Posts Tagged ‘Lady Gaga’

Letter From New York May 4, 2011

May 4, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

I am traveling on an Acela; as always, I find time on trains a good time to reflect. The greening countryside is rolling by; a soft rain is falling – it’s on the dark and drear side. Good contemplative time.

Osama bin Laden is dead and that has filled the newspapers and the minds of the world the last few days.

But my mind is much more on the weekend I have just experienced. Business had taken me to Minneapolis last Friday; I stayed over for the weekend. The trip began magically. Early for my flight, I went for coffee. Two ladies were behind the counter. As I finished paying they got great smiles on their face and beamed at me, telling me I was the best put together person they had seen for awhile. My hair, my glasses, the color of my shirt, my demeanor – I was a good looking, well put together man and they thought I should know. I didn’t know what to say, except thank you and what a wonderful way to start the day, the trip. I smiled back. And walked away, shaking my head, glad for the “God Shot.” I wasn’t feeling any of those things at that moment, having roused myself at oh dark hundred to catch the flight.

The business meetings went well and I segued into a dinner with my friend Christine Olson. We talked for hours and she blessed me with an affirmation of the importance of our friendship over the years. The next morning I had brunch with my sister-in-law, Sally, who looked radiant and centered. I basked in the long, good years we have loved each other, having liked her from the moment I met her in my pre-pubescent years.

Coffee followed with another old friend, Jean Cronin Olson, who had written me at Christmas, hoping for coffee my next visit. Sitting down and chatting, we picked up as if we had spoken the week before. And that was followed by time with another friend who is in recovery. I observed that people in recovery are usually much more open with their emotions and thoughts. He agreed; for them it is a matter of life and death. That set me thinking on how much better we would all be if we were better able to articulate our feelings, our emotions, fears and joys to one another rather than stuffing them down, killing them with substances or releasing them through violence.

There was a family dinner on Saturday night. My brother, his friend Deb, two of my nieces, the oldest, Kristin, and the youngest, Theresa, her boyfriend Steve, all gathered at a round table in a restaurant, La Chaya Bistro. We laughed. We teased. We cried. Theresa sat next to me and held my hand quietly for a while, occasionally resting her head on my shoulder. Thinking of it, I feel tears on the edges of my eyes. Kristin and I laughed. My brother and I teased each other, laughing hardily over things in the past.

Later that night Kristin and I texted. She affirmed me. Hopefully I affirmed her. Sunday was more family, more affirmation and then the flight home, wrapped in the quiet of travel and thought, realizing I had had the best visit to my hometown I had ever had, feeling from the time I ordered my coffee on the way out, I was bathed in love, moving towards integration of past and present with a glimpse of future goodness, looking for time with those I love and who love me.

I experienced the magic of family and love while across the world, we hunted down the greatest criminal of our time, a man who somewhere lost his ability to comprehend and respect our common humanity, regardless of religion. It is only through common respect, if not love, we will survive our burgeoning troubles and challenges.

The strength gained this weekend is helping me face my challenges. May the same happen for all.

A Letter From New York, April 19, 2011

April 19, 2011

As it seems to me

Last Thursday night was April 14th.

I took the time to mark that April 14th/April 15th, 2011 was the 99th anniversary of the sinking of R.M.S. Titanic, the “Ship of Dreams” which, went it went down on its maiden voyage, spawned stories, legends, lore, parables, allegories and quite a number of movies, the first a silent film starring one of the survivors, Dorothy Gibson, who was a screen star returning on Titanic from a vacation in Italy. It was called SAVED FROM THE TITANIC and was a huge hit; presaging many other films about Titanic including A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, TITANIC [with Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb] and TITANIC [with Kate Winslet and Leonardo diCaprio], which was the highest grossing film of all time for a decade. There has been a Broadway musical, documentaries and another television mini-series on its way.

We have coined the phrase “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” referring to a hopeless reorganization of anything.

It is a story that has romance to it – the rich and famous, sailing with light hearts toward New York, aboard the most glamorous ship of the day, unaware or unworried that the ship sailed with lifeboats for only a fraction of the passengers aboard.

Then came the iceberg, the swift sinking of the ship and the stories. It was a sobering message to an age that thought technology could solve anything, that nothing was impossible. Titanic was never advertised as unsinkable but it gained that reputation. It rapidly demonstrated it wasn’t.

The event provided examples of great courage. I walk regularly by Straus Park on Broadway, dedicated to Isidore and Ida Straus. He owned Macy’s; she was twice offered a place in a lifeboat but would not leave her husband of 41 years. 6000 people attended their memorial service. The eight men who had been hired to play music on board have recently been immortalized in a book, THE BAND THAT PLAYED ON. They played until almost the very end. It was said their last piece was NEARER MY GOD TO THEE.

The disaster gave us “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” a wealthy, colorful Coloradan who took command of her lifeboat when she found the crew wanting.

