Posts Tagged ‘Pope Francis’

Letter From Miami 02 12 2017 Hygge while traveling

February 12, 2017

Around me, I am listening to a mélange of English, Spanish, Italian, French and German.

I am not in Claverack, NY but on the veranda of my hotel in Miami Beach, a cloudy morning having given way to clear blue skies with a gentle breeze blowing off the beach a short block away, sipping my third very good cappuccino of the day.

Waking just after seven, I have spent most of my morning here.  First, a light breakfast with my friend Nick Stuart, before he left for what is now a rainy New York, later, reading the New York Times on my new iPhone 7 Plus, much easier than on my old 5s.

Reading the news is a bemusing event these days.  It may just be me but it seems the Administrative Branch of our government is in disarray while the Legislative Branch appears as if it’s a group of old white men braying their success at owning the joint with the Judicial Branch holding the center of sanity.

There is a young man named Stephen Miller who is a Trumpian True Believer, architect of the Travel Ban and, before this, on the staff of Senator Jeff Sessions.  Previously known for his avalanches of ideological emails to fellow Congressional staffers, he is now close to and closely listened to by President Trump.  He is 31 and shaping policy.  We must watch him as he will be influential in the coming months, whatever your political persuasion.

Apparently, his secretive nature was part of the reason the Travel Ban wasn’t thoroughly vetted.

He made the rounds of the Sunday morning shows trumpeting the ways Trump will combat the unanimous decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to refuse to reinstate the ban.

When George Stephanopoulos asked him about the report that Michael Flynn discussed sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador before Flynn was sworn in as White House national security adviser, he had nothing to say, not having been given anything to say by the White House.

On NBC, Miller couldn’t comment on whether the President still had confidence in Flynn.  He also continues to assert there was mass voter fraud, causing Trump to lose the popular vote.  Saying so, doesn’t make it so, Mr. Miller.  If it is true, please show some evidence.  He states facts without proof, a great “gas lighting” technique.

Steve Bannon, Lord Vizier, is being scrutinized for a 2014 speech he gave at a Vatican Conference in which he referenced Julius Evola, darling of Italian Fascists.  It also appears Bannon, who is Catholic, is shimmying up to a group of Vatican insiders who believe Pope Francis is destroying the Church.

Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Trump, was herself “counseled” per Press Secretary Spicer because she encouraged people to go out and buy “Ivanka’s stuff,” from the White House Briefing Room. That crosses an ethical line, most people agree.  Perhaps not the President, who was unhappy with Spicer’s choice of the word “counselled.”

The Office of Government Ethics had its website melt down with complaints.

Ivanka has had her line dropped from Nordstrom’s because it was underperforming, which elicited a scolding tweet from the President, and then Nordstrom’s found its stock jumping 5%.

Apparently, Ivanka and Kellyanne have had words:  Kellyanne, don’t mention me or my products on television!

Poor Spicer.  He’s lost face with the President because Melissa McCarthy portrayed him on a SNL skit; the program is having its highest ratings in twenty years as a certain element in the country breathlessly waits for its next Trump skewer, though last night’s skit with Kellyanne Conway doing a “Fatal Attraction” on Jake Tapper caused me to grimace but SNL isn’t always known for its taste.

It is with unconscious competence I have chosen to be away now.  Claverack was pummeled with 12 inches of snow with another twelve about to batter it.  Hopefully, it will be over by the time I return.

Last night, I attended my friends’ party for the fifth anniversary of their art gallery, Williams – McCall, in South Beach.  Their chef was last seen providing the food for the Patriots at the Super Bowl.

So right now, I am going to finish this, do a bit more culling of emails and then head to the beach for a bit of sunbathing.  While I am not at home, this is traveling hygge.

 

Letter From Claverack, New York 09 02 2016

September 3, 2016

As I was sitting on the deck, there came a slight chill in the air, a harbinger of times to come.  It is still a luxurious green outside the window but it was getting just a little chill and so I returned to the dining room table to write this.

