Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Letter From Claverack 04 21 2017 The past fights the future…

April 21, 2017

Apple blossoms dressed the trees in the orchards as I drove along 9H earlier today, the first, best sign of spring I’ve seen though, once having noticed them, I was aware that small buds of green were appearing on other trees.  The ones outside my windows don’t seem to be sporting them and I’m sure they will come eventually, which is how this spring has seemed – eventually we will get there – just not yet.

It has been a quiet sort of day.  Earlier I spent some time at OMI, an art center near me that I have known about but had not visited and that was my loss.  The two-hundred-acre campus is dotted with sculptures, the main building with art exhibits.  Today quite beautiful children were painting, running around in young life’s exuberance, bringing smiles to all the adults.  I offered up a thought for good lives for them; the future does feel cloudy right now.

It’s not just that this is a gray day.  Generally, I am an upbeat sort of person [or at least I think of myself as that] and today I’ve not been.  The state of the world has been weighing on me, both close to home and far from here.

Close to home, I am burdened because a friend sent me suicidal texts and I was incredibly concerned and finally asked the police to do a “welfare check.”  They did.  He then texted me he wanted nothing more to do with me.  Truthfully, I did the right thing and, at this moment, it hasn’t turned out well. For me and, I expect, not for him as he is in deep trouble and won’t admit it.

Candles to be lit; prayers to be said and to continue, as best we can.

Paris is continuing as best it can after a policeman was shot yesterday and two badly wounded by a terrorist who was killed as he was fleeing.  IS claims responsibility and France is having elections on Sunday.  The far-right candidate, Marie Le Pen, is threatening to remove France from the EU so that it can control its own borders.

She has a chance of winning.

The far right is making its might felt all over the place.

And that is so worrying to me.

For a brief, shining moment in my life it seemed we might actually be headed toward a global society and it has not happened.  It was around the time the Berlin Wall went down, a moment I will forever remember.  Driving down Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, headed west, my bestest friend, Tory Abel, called me on my car phone and said: do you know what’s going on?  As I was listening to classical music, I didn’t.  The wall was falling.

There are all kinds of suppositions about why that magic moment did not result in a better world.

Right now, I am reading a book about “the weekend” in British homes in the 1930’s and one of the revelatory bits was about a British Lord who became a Muslim because he saw Islam as the bulwark against women getting the vote and having shorter skirts and working.

He would probably have a lot in common with IS.

Change is hard.  And changing centuries of tradition is hard and people will fight it.  IS is fighting it.

When all of this works itself out, I won’t be here.  It will take more than a lifetime.

And that is history in the making.  It takes lifetimes to work itself out.

If you are not aware of it, Chechnya is conducting a campaign against gays.  It is putting us in camps, not unlike the Nazis; there are tales of torture and death.  Can this be happening in the 21st Century?  Apparently so.  The reports are horrific.

The President of Chechnya has declared he will eliminate the gay community by the beginning of Ramadan on May 26th.

Putin has declared there is no evidence this is happening and that is Putin’s view of the world: no horrible thing is happening.  There is no sarin gas is Syria, there is no campaign against gays in Chechnya, there is no fill in the blank.




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, written on 3/29/17 Some things are harder than others…

March 30, 2017

There is sometimes nothing in the world quite like a vodka soaked olive and so when I made myself a martini tonight, I used olives instead of the traditional lemon twist.

To be truthful, I wasn’t sure I was going to put my fingers to the keyboard tonight.  It’s been a cranky day; out early in a chill drizzle doing unpleasant errands, I got home around ten this morning and determined I was not leaving the comfort of the cottage.  The fourth straight day of cold grey drizzle had me crying for mercy.

It’s been an emotional couple of days.  First, most importantly, young Nick, who helps me is going through a rough patch again and that weighs heavily on me.  Which is why I was up early today, to give him support in a rough moment.

As some of you know, I was one of the founders of Blue DOT Indivisible Hudson, a group intended to be politically active in this most distressing of political times.  On Monday evening, using a word much used in Washington these days, I “recused” myself from anything more to do with Blue DOT and that was hard, even harder than I had expected it to be.

It was difficult to discover that there was no room for me there and seeing no way there would be, I bowed out.  Of the original five, two of us are now gone, one wavering.  To say I wish them well is an understatement.  And I had to leave.

There are other things I can do, have been doing and will continue to do.

Thus, it has been an emotionally charged couple of days.

That all said, I am at the cottage, the day is closing, jazz is playing, it warm and hygge in the cottage.  Saturday will see another dinner party here and I am snuggling into figuring it out.

There were two good calls for the Miller Center for the Presidency today, both exciting in their own way.

The creek is very high because of the rain and it flows swiftly toward the pond now, abandoning for a moment its usual gentle course.

And like the creek today, nothing is gentle.

The Senate Intel Committee is about to launch hearings and is promising to be more aggressive than the House Intel Committee, led by Devin Nunes, who has found himself with his underwear wrapped in knots.

