Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Letter From Claverack 10 09 2017 My country ’tis of thee…

October 9, 2017


There are times when even the quiet beauty of the cottage is not enough to soothe the soul; this has been one of those times.  Since the shootings in Las Vegas, I have found little solace in anything, except, perhaps, sleep.

Sunday, Mother Eileen captured the anguish, pain and despair I feel in her sermon.  After the Prayers of the People, the bell tolled once for each person killed in Las Vegas.  The service closed with “My Country Tis of Thee.”

My head bowed, I fought back tears.

There has been Las Vegas.  Jeff Sessions is claiming that bans on discrimination don’t cover transgender people.  The Trump Administration is rolling back rules that help women have birth control as part of their medical coverage.

The United States joined Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China and a few other repressive regimes in refusing to declare it immoral to execute people for being gay.


As the bell was tolling [and it tolls for thee], I thought of a long ago, rainy, cold November afternoon and looked at my mother and said: what kind of country are we?  It was the afternoon of the day Kennedy had been killed and that moment is etched in my brain, looking out the front windows at a sad world and wondering just what kind of country would kill someone who seemed to be having so much fun and was doing good things?

There was nothing my mother could say.  To this day, I remember the look she gave me, wanting to have an answer and having none.  The silence still rings in my ears all these years later as does the memory of the slick, wet street, a yellow and red city bus moving slowly down the street.

Last night there was another torch lit march in Charlottesville, VA.  A return of Richard Spencer and his white supremacists.  Listen to their chants: “The South will rise again. Russia is our friend. The South will rise again. Woo-hoo! Wooo.” [Washington Post, October 7, 2017]

Russia is our friend?  The South will rise again?  Russia is not my friend and the South envisioned by these chaps is not a South in which I would be comfortable.  It’s one in which I think I might be afraid for my life.

Today is Columbus Day, the day everyone makes noise about old Christopher Columbus and his “discovery” of America.  Personally, I suspect it was the Vikings a few centuries earlier but they don’t get credit [maybe I think that because my mother’s family were Swedish].  However, as we have discovered Christopher Columbus was brave and not a model of morality in the way he treated native Americans.  White people, in general, have not been very kind to native Americans.

Thirty years ago, my friend Ann Frisbee Naymie and I had a conversation about this and she just said to me:  bad karma for what we did.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has announced he is not seeking reelection, electrified the world yesterday with a tweet saying the White House was an adult care center and someone had missed their shift.  Really?  A Republican lawmaker is talking about a Republican President in this way?  Wowza!  You go, Corker.  And I agree with you that Trump runs the White House like it’s an episode of the President and, like you, I think it is possible Donald Trump could stumble us into a nuclear war before he realized what he’d done.

Two hospitals have been evacuated in California and at least 50 structures destroyed in fires that are causing people to flee from Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties while in southern California fires are raging in Orange County, south of Los Angeles.

The Four Horseman are riding.

Thank you, Mother Eileen, for giving shape to the inchoate agony I was experiencing when I walked into church yesterday. Thank you for ringing the bell for the deaths in Las Vegas.  Thank you for asking the painful questions we all should be asking ourselves.  What kind of country are we?  What kind of country do we want to be?




Letter From the Train 04 06 2017 Thoughts through mist and fog…

April 6, 2017

It is dusty grey; mist and fog lay lightly on the Hudson River as I head south toward New York City and then on to Baltimore to visit Lionel and Pierre.  It will be a long weekend; I return on Monday.


It had been my intent to drive but when I woke this morning to predictions of thunderstorms and tornadoes along my route, I opted for the train.

Last night, I sat down to begin a letter and could not find words.  Ennui swept over me and I wandered off to bed, watched an episode of “Grace and Frankie” and fell asleep, waking early to prepare to leave.

Yesterday was my first day as host of the Wednesday version of WGXC’s “Morning Show,” from 9 AM to 11 AM.  The night before, I had a night full of crazy dreams in which I got to the studio on Wednesday morning only to find they had changed all the controls and I had no idea on how to work them.  In another dream, I decided to sleep at the station the night before to make sure that I didn’t miss the program but did anyway.

No psychiatrist is needed to interpret these dreams.

And the program went well; there was much praise from friends and colleagues and I relaxed, thinking I can manage this.  It was fun and for my first guest, I had Alana Hauptman, who owns my beloved “Red Dot.”

