the International Space Station, having notched more time in space than any other American.  There will be another Indiana Jones film, without Shia LeBeouf’s character.  A young girl in Harvey’s floodwaters got herself and her family rescued by asking Siri to call the Coast Guard, which rescued her as she was slipping into a sickle cell anemia crisis.

Bad things will happen.  Good things will happen.  All we need to do, to keep moving forward, is not to blow ourselves up.  I’ll pray for that.



Letter From New York 05 22 15 Musing on Memorial Day…

May 22, 2015

It is a little after noon on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. I am headed north on the train for the long weekend, planning a restful time at the Cottage. There is a little work that needs to be done around the Cottage and a few things I need to work on but I think I am going to be spending my time this weekend largely on the deck, reading a book.

Right now, I am devouring Erik Larsen’s “Thunderstruck.” I am sure I’ll finish it this weekend after having stayed up later than I planned last night after getting wrapped up in the story of Marconi and a murderer.

As I head north, the Hudson River is choppy and bronze colored. White caps tip the waves as the sun shines down brightly; in the distance a few clouds scud across the horizon. The hills have turned green and we sit on the verge of summer. Against such idyllic circumstances it is not hard to slip away from the world and to focus on the nearby, the familiar and the comfortable. I’m sure many of us will be doing that this weekend.

Memorial Day was established to remember those who died in our armed forces in service to their country. There are over a million men and women who have. It grew out of the devastation of the Civil War in which over 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers had died. Women went out to cemeteries and laid flowers on the graves of those who died. Originating in the south, the custom moved north during the years following the war, becoming a formal holiday in the 20th Century.

As a child, we went on Memorial Day to put flowers on the graves of the grandparents I had never known and on the grave of the brother I would have had if he had not died two days after birth. It felt somber and real and was considered a duty.

Not so much today. We have a more nonchalant attitude today to Memorial Day for the most part; it marks the unofficial beginning of summer with Labor Day marking the unofficial end. It was only in 1971 that it became the last Monday in May. I think I should remember that but I don’t.

I’m not sure that all that many go out to mark the graves of relatives with flowers these days. The VFW and other such organizations see that soldiers’ graves are marked with small flags. It is a tradition in the cemetery on the road to the Cottage. There will be parades.parties, barbecues and picnics, especially parades. It’s a big day for parades.

Hudson may have one but its big parade day is Flag Day. No one has ever explained it to me but that’s the day the City of Hudson pulls out all the parade stops.

On Memorial Day, the flag will be at half staff until noon and then raised to its full height to represent that after honoring the dead we will continue to protect the liberty for which they gave their lives.

Meanwhile almost 5% more Americans will be traveling this Memorial Day weekend than last year, availing themselves of the cheaper gas prices than last year’s though higher than earlier this year. Most people will be driving to their destinations.

Gradually I am getting toward my destination, looking forward to being at the Cottage. The sky is marginally cloudier, the market is down marginally, more boats are on the river and I am looking forward to the long holiday weekend but will do my best on Monday to remember those who served and died and also to think about those currently serving, men and women who are probably not enjoying the pleasant vistas I have.

Have a good Memorial Day Weekend.

Letter From New York September 8, 2011

September 8, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

I am sitting on Labor Day afternoon at the bar of Café du Soleil, my favorite Bistro on the Upper West Side, a place I know because of my friend Lionel, who is sitting next to me, who is chatting with other regulars here while I work on my letter.

I have been doing my best this weekend to avoid writing my letter. The reason? It is the week leading up to the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and the city is prepping for it and I am not prepared for it. I have been having harbingers of the anniversary all this year. In Norfolk, VA I heard jets that took me back to that night and I have been running from the memories since then. They are burned in my soul and I feel that day intensely when I think about it. That’s why Norfolk was hard.

Monday was hard too. My brother was in town and before we went to breakfast we wandered through the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle where there is an exhibit on the heroes of 9/11, photos of those who lived. The policemen, the firemen, the pilots who flew the sorties over the city that are now so indelibly in my mind that the sound of those jets, the F-14’s, will take me back to that night, all their pictures are in the public areas of the Time-Warner Center and, today, reading them, I was about to start crying when my phone rang and I was dragged back into reality.

I was changed by that day; everyone was changed by that day and to think that ten years have gone by is hard, almost impossible. Could that much time have gone by? Or was it not in another lifetime that all this happened, another world that isn’t really real? But it is real. It happened. I was there. I felt the earth shake when the first plane hit the first building. My partner called me, asked me: do you know what’s going on? No. Turn on the TV. I did. The world was changing in front of my eyes. Our eyes. We all saw it, thanks to live television.

