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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

December 17, 2002

Last Saturday night was the Hudson Winter Walk. I think they happen four times a year, times when the city of Hudson shuts down Warren Street [its Main Street] and gives itself a party. Tripp and I went into town for it, planning to join Larry and Alicia for dinner at some point. Unfortunately, as I turned to see a new storefront, I slipped on some ice, my left knee went out and I flew up in the air and landed on my left shoulder.

I was embarrassed and more than a bit bruised. It ended the evening and I limped home, to put leg up and shoulder down, missing dinner and the bulk of the Hudson Winter Walk.

All week I have been limping through as the knee still hurts and the shoulder aches. I am a bit sleep deprived as pain wakes me up when I roll over. I am damaged, slightly, and the discomfort and the lack of sleep has caused me to feel slightly distanced from the events around me, more an observer than usual.

On Tuesday night I took the train down to D.C. in time to go to a dinner at some friends. The scene was magnificent, a house worthy of being used for a movie set, high powered individuals distancing themselves from high powered jobs by immersing themselves in holiday cheer. But, as everywhere, conversation cannot stay away from world events. That was the day when the business sections of both the Times and the Post were dominated by discussing the plight of United Airlines as it slid into bankruptcy and the travails of U.S. Air as it works its way through the same state.

One of the dinner guests looked up from her baby red potatoes, beef and asparagus and said, "You know what I hate about the airline crisis? I hate they have quit serving caviar in First Class!"

Everyone at the table stopped for a moment and turned to the guest. Immediately a conversation erupted as we began to discuss the disparities of life around the world and the differences in economic concerns between people in all parts of the world. It is not that any of us mean to be shallow or to ignore the crisis the world is in but it is not, for the most part, the world we live in. We live, for the most part, in a very special bubble.

That was very much in my mind as I drove around D.C. for two days, going from appointment to appointment. As I was leaving my hotel room one morning, Bill Maher was being interviewed by Matt Laurer about his new book which discusses what we should have done post 9/11: asked for sacrifice of the American people as opposed to encouraging them to return to shopping. He has taken and re-done World War I and II posters and applied them to today's situation. It is, as he generally is, provocative. And, as he sometimes is, dead on, in my opinion. I believe the book is titled: If You Ride Alone, You Ride With Osama. I intend to get it and add it to my holiday reading.

I believe we all would have been willing in the days post 9/11 to have given up something to aid in the War Against Terrorism. We wanted to sacrifice something, even if it was small.

But we weren't asked and so our minds have drifted back to the travails of things like the lack of caviar in First Class.

The radio dial in D.C. is jammed with talk stations that are constantly discussing the national condition and the state of the world. It seems half the FM dial is devoted to classical music and political talk shows, debating everything from Trent Lott's Foot and Mouth Disease to the accuracy [or lack thereof] of W.'s statements, to the apparent orchestration of a march to war which some commentators see as defying the mood of the country.

Thumbing through a variety of magazines on the train to Washington I read a letter from the editor of one [and I'm sorry I don't remember which] that discussed he had quit reading the daily newspaper because it was too upsetting to him. It only increased his sense of powerlessness.

And that was, and I was surprised, the central point of conversation on the talk show front in D.C., capital of the nation. To my total surprise, it sounded like the pundits there were saying that we were being marched to and sold a war we didn't really want [or need] right now. The consensus was, when you stripped away everything, was it was all about: oil.

Knowing that we may be at war with Iraq soon results now in nervous cocktail conversation about how we will handle the next wave of terrorist attacks. I've noticed that at every holiday function I've been to so far. Sometime around the second drink that becomes the topic.

Ah, I love that Holiday cheer! But it is the nervous response of a nervous public, seeking to speak their fears rather than be victimized by them. It is the backdrop, unfortunately, for this Holiday season.