Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Letter From Claverack 11 27 2018 Thanksgiving thoughts…

November 27, 2017


            This year I took on the responsibility for preparing Thanksgiving dinner, to be served at the home of my friends, Larry and Alicia, with six other guests.  After cooking for two days, I loaded all the food into the Prius and followed the most level roads from my house to Alicia’s and Larry’s home.  My menu, which I printed, is below:

Thanksgiving Dinner

November 23, 2017

Hors D’oeuvres

With cocktails, champagne and wine

Selection of cheeses & crackers


Radishes with butter and kosher salt


Pumpkin Soup a la Jacques Pepin

Main Course


Rubbed in spices


Brown bread dressing

Rice and Mushroom Dressing

Traditional Bread Dressing


Sweet Potatoes

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Mashed White Potatoes

Smashed Russet Potatoes with skins


Honey Glazed Carrots

Haricot Vert with sage butter sauce

Freshly baked multigrain bread




With musical merry making in the parlor

Led by

Lionel J White

            As I was very carefully driving, with pots, pans and containers rattling in the back of my car, I was listening to NEPR, New England Public Radio, and they switched to a story of a town just outside of Damascus, under siege by Assad’s forces for two years.  Children were eating garbage and there wasn’t even much of that.

So, I drove to my friends’ home, thinking of the bounty in my car and the stark contrast there was to the scene being described in Syria.  It is days later and I am still processing that story and the contrasts in the world and, as my friend, Medora, said this morning, you probably will be until you die.

We live in a world of contrasts and contradictions.

Yesterday, as I usually do on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, I set up my Christmas tree, while listening to Christmas Carols ordered up from my Amazon Echo.  Alexa, play holiday music!



It is a world of wonder and a world of hard contrasts, of political acrimony and discord and it is just less than a month to Christmas and I am heading into this most wonderful of seasons [for me], determined to enjoy the bounty I have been given and to seriously think of how I can address the inequities that exist in my world, knowing I will be confounded by them until I die.


Letter From New York 11 25 15 On Thanksgiving Eve…

November 25, 2015

It is 5:12 on Thanksgiving Eve and it is dark out, pitch black.  The sun has receded and gone to sleep for the night.  As often is the case, jazz is playing and I am writing what probably will be a fairly quick Letter.

In the kitchen, I am preparing pumpkin soup for tomorrow, a quick and easy Jacques Pepin recipe I found some time ago and dearly love — as do the people to whose house I am going tomorrow for the Thanksgiving feast. 

When I finish that, I am going on to do the creamed pearl onions with peas.

Tomorrow, I will do the cranberries once I have decided on a recipe.  Then, around one, will pack it into the car and head up to Larry and Alicia’s where I’ll be, staying at their place for the night so I don’t have to drive back after all the feasting and fun.

Lionel will be there and has been asked to bring along his sheet music so he can bash out some tunes for us after dinner.

So, for me, this has been a day of prepping, which I find fun.  Had a haircut, for which I was overdue.

Even without the fire, it is cozy in the cottage.  In about half an hour I am going to head over to Lionel’s house where he is cooking us dinner.

Cooking onions now…

While I am involved in the pleasantries of prepping for The Great American Holiday, which I love almost as much as Christmas, I know the world is not having the fun I’m having.

There is the knotty problem of IS, and Syria, Turkey, Russia, France, the US, Iran, UK,  are all working to figure out how to deal with them against the backdrop of Turkey having just shot down a Russian warplane.  Russia is deploying anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.  Kick it up another notch…

Paris is still recovering.  Tunisia has been hit with a suicide bomber. 

Video of a young black man being shot by a white policeman in Chicago has stirred protests and residents are being warned of possible gang violence in the wake of its release.  The police officer has been charged with First Degree Murder. 

The video is online but I don’t have the stomach to watch it on Thanksgiving Eve, while cooking and prepping.

And the magic moment has arrived when I must close this missive and head over to Lionel’s.

To everyone who reads this and to everyone who doesn’t, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!  May you enjoy your day and the people with whom you spend it.

