Posts Tagged ‘Matthew Tombers’

Letter From Claverack 11 27 2018 Thanksgiving thoughts…

November 27, 2017


            This year I took on the responsibility for preparing Thanksgiving dinner, to be served at the home of my friends, Larry and Alicia, with six other guests.  After cooking for two days, I loaded all the food into the Prius and followed the most level roads from my house to Alicia’s and Larry’s home.  My menu, which I printed, is below:

Thanksgiving Dinner

November 23, 2017

Hors D’oeuvres

With cocktails, champagne and wine

Selection of cheeses & crackers


Radishes with butter and kosher salt


Pumpkin Soup a la Jacques Pepin

Main Course


Rubbed in spices


Brown bread dressing

Rice and Mushroom Dressing

Traditional Bread Dressing


Sweet Potatoes

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Mashed White Potatoes

Smashed Russet Potatoes with skins


Honey Glazed Carrots

Haricot Vert with sage butter sauce

Freshly baked multigrain bread




With musical merry making in the parlor

Led by

Lionel J White

            As I was very carefully driving, with pots, pans and containers rattling in the back of my car, I was listening to NEPR, New England Public Radio, and they switched to a story of a town just outside of Damascus, under siege by Assad’s forces for two years.  Children were eating garbage and there wasn’t even much of that.

So, I drove to my friends’ home, thinking of the bounty in my car and the stark contrast there was to the scene being described in Syria.  It is days later and I am still processing that story and the contrasts in the world and, as my friend, Medora, said this morning, you probably will be until you die.

We live in a world of contrasts and contradictions.

Yesterday, as I usually do on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, I set up my Christmas tree, while listening to Christmas Carols ordered up from my Amazon Echo.  Alexa, play holiday music!



It is a world of wonder and a world of hard contrasts, of political acrimony and discord and it is just less than a month to Christmas and I am heading into this most wonderful of seasons [for me], determined to enjoy the bounty I have been given and to seriously think of how I can address the inequities that exist in my world, knowing I will be confounded by them until I die.


Letter From Claverack 07 08 2017 Tornado Weather

July 9, 2017

Summer Dusk Sky Thunderstorm Silhouette Clouds


The sky yellow with

Whipping wind, dust stinging my face.


We called this tornado weather

Back home.


When I was young,

Sat an evening

On the steps of the house

called home.


The sky like this.


The ruby lipped neighbor,

Our local harlot,

Drew deeply on her cigarette, looked up and

Declared tornado weather.


Sagely, mother nodded as father

Cupped his hands to light his own smoke.


Before dawn, tornadoes came

Ripping roofs north of us.


Nights like this,

They’re familiar, frightening.


Letter From Claverack 05 07 2017 It was a dark and stormy night…

May 7, 2017

“It was a dark and stormy night,” is the much-parodied opening line of Bulwer-Lytton’s novel, “Paul Clifford.”  But it was a dark and stormy night Friday night in Columbia County; wind whipped, too.  Around 4 in the afternoon, the wind blew out the power as I was running errands to prep for a dinner party I was giving that evening.

Knowing that National Grid might not meet their expectation that power would return by 5:30, I made a quick detour and bought a dozen candles.  It was a wise investment; power only returned at about four on Saturday.  There were a half dozen of us, who dined, bathed by candlelight, looking our best.  In her later years, Madame du Pompadour only allowed herself to be seen by candlelight.  She was wise.

Martinis were ready in a pitcher and we toasted our decision not to cancel dinner.  We managed to not discuss politics [an increasingly difficult thing to avoid]; we laughed and since there was no background music, it was the sound of our voices which danced through the night.  It seemed as if we were in the first half of the 19th century or doing glamourous glamping in our own time.

We made the evening work.  It was magic.

When I woke Saturday, a tree from the opposite bank had fallen into the creek and the morning air thrummed with the sounds of neighbors’ generators as there was no power.  Out of habit, I asked Alexa for the weather and was met by stony silence.  We were cut off.  From each other.


