Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Letter From the Train 09 15 2016 Thoughts Heading South

September 15, 2016

It is stunning today as I am riding south to the city.  It is a perfect September day, low humidity, temperature in the 70’s, sunny with glints of silver reflecting off the water of the Hudson while low puffy clouds rest behind the Catskills.

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Tonight I am on my way to the city [New York] to have dinner with my friend Ann Frisbee Namye, with whom I worked thirty years ago at A&E and who I have not seen for twenty years.  She connected with me through LinkedIn and we set a dinner date while on a business trip to New York.  I’m excited.

To be truthful, I haven’t let much noise in over the week.  The days have been too special for that.  I woke up happy this morning and didn’t disturb that happiness with a burst of news.  Besides, I had a lot of organizing to do as I was teaching this morning and had lots of handouts for my students.

So I checked into the news once I boarded the train.  Panic at the poll numbers is upon us.  Trump is closing on Hillary and fright walks the land and one Democratic friend of mine may actually have another panic attack over this.

It is my choice not to panic and to read the article that tells me that the polls are meaningless at this moment.

Though the thought of Trump as President is scary.  His Presidency would be one long fright night, I fear.

He released a letter from his doctor of thirty years after a physical on Friday, stating he was in good health.  He was the same doctor who earlier wrote a letter in five minutes stating how healthy Trump was.

When I was in college, many friends made extra money by driving cabs.  Now they’d be driving for Uber.  And those opportunities may go away if Google and Uber and Lyft and the car companies get their way.

Uber has launched a pilot program in Pittsburgh with driverless cars.  They have a back-up human for now but eventually the back-ups will go and then some day there will be no taxi or Uber or Lyft drivers for that matter.  Gone the way of the Dodo…

In yet another gun tragedy, police in Columbus, Ohio shot to death a 13-year-old black robbery suspect.  He apparently pulled from his belt a BB gun that looks almost exactly like standard issue weaponry for the Columbus police.  What adult would allow a child to have such a weapon, such a thing?

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said, “A 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns.”

And in a stunning additional gun tragedy, a 77-year-old resident of a Senior Home shot two other residents and a staff member, fled the scene on a bicycle and then killed himself as officers approached.  Apparently, he was upset about poker games.

Jackson Grubb, a nine-year-old from West Virginia, took his life on Saturday because he was being bullied.  I feel like crying.

Today in class the subject of the exploding Samsung Note 7 came up and one of my students almost exploded out of her seat.  It was the first she had heard of it.  Another Note 7 blew up as owners are not listening to the recall requests.

If you have a Note 7, go to the phone store and get it replaced.  Please.  I saw what one did to a jeep the other day online and it was horrific.  This was not a small explosion.  It looked like the vehicle had been car bombed.

Filipino President Duterte, who apparently called President Obama a “son of a whore” is now being accused of ordering extrajudicial killings while he was Mayor of Davao City.  The Senate of that country is investigating.

And now I am caught up with the dreck that is happening out there beyond my world and have inoculated you with it – not in the sense of giving you a vaccine but in planting thoughts.

Today in class I was talking about persuasive speaking and one of the points I made was that a persuasive speaker inoculated their audience by planting ideas that would lead to change.

Perhaps some of these facts will inoculate you to work for change.  Fewer guns, a way to end bullying, more sensible politics…

And I woke up happy and I plan to go to bed happy.

 

 

Letter From Claverack 09 13 2016 Thinking and ruminating by the creek…

September 14, 2016

It is a pleasant night in Claverack, after a pleasant day in general.  The weather was gorgeous, hot for just a moment, but mostly it hovered in the 70’s.  I spent the latter part of the afternoon on the deck, a good book in hand, while also doing a bit of work, making a few phone calls.

This evening I went to the little Mexican restaurant down the road, Coyote Flaco, with my friend Patrick O’Connor, who bumped into some people he had not seen for a long time.  We shared a shrimp appetizer and chicken fajitas and left happy.

