Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Malone’

Letter From Claverack 06 19 2017 An Attitude of Gratitude

June 19, 2017

It is the evening of June 19th; Father’s Day is beginning to fade as is Pride Weekend in Hudson.

Pride

An on again, off again rain falls and an hour or two ago the sky was nighttime dark.  Cosseted in the cottage, a martini by my side, I watch the raindrops splatter on the Claverack Creek.

It’s interesting.  I was very sensitive over the weekend, a little raw.  When I woke Saturday, I was in an unexpectedly foul mood and at the end of the day I took myself home and had a talk with myself.

I felt raw because it was Pride weekend and I woke acutely aware that I am not part of a unit and that I haven’t been very good at dating.  The last one felt like I had entered a reality version of Sartre’s “No Exit.”

I am alone and normally it doesn’t bother me and over the weekend it did.  Hudson is a town of couples and I am not coupled, which puts me at a bit of a disadvantage. You’re the odd one at the dinner party.

And, then, Sunday, it was Father’s Day.  Always a hard day for me.  I did not have a great relationship with my father.  He was good to me the first few years and then, he wasn’t.  The last seven years of his life he had almost nothing to say to me.  The night before he died, I was being a squirrely twelve-year-old and he angrily sent me to my room.

It was the last exchange I had with him.  The next morning, he had a stroke and died.  So, I have spent my life trying to read the runes of the little time I had with him.

Okay, so it’s problematic.  Parental relationships are problematic.  Maybe mine a little more than others and mine probably a lot less than others, too.

It’s just it pops up on Father’s Day.

And I know so many good fathers; I sent text messages to them today.  My godson, Paul, among them.  He has two children, a girl, Sophia, and a boy, Noah.  I don’t know them well and know enough to know they are interesting children and that’s because they have wonderfully invested parents.

And then there is Tom Fudali, who is Paul’s father, who made me Paul’s godfather and I am eternally grateful for that because Paul is not my son and he is my godson and our relationship is something I had hoped for and didn’t think would happen and has.

And there is my friend, Robert Murray, father of five, who exchanged texts with me while watching his son, Colin, play soccer in New Windsor.  Robert reminds me of my oldest friend, Sarah’s, father, John McCormick, who had six children and made their home the place to be.  On bitter Minnesota winter nights, the neighborhood would gather and skate on the rink in John’s backyard.  They are some of my most magical childhood memories.

And then there is Kevin Malone, Sarah’s son, who has always thought of me as his uncle even though I am not actually his uncle but we have an avuncular relationship that is so effing wonderful!  He is not a father and he is wonderful and is a jewel in my life.

So, I was being self-indulgently depressed, and I need to focus in on all the wonderful things which go on in my life and all the wonderful people who are in it.

In the craziness that has been in my mind this weekend, I am so glad I wrote this as it reminds me of all the things for which I need to remind myself that I need to have an “attitude of gratitude.”

In Memoriam:

I read today that Stephen Furst had died.  He gained fame in “Animal House” as Flounder, went on to “St. Elsewhere” and “Babylon Five” and directed movies and television shows.  For a time, in the 1990’s, we were friendly.  He was a gracious, gentle soul, doing his very best in life.  RIP. I remember you fondly.

Otto Warmbier, the young student returned from North Korea in a coma, has passed away.  It is heartbreaking. At least he was at home, with family.

 

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 14 2016 The world we are waking to…

November 15, 2016

On Sunday, as I was returning to my pew post communion, one of my fellow parishioners, Susan Schuette, reached out her hand to me and asked if everything was alright?  She had noticed a dearth of postings since Election Day.

Wednesday, the day after the Election, I had cataract surgery [which went very well] and it gave me the perfect excuse to be at home with the blinds drawn, to not listen to the news, to eat comfort food and to binge watch on Amazon Prime.  I ate enough mashed potatoes with gravy AND butter for a family of five.

In the slightly hungover state from the relaxants they gave me while working on my eye, I sought to absorb the absolute fact the Donald Trump, television reality star, billionaire real estate mogul, orange tinged with the magnificently weird hair, was President Elect.

Rejoicing is being had on the right while the left is shattered and, quite frankly, totally at a loss as to what has happened.

My dear, dear friend Sarah, known since we were three, and I spoke today.  She lived for seven years in Franco’s Spain and feels we are moving in that direction, to be living in that kind of fear.  A social worker, her Hispanic clients are terrified, if undocumented they fear a door to door search for them.  If documented, they simply fear being profiled and harassed or worse.

