Thursday, September 29, 2005

Bank Street

We are deep into preparations for the move to Cologne. Yesterday I gave notice to the landlord that I would be leaving the apartment in the West Village where I have lived for the last ten years. It is more a tree house than a conventional apartment, in the rear of a townhouse built in 1840, on the second floor, with a balcony that overlooks the heavily planted gardens of the neighbors and trees and trees and trees. The apartment sits among the trees and is elevated by them, suspended above the city and insulated from the noise and bustle of it all. In late May the crabapple tree blooms in massive fragrant pick blossoms. The display is so huge that from my living room chair I see nothing but a field of pink flowers as I look outside through the double French doors. In Winter I stack wood out there for the fireplace I keep lit for days at a time in February and March when icy winds blow through the window cracks and into the room. During the two blizzards we’ve had in the last ten years, I’ve had to shovel the accumulated snow off the balcony and into the yard below for fear that the roof might collapse from the added weight. Even as I write this I can hear the heavy thumping plops of damp snow dropping from my shovel to the ground below. Each Spring I planted a garden where Morning Glories flourish and Day Lilies and Fuscia, Chamomile and Lavender, Rosemary and Mint, Hollyhocks, Tulips, Bacopa, Lamium and during certain Summers when I was very ambitious, dozens of other varieties I found early on Saturday mornings at the Farmer’s market in Union Square. I will miss it – and the neighborhood it rests within, the tree-lined cobblestone streets peopled with a magnificent variety of folks like the beautiful couple next door, two women in their eighties who have lived in the village all their adult lives and to this day hold afternoon card games for other aging ladies and their equally ancient lovers, once girls whose love brought them here, to this oasis of tolerance.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

September 24

September 24, 2005

It’s been officially Fall for three days but the leaves have been falling for weeks now. We haven’t had enough rain this summer and everything is very dry. Mountain Lake is so low you can see the tree stumps in the middle and the boat dock, which usually floats in the water just off shore, is now sitting completely on dry land.
Last week we ran out of water. I was planting a little patch of grass by the side of the house where I’d been doing some work and suddenly the water stopped running. We have a well and it seems the water table has dropped below the level where our normal water consumption can be sustained. It scares me a bit and serves as a reminder that water is not something to be taken for granted.
I’ve been very conscious of just how precious water is after working in Africa and seeing the results of draught and famine. I’ve also lived in the desert west of America - the fantasyland we have created out there, where the indigenous water supply is sufficient to maintain maybe