Posts Tagged ‘Syrian refugees’

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 New York 12 19 15 On the countdown to Christmas…

December 20, 2015

Christmas Cards. Pandora. Christ Church. Hudson. Red Dot. Nick Dier. Christmas Quiche.  Democratic Debate.  Syrian Refugees.

It is Saturday night and I am at home.  Christmas carols are playing on Pandora and I am at the end of day in which I have been amazingly, perhaps disgustingly productive.

It is the pressure of the season.  Waking early, I did some weeding of my email inbox while sipping morning coffee.  I went to the gym then headed down to Christ Church to help serve coffee for the indoor Winter Market but there were enough people so I wasn’t needed.

Going to the Red Dot I had brunch, a wickedly delicious Eggs Benedict on potato latkes with a side of crisp American bacon.  I felt like a depraved man but it was so good.

Coming home, I went over to Lionel and Pierre’s because Nick was there.  I wanted to bawl him out.  He had surgery two days ago and was working, which he shouldn’t have been doing.  I was relieved to find his father with him, helping him.

Going home, I organized the making of quiches.  It’s my tradition to give neighbors and close friends a “Christmas Quiche.”  Today was the day to make them.   After leaving Lionel’s, Nick arrived and helped within the limits of a young man in a sling.

We made fourteen quiches.  I have wrapped my Christmas presents.  I have done my Christmas cards.

Though has anyone noticed how few Christmas cards we actually get these days?  I send back to everyone I get one from and this year that has been only seven cards.  Last year it was thirty some.  Paper cards are going out of fashion.

I remember the days of my youth in which my mother would spend what seemed like weeks getting out Christmas cards.  She had a basket in which she kept every Christmas card that came in and held it until the following year when she answered them all.

Must have been hundreds every year.

I bagged my presents this year.  Admit it, we all use bags now rather than the elaborate wrapping sessions of our youth.  I remember them well.  Intricate hours spent wrapping packages.  After enough of us had left home, my mother had a room devoted to wrapping.

Now I bag!  Don’t we all?

While I am writing this the Democrats are having a debate and I’m not watching.

I haven’t watched the Republican debates either.  They have been train wrecks from what I can assess.

And the Democratic ones have been on Saturday nights which, as I recall from my media days, may be the lowest ones for households using television.   Why are they doing them on Saturday nights?

I simply can’t believe all this is happening a year out from the election.  Have we turned politics into a reality TV show?

I am sitting in my lovely little cottage, listening to jazz Christmas music and am wondering about the world in which I am living.

And I am recognizing how lucky I am not to be a Syrian refugee or a refugee from anywhere.  There are sixty-million of them right now.  I think it is about to be worse than the refugee problem at the end of WWII.  And that is tragic.

I am wrapped in the coziness of my cottage.  It is where I want to be tonight, separated from the trials of the world though I will probably always be cognizant of them, wondering what I can do.

Letter From New York 09 18 15 How lucky am I…

September 18, 2015

It is a stunningly beautiful day here in Claverack. The creek is a mirror of the trees above it, the sun is beginning to descend in the west, the temperature is perfect and I am savoring every moment I get to be out on the deck.

Those days are numbered. I needed to wait awhile this morning to come out here, as it was just a bit too cool when I woke up.

There hasn’t been a letter for a couple of days. I’ve been busy. Yesterday I drove down to Norwalk in Connecticut for lunch with a good, old friend, Bob Altman, who is the king of recipe videos. He’s done thousands of them.

We toured his studio and then went down to the beach for lunch. I had no idea Norwalk was on the water until yesterday.

It was a five-hour journey both ways but very much worth it. On the drive, I listened almost exclusively to NPR, catching up on what they were saying about the world.

There were interviews with Syrian refugees, men and women who had lives there but have found their towns destroyed. Fearing for their lives and the lives of their children, they left Syria. Many went to Turkey but there is no path there for them to legitimacy so they continued on, trusting in many cases to rubber boats to take them to Kos or Lesbos.