Events since the election have fueled all our fears.

At an Episcopal Church in Maryland, the times for Spanish language service were torn down, replaced by graffiti that said: Trump Nation.  Whites only!

At the University at Pennsylvania, incoming African American students received emails from a group called “Mudmen,” announcing a “Nigger” lynching every day.

In Wellsville, NY a dugout was spray painted with the words:  Make America White Again, with a swastika.

dugout-hate

The swastika seems to be a much used symbol for those who are doing these things.

It has been reported in St. Louis a group of high school students marched through their school halls with a Trump sign shouting, “White power!  White power!”

A Muslim woman at the University of Michigan was approached by a white man, demanding she remove her hijab or be set on fire.

Ah, yes, the milk of human kindness…

When asked what I think, I say that I expect the next few years are going to be experiential.

A friend phoned me on Thursday and we talked about the election and he said, well you don’t have anything to be worried about.  After all, Pence is the one who is going to be running things after all.

Pence is homophobic.  Mentioning that to my friend, I said I did not feel safer as a gay man in America since this election.  Some of Trump’s supporters say unpleasant things about us though Trump did say in an interview with Lesley Stahl for “60 Minutes” that gay marriage was the law of the land.

He also told, in a bit of milk toast sort of way, that his supporters who might be doing anti-Semitic actions or harassing Hispanics to stop it.  It didn’t sound all that forceful.

The New York Post has called “fake” incidents of hate crimes since the election.  Maybe they would have happened anyway.  I’m not convinced.

It is a sobering time.  It is now my responsibility to be vigilant and to work against moments of hate.  It is my responsibility to work to restore a more liberal voice in this country and I will.  I’m not sure how but I will find some way to do it.

Republicans own the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives and 32 of 50 gubernatorial posts.  They have the run of the land.  Let us see what they do with it.

And let us be prepared to be the loyal opposition.

At Christ Church Episcopal on Sunday, safety pins were given out.  They are to say to those who are frightened because of color, sex, race, religion, disability that you are a person they can be safe with.

Safty pin.jpg

Mine will be worn tomorrow.  It maybe I will offer them to my students.  It is my hope we all continue to be safe and that we are not falling into my friend Sarah’s fear that we are living in a time that will evolve into Franco’s Spain.

 

Letter From Claverack 11 03 2016 Crowing proud…

November 4, 2016

Kevin James Malone is not my nephew.  He is the child of my oldest friend, Sarah McCormick Malone, whom I have known since we were three.  There is a picture of the two of us on her parents’ couch in our rain gear on our first day of kindergarten.  [We were adorable.] We were already fast friends then and have been ever since.

From the time he was born, I was around about as much as any of his maternal uncles as the Malones lived in New Mexico and Michael, Bill and John, her three brothers, lived in the Midwest and on the East Coast, where her parents had settled.

On one wonderful Mother’s Day weekend, Sarah and Kevin came to visit “Uncle Mat” when I lived in Santa Monica.  We flew kites on the beach and road around in my convertible, watched movies late into the night, Kevin outlasting both his mother and me.  Kevin was maybe three years old.

When the eldest McCormick daughter, Mary Clare, celebrated her 25th anniversary to her husband Jim Eros [I had brunch with them last weekend], her parents threw a dinner at their country club on Long Island.

It seems to me that I was still living in California but was in New York at that moment and John and Eileen, Sarah’s parents, told everyone there would be a surprise guest.  [Me.]

Kevin was then about eight or nine then.  At some point in the evening Kevin went to his grandmother and asked her why Uncle Mat had a different last name than her other brothers, leaving Eileen to awkwardly attempt to explain.

Forever captured in the photo album of my brain is Kevin Malone walking up to me at that dinner, dressed in a suit and tie, putting his hands on his hips and looking up at me and demanding to know:  what do you mean you’re not one of my mother’s brothers?

It was a hiccup in our relationship we survived.

Years later, when he and his father and I were visiting him at work, we met his boss.  Kevin introduced his father and then me and said, this is my Uncle Mat.

When he was married to Michelle, I gave a toast at the Rehearsal Dinner.  We shopped for a shirt for him that day, together.

Kevin is not my nephew by blood but he is my nephew by choice.  His and mine.  I refer to him as my nephew when I talk about him to other people.  There is no other way to describe my relationship with him or his to me.

When he emailed me yesterday, along with others in his family, to announce he had passed the Bar in the District of Columbia, I felt so proud and glad.  Today I learned he has also passed the Bar in Massachusetts and I felt another swell of pride.

