Posts Tagged ‘Pierre Font’

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

Pate

Radishes with butter and kosher salt

Soup

Pumpkin Soup a la Jacques Pepin

Main Course

Turkey

Rubbed in spices

Dressings

Brown bread dressing

Rice and Mushroom Dressing

Traditional Bread Dressing

Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Mashed White Potatoes

Smashed Russet Potatoes with skins

Vegetables

Honey Glazed Carrots

Haricot Vert with sage butter sauce

Freshly baked multigrain bread

Salad

Desserts

Digestifs

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!

IMG_2545

 

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 15 2017 On the Auto Train outside of Jacksonville, FL…

July 15, 2017

It is closing on 6:00 on the 15th of July, 2017 and I am riding north on the auto train from Sanford, Florida to Lorton, Virginia.  Pierre Font, married to my friend Lionel, and I are bringing his parents’ car from Miami to Columbia County, which is where they will be living while they sort out their lives.

There are no stops.  Well, except for the one where one of the engines lost power but they managed to fix it and we are going again.  It is a bit like being on a cruise, having a day at sea.

Forty years ago, in Tehran, Maryam Mirzakhani, was born.  She is the only woman to have won the Field Award in mathematics, the equivalent of a Nobel Prize.  And today, she passed away, a victim of breast cancer, a brilliant mind gone quiet.  She has been a Professor at Stanford University since 2008.  RIP.  It is hard to lose such a brilliant mind.  By the way, she was Muslim.

Yesterday, one of my relatives sent me an email warning me about a young Muslim politician in Michigan.  It was, to me, both xenophobic and un-American, and I angrily deleted it.  We were being warned he might one day become President of the United States.  Today, I wanted to retrieve it but couldn’t seem to find it.  My relative’s unhappiness with the man was simply based on the fact he was Muslim.

One of the finest people I have known in my life was Omar Ahmad, a Muslim, who when he died prematurely from a heart attack a few years ago, was Mayor of San Carlos, CA.

There was a moment when I wanted to respond.  I didn’t because it would have no effect on him as nothing I say would change his mind.  This is who he is, xenophobic and un-American and he has been that way since I have known him.

Yet, I feel guilty at not having responded.

Such is life in 21st Century America.

The election of Trump to the Presidency has given lots of people more freedom to express xenophobia and racism and all the ugly things we haven’t dealt with in America.  And all the things that more and more of the world is having to deal with as huge populations move around the globe.

France was welcoming to Josephine Baker in the 1920’s; it could afford to be.  It looked down on the United States and its racial policies.  But would a Josephine Baker from a Muslim country today still find the embrace she did?  I’m not sure.

It is one thing to be a rarity in the 1920’s and another to be part of an encroaching potential majority in the 2010’s.

I am saddened and worn by all these things and grateful I will be gone before all this plays out.

It is possible for me to look back and think, gratefully, on what a life I have had.  It is my hope that the people who are younger than me will also have a wonderful life and that a solution will be found to all of this because if we do not find a way to embrace each other, it is not going to be pretty.

Letter From Claverack 01 29 2017 The Game is afoot…

January 30, 2017

It is a little past seven at the cottage; the weekend is winding down, “Swing Jazz” is the Amazon music station playing.  Marcel, Lionel and Pierre’s poodle, is situated comfortably on the couch, looking at the door to see when they will return, which will be in a few days.  The flood lights illuminate the creek and I am at the freshly polished dining room table, writing.

It’s the end of a good weekend, mostly very “hygge.” [Pronounced hoo-ga, it’s Danish for living a cozy life.]  And it’s been a cozy weekend.  Young Nick has returned from his walkabout and came over Friday afternoon and helped me prepare for what turned out to be a most excellent dinner party.

Saturday was cleaning up and being domestic, a solo lunch at the Dot, dinner with Lionel and Pierre at their house, home to sleep.

But all the hygge in my life has been overshadowed and squeezed by the events in the world around me.  President Trump has been issuing Executive Orders to his heart’s content. They feel a bit like Imperial Edicts.  Do this.  Ban that.  It’s been stunning.  And equally stunning is the response of the American public.

