Posts Tagged ‘Train’

Letter From New York January 25, 2010

January 26, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

As the Friday night train trundled languorously north, there was an animated conversation between my fellow passengers about what had been the most important stories of the week – in a week that was full of important events.

Haiti still dominated the news and my train companions were all struck by the number of children who had been orphaned, a tragic number in a tragic situation, helpless individuals in an almost hopeless situation.

Friday night there was a telethon for Haiti, organized by George Clooney, a star studded event that pulled on heart strings, opened pockets in a desperate economy, raising an unprecedented 58 million dollars. The reality of the devastation of Haiti has struck everyone – there hasn’t been a story that has quite captured the attention of the world to this degree since 9/11. It is a story that has seized the hearts and minds of people around the world.

Nothing really matches it but the drumbeat of news goes on.

Democrat Martha Coakley lost to Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts for the Senate seat once held by Edward Kennedy. He campaigned as an opponent to Obama’s Health Care Reforms and his victory has dark ramifications for Democrats, a signaling of discontent one year into the Obama Presidency. Even loyal Democrats are discontent, wondering why there is so much focus on Health Care Reform when the economy remains mired in trouble with employment not rebounding. Why health care and not job creation? Without jobs, who can pay for health care? As a close friend of mine stated: it’s the economy, stupid.

Following close on that and outraging most of my Democratic friends was the news that following a Supreme Court decision corporations are now granted the right to spend as much as they want to support candidates. Conservatives rejoice and liberals are rending their clothes. The ruling overturns decades of precedent and could fundamentally change the landscape of American politics. Have we opened the door to office going to the highest bidder?

While the Haiti catastrophe played out in the endless news cycle and while Democrats despaired because of Massachusetts and the Supreme Court ruling, the pop culture landscape was also the focus of attention as NBC came to terms with what to do with its late night franchise. In the end, Conan O’Brien was out, Jay Leno was back in and Conan went out on Friday night with a great deal of humor and more class than could have been expected. In his final remarks, he lauded NBC, his home for many years while acknowledging their current differences. It was a moment he will be proud of in the future; he did not go darkly into that good night.

I went to a hotel in downtown New York on Tuesday evening to meet a producer I’ve known for years though have not seen for many of them. He and the woman he is partnered with were staying in the Millennium Hilton, which overlooks Ground Zero, the World Trade Center site. Both of them as well as many of the crew they were with had not been to that part of Manhattan in all the years since 9/11 and all of them were struck in awe by being by the site and felt, they said, the ghosts of that day all around them. It both left them awestruck and unnerved.

As a New Yorker, I simply was glad that, after all these years, construction cranes were sprouting from the site and there was movement in moving on. The actual site holds less trauma for us now; we are glad to see movement, real movement, in building fresh while at the same time recognizing the city will never be the same – and this has been a week where events have indicated the world will never be the same. It won’t be in Haiti. It won’t be in politics. New York is not the same. But then nothing is ever quite the same, from week to week – it’s just this week seemed to underscore that more than most.

Tale of Two Towns: Living the Great Recession, July 10, 2009

July 11, 2009

A Tale of Two Towns
Living in The Great Recession

July 10, 2009

For those who follow closely, you will have noticed there was no missive last week; it was the 4th of July weekend, there were masses of papers to be sorted through for work and there just wasn’t time for everything. It was a quiet 4th; the holiday night was spent with a friend at Tannery Pond, listening to exquisite chamber music where the fireworks were aural rather than visual. Particularly wonderful were several Beethoven from the early 19th Century. Following, at home, I continued the path of solitary thinking that has been part of my spring and summer – assessing life – mine and the world in which I find myself living.

It is an interesting time, the one in which we are living. The economic malaise has now become an ongoing reality of our lives; it is more a chronic illness than a transitory one. As I write this it is a weeknight and I am at the cottage – a rare thing now for weekdays – but our train crowd gave a “furlough” party for our friend Ty West who works on a PBS Production. Donations and corporate support are at a nadir so it has become incumbent on their survival to furlough employees and it is Ty’s time. He is, being the man he is, taking the difficulty with good grace and understanding. I suspect it is not easy for him; it would not be for me.

His story is one of many that I know; pullbacks are everywhere. The friends who went down with the LPD bankruptcy are all still “on the beach” looking for the next thing, which is elusive. It underscores the grace under which I have been living – a fact that plays into the contemplative state in which I have been living since that shutdown.

On the party train tonight one of the “regular” passengers who joined our celebration was a young stock analyst from one of the boutique firms that inhabit “Wall Street.” As I tended bar [my task on train parties (for each one I must come up with a theme drink, tonight’s was the “Furlough Tini” a mixture of vodka, lemonade, crème de Framboise and crème de cassis, producing a concoction that had shades of pink [pink slip] but wasn’t quite, hence: furlough – an unpaid absence from a job with the opportunity to return and a clear indication of a sad economic reality], this young man opined that the market was headed lower and that at the end of the day it would all be better in some future we aspire to. It made for poignant conversation regarding depleted portfolios, delayed retirements and returns to work from retirement by men such as his father.

We are living in a poignant time. On many levels, individuals live as they always have though comprises are everywhere. Retirees return to the work place, home buying is deferred, roommates are taken in, purchases and vacations deferred or downsized, friendships matter more and values are reevaluated. Friendships feel more potent; what are we without people, people who love us.

In this current economic crisis, the most profound since the Great Depression, we are all in trouble. Yet our trouble is still quite modest compared with much of the world – the world in which 60 to 70 % of its population must walk three hours to find fresh water. It does put it all in perspective, doesn’t it? When I got off the train tonight I left behind three sinks full of ice, unused, melting into oblivion and completely normal for the western world in which we live. It was the young stock analyst who pointed out to me that the majority of the world is desperate for what we take for granted – still.

What gnaws at many of us is that there may soon come a day when we can’t take for granted the ice we’ve paid for melting casually in any kind of sink… Everyone I know senses some new day ahead of us. While unsure what that day may be, more people seem anxious than eager while also suspecting it might just be a time with sounder values.