He has muddied the waters with his meeting with some source on the White House grounds that informed him that Trump and his team may have been incidentally listened in on by government agencies.  Which lead to Trump feeling “somewhat vindicated” about his, to date, unproven charge that Obama ordered “wiretapping” on Trump Tower.

Truthfully, I have trouble unwinding what the hell is going on.  And I’m not the only one.

So, the ball has been moved to the Senate where both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the committee want to know what went on.  Those Senators, Republican and Democratic, are talking about this as the biggest thing since Watergate.

And while all of this is going on, the world is facing the greatest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II.

Millions are starving and we are not paying attention because, basically, we don’t know.  The Trump Show is consuming the headlines.  South Sudan is a catastrophe.  Syria is a catastrophe. Yemen is more than a catastrophe.

Should I, a man who has no real obligations, go to one of those desperate places and offer help?  I am thinking about it.




Letter From Claverack 11/01/2016 The dichotomy of things…

November 2, 2016

After an unusually long day for me, I have returned to the cottage, turned on the floodlights over the creek, made myself a martini and am listening to the YoYo Ma station on Amazon Prime.

The bank I have used for a decade or more, First Niagara, was purchased by Key Bank.  My business account has been basically unavailable now for three weeks.  An earnest and very good young man by the name of Jeff Hannett has been working diligently to help me access it.  We’re about 80% there.  If it weren’t for Jeff, I would have transferred to another bank.  I intend to let the CEO of Key Bank know that.  A half dozen friends of mine have pulled their business from Key and gone to other banks.

That was my first stop this morning.  Then others and now I am home, looking over the floodlit creek and listening to soft and gentle music, sipping my vodka martini and finding the peace in a long day.

A week from today is the election.  I can’t wait for it to be over except that it won’t be over.  The rancor raised over the last eighteen months probably will continue until the end of my life.  Polarization has become the norm.  And worn as I am now, I will be more worn as the years go on.

Some Republicans are pronouncing they will work to see that Hillary Clinton is impeached in her first three months as President, if she is elected.

Some Trump supporters seem to be talking about violence in the streets if the election goes to her.

Earlier today while waiting for Jeff at the bank, I started reading an article that said our beloved “Founding Fathers” were even more rancorous than this election, even less civil, even more brutal.  That gives me faith we will get through this.  Please, let us get through this.  Please.

Bethany Thompson, an eleven-year-old who was left with a crooked smile after fighting for her life against brain cancer, killed herself today because of bullying.  She went home, found a gun and shot herself in the head.

My heart is broken and my soul is so angry…  So ANGRY.

Speaking of angry, Assad, President of Syria, said today that his country was better off since the civil war that has wracked his country, sent half of them away as refugees and killed a half a million of them.

He has just put his face next to the word delusional in the dictionary.

The pictures I have seen today from Aleppo will haunt me today until the day I die.  Another little boy on a stretcher, being treated, in pain and bewildered.  And I still wonder:  where is that bewildered little boy in the back of an ambulance that captured our attention a couple of months ago?  I wonder if he lives?  I wonder if he will ever be whole again, if he does live?

Also, in that part of the world, Iraqi forces are said to be on the doorstep of Mosul.  Families attempting to flee that are captured find the men separated from their families and are probably being sent off to an inevitable death.

My heart, tonight, is with them also.

In the world of corporate deal making, it is being talked about on “the Street” that Goldman Sachs is encouraging Apple to make a bid to capture Time-Warner from the clutches of AT&T.  Interesting.

Apple certainly could afford it.  AT&T seems such an odd match for Time-Warner.

Hulu will be launching an OTT service with multiple channels next year.  Its viability moved forward today with deals with Disney/ABC.

How can I be talking about the OTT opportunities in the same letter in which I am talking about the slaughter in Aleppo?

I care about both but at the end of the day, what is happening in Aleppo is far more important than what is happening in OTT.











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 09 13 2016 Thinking and ruminating by the creek…

September 14, 2016

It is a pleasant night in Claverack, after a pleasant day in general.  The weather was gorgeous, hot for just a moment, but mostly it hovered in the 70’s.  I spent the latter part of the afternoon on the deck, a good book in hand, while also doing a bit of work, making a few phone calls.

This evening I went to the little Mexican restaurant down the road, Coyote Flaco, with my friend Patrick O’Connor, who bumped into some people he had not seen for a long time.  We shared a shrimp appetizer and chicken fajitas and left happy.

The lights are on the creek as it flows softly toward the south.  The first serious leaves have begun to fall; my drive is strewn with them and it is fine.  I do not need to cling to the summer that has passed.  It has been lived fully and well.  As I hope will be the fall that is unfolding.

As I do most days, I spoke with my brother and he asked me if I had a take on the day’s news regarding Hillary and I had to say no.  I had looked in the morning but not since.  In the morning, her campaign announced she thought her pneumonia “no big deal” and so held back saying anything about it.

I was infuriated with her.  How many times has she felt something was “no big deal,” only to have it turn around and bite her in the ass?  How many times does this woman need to have a lesson learned?

Aye, Chihuahua!