When he banned individuals from seven countries, all primarily Muslim, from entering the United States, hordes of lawyers went to airports and became filing appeals, sitting on the floor in the terminals, laptops plugged into whatever outlet could be found.

It made me proud.

At those same airports, crowds appeared.  At JFK, several New York Congressmen were there, attempting to help.  One quarantined gentleman was an Iraqi citizen who was on his way to the US because he had been an interpreter for our soldiers and his life was in danger.  Thankfully, he was released.

People with green cards are in limbo, depending on the airport they flew into.  Federal Judges are ordering limits on Trump’s ruling and some officials are ignoring them.

Excuse me, what?  What?

Heads are spinning.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief political operative, has been given a seat on the National Security Council while the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs and the Director of National Intelligence have been demoted.

What? What?

In the morning now, I get up, make my coffee and call my Senators and my Representative in Congress and tomorrow I don’t know what issue to focus on.  There are so many.

A relative sent me a clip of a State of the Union Address given by Bill Clinton, in which he talked about the dangers of illegal immigration.  The headline before the clip was “The hypocrisy of liberals!”

Well, really, hypocrisy?  Take a look at this article.  Mike Pence opposed what Trump has done and now is praising it.  Is that not hypocrisy?  Political opportunism?

Immigration has been an issue ever since we stopped accepting just about everybody.  Don’t know about you, but I’m here, an American citizen, because my great grandparents came over from Germany and settled in Minnesota.  Back then, almost everyone was taken in. [Though my great grandparents arrived in First Class so they didn’t have to go through the indignities of Ellis Island.]

Then it changed and immigration has been an issue ever since.  Okay, I get that.  And what President Trump has done is unprecedented.  His list of excluded countries does not include Saudi Arabia from which came many of the 9/11 hijackers.  It does not exclude Pakistan, one of whose citizens was part of the Riverside massacre.  It’s a bit bewildering. The banned countries have barely contributed to the numbers who have died from terrorist acts in the US.

And, amazingly, it appears the list was compiled during the Obama Administration but never activated.  Boggles the mind.

Not even during Viet Nam was I this agitated.  Agitated does not describe my mood when I am not working very hard at hygge.

In an article I scanned two days ago, it speculated that Trump may be to Millennials what Viet Nam was to my generation, a catalytic event.

You see, there is a movement to stop abortions.  There is a generation of young women who have grown up believing they had the right of choice.  Now some people want to take that it away from them.  No, not happy.  And abortions have been decreasing and in 2014 were the lowest since 1973.

There are young people who are in college whose friends are in limbo because they come from one of the banned countries and went home over winter break and may not be able to come back despite having valid visas.

And there are people like me, a Baby Boomer grown old, who is incensed in a way I have not been for god alone knows how many years.  The protests will not stop.  They will not go away.  The country is fired up in a way that hasn’t been seen since Viet Nam.

Wow!  The games have begun.

To be completely clear, I am one of the founders of Blue DOT [Democracy Opposing Trump] Hudson Indivisible.  It is my time of being an activist.  This Presidency must be opposed.  It is divisive.  It is immoral.  It has in its first week demonstrated a willingness to flaunt conventional order.

Tomorrow I am calling the office of John McCain and Lindsey Graham who are opposing Trump to thank them for their efforts.  We are all in for a rocky ride and maybe this was a good thing to happen.

The Left is galvanized the way the Right was when Obama was elected and already seems, and I hope it continues, to be more emphatic than the Tea Party movement.

The game is afoot…

 

 

Letter From Claverack 01 02 2017 Welcome to a new year and a new era…

January 3, 2017

Not yet quite six o’clock in the evening, the sun is gone and floodlights are on the creek.  Soft jazz is on the Echo and I am winding down from some writing I did today along with emails and a couple of loads of laundry.  An ordinary day at the cottage, most of it cozied up with my laptop while watching Marcel, Lionel and Pierre’s sixteen-year old poodle sleep on the couch.  I’m dog sitting again while they are off in Boston.

creek-two-122916

New Year’s was surprisingly good.  My expectations were low and the reality great.  There was a feast at my friend Matthew Morse’s house with thirteen people, followed by going down the road to friends of his who have restored as their home a 19th Century roadhouse.  There is a balcony looking down into the tavern area and I was standing there looking down at a crowd that seemed like a hundred, sipping Moet Chandon as the New Year came in…

New Year’s Day was spent in recovery with a game of Clue over cocktails, followed by roast chicken.  Not bad.

