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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

A dinner in the country, dinners in the city
By Mat Tombers

A dinner in the country, dinners in the city…

Last Saturday night we were up in the country, where we spend most weekends, and we had, as we often do, friends over. The first sign of fall has arrived in the sight of leaves across the creek beginning to turn, not many but indisputable evidence that summer is ending and we are advancing into fall.

It was a wonderful dinner, mozzarella with fresh tomatoes straight from Allen and Marcus’ garden, grilled salmon with a dill sauce, asparagus steamed in a chicken garlic broth, mushroom rice pilaf and strawberry sorbet for dessert. As we ate, we sipped a Macon – Lugny and chatted.

It was a wonderful mixture of food and friends, mixed with the sound of geese cruising up the creek while the torches burned on the deck as the light faded slowly away. It was a moment that I closed my eyes and promised myself I would remember because it was such a good moment.

Somewhere in the course of the dinner the conversation turned to war. Because behind the good moment, away from the wavering candle and torch light, beyond the haven of our wooded acres and the serenity of our creek, the country is marching toward a war with Iraq and a soft, gauzy fear is wrapped around us that evidences itself in sudden bursts of conversation about Iraq, about the right of America to be pre-emptive, about the sense that we are not sure we really know what we’re doing, that the Middle East is a powder keg that some feel our government doesn’t fully understand.

In some ways it is exhilarating, this conversation about the civic course. I don’t remember so many people talking so much about substantive matters since Viet Nam. We are fearful, we are engaged. Not a day goes by without some friend e-mailing me with a request to contact my elected representatives. And I do, on a regular basis. So are many of my friends, including some of my ex-pat friends. Paul from England writes his congressmen and William from India writes his.

[Though I will tell you I found it ironic that the fax number listed on the White House web sit was a non-working number.]

Back in the city, in the very civil restaurants the conversation turns too to war. I had dinner with a former college roommate who was in town on business. We had a long and lovely dinner at the American Park in The Battery, sipping a crisp Sancerre, and talking of war. Then, because Doug has been to New York since 9/11 but has never been to the site, we walked over to Ground Zero, so he could “pay his respects”.

I phoned a friend in northern California yesterday and he asked me what the mood in the city was and I told him this: we are living everyday life. People are planning weddings, eating in restaurants, buying clothes and homes and doing all the things one does on the march from birth to death. But behind that we are a little edgy, wary. The staccato news reports about invading Iraq have become the drumbeats behind our everyday actions. We know the world is moving forward and that at some moment, unless Saddam Hussein surprises everyone by suddenly deciding to act rationally for more than six minutes in a row, American troops are going to be on the ground, fighting their way toward Baghdad and we can’t quite believe our minds when we say these words to ourselves.

We have stepped into a future we cannot see but which we know can be very frightening. New Yorkers are wary and edgy because if this all comes to pass, and we think it will, New York will again, we fear, be a target, hit in some horrific way by people who may be living among us now with some dreadful plan we cannot imagine any more than we could imagine planes flying deliberately into buildings a year ago.

We pay our taxes, eat our food, buy our clothes, walk the Esplanade, drink our wine, cook and chat because that is what humans do; we go on with the ordinary things because they must be done and they give calming order to our lives.

We had dinner with our friend Andy last night, again at the American Park at The Battery. On our way we passed the Sphere, the shattered but proud remnants of a sculpture that had sat at the WTC site, symbolizing a free world through free trade. Burnt and broken it now sits in Battery Park, an eternal flame burning in front of it and surrounded by bouquets of flowers put there on a daily basis by people who come to “pay their respects.” The flowers sit on the ground or in the green metal vases of the kind we took to my father’s grave on Memorial Day. It is the grave stone for the safe world of another time and the reminder we are living in uncharted territory.