Posts Tagged ‘Mathew’

Letter From New York 01 18 2016 Hotel California to present day travails….

January 19, 2016

Minnesota Los Angeles Fred Pinkard Rocky II Ron Bernstein Adagio Nik Buian The Eagles Glenn Frey  Hotel California Paul Krich David Bowie Donald Trump British Parliament about Trump Martin Luther King Day JFK RFK Nazis Genocide

In the long ago and far away, I left Minnesota and ended up in Los Angeles.  Volunteering at a theater as an usher, I met Fred Pinkard, an African American actor who guest starred in television shows and was in Rocky II; never famous but almost always working. 

I needed work and he put me together with Ron Bernstein who owned Adagio, a little “Cafe California” kind of restaurant down the street from Paramount.  As a favor to Fred, Ron hired me.  I was not good.  I was actually going to be fired.  I could feel it. 

Staying up half the night one night, I kept thinking about it and worked out a system.  The next day everyone on the staff gathered round me at the end of my shift and asked:  what happened?  I had worked out a system.  I went from being the worst to the best.  

Late at night after all the customers had left, Nik Buian, the manager and I, would crank up the music system and pull out all the bottles of wine that had been left behind with something in them.  We’d drink them, talk about life and fold napkins for the next day, sometimes to four in the morning.

We’d listen to The Eagles non-stop.  They were his favorite and I can never hear “Hotel California” without thinking of those nights with Nik, folding napkins, learning about wines and sharing good times with a good friend.

Eagles founder Glenn Frey died today at 67.  Not much older than I am. 

I am surrounded by mortality this week.  Wednesday I will be giving a eulogy for my friend Paul, much of it written but in need of a bit of burnishing.  My friend Paul, David Bowie, Glenn Frey and I now find I am at the time of my life when friends are beginning to go and it is sobering.

Life is sobering.  As I am sitting in my dining room the world is full of all kinds of travails. I know that and am frustrated because I can do so little to change any of it.

This morning I had a conversation with an old work friend who confessed to me how scared he is about this coming election.  No one appeals to him; they all frighten him and he will vote based on which one frightens him less.

This is not good. It seems worse than the choice between the lesser of two evils.

Extraordinarily there was a debate in Parliament today about whether to ban Donald Trump from the UK because of “hate speech.”  Now it is the purview of the Home Secretary to ban someone from the UK but it was an extraordinary opportunity for the Brits to weigh in on the American election process.  One member of Parliament described Trump as “an idiot.”

He is far from that.  He is manipulative, decisive and pandering.  He is bringing out the worst of us.  He reminds me of the crass politicians of ancient Rome and that’s not good.

What is good is that today is Martin Luther King Day and we are remembering an extraordinary man who changed the fabric of American life. He taught black Americans to move beyond their fears and called to white Americans to be the best they could be.  When he died I was but a boy and already reeling from the death of JFK.  His death and that of RFK mangled my mind, probably for the rest of my life.  I still reverberate with all those deaths from the ’60’s when I was young and realizing the world for the first time, making my first realizations of what life was about and what life seemed to be about in those days was killing.

And it hasn’t changed.  We have not had many high profile murders as those but we have fallen into the grinding news of killings on a daily basis all over the world, killing that is disgusting, motivated by twisted religious beliefs as the Nazis twisted people into genocide.

Letter From Martha’s Vineyard 08 18 15 A good day, a good sail…

August 19, 2015

As I begin this, I am sitting in Terminal 5 at JFK, waiting for the short flight from here to Martha’s Vineyard. In front of me, I am facing an iPad, from which I have just ordered a latte and on which I can check the status of my flight, though that shouldn’t be necessary as I am right at the gate. I am surrounded by people of a myriad of backgrounds and speaking a variety of languages.

Terminal 5, which services Jet Blue, feels a little bit out of a science fiction film; we could all be waiting for flights to the stars. But we’re not, we’re waiting to go to domestic and international destinations, people laughing and enjoying, caught in the pleasure of departure and arrival.