The lights are on the creek as it flows softly toward the south.  The first serious leaves have begun to fall; my drive is strewn with them and it is fine.  I do not need to cling to the summer that has passed.  It has been lived fully and well.  As I hope will be the fall that is unfolding.

As I do most days, I spoke with my brother and he asked me if I had a take on the day’s news regarding Hillary and I had to say no.  I had looked in the morning but not since.  In the morning, her campaign announced she thought her pneumonia “no big deal” and so held back saying anything about it.

I was infuriated with her.  How many times has she felt something was “no big deal,” only to have it turn around and bite her in the ass?  How many times does this woman need to have a lesson learned?

Aye, Chihuahua!

Trump is fending off assaults on his Foundation which may – or may not – have given money to various charities.  Some who said they didn’t get gifts found that they did and some just didn’t get them.

And then there is the gift of $25,000 to Pam Bondi, Attorney General for Florida, which might have swayed her to not investigate Trump University. Six months after she dropped her investigation, he hosted a $3,000 a plate fundraiser for her at Mar-a-Lago, his great Florida estate, country club.

Aye, Chihuahua!

To my amazement, Barak Obama’s approval rating is the highest it has been for years.  It has always been my thought he will be remembered by history with more kindness than by his contemporaries.  In my lifetime, I have known no President who has elicited such visceral hatred from so many people.  Maybe I missed something along the way but what this man has endured is remarkable.  And I give him high marks for trying, very hard, to be the best President he can be.

Matt Bevin, Governor of Kentucky, used violent metaphors to describe a Clinton Presidency, evoking images of blood on the ground.

My fear is that we are returning to the politics of the 19th Century when Andrew Jackson created the “Trails of Tears” as scores of thousands of Native Americans died by his direction.  We, as a nation, do not have a good track record of dealing with those who are not “us” as “us” is defined at any exact moment.

I was raised Catholic in Minnesota.  My 8th grade teacher, Sister Anne, told us that we would be persecuted because we were Catholics.  At that moment in my life, it seemed nonsensical.  No one was persecuting me because I was Catholic.  I mean, really…

When I was in college, helping my friend Bill paint his garage, he told me that when he was growing up in Arkansas he would not have been allowed to know me because I was Catholic.  Looking at him with incredulity from my ladder next to his, I realized there were places in my life that I did not know where my Catholicism was a liability.

Now I understand more as I see Christians slaughtered on the beaches of Libya and Christians in Iraq slaughtered.  We live in world of intolerance that I did not expect or accept as a child.  When I was in 8th grade and heard Sister Anne, I thought the world had moved beyond that.

It has not.  No, not in any way.  Shame on us.

 

Letter From Claverack 09 06 2016

September 7, 2016

The day painted itself grey this morning, from the moment light crept into my bedroom, it was grey, the kind of day that promises rain and provides none, save a few drops when I was running an errand on Warren Street.

Fresh from what I thought was a successful first day in the classroom, I stopped at the Post Office and picked up my mail and sat on my deck, opening it, and just staring out at the day.  The air was lightly water touched by not too much.  But for the grey, it was a perfect sort of day.

At the college, I talked with one of my colleagues for whom there is terminal election fatigue.  She knows for whom she is voting, nothing in the shouting is going to change her position and so she feels no need to participate more.  It simply makes her crazy.

As it has for many people in this oddest of election seasons.  A few months ago, a commentator I was listening to said something like:  Who knows?  It’s 2016.

And that remains true.  It’s the wild and wooly 2016, an election season they will be talking about as long as politics is discussed, which is a very long time.  We are still discussing the politics of the Athenian democracy 2500 years later.  Countless tomes have been written about the Romans, their Republic and their Empire.  A thousand years from now some crepe skinned academic will be dissecting one small sliver of this campaign in a form of media we probably can’t conceive of but it will be happening.

Me?  I generally wake up happy and go to bed happy and know there is only so much I can do to shape events but what I can do, I do.

