Posts Tagged ‘Newtown’

Letter From New York 01 24 16 Thoughts while missing Snowmaggedon

January 24, 2016

Winter Storm Jonas  Columbia County  JFK Airport  The Red Dot  Transform Films  “Newtown”  Nick Stuart  The Donald  Iowa Caucuses  The Revenant Leonardo di Caprio  Star Wars  Jeff Bezos  Blue Origins

The coastline of the United States has been brutalized by Winter Storm Jonas.  I fled on Friday so that I could be at home when he/it hit.  However, strangely enough, not a flake of snow has fallen in Columbia County.  It has been cold with a bruising wind but nothing like the snow in the city.

JFK had 30 inches of snow on the runway with thousands of canceled flights.  My friend Larry was stranded in the city on the way to spend her birthday with his wife in Mexico.  My friend Jerry was on one of the last flights out before they shut the airport down.

And here we are, in great shape.  It was my intention to go to the city tomorrow afternoon and I think I won’t, giving New York a few more days to clean itself up before I head in.

Down in Washington, DC my nephew Kevin is part of a group of volunteers who are shoveling the walks of the elderly and shut-ins.  So like Kevin, which is one of the reasons I am so proud of him.

In one of the most tragic of storm related deaths, a good Samaritan pulled over to help a motorist who had slid off the road only to have the motorist shoot him to death.

Up early today, I prepped for class this week, went to church.

It is my habit these days to light candles at church for a variety of things — a friend in the UK who is fighting a brain tumor, another friend whose daughter is suffering from traumatic brain disorder, for myself, for the world in which live.  Today there was only one match and so I managed to light only one candle for all those things.

I started lighting candles as thanks and hope when I was in my early teens after an incident in which I nearly drowned.

Following church, I was off to the Dot where I sat doing lesson plans until I either had to order or not.  After Eggs Benedict on potato latkes, I headed home to do some more work.

One of the things I did was to log on to Twitter and follow #Transformfilmsinc.

Transform Films is premiering a film at Sundance this year, “Newtown.”  It follows the ravaging of lives that has occurred since the mass shooting there a little over three years ago.  Nick Stuart, my best friend, is Executive Producer.

As I type, they are screening.

As I grow older, I am aware how lucky I am and have been.  I have had Death nip at my heels a couple of times and am still here to tell the tale.  The loss of my friend Paul has been sobering and a reminder of my own mortality. 

It is the course of life.  None of us get out of here alive.

While I am here, I will continue to observe and to comment as best I can, savoring the ability to shape words to some meaning.

In the fireplace, a small fire is burning.  The dishwasher is running.  The flood lights illuminate the creek.  I have missed Snowmaggedon.

To my political amazement, Trump has gained 15 points in the last two weeks in Iowa.  The Donald is a juggernaut to be sure.

In film, everyone I know is talking up Leonardo di Caprio’s “The Revenant.”  So much so I feel I must see it sooner than later.  I am late to seeing “Star Wars.” I will, eventually but my passion for The Force has cooled.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, also has another company, Blue Origins.  It successfully sent up a rocket and had it return to land upright, successfully, twice now.  Pretty impressive, I think.  One more step to realizing the reach out to space.

One of the things that has saddened me in my life was that having once reached the moon, we seemed to stop striving.  Now it is Internet billionaires who are revitalizing the race to space.  Good for them.

Letter From New York 12 10 15 River ramblings…

December 10, 2015

Global warming. Todd Broder. Broderville. Uber. Trump. Goldwater. Lyndon Johnson.  West Point.  Penn Station. Moynihan Station. Grand Central. Union Station. “Newtown.” Odyssey Networks.

It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m riding north, leaving the city for the weekend.  It’s the 10th of December and the sky is bright and the temperature is hovering near 60 degrees.

Gallows humor jokes about global warming proliferate.  Burdened with things I am returning to the cottage, I got an Uber to take me to Todd’s office for a call. Chiek, my driver, and I discussed it most of the time between the apartment and office.

He just became an American citizen and so we talked about the election scene.  He said in the six years he has been in America, he’s never seen anything like it.  I must be twice as old as he and I’ve never seen anything like it either.

Trump barrels on, his foot firmly inserted in his mouth, a condition which does not seem to prevent him from topping the Republican polls.  As far as I can tell from newspaper accounts, Republicans are terrified of him and too terrified to do anything about him.

Some are saying that if he is nominated it will be the harbinger of a defeat of the magnitude of 1964, when Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson and was overwhelmingly defeated, taking down much of the party with him.

