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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

Friends Should Stick Together…

It’s been an interesting week.

On every level.

For lots of reasons.

I woke up on Sunday morning up in the country and went over to the XtraMart to get the papers. It’s one of the rituals of country life; getting the newspapers. I crawl out of bed and go to the coffeemaker and start the coffee and when it’s finished, pour myself a mug and take myself out to the car for the two mile drive up Route 23 to the XtraMart for the Sunday papers. I get three: the New York Times, the Times-Union from Albany and the Hudson paper.

You have to get up early to get the Times; it’s gone by noon. Around that time on Sunday there is an interesting sight composed of Times deprived New Yorkers tearing from store to store in a desperate search for their newspaper.

Getting home with my mountain of papers, I refilled my coffee cup and threw myself back down on the bed for a greedy morning of reading. I like to balance the various points of view. The Hudson paper usually headlines local events – typically something like the rare robbery grabs banner headlines while the world news is down on the lower half. The Times – Union gives a good sense of the state of the state of New York while the Times gives a global overview.

And the global overview wasn’t pretty. Congress had passed a declaration allowing us to attack Iraq and all the papers were filled with the various points of view regarding that event. From outrage to strident support, the newspapers were full of articles about the resolution and its potential ramifications. My personal favorite headline was: The Dogs of War.

I thought that this week I would write about that, about the headlines, about the march toward war but something happened this week.

When I returned from the country, I found a message on my home voice mail from a friend, Stephen, who lives in D.C. I had met him through a mutual friend when I was living there. Neither of us is in touch with the person who introduced us but we have stayed close friends.

Just as I was listening to his message I heard that a nightclub had blown up in Bali and that it was probably a terrorist act. Australians had taken heavy causalities in this attack and I said a quiet prayer that all the Australians that I know were safe. I’ve been there a half dozen times and have lots of friends in Australia and I love their buoyant spirit and joy of life. Hearing that Bali had been bombed, I felt as if we were taking one more step into this bad dream we seem to be living.

On Monday Steven called again and I returned the call. He had phoned to share with me his news. The first was good; he was launching his own business. He had found the backing and was going forward with a dream. It was the second part of the news that caused me to stop. Stop dead. In my tracks.

Three years younger than me, he had been just diagnosed with a particular virulent form of prostate cancer and was going to have surgery within days.

He had sat down and made a list of those he felt he wanted to know and I was pleased that I was on the list. Not pleased to know that he had prostate cancer but pleased to know he thought enough of the quality of our relationship to share with me the bad with the good.

It was Monday night when we connected and we spoke for well over an hour and when we finished I went to bed, saddened. There was not much I could do and certainly nothing was expected of me, except that I maintain the quality of our friendship.

Tuesday morning, I got up and had breakfast with a friend, Jack Myers. He’s been a business associate friend since the mid 1980’s and I hadn’t seen him since just before I had moved to New York.

We had a remarkably good breakfast at a diner in his local neighborhood, on the Upper East Side. We got caught up and shared both the good times and the bad of the last couple of years. As we parted that morning, he thanked me for taking the time to have breakfast. As he walked away toward his apartment, he said to me: “Friends should stick together.”

And that has echoed within me the last couple of days. Because of my Monday conversation with Steve, because of my Tuesday breakfast with Jack, I have felt very aware of the people in my life and have been finding myself treasuring them. Stephen reminded me of our mortality, Jack of the goodness of the encounters we have in life while the bombing in Bali reminded me that we live in a mad world.

Every encounter and conversation this week has been infused with a sense of mortality and joy at the goodness of some of our relationships. If there are any lessons to be learned from this awful time, it is just this: friends should stick together.