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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

Ordinary Things
February 11th, 2002

Today, when I got up a light drizzle was falling in New York and as I
sipped my coffee the rain turned to a fine snow, almost invisible.
Ellis Island, out the window, was shrouded in fog and looked like a
battleship at anchor.

I have put off writing this week's column because I wasn't sure what I
wanted to write about. Growing up, I was surrounded by a big, brawling,
loud, wonderful Irish Catholic family who lived behind my parents'
house. And for some magical reason I still know and am involved with
the McCormicks. One of their daughters and I have known each other
since our mothers put us on the living room floor together when we were
both still in diapers.

The oldest, Mary Clare, has a very thoughtful son who graduated from
Harvard. The month after the Trade Towers fell, Joe joined the Army.
It was his assessment that we were in this for the long haul and his
assessment has niggled at my mind. I've come to believe he's correct.
This isn't going to be over soon.

A week ago Friday, the New York Times read like a primer for war and I
went up to the country in a heavy mood.

I am, however, by nature a fairly sunny person and today, while thinking
about the words I would put down, could not bring myself to heavy
thoughts. Ellis Island looking like an anchored battleship seemed
magical. The strong coffee tasted good and I was warm while the
rain/snow was falling. Our cat, Mitz, was sleeping on the bed, as far
from care as any of God's creatures.

Bundling up later in the day, I went out and did my first grocery
shopping in the new neighborhood.

When it rains, when it's wet, for some reason that is when the strange
burnt smell of the downed Towers seeps over the whole lower part of the
city, from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal to Houston Street. That
smell was out again today as I walked to the grocery store.

What I saw was interesting, at least to me. This ravaged part of town
is coming back to life. On Greenwich Street, where I live, there is
still a long row of boarded shops but here and there one is open in the
midst of the closed shops.

Others are refurbishing themselves and new ones are opening. There is a
grand new deli up on Trinity Place, opened since the attacks and a great
people watching place at nine at night when everyone from construction
workers to police to weary business people are in there getting some
coffee. There is laughter in the air.

Walking out the apartment building door, a small side street has opened
and people were looking at it in a kind of wonder and joy and pride.
Another block has been reclaimed!

Slowly people are moving back into downtown; slowly life is returning.
After grocery shopping I went to get a bottle of wine for dinner,
feeling in a slightly celebratory mood, for no specific reason. The
journey took me down a couple of streets I haven't traversed before. I
finally found Moran's, a pub in an ancient building, which has
advertised that it has re-opened on the concrete barriers that close off
the streets. Crudely painted signs lead one on to a bit of Avalon,
where one can have a pint in a building that seems to have been there
since there was a wall on Wall Street.

As Kenny, the wine merchant, checked me out, he looked at me curiously,
knowing he had never seen me before. He asked me if I lived in the
neighborhood. When I told him I had just moved in, I could probably
have walked out without paying. A new neighbor! A new customer! He
was so excited I was a little embarrassed but, for him, someone moving
in is an act of faith in tomorrow.

So are all the little things I witnessed today. Acts of faith in
tomorrow - and, sunny natured as I am, I want to be believe in the
ordinary things, the lovely ordinary things that make the fabric of life
so real, and are, in each and every one of them, an act of faith in