If that happens, there is a part of me that says they deserve it if they give the nomination to him.

The Republican circus is dismaying me.  And probably most other thinking adults…

We are gliding past West Point, the redoubt looking splendid in the afternoon sun as we move north.

When I got on the train today, I remarked to myself what a depressing place Penn Station is, especially when compared with Grand Central or Union Station in Washington DC.  Those places put a bit of pep in your feet while Penn grinds down the soul.

If I live long enough, they may eventually move train traffic from Penn across the street to what is now being called “Moynihan Station.”  Named after the late New York Senator, Daniel Moynihan, the new station will be forged from the old Post Office, designed by the same architect who built the original Penn, torn down in one of New York’s greatest moments of folly.

I woke up grumpy this morning and made a conscious choice to be happy, to enjoy the day – and I am.  Yesterday, a project I have been working on died with a whimper.

Yesterday, I was surrounded by friends and a dinner held by Odyssey for its Board and friends at which were shown clips from the films they are working on.  “Newtown” has been accepted into Sundance and The White House has asked to see their film on mass incarceration.  Much to celebrate.

But when I got home and the laughter passed, I took a little time to mourn my project, falling asleep wanting my teddy bear.

When I woke, the sadness was still hanging on me so I got a grip on myself and reminded myself that the sun had still risen, it was a remarkable weather day for the 10th of December, that other opportunities will come and there are other project joys to be found in the future.

Letter From New York 12 03 15 Avoiding past mistakes….

December 3, 2015

Claverack Cottage.  San Bernardino shootings. Domestic terrorism. Nick Stuart.  Newtown. Milwaukee.  Milwaukee 53208. Stephen Ambrose. IS. Radical Islam. World War II.

It is six o’clock.  The world beyond the cottage is dark after a day of grey and drizzle.  I went out only to do a few errands and spent most of the day at home, working on paperwork, prepping some things for my class in January, following up on some things.  It felt positive, moving through the endless amount of “paperwork” a life in the 21st century demands, even when most of it is digital.

The world has ticked on since I last wrote two days ago.  There was another shooting, in San Bernardino.  I thought about writing something on the train coming up from the city but I felt a bit punched in the gut by it all.

They are now working to determine if this was an act of domestic terrorism.  It might well have been.

My friend, Nick Stuart, and I met for a martini last night before my train.  He arrived ebullient. Just before he came to meet me, it was announced “Newtown,” a film he is Executive Producer of ,was accepted into Sundance.   Today he found out he is about to be a grandfather; his oldest daughter Rihannon is going to be having a baby in June.  We’ll celebrate more on Tuesday and Wednesday, both days I will be seeing him.

Some had told him that “Newtown” was an old subject and its time had past but given what has been happening it is more relevant than ever.  Today I read that there is a mass shooting of some kind on an average of once a day.

So “good on you” Nick, as my Aussie friends would say for having preserved with this project. 

Another one, on mass incarceration, which is nearing completion has been requested by the White House for a screening.  Who knew that Milwaukee had the highest number of prisoners per capita than any other city in America?  It is titled “Milwaukee 53208.”

The room is filled with the sounds of the ticking of a small grandfather’s clock.  It has been part of the background sound of my life since I was born.  It was on a shelf in the hall just beneath the stairs that went up to my bedroom.  Lately, I have been calling it the “heart of the house.”

It makes me feel like I am living in a soft womb of a house, comforted by the sound of a heartbeat.  It is part of what makes the cottage special.

I’m also doing laundry, a grounding task if ever there was one. 

I’m reading Stephen Ambrose’s history of World War II.  It’s a bit drier than I expected but gives a look into the horrors of that war.  As awful as it was, it reminded me that America and Canada were probably the only combatant countries that were not ravaged on the home front by the war.

It also has taught me how much the world and our country were changed by that conflict.

I am wondering how our world will be changed by the current conflict in which we find ourselves? 

Perhaps I am being a historical romantic but it feels as if we are living through another tipping point in history as we struggle with IS and radical Islam.

If the couple in San Bernardino were, indeed, domestic terrorists we face ongoing “Paris style” attacks and it will be a struggle to avoid mistakes of the past such as the encampment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Letter From New York 12 14 14 A grey and gloomy day on the road to Christmas

December 14, 2014

The light is beginning to fade here in the Hudson Valley; it has been a painfully grey day. Not once has been there a burst of sunlight to shatter the exterior bleakness. Christmas carols are playing and they sound dirge-like against this shadowy day. It has been a day to cuddle inside and to read, reflect and do interior things.