Tonight, I am writing earlier than I did last night and the verdant green in its grey frame fills my window.

Directly in front of me are two Adirondack chairs made for me by John McCormick, father of my oldest friend, Sarah.  He had made some for his daughter, Mary Clare, for her home in West Virginia.  When I bought the cottage, he asked me if he could make anything for it.  Adirondack chairs I said and there they are, in front of me, a wonderful bonding to a man now gone and a testament to all he and his family mean to me.

In this calm and quiet, I feel celebratory to have made it alive through the first day of class.  As I was preparing to head over to the college, I played music that pleased me, from the Great American Songbook.  Tonight there is no music.  The only sound is the ticking of an old clock that has been in my family for more than 125 years.  I think of it as the heart of the house.  But it drives some people crazy.  It just makes me smile.

The EpiPen conversation goes on.  Some say it actually costs only $30.00; some say it’s only about a dollar that goes into the actual medicine.

Isabelle Dinoire, the world’s first face transplant recipient has died, aged 49.  She was transplanted when her face was mauled by a dog.  RIP.

Obama cancelled a visit with the Philippines President after he called Obama “the son of a whore.”  Later President Duarte regretted his comment.

There was an incident when Obama arrived in China.  No one seemed to have agreed upon the protocol.  Everyone looked bad.

Kim Jung Un, the little paunchy, pudgy dictator of North Korea, celebrated Labor Day by sending off ballistic missiles that landed within 300 kilometers of Japan.  No one is happy except for the pudgy dictator who is now facing a new set of sanctions which he doesn’t care about.  He will let millions die because of them as long as he keeps his power, his toys and the instability he creates.

One can only imagine what this man’s childhood was like…

Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift have broken up after three months. This is HUGE news.  OMG!

Fox has settled with Gretchen Carlson in her lawsuit with them and Roger Ailes.  Twenty million dollars.  At the same time Greta Van Susteren has left the network under cloudy circumstances but then what is not cloudy in the world of Fox News these days?

And now it is dark.  I will turn on my floodlights and enjoy the creek at night.

It is a good day.  I survived the first day of a new class and felt good about it.

Today I woke up happy and I go to bed tonight happy.  May all of you who read me do the same.

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack, New York 08 23 2016 Generous souls…

August 24, 2016

It is later in the evening than I normally write; I did a roundtrip to the city today.  There were a couple of meetings and then I turned around and returned to the cottage.  It is dark.  I have turned on the floodlights so I can see the creek glitter with their light.  The trees are silhouetted by the light, green and verdant.  Nights like this are ones I love, with the floodlights giving an eerie beauty to what I see in the day.

Earlier today I had a long and good conversation with Sarah, who is my oldest friend.  We have known each other since we were three and except for one brief period have been a close part of each other’s lives.  She is one of the most loving and caring women I have known in my life and has always been that way.

In 7th grade, when Sister Jeron knocked me on the back of the head with a Gregorian Hymnal, humiliating me in front of our class, Sarah turned up that evening with one of her brothers and we went sledding down the hill by our house.  She knew I was hurting and came to help take the hurt away.  I remember that night as if it were yesterday.

Since I last wrote not much has changed in the world.  Aleppo is still a horror show.  Omran, the child in the photo, still haunts my dreams.

There are bombings hither and thither.  A Turkish wedding was destroyed by a suicide bomber who may have been no more than fourteen.  It was not the only bombing but it seems the most tragic with a child being used as a weapon.

Trump is attempting to moderate his tone and I hope it is too late.  Hillary is caught in the crossfire of the Foundation and her emails, which probably will never go away.  Even if she wins the Presidency, the Republicans will be chasing those emails and Benghazi into the next century.

The state of our politics this year is deplorable.  While discouraged, I remain hopeful that some good will come from all of this.  It must.

Out there in the wide world, North Korea has fired a missile from a submarine toward Japan.  Provocative as ever, the chubby little dictator is testing the limits of what he can get away with.