Probably no one remembers Texas Guinan anymore; she ran the biggest, best, brassiest, funniest, speakeasy in New York during Prohibition.  She was loved and admired and imitated.  She was known for her big heart and saucy character.  Alana is all of that and is the Texas Guinan of Hudson.  The Red Dot has stood for nineteen years and been an anchor to the town and certainly my world.

There is a slew of people lined up to be guests on the show including the folks who run Bridge Street Theater in Catskill, world premiering a new play shortly and Jeff Cole, who is the CEO of the Center for the Digital Future at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication as well as Howard Bloom, who is a multi-published author and once press agent to every major rock group in the 1970’s and ‘80’s.  And Fayal Greene, who has lived in Hudson for a long time, civically active, and is leaving at the end of the month for Maine, where she and her husband will live in a retirement community near their summer home and many relatives.

The farewell party will, of course, be at the Red Dot.

All of this is very hygge.

And I roll around in the hygge-ness of my life as outside my bubble I am often stupefied by my world.

Politics has never been this raucous in my lifetime and perhaps not this much since the founding of the Republic, which, I understand, was a very raucous time.

As I was getting ready to board the train, Representative Devin Nunes, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has now recused himself from the Russian investigation over ethics concerns.

In Syria, eighty plus people, including children, died in an apparent gas attack.  Trump says the incident crossed “a lot of lines for him.”  Tillerson has said that it was undoubtedly Assad’s regime.  Assad is saying bombs ignited a store of gas weapons in the attacked town.  Russia is demanding the US lay out its cards on how to solve the Syrian problem.

This all sounds like a lot like another replay of the last few years, with some new players and no new results.  In the meantime, Syrians continue to suffer; something like five million of them are refugees, many living in squalor with their only drinking water coming from septic tanks causing typhoid and a further circling down into this hell that has been created.

A radio report from a Syrian refugee camp yesterday may have been the cause of last night’s ennui.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is meeting with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago today and tomorrow.  It is a high stakes meeting reports say.  Wide chasms exist in trade with Trump the candidate picking on China through most of the campaign and the Chinese, unlike some Americans, have long memories and play a long game.

If this turns out to be the pivot point for the United States, future historians might look at our tendency to be focused on short term goals as a factor in creating this pivot.

And in this miasma of non-hygge news, is a report that Jeff Bezos, second richest man on the planet, is selling a billion dollars of Amazon stock a year to finance Blue Origin, his space venture.  That makes me smile.  Money at work on building the future.



Letter From Claverack 03.05.2017 From a very worried place…

March 6, 2017

It is a very chill night, here at the cottage. Jazz is playing softly.  It came to me tonight, that Alexa has been learning about my jazz likes and so when I say “Alexa, play jazz…”  Well, it seems she’s learning my favorites.  I am interfacing with artificial intelligence.

Tonight, I am spending it with me.  And I feel like I’m good company tonight.

It is good to hygge at the cottage tonight.

The noise in my world is incredible right now.  My closest friends on Facebook send numerous posts every day, every hour about our political situation.  Dinner last night was non-stop. At today’s brunch at the Dot, his name wafted through the air. My client is the Miller Center for the Presidency.

Donald Trump owns the conversation, ladies and gentlemen, in my head anyway.

His ratings are through the roof!

And that’s what he likes.

For twenty minutes, I have been sitting here working to find an un-trite way of saying:  I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime.

This is a global phenomenon, our President Trump.  He’s a global big deal and I can’t believe what’s happening.  Come on, whatever side of the aisle you’re on, this is not a normal presidency.

Just isn’t.

Every tweet generates frenzy.

And the Russians are coming…

Every time I turn around, there are the Russians.  Did anyone in the Trump camp NOT talk to the Russians?  Enquiring minds want to know.

Everyday there is a Trump story that carries the news beast through another day.  On good account, I have it that people in the news business are run ragged these days.

Let’s face it: we have a ratings obsessed President.

And his ratings are HUGE.  Which is what he likes.

It’s just not like anything I have ever, ever seen.

It’s not like anything any of us have seen.  If anyone has, let me know, please.

The weekend has been consumed by parsing Mr. Trump’s tweeting that the Obama Administration ordered wiretapping of his phones during the last days before the elections.