It occurred to me that working on these letters has contributed to my happiness over the years, particularly since I began to have more time at the cottage, a chance to collect my thoughts and ruminate upon the world in which we live.

It has been a good day.  Waking early, I journaled for a bit, read the daily summary of the news in the NY Times, drank coffee and then went down to the eye doctor.  I have an aggressive cataract in my right eye that must be dealt with.  Cold comfort that they tell me it is not age related.  The surgery needs to be done.  I am nervous and it is now scheduled for November 9th.  It has been a hindrance of late so I am glad it will be handled.

From there I treated myself to lunch at Ca’Mea while reading “The Romanovs,” a NY Times best seller about the dynasty that ruled Russia for 300 plus years and came to a sad end in a room in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg in 1918, the last Tsar and his family and their retainers shot to death.

While I knew something of the end of the Romanov Era as I had studied Tolstoy, Chekov and others of that “Silver Age” I have known very little of the earlier Romanovs.  They had some particularly gruesome ways of killing their rivals.

Returning home, I napped a bit and then went out to the deck to do some prep work for my class.  I am now very much looking forward to it.

Touching in on the news of the day, I can only find myself smiling over the absurdity of it all.  One of Hillary Clinton’s laptops, chock-a-block with emails was lost in the US Mail.  I roll my eyes.

In what should come as NO surprise, Hispanics really, really don’t like Donald Trump according to America’s Voice’s poll, a pro-immigration group that did a large poll among Hispanics.  He is doing dramatically worse than Mitt Romney.  Hispanic Republicans are deserting Trump, particularly after his immigration speech in Arizona.

Brazil has ousted its President.  Dilma Rousseff is gone and “Brazil has turned a page,” according to its new President.  For the Brazilian people, let us hope so.

Long ago, I was getting on a flight in Atlanta, going God knows where but Mother Theresa and some of her nuns were getting on the flight with me.  I saw her walk by, followed by her coterie.  It was before I went to India.

She is about to be a saint though when I was in India there were many who found her less than saintly.  I have a friend in India, a Beverly Hills Jew who is now a sadhu, who worked with the Gandhi’s when they were in power.  He railed against Mother Theresa, claiming she was the ultimate “fixer” in Calcutta, now Kolkata.  He despised her and there are those in India who are devoting their lives to dispelling what they call the myth of Mother Theresa.  I don’t know the truth.

It is dark now. The floodlights have been turned on so I can see the creek.  I have lights on the front of the house, year round that I often light.  My former neighbor, Karen Fonda, once called me to tell me how happy seeing the lights made her.  When I turn them on, I think of her.  She is now in assisted living, sinking into the hell that is Alzheimer’s.

Hurricane Hermine is moving out of Florida and into the Carolinas.  Yesterday, I phoned my sister who lives in Florida to see how she was doing. Okay, a few power outages but generally well.  While New York City was having rain today, my part of the Hudson Valley was sunny and cheerful.

Roger Ailes, recently ousted as Tsar of Fox News, is now advising Donald Trump.  No one seems to be paying much attention to this.  Ailes has been accused by many women of having made inappropriate sexual suggestions to them.  He was finally toppled when Megyn Kelly, not well liked by Trump, but a Fox News star, met with the legal team investigating Ailes and corroborated the stories.

No one seems to care.

Well, I think it’s a wise move on Trump’s part as Ailes created the wild conservative movement we now have in America.  But unwise in that Ailes is discredited by many at this moment.  Interesting to see how this serpentine relationship works itself out.

 

 

Letter From New York 04 16 16 The way we once were…

April 17, 2016

When I was kid — and perhaps when we were all kids — there was one house we all gravitated towards, to hang out, to be around.  When I was a kid, it was the McCormick house.  They were a large family, six kids, in a big house and every year the back yard became a skating rink. In the freezing Minnesota nights the whole neighborhood of kids was there.  During the summers we played kick ball in their enormous driveway.