Letter From New York 11 24 15 That attitude of gratitude…

November 24, 2015

Howard Bloom.  New York City. Thanksgiving.  Metrojet. Claverack.  Howard Bloom Saves The Universe. Anne Frank. Jason Rezaian. Nancy Wiard.  Penn Station.  Chad Dougatz. Metrojet.

It is mid-afternoon and I am beginning this as I am closing in on New York City, on the train.  I’m down this afternoon for Howard Bloom’s Podcast [Howard Bloom Saves the Universe, look it up on iTunes or

I have a breakfast in the morning and then I am scurrying back north for the long weekend.  Trains were getting hard to get yesterday – every other one seems to be sold out.

Depending on when I get finished with breakfast, I may take an earlier train.  I’m eager to be back at the cottage, priming for Thanksgiving.  I have a few side dishes to make for the feast I am attending.

It’s cold today and it is going down to a mere 14 degrees tonight in Claverack.  Yikes!  I am wearing my winter jacket and have pulled out my favorite scarf.

But my hardships are minimal.  I could be a refugee somewhere in Europe as the cold settles in on the Continent while, at the same time, finding themselves feared by the countries to which they have been fleeing.

Earlier today, in a Facebook posting, I saw that Anne Frank had applied to come to America but was denied.  We weren’t very open to Jews before the war.  If that visa had been granted we may have been denied her diary but she’d be 77 if she had lived.

That fact saddened me.

People are wrestling with what to do about refugees.  Some of most liberal friends are now feeling fearful of accepting them.  I have been seeing the postings on Facebook.  There is great support for and there is great fear of refugees, both views understandable in the light of current events.

Jason Rezaian, a journalist for the Washington Post and who headed their Tehran bureau is headed for prison for an unspecified period of time.  Holding both Iranian and US citizenship, he seemed a natural for the posting.  The Iranians have convicted him of espionage.

He has languished in prison since July 2014.

Now, I am sitting just outside the studio while Howard is doing his podcast, discussing with Chad Dougatz, the host, the roots of Islamic terrorism. 

Terrorism, the bane of our time…  Just moments ago, my phone buzzed with a notice that the US has issued a global travel alert due to increased threats of terrorism.

My friend, Nancy Wiard, is traveling to the European Christmas markets.  She sent me a message today from Amsterdam, which is close to Belgium whose major city, Brussels, home for the European Union, is under lockdown. 

Multiple operations are underway in Brussels as I type.

It is believed that the bomb that took down the Russian Metrojet was placed under the seat of a fifteen year old girl, seat 31A.

I didn’t get to finish last night.  Today is a beautiful, slightly chill, afternoon on the train heading north.  I’m seated on the river side of the car and I’m watching the Hudson slide by as I move north.

As I headed toward the train this morning, Penn, not unexpectedly was overflowing with people heading out for Thanksgiving.  It, too, had more than its usual contingent of police and soldiers.  In the fourteen plus years since 9/11, I have yet to accept their presence as the new normal.

But, it is, and during Thanksgiving the city is on a higher alert level.  More police, more soldiers, more…

Yes, the world is a grim place.  The Turks have shot down a Russian warplane which kept, according to them, violating its airspace.  Let’s just ratchet up the tensions, why don’t we…

However, I also read an article in the NY Times this morning about the positive health affects of being grateful, so I am attempting to settle myself into my “attitude of gratitude” mode.  It will be a healthier place for me.

It is two days from Thanksgiving and tomorrow I will be prepping my contributions to our annual feast of gratitude and I will do my best to remember all the many things for which I am grateful.

Letter From New York Saturday, November 29, 2014

November 29, 2014

It is mid-afternoon yet the light is already fading here in Claverack; a pearl grey sky dominates the horizon. With the surfeit of snow, the view looks almost like a black and white photo. Branches, weighted down with snow, curl toward the earth all around me.

It is the Saturday following Thanksgiving, that long and lovely weekend of feasting and shopping. At least I heard no reports this year of crowds trampling each other into the linoleum. It has been mostly peaceful on the shopping front I think. There is nothing that says “Happy Holidays” more than a riot at Walmart. They opened Thanksgiving afternoon in an effort to let some steam out of the system so as to avoid the unpleasantness of previous years.