Remember the Boko Haram?  One of their leaders may have been badly wounded in a Nigerian airstrike.  I hope so.

The Iraqis are intent on reclaiming Mosul.  More than a million people will be displaced if they do it, according to estimates.  More refugees in this horrific war that never ends…

The Brits voted for Brexit and Brexiting are a large number of corporations who are moving their money out of Britain.  Not good for Britain who is going to have to do a lot of juggling with this Brexit thing…

It is late.  I am distracted.

Long ago and far away, I was friends with the Elsen family.  Don Elsen, patriarch of the clan, passed away today. He was 90, lived a good long life.  I saw him a year ago.  Unable to walk, he managed the world with a motorized wheel chair, mentally sharp as ever.

They were descendants of Germans and when I was with them, they could be screaming at each other and then burst into laughter and hug and hold each other.  It was amazing.  They were all full of love and Don was one of the most generous souls I have known in this life.

God rest.  Keep safe.  Be reunited in heaven with your beloved wife, Betty.  Your son, Jeffrey, and your brothers who went before you.

May I have such a homecoming someday.

 

 

Letter From Claverack, New York 08 20 2016 If we could save Omran…

August 21, 2016

It is not all that late on a Saturday evening, about 6:45 EDT as I start putting my fingers to the keyboard.  When I woke this morning, the sight outside my windows was a patchwork of hues of green, mixed with sunlight, all of it changing with the soft wind blowing this morning.  When I touched base with myself as I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes I was happy.  As I am most days…

The creek is low; we’ve not had enough rain but it still flows.  The trees are exquisite in their leafy greenness but just across the creek the tree that has always been the first harbinger of fall has begun its turn.

In a very few weeks that tree will be joined by the others and we will be in the riot of Hudson Valley colors that come with September and October.

The world has not blown itself off its axis today, for which I am grateful.

A devotee of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” I heard the current head of FEMA talk about how they prepare for asteroid strikes and other disasters we don’t generally think of…

And it also made me smile, as it often does, which is why I do my best not to miss it on Saturday mornings.  It takes the realities of the news and makes light of them, which we often need to do.

Today, the NY Times had a long article about the complicated finances of Donald Trump and another about the complicated relationship that Hillary Clinton has with the Clinton Foundation.  And if there have ever been two more complicated candidates for President, I would like to know.  Can’t think of any…  Though I am sure there may have been. It just maybe my knowledge of history is not as sharp as it should be.

Anti-Trump activists put up eight statues of Trump, naked.  It was called:  The Emperor Has No Balls.  Which the statue didn’t and had a very small penis as well.  The one in Central Park was taken down almost immediately with a very tongue in cheek statement from the Parks Department.

The last time I wrote, I included a picture of a five-year-old child, Omran Daqneesh, who has become the symbol of what has been happening in Aleppo.  His brother died today.  And I need to keep thinking of what I can do to help.

In the soft and safe place of my cottage, I am hurting at the hurt in the world.  I am sure half the civilized world that saw the picture of Omran wanted to rescue him from the world in which he lived.  I did.

And we can’t.  Though I have to think about the work I can do to help the world in which Omran lives.

 

 

 

 

Letter from Claverack, New York Thinking about a boy in Aleppo…

August 19, 2016

I am cozied in the cottage, the Smooth Jazz station playing on Amazon Prime Music, having returned only two hours ago from two days in the city.

Yesterday, I was in the city to have lunch with my friend David Arcara, a quarterly event for many years now; our conversations are wide ranging, deep, emotional and to the core of what is happening in our lives.  Yesterday’s underscored my appreciation for them.

There were drinks last night with Nick Stuart of Odyssey and Greg Nelson, formerly of Odyssey, who has returned from some weeks in Peru and that, too, was good. It gave me a chance to catch up with Greg, whom I have not seen for some months and, of course, to spend some time with Nick, my great friend.