Hundreds if not thousands have died in the pursuit of their dream to make it to a safe place. Overwhelmed, Europe is reacting, attempting to staunch the flow coming toward them. It is a human crisis of unfathomable dimensions.

And I sit here in this blissful spot, bothered by nothing except an occasional mosquito. I cannot comprehend the misery of the millions on the move. I accept it in the abstract but I have no visceral connection with it.

My brother probably does. He has been going to Honduras for years to deal with the lack of medical care for those who live in the back of beyond, people who have no more and sometimes less than these refugees.

Sitting on this deck, overlooking the creek, I realize what luck I have had to have been born me, in the time and place that I was. I have been spared many of the world’s travails by having been born in mid-century America.

The future has always been uncertain. I am old enough to remember “duck and cover.” As if that would have saved any of us from a nuclear blast…

But here I am in the third act of my life, seated on a deck overlooking a placid creek with the luxury of looking at the world and being able to ruminate about its meaning. I am SO lucky.

In the next months, I will probably spend more of my time in Columbia County. Last night I went to Christ Church’s “Vision Meeting” and was glad to have been present. It helped me feel connected to this place.

I may be doing some work with the local not for profit radio station, helping them with their marketing and fundraising. I am settling in to being a citizen of Columbia County as opposed to being a “weekender.”

It feels good.

The god Fortuna smiled on me when it/she brought me to this place, allowing me to settle into a home that I think had been part of my dreams since I was a child. It has been great fun to have lived in New York but I think that time is passing.

Once, when I first moved to DC I though how fortunate it was I was there. I had been allowed to know several great American cities. I have lived in Los Angeles, part time in San Francisco, Washington and now New York. How lucky is that?

I’ve never lived in Chicago and I’ve never really liked Chicago so I don’t think that’s a big miss.

I’ve seen a great deal of the world, much more than I might ever have if I had remained a high school English teacher in Minneapolis and have been a witness to two generations of technological changes and been, somehow, a part of both.

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Letter From New York 09 02 15 Deliciously happy while refugees flee…

September 2, 2015

It’s been a warm but not unpleasant day in New York. The sun glittered down on the city and people moved about without seeming to be too uncomfortable though there was one man who got on the 1 train with me whose shirt was drenched. As I was walking up to the subway to head to my first appointment, I was thinking I was deliciously happy. Everything in my universe seemed quite right.

Of course, it isn’t. Since my friend, Robert Murray, mentioned it, I have noticed that there seem to be more beggars on the streets of New York this year. For months, Mayor DeBlasio has been downplaying homelessness as an issue. He has apparently realized it is a problem; the deputy mayor in charge of the issue, Ms. Barrios-Paoli, announced her resignation this week and more funds have been allocated for mental health care for the homeless.

The Syrian Crisis went viral today when its intensity and tragedy were captured in photographs of a drowned Syrian Kurd washed up on the shores of Turkey after failing to reach the Greek Island of Kos. He was three years old. His brother, five, also was lost. There are eleven million Syrian refugees, half the total of that country’s population.

Here is the picture if you would like to see. It broke my heart.

https://twitter.com/LizSly/status/639042438984699904

It makes the New York crisis seem small.

Chaos continues in Budapest as migrants attempt to make their way to Germany. For the second day in a row, trains have not run. Many migrants hold tickets but are not being allowed on the trains. EU officials continue to attempt to cope.

Greece, stuttering along under a caretaker government until elections on September 20th, is facing a huge crisis at a time it can least afford it. Kos is only a few miles from Turkey but the journey is dangerous and will become more so with the autumn.

IS has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a mosque in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. At least 28 people are dead. I wonder how history will interpret this orgy of Muslim killing Muslim? It makes me think I should study the Hundred Years War; Christians were killing Christians in fierce numbers during that conflict.

I confess I don’t understand it.

I don’t understand Kim Davis who is the County Clerk in Kentucky who continues to refuse to give marriage licenses to gay couples. [Or anyone for that matter.] She has been married four times, twice to the same man. She found Jesus four years ago. When elected to office she pledged  “[I] will be the very best working clerk that I can be and will be a good steward of their tax dollars and follow the statutes of this office to the letter.”