A kind young man delivered me my latte and then circled back to make sure all was well with it.

I am continuing my binge reading of the “Roma Sub Rosa” series by Steven Saylor, up to number eight or nine now, I think, out of twelve. I downloaded two more last night to tide me over, coming and going from the Vineyard as well as reading time on the island.

Perusing the New York Times this morning, it now appears that Donald Trump has a commanding lead among Republicans. Ad Age yesterday had an article that stated Trump was JUST what television needed; his polarizing personality will revitalize viewing and boost ratings. He has boasted that he is “a TV ratings magnet.” And it is apparently too true…

As I finished typing the above sentence, they called my flight and I am now on the Vineyard, having just returned from a two-hour sail and having showered to get all the salt water off me.

The wind was good; we made twenty knots at one point and were thoroughly doused at more than one point. It was great fun.

A humanoid robot went for a walk through the woods today. I hope there were warnings out that he was coming. He looked a bit frightening to anyone just stumbling upon him.

22 were killed and 120, at least, injured in a bombing in Bangkok at a Hindu shrine. CCTV footage has police looking for a man in a yellow T-shirt and black-rimmed glasses. One minute he has a backpack; the next he doesn’t.

The world is tripping on, violent as ever. There are lots of trials going on of police officers all over the country for homicide, something like five of them right now.

Greece is stumbling through two crises. One is their financial one and the other is the flood of immigrants striving to make it to the island of Kos from Turkey. It has been overwhelming resources in that already battered country.

Out the window is Edgartown Harbor. The sun is beginning to set and I must leave you tonight to go meet my friends and see what dinner plans we have. Or take a book and read. It’s been a lovely day for me; may it have been for you too.

Letter From New York 03 26 15 Second Day in India, at Humayun’s Tomb

March 26, 2015

It is said that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun. I must either be a mad dog or an Englishman as I was out in the noonday sun in Delhi. It was a lazy morning and I slept in later than I intended; I couldn’t seem to roust myself from sleep. After a leisurely cup of coffee and some email work, my friend, Raja, sent his driver Emmanuel for me to take me out sightseeing.

Emmanuel doesn’t have much English. An Indian native, he is a 7th Day Adventist. He did understand Qutub Minar and we drove there through the noonday traffic. Once I had purchased my ticket, I was approached by a guide who would take me through the site; the cost was 300 Rupees, about $5. I thought: why not.? His name was, I think, Parbal.

Qutub Minar is the site of Delhi’s oldest mosque. Qutub Minar is the minaret built to call the faithful to prayer. It is a magnificent edifice and a World Heritage Site. Built of red sandstone and marble, it towers to 73 meters. Its construction started in the late 12th century and was finished in the mid 14th century. The entire complex was amazing and Parbal took me through it, step by step for about 90 minutes.

There is an iron pillar in the midst of the complex. It predates the Qutub Minar and it was said that if you held your arms around it backwards, your wish would be granted. It is now fenced off. I was annoyed. I have a couple of wishes I’d like granted.

From there, I went to Humayun’s Tomb. Humayun was a 16th Century Mughal Emperor who inherited a kingdom, lost it and then got it back with help from the Persians. While not a good military strategist, he was a very good man, which earned him the title of “Perfect Man” among the Mughals.

He had several rascally brothers who kept betraying him and he kept forgiving them, several times over in the course of his lifetime. By the end of his life, he had recovered his empire and expanded it. His son was Akbar the Great.

It was the first garden tomb in India, surrounded as it is by acres of gardens, threaded through with narrow water channels and dotted here and there with fountains. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1993 and has since then undergone much restoration. It was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.

I visited it twenty years ago and attest that it is definitely in better shape than it was then.

