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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

Week before Christmas

It is the week before Christmas Week - a fact I know I have not quite assimilated and I am not sure that any one else has either. As I write this, I am on an Amtrak train, on my way back to New York from a meeting with Discovery. The train coming down was very quiet and carried very few people. Coming back, it is crammed with fresh faced undergraduates fresh from finals on their way home for the Holidays. The line waiting to board the train was filled with youthful voices discussing the varying perceptions of the difficulty of their finals.

As I watch them, I realize, yes, Christmas is coming!

This is generally one of my favorite times of the year and I would like to relax into the season. On Saturday Tripp and I will load up a car, brim it with Christmas presents to each other and to upstate friends, we'll pack the cat into his travel bag and we'll sail up the Taconic to begin our Christmas season. We'll buy and trim our tree, placing it in its pre-selected spot. We will organize the house and drape it with other decorations and fill the candlesticks with fresh candles to be burned through the Holiday Season and we'll pile in the wood for the Vermont Stove as a deep chill has spread across the Northeast.

However, despite the fact I am virtually finished with my shopping, having done virtually all my Christmas shopping virtually, being one of those responsible for significantly increasing web and catalog sales this year, despite the unbelievable fact I will actually get out some Christmas cards this year, despite all my preparations and desire to anticipate, I am feeling detached from the experience, almost a little afraid.

I don't think my hesitancy is singular. Others seem to be sharing my hesitancy. It is a difficult time, for many. I dropped off a present at a friend's last night while he and his wife packed for their annual expedition to Whistler to ski over Christmas and he confessed he's not sure that his high tech company will survive into the New Year. Others of my friends are feeling their work insecurities.

And reading the papers and listening to the news does not great joy provide. I have looked at several newspapers today as watching television news is difficult on the train. All the papers have been filled with coverage of our government's assessment that Saddam will ravage Iraq as he goes down and give us the blame.

Happy New Year, Baghdad!

And speaking of the New Year, it looks as if Bush has decided that the last week of January is the time frame for war decisions, according the Washington Post. All of this adds to a mood surrounding this particular Christmas that I am still attempting to articulate. My godmother wrote poignantly in her annual Christmas letter about her concerns for her grandson, Joe, who is now with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and who will be asked to clear landmines if conflict comes. Joe is also my friend and I worry for him…

We are afraid of war, we are afraid for the economy, we are afraid for our political processes and Christmas party chatter, as I have remarked before, drifts to individual contingency plans in a time of terror.

Yet, despite this gloom surrounding what is a festive time of year, we get together with each other and hug and kiss and tell our stories. In New York yesterday a whole new set of plans for lower Manhattan was unveiled, bolder, brighter, more daring than any that were seen before, all of them attempting to bring vibrancy to the life of lower Manhattan.

But we cannot escape the reason that we need new buildings and a new plan. The pain scratches at us as we move into our second year of mourning. Last year we wanted to nurse our wounds and every contact was touched with a special significance, a realization of mortality that made last Christmas more special than many Americans had ever known.

So I think the question now is how do we celebrate this year? How should we react? What are the feelings in our hearts as we move into a second year of mourning, a year that promises war and more terror? What is it that we should be doing?

In the end, we will do as we have always done. We will celebrate. We will do our best to make this season special, no matter what race, religion, creed one does or does not ascribe to or claim. We will toast New Year's with champagne and, probably, prayers, knowing that in the New Year the deadlines governments have discussed will become lines in the sand that will be crossed.

Our fears and hopes will meet some kind of reality with the New Year and that reality may well be written with the suffering of Americans and Iraqis and anyone else who gets swept up into this fight.

But it is Christmas, now. The New Year will come and we will celebrate. We are human beings and we live, for the most part, in hope and hope will drive this season as it has driven every Christmas since the star rose above the manger. New Year's will be a time of celebration and hope, too, as it has been every year since we decided that the night of December 31st ended one year and began another. We will eat our food and drink our wine and we will hope that all the great clouds that are over our world will disperse before lives are lost and we will lose anyone from the bright young generation surrounding me on this train, going home for the holidays, reminding me that I must Christmastize my own spirit.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Whatever Your Holidays! Whatever your personal belief system, whatever your race or ethnic background, whatever birthplace you call "home" I wish you all the very best. I wish you days of hopes fulfilled. I wish you days without clouds, economic or political.

Treasure the moment