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Weekly Features
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.

August 19, 2007

Reviewing the news…

I have been so distracted this by events such as the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, the floods in Southeast Asia, the bombings in Iraq, the disintegration of that country’s government, miners trapped deep underground in Utah, etc. that I apparently had completely missed a major event: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had broken up! Waiting for my train one day at least two of the popular celeb magazines had covers splattered with pictures of the couple, split apart, with headlines wondering: WHO would get custody of Shiloh.

So astounded was I that I had missed this major news item that I asked one of my train companions for confirmation. His wide – eyed look told me that he, too, had missed this event. We both immediately logged onto to find out how we had missed this earthshaking event. Ah, relief. There we saw photos from the day before of Brad and Angelina arriving in Chicago by private jet for filming Angelina’s newest movie.

The relief I felt! I cannot tell you. All was right with the world.

Which, of course, is nonsense. However, it reminded me once again of my ongoing sense of ennui about the status of our culture, fixated on celebrities and anything lacking real substance. There are times, I find, when ennui lifts, when we focus on what is really important – like a bridge collapse. Post catastrophe there is a moment of consideration being given to re-building the American infrastructure, as we finally realize that everything we built isn’t going to last the same way the pyramids did.

And speaking of infrastructure, my train into New York was very, very late getting into Penn Station on the 8th of August – an hour and fifteen minutes late. What none of us knew was that the entire public transport system of the city of New York, the “capital of the world,” had just succumbed to torrential downpours a few hours earlier that flooded the subway system while a rare tornado tore apart part of Brooklyn.

Once I reached Penn Station, clueless, and made my way through unusually maddening crowds, I realized something was wrong. Fearing the worst, I stood still and assessed the situation. Folks were grim faced but no one was crying. Grim without tears meant nothing TERRIBLE had happened. Grim meant something like what it was – the breakdown of the mass transit capabilities of one of the major cities in the world, for the third time in seven months. [Pesky infrastructure.]

Grim meant New York went about its business, best it could with its unique stoicism. There were a few reports of ragged tempers [I didn’t mention that this happened on a day when the temperature was in the 90’s with matching humidity?] but for the most part everyone just did their best, kept going, finding ways to get to work – or get back home.

What everyone realized was that this was, yes, a MAJOR inconvenience. It was not a tragedy.

It was an amazing sight to stand in Penn Station at the bottom of the 7th Avenue entrance looking at all the people exiting the station, determinedly going out there to figure it out and get on with it the best they could. I may well remember that moment the rest of my life. Everyone looked frustrated but no one looked frightened. What stays with me is the determination I saw in those faces.

And speaking of determination, Barry Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron’s record. Among my rather macho train crowd, I heard derision of this achievement. It was sullied for them by the taint of steroid use on the way to this record.

Which brings me to my closing thought: in Barry Bonds there may be a lesson. If he did use steroids [and I have no idea if he did] then he was trying to take the easy way to get to the goal. Which seems very American; we seem to want to take the easy way to the goal. And that’s one reason I like New York and New Yorkers – many just accept a difficulty and get on with it without a huge amount of whining.