Posts Tagged ‘Mary Jo Kopechne’

Letter From Claverack 07 20 2017 Written from the “land of off…”

July 20, 2017

Edgartown harbor shimmers below me; boats bob at anchor on a quiet, very warm afternoon on Martha’s Vineyard – the warmest day I have experienced in the half dozen or so summers I have visited the island.  Seated in the shade, with a soft wind blowing off the water, it is tolerable though earlier today most people seemed intent on finding air conditioning, crowding cool restaurants and shops.


Last year I was here to help with my friends’ bookstore, Edgartown Books.  This year, I am here for just a week, to relax, read, relax some more, eat, perhaps sail a bit with my friends, eat, relax, sip a martini, read, a wonderful and undemanding rhythm; my friend Jeffrey calls it “the land of off.”

Reading was too wearying for me and I went to my room and promptly napped, waking just in time for a conference call.

Sadie, one of the two Bernese mountain dogs who live here, is recovering from back surgery, making slow and steady improvement from a bad fall some months ago.  Every day, she has water therapy in the pool.


Far above me, a bi-plane circles, taking sightseers on an aerial tour of the island.  It is soft, bucolic and very, very far from the madding crowd.

Which is why it is very nice, in these strange times, to be in “the land of off.”  The amount of news consumed is less.  Last year, the kitchen television played CNN.  This year, old movies run constantly.  In the background of my morning coffee, “The Great Race” played, starring Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis.

Finishing a trifle of a murder mystery by a woman who seems to knock off a book a month, I felt content with little demanded of me.

An exegesis of political affairs is a shade depressing, to make mild of a situation now more astounding by the day.

Donald Trump, Jr. is being described as a “good boy,” a “nice young man” though he is scraping forty and has five children.  It is a time honored American defense used by the Kennedys when Teddy drove off a bridge not far from where I sit and a young woman died, Mary Jo Kopechne, lest we forget her name.  It is a time-honored defense for American men though not for women.  Ponder that.

Railing to the New York Times, Donald Trump, has declared he would never have offered Jeff Sessions the job of Attorney General if he had known he would recuse himself from the Russian investigation.  Sessions has said, post Trump’s remarks, he’ll stay as long as “it’s appropriate.”  Geez, I don’t know if I would stay when I knew I wasn’t wanted, especially so publicly unwanted.

Today, at noon, Trump celebrated the six-month mark in office.  You make your own decision on how well he has done.  We are one eighth of the way through his Presidency.

In Palos Verde, CA, forty-one-year old Chester Bennington, lead singer of the group Linkin Park, was found dead, an apparent suicide, succumbing to the demons he was open about but could not, it seems, master.  Rest in peace.

Twenty-two years ago, I was in Australia when OJ Simpson was acquitted of murdering his wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman.  Today he was granted parole from a prison sentence resulting from an armed robbery.  He should be released in October.

Seeking comfort, I watch the newest season of “Midsomer Mysteries” and anticipate the return of “The Last Tycoon,” starring Matt Bomer and Kelsey Grammer, about a movie studio in the 1930’s, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last, unfinished novel.

It seems no wonder to me, we are immersing ourselves in some of the best television in history; we need escape, diversion and pleasure from a world that is more than untidy.

So, I sit, on my friends’ deck, watching boats bob at anchor or scud across the bay, with birds chirping while Sadie is ministered to, the future feels far, far away and the present oh so pleasant.

Letter From New York

September 4, 2009

A tale of two towns…

Or – as it seems to me…

September 4, 2009

Much of America paused this past Saturday to watch or listen to some of, if not all, of the funeral service for Edward Moore Kennedy, aka Ted Kennedy, Senior Senator from Massachusetts, the last of the fabled Kennedy brothers and the last male of that Kennedy generation –a bridge to the Camelot years – in other words, someone who was, pretty much, a living legend. He was the only Kennedy brother to live deep into adulthood, the others dead young, this one dying, hopefully peacefully, of natural causes – the only one of the four brothers to do so – male siblings felled violently in war or by assassins.

His brother Joe died a war hero; his brother Jack was the assassinated President and Bobby the martyred politician of such fierce promise. Teddy was the one who seemed to be getting his hand caught in the cookie jar of life – at least when he was younger. He seemed a bit of a charming n’er do well, then forever marked by his handling of the Chappaquiddick accident that claimed the life of Mary Jo Kopechne. That incident almost cost him the authoritative voice the Kennedy name and the iconic weight of his siblings granted him. Later he emerged as a statesman, the lion of the American Senate who was able to get legislation passed, pulling foes together for a common good.

He was a large man, florid, his face marked by the excesses of his life, eloquent, determined, witty, and close to the emotional rawness that comes with loss. I only encountered him in person once, long ago, when he delivered a eulogy for a friend’s cousin. The cousin had been a wealthy man, gay, and an AIDS activist who succumbed to the disease in the years just before the cocktail granted life extension to thousands. I don’t recall the words Kennedy said; I do recall they were inspiring and full of meaning, providing comfort to the family. One came away with the feeling that a lifetime of grieving gave him a gateway into that particular experience.

Perhaps that is what we remember most about Ted Kennedy and why we forgave him his trespasses; he buried so many and so many of us grieved with him over his losses. He was so eloquent in eulogizing Bobby that his words regarding his brother will continue to echo as long as Bobby is remembered. We will remember Teddy, as we will all Kennedy brothers, for their words, well chosen and eloquent, delivered with an elegance that has always seemed more European than American.

The Kennedy family seemed quintessentially American while at the same time sophisticated in an almost un-American way – they seemed to lack the rough edges of most of us. Uncharacteristically, the American nation forgave, eventually, the Kennedys their elegance and even began to emulate it and embrace it. That was part of the Kennedy magic – they could and did win us over. Teddy probably should have lost the love of the public. The Kennedy charm would not have been enough if he had not risen above his flaws. Once he shook the expectation that somehow he should be President, he devoted himself to becoming a skilled Senator, learning the job and performing it well. Tempered by all the tragedy he endured, he not only empathized, he acted upon his empathy. Each Massachusetts family that suffered a loss during 9/11 received a phone call from Kennedy, with follow-ups as necessary. If he knew you and you suffered loss, he would reach out. His strength in life was formed by his ability to survive and endure loss. When others experienced it, he reached out across the sad gulf that is grief to comfort.

His flaws were many, his politics unapologetically liberal [truly the last of a breed], his character suspect early on and almost universally admired later. He endured the tragedies visited upon him by both fate and the flaws of his own character, seeking redemption in hard good work for what he saw as the public good. May he rest in peace, at last.