Still close to the McCormick family, I had lunch with Mary Clare McCormick Eros yesterday at Cafe du Soleil on New York’s Upper West Side.  Sarah, whom I have known since before Kindergarten and I were planning yesterday when to get together when she is in New York next month.  Her son, Kevin, thinks of me as his “Uncle Mat,” even now when he is 31.

Today, I went to Rhinebeck to return to Robert and Tanya Murray innumerable egg cartons as they had donated dozens of eggs from their chickens to my Easter Brunch Church adventures.  When I arrived, two of his children and one of their friends were preparing to do a car wash and I was their first car.  Robert and I sat on the steps and watched them, sipping deep, rich coffee with steamed milk while they soaped up my car.

IMG_1209

I suspect Robert and Tanya have the house in the neighborhood to which everyone gravitates.  Sitting there, it reminded me of John and Eileen and the parade that made its way through their home on Aldrich Avenue in Minneapolis.  Robert got up from the stoop and swooped in and helped them.  It took me back to a much simpler, it seemed, time.

It is very doubtful that time was all that much simpler but it seemed that way to us as kids.  I am sure when Tanya and Robert’s five are grown, they will look back on now and think it was a simpler time.

In a gesture of simplicity and love, Pope Francis, sure to be a saint, went to the isle of Lesbos, the epicenter of the refugee crisis and made a speech on the exact spot where orders for deportation back to Turkey were given two weeks ago.  In a stunning surprise, a dozen Syrians returned with him to the Vatican to be resettled in Italy with the help of a Catholic charity.  All had lost their homes to bombs and six of them were children.  It was an act to “prick the conscience of the king.”

Tuesday is the New York Primary.  Bernie and Hillary slugged it out, in an increasingly strident fashion in a CNN debate in Brooklyn earlier this week.  Both hoarse, both looking exhausted, both fighting tooth and nail, they harried each other and some wonder, no matter who the nominee, if the Democratic Party is suffering wounds as deep as the Republicans have been absorbing with their phantasmagorical season?

It is pitch black outside except for the floodlights on the creek and the lights on my house.  It is quiet, except for the thumping of the dryer with a load of clothes. 

In the early evening, I went to an event, “Prose and Prosecco,” a fund raising event for the little Claverack Library which is working to raise the money to finish moving into its new building. 

Local writers read from their works, two good, one questionable, at least from my perspective.  I chatted with a few people but was not in my aggressive meet people mode and left a bit early to come home, do a few things and write my blog.

I relished watching Robert and his children and Maya, the friend, work through their carwash.  It was an hour filled with the squeals of delighted children, embracing the joy of being children.  The way we once were.

Letter From New York 03 05 2016 From Churchill to Yemen…

March 6, 2016

Winston Churchill used to say he was chased by the “black dog,” depression.  It chased him his whole life and he ran, mostly successfully, from it his whole life. Sometimes, when the “black dog” felt particularly close, Winston would sometimes go off to Morocco and paint, drink and think and probably write.  He wrote more than Dickens and Shakespeare combined.

He may well have been a manic-depressive.  During the war he was followed around by his personal physician, Lord Moran, who prescribed upper and downers to manage the moods of the great man.

He was black dogged by depression and I was thinking about that last night as I rode home on the train, black dogged myself.  I had gone down to the city yesterday, had a full day of appointments and when I stepped on the train last night I was exhausted and felt the old black dog nipping at my heels.

When I got home, I went to bed almost immediately and fell asleep early watching an episode of “Doc Martin,” about an English doctor only marginally more cranky than I was last night.

When the morning broke, I was my usual sunny self and, while sipping tea, worked on next week’s lectures.  The day was spent on that and the Saturday chores.  Young Nick was here and we did things that needed to be done, mounting a light fixture, cleaning, sorting, rearranging, bringing in wood and dealing with the trash.  The things we do on Saturday.