Below decks, men worked to give the ship as much time as possible, perhaps extending the ship’s life by two hours, giving time for all the lifeboats to get away, and keeping the lights on until the very end, suspecting they were doomed, not unlike the “Nuclear Samurai” working in the Fukushima Nuclear Power Facility, laboring on to prevent a larger disaster, while knowing they are likely dooming themselves in the process.

Aboard Titanic was John Jacob Astor, the richest man in the world. All his wealth couldn’t save him; his body was recovered, appearing that one of the ship’s four smoke stakes had fallen on him. Mrs. Astor gave birth to a son, John Jacob V, who went on to marry a woman named Brooke, who gave away millions and millions to New York and whose son now faces jail time for having swindled his mother.

Legend has it that Titanic was the first ship to send out the distress call, SOS. One radio operator survived, the other did not.

The event presaged the end of an age. It shook the world to its core. That glittering world in which the rich were the celebrities of the time, where titles mattered dearly, and technology could overcome ended absolutely when the First World War tore it all apart.

It was a sobering moment. The Coast Guard began monitoring icebergs; ships were never again allowed to sail without sufficient lifeboats, rules changed. J. Bruce Ismay, head of Titanic’s owner, White Star Line, survived the night though his reputation did not and he lived his life out in scorned exile.

There are no longer living survivors of the night, the last, a baby then, passed away in 2009. Yet the sinking of Titanic lives on, a real event that became legend, large in life, larger in legend – a powerful allegory of pride that goes before the fall.

Letter From New York August 4, 2010

August 4, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

As I write this, I am sitting outside, on the deck, overlooking Claverack Creek, sunlight glinting off water so clear the bottom of the creek is visible; cicadas thrum in the woods that surround the cottage, NPR plays on the radio, amusing and informing me.

There was no letter last week as on Sunday, when I sat down to write, I found myself locked out of my computer – turns out I needed a keyboard replacement, and so I found myself without my trusty laptop for a week while it was worked on. I discovered myself feeling very edgy, as if I were constantly searching for something I had lost. I write this in my time away from the office and in my time away from the office I did not have my trusty MacBook and found it difficult to work. So, late on Thursday, I was overjoyed when the laptop was returned to me in working condition. Now I have to plow through all the emails that have accumulated to see if there are any I might have missed as I was improvising in finding ways to answer them.

This unfortunate incident happened while I was weekending at the home of my friends, Joyce and Jeffrey, who summer on Martha’s Vineyard and had generously invited me to spend some time with them there. It was while I was languidly sitting on their veranda, soaking in the beauty of the water lapping on the boats at anchor in Edgartown harbor while listening to the coughing splutter of the launches puttering from boat to boat that this misfortune befell me and, at first, I felt it was a sign from the universe that I shut off work and continue my literary indulgence of reading Sherlock Holmes short stories, digestible bites of innocent intellectual satisfaction.

Returning to work, it was another story, certainly more painful and certainly revelatory in the degree of dependence I have upon my main digital device – deprivation from which was quite like, I suspect, being denied a necessary medication upon which one has become dependant for functioning. In other words, unpleasant.

While I was somewhat disconnected from the digital universe, the universe itself continued on…

Chelsea Clinton got married to her long time beau, Mark Mezvinsky, on Saturday in the lovely Hudson Valley hamlet of Rhinebeck, an event I noticed mostly because my Friday train home crawled out from Rhinecliff Station [Amtrak stop for Rhinebeck]. The train tracks apparently run directly along the edges of the estate where they were married and there was concern some luckless paparazzi would lose his or her footing while crawling on the embankments over the tracks and end up on them rather than above them.

Vastly more important than the Clinton wedding was the leak of tens of thousands of secret Afghan documents by Wikileaks.org, a website devoted to, well, leaks… From what I’ve cleaned, it is a site run by volunteers, 1200 around the world, and led by a man named Julian Assange, a former hacker out of Australia. They didn’t uncover the information; they simply published it. The actual whistleblower is suspected to be a 22-year old soldier who allegedly smuggled classified information out of his office disguised as Lady Gaga albums. He then provided them to Wikileaks and then Wikileaks made an alliance with the New York Times, the U.K.’s Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel and the rest is history…

Secretary Gates has questioned the morality of what they have done – names were named and it is possible, perhaps even highly likely, there will be reprisals. The leaked documents raise the question of whether or not the Pakistanis are working with us or against us. Apparently the documents can be read either way. The Administration points out, perhaps futilely, that the documents are all at least two years old, all 80,000 of them. What they do, it seems, is provide a history of the Afghan War, a long and bitter fight from which we are far from finished.

They are also a testament to the changes being wrought by the technology we utilize; thousands of documents can find their place in the sun with a single keystroke, igniting controversy and providing more information than we would have been able to obtain in another age, all because someone seemed to be using Lady Gaga for cover…