When I woke this morning, I made my morning coffee at the apartment on the Upper West Side, and while sipping it, pursued the news of the day.  I read the NY Times and scrolled through the BBC News.

There I found a haunting image of a five-year-old Syrian boy in Aleppo, an image that has now gone viral.  Frightened and alone, covered in blood and dust, he sat on an orange seat in the back of an ambulance.  You may have seen the picture already.  If not, here it is:

Boy

It shattered my morning.  I sat staring at this image for many, many minutes and my heart screamed to the universe.  It became hard to move on, to not want to go and do SOMETHING to stop the madness.  It reminded me of pictures I had seen taken during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s; comparisons between that conflict and this will be made.

Later, I went to have lunch at the Ace Hotel with my friend David McKillop; we talked of new, upcoming adventures for him.  We talked of the: what WERE they thinking? moment of Ryan Lochte and the other swimmers claiming to have been robbed when in reality they were a bit drunk and screwed up. What were they thinking?

And, unfortunately, this is what will follow them for the rest of their lives, this moment of dishonesty.

And then, there was the moment of what was President Obama thinking when he said that the $400,000,000 turned over to the Iranians wasn’t “ransom” but a previously scheduled release of funds.  Today it was revealed that the US wouldn’t let the plane with the cash take off until prisoners were released.  Dancing with the truth?

The Syrian boy’s picture has colored my whole day.  I have thought about what can I do to stop this debacle the world has created, so complicated, so odorous, so lacking in humanity, so not a moment of “our better angels.”

When I wake up in the morning, I do my best to have a moment of gratitude.  I am not living in Aleppo.  Today that came home so much because of the photo of the five-year-old.  It is a picture that has come to represent the Syrian crisis as much as the photo of the three-year-old dead child washed up on the coast of Greece did to galvanize the world about the refugee crisis, much of it a result of the Syrian war.

Closer to home, the Blue Cut Fire in California has consumed 31,000 acres and it still rages.

In Louisiana floods have consumed 40,000 homes and at least thirteen lives.  A preacher man who “testified” that natural disasters were God’s way of punishing us for same sex marriage was forced to flee his home in a canoe.

I have been so lucky to have been born when and where I was.  Our world is changing.  It is becoming global and integrated and reactionary and frightened and fundamentalism is having a heyday. But we still care…

The answers aren’t in front of me right now.  But seeing that little boy in Aleppo makes me realize I must do better. That we all have to do better.

Letter From New York 08 16 2016 A nation of immigrants, in case we don’t remember…

August 16, 2016

It has been a grey and gloomy sort of day here in Claverack; at one point the skies opened and torrents of rain slashed down.  Mostly, I have curled into my cottage and put nose to grindstone on some volunteer work I am doing for the local community radio station, WGXC.  It serves Columbia and Greene Counties and is, I have discovered, always unique, always surprising.  It is the voice of this part of the Hudson Valley and I have gone in some months from not even knowing of it to realizing I can’t fathom not having its voice.

Over a hundred volunteers keep it afloat, programming by “civilians,” which cannot help being eclectic.  From health and wellness to Broadway tunes to vinyl cuts with programmers from 13 years old to 83 years old, you have quite a mix.

So I am working to help them out and, like a good Catholic, realizing I wasn’t as good over the summer as I should have been, I am working extra hard now.

For fifteen years, I have always been a member of Amtrak Select Plus, which gives me access to their lounges.  I am in serious jeopardy of losing it this year and am plotting how to make the points to keep it.  And then I think, I am not traveling as much as I was.  Should I even worry about this?  I probably will find a way.  The Acela Club in Penn Station is my “home away from home.”

So it is a Tuesday night.  I have made myself a martini and Beatrice, my rapidly growing banana plant, and I are in the dining room, looking over the creek, a scene of grey mixed with incredible green.  Classical music plays in the background, moving from the delightful to dirge like.