You see, I have no words to describe how wonderful a young man Kevin is.  He is one of the most unique individuals I have ever encountered.  Caring, thoughtful, whip smart without being arrogant about it, determined to be the best Kevin James Malone he can be.

I don’t remember how I met Sarah McCormick Malone but I did and our childhood friendship has endured and I am blessed to have been included in her family as a member of choice and they in mine, as family of choice.

Because of logistics we will not be able to do it this year but we have spent many a Christmas together over this last decade.

In the Strum und Drang of these last days before the election, I am comforted by the presence in this world of a man like my nephew Kevin, now a member of the Bar, a lawyer for real, who will do extraordinary things in his life.

Kevin, I am so proud of you.  Congratulations.

Kevin and his mother the weekend of his wedding to Michelle Melton…

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Letter From Claverack 09 06 2016

September 7, 2016

The day painted itself grey this morning, from the moment light crept into my bedroom, it was grey, the kind of day that promises rain and provides none, save a few drops when I was running an errand on Warren Street.

Fresh from what I thought was a successful first day in the classroom, I stopped at the Post Office and picked up my mail and sat on my deck, opening it, and just staring out at the day.  The air was lightly water touched by not too much.  But for the grey, it was a perfect sort of day.

At the college, I talked with one of my colleagues for whom there is terminal election fatigue.  She knows for whom she is voting, nothing in the shouting is going to change her position and so she feels no need to participate more.  It simply makes her crazy.

As it has for many people in this oddest of election seasons.  A few months ago, a commentator I was listening to said something like:  Who knows?  It’s 2016.

And that remains true.  It’s the wild and wooly 2016, an election season they will be talking about as long as politics is discussed, which is a very long time.  We are still discussing the politics of the Athenian democracy 2500 years later.  Countless tomes have been written about the Romans, their Republic and their Empire.  A thousand years from now some crepe skinned academic will be dissecting one small sliver of this campaign in a form of media we probably can’t conceive of but it will be happening.

Me?  I generally wake up happy and go to bed happy and know there is only so much I can do to shape events but what I can do, I do.

Tonight, I am writing earlier than I did last night and the verdant green in its grey frame fills my window.

Directly in front of me are two Adirondack chairs made for me by John McCormick, father of my oldest friend, Sarah.  He had made some for his daughter, Mary Clare, for her home in West Virginia.  When I bought the cottage, he asked me if he could make anything for it.  Adirondack chairs I said and there they are, in front of me, a wonderful bonding to a man now gone and a testament to all he and his family mean to me.

In this calm and quiet, I feel celebratory to have made it alive through the first day of class.  As I was preparing to head over to the college, I played music that pleased me, from the Great American Songbook.  Tonight there is no music.  The only sound is the ticking of an old clock that has been in my family for more than 125 years.  I think of it as the heart of the house.  But it drives some people crazy.  It just makes me smile.

The EpiPen conversation goes on.  Some say it actually costs only $30.00; some say it’s only about a dollar that goes into the actual medicine.

Isabelle Dinoire, the world’s first face transplant recipient has died, aged 49.  She was transplanted when her face was mauled by a dog.  RIP.

Obama cancelled a visit with the Philippines President after he called Obama “the son of a whore.”  Later President Duarte regretted his comment.

There was an incident when Obama arrived in China.  No one seemed to have agreed upon the protocol.  Everyone looked bad.

Kim Jung Un, the little paunchy, pudgy dictator of North Korea, celebrated Labor Day by sending off ballistic missiles that landed within 300 kilometers of Japan.  No one is happy except for the pudgy dictator who is now facing a new set of sanctions which he doesn’t care about.  He will let millions die because of them as long as he keeps his power, his toys and the instability he creates.

One can only imagine what this man’s childhood was like…

Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift have broken up after three months. This is HUGE news.  OMG!

Fox has settled with Gretchen Carlson in her lawsuit with them and Roger Ailes.  Twenty million dollars.  At the same time Greta Van Susteren has left the network under cloudy circumstances but then what is not cloudy in the world of Fox News these days?

And now it is dark.  I will turn on my floodlights and enjoy the creek at night.

It is a good day.  I survived the first day of a new class and felt good about it.

Today I woke up happy and I go to bed tonight happy.  May all of you who read me do the same.