As Emmanuel drove me through the streets of Delhi, I realized another change in the city. There are fewer homeless crowding the boulevards. Twenty years ago when you left the manicured gardens of the Oberoi Hotel, you were immediately thrust onto a boulevard crowded with rough tents and hundreds of people living there. Not so today.

Stopping for a bite to eat in a little brasserie, I watched a bit of the big Cricket match, not that I could make much sense of it. Everyone else was enraptured by the proceedings, not caring about anything else.

But while I was sleeping and touring, the world kept ticking on.

The Sunni Saudis are bombing the Shia rebels in Yemen and have amassed 150,000 troops to be used if they need them. The paper left at my door here at the India International Center, had a front-page report about the Yemeni President fleeing his home.

In a confusing and disturbing report, it appears one pilot was locked out of the cockpit at the time of the Germanwings crash in the Alps. The voice recorder reveals the pilot knocking on the door lightly and then pounding on it and then trying to break it down.

The military is going to charge Bowe Bergdahl with desertion, bringing, once again, into question the prisoner exchange that secured his release.

The US has now been asked by Iraq to send airstrikes in support of the effort to liberate Tikrit, where the offensive has stalled. It started doing so while I was asleep last night.

In Mosul, continuing their winning ways, IS stoned to death a couple in their 20’s for adultery and beheaded three young men because they were nephews of an opponent. Residents of Mosul are urging the Iraqi government to rescue them.

The sun is beginning to set outside the window of my room. A soft light is signaling the beginning of the end of the day. In awhile, my friend Raja will come and we will go off to dinner.

Letter From New York 02 25 15 Things Pleasant and Unpleasant

February 25, 2015

It is a bright, sunny afternoon outside. Temperatures have soared to 39 today, making this the warmest day in quite awhile. The sky is a soft blue, tinged with a few soft white clouds.

Freshly back from my dentist, I have sparkling teeth from my semi-annual cleaning, a process they know I dread. In my adolescence, I was outfitted with braces by Dr. McMengele, an orthodontist who seemed to delight in tightening my braces every week, a torture I still remember vividly. It’s why I had such a time watching the dentist scene in THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, if anyone remembers that.

So, thankfully, my current dentist treats me very gently. She is a firm believer in that there should be NO discomfort. I like that.

But it is not a comfortable world right now, is it? We are coming up on Friday when the Department of Homeland Security faces defunding. Because almost all of them are considered “essential” they will keep working, without pay. Not particularly good for morale, I suspect. Mitch McConnell is attempting a solution but the House Republicans seem to be on the edge of rejecting it. Tomorrow, we will see what happens.

Today, in Miami, Obama is giving a speech on immigration to a largely Hispanic audience, hoping to score public relations points even as a Texas court has put a stay on his Executive Order regarding immigration. Presumably, in this speech, Obama will lay out his next legal steps to see his order carried out, promising a breather for millions who are living under the threat of deportation.

In other political news in the States, Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, did not earn enough votes to avoid a runoff election for another term as Mayor. He is facing Jesus Garcia, who won 34% of the vote to Mr. Emmanuel’s 45%. Mr. Garcia, from Durango in Mexico, had strong support for public school teachers and minorities. This will be an interesting race to watch. Mr. Emmanuel will be a fierce opponent. Once Obama’s Chief of Staff, he is an accomplished and focused politician.

The FCC is likely to adopt utility style rules to ensure “net neutrality,” eliminating the possibility of pay-to-play fast lanes on the Internet. It is intended to prevent abuse by Internet service providers, generally the cable companies.

Next week, Israel’s Prime Minister is coming to Washington to address Congress. He is expected to denounce the negotiations that are going on with Iran regarding its nuclear capabilities. Susan Rice, National Security Adviser, has called the visit “destructive” to Israel/US relations. That’s the strongest words yet from the White House side regarding the upcoming, protocol-breaking visit.

When Netanyahu is in town, the President will not be seeing him. Vice President Biden will be in Central America and John Kerry will be negotiating with the Iranians. Netanyahu tried to set up a meeting with Senate Democrats but they have turned him down.

