Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia’

Letter From Claverack via the train… March 27, 2017 The future we can almost touch…

March 28, 2017

It is nearing sunset; I am riding north after a day in the city, on the 5:47 out of New York Penn.  Todd, one of our most venerable conductors, is conducting a game of trivia in which all of us who ride in the café car are participating.  It is lovingly raucous.  Some are answering the question before Todd finishes asking the question.

The commute, I don’t miss.  The people I do.  There is a mixture tonight of old regulars and new regulars.  Annette, of Rhinebeck, is screaming answers and folks are singing the songs which are the answers to some of the questions.  It is a moment wrapped in warmth.

The sun slips beneath the Catskills in a glow of burnt orange.  With Trivia Time now over, we have slipped back to reading, working, with more than a few yawns stretching faces wide.

As in every day there seems to be a necessary amount of political conversations.  Our google groups email list for the Empire Regulars, got slightly sidetracked into politics today until Maria, our estimable moderator, stepped in and held up the stop sign.  As always, when Maria decrees, the Regulars accede.

While I am far from politically indifferent, the cascade of commentary is wearing. This is going to be a long, long haul and we must husband our strength over time and be laser focused.

Just before I boarded the train, Andrew Mer, a fellow consultant and I had a brief meeting while we discussed the Miller Center a bit and some other things.  He said something I thought wise.  Trump’s election has laid bare the fissures in our society we have papered over.

And Mr. Trump is helping underscore the fissures.

The attempt to repeal and replace has gone down in flames and there is even a tentative reaching out to Democrats to see what actually be done as the Freedom Caucus is intransient.

California farmers, enthusiastic supporters of Trump, are nonplussed at his immigration intentions.  One said: I thought Trump was kidding.  He is now anxious because his farm in California runs because of illegal immigrants.

The agony of Rockford, Illinois and other rust belt cities is now at the surface and the failure to deal with that, under both Democrats and Republicans, is a national shame, building for generations.  We did not retrain people for other jobs to replace the ones not returning.

And the jobs are not returning until we look at and adapt to the revolution technology is shoving down our throats and figure out what else we can do.

The industrial revolution is coming to an end; whatever history calls this one, we need to find a new way.

The coal jobs in West Virginia probably aren’t coming back.  Machines are mining what men once did.  Driverless cars will toss aside the long-distance drivers, once a way to climb an economic rung.  Not today, not tomorrow but someday, in a future we can almost touch, those jobs will disappear and we are not moving to educate all those people for something different.

The Trump Revolution is not dissimilar to what happened as the Industrial Revolution began the change.  People rioted.  Today they voted.  If we don’t address the systemic issues, the next step will be riots.

The hopeful part is we somehow weathered the arrival of the Industrial Revolution and accomplished incredible things.  In the last hundred years, for those in the west, our life spans have doubled, we are more educated, our lives are quite fantastic compared to that of our grandparents.  There are friends of mine who are alive because of what has been achieved.

And we need to focus on the fact we are in a revolutionary period.  Trump isn’t looking there nor was Hillary Clinton.  Our politicians on both sides are facing the past, not the future.

The brilliance of Kennedy was he painted a picture of what could be, not what was.

We have raised the lid on the septic tank and need to clean it now.

What we are achieving technologically in this time has the promise of catapulting us to another level and very few seem to realize it and fewer still imagine how to use it for the common good.

 

Letter From New York

July 22, 2013

July 20, 2013

A vision of things not to be…

When I was very, very little I encountered the McCormick family. They had six children, all about my age. I don’t know quite how I met Sarah, the McCormick that was my age but we were fast friends by the time we walked together to Kindergarten at Fuller School.

I grew up with that family and have remained close to them in all the decades that have passed since Sarah and I headed off to school for the first time. It is unusual, I know. Our childhood friends seem to slip away as we move into adulthood but Sarah and the entire McCormick family did not. When they moved to St. Louis after 8th grade, I flew down to visit them. When Sarah was living in Spain, I visited her there. When she moved to Albuquerque, I visited her there and she visited me when I lived in Santa Monica. Her son, Kevin, has grown up thinking of me as Uncle Mat and I think of and call him my nephew.

I attended family reunions with her and stood with the McCormick family when a drunk driver killed the youngest daughter, Trish, one night shortly after I had visited her in Colorado.

Mary Clare is the oldest and lives in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. I have visited her there, was present when her daughter Margaret got married and returned when Margaret died. She and her husband Jim lived in New York awhile and we dined together at a favorite restaurant, Café du Soleil. I introduced them to my friends and they became friends.

John and Eileen, the parents, settled in New York after St. Louis and once I had moved to New York, I dined with them on a regular basis at their country club and attended family events with them. I contributed to John’s 80th birthday presents as if I were one of the kids. I mourned when both of them passed away within months of each other.

For four years I have spent my Christmases with these people. They are as much a part of my life as if they were my blood family. They are a family of choice and I went to be with them once again when Joe Eros, the oldest son of Jim and Mary Clare, died in an accident while he was hiking in Alaska, where he was stationed in the Army.

Kevin and I sat, looking at Joe in his coffin, and he said to me that he had always had a vision of the future and it had included doing things with his cousin Joe. We cried together. I, too, had a vision of the future that included getting to always know Joe a little better. And now our vision of the future included things that would not be…

He was a special man. Smarter than anyone I know. His Uncle John said that before there was Google, there was Joe. There seemed to be no nook or cranny of history of which he didn’t have some knowledge. He had a wry, dry wit that would bring a crooked smile to my face as he would crack a joke with his own crooked grin. His eyes danced with intelligence.

After 9/11 he joined the Army, served in Iraq, left the Army, went to law school and re-enlisted and was stationed in Alaska, a place he loved. He died doing what he loved, being outdoors, being alive.

I cannot tell you how much I miss him and miss that I will not have more opportunities for knowing him better. His brother Michael went to Alaska and met with his friends, met with the people who had been present when the accident happened and then accompanied Joe home. My admiration for Michael is enormous and my vision of the future includes knowing him better. He demonstrated what an amazing man he is during this painful period.

I have my family of origin. I have a family of choice. My vision of the future includes them both. I cannot imagine it differently.