Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia’

Letter From New York 08 03 15 Thoughts trundling south on the train…

August 3, 2015

The west bank of the Hudson River is a verdant green as the train slowly rumbles south toward New York. It is a bright day, warmer than it has been but still very sweet. I am coming down to New York for a few meetings and a lunch and then am heading home to get ready to go to my friend’s Jeffrey and Joyce’s home on Martha’s Vineyard on Friday.

I’ll linger with them for four or five days and then head back to the Cottage and then down to New York for a meeting on the 13th. Jeffrey calls Martha’s Vineyard “the land of off” and it seems that way though I am not sure how “off” their summers have been since the bought the Edgartown bookstore. It will be interesting to see what changes they have made since I was last there two years ago.

They had ambitious plans and I am sure they have been realized.

The water in the Hudson is browner than usual; the river stirred by the recent rains. It quietly laps the shore. For some reason, it is causing me to think of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis where we’d go as children to swim and sail.

Having spent a few days surrounded by a delicious amount of natural beauty, it seems reasonable that President Obama is issuing today a set of environmental regulations that is intended to reduce, sharply, the amount of greenhouse emissions from power plants. They promise to remake the industry.

There is a controversy happening in Columbia County regarding new power line towers. Most people I know think we don’t need them and intend to fight to stop them from blighting the natural beauty of Columbia County. They are strongly supported by Democratic Governor Cuomo. It is going to be an interesting fight.

And Obama’s regulations will set off a firestorm of lawsuits. Again, it will be interesting to watch. At the end, I suspect there will be change and the lawsuits will determine the extent.

At one point in my life I spent several months in Canada and was impressed with Canadian friendliness. Some Canadian researchers built a “hitchBOT,” a robot that hitchhiked its way across Canada and most of Germany and the Netherlands. He came south two weeks ago to attempt to cross the United States. He was found destroyed beyond repair around Philadelphia, “City of Brotherly Love.” Shame on whoever did this. He was only the size of a six year old and reportedly quite charming.

IS, which is known for its clever and relentless use of the Internet to tell its stories, is now relentlessly cracking down on those inside its territory who are using the Internet. Anyone connecting must now do it through an open network that is being watched. IS is showing signs of fear.

The French are leading the investigation of the wing fragment found on Reunion Island in the western Indian Ocean. Islanders are searching for more debris to see if it might be from the long missing Malaysian Airlines MH370.

The Chinese are having trouble with their escalators. Not so long ago a woman died saving her child in an escalator accident. Today, a man lost his foot and his leg had to be amputated. Both incidents, I believe, happened in Shanghai. Be careful.

Secretary of State John Kerry is making a round of visits to Arabic neighbors, drumming up support for the Iran deal. He seems to be having some success though I am sure it comes at a price, weapons and new pledges to counter Iran.

Donald Trump is still leading in the polls. The Republican mainstream is running in circles, unsure how to counter The Donald. The Koch brothers, rich as could be, with eighty some billion dollars between them, are simply freezing him out. David Koch and Trump are reputedly friendly but the organizations they fund have not given him any opportunities to speak. They own data firm i360, the best data and voter analytics company on the right, and it won’t do business with the Trump Organization.

The big winner at the Box Office was Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation” which not only claimed the top spot in dollars but also garnered very good reviews.

Without doubt, this is the longest it has ever taken me to get to the city on Amtrak. I have been traveling now for three and a half hours. Traffic ahead. The compensation? The Hudson River is beautiful. I’ve had time to read and write and contemplate.

Letter From New York 05 13 15 In search of laughs but not snark…

May 13, 2015

As the workday draws to a close in New York, I am preparing to go to see “The 39 Steps” Off Broadway. A few weeks ago I made a pledge to myself that I would work to do one cultural thing a week for myself. Two weeks ago I went to “It’s Only A Play” on Broadway with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane and Stockard Channing. The following week I went to a screen of the new film version of “Far From The Madding Crowd,” the rom com version according to some reviewers. And I went to the new Whitney Museum.

Tonight, it’s “The 39 Steps” a lighthearted take on Alfred Hitchcock’s movie of the same name. Earlier today I was seeking out what I might do next week. Maybe a morning at another museum?