Going down to the Dot, I welcomed Alana back from three weeks in Costa Rica and then, after an omelet and a Bloody Mary, came home to write my letter, which often is one of the most pleasurable times in the day. 

Turning on the floodlights so the creek is illuminated, I sorted through the last couple of days.

The rise of Trump has been a constant cause for conversation though as I returned home, I discovered Ted Cruz had won the Kansas caucuses and he is at least as frightening to me as Trump.  Both of them seem to me to be wack-a-doodles from some other dimension.  This earns me no points with my conservative friends but it’s true; it’s how I feel.

Caitlin Jenner wants to be Ted Cruz’s “trans ambassador.”  I am not sure he’s interested in having one.

Popular comedian Louis CK has implored his fans not to vote for Trump, likening him to Hitler.  Trump, not necessarily looking to support Louis CK’s view of him, announced he would increase the use of torture if he were President.

“Downtown Abbey” ends tomorrow night.  I have already seen the last episode as I subscribed to the feed through iTunes.  Let’s tip a hat to Alistair Bruce, who was in charge of making sure it was historically accurate.  He did a magnificent job.

A fire is burning in the stove; I’ve rearranged some lights in the house.  I like the effect as I sit here at the dining room table, the creek lit in front of me, jazz playing and my thoughts running.

Four nuns and twelve others were killed in Yemen during an attack.  Gunmen entered the building, handcuffed the victims and then shot them.  It’s not yet clear who carried out the attack.  The Pope has decried it; the nuns were members of the order founded by Mother Theresa.

Boko Haram, the scourge of Nigeria, is suffering from a food crisis.  With all the people who have fled them, no is left to grow crops or herd animals and they are beginning to starve.  Hungry and desperate, they are ruthlessly raiding which, I suspect, will only increase the cycle they have created.

And in my cycle, I am going to sign off for tonight.  I need to be up in the morning, work on my lectures and then to church.  I signed up to do coffee hour on Easter Sunday, not quite realizing that it was a major, major thing and I am now expected to come up with something quite spectacular.  Cookbooks are out.  Recipes are being reconnoitered. 

I have a meeting about this tomorrow at 12:30.  I think I may have over stretched and I will rise to the challenge.

Letter From New York 10 21 15 From sunny streets to Holocaust denials…

October 21, 2015

New York City. Starbucks. Producer’s Guild of America. Lionel White. Justin Trudeau. Joe Biden. Hillary Clinton. White House Rose Garden. Paul Ryan. Freedom Caucus. Assad. Syria. Putin. Netanyahu. Holocaust denier. Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Al-Husseini. Angela Merkel. John Kerry. Pope Francis. Wikileaks. CIA Director Brennan. Back to the Future II. XNow.

It is a brilliant day in New York City; the sky is pale blue and the temperature is 74 degrees. Sitting in a Starbucks at 93rd and Broadway, sipping tea, a posse of young students has come in, most dressed in shorts.

Tomorrow morning, I am headed back to the country, an event I am looking forward to as I am sure it would be much more pleasant to be sitting on my deck writing than it is in Starbucks.

But this is where I am, reasonably happy and enjoying my tea. Tonight there is a meeting of the Doc Committee for the Producer’s Guild and I’m going to that, then coming home, catching some sleep.

My friend Lionel is coming up to direct some winterizing tasks at his house across the street and we’ll share dinners together tomorrow and Friday, before he returns to Baltimore on Saturday.

Since I last wrote, Justin Trudeau is the Prime Minister elect of Canada, sweeping into office more seats in Parliament than anyone expected.

Joe Biden announced from the White House Rose Garden he was NOT running for President. Hillary must be doing the “happy dance” wherever she is.

Paul Ryan is considering running for Speaker of the House but only on his terms, pretty much telling the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus he will be Speaker on his terms or he won’t be Speaker at all.

Unbelievably, the Freedom Caucus thinks Paul Ryan is too liberal.