All this pitter patter about my life is a way of saying I have retreated from the news a bit.  These are the dog days of August; the fall is coming upon us.  It has been special here at the cottage this week and I have not wanted to disturb the week, the peace.  I have gathered friends for get togethers.  We have all avoided politics because we are worn out by the never ending campaign of 2016, which has been going on, it seems, since before I was born.

Rudy Giuliani, who was Mayor of New York, when 9/11 happened, said in a speech today that before Obama there were no attacks by terrorists on US soil.  He has claimed it was a mistake; he MEANT to say NOT another until Obama.  But it has come out badly for him.  Excuse me, he lived through it, with me.  I was there, listening to him tell us it was going to be devastating.  How do you screw up so much, you, Mr. Giuliani, who lived through it with me?

For several minutes, I liked you.  Now I don’t.  Especially after today.  The kind of speech making mistake today makes me wonder if you are holding the thread together, Rudy.

Trump is touting that if he loses the election, it will be because it is rigged.  I fear that if he does lose, which I sincerely hope he does, there will be violence in the streets because that is what he is setting his followers up for.  And they are not pleasant people, these Trump supporters.  They seem nasty, angry [not without reason, which Hillary should speak to] and prone to violence.

I receive emails from my brother-in-law, who is definitely not a Democrat.  They are a stultifying drone on how bad Obama is.  He has not been all I hoped he’d be but no President ever is and I do believe a hundred years from now, history will be far kinder to him than my brother-in-law.

He was the first man elected President who was not “white.”  And that has elicited furor from those who never thought that could happen.  I hope he is a bridge to the future because soon, the US will no longer be “white.”  It will be the mélange of immigrants of the 20th Century, the Hmong, the Vietnamese [who were vilified in places because they were so hard working], the Asians of all stripes who outstrip “Americans” who don’t want to work harder.

We are an immigrant nation.  Hopefully, we always will be.  I am a second generation American.  I was lucky in my life, being born here, getting the education I did.  I was lucky being born in America, the son of people who had been born here because their parents had come here.

Immigration is the story of the US.

Letter From New York 08 12 2016 How lucky was I?

August 12, 2016

The air is hot and heavy, damp and uncomfortable.  I watch my creek from the comfort of the cottage; it is southern in its weather oppression and is the definition for languid summer days, of which I have had my share this week.  Outside it is now grey and thunder rolls in the distance.

Finishing “The Hotel on Place Vendome,” I am now deeply into a history of the 304 year long reign of the Romanovs, from Michael to Nicholas II, who died with his family in front of a firing squad in 1918 in the Ipatiev House in Yektaringburg.  The founder of his dynasty was called to the throne from the Ipatiev Monastery.

I napped this afternoon and have now a slew of errands to do come morning.  My printer has died, a new one is needed.  Groceries must be shopped for as friends come for dinner tomorrow night, the invitation offered in an effort to bring me out of the summer stupor.

Walking on Cape Cod last weekend, I did not wear the right shoes and have fierce blisters on my heels I am working to heal.  Tuesday morning, I could barely walk and have been wearing flip flops all week.

Flip flops, books, a couple of good martinis, not a bad way to spend a summer week. 

Trump claimed Obama and Hillary Clinton founded ISIS, now he says it was sarcasm but the reality is that Mr. Trump is on the verge of becoming a parody of himself.  It makes me feel hopeful but it is 2016 and anything can yet happen.

The US claims the Head of IS in Afghanistan has been killed and the amount of territory controlled by them in Syria and Iraq is diminishing.  Syria is still a hell hole and when I was complaining to myself about my blisters, I stopped myself:  I could be in Syria.  You have only very first world problems, Mathew. 

Digital Media is being subsumed by old media.  Companies like Disney and Turner and Hearst are putting hundreds of millions, even billions, into new media companies.  As one declines and the other ascends, the ascendants will be owned by the decliners.  Old media is putting its fortunes to work.  Good moves.

Netflix, definitely a new media company, aired a documentary, “Making a Murderer.”  One of the results was that today one of the accused has been ordered freed from prison, largely due to the incompetent actions of his defense attorney.  Brendan Dasey has been ordered released in ninety days. 