Eventually, I did my morning errands.  The Post Office lot was crowded with folks discussing what they had suffered during the night and driving into town, one home had lost five trees.  Farther down, a great old pine had been uprooted, never to again be adorned by Christmas lights.

The Farmer’s Market was sparsely populated by vendors, most probably at home dealing with the storm’s effects.  I realized there was little I could buy as it might all go bad before power returned.  National Grid was estimating now that it would be about midnight on Saturday.

In an interesting way today, when I was at the Post Office, looking around at the klatches of men talking, and it was all men, I felt I was looking at a scene in “Midsomer Murders,” a British mystery series that started in 1997 and is still going.  The village was gathering at the Post Office to talk about the storm.

It made me feel like I was a part of a community.  A little like the community Jessica Fletcher had in “Murder, She Wrote.” Except we’re not in Maine and we don’t have as much death as Jessica encountered in her little town in Maine.

With my batteries now exhausted on all my toys, I ensconced myself at the far end of the bar at the Red Dot, close to an outlet, and charged my laptop and phone.  And had superb Eggs Benedict on potato latkes with a side of American bacon.  Totally, totally decadent.  If in Hudson on a weekend day, indulge yourself.  The Red Dot’s Mark makes the most succulent Eggs Benedict this side of paradise and, at this point in life, I have had a bunch.  And when I am on the other side, I want to know I can order his up whenever I want.  Please God.

Do you notice how I am avoiding anything substantive?

Sometimes you just have to do that.  Give yourself a little breathing space in all the craziness.

Because it is crazy out there.

It is just unbelievable to me.  Whenever I look at the news, I just go:  WTF.

So, I have taken a moment to not worry.  To celebrate my life and the joys I experience on a daily basis, knowing I must return to the dialogue soon.


Letter From Claverack 04 30 2017 Without hope, we have nothing…

May 1, 2017

It is a Sunday evening at the cottage.  Jazz is playing, the lights splash the creek.  I have made myself a martini.  It was a typical Sunday, up early, read the NY Times and a few articles from the WSJ online before the shower and then off to church, where I did the readings and then coffee hour, errands before settling at the Dot for a long and lazy brunch, reading more off my phone and chatting with a few people, home to the cottage, put away laundry, got the trash together and sat down to write.


Very hygge.

Because I need the steady rhythm of familiar things in this Age of Trump.

His aides were caught off guard when he extended an invitation to President Duterte of the Philippines to come visit him during a Saturday call.  If you haven’t been following it, President Duterte has been accused of extra-judicial killings in that country’s current “drug war.” Now those surprised aides are preparing for an avalanche of criticism as it’s hard to find a world leader disliked as much as Duterte by pretty much everyone.

Then, after unleashing a problem for everyone around him, Mr. Trump jetted off to Harrisburg, PA for a campaign style rally to “record breaking crowds,” where he railed to his supporters about the media which was, at the same time, roasting him in DC, even if he was not there.  In two events, the official White House Correspondents’ Dinner and the Samantha Bee hosted “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” withered the sitting President, the first to have missed this event since 1981, when Ronald Reagan was recuperating from an assassin’s attack.

I wake up in the morning and find I am in a state of continuing bemusement in what is going on in Washington.  It is reality television, which is what we should have expected when we elected a reality television star to the Presidency.  With Reagan, we had an actor who knew how to deliver his lines.  There aren’t really “lines” in reality television.  There is direction but no script.  We have a President who is making up his script as he goes along, knowing he knows better than everyone else.  Even if he doesn’t.

The WSJ, a deeply conservative publication, to which I now subscribe, seems to be wanting to support him and just can’t find a way not to point out that it’s all a little…off.

And it is more than a little off.

Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff, said the White House was looking at ways of changing the libel laws to make it easier to for Trump to sue media organizations who criticize him.  Imagine how the Democrats responded to that, not to mention many Republicans?  Not pretty.  Do we not remember the First Amendment?  Or is Trump being inspired by Erdogan of Turkey who has been arresting thousands of people he suspects of being disloyal while cracking down on the press?  Cracking down makes it sound nice.  He is dismantling any vocal opposition to him.