President Assad of Syria snuck into Russia for a quick set of meetings with Putin and his colleagues. The visit likely gives confidence to Assad and bolsters Russia’s play to be a power broker in the future of Syria.

“Bibi” Netanyahu has drawn broad criticism from most quarters for his declaration that it was a Palestinian, al-Husseini, the then Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who convinced Adolf Hitler to exterminate the Jews. Before that, according to “Bibi,” Hitler only intended to ship them out.

Most historians agree that Netanyahu’s remarks were historically inaccurate.

Some have been calling him a “holocaust denier.” Mr. Netanyahu has a habit; it seems, of unfortunate remarks. This one is a doozy.

As he left to meet Angela Merkel and John Kerry in Berlin, Netanyahu’s office was issuing clarifications.

Speaking of clarifications, the Vatican was stoutly denying that Pope Francis has a brain tumor.   The rumor was called “seriously irresponsible.”

In not good news for CIA Director Brennan, Wikileaks has begun to release his private emails. Shades of Edward Snowden.

Today, if you haven’t noticed somewhere else, is the 30th Anniversary of “Back to the Future II.” No we don’t have hoverboards but we do have contraptions that electrically scoot down the street on wheels, the XNow. My friend Winn arrived on one for lunch.

It glows blue when it is powered. Several fascinated people came over to chat with him about it. He offered me a chance to ride it but I declined. My sense of balance is not that good.

Some critics think “Future II” is the best blockbuster ever. I remember it as very, very good but am not sure it is the best ever.

But it’s pretty darn good. Darn good too is the afternoon and before it thoroughly evaporates, I am headed out of Starbucks for a walk in the waning afternoon.

Letter From New York 10 02 15 In rain and mourning…

October 2, 2015

Chill and damp in Baltimore. Oregon shooting. Papal denial. Syrian airstrikes. Allies demand of Russia. Amazon bans rivals. Weak jobs. Market panic?

It is chill and damp here in Baltimore, where I am today to celebrate Lionel’s birthday. It is grey and gloomy, a perfect background for a day which is filled with mourning.

Yesterday, as we all must know by now, a young man, 26, killed nine and wounded 20 before being killed by police. He targeted a Community College in Umpqua, Oregon. Authorities are trying to discern what, if any, connection he might have had to this particular school.

President Obama made a live appearance and was as angry as most had seen him, frustrated by the number of times in his Presidency he has gone on air to offer condolences after a mass shooting.   He warned that his comments would be described as “politicizing” the situation but that this was a situation that should be politicized. It has become routine, said the President, and it has. We have become inured to the tragedies that unfold before us when crazed gunmen slaughter men, women and children.

This young man engaged with others on social media about his intentions. Disgustingly, some respondents encouraged him and gave him tips. No one alerted authorities. Hearing this I was not surprised; my lack of surprise horrified me. I felt thoroughly ashamed of my fellowmen. Who would encourage murder? Are they not culpable?

The young man asked victims if they were Christians. If they said yes, he shot them in the head.

Another young man, a former soldier, Chris Mintz, launched himself at the shooter and was shot seven times.

As I write this, Mike Huckabee is on CNN talking about this tragedy. He has often said that more guns are needed to protect us rather than less. The network’s anchors are giving him a challenging time about his positions.

The Vatican is attempting to push back at the controversy that has bubbled up about Francis’ meeting with Kym Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk who opposes gay marriage. The meeting tarnished the glow among liberals from the Pope’s trip to America. It had been described as a private meeting between the two, with the Pope giving her support and a rosary.

Now the Vatican is saying it was not a private meeting but she was part of a group.

Conservatives, including Huckabee, just now, deny the denial.

Both the U.S. led coalition and Russia are leading airstrikes in Syria. All of the U.S. Coalition’s strikes have been against IS. Russia has been targeting both anti-Assad groups and IS. They are using “dumb” bombs, which will cause indiscriminate damage.

Western nations are demanding that Russia only target IS. My sense is that Russia is shrugging its shoulders and is calling all rebel forces, terrorists.