Media attention does bring action.

In a new and heartbreaking report, the CDC has released data about LGB students, indicating they are more likely to be bullied and more likely to consider and attempt suicide than their straight peers. 

It is 2016 and still this happens.  I was so lucky when I was their age.  I wasn’t bullied in high school and I still marvel at that.  I considered suicide but that had much more to do with my complicated family life than my sexuality.

A good article about the situation can be found here:

http://www.bustle.com/articles/178365-gay-high-schoolers-experience-rape-bullying-suicide-at-much-higher-rates-heartbreaking-cdc-report-finds

As I sit here, looking out at my creek, I celebrate how lucky I was, particularly in high school but also in college.  This is a global problem, not just an American problem.

How lucky was I?  I have gotten through life mostly not harassed by my sexuality.  Only two times do I remember anything.  Once early on in Minneapolis, a casual and not harsh moment, and once here in Hudson, when two teenagers called my ex-partner and I “fags.”  Now, same sex couples walk down the street in Hudson and no one bothers them. Twice in a lifetime… How lucky am I?

It’s time to wind down and I want to introduce you to Beatrice, my banana plant.  Beatrice came into my life when I briefly dated Raj, a psychotherapist of Indian extraction by way of Trinidad, who insisted I buy a banana plant.  I did and now Beatrice has become huge and may one day well take over my home.

Meet Beatrice:

IMG_1339

Letter From New York 08 10 2016 Gloomy but not ugly…

August 10, 2016

In my driveway there is a floodlight with a dusk until dawn timer.  It was so gloomy this morning, “dawn” did not arrive until about 9:30.  As bright and beautiful as the days were before, today has been singularly dark, a day when one wants to slip quietly into a corner and delve deep into a mystery. 

I didn’t do that all day but some of the day, reading “The Hotel on Place Vendome,” a study of the Ritz Hotel before, during and after WWII.  Good reading, not quite a mystery, not quite a page turner but a sound non-fiction account of the place that was at the center of Parisian life in those tumultuous years. 

Of course, “Papa” Hemingway appears and his appearances further tatter the legend he built around himself even as his writing powers were beginning to fade, worn down by drinking and partying.

Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring was a morphine addict and spent at least part of the war soaking in the large bathtubs at the Ritz, attempting to wean himself off the drug.

Something like 80,000 children fathered by Germans were born in France during the war years.

It is a time we have not known.  Somewhere today, I was reading an article online and the author was saying the last 70 years had been a dream.  We had gone to peace and are now awaking into another era, not so peaceful.  Yes, perhaps, but we did “duck and cover” as children and during the Cuban missile crisis my very young mind was convinced that we would all be evaporated.

It is not a peaceful world but never has it been very peaceful.  I am peaceful this very moment, wrapped in a cloudy, gloomy day with verdant trees outside my windows, skies heavy with promises of rain, snug inside my cottage, the only sound the humming of the refrigerator.

The thunder of the campaign trail has been held at bay for the most part by my simply choosing not to delve much into it.  Trump said something about “Second Amendment” folks should do something about Hillary and Democrats are charging that he was inciting violence against her.  Of course he wasn’t, he said.

And Hillary has her blind spots, this week they’ve been showing up in relations between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department.

Though the report I was reading was released by a conservative group so I will add my grain of salt to what I was reading.  Just as I put a bit of salt into my reading of the Democratic reaction to Trump’s latest.  Don’t get me wrong, I won’t vote for the man.  He’s crackers…

The number of ill considered things the man has said has slowly become numbing, no longer outraging me.  It is just one unbelievable thing after another and, as far as I can tell, Trump’s not enjoying it much himself.

And he is embattled by his fellow Republicans.  Susan Collins, Senator from Maine, has disavowed Trump.  She’ll vote Libertarian or write in someone.  She won’t support him or Hillary but go her own way.  She is not alone.  A dismaying number of Republicans are following her.