I am having friends for dinner so started the day making fresh asparagus soup and prepping things for dinner. When I finish writing this, I will move on to the kitchen and start the meal.

Today, I also started doing Christmas cards, a few, adding personal notes to folks I have not seen for a long time and for who Christmas is seemingly our sole touch point.

A Climate Treaty has been signed in Lima though it seems that while all agree few are enthused. Scientists, I read, feel it falls far short of the actions needed to curtail climate change while some nations feel it costs them too much.

Cheney, to no one’s great surprise, is highly critical of the Senate “Torture” Report. Jeb Bush is giving some indications he is considering a 2016 run for the Presidency. Certainly Rick Perry is prepping for the race. He’s getting some coaching and has declared that the run for the Presidency is NOT an IQ test.

The good news/bad news story of oil continues. It slipped beneath $60.00 a barrel, which caused prices up here to drop to under $3.00 a gallon but which also shaved 350 points off the Dow on Friday, making for a scary Wall Street ride.

Some folks are saying it could go down to $40.00 a barrel, which would be very bad for the shale oil industry in North Dakota. It only makes money at about $60.00 a barrel. There are those who speculate that the Saudis are letting the price of a barrel of oil fall so as to get rid of the pesky shale oil producers here in America. After years of declining crude production in the US, the shale oil boom has made us something like the third largest oil producer in the world.

It’s certainly causing some hurt for Mr. Putin; Russia depends on its oil sales. The ruble has been crashing. Must seem like a grey day to him as well. Put Venezuela in that camp as well, hurting badly with the fall in prices. Same with Nigeria. Same with a few other countries, too.

Regardless of what is happening in the oil realm, all over the world we are moving toward Christmas.

It seems some Americans are eschewing an expensive Christmas and moving back toward simpler times with less extravagant celebrations of the Holiday. It will be interesting to see how this holiday shopping season works out in the end. Up? Down? We’ll know the figures right after Christmas.

On this grey day, Newtown is marking the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings with a private ceremony and quiet reflection. It is a town where the wounds have yet to heal and may never heal.

In another gruesome story, hundreds attended the funeral of Jessica Chambers, a Mississippi teenager who was doused with an accelerant and burned alive on the side of a road.

The mind boggles at the act while the heart revolts at the cruelty.

A reward fund has risen to $11,000 for information leading to her killer.

It is stories like that which darken my day and make me feel as grey and gloomy as the weather.

Letter From New York, October 30, 2013

October 30, 2013

Or, as it seems to me…

Usually I write my letters from the bucolic setting of the cottage, on quiet Sunday evenings.  Tonight, however, I am sitting in the Odyssey offices and my fingers got itchy for the keyboard and my mind needed the stretching that comes from putting words to digital paper.

It will be Halloween tomorrow night and I will likely be in the city, surrounded by a borough’s worth of children [and adults] dressed for trick or treat.  I vaguely remember being a child and working Bryant Avenue for a bag full of treats – I didn’t have any tricks up my sleeve.  There is something joyfully innocent in all the ruckus that comes with kids and Halloween.  Huge amounts of sweets will be given out and dentists all over the land will gleefully rub their hands together at the thoughts of the cavities coming.  One woman in North Dakota plans to hand out “fat letters” to obese children.  Now that’s a bummer. 

It is definitely turning nippy here in New York.  We went from a string of impossibly beautiful days to a string of days when the weather could best be described as: eh.  Which mostly describes my mood: eh.

I just passed over the headlines a while ago.  Sebelius has gently self-flagellated in front of Congress, apologizing for the blunders that have brought a harsh spotlight on the Affordable Healthcare Act, aka Obamacare.  She may be forced to resign though so far the President hasn’t demanded a head on a platter.  While she was apologizing the President was defending up in Boston while that state’s former Governor Mitt Romney went on record as blasting AHA once again.

The NSA [National Security Agency] is defending itself even as the revelations of what it’s been doing keep getting bigger.  Seems they are interested in everyone from Angela Merkel down to you and me. Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP, one of the biggest ad agencies groups in the world, has gone on record on NPR as saying that all of this has damaged “Brand America,” which it has.  Not irreparably, but damaged none the less, so Sorrell says.

