Posts Tagged ‘Rome’

Letter From New York 07 17 15 On theft and homelessness at home…

July 17, 2015

It is the end of the week and in about an hour, I will walk the short distance from the office where I work and get on the train to head to the cottage for a full nine days of working from home. I am so looking forward to being there, to doing my work at the table on the deck, to watching the creek flow by while I am on my laptop or reading off my Kindle.

Today is the second sun blessed day in New York, bright, warm and lacking in humidity. I started the day with breakfast with my friend Nick Stuart, catching him before he leaves for a week in Southern California with his daughter, Francesca. Then I worked in the office, lunched at PJ Clarke’s with Maria Santana, a treasured member of the train community.

After lunch, I discovered one of my cards had been cut off. Someone tried to use my number at a Target in Brooklyn. The bank shut it down and I’m glad. Whoever was stealing my numbers was attempting to get away with almost $600.00 in merchandise.

It is a bane of the age, the electronic stealing of our credit card numbers, our identities, and our digital selves that are almost as close to ourselves as our physical selves. Ten years ago someone got my information and opened an account at Home Depot and charged almost $7,000 worth of goods without my knowledge. When Home Depot called me to collect, they realized we’d both been scammed but they were the ones who were taking the financial hit.

Stealing is not in my DNA. Too much guilt goes with it and was never worth it to me. But that’s not the way it is with some; they like the thrill of getting away with it, until, of course, they don’t. The brother of a friend of mine was like that. He went from state to state, scam to scam, until one day my friend had to visit her brother in prison. He never really changed.

It troubles me on some profound level and fills me with disgust. Once, years ago in Rome, I gave some money to beggars and they pickpocketed me. I lost about a 1000 lira but they left me my passport and credit card. My friends said it was ironic I was the one they targeted because I was the one who actually gave their begging hands money.

It was a mother and her little girl. And I suspect the little girl has grown up to be like her mother. It was the life for which she was being trained.

Last night, my friend Robert and I walked through the Garment District to a restaurant for some dinner and to watch a bit of the Tour de France. Robert commented to me that the number of homeless on the streets has begun to rise again. We passed dozens in just a few blocks.

Is the social safety net failing more than before? Are the police not working on the problem because they are annoyed with our Mayor, Mr. DeBlasio?   Robert is right though, when I think about it I have noticed more homeless and mentally ill folks on the streets. I wrote about one yesterday.

It worries me. Help is needed. Where is it?

Letter From New York

March 4, 2014

Letter From New York

March  3, 2014

Or as it seems from Italy….

At 220 km/h the Italian countryside slides by as the Italo, Italy’s high-speed train races from Roma to Firenze.  It has been raining on and off all day; off now, as I am cozied up in the Club Car, leaning against the window, staring out onto the Italian countryside, a mix of lush greens and soft browns, a land prepping for spring.  Farms slide by, clouds scud across the sky, threatening more rain, I ride the train backwards as we slide through tunnel after tunnel.

For the last five days I have been in Roma at SIGNIS, the global organization of Catholic Communicators.  I did a speech for them two and a half years ago in Costa Rica and they apparently liked what I did as they asked me back to be on two panels for them this year.

As many know, I grew up in the Catholic tradition and feel that I will never quite quit being Catholic.  It stays with me, a reality from which I can neither escape or fully embrace. 

At SIGNIS there were 300 plus delegates from 80 plus countries, a United Nations of Catholics.  As the days went on, I became aware of the vast gulf between some of them, particularly between conservative and liberal Catholics, with the liberals primarily but not exclusively from Northern Hemisphere countries.

Some American Catholics described their discomfort with African Catholics who tend to be conservative and narrow according to their counterparts, dogmatic and rigid against the backdrop of a changing Catholicism in the north where some embrace Catholicism but turn their back on rigid rules.  I suspect North American Catholics have no trouble with birth control and lean to acceptance of gay marriage, certainly gay relationships.  They seem to follow the social leanings of mainstream liberal Protestantism.  NOT ALL but a goodly number.  It was even surprising to me to hear their voices at such a Catholic conference.

All speak of a “Francis” moment, that this new Pope who has sat upon the Papal Throne for only a year has generated interest in Catholicism and an openness to it that has been missing for at least a generation or two.  Not doctrinally liberal, Francis is spiritually sensitive and projects an adherence to the teachings of Jesus perceived missing in the last Pontificates.  “Who am I to judge?” he has said while also acknowledging at moments, he does not know.  Appealingly human, he has captured the imagination of many and because of that there is a “Francis” moment – a chance for the Church to reclaim the drifting masses and to hold a moral high ground felt missing for a time.  Any man labeled a Communist by Rush Limbaugh deserves some solid attention

Now two days later, I am on the return journey from Firenze, back to Roma, to spend a night before flying home to New York, hoping to be able to get there, as the weather is not promising.  Taking a walking tour yesterday, three of us were treated to an insider’s look at Firenze by the charming Chiara.   The tour ended in the Gallery at the Academia that holds Michelangelo’s David, a sight that literally takes the breath away.

For an hour, I stayed with him, Michelangelo’s vision of the young David, naked, armed only with a slingshot and a stone, ready to take on mighty Goliath.  It is a work of staggering beauty and worth the trip to Florence.

Waking this morning to church bells pealing, I thought this was a good end to the trip, a visit with David.  Once we were all a bit like him, ready to take on Goliath, in the heady days before Kingship and Bathsheba, before the weight of power and the lure of his lusts pulled him from the purity with which he faced the Philistine giant.  For centuries it stood in the town square and now sits protected in the Academia, hopefully for as much of eternity as can be managed.

While back in Rome, it will be interesting to witness how long the “Francis” moment will last, how long it can be managed, this chance for Catholicism to reclaim hearts and minds within and without the Church.