Trump is fending off assaults on his Foundation which may – or may not – have given money to various charities.  Some who said they didn’t get gifts found that they did and some just didn’t get them.

And then there is the gift of $25,000 to Pam Bondi, Attorney General for Florida, which might have swayed her to not investigate Trump University. Six months after she dropped her investigation, he hosted a $3,000 a plate fundraiser for her at Mar-a-Lago, his great Florida estate, country club.

Aye, Chihuahua!

To my amazement, Barak Obama’s approval rating is the highest it has been for years.  It has always been my thought he will be remembered by history with more kindness than by his contemporaries.  In my lifetime, I have known no President who has elicited such visceral hatred from so many people.  Maybe I missed something along the way but what this man has endured is remarkable.  And I give him high marks for trying, very hard, to be the best President he can be.

Matt Bevin, Governor of Kentucky, used violent metaphors to describe a Clinton Presidency, evoking images of blood on the ground.

My fear is that we are returning to the politics of the 19th Century when Andrew Jackson created the “Trails of Tears” as scores of thousands of Native Americans died by his direction.  We, as a nation, do not have a good track record of dealing with those who are not “us” as “us” is defined at any exact moment.

I was raised Catholic in Minnesota.  My 8th grade teacher, Sister Anne, told us that we would be persecuted because we were Catholics.  At that moment in my life, it seemed nonsensical.  No one was persecuting me because I was Catholic.  I mean, really…

When I was in college, helping my friend Bill paint his garage, he told me that when he was growing up in Arkansas he would not have been allowed to know me because I was Catholic.  Looking at him with incredulity from my ladder next to his, I realized there were places in my life that I did not know where my Catholicism was a liability.

Now I understand more as I see Christians slaughtered on the beaches of Libya and Christians in Iraq slaughtered.  We live in world of intolerance that I did not expect or accept as a child.  When I was in 8th grade and heard Sister Anne, I thought the world had moved beyond that.

It has not.  No, not in any way.  Shame on us.


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 Claverack, New York Thinking about a boy in Aleppo…

August 19, 2016

I am cozied in the cottage, the Smooth Jazz station playing on Amazon Prime Music, having returned only two hours ago from two days in the city.

Yesterday, I was in the city to have lunch with my friend David Arcara, a quarterly event for many years now; our conversations are wide ranging, deep, emotional and to the core of what is happening in our lives.  Yesterday’s underscored my appreciation for them.

There were drinks last night with Nick Stuart of Odyssey and Greg Nelson, formerly of Odyssey, who has returned from some weeks in Peru and that, too, was good. It gave me a chance to catch up with Greg, whom I have not seen for some months and, of course, to spend some time with Nick, my great friend.

When I woke this morning, I made my morning coffee at the apartment on the Upper West Side, and while sipping it, pursued the news of the day.  I read the NY Times and scrolled through the BBC News.

There I found a haunting image of a five-year-old Syrian boy in Aleppo, an image that has now gone viral.  Frightened and alone, covered in blood and dust, he sat on an orange seat in the back of an ambulance.  You may have seen the picture already.  If not, here it is:


It shattered my morning.  I sat staring at this image for many, many minutes and my heart screamed to the universe.  It became hard to move on, to not want to go and do SOMETHING to stop the madness.  It reminded me of pictures I had seen taken during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s; comparisons between that conflict and this will be made.

Later, I went to have lunch at the Ace Hotel with my friend David McKillop; we talked of new, upcoming adventures for him.  We talked of the: what WERE they thinking? moment of Ryan Lochte and the other swimmers claiming to have been robbed when in reality they were a bit drunk and screwed up. What were they thinking?

And, unfortunately, this is what will follow them for the rest of their lives, this moment of dishonesty.

And then, there was the moment of what was President Obama thinking when he said that the $400,000,000 turned over to the Iranians wasn’t “ransom” but a previously scheduled release of funds.  Today it was revealed that the US wouldn’t let the plane with the cash take off until prisoners were released.  Dancing with the truth?

The Syrian boy’s picture has colored my whole day.  I have thought about what can I do to stop this debacle the world has created, so complicated, so odorous, so lacking in humanity, so not a moment of “our better angels.”

When I wake up in the morning, I do my best to have a moment of gratitude.  I am not living in Aleppo.  Today that came home so much because of the photo of the five-year-old.  It is a picture that has come to represent the Syrian crisis as much as the photo of the three-year-old dead child washed up on the coast of Greece did to galvanize the world about the refugee crisis, much of it a result of the Syrian war.

Closer to home, the Blue Cut Fire in California has consumed 31,000 acres and it still rages.

In Louisiana floods have consumed 40,000 homes and at least thirteen lives.  A preacher man who “testified” that natural disasters were God’s way of punishing us for same sex marriage was forced to flee his home in a canoe.

I have been so lucky to have been born when and where I was.  Our world is changing.  It is becoming global and integrated and reactionary and frightened and fundamentalism is having a heyday. But we still care…

The answers aren’t in front of me right now.  But seeing that little boy in Aleppo makes me realize I must do better. That we all have to do better.