Every time I peek into the state of the world, I want to slam the door and run into my bedroom with a cold bottle of vodka and a straw.

It sometimes feels like I have stepped into a Jean Cocteau film.

Hours after I exchanged e-mails with a friend who lives in Istanbul, working for Sony Pictures, there was a nightclub slaughter.  Responsibility for it has been claimed by IS.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber killer a couple of dozen people.  This Sunday, I will light a candle for them at church, the people of Baghdad and Istanbul.  Turkey has been assaulted this month by a whole series of attacks.  Baghdad has never not been assaulted since we invaded.

Trump tweeted something New Year’s Eve that has lots of people outraged.  It seems impossible for me to follow his tweets though I have been told the cable news channels have been spending hours attempting to decipher them.

His press secretary has pleaded with people to stop mocking him.  I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Alec Baldwin has stepped into a brand-new career on SNL and we are going to be living with it for Trump’s entire term in office.  He is just too juicy a target for satirists.  I wish I were a comedy writer.

Trump’s team is saying we should be focusing more on punishing Hillary Clinton than being concerned about Russian hacking.  Did I say something about being in a Cocteau film?  [And if you don’t know who Jean Cocteau is, Google him…]

US officials are saying Russia’s “fingerprints” are all over the hacking and Trump is saying he has inside information on the hacking which he will reveal tomorrow or Wednesday. Personally, I can’t wait.  But then I am still waiting for him to tell us how he will separate himself from his businesses.  That may be more difficult than handling the Russian hacking.

Then, of course, since I last wrote Carrie Fisher, “Princess Leia” from “Star Wars” died after a heart attack on a flight back from London, only to be followed across the River Styx by her mother, the legendary Debbie Reynolds, the following day.

Eras seem ending all around me and I am not happy…

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 11 25 2016 Thankfulness after Thanksgiving…

November 25, 2016

Outside the window, it is grey, darkish and chill.  Judy Collins is playing on my Echo [Alexa!  Play Judy Collins!  And she does.]. It is the day after Thanksgiving, the kind of day to curl up with a good book, a blanket and a fire, which I will do after finishing this missive.

My friend, Sarah, sent me something she had received from one of her dearest friends, who now lives in a Buddhist monastery.  “May you enjoy a peaceful day of gratitude for everything that is good and right in the world.”

A great thought for the day after Thanksgiving.  There is, after all, much that is not right in the world.

The list of things wrong in this world is endless.

And so, too, is the list of all the things right in the world.  When I wake in the morning, I do my best to take a moment to be grateful that I have awakened, that I live, that I am surrounded these days by the soft winter beauty that is my little patch of earth.

Yesterday, Lionel, Pierre, their dog, Marcel, and I wandered up the road to Larry and Alicia’s home, with a view down to the Hudson River.  We ate, drank, were merry, and grateful and then gathered around the baby grand piano and Lionel “bashed” out tunes to which all but me sang along.  I cannot carry a tune; sitting instead on the sofa, I listened with joy.

We stayed last night at the Keene Farm, Larry and Alicia’s guest house, a wonderful, smaller house than their home at Mill Brook Farm, which is the main residence. That is a house with its foundations in the Dutch settlers in the 1600’s, added onto in the 18th Century, restored in the 20th, added onto again in the 21st.  As we left there today, I was thinking I have what I have and I am happy with what I have, content in this third act time.

One of the things I have in this world are wonderful friends.

On Holidays, I have a tradition of texting everyone I have texted in the last year with a “Happy Thanksgiving” or a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year.”  Yesterday, my friend Jeffrey texted back he was grateful I was in his life and tears sprung to my eyes.  We’ve known each other a long time; been a constant in each other’s lives.  It felt so good to know.