So I have had a hard time facing the fact it’s the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I am having a hard time having that day come back so immediately into my life. I am permanently changed by that day. I am, somehow, a little, scarred by that day. I didn’t lose anyone but I lost the world in which I lived. We’re not the same. The world is not the same. And I am sorry we are not the same.

It will be interesting to see how this week plays out as we move toward the anniversary. We cannot “celebrate” this anniversary. We can acknowledge it; we will – everyone will.
It was the seminal moment of this part of American history and I was there. I walked those streets with old man death. There was the smell of death and burnt plastic and my street was full of papers that were blown down from the Twin Towers. And I will, next week, walk those streets, will remember, will sort my feelings from those days and see what sense I make of it all.

I will let you all know. I don’t know how many tears are between this moment and next week – I just know that I know that I was here, that I, in the first person, experienced 9/11, have a set of memories from that day, was at the Pearl Harbor of my time, and that I am still experiencing that day because that kind of experience never dies in one who lives through it.

My brother told me in the days following that he was sorry that I was in New York when it happened. There was no other place I would have been. I was here. I was at the point of history. It was hard but it doesn’t get more real than that.

Letter From New York 9/11/09

September 11, 2009

Or: as it seems to me…

Labor Day is the emotional if not literal end of summer. The season lingers until later in September but Labor Day… Labor Day is the acknowledged end. Labor Day, in recollection, was a languorous Holiday celebrated by adults while I did my best to mask the knot in my stomach at returning the next day to school. (Particularly painful was the holiday prior to my entering third grade; I was going to be subject to the infamous Sister Neva – a fate to be avoided. Alas, I could not and she proved as daunting as the legend.)

Labor Day weekend in my childhood was a time of barbeques, gatherings of family friends, adults sitting in lawn chairs with highballs and cigarettes while the scent of burgers wafted through the back yard air. It was a moment of indolence. If the phone rang it was generally a guest asking if there was some last minute barbeque component needed.

Flash forward to today. Indolence is on the backburner. Today all Labor Day means is that the velocity and volume of demands diminish. My phone rang with more business demands than social overtures. Business didn’t stop; it slowed. I think the last really languorous Labor Day happened sometime just as email was entrenching itself as part of the business motif. Now I am old enough to remember a time before email – yes, I know that makes me suspect in some circles but it’s true. Before email the world breathed a little easier. Now, with email, cell phones and PDA’s, we are trapped in the immediacy of NOW which does not recognize the boundaries of Holidays and personal time.

Labor Day rest is gone as are vacations. My friends no longer tell anyone they are on vacation. Emails are simply answered from PDA’s poolside. God forbid we tell anyone we have signed off for a moment – they might discover what we fear: they can survive without us. And we can survive without them.

It is anticipated – and we allow the anticipation – that we are always available, that everyone has the right to reach out to us and we will be there. At the ready. With the answer.

It is the world we have created and accepted and it is not going to go away. Yet there are hints people are attempting to deal with it better. Pre-Labor Day weekend I was on the phone with friends and found myself flattened against my desk chair in despair as I witnessed twenty new emails come in demanding my attention as the screen refreshed. My friend Meryl suggested some good coping mechanisms I am doing my best to adopt. I am working to not obsess on the computer and set it aside to do some real work as opposed to responding in Pavlovian fashion to every email popping up on the screen.

Added to the weight of electronic tethers, this year’s Labor Day Weekend came a scant four days before the anniversary of 9/11, the eighth such anniversary and for some reason, at least to me, it was arriving with a sense of discomfort. Mentions of it seem to bring me to the edge of tears for reasons I am not sure I can explain. Is it, I wonder, that I thought eight years ago, that eight years out there would have been some kind of rock solid resolution? I understand intellectually that is not a reasonable expectation. Emotionally, I want one. For God’s sake, World War II was over in about half this amount of time. Instead, we are still in Iraq and digging in in Afghanistan. In emotionally distancing ourselves from 9/11 we threw a self-indulgent economic party. Between the wars and self-indulgence we have nearly bankrupted ourselves.

At a dinner with friends we talked about the world that is emerging. Something new is arising from all of this and we are afraid of what is coming – everything has changed. Technology has altered our world as much as 9/11 and the Great Recession. Put them all together and you have a brand new world – not necessarily brave.