 

 

 

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 New York via Minnesota, one more time 07 27 2016

July 27, 2016

I am seated in the Red Carpet Club at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Lindberg Terminal.  Lindberg, if you recall, was born in Michigan but spent his childhood in Little Falls, Minnesota.  His father was a Minnesota Congressman and the state has adopted him as if he were a native son. 

While not a member of the Red Carpet Club, I am a member of Amtrak’s Acela Club which gives me privileges at the Red Carpet Club. 

Outside the wall of windows, the day is grey and threatening rain.  My brother dropped me at the airport on his way to meetings in St. Paul and I have about an hour and a half before I board my flight back to New York.

It’s comfortable and quiet, just as this visit has been. 

In the course of my time here, I have done the usual things of seeing my family and friends. 

I went to the nursing home where my oldest friend, Sarah, has an aunt in the memory care unit.  I went twice, bringing her flowers both times.  She is 96, I think, though she identifies as being 102 or 103.  Her sister, Eileen, and Eileen’s husband, John, have been gone a number of years and as I left Aunt MeMe, she asked me to say hello to them when I got back to New York.  “If ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise,” from a poem by Thomas Grey seems apt here.  I did not remind MeMe that they are gone.  Let her live in the warmth of their presence inside her.

Yesterday, I went to the grave of my parents, unsure if I could find them.  The great tree that marked my father’s grave and which my mother and I used as a marker when we visited is now long gone but I did find their graves, surprising and pleasing myself.

Standing there, I wished all of us could have done better; me as a child to their parents and they as parents to the child I was.  We didn’t have an easy time of it. 

When I was young, one of the greatest childhood treats I could have was the popcorn at the Pavilion at Lake Harriet, its beaches my summertime playground. So I went there, looking to see if the popcorn was as good as it had been, though my nieces warned me it was not the popcorn of old.  There was no chance to make a decision; the popcorn machines were not working my last day in town.

Three was time with my brother, Joe, and his wife Deb, my other sister-in-law, Sally, who was Joe’s first wife, their two daughters, my nieces Kristin and Resa, a wine with Resa’s son, Emile.  Kristin runs Clancy’s Meats in Linden Hills and is, I think, the most famous butcher in the Twin Cities. We had a couple of dinners, loud with laughter and a couple of breakfasts with Sally, full of warm chatter.

It was family time, for the most part.  A good thing as family is centering as our wild world whirls around us. 

As I wait in the comfort of the Red Carpet Club, CNN is on the background.  Trump is speaking and the sound is so soft I cannot hear what he is saying. The banners in the lower third says he is all for getting along with Russia and that it’s “far fetched” that Russia is trying to help him.

Russians are believed to have hacked the DNC servers and then turned a treasure trove of nasty emails within the DNC over to Wikileaks who did what they do, leaked them to the press.  The exposure demonstrated the contempt of some for the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.  The most notable head to roll is Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who had been head of the DNC.  Didn’t even get to open the convention she had planned.

The Democratic Convention got off to a rocky start but a burningly intense Bernie Sanders did much to pull the party together as did a rousing speech from Senator Cory Booker [best moment so far, to me] and a brilliant address by former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright and several 9/11 survivors.

As my brother dropped me at the airport today, we discussed how much but how little time was left between now and the elections.  I sighed and said:  we’ll see more mud slung in this time than we have seen in our lives.

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.

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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 Shepherdstown 12 30 15 The eve of New Year’s Eve…

December 30, 2015

It is the eve of New Year’s Eve and I am in Shepherdstown, WV with my childhood friend Sarah and we are prepping for the return of Sarah’s son, Kevin and his wife, Michelle Melton.  Her husband Jim has gone on to Alabama to see his parents.

The balmy weather has passed and we are in a string of grey, chill days.  I have been a bit under the weather today; some small stomach bug has bitten me and I have had only tea and dry toast.

It has been a pleasant day though.  I am prepping my mushroom soup and a salad for dinner while doing my best to take it easy.  We went to the store, Sarah and I, and picked up some foodstuffs and wine for tomorrow.

Mary Clare, Sarah’s older sister, and her husband Jim own the house we have been occupying for the Christmas party. Tonight they are returning from New York, with their son Michael and we’ll all toast the New Year in tomorrow.

My eyes have been turned from the world while watching movies, including “Steve Jobs” with a wonderful turn by Kate Winslet as well as Michael Fassbinder.  Today, Sarah and I were watching “Suffragette” with Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep.  It is about the struggle for women in Britain to get the vote. 

The hard life of lower class women of the time, both in Britain and America, is almost unimaginable yet it was…

I remarked that it was the other side of “Downton Abbey.”