What has been dominating headlines and my email today has been the tragic Amtrak crash last night just outside of Philadelphia, killing seven at the last account and injuring many dozens. I could almost visualize the spot where the train left the track. I don’t know how many times I have traveled that route, coming and going between New York and D.C.

My nephew, Kevin Malone, phoned me last night to see if I was all right when I didn’t respond to two texts. I was already in the soft arms of Morpheus when they came in and didn’t hear the alert sound. Several other friends checked in on me today, all knowing that the route is one of my regular trips.

It now appears the train was traveling at near 100 MPH when the curve is supposed to be taken at 50 MPH.

There are about 100 of us who are regular commuters on the Empire Line, which runs from New York to Albany. We have a Google groups mailing list and it has been very active today. It feels as if distant members of our “family” have been involved.

In what may have been inappropriate or at least awkward timing, a Committee in the House voted today to cut funding for Amtrak.

As a regular consumer of Amtrak, I am a big supporter and can’t believe that we are allowing our rail infrastructure to slip the way it is. But then I am boggled at the way we are letting all our infrastructure crumble. I think about it every time I cross a bridge; thousands of them are not up to snuff.

The peevish and pudgy North Korean dictator has apparently executed the number two man in the army for falling asleep at one of his meetings. He had him shot with an anti-aircraft gun, certainly a way of making sure the job was done thoroughly. Probably he didn’t sleep through that.

A number of North Korean officials have simply disappeared and he is said to have had his aunt poisoned after ordering his uncle, her husband, killed.

Still awake is George Lucas, who is celebrating his 71st birthday. Happy, Happy to the man who gave us “Star Wars.”

In what is probably no surprise to anyone who follows the tech world, Facebook and Instagram are the two top social apps for mobile users. Facebook owns Instagram. The Zuckerberg juggernaut plows forward.

The Verizon purchase of AOL is continuing to be parsed in the press, with bits of snark attached to many such as: this will be the second time AOL has been involved in the world’s worst merger.

On the campaign trail, the big story today is that Jeb Bush fumbled a question about the Iraq war and that has created a discomfort among his supporters and an opening for his rivals.

In Iraq, the defense ministry is claiming that Abu Alaa Al-Fari, second in command of IS, has been killed in an air raid on a mosque. The U.S. cannot confirm the death but does confirm the mosque was bombed.

Fourteen months ago, MH370 disappeared into the ocean and has not been found. Searchers did find an unidentified shipwreck. It shows the equipment is working well though still not find the missing plane.

In the South China Sea, the Chinese are building some islands. Their position is that the extension of the islands increases the area of their international waters. The U.S. doesn’t agree. Nor do Japan and the Philippines.   A U.S. warship sailed through those waters and the Chinese are upset, sounding warnings about playing nice in very strong words.

I am off to catch my play, with hopes of a bit of food before the curtain rises, looking forward to an evening of laughs not snark.

Letter From New York 01 19 15 Thoughts on MLK Day…

January 19, 2015

The sun is setting in New York City, the world outside turning grey and dark. I am back at the apartment for the first time in a week, settling in for a few days in the city.

It is Martin Luther King Day and I came into the city to have lunch with my old friend Kevin, as well as John, his traveling companion. It was a long, leisurely lunch at one of my favorite spots, the café above the Fairway Market on 74th and Broadway.

After lunch, not quite finished visiting, we went to the Starbucks across the street, where I have always found a seat but today it was crammed to the gills and we wandered into the Viand Café across the street. Kevin wasn’t surprised it was full – after all, it was a holiday.

And, yes, it is, a holiday set aside to remember one of the most remarkable men of the 20th Century. As I was sitting, thinking about what I might do for today’s blog, I found myself back in 1968 when I was a teenager and heard that Martin Luther King was dead. I don’t remember where I was, exactly, as I did when JFK was shot but I remember the dread I felt when I heard he was dead.

As I felt when JFK was shot, as I felt when RFK was assassinated, I felt something good had gone out of the world, forcibly and wrongly and before his time. For all the ‘60’s were a swinging time, they also were dark and violent, a time when all our best hopes seem to be taken from us by madmen with guns.

Today in Mobile, hundreds marched; in Philadelphia, there were thousands. The last Freedom Train ran today, sold out, in California.