Kevin, my nephew, texted me that he loved me as did my godson.  Smiles played on my lips.  Two such wonderful men; so lucky to have them in my life.

After last night’s feast, we brunched today at the Keene Farm; Lionel and I cooked while Pierre walked, Marcel sniffing around, enjoying the wonders of a new place.

The world is scary.  Terrible things are happening and I know that.  I am sourly aware that a bomb exploded yesterday in Baghdad, killing Iranian pilgrims.  In Iran, a train derailment took 43 lives.  Refugees are pawns in the political war of wills between the EU and Turkey.

And outside my window, the Claverack Creek slowly makes it way to the pond at the edge of Jim Ivory’s land, full this year of geese, after their absence for nearly five years. It feels a little order has returned to the universe.

Yesterday, a bald eagle swooped up the creek and took momentary residence on a tree limb across from my window.  Then he spread his wings wide and soared up creek, to the north, seeking I know not what.

The bald eagle, symbol of the American Republic, a troubled Republic we all know, yet I quote my great friend Jan Hummel:  we will survive this.  We survived Warren G. Harding, after all, and Grover Cleveland, who was a scoundrel of the worst sort.

Google it…

Dried, dead leaves scatter my deck, an Adirondack chair sits looking lonely over the creek, the dull grey of the skies has continued now for two days.  Now I am listening to Joan Baez, thinking back, gratefully, to those days in my youth when I first heard Judy Collins and Joan Baez.

We are all tender right now.  Being grateful for the good things in our lives will help us heal, I think.

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 11 21 2016 Join me on the barricades, please…

November 22, 2016

It is November 21st.

Three days after my birthday, a time of extraordinary celebration.  Starting on the night of the 17th, I had dinner with my friends Annette & David Fox.  Leaving them, I connected with my friend Robert Murray and I kept him company while he ate at Thai Market.  Feeling frisky, we followed that by a stopover at Buceo, a Wine Bar on 95th Street.  Things got a little hazy about then.

And that was okay.

The following day, I took the train north and met my friend Larry Divney and his friend, Mark, at Ca’Mea for a birthday lunch.  Then dinner with Lionel and Pierre.

Saturday, I spent the day doing my best to respond personally to everyone who had wished me “Happy Birthday” on Facebook or in emails.  I am still doing that.

It was great.  It was wonderful.  It was a great and lovely distraction in this most confusing time.

Donald Trump, billionaire reality TV star, is the President Elect.

My friend, Pierre, husband to Lionel White, more than best friend said it was [and he is right] that it’s a little bit like we’re Italy and we have elected Silvio Berlusconi as President.

For days, I have done my best to adjust to this.

Over the weekend, for my birthday celebrations, people entered the evening doing their best not to talk politics but that lasted maybe five minutes. How can you not talk politics at this moment?  Once people realized they were in a “safe” place there were revelatory expressions of emotions…

In whatever way you want to think about it, there has been a major shift in American politics.  What I saw this weekend was a beginning of a counter-revolution, a sudden and decisive movement by the left to become a “loyal opposition.”

For years, they/we have felt we had the moral high ground and that was just whisked away from us.  So who are we?

We are faced with the rightfully disenfranchised who voted to place Trump in office. [Let us make note that he did not win the POPULAR vote.]  He won the Electoral College vote, an arcane system I haven’t really thought about since I studied it in high school civics and so I need to understand it better as TWICE in this short century, a President has been elected who won the popular vote but did not win the Electoral College.

As I said, I need to study this but it seems the Electoral College was weighted to help slave states be reasonably represented.  So much to relearn… Or learn for the first time!

We are entering a decisive time and, I think, everyone call feel it.  Politics in this country will never be the same.

Nor should it.  A registered Independent, I am resolutely Liberal and now I have found I must actively fight for the liberal ideals in which I believe.

Join me on the barricades!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter From Claverack 09 29 2106 Musings at Twilight…

September 30, 2016

As I have been sitting here, listening to “Smooth Jazz” twilight has become almost night.  The last glimmerings of the silvery light are slipping away.