We have come a long way since then but not nearly far enough.

The rest of the world has remained away because I have not turned to face it.  I’m not eager to right now though it will need to be faced when this respite is over.

I’ve been ploughing through my textbook for “Media and Society” and beginning to organize the class.

Checking my emails, there is almost NO business going on in my world.  I am assuming that everyone, like me, has retreated into the Christmas Week mode. 

The stomach bug has made me a bit weary so I am going to sign off.  But not before wishing all and any who read this, a very, very Happy New Year!

Letter From New York 12 26 15 Thoughts on Boxing Day….

December 26, 2015

Boxing Day.  Shepherdstown, WV, Olde Hudson Cheese.  Dena Moran. Sarah Malone.  Kevin Malone. Michelle Melton. Jim Malone. Syria. Mosque fire in Texas. Corsican fire.  Australian fires. NY Times Virtual Reality. World Food Program. Hope, AK.  Bill Clinton.  Hillary Clinton.

Outside it is as grey, as it has been for the last few days. It is warm, too, near 50 degrees in Shepherdstown, WV.  It will be grey all day with rain probable in the evening.

It is the 26th of December, Boxing Day in those countries once affiliated with the British Empire.  Boxing Day derived its name from two traditions.  One is that for servants it was the day they had off to celebrate Christmas after devoting the actual day to waiting on their “betters.”  The other reason was that on the 26th of December, children would roam the streets of England collecting alms for the poor in boxes.

Often in the past I’ve had a “Boxing Day” party.  When Dena Moran, proprietor of Olde Hudson Cheese in Hudson heard I was gone between Christmas and New Year’s, she frowned and said, “What, no Boxing Day party?”

But I am gone, sitting at the dining room table of my friends’ home in Shepherdstown, sipping coffee the morning after a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

My oldest friend, Sarah McCormick Malone, her husband Jim, their son Kevin and his wife Michelle, and I gathered around the dining table and have feasted.  We have sipped wine and consumed appetizers and desserts and wonderful mains, crab cakes and duck.

We spent two hours opening presents around a small tree we purchased on Christmas Eve to ensure that there was Christmas spirit in the house. 

Now, on Boxing Day morning we are all gathered in the kitchen, preparing for French toast and more feasting and a concert tonight.

While I’ve been coddled in the warmth of my friends and the coziness of this home, the world has been relatively quiet as I looked at the news this morning.

In Corsica and in Texas, mosques were burned on Christmas Day as antipathy against Islam grows in the West.  In Hope, AK the childhood home of Bill Clinton burned in a case of suspected arson.  Was he the target of the anger or his spouse, Hillary, who is leading the Democratic field for the Presidential nomination?

Disastrous fires burned over a hundred homes outside of Melbourne, Australia while tornadoes and flooding ravaged northern Alabama.

While we feasted, celebrated, opened presents, and enjoyed the coziness of this house, the war waged on in Syria with a rebel leader killed on Saturday.  He was anti-Assad and his death will have ramifications in the confusing cauldron of that country.

As we were prepping our Christmas duck last night, Kevin shared a VR NY Times video about refugees, taking us as visually close as we could to the lives of three young refugees, one from Ukraine, one from Syria and one from South Sudan, two boys and one girl.  It was stunning and affecting and each of us experienced it felt closer to their experiences than we would have simply by reading articles.

The Ukrainian boy fled with his family as rebels advanced.  When they returned, his grandfather’s body had been in the garden all winter, the school destroyed and most homes damaged.  The Syrian girl lives in a refugee camp and gets up at 4 AM to work in the fields.  In Syria they had toys, now they only have each other.  The Sudanese boy fled with his grandmother into the swamps.  His father was killed, his mother has disappeared.  They fend as best they can. 

VR Video made this painfully real.

When I begin teaching in January and someone asks me what to look at in media, I would suggest looking at Virtual Reality as a career opportunity.  It is changing our media experiences.

We spent time after opening presents to discuss what charity we might want to support this year.  High of the list was World Food Program which supports the feeding of refugees.  I tended toward that organization after seeing the plight of the three children.

We have more refugees since any time since the end of World War II.

It is a great deal to think about as I wander through another day, in a warm house, surrounded by warm friends, knowing that my friends and family are safe but from all but the most normal of hazards, living without, for the most part, any fear of suicide bombers, starvation and having to live with idea of fleeing at a moment’s notice from their homes and towns.

Not like so much of the rest of the world.