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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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

Being really challenged today…

It is Thursday evening in New York, the moment when I sit down and take my collected thoughts from the week and turn them into my column. Outside, today, it has been gray with rain always about to but never quite coming down. It is chilly and I hear people around me complain as I am: I have the aches, a low fever, I’m run down and just a little cranky.

And as I write this I am listening to the news on NPR and it is as gray as this day. At this moment, there is a warning that Al Qaida is preparing another attack on the country. Within a ten mile radius of the largest nuclear plant in New York State, pamphlets are being sent out with new, revised evacuation plans and rescue details.

Because I both live and work in lower Manhattan [and I enrolled in it] I am on the e-mail list for the Downtown Alliance. The day started with an e-mail alert from the Downtown Alliance letting us know that: “In an overall effort to prepare for any eventuality The Chief of Department of The NYPD has directed mock mobilization drills . These preparedness protocols will take place city wide and involve terrorist sensitive locations. We have been assured that there are no specific threats and that these exercises are necessary for training and evaluation. Further information will be provides as it becomes available.”

I used to live in Washington, D.C. and work in Bethesda, Maryland. That’s in Montgomery County. That’s the county where the Maryland/Virginia/D.C. sniper has been most “at work.” My friends who live there have their adolescent children locked down and locked in, hoping to lock out the danger. And while I know we’ve had serial killers before – I mean, isn’t serial murder a kind of American tradition? This Capital Region Killer seems particularly awful.

Why? Because it’s there -- there where a plane hit on September 11th. It just doesn’t seem right. There is a pain and an anger that I feel about all of it that has surfaced with this random murderer in a place that I think should be given some peace. I know it doesn't make much sense, this feeling that I have, but it’s there. Perhaps because I am feeling under the weather, I feel I am swimming through a lake of existential despair, in a world that hammers me on every side with its madness.

That oil tanker that blew up? Looks like a terrorist attack.
That soldier that died in Kuwait? Looks like it might have been Al Qaida.
We’re on higher alert because one of the main leaders in Osama Bin Laden’s inner group, Ayman al-Zawahiri has had a tape broadcast on Al-Jazeera, promising attacks that will disrupt the American economy. [Anyone think there is a link with an oil tanker?]

So this is the world I/we live in:
A sniper is picking off people at random in the area of the nation’s capital.
Al Qaida is planning another attack to disrupt our economy.
A tanker has been attacked.
The House [and now the Senate] has authorized Bush to attack Iraq at will.
We’re having “any eventuality” simulations all around New York City.
We’re stocking up on smallpox vaccine.
I keep an evacuation backpack under my desk.
The most liberal person I know in the world is now afraid of anyone of Middle Eastern heritage.
Mosquito bites can now kill us.

Oh my goodness.

It seems like I should go to bed and not leave it. I can’t do that, of course.
But it seems tempting just this moment.

There are some balancing moments:
Madonna’s SWEPT AWAY is getting dreadful reviews.
The market went up today [a nice counterpoint to an article I read this morning saying that this bear market is the worst since the 1930’s (Wasn’t that the Great Depression?)].
We need to be careful of fish, especially smoked fish, smoked salmon in particular [a personal favorite], as it has a great chance to make us sick.
Mayor Bloomberg has told the Italian-American community to get over The Sopranos.
American Honda and Mercedes are bringing out experimental versions of hydrogen fuel cell cars.
Lemon juice might be an effective contraceptive and an HIV preventative.
Orangutans are in danger of extinction but a hundred new kinds of frogs have been found in Sri Lanka.
Martha Stewart is in even more trouble today.

Oh my goodness.

It’s really a bitter kind of day but despite the bitter taste in my mouth I keep finding things to smile about – I have, I suspect, a generally sunny disposition. It is just that the world is really challenging it these days.