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
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
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
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
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.