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said she’s “seen no evidence” and that we need to deal with evidence, not statements.  Bravo.

Senator Richard Burr, also a Republican, and Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said they would follow where the evidence leads in the Russian investigation.  Kudos to you, too.

Senator Rubio posits the President may have information the rest of us don’t.

And, I think, if he does, he should reveal it.

Right now, as I’ve said, one of my clients is the Miller Center for the Presidency at the University of Virginia.  Because of my work with them, I find myself thinking about the presidency and our president a lot.  A lot.

At church today, I heard very little of Mother Eileen’s sermon because my mind was racing on what I should say in a report to them I need to submit this week.

While I am very hygge in my cottage, I am more than a little unnerved by what is going on in Washington.  And that is seeping deeper into my life, the concern I have for the fabric of the country in which I grew up and in which I live.

Oh, yes, I know we will get through this. And I want to be sure we get through this in as healthy a way as possible.

I am one little man, sitting in a cottage on the Claverack Creek in upstate New York.  And I, one little man, can do things to influence how all this plays out.  God help me, I am politically active.  I called my Congressman’s office from Saba to articulate my concerns.

It is time for participatory democracy, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican.  Which means dialogue.

And right now, we aren’t dialoguing.

We’re living in an either/or world and that’s not healthy.

We need to pay attention.

Really, we do.




Letter From Saba 02 18 2017 When Morpheus departs…

February 18, 2017

It is still pitch dark outside; a few buildings are illuminated at the foot of Mt. Scenery.  From my balcony, a cock crows in the distance, harbinger of the coming dawn.

For reasons unknown, I woke an hour ago and discovered Morpheus had fled and I was now a participant in the day, whether I wanted or not.

It’s fine.  If I am tired later there is nothing keeping me from napping.  It is my last day on Saba before I return home to the cottage.  This a rock of an island and doesn’t sport the voluptuous beaches of other Caribbean islands and I have grown, in a few days, quite fond of the place and hope I get to return this side of paradise.

Yesterday afternoon, I almost felt I lived here.  Donna, the taxi driver, took me on a tour of the island and then left me in Windward Side to do some shopping.  By the end of the tour, Donna felt like my new best friend.


As I strolled around, Hemmie, who owns the hotel where I am staying drove by and gaily waved at me as did several people I had seen in restaurants.  Recognition deserves friendliness here.

It is almost but not quite chill this morning.

It is also probably chill in quite a few places back in America, where everyone, it seems, is talking about President Trump’s Press Conference.  One of the best takes on it is from Shep Smith on Fox News.  If interested, you can find it here.

Because I am on a spec of an island in the Caribbean with not much to do but enough that I’m not following every step of President Trump’s progress – or lack thereof, I saw only bits and pieces, most of them disturbing.

In the pre-dawn darkness, with cocks crowing the coming dawn, seated on my bed, I am thinking that I am living the Chinese curse:  may you live in interesting times.   For these are “interesting” times.

In the White House sits a man who seems disconnected from reality, incapable of telling the absolute truth, also incapable of spinning a good untruth.  The Russian questions aren’t going away until they’re answered and calling them “fake news” is only going to make more of us want to know what the “real news” is about what was going on while Trump’s folks were apparently cozying up to Russian officials.

It is disturbing to watch.

Mr. Trump proclaimed his administration is acting like “a finely oiled machine.”  Oh, please, Mr. Trump…

Ah, but here I am on the island of Saba, part of the Netherlands, which is having its own struggle with the “alt right” movement.  And that seems far away to the inhabitants of this little island which seems to want nothing more than to live in harmony with each other as best they can.

There was a murder here back in 1989 and not another one until 2015, which happened at the medical school that’s here, educating men and women who want to be doctors and who couldn’t find slots in the States.

Donna told me she’s never fearful about wandering around on the island and I haven’t locked my doors since I arrived.  There is a lock; I just haven’t used it.  I don’t feel the need.

And that’s very hygge.

Just as this moment is, sitting on my bed, typing away, feeling a little sleepy again and thinking that when I am finished, I’ll see if Morpheus will return to my side and give me an hour or two more rest.

Letter from Claverack 01 10 2017 One age ends, another begins… God help us everyone!