It is nearly fifty years since his death but Martin Luther King stands as an example for us all. As I was thinking about what to write today, I read an article on The Daily Kos about the real legacy of Martin Luther King. This writer posited that what MLK really did was to end the terror of living in the South, that by facing and experiencing their worst fears, black men and women learned to live without fear.

Not only did he give great speeches and lead marches, he led men and women to an interior place they had never known.

The world in which he grew up is nearly incomprehensible to me. I never experienced it. I barely knew anyone of color. In my Catholic boys high school, there was one African-American, and two Asians out of 1600. Of those, only one graduated with us, one of the Asians. We had no neighbors of color. I lived in a very white bread world and didn’t even realize it until I was older.

But growing up, I was aware of the sea change that was coming to the country. On the nightly news there were the horrific scenes of human beings being bashed and sprayed by water hoses.

Television made it impossible to hide the reality of what was happening, contributing to changes. The whole world was changing before my young eyes. Viet Nam was the first war that was televised and hundreds of thousands marched against that. There was a feeling that nothing would ever be the same again.

Civil rights were part of the changes being wrought.

Today’s march in Philadelphia found many carrying signs that said: Black Lives Matter. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have called into question how far we actually have come. The questions of fifty years ago still have to be asked it seems.

We have come a long way. We still have a ways to go.

It is right to pay honor to Martin Luther King and the best way of paying honor is to continue to work to achieve his goals. His dream has been partly realized. Let us hope the next fifty years sees the completion of that dream, with hopes it will not take so long.

Letter From New York

July 2, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

Another day; another airport. Feels like the old days – I’ve been up at oh dark hundred several days now, catching planes to a variety of cities for a variety of reasons. I was having an email exchange with my friend Robert Murray who, as I recounted my schedule, gave me advice: meet interesting people. And I have.

First interesting person along the way was Sis Wenger, President and CEO of NACOA, the National Association of Children of Alcoholics. She is a powerhouse, a seventy something gray haired lady who has been an almost unstoppable force in the recovery community for a long, long, long time. Her work is amazing. And necessary.

When I was in college, there was a play that some friends did a scene from: “And Mrs. Riordan Drinks A Little.” Sometimes, when I was being a wag, I would say to my friends “And Mrs. Tombers Drinks A Little.” My mother had some issues – which is not to say that she couldn’t be the most charming individual on the planet. She could. And she did her best. And…

So I was confronted with some memories that I hadn’t expected when I was getting ready for my meeting with the indefagtible Sis Wenger. Studying her website opened some places in my heart I have not gone for a long time. But good that I did. I could be sad for young Mat and glad for old Mat and appreciative of the goodness that was in my mother and grateful for the fact we had resolution with each other before she died.

Sis Wenger is one of the most amazing individuals I’ve encountered for a long time. Sincere, interesting, dedicated, inspiring and very real. I am privileged to have met her.

So, moving on, to an afternoon in Philadelphia to meet another very interesting man: Michael Shevek, a Rabbi. I have a friend, David Arcara, and we get together once a quarter or so for a lunch to discuss global realities. He is, without a doubt, one of the smartest people I know. At our last lunch he mentioned Michael and suggested we get to know each other. He made a connection. Michael and I had a Skype conversation when he was in Paris and then met last weekend.

A man with an extraordinary history: Creative Director of a major ad agency and when he got let go from his position [an inevitability when in that position], went through a life crisis which ended with him as a Rabbi [I simplify a very complicated story]. He is now working with the Patton Foundation, founded by Helen Patton, who is the granddaughter of George S. Patton, the General who tore through Europe, defeating the Nazis.

Michael was in Europe around the time of D-Day and ended up, by circumstance, at a German Memorial Service for soldiers who died during D-Day. His presence resulted in the German organizer bursting into tears, as he had always wanted a Rabbi to be there, to bring some kind of closure. He begged Michael to be part of the memorial service for the Germans and he agreed. Even after Michael had been told that there were SS buried in the cemetery. When told that Michael’s response was: before they were SS, they were children.

And that is true. Before there is corruption, there is childhood and we are innocent. And at some point, the men who became SS were children, were innocent and uncorrupted. And how sad that someone offered them the apple from which they ate and which led them out of the garden of good into the garden of good and evil.

All of us are offered the apple; one of the great choices we make in life is how deeply we bite into the apple, how much we surrender the innocence of our childhood on our path through life. Because we all surrender some of our innocence.