Today I passed their parking lot and it wasn’t full. I’m hoping that it was impossible to find a parking spot on Warren Street down in Hudson. It’s Small Business Saturday and Warren Street is crammed with small businesses. I will go there during the week this week to do some shopping.

I’m afraid I have no great need to plunge into the ritual of Black Friday or the counter movement of Small Business Saturday. I avoid all of those things. However, I am not immune to Cyber Monday. Amazon started its Cyber Monday Sale yesterday, or the day before or perhaps it has always been going on…

I confess that today I ventured online and ordered something for young Alicia, the three-year-old daughter of young Nick who works with me keeping the cottage running smoothly. She is enamored [as are so many] with FROZEN so I got her one of the hundreds of FROZEN items for sale on Amazon. So convenient. For a small fee, it will arrive wrapped. Because I am an Amazon Prime member it will come in two days, ready for the Christmas tree, which glows in the other room.

This is, perhaps my favorite weekend of the year, partly because I don’t push myself into the shopping frenzy at Walmart or Warren Street or the Cross Gate Mall up in Albany. I cozy up in the cottage and recover from my tryptophan hangover and concentrate on decorating for Christmas.

It is four o’clock as I write this and a family of deer has just crossed my yard; they seem to do so about this time every day. It causes me, in these quiet moments, to feel centered, in some kind of harmony with the larger world, aware that nature still runs wild in places and one of those places is my cottage by Claverack Creek.

From my desk, I look out the window to nothing but snow covered trees as far as I can see. My road is quiet and it seems a gentle world, far from the strum und drang of the city.

Twilight arrives. I got to prepare dinner for friends. I rejoice in the peace.

Letter From New York November 27, 2014: Thanksgiving

November 27, 2014

Outside, huge clumps of snow fall at regular intervals, heavy snow slipping off the bending tree boughs; it is a winter wonderland outside, a magic kingdom of pure white, peaceful, calm and lovely.

It is Thanksgiving and I am recently returned from an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service hosted by Christ Church Episcopal. Christian, Jew and Muslim gathered together to celebrate the most American of Holidays, Thanksgiving, offering prayers of thanksgiving for this day, each from their own tradition, praising God and praying in thanks for the gifts we have and offering hope that the turmoil that roils the world will calm.

It was sparsely attended and I was glad I was there. It felt right to be giving thanks in a holy space today and the prayers from the different traditions gladdened me. A young man, Sharif Khan, represented Islam from the local mosque and offered a beautiful prayer of healing from his tradition. Mother Eileen, Rector of Christ Church, gave a stirring homily on the good religion does even while many curse religion for the men who commit gruesome crimes in its name – a fact we live with every day. She named the fear we have: that a 9/11 kind of event could happen here again, despite all our efforts.

Clever men who use the name of God to damn us do hate us and conspire to bring us evil. War rages in the lands that gave birth to Judaism, Christianity and Islam with Islam riven by the kind of discord that ripped Christianity a half a millennium ago.

I never felt persecuted because I was Catholic – in fact, I never even gave it a thought until I was in college and spoke with a friend who grew up in the south. He told me he would not have been allowed to know me because I was a “dirty Catholic.” In liberal, accommodating Minneapolis, I had not experienced that.

But it’s out there, most evidenced by the guns flaring in the Mideast and in Africa, where young girls are now hiding bombs under their hijabs and blowing themselves up in crowds in the name of God.

Perhaps one reason some parts of Islam consider us in the West decadent is that we cannot seem to rouse ourselves to suicide anymore over God. It seems that got out of our system during the Reformation. And I am thankful for that today. I am glad my college friend was my friend and that he had leapt beyond his childhood prejudices.

I am sadly grateful that the violence in Ferguson, MO was not even worse and that we did not see a repeat of 1967. But there is still so much distrust between the black and white communities and I will say a prayer of hope today that trust grows and bitterness fades.

And I will say a prayer of hope that some reason can be found to stomp out the fires of hatred from some Muslims toward the West and from some of those in the West to Muslims. May we someday find the rapprochement that Protestants and Catholics seem to have found since the last century.