This week I have been dog sitting Marcel, Lionel and Pierre’s poodle, who will soon turn sixteen.  Every night, he takes me for a walk.  We leave my cottage and he marches me over to his house, across the street from mine and takes me for a tour of his yard.  He goes to the front door and looks at me uncomprehendingly when I do not let him in.

He is reluctant to leave once he is on his home territory; actually, he fights me.  He doesn’t want to come back to my house but eventually he realizes that he is not going home tonight and walks with me back to my place.

He is very smart, is little Mr. Marcel.  And sweet.  And I am enjoying his company right now though I realize my own time for pets is past.  I still come and go too much to give any pet like Marcel a real home.  And I am single.  Were there a partner, it would be easier.

There are soft sounds from woodland creatures that filter into my time here at the laptop, soft sounds from the night outside.

It is, this moment, a soft and gentle world that seems unconnected with all that is happening beyond me.  I feel, here, encapsulated, as if the outside world did not exist.

But it does.

The Syrians under Assad and their Russian allies have been brutally pulverizing Aleppo.  It has only become worse since the last time I wrote.  It is the kind of brutality we have not seen for a long time.  And, as I said before, I wonder about the poor boy in the ambulance.  Has he survived this assault?  I wonder about that day and night. I am haunted by wanting to know.

Here, at home, there was a horrific crash of a New Jersey Transit Train at Hoboken.  One person is dead.  100 are injured, some seriously.  I texted my friend Mary Dickey to check on her.  She had changed her plans today and did not take the train into New York City.  Just as something had diverted her the morning of 9/11 or she would have been under the Towers when one of the planes hit.

Congress overturned Obama’s veto of a law that would allow 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.  Personally, I think it was a political move that will have unintended consequence.  The Saudis are rethinking their alliance with us and it opens the door for a lot of problems we don’t want to have.  Like everyone in Iraq suing us for our “meddling.”

Not quite knowing how to parse this but right now there are reports that Trump may have violated the embargo that was in place during the 1990’s with Cuba.  If true, it will wound him with Cuban Americans in Florida, which is essential in his path to the Presidency.

Trump has had both a good year and a bad year.  He is the Republican nominee for President, a reality no one thought possible six months ago.  His net worth, according to Forbes, has dropped by $800 million this last year but it still leaves him with 3.7 billion dollars, according to the magazine.  Forbes is generally thought of as a conservative publication.

Samsung, the company of exploding Galaxy Note 7s, has a new problem.  Its washing machines are also exploding.  So glad I did not choose to get a Samsung gas stove when I bought new appliances for my kitchen.

It’s a brand in trouble.  Big trouble.

We were facing a government shutdown tomorrow but it has been avoided.  The government is funded until December 9th, after the elections.  Zika funding was approved to the tune of $1.1 billion.

It is a quiet evening here.  I have looked into the world and now I am going to take myself to bed, watch a little video and go to sleep, happy. The way I woke this morning.

 

 

 

 

Letter From New York 05 23 2016 Letter From New York Thoughts from the train north from Baltimore…

May 23, 2016

It is Monday morning and I am riding an overcrowded train from Baltimore to New York after spending the weekend there visiting friends.  At one point I thought I might end up sitting on the floor but found a seat at the very front of the train.

Outside ruined building pass; we are somewhere just north of Philadelphia.  Exotic graffiti adorns them while the sun blasts down.  Beyond the ruins lie bedraggled row houses that probably will someday be gentrified.  What contrasts we have in this country.

Baltimore is in a resurgence, at least near the water, where my friends live.  We dined on Saturday night at Peter’s Inn, a wonderfully, quirky little row house restaurant, rough around the edges with handwritten menus, food arriving in the order that the chef has prepared it which is not necessarily the way you ordered it.  Good chill martinis and a nice little wine list, friendly people and that wonderful thing called “atmosphere” that has not been scrupulously concocted but which emerges from the quirkiness of the place and people.

It was a time of sitting around and visiting with Lionel and Pierre and my friend Allen Skarsgard, with whom I had some long philosophical conversations over the weekend.  We had known each other in the long ago and faraway, reconnecting just enough that we can mark the present without dwelling in our past.