I am sure House Republicans will give him a rousing welcome.

In a nervous Paris, drones have been spotted flying around important spots, like the Eiffel Tower, during the last two nights. Their source remains a mystery and a concern.

Yesterday, the Reverend Phyllis Sortor of the Free Methodist Church was abducted in Nigeria. Today a ransom of $300,000 was demanded for her return. The suspicion is that this is not an act of Boko Haram but bears the signature of other kidnappings for money that have taken place all over Nigeria.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, charged with monitoring the Ukrainian Truce, is asking for help. Some have been held hostage, one had his car blown up and one of their four drones was shot down. Russia says it will help with radar and drones. We’ll wait and see.

Ah, the sun is beginning to set, a soft golden yellow glow is filling the western horizon, and the sun is a dazzling orb above the treetops along Riverside. I must prepare. I am attending NOT NOW DARLING, a play being put on by a theater club in New York, and a friend is appearing in it. Everyone attending must dress up. I won’t get in without a coat and tie.   Goodness knows when the last time was I wore a tie!

Letter From New York 01 02 15 A week ends in a New Year…

January 2, 2015

The day dawned drab and dreary here in Claverack, a grey day, the kind that made you want to roll over and bury your head in your pillow. Grabbing my teddy bear to my chest, I did just that, the boy in me not wanting to face the day. But not long later, I was up and had my morning coffee and had a good hour perusing the New York Times.

The news today was filled with yesterday’s passing of Mario Cuomo, father of the current Governor of New York and a former Governor of the State himself. He was a big man who filled the rooms he was in and flirted with running for the Presidency more than once.

When he was Governor, I was always aware of who he was even though I wasn’t living in New York then. He died, interestingly enough, only hours after his son, Andrew, was sworn in for his second term as Governor of the State of New York.

He was a staunch voice for the liberal side of the Democratic Party, often stymied in his plans for the State by the dire finances New York endured when he was first elected. He served three terms, went into the private practice of law after being defeated by George Pataki in his fourth attempt for the office, became wealthy and watched his children grow into politicians and newscasters. Chris Cuomo of CNN is another son.

The day did not stay grey and in the early afternoon, the wonderful golden light that blesses the Hudson Valley showed and transformed the landscape. The deer crossed my yard.

Earlier in the day, I went out and walked the circle upon which I live with my friend Lionel. A squirrel perched on a tree branch, so steady as to seem a statue. We noticed trees that had been uprooted by some wind event in the last two weeks, including a birch tree in his yard and an oak in his neighbors.

We live on a circle, Patroon Street, a scattering of a dozen houses on lots from one to four acres, broad and spacious with scatterings of trees and wild overgrowth. During the summers I cannot see my neighbors as my two acres is all woods except for the clearing where the cottage stands. On the east side of my property is the Claverack Creek and on the other side there are only wild woodlands. Behind the northern edge of my little universe is a long open field belonging to a farm. Once when traipsing across my “back forty” I encountered a cow that had wandered onto my land.

There has been much stability here since I moved here thirteen plus years ago. I am sure that to all of us who live here, Rosemary’s Cottage will always be Rosemary’s Cottage even though she has passed and it has been sold, gutted and is being rebuilt by a couple up from the city.

Tonight’s sky is tinged with pink. What’s that saying? Red sky at night, sailor’s delight? If true, we will have a gentle day tomorrow. I have loved being here this fall and winter, having time to notice the rhythms and pacing of my little world.

The New Year begins. I will have more to pay attention and will probably be spending more time in the city than I have but probably less than I was. It will be an interesting thing to see how the New Year plays out.

Every Friday, I have a conversation with two friends who live in California, whom I have known now for twenty plus years, Medora and Meryl. When I met Medora she was Vice President of Development for USA Network and Meryl was about to become the Chairwoman of the Television Academy.