Facebook, of the screwed up IPO, has rebounded and is now trading far above its original price point, making early investors finally happy.  Stocks, in general, are up, if down slightly today.  Happy we have avoided a shut down, the markets are ignoring that this is just a temporary fix and we have kicked the budget can down the road a bit – to past Christmas at least.

Vladimir Putin is, according to Forbes, the most powerful man in the world.  The President of the U.S. is number two.  Does this prove that it’s good to be the dictator?  I believe Angela Merkel of Germany is the fifth most powerful person in the world despite the fact she couldn’t keep the NSA from spying on her cell phone conversations.

We have had a lot of embarrassments lately, haven’t we?  I mean the very public, very bad, simply awful debut of the website of the AHA [Obamacare] and all this spying that the NSA has been doing, exposed by Snowden, who is holed up in Russia with the world’s most powerful man.

There’s good news.  Our deficit is DOWN to $680 billion!  Down to 680 billion.  We’re doing something right, I guess.

While the budget deficit is down, gun deaths went up again as six more people died in a North Carolina shooting today.  It appears to have been a custody dispute gone really wrong.  About 10,000 people have died from gunshot wounds since the Newtown massacre nearly a year ago.  It’s a drumbeat that just won’t stop.

And that’s sort of the way it is today, October 30th.  A bit like the constant line from the Laurel and Hardy movies:  now that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into! We move from mess to mess right now and it would be possible to get pretty discouraged from all of it.  But what else to do?

Vote!  It’s Election Day next Tuesday.  Time to make your voice heard! 

Merry Christmas

December 24, 2012

Letter From New York

December 24, 2012

Or, as it seems to me…

It is Christmas Eve.  It is snowing in West Virginia, where I am, sitting in the kitchen of a house older than the country, a place where Thomas Jefferson is supposed to have slept.  It belongs to my friends Jim and Mary Clare Eros, whose younger sister, Sarah, is my oldest friend, known since before I remember knowing.  She and her husband Jim are making paella.  Their son Kevin and his cousin Joe are in the TV room watching a DVD.  Outside snow is falling.  We are all waiting for Michael, Jim and Mary Clare’s son, to arrive.  It is a perfect Christmas Eve. 

Back before they were married, Mary Clare and Sarah were McCormicks and they lived behind us when I was growing up and somehow they “adopted” me and here I am, all these years later, celebrating my fourth Christmas with them in a row, a small tradition I hope keeps going.

It is a restful moment in a time that has been hard on the national consciousness.  In Newtown, CT families are dealing with the unthinkable, a catastrophe of human making.  A seemingly tortured soul expressed his angst by slaughtering twenty children with automatic weapons, slaying six adults who worked in the school after murdering his mother and before killing himself.  After a series of mass murders, America stood up and took notice with this particular occurrence, probably because of the age of the victims.

The NRA suggested arming every school guard – or something like that.  What was it that someone said?  The only way to deal with bad guys with guns was good guys with guns?

A few days ago, four people were killed at a mall.  This morning two firefighters were killed as they responded to a burning house in upstate New York, in Webster.  The slaughter goes on, regardless of the Holidays.

Perhaps, at last, we will have enough of guns and killing and something constructive will be done about our national penchant for violence.  Perhaps this Christmas season will be the turning point.

In Washington, we seem to be careening toward the Fiscal Cliff.   The Republicans remain intransigent, stubbornly determined to have their way against the will of the many, continuing their demonstration of determination to ignore the good of the country.  I have lost all respect for the Republican Party.  All that is left is disgust.  They’re the Grinch determined to steal Christmas…

BUT, at this moment, I am in West Virginia.   Snow is falling.  There is a tower of presents in the library waiting to be opened and bottles of champagne to accompany the opening.  Not bad.  Around me is my family of choice while my family of origin calls and chats with me about their Christmas at home.  I am, in this moment, profoundly blessed and blessed enough to be cognizant of the fact.

The country continues to be challenged but perhaps because I am in the glow of the Holiday, I am hopeful.  Hopeful that we will learn from the tragedy at Newtown, hopeful that Republicans will wake from their stupidity and actually work on solving the issues in front of us, hopeful that peace will emerge from the chaos of Syria, hopeful that Israel and Palestine might find peace, hopeful about all things because this is a hopeful time of year.

AND it is December 24th and we have passed the date when supposedly the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world.  I can breathe easier.   That one has been over my head my whole life.

So it Christmas Eve.  May all of you who read this, have the Happiest of Christmases, the Merriest of New Years and experience joy and warmth and love.