Friction, of course, exists between Russia, and every one else fighting IS. It’s very messy.

Paris meetings today that were to focus on Ukraine probably will now shift to Syria.

Amazon has its own OTT devices and in a push to get them sold, it has pulled other OTT makers like Roku from its shelves. It will be interesting to see what this will do. Their Fire devices have not been particularly successful in the marketplace.

There was a weak jobs report today with only 141,000 jobs added this past month. It has sent the markets into a wobbly day. Credit Suisse is wondering if the markets are panicking.

They are certainly down.

However, despite the national mourning and the bad economic news I am feeling centered and upbeat today while acknowledging tragedy and grief.   I’m off to have my iPhone screen repaired; I shattered it yesterday. Then I am going to see if I can have my haircut.

Letter From New York 09 27 15 From Syria to Claverack…

September 28, 2015

The Pope is preached brotherly love in Philadelphia. Putin and Obama will meet. The GOP is in disarray. Watching the Super Moon. Finishing the Tennessee Williams Festival. Death visits while on the Haj. Iraq, Russia, Syria and Iran are all playing footsie with one another.

All of these are things I was thinking about while I was crawling down US-6 from Provincetown, working my way slowly to get home. I left before 10:30, thinking I would miss the traffic. I was wrong.

It gave me much time to think. I had had a more than pleasant five days in Provincetown with my friends Dawn McCall and Gail Williams. I attended four performances at the Tennessee Williams Festival in Provincetown, all of them thought provoking.

Last night, Dawn and Gail invited my friends Nick and Lisa to dinner and we had a wonderful time. We started with martinis and made our way through an extraordinary dinner of steak and grilled vegetables. Dawn works the grill better than anyone I know.

On the way home, I listened to a variety of NPR radio stations, a mélange of music and news.

Pope Francis did preach brotherly love in Philadelphia and met with survivors of sexual abuse. He has, as I write this, departed Philadelphia and is headed back to Rome. I am sure he will be sleeping soundly on the flight; it has been a busy ten days between Cuba and the U.S.

With Boehner leaving Congress it will be fascinating to see what will happen next with the Republicans. It seems John Boehner had had enough of his fractious colleagues and just decided to pack his toys and go home. It probably means there will not be a government shutdown this go round but who knows what mayhem will come next?

Iran is demanding an apology from Saudi Arabia over the deaths at this year’s Haj. I doubt that will happen but it does point out how dangerous and volatile the Haj has become in recent years. It’s the equivalent of a rather large city on the move, all at one time.

Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia have come to an agreement to work together to defeat IS. Russia is out there, working to claim its place in this mess. They support Assad. I’m not sure whom the other players actually support but it now seems like they have aligned themselves with Russia, and Assad.

Tomorrow, Putin and Obama will meet. Neither of them claims to have requested the meeting but they will meet. It, hopefully, will be a good thing.

Returning home tonight, I was peckish and went down to the Dot for a bite. David Drake is the bartender on Sundays and Mondays. When not bartending, he paints. I have two of his paintings in my home. I love them.

As I was driving home, I saw the full moon, huge, low in the sky. I probably will not be able to see it when it turns blood red and there is an eclipse of it. I am home and when the eclipse happens, the small forest of trees that surrounds my home will hide the moon. But the moon was huge tonight.

As I sit here writing, the heat is now on, the first time this year. When I entered the house after my return from Provincetown, it was cool to the point of uncomfortable.

Tomorrow will be another day. I think. There are those who claim that tonight’s Super Moon, the fourth in a succession of them, is a harbinger of the end of the world.

I don’t think so.

Letter From New York 09 25 15 Chasing a perfect sunset…

September 25, 2015

Xi Jinping. Syria. Refugee crises. Pope Francis. Stampede at the Haj. Jeremy Corbin. Greece. John Boehner. And so on…

The world continues to rattle along, mostly badly if you read the headlines. I haven’t for a couple of days, while whiling away my time here in Provincetown. At this moment, I am sitting in the kitchen of my friends Dawn and Gail’s incredible home, sipping coffee and thinking how lucky I am to be alive and in this place today.