As I sit and look out upon this winter wonderland, I am thankful for many things, including this moment, when all is white and pure and peaceful in my world. I am grateful that I am headed to friends to share the annual Thanksgiving feast and am grateful for the tradition we have had of spending Thanksgivings together.

There is much to be thankful for and I am allowing myself to be in a state of gratitude for all in my life – and there is so much for me to be grateful about.

May all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and find a centering gratitude today. If the world is dark, may a slice of light shine into your world and may you be a sliver of light to someone else.

Letter From New York November 26, 2014

November 26, 2014

There is a song that goes something like:

Outside the weather is quite frightful

Inside, it’s quite delightful…

And that’s the way it is today, November 26, 2014 in Claverack, NY. Outside, there is a traditional Nor’easter happening; snow is falling relentlessly, several inches having accumulated with more promised.

I just got a promotional email from a restaurant in New York appealing to folks who might have had their travel plans changed today because of the weather. My friends Nick and Lisa got up at oh dark thirty this morning so they could beat the weather to Massachusetts so they wouldn’t miss the annual Thanksgiving at Lisa’s mothers house.

Prayers have been said for all my friends who are flying somewhere today; some flights were cancelled already last night in anticipation of the storm.

It is undeniably beautiful outside – my little woods are all white and pristine. I scurried out early this morning just as the snow was beginning to fall to buy groceries as I am cooking dinner tonight for my friends, Lionel and Pierre.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I will be celebrating it with Lionel and other friends at Larry Divney and Alicia Vergara’s house up in Stuyvesant. I’ve spent at least ten of the last dozen Thanksgivings with them, either at my house or theirs. It’s become something of a tradition.

And while I am being traditional tomorrow, while most of America is being traditional, across the world, OPEC is gathering to determine if it is going to cut production to support oil prices that have been falling. Why gas is close to three dollars a gallon here in New York and we’re on the high side of the country. Apparently, this drop in demand is squeezing countries like Venezuela pretty hard, used to petrodollars to support itself. I’m sure that it’s squeezing Putin’s Russia pretty severely, too, even though they are not an OPEC country.

This is something important that is going to happening while we are feasting and I doubt many of us will give it much thought – unless, of course, like me, you have signed up for breaking alerts from CNN and the BBC. They’ll ping my phone the moment there is any news.

I took a test today to score my knowledge of the international scene. I did okay; apparently I did better than 92% of my fellow Americans. I missed a couple of questions that I should have gotten. It annoyed me that I missed them. Pew is the organization behind the quiz. Apparently it is trying to find out how smart – or dumb – we are. I’m sure they will issue a study once the quiz has provided enough information. I like Pew for that – they keep us informed about where we stand on social issues as well as political ones.

On this snowy Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I can feel the world slowing down. We’re going into a long weekend; many places being closed Friday as well as Thursday. Many folks I know, if they are working today, are only working half days. The trains coming north last night were packed with folks getting out of Dodge ahead of the storm.

And with flights being cancelled I am sure the trains are a zoo today.

I’m thankful to be here, cozy in the cottage, a fire burning in the Franklin Stove, getting ready to celebrate the most American of holidays, Thanksgiving. I’ve much to be thankful for this year. It’s not perfect but I’m not in Mosul or any other “hot” zone. I’ll be curled up with friends, raising toasts to each other and to the magical moment that is Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! Eat, drink and be merry. Have fun. Don’t drink and drive. Try to be kind to those crazy relatives! Be thankful!

Letter From New York November 23, 2014

November 23, 2014

It is morning in Claverack; the sun sifts through a pearl grey sky. A slight wind disturbs the few leaves left on the tree. All is quiet.

The morning’s first cup of coffee tastes delectable, good, strong Nicaraguan.

It is Sunday morning and I have my Sunday morning rituals to complete – strong coffee followed by a perusal of the New York Times on my iPad or iPhone complete with a careful reading of the Weddings sections. It was called for a long time “Weddings and Celebrations” to accommodate gay couples who couldn’t marry but honored their commitment to a partner through a public celebration. Now that gays can marry in New York I have noticed that it has gone back to just being “Weddings.”

