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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

April 29, 2002

It is Thursday and as usual on Thursdays, I am sitting in front of a
blank screen, pulling my thoughts together for this week's Letter from New York. And, as is often, I seem to be doing this while on a mode of
transportation. Today, I'm on the Amtrak Acela coming from D.C. to New
York, returning after two and a half days of meetings in D.C. with WETA.

The Mideast continues to be in an impasse. Crown Prince Abdullah is in
Washington, and is giving the Bush administration dire warnings about
the state of the Arab American alliance based on what is happening in
Palestine and Israel. Riding a cab in the District right now is about
how to avoid the protesters, who have been protesting a number of
things, causing traffic jams. Everything from the lack of cash in
Argentina to the Mideast has been being protested this week.

I stayed at Hotel Rouge on 16th Street, not very from the White House,
near some of the Embassies and, in appearance, looks like it belongs in
New York's SoHo more than in Dupont Circle. The little bar was filled
with young, attractive politicos both nights I was there, who could have
been young stockbrokers.

Also, I noticed something I've never noticed before in DC - and I lived
there for four years - the police cars traveled in groups, never less
than three, unnervingly most often in groups of five.

The Washington Post was filled with every nuance on the Mideast Crisis
and its ramifications, the entire first section an intelligent exegesis
today of what seems to be a deteriorating world situation.

The New York Times seemed evenly split between the crisis in the Mideast
and the scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. USA Today's front page's
feature story followed the changes in the lives of six individuals since
September 11th.

As I waited in the Acela lounge for the train, the couple across from
me, a sweet pair from Bellingham, Washington, taking the train to
Georgia for their son's wedding, on a trip that went smoothly until
yesterday when they missed a connecting train and had to layover in
Washington for twenty four hours. But they were taking it very
graciously and were looking forward to the next phase. When they asked
me where I lived, the question was, of course, how close? And there
were a string more they would have liked to have asked but my train was
called and I limped out to it.

I say limped because I came down with a small case of flu, a case of
something, one of those things that come suddenly - at 9:45 a.m.
yesterday when my bones began to ache and growing more painful till my
scalp itself hurt at 6:30 p.m. After that, the ailment began to march
away from me, content to have caused me a day of discomfort and to have
left me a bit drained. So, more dragging than limping, I worked my way
down the length of the train, taking my place with businesspeople and
bureaucrats, while the gray skies billow ominously over the train.

It is a gray world on a gray day with a man writing on a gray computer.
Glancing down at the New York Times I see the story of three fifteen
year old Palestinian boys who have been killed when they went to try to
blow up an Israeli fortification. There is piece of my heart that
spasms when I think of children marching to their deaths in a cause.
Children have always been susceptible to causes. It was a very young
woman, Antigone, who, in Greek legend, died so that her brother could be
buried with the proper rights. It was the children that the Whites
pulled out of military schools in the civil way at the beginning of the
1920's in Russia. It was children that Adolph Hitler patted on the
cheeks in the last films taken of him because that was all that was left
to defend him, the children.

We haven't treated children very well, historically.

Back sometime in the middle ages, there was an heir to the French throne
that didn't make it out of swaddling clothes. His family was using him
as a ball to toss around and they tossed him right out the castle

The idea of fifteen year olds running out to strap explosives to their
bodies - or to defend Hitler - or defend the Tsar - or any of the
thousands of things teenagers have been manipulated into doing for any
side of any conflict is repugnant to me. And gets more so the older I
get. I cannot say there is no cause that is not great enough to die for
but I know as I grow into my middle age, that it seems there are far
more causes worth living for. And that I rather suspect the people who
are getting teenagers to do the dying are, like myself, middle-aged and
not so willing to die for that cause.

Outraged and angry, I am not quite sure what to do with it.

Shouldn't I become surer of things as I grow older?