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Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

December 18, 2005

A Paean To Cities

I am not in New York right now; I am in Minneapolis, my hometown, though no longer my home.

For the last few days I was in Washington, D.C. There was a Board Meeting for CINE and a variety of meetings with various Discovery Networks. Finishing them, I made my way out to Baltimore International Airport and caught a plane to Minneapolis so I could visit relatives and friends, pre-Christmas, giving me an opportunity to see them and visit with them before settling in at Claverack Cottage for the Holidays themselves.

As I flew out to Minneapolis, I sat next to a man who was on his way home to San Diego; he was enthralled New York was my home. Today I had lunch with a good friend who remarked to me again how different [nicer] New York was today as opposed to before 9/11. Actually, I told him, the change had been going on for years, 9/11 solidified the growing human-ness of the city. [Nothing like a catastrophe to knock some of the hubris out of your sails, while underscoring the fragility and temporary nature of life.]

While traveling over the last few months, I have become aware [again] of how exotic it seems to some people to live in New York, in Manhattan. I tend to take it for granted I am living in one of those places where things happen, one of the great cities of the world. I recall Dr. Robert Moulton, my undergraduate adviser, saying in a class that every continent had only a few great cities. For North America, in his mind, they were: Toronto, Montreal, New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City.

I have lived most of my adult life now in either Los Angeles or New York and so I take for granted the exotic nature they have for other people. And if there is a time to enjoy New York, it is now, when it is festooned in its Holiday finery, relaxing in the interesting position of having been declared the safest large city in America. New York?! But it’s true.

It is also the city from which emanates much of the worlds news as it is home to the news divisions of the big three networks [okay, okay, so they’re not that big anymore, really]; it is home to much of America’s fashion, birthing ground for much theatre, much of everything comes of out New York, from gossip to creative thought.

Along with Los Angeles and London, New York is part of the trend setting triumvirate of cities that dictate much of the world’s cultural consciousness. Now you can argue all you want about whether that is good or bad – and you still have to come back to the fact that like it or not the zeitgeist of the world gets largely created in these places. Certainly many religious fundamentalists of all flavors find these cities satanic Sodoms and garrulous Gomorrahs.

At the end of the day, they are what they are; wildly wonderful, erratic, erotic, neurotic, if not psychotic places, a maze of contradictory forces out of which comes much that the world both loves and hates.

It is what happens when you put a lot of people together in one place, mixing intelligence and money, political power with cultural clashes, melting together individuals with a rainbow of backgrounds and languages.

They are called cities.

It has been this way from Biblical Babylon to the amazing Alexandria to the goliath that was Rome at the height of its empire. These are cities that have fed history and fostered culture and frightened people by their arrogance and greed and simple existence.

Yet they are our wellsprings.

To my friend today, I said I have lived out many of my childhood fantasies, and that included getting to meet some of these places that are cauldrons of trouble and change. Cities nurture us and break us and give us chances for re-birth; they are the mothers of cultures and inventions and while we may shun them or envy them, they are the beacons which shape our times.