I will sort through my emails and perhaps even go to Church today; I am one of those in the country who considers themselves “spiritual but not religious” even though I occasionally miss the fellowship of church and go down to Christ Church Episcopal for the experience of the ritual without the guilt I associate with my Catholic Church of origin.

Like many, I have felt friendlier toward it under the current Pope but am still not quite comfortable there. God and I wrestle with that a bit.

I work to pray everyday. I am a lucky man; my life is magical compared with a huge percentage of the world. Reading the news, I am aware I am lucky not to be living in a war zone, an Ebola zone, any “zone” at all – I live in a little island of calm in the country where looking out I see trees and land and my creek and if I hear a distant gunshot, it is not war but men hunting deer.

So everyday I try to remember to offer a thought of gratitude to God for the luck of my life, to have been born in America, never been called to war, to have had an interesting career, to find my life surrounded by friends and relatives – a reality brought home by the good wishes that surrounded my birthday.

Ah, the sun has come out and flickers golden off the fallen leaves. It has been chill; perhaps the day will be warmer than the last few that have called for fires and nestling with comforters. These pre-Thanksgiving days are predicted to be rather gentle of the season.

The trains coming north out of New York City were packed on Friday, I was told, full of people beginning their Thanksgiving Holiday, crowding the train with bodies and luggage.

The Holiday Season began a week ago with the celebration of my birthday and I am going to carry that celebration spirit through until the New Year has come and gone. It feels like a year to celebrate the golden goodness of the time I am having.

Letter From New York November 25, 2011

November 29, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

My birthday is just past; I was feted to a fair thee well by friends over my birthday weekend, starting on my birthday eve with Lionel and Pierre at Thai Market, followed by a Friday evening dinner at the fabulous Robert on the 9th floor of the Museum of Art and Design at Columbus Circle, with a stunning view up Broadway, to five hours of haunting the New York Antique Show with my friend Paul, who then took me to dinner, followed by Todd Broder taking me to brunch and so it went on and on and on and I admit I allowed myself to be smothered in all kinds of affection over the weekend, for which I was very grateful.

It is Thanksgiving morning and I am curled on the couch at the cottage with the sun pouring in while glistening off the creek; in the distance are the morning cries of the geese flocks that call the creek home.

These are moments of self-indulgence, of celebratory rejoicing, of placid enjoyment of the time, moments when one can shutter out the harsher realities of our world. This morning, as I perused the digital version of the New York Times, I stumbled upon an article that posits that we, as a human race, are getting nicer.

When I saw the headline, I raised my eyebrows. How, in the century of 9/11, could we think that the human race is getting “nicer”? But the writer makes a strong case that historically, we are. May it be so. If so, we should be grateful that there may be an evolutionary process happening with mankind that heralds a better age for all.

As I left a breakfast at Pershing Square yesterday, the man with whom I was meeting, paused on the street and commented on how lucky we were to have had a good breakfast in a good restaurant, talking about interesting things. Compared with 99.9% of the world, my life is absolutely magical, which I remind myself of as often as I can as and if we, as a human race, are becoming nicer, then indeed we must be grateful on this Thanksgiving.

It is a good thought; a powerful one that comes at a good time because when we look around we can find reason enough for despairing shakes of the head. Because we are so wired together we learn of every brutal hiccup in the process of the evolution heralded by Mr. Pinker in his book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature” and commented upon by the notable Nicholas Kristoph in his NY Times column today. The Thirty Years War, fought, at least partially, over religion, decimated much of what is now Germany while killing off a third of the population. As grim and stupid as the Iraq war has been, it has not affected that kind of mortality, at least to date.

Some of the thoughts ring true if stunning when thought. “Today’s conservatives are more liberal than yesterday’s liberals.” Yes, let us hope so.

On such a beautiful day, with soft jazz playing, sunlight bursting into the room, with promises of magnificent food in the hours ahead, with the great good company of my friends Larry and Alicia, it is a day to be both thankful and hopeful.

One of the dazzling aspects of human nature is that we as a race do change and against the darkness of our own acts have the capability to hope and to believe in a better future.

I am thankful today. I am hopeful today. May you all have grand and hopeful Thanksgivings as well…