It’s the weekend of the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown. Dawn and I went to “The Parade” yesterday, a little known Williams’ play, featuring his emotional hallmarks. Everyone in the play is slightly or greatly tortured. Set on sand dunes, it was performed on a platform on real sand dunes, as the tide was slowly rising. I was facing west, the sun slowly descending in the pallid blue afternoon sky.

It was a near perfect experience. Sitting with a friend, watching performers, outside, with a light wind blowing off the sea.

Later we chased the most beautiful sunset and I stood at water’s edge to take a photo.

Sunset

Before setting off to retrieve our tickets and to attend the play, we watched Pope Francis speak to Congress. Speaking in halting English, sometimes a little hard to understand, Francis called out to all our better angels. At one moment, I felt tears form in my eyes. As they seem to be doing with John Boehner, Speaker of the House.

Just now, I received a flash alert from AP on my phone that he is stepping down at the end of October and not just as Speaker but also from the House itself.

While I slept the night before last over 700 people died in a stampede at the Haj, the holy journey every Muslim is extolled to take once in their lives. Nearly a thousand were injured. If I were Muslim, I am not sure I could be extolled to make the Haj. I don’t like big crowds. I don’t mean to be flip; this is a tragedy and I have said a prayer for those dead and injured.

Tsipras of Greece is pledging to enact the necessary reforms for Greece’s bailout quickly. He needs to move quickly on several fronts. Greece is the center of the refugee/migrant crisis as well as having huge financial issues.

As Pope Francis left Washington for New York, President Xi Jinping of China arrived. Obama is having a busy week with international leaders. It’s being said that China and America are going to strive for cooperation, especially over cyber affairs, after a period of tension over that and several other things.

Russia is settling into being a player in Syria and seems to be working on beefing up its communications with Iran on how to deal with that country.

Jeremy Corbin is the new head of Britain’s Labour Party. He is a staunch Republican and has an upcoming audience with the Queen. He has not decided whether he will kneel, as is traditional.

At his very moment, I am listening to Francis speak at the United Nations, speaking on the environment. He has given so much hope to so many and I am hoping that his words echo with life long after he is gone.

Letter From New York 09 22 15 The Pope, Putin, Syria, Refugees and so much more…

September 22, 2015

As I am sitting in the Acela Club at Penn Station, I am watching CNN, which is covering the arrival of the Pope. He landed at Joint Base Andrews and at this moment is arriving at the Diplomatic Mission of the Vatican in Washington, DC, on Massachusetts Avenue.

When Francis touched down, President and Michelle Obama and Vice President Biden were present to greet him, an unprecedented honor. He is waving to the crowd as he slips into the residence for a night of rest.

Tonight is Yom Kippur, the holiest of nights to Jews, and Pope Francis does not want to detract from that. Tens of thousands have been mobilized to keep him safe. The Secret Service sent a man to Rome to watch how Francis interacts with crowds so they might anticipate what they needed to do.

While waiting for Francis to address a Joint Session of Congress [a first], we are, once again, facing a shutdown of the government. The Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood and the Democrats are opposed to that. Somehow I fail to see why the Republicans are SO against Planned Parenthood.

My Republican respect keeps descending.

While all eyes are watching Francis and his movements, EU leaders have been meeting, working to decide how to handle the thousands of refugees and migrants. I found the information a little confused and oriented to dealing with the future rather than the present.

While the EU is determining what to do with the refugees there, Turkey and the US are working to figure out what Putin is up to in Syria. He intends to start bombing ASAP. They’re not sure who it is he will be bombing. Will it be IS as he says OR will it be the anti-Assad Syrian rebels who are also fighting IS? Turkey and the US fear it will be the latter as Putin and Assad have been playing footsie for decades.