There was, of course, talk of the brutal politics of this election cycle.  I don’t remember a question that was asked on MSNBC on Sunday morning but recall the response:  it’s 2016, ANYTHING can happen.

So it seems.

As it seems all over the world.  A far right candidate is deadlocked with his rival in Austria.  If Herbert Norber of the right wins, it will be the first time a far right candidate will have won a European election since the end of Fascism, a warning shot across the bow of the world.

Troubling for Hillary are national polls, of which we have several a day it seems, that have her potentially losing to Trump.  They have Bernie beating Trump by 10.8 points.

Predictions are that a “Brexit” from the European Union will spark a year long recession.  The drive for a British exit from the European Union is, at least partially, being driven by anti-immigration and nationalistic feelings in the country.

Is this a bit like what the 1930’s felt like? 

In the meantime, Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” fame and fortune is playing Belle in a live action version of “Beauty and the Beast.” Somehow that seems comforting to me this morning.

In Syria, IS has claimed the responsibility for killing scores in that poor, broken country in areas considered Assad strongholds.  A suicide bomber killed many Army recruits in Aden, Yemen.

And a drone strike killed the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mansour, who opposed peace talks.  His death was confirmed by Obama, who will be the first sitting President to visit Hiroshima, struck by the US with an atomic bomb in !945, a move which forced the Japanese to move to surrender.  He has been in Viet Nam, where he lifted a fifty year old arms embargo, a move to help counter the rise of China in the South China Sea.

Moves and counter moves, the world is in play.  It always has been.  It just took longer in other times for the moves to be made and to feel their repercussions.  Now it’s almost instantaneous.

Letter From New York 05 07 2016 Thoughts from yesterday…

May 7, 2016

The town of Fort McMurray, in the heart of Canada’s oil patch, is burning to the ground as I write.  88,000 people are being evacuated.  One who has remained to assist in fueling emergency workers described the city, according to Vice, as a “f**king ghost town.”  Reports are calling the situation barely managed chaos. Convoys are transporting people out of town and 8,000 have been airlifted out.

The Prime Minister of Turkey has resigned after a fight with President Erdogan.  As I understand it, in Turkey it’s the PM who is supposed to have the power while the President does the meeting and the greeting.  Erdogan doesn’t see it that way and has been keeping hold on the reins of power.  This resignation makes it easier for Erdogan to consolidate power.  Turkey is troubled, fighting a Kurdish insurgency, IS, wrestling with refugees and a population that is growing antagonistic to Erdogan.

I still would like to go back to the “Turquoise Coast” of that country, sun dappled and bucolic.

Not bucolic is the state of American politics.  Trump continues to rise and has no opposition on his march to the nomination.  Cruz and Kasich are gone. The Presidents Bush, number 41 and 43, have signaled they will not endorse him. Paul Ryan is “not ready” at this time to endorse Trump.  The Trump campaign approached over a hundred Republican politicos to say something good about Trump.  Only twenty responded; the others were “too busy.”

As I gave my last lecture, the students were commenting on how exhausted they were of the political season and the near certainty that Trump will be the Republican nominee has only heightened their distaste for politics; all suspect an ugly, brutal slugfest between the two candidates, neither of whom they admire, assuming Hillary is nominated, as it looks she will. The aspirational nature of politics has slipped away from us.

And before it is done, something like $4 billion will be spent on this election, twice what was spent in 2012.

President Obama implored reporters to focus on issues and not “the spectacle and circus” that has marked coverage so far of the 2016 Presidential race.  After all, being President of the United States is “not a reality show.”  Amen…

A Fort Valley State University student, in central Georgia, was stabbed to death as he came to aid three women who were being harassed and groped near the school cafeteria.  Rest in peace, Donnell Phelps, all of nineteen.

Two are dead and two are wounded in shootings is suburban Maryland, three at Montgomery Mall, where I have shopped and one at a grocery store nine miles away.  One man is believed responsible.  If it is the man police suspect, he killed his wife last night when she was at school, picking up their children.  He was under court order to stay away from her.

It is a grey afternoon as I write this, in a stretch of chill, grey days and news like the above deepens the pall of the day.