Whereas Clinton…  I think she — and he — live for this kind of season, coming alive in amazing ways.  Though Bill looks frail these days, a shadow of the man.

The Department of Justice released its report about the Police Department in Baltimore.  “Scathing but not surprising” was one headline.  In Ferguson, MO the wheels of justice are turning very slowly there, two years after Michael Brown died.  Change is slow in coming, disheartening to many but the wheels are turning, I hope.

Like many, I have received two phone calls telling me the IRS is about to start a lawsuit against me.  It’s a scam and it makes me crazy and people are being sucked in.  One man paid the scammers $500,000 before he got wise.  So ugly…

And while it is not beautiful outside, it is not ugly in my corner of the world.

Letter From New York 08 02 2016 Going up the river…

August 3, 2016

The Hudson River flows south as I move north, the west bank is a wall of green and great, grey billowy clouds hover over the river with the sun now cutting between them to bathe me in light.  I am returning from a day in the city, a meeting with a client followed by a long lunch with my friend Nick.  An afternoon appointment cancelled and so I changed to an earlier train.

I haven’t written much lately.  Frankly, there has been so much to say about so many things I haven’t known where to begin or where to end.  There was the Democratic Convention last week.  I watched the finish of it the night I returned to the cottage after my Minnesota sojourn.

Hillary, who needed to be at her best, was at her best.  The Democrats were shadowed then and are today, by the hacking of the DNC’s emails, which were released by Wikileaks to the press.  Julian Assange, who is the head of Wikileaks, even while sequestered behind the walls of the Bolivian Embassy in London, timed it to do the most damage he could to Hillary, whom he reputedly despises.

Today, Amy Dacey, CEO of the DNC and two other officials resigned after the leaks demonstrated their bias to Clinton over Sanders.

Donna Brazile has replaced the much reviled Debbie Wassermann Schultz, former Chairperson.  Brazile is well liked and had been suggested by the Sanders camp as a possible replacement for Wassermann Schultz.

And we are all waiting to find out if the Russians were the ones who hacked the DNC as digital evidence seems to suggest which, of course, has led people to ask if Putin is working to influence our elections?

According to one poll, 50% of Americans think he is.  Would he try?  I am convinced there is very little he wouldn’t try.

Trump out trumps himself everyday as far as I can tell.  I am seated next to a friend of mine on the train who has confessed he has had panic attacks at the thought of a Trump Presidency.  He is not much given to panic attacks that I recall.

And Trump seems to find a new way to disturb me every day but nothing he does seem to sway his die hard supporters.

Jacques Hamel, the 86 year old French priest, who had his throat slit while saying Mass, was buried today.  He was killed by two teenage jihadists.  In honor to him, thousands of Muslims attended Mass on Sunday and appeared today at his funeral.

The Rio Olympics open this Friday and I am largely unenthusiastic.  The sports I am most interested in are aquatic and the reports of the condition of the water makes me cringe for the athletes who must compete.  I am not sure the pool water is safe and the open waters seem to be filled with human refuse and garbage.

I thought I was alone until my friend, Nick, echoed my thoughts.

The Syrian government and the Rebel forces are accusing each other of gas attacks.  It seems someone used gas in Syria.  We have forgotten the lessons of other wars or perhaps whomever did it felt justified because Saddam Hussein used it effectively against some of his citizens before he lost his place.

A friend of mine asked me a couple of weeks ago how we could still call Turkey a democracy?  Magical thinking…

As we move north up the Hudson, the heavy clouds have dispersed and the sun rules the river, silver light glinting off of silver water, reflecting against banks of green rising from river’s edge.

I tried to find something funny to end today’s post.  I googled “funny thing that happened today” and “laughable thing that happened today.”  It doesn’t seem anything “funny” or “laughable” happened today, according to Google’s current algorithms. 

But I did find this:  on August 2nd, 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the beginning of all that has not yet ended.