I’m now on the train, heading north, on my right the Hudson River glides by with the setting sun glinting off its surface. It’s been mostly a grey day in New York but now the sun is bursting out from behind the clouds as it descends in the west.

All the way out west, in Burbank, CA, a 24 year-old man was taken into custody after he punched a 78 year-old in the face over Nutella Waffle Samples at a Costco. It seems like something that should be in “The Onion” and not real news. But it is real. The young man could face up to 11 years in prison.

There is a soft, golden glow in the west as we move north. The landscape is inescapably beautiful. I am closing down now for the night, wanting to enjoy the beauty around me before the sunset and we are gathered in the dark.

I am coming to the end of reading Steven Saylor’s Roman novels – at least all the ones he’s written so far. Another one is coming out in October. But they remind me that world has always been full of travail and that gives me hope that we will survive this time and find our own next future.

Letter From New York 09 20 15 Getting ready to go on the road…

September 20, 2015

Today begins three weeks of travel for me. I am heading down to the city this noon to attend a party for my friends, Kris and Eric, who now live in California. They are stopping by New York on their way to Martha’s Vineyard for a week.

Monday and Tuesday I am in the city, Wednesday I leave for Provincetown to visit friends, back to the city, down to Baltimore for Lionel’s birthday, off to Indianapolis for a conference and then on to Minneapolis to visit family and friends, circling back to the city before heading home.

I am squeezing in all of this, fulfilling promises to visit, before winter hits. I do my best not to go to Minneapolis when it’s freezing.

It’s a gentle morning here, temperature in the sixties with no rain forecast either in the Hudson Valley or down in the city. It has warmed enough that I am now on the deck with my coffee and my increasingly cranky laptop. It is now three years old and beginning to feel its age. Oh well, aren’t we all?

There is a touch of fall in the morning’s air, cool with no humidity, a desire to go put on a sweater. Yesterday young Nick and I discussed the need to fill the racks near the house with seasoned firewood from the piles out by the shed. I am settling in to a comfortable fall.

Not so in Europe where refugees and migrants find themselves trapped at borders, struggling to get around them. The nights are already cool and I doubt any of them are prepared for a chill walk across Europe. The seas will be getting rougher and therefore more dangerous.

Pope Francis has arrived in Cuba and is asking for more freedom for the church. If anyone can convince the Castros to loosen their grip, it’s this man. Tuesday he arrives in New York, one of the reasons I am choosing to be gone. It will be a little bit of chaos; no it will likely be a lot of chaos. Pundits think it will be worse than when the President is in town. But the town is revving up for him.

On the west coast, Seattle is getting ready for a two day visit starting also on Tuesday by Xi Jinping, President of China, in which he will immerse himself in all things tech before heading on to visit Obama in Washington on Thursday.

Ben Carson has declared a Muslim should not be President and The Donald has had to respond, which he has done in typical The Donald style, to not having corrected a man in an audience who said the country had a problem: Muslims and the President was not an American and was a Muslim.

Staggeringly, near thirty percent of Americans still believe Obama is a Muslim. It causes me to roll my eyes and despair of the electorate.

The Greek electorate is deciding today whether to return to office Alexis Tsipras, who was elected to defy the country’s European creditors and ended capitulating to them. The Greeks are weary; this is their fifth national election in six years. Ridiculous, says one man. It will be a very tight election.

The Conservatives are running neck and neck with Tsipras and his Syriza Party. We will know by the morning, at least, who wins.

Tonight are the Emmy Awards. Since I no longer have cable, I’ll not be able to watch them. I don’t have over-the-air service either. I’m interested in seeing if Jon Hamm will FINALLY get an Award for his iconic performance as Don Draper in “Mad Men.” A couple of others interest me too, but not terribly.

Increasingly, I feel removed from media except as a distant observer. I’ve had my fun.

Now I seem to be looking for other fun, closer to home, some still media related but on the very local level. It brings a smile to my lips.

Now I must go and get ready to go to that party…