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Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

June 26, 2006

Tales of the Cities

Tina Brown, English and once editor of VANITY FAIR and THE NEW YORKER, and who helmed the fabulous magazine burnout at century's end, TALK, recently announced that New York, a town which has been fabulously kind to her, is no longer the "Capital of Cool." London has now been given that title by Ms. Brown. It is more of an "international" city now than New York.

The chill that has settled on New York results, she believes, from the changes in environment in the town since 9/11. It has become more insular, less frenetic, less passionate, a more hesitant city than it was before the Towers fell.

I suspect she is correct; I look around the city where I do much of my work and agree: the city is a different place and the changes can be attributed back to 9/11. For many the sounds of several police sirens still results in momentary paralysis to see if there is some larger issue causing the cacophony than just the ordinary run of crime. A certain boisterousness has exited the city's soul. There is still much to do and much to consume yet the tone of doing and consuming is more muted.

There is a certain hesitancy on the part of New Yorkers, a sense, perhaps, they have yet more to endure. There is less laughter in the streets and less outrageous behavior. I cannot attest that "cool" has moved to London; I will keep my eyes open next time I am there to see if the wild wonderful spirit of "old" New York has migrated across the Atlantic.

If New York has changed, it is because the entire country is changing. A sense of seriousness is falling across the land and the youthful enthusiasm of America, a quality both endearing and annoying to the rest of the world, does seem to be migrating abroad.

In New Orleans, the city devastated by the terrorism of nature, had to call out the National Guard this week to help maintain order in its streets after a crescendo of murders this past weekend. And at the same time its police force is frequently called to intercede as depressed citizens attempt to take their own lives. The other day the police waded into the wild waters of the Mississippi, convincing a man attempting to drown himself to give life another chance even though he had been left bereft and bankrupt by Katrina.

Washington, D.C., at no time a very mirthful town, has been particularly dour since "W" ascended to the Presidency in 2001, a sobriety heightened by 9/11 and punctuated now by ruling party anxiety about losing that status as Bush's popularity plummets and pundits peck like verbal vultures.

New York's lack of "coolness" is, perhaps, rooted in its sense it is no longer "the capital of the world" while the rest of America feels the heat of global competition and the press of global issues. There is an endless stream of immigrants wanting to settle here, one way or another. While the illegal unskilled seem to find their way, the skilled find visas hard to get and so turn to other countries eager for their knowledge in such things as quantum physics. New Orleans' crazy lifestyle ended with the breeching of the levees; New York's descent from Capital of Cool began with the tumbling of the Towers and America's sense of ever growing ascendancy has faltered as it assimilates the limits of its wealth and power and fights global competition for both natural and human resources.

We cry for a Kennedy like voice to call us to aspire beyond our selves. When faced with the national trauma of 9/11, the current crop of crustaceans running the country extolled us to go shopping rather than to grapple with the causes of our vulnerability. A sobering war has failed to conquer terrorism or convince a world we are fighting from a moral base. Failing to confront reality, political leaders delay in formulating plans for resolution of the issues that have caused New York to lose its cool and New Orleans to become half a ghost town.