January 11, 2017

It is latish, for me.  The clock is moving toward 11 PM and, generally, by this time, I am in bed, reading, watching a video, falling asleep.  But not tonight.  I am just home from an evening with some friends.  We watched a movie on DVD, while having dinner and then watched President Obama’s farewell speech.

There were six of us, I think.  Some cried.  As I watched, I hoped I was not watching the curtain fall on a period of our democracy.  It’s my fear that I will not live long enough to see the other side of the journey we have chosen to take by electing Donald Trump our next President.

Obama extolled us to be activists and I am choosing to be.  I am one of the organizers of a local group we are calling Blue DOT, Democracy Opposing Trump.  How active we are will depend on his actions and the actions of the Republican Congress after they take office.

Obamacare is a flawed system and it is providing help to many who would not have it otherwise.  I know a few, friends who in the years following the economic slump of 2008 and beyond who were hobbled by career misfortune and personal situations and they had no health insurance until Obamacare offered a window.

It’s flawed but it is something.  We spend more on healthcare than anyone in the world and we rank something like 27 in the world for the success of our health care.  In all the time the Republicans were attempting to repeal Obamacare there never was an alternative offered.

Driving home, the exegesis of Obama’s remarks was in full swing on NPR and I heard former Republican leader Eric Cantor say there was no point in offering an alternative to Obamacare though Mr. Cantor did attempt a modification of the ACA when he was in office and the Republicans shut him down for a minor change he wanted.  They wanted nothing to do with ACA.

In the quiet of my home, the creek lit by my lights, thin sheets of ice on each its banks, I am afraid, fearing for the country I do love, for all its flaws.

If you get a chance, read Doug Blackmon’s “Slavery by Another Name.”  It is painful reading and helps me understand what awful, evil things we have done to people of color in this country and while things are much better, they are not yet good and equal.

A quarter of the way through the book, I have paused because each page makes me feel pain and shame about things I never knew but should have known.

Doug won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for it.  There was also an acclaimed PBS series based on the book.

We are moving into territory none of us could have imagined.  There is an unverified report which was part of a briefing to both President Elect Trump and to President Obama, that the Russians have compromising information on Trump’s personal life and financial situation.

Tomorrow, Trump will hold a news conference.  Unless he cancels it again.  There will be a lot of questions, understandably.  It is supposed to be about how he will separate himself from his business interests and it will be about his Russian connections.

Part of the unverified report states that there were ongoing conversations between the Trump campaign and Russia.

It is unverified and we need to know if it is true.

There is so much we need to know about Mr. Trump and his nominees for Cabinet positions.  I don’t like Jeff Sessions and don’t want him as Attorney General but at least he is one of the few, if not the only Cabinet nominee, who filled out the required paperwork.

It’s my fear we are about to enter an age in which everyone in government feels they are above the law.

In his speech, Obama challenged us not to allow that to happen.

God help us everyone!





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.


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 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 Claverack 09 27 2016 Ruminating about the debate, looking over the creek…

September 27, 2016

Twilight is beginning to settle on the Hudson Valley, outside a silvery light surrounds the trees outside my window.  The trees remain mostly green, some falling, still green.  Over the weekend I listened to a report on NPR informing us that the turning of the leaves has been delayed by two weeks due to the long, hot, dry summer.  It’s fine with me; I am enjoying the illusion it is still more summery than it is.

Yesterday, I had a fire in my Franklin stove to take the edge off the chill in the cottage as I couldn’t bear the thought of turning on the heat.

Today has been a magical fall day, warm but not too warm, sunny and joyous.

It is Tuesday and therefore I taught my Public Communications class.  One of the questions I asked was, of course, who watched the Debate yesterday as it is an example of public communication with the highest of all possible stakes.  Of the twenty-one people in my class, five had watched the debate.

With the exception of one, they were millennials.  All of them found both candidates unacceptable.  And that surprised me.  Both Clinton and Trump failed to resonate with these five.  To them, Trump was a buffoon and Clinton was insincere.  They did not indicate to me which way they will vote, if they vote at all.

Last semester my students were exhausted by the campaign and turned off by it by the length and acrimoniousness of it.  And that was true today; my students, almost all of them of voting age, are bored to death with this election campaign, feeling no one is reaching out to them.

That is worrisome.