If you are feeling grey because “Downton Abbey” has slipped into the past, its creator, Julian Fellowes, took Trollope’s novel, “Doctor Thorne” and brought it to life.  Amazon has purchased it and will stream it beginning May 20.  Fill a hole in your viewing heart.

In my heart, I want a new iPhone and I am probably going to wait until the fall when Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, tells us that the iPhone 7 will give us features we can’t live without.  What they are, I don’t know.  I am writing this on a train going north and can’t stream on Amtrak’s wifi.

Speaking of Amtrak, I booked a trip from New York to Minneapolis on the train for July 20th to visit my brother and his family.  I am taking a train to DC, the Capital Limited out of there to Chicago and the Empire Builder from Chicago to Minneapolis.  I hope it will be good fun.

Fun seems to be what we need these days.  Our politics are not fun.  The constant barrage of shootings is not fun, not remotely.  The economy, while growing, isn’t growing fast enough which is not fun.

What will be fun is that Lionel and Pierre are going to be at their home across the street from me this weekend and I will get to see them.

Letter From New York 01 30 16 Uncommonly happy…

January 30, 2016

Hudson Valley  Lionel White  Pierre Font   Downton Abbey  iTunes  Hillary Email Crisis  Hillary Clinton  Bernie Sanders  Iowa Caucuses  Zika Virus  Putin  Russian Economy  Ammon Bundy 

It is a beautiful day in the Hudson Valley, the sun generously warming us into the mid-forties with a high of fifty promised for tomorrow.  The light glints off the creek and the wind is shaking the branches of the trees just outside the dining room window.

When I found myself cognizant this morning, I realized I was happy — for no particular reason, just caught up in a pleasant kind of joy that has remained with me during the day.

Tonight I am cooking for Lionel and Pierre and we’ll watch a movie from my collection.  Having subscribed to iTunes in order to watch the program, I now am in possession of the rest of the season of “Downton Abbey” and can binge if I so choose.

Not one of my students had heard of “Downton Abbey” when I asked them.

A LOT, I suspect, is going to be heard in the next few days about the twenty-two “top secret” emails found on Hillary’s server.  The question remains whether they were “top secret” when she received or sent them; there has been much classification after the fact with her emails.  One of the “top secret” ones seems, according to sources, to have been a publicly published article. 

Whatever the truth, it will be made much of in the days to come and it is especially inconvenient as it is only three days to the Iowa caucuses and Hillary has been losing ground to Bernie.

Suddenly, the Zika virus has become a major health threat, spreading rapidly through the Americas but nowhere more prevalent than in Recife, Brazil.  An impoverished city is being made more miserable by the mosquito born virus which results in some infected mothers to give birth to children with microcephaly, with heads and brains smaller than normal.

At least five countries have advised women not to get pregnant until more is known.  Some are saying Zika could be more of threat than Ebola.

A Russian plane violated Turkish airspace again.  Turkey did not shoot it down but did warn of consequences.

One wonders if Putin is playing with fire because he needs diversions from the rapidly declining Russian economy?  His budget has been slashed again because of the declining price of oil.  The Russian budget has been built on the basis of oil at $50.00 a barrel, which it’s not. 

There are reports that the average Russian citizen is beginning to get restless and are beginning to protest, particularly in towns away from Moscow.  Retirees are having their pensions cut.  And, after a taste of a better life, Russians may not want to suffer silently for Mother Russia.

While I sit watching the placid Claverack Creek, the European Refugee Crisis continues; 37 drowned yesterday while attempting to reach Greece.

Three dangerous inmates escaped from an Orange County, California jail and all three have been returned to custody.  One turned himself in and the other two were captured in a stolen van in a Whole Foods parking lot in San Francisco after an alert woman notified police of the presence there of a van matching the description of one being used by the escapees.

While Ammon Bundy is in custody, the Oregon stand-off continues with some of his followers still at the refuge even though Bundy has told them to stand down. 

The sun is beginning to set, a golden light is falling on the barren trees across the creek.  It is time for me to sign off and begin to cook, distracting myself from the world’s woes.