We gather by phone on Friday to support each other in life. Each of us shares and each of us supports and it has been a blessing. We have been doing this since early in 2001 and it is one of the constants of my life.

When we were talking today, I was realizing how blessed I am to have this ongoing support group. Exactly how we started is now lost in the mists of time but it is a great joy for me to stop for half an hour each week and share the joys and tribulations of the past week with two people who have known me so long and so well.

The sun fades. The barren trees stand stark against the light. The deer are now coming back across the land. A week ends. All is well in Claverack.

Letter From New York December 9, 2014 Not unlike the folks at Downton Abbey

December 9, 2014

I am on the train, plowing south, toward the city. Outside there is an ice storm, making streets treacherous. Deciding caution was the better part of valor, I called a taxi to take me to the station. The Prius isn’t great when the roads are icy. Once I slid through the intersection at the end of the road, straight to the other side. I was lucky.

A kind man picked me up. Turns out he had been coached in football by my late neighbor, Hank Fonda. We talked about him for a while; the goodness I knew in him was underscored by what my driver told me: Hank had kept him out of a lot of trouble when he was young.

Tonight, there is an event in celebration of Downton Abbey at the Hudson Theater in New York; if it weren’t for the fact I had snagged a ticket, I wouldn’t be going into the city but would be cozying up to the Franklin Stove, listening to Christmas Carols and doing Christmas cards.

That’s a lot of what’s on my agenda for the next few days. I am mostly prepped for Christmas with only a few things left to order, mostly food baskets for those far and away.

It feels like a particularly well-organized Christmas this year, perhaps because I have more time on my hands than usual. I woke this morning feeling quite the country gentleman. Not sure why. Perhaps it was because the day could start lazily with good strong coffee and a perusal of the Times.

Once the things that needed doing were done, I showered, shaved and prepped for going down to town. To my great surprise, all the trains have been running on time. Often ice is worse than snow for them.

This brand of weather is likely to continue for the next few days with a break finally coming at the weekend. I’ll be doing a lot of homebound things I suspect tomorrow when I get back to Claverack, all the way through to the weekend. It’s not very safe on the roads and I think I’ll be living on what’s in the cupboards as opposed to making trips to the Price Chopper, which is about to get a new name, more upscale, better to position themselves against the behemoth down the road, Walmart.

Tonight at the Downton Abbey event will be Hugh Bonneville [Lord Grantham], the actresses who play Lady Edith and Mrs. Patmore as well as Robert Collier-Young, who plays the scheming Thomas. There will be highlights from Season Five, which is to premiere next month.

It is amazing the cult like following that has surrounded the show. I know folks who have Downton Abbey parties, expecting guests to show up as one of the characters. Each premiere episode results in many a bottle of champagne being uncorked. We seem to be fascinated by the doings of the very, very upper crust Crawleys and the adventures of the dozens of minions who care for them downstairs.

Julian Fellowes, the writer of Downton Abbey, every episode, is to be commended on the richness of his writing and his careful depiction of class differentiators in that time.

When Downton Abbey began it was 1912, the new season brings us up to 1924. It will be interesting to see how the Crawleys and their staff deal with the 1920’s and the social changes that are beginning to shift the landscape beneath them.

Perhaps that’s why the program resonates, we, too, feel the landscape changing under our feet. If you are not a digital native, the world in which we live seems confusing, with old ways rapidly evolving into the new and unfamiliar.

Perhaps nowhere has this been more evident than in the world of media, a world in which I have been a denizen for many a year. Just this morning I read a report in which network television viewing has declined 11% year over year and even more among Millennials. It is a shattering decline for the status quo.

At the same time, SVOD viewing is rising [Subscription Video On Demand (think Netflix and Hulu)] rapidly.

Television content providers, ad agencies, cable distribution companies, networks, everyone is scrambling to adjust and to survive in a future they can barely see.

Not unlike the Crawleys.