Personally, I really liked Hillary and thought she did a very decent job.  Trump started strong and then seemed to slide into exhaustion, an individual worn down and beyond really, really caring.

He did not shoot himself in the foot in the way I hoped but something was definitely off in the last part of the debate.  It seemed the helium had escaped from his balloon.

Howard Dean, once himself a potential Presidential candidate, tweeted about Trump’s sniffles during the debate, wondering if he might have used cocaine before going on.  I don’t remember sniffles but it has been retweeted across the blogosphere.  Trump said this morning there were no sniffles.

Chill Jazz plays in the background.  The silver light seems suspended over the creek, caught in a magic moment that promises it will eternally be this way…

Of course it won’t be.  Twilight will become dusk and dusk will become night.

Some weeks ago I wrote a letter that featured a photo of a little boy in Aleppo, in the back of an ambulance, traumatized, a face that haunts me tonight as the Syrian forces of Assad coupled with their Russian allies, are bombing the daylights out of Aleppo with bunker busting bombs.


All day, I have wondered if that little boy, who captured the world’s attention, is still alive?  Has he survived this new level of brutality?  The violence has become unimaginable and I feel broken for not knowing how to alleviate it.

This week I am dog sitting Marcel, the poodle of my friend Lionel, who owns the house across the street from me, my great friend I gained in the wondrous startup that was Sabela Media in the late 90’s.

He has been a magical friend to me and we have shared every Thanksgiving together since then, save two.

Marcel and I went on our afternoon walk together.  He brings me to their house and cannot understand why he cannot go home.

He enjoys me and he wants to be at home.  He is about to be sixteen and he soldiers on and I am impressed with his determination.

It is a time to be determined.  There are those who feel the future of the American experiment is on the line.  They may well be right.

What has happened in America in the last two and a half centuries has been amazing.  We have been blessed to be part of one of the most glorious experiments democracy has ever had.  We have been flawed and we have persevered.

Today I was reading all kinds of documents from Columbia Greene Community College about campus policy and I thought: we are just working to do it right.

That is the thread that has kept us going.  We are just working to do it right.  And I applaud American democracy, for it all its flaws, for trying to do it right.

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

August 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is late.  I am distracted.

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

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

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

May I have such a homecoming someday.



Letter From Claverack, NY August 4th, 2016 Have we learned so little?

August 5, 2016

It is a little after 8 pm and the sun is setting in the Hudson Valley.  I have been a “prisoner” of my cottage for the last few hours as I have had my deck re-stained and I was not to go out and touch it until about now.

The trees over the creek are verdant green and the water in the creek is crystal clear. It has been a good day, in all sorts of ways.  I woke up happy and I enjoy that kind of moment. 

A couple of nights ago I was in distress, my lungs were congested and I was having a bit of trouble breathing.  Stumbling through the medicine chest, I found and took a Mucinex and woke up the next morning with the congestion at bay, breathing again.

There is nothing like being able to breathe.

And it is hard to breathe in this current political season. 

I have never in my adult life lived through such as season as this.

Anyone who reads me must understand how deeply disturbed I am that Trump is the Republican nominee for President.  And the more he prances across the stage, the more concerned I am. 

The New York Times did a video piece about the hatred they had witnessed while following Trump’s campaign.  It was disturbing.  You can view it here:

I am at my dining room table and the sun has set and night has fallen.   I am wrapped in the coziness of the cottage and am so grateful I am here.

Were I someplace else the craziness of our time might well make me mad but I can retreat for moments into the woods and believe, for a second, no harm could possibly come.

Like most of you I cannot believe the season in which we find ourselves. 

This is not what I expected out of the 2016 political season.  A friend of mine and I waged a friendly bet some months ago.  He believed the Republican candidate would be Rubio; I went with Bush. 

Both wrong.  It’s Trump, who has solidified the anger of disenfranchised white Americans, who have reason to be angry.  The world is passing them by…

But really?  All this hate?  It is a return to the realities of 19th and early 20th Century America where hatred moved from Germans, Italians, Poles, Irish, Jews…

A friend of mine who is Jewish remembers his grandmother in the early 20th Century hiding from mobs running through Lower Manhattan, screaming “Kill the Jews!”

We are on the verge of some of us screaming, “Kill the Muslims!”

Have we learned so little?