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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

January 13, 2003

When I began writing this week's column, it was Saturday afternoon in the country and I was snowed in, curled up in the office scanning some tapes I needed to be familiar with and yet which don't demand complete attention.

Tripp was in the living room, sprawled on the couch, recovering from several hours outside when we had worked, he much more than I, with Bill Baldwin, the gentleman who plows our drive, so that we could get in and out and get the buried car unburied.

It reminded me of my childhood in Minnesota, rocking cars free from the snow, shoveling their wheels free and shoveling a path to the doors. Inside, the fire was stoked and we carried in extra wood once Tripp had carved a tunnel through the snow bank.

It was a time of watching the Weather Channel religiously, and feeling cozy, glad there was nowhere to go, today, and attempting to make sure that we could get back to the city the next day.

That had been much of our winter sojourn in Claverack, dealing with worst snow storms the Northeast has seen in thirty years. It was a peaceful respite from the world to which we have returned.

Now, back in the city, the world is picking up its pace and my pace has picked up with it. NATPE is in front of us and I spent part of yesterday booking my flights and hotel and getting registered. It hadn't been my plan to go but one of my clients asked me to attend so I scrambled.

Then, at the end of the day, Tripp and I went over to our friends Andrew and Cheryl's to visit with them, their new baby, Ethan, and Andrew's sister, Ruth, who is in New York for ten days from London.

Before arriving, I was curious as to what kind of conversation would fill the evening. Would we speak of the world situation or would we ignore it? And for the first two hours our conversation was all about holidays and Ruth's new consulting gig that will bring her back to the States for three months in the spring.

But then conversation moved to the world situation, which has also picked up pace with the beginning of the year. From London, Ruth reported that British reservists have been called up, including some of her friends. Andrew is dazzled by the toys of war that have been demonstrated in the last few months though someone in the room reminded him that September 11th was visited on us by men armed with box cutters.

On my biannual tune up visit to the doctor yesterday, the nurse who drew my blood and I discussed her holidays, all of which were centered on her stepfather, who is in the military and who is now, according to her, in Iraq.

Surely, you mean Qatar or Dubai, or somewhere around Iraq, don't you? No, he's in Iraq. We don't know where but that is where he is, no matter what the newspapers are saying. We have men in Iraq.

That, not unnaturally, left me feeling unsettled. As do most things in the newspapers and on the news. As I write this, the BBC News is on in the background and our world is boundlessly dangerous, from Iraq to North Korea. In the elevator yesterday, I rode with two Latin Americans, one of whom was leaving on vacation. Would he go back to visit his friends and family in Venezuela? He laughed, with a small, almost bitter laugh, and said no, he wouldn't go to Venezuela. It was too dangerous. He was going to Miami to visit all his family and friends who have fled the country and are waiting out the turmoil in Florida. He and they did not expect a happy ending in Caracas.

My friend Joe is, I know, preparing to go to the Iraq, with his army unit that is responsible for getting rid of land mines.

There is a part of me that is always saying, incredulously: no! There has to be another way but the world isn't listening to my voice and all around me, I see us marching toward war with Iraq and my stomach knots when I think of the consequences of that.

The quiet of Claverack Cottage is behind us and the pace of the world is picking up and that pace seems to be hurrying us toward war. Which contrasts with the beatific smile that came to Ethan's face last night as he listened to the soft rumble of his father's voice as Andrew held him.

This is the contrast of our lives, the innocence of an Ethan and the joy of new life contrasted with war preparations, high tech toys of destruction, and the ravage they can inflict. It is the New Year; the pace is picking up, for everything, from day to day business to the preparations for war.