One thing we should note is that the economy grew at the slowest rate in three years in the first quarter of Trump.   Maybe it’s a holdover from Obama or maybe it’s the fear of Trump.

We are in a political Wild West except in this Wild West we have nuclear weapons.

It’s a dark time in American democracy and we need to remember, in this “of the moment” world in which we live, this has not been the only dark time in American democracy.  We had the Civil War, dark time.  We survived Andrew Jackson, a really, really not nice President [who, by the way, our current President seems to identify with].

We will, God willing, live through this.

In the meantime, I will play jazz.  I will drink martinis.  I will write and I will hope, because without hope we have nothing.



Letter From Claverack 04 26 2017 Surviving a bad emperor…

April 27, 2017

It’s been a busy day.  At 5:30 the alarms starting going off as today is Wednesday, the day I do my morning show on WGXC and I need the time to be good when I go on air.   Once I was a morning person, when I lived in LA and worked for New York based companies and had to be up to catch New Yorkers.

Mornings were always best because after lunch, particularly in the early 1980’s, was not a good time.  The three martini lunch was slowly fading but not yet gone.  It was an early lesson in my career.

So, for most of the time I lived in LA, I was up about the time dawn was cracking so I could catch people before I lost them.  It won me many friends and a few who wished I would sleep longer so that I wasn’t around to harass them.

The memories I have of that time are quite fond.

Knowing myself, I am up early on the day I do my show so that I am fully functioning by the time I reach the station around 8, letting myself in, sipping coffee and getting organized.  I want to be at my best.

Today, I was pretty good, if I say so myself.  The first interview was with Brenda Adams, Executive Director for Columbia County Habitat for Humanity and the President of their board, Peter Cervi.  It went well.  They are having an event which they were there to publicize and I also wanted people to know about all the other good things they are doing, including helping people remain in their homes as opposed to having to go to a nursing home.

That was followed by an interview with an environmental journalist, Susan Zakin, which was good and funny and fun.  She is appalled by what Trump is doing.

Which brings us to our unpredictable President, Donald Trump.  It is dizzying to me and disturbing to me as I can’t seem to find a coherence to what is going on though I am not sure why I am surprised by that.  He hasn’t been, to me, coherent from the beginning.

And now he is President.

He, the President, announced today a reform to the tax code. Details to follow.  No one I’ve read today seems to “grok” it.

He signed an Executive Order today that potentially takes away protection from something like 24 national monuments.  Why?

Trump summoned the whole Senate to the White House to brief them on North Korea.  No real reports on what was revealed though some Senators said they came out of the meeting “sobered.” Though it seems diplomacy is being chosen rather military action.

A long time ago, there was a remake of “On the Beach,” a story of nuclear destruction.  In the remake, the President of the United States ordered a nuclear strike on China and it resulted in the end of human life on earth.

That haunts me right now.

North Korea is playing with fire and we’re playing with North Korean fire.  It worries me how this will turn out.

Look, I am in the last act of my life and if the world blows up, I’ve had the best of it.  And I think about the children who were playing at OMI, an art center, I visited last week.  There was such delightful young life in that room.

I think that should be protected.

Look, ladies and gentleman, the Roman Empire went through a number of really bad Emperors so I am hoping we can get through a really bad President.

Less than a hundred days out, I think he is a bad President, dangerous, more so than “W” who I thought was a bad President and dangerous.  He gave us the morass of the Middle East.

And now it is later at night, the lights are on the creek, Nina Simone is playing on Echo and I am moving toward bed in my freshly cleaned home.

The lights are on and I am looking at the creek, flowing on, hopefully forever.

Earlier, as I was settling in, I looked out my window and saw my hedgehog sniffling around the house, looking for food.  And its presence gave me hope.

The world is changing and the hedgehogs remain, constant against change.  A part of life…