That she hasn’t done.

Someone launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for her. So far, it’s not raised a single dime.

Tomorrow she and her staff go to court to explain why she/they shouldn’t be held in contempt of court.

In another court matter, a Baltimore judge refused to throw out the cases against the policemen indicted in the death of Freddie Gray. His death set off days of riots in Baltimore. In a win for the defense, the cases will be tried separately, something the prosecution wanted. Baltimore has cancelled all leaves for policemen during this period though early protests have been mostly peaceful.

In San Antonio, controversy continues over the death of Gilbert Flores. Video apparently showed him with his arms up though he may have been holding a knife. It’s a stretch, hence the controversy, that holding a knife in a hand upraised in a surrender signal, constituted a real and present danger to the police that were present.

Outside my window, the day is shading gray and I’m going off to get some food at Thai Market and then head home to read. I’ve taken to falling asleep in bed, reading off my Kindle. It’s a nice way to slip into the arms of Morpheus.

Letter From New York 09 01 15 Hot day, hot news…

September 1, 2015

It’s a sunny, warm day in New York. Waking up in the New York apartment, I was disoriented and not quite sure where I was. Then I got a cramp in my left leg that catapulted me out of bed and into the realization I was in New York. During the morning I worked out of the apartment and then headed down to the offices of Broderville.

It is supposed to scrape ninety degrees today but it didn’t feel that warm when, around noon, I reached the office. Since then, I have been cossetted in the air conditioning while doing my afternoon’s online work.

While I have been hammering on the laptop’s keys, the market has been swooning over more bad news from China. The Wall Street Fear Index is up again today but not as high as it was a week ago.

No longer standing at all is the Temple of Bel/Baal at Palmyra. Satellite photographs have shown clearly that it has been demolished. Until these shots came through there was some hope but it is now gone, forever, a temple which has stood since the time of Christ.

Video of a man who appeared to have raised his arms in San Antonio and was then shot by police is posted online by a local television station, KSAT, and can be seen on their website. http://www.ksat.com/news/ksatcom-exclusive-unedited-video-of-fatal-deputy-involved-shooting

I couldn’t watch. I didn’t want to see a man gunned down, rightly or wrongly, though it is looking very suspect at this moment.

In Chicago, a manhunt is on for three men who allegedly shot a police officer there.

All in all, according to a NY Times article I read, murders are soaring in a number of cities. People are struggling to understand after years of falling murder numbers. One reason posited is that gangs are better organized and better armed.

Kim Davis, the County Clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, filed an appeal with the Supreme Court to prevent her from having to issue gay marriage licenses.   The Supreme Court was having none of it. Nope. No way. We’re not hearing this.

This morning a rowdy group showed up demanding their marriage licenses. She now must show up in Court on Thursday for a hearing. Gay couples that want licenses don’t want her to go to jail but do want her fined.

Rand Paul, erstwhile candidate for the Republican nomination for the Presidency, thinks Ms. Davis’ protest is all just part of the American way. Unfortunately, I agree with him but not for the reasons he has, I suspect. I’m only surprised there aren’t more holdouts like Ms. Davis.

The migrant crisis is growing in Europe. Today, trains were halted in Hungary and migrants, even those holding tickets, were not allowed to board. Hundreds have died at sea, attempting the crossing from Africa to Italy, just in the last week.

The number of Syrian refugees accepted by Britain would barely be enough to fill a car on the Underground, hence all the rush to get to Germany where Angela Merkel is fending off a rising right that wants to put a stop to it.

The EU has had, at best, a slapdash approach to the refugee crisis, ignoring or suspending its own rules willy-nilly with no central government organized response.

All of this, after the Greek Crisis, further strains the credibility of the EU.

My credibility is not feeling strained today. I’m going to close up shop for the night, head up to Café du Soleil for a bite to eat and then go back home and read a book for a while.

All good. Hope it is for you, too!