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 were
doing, that the Middle East is a powder keg that some feel
our government doesnt fully understand.
In some ways it is exhilarating, this conversation about the
civic course. I dont 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 cant 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 fathers
grave on Memorial Day. It is the grave stone for the safe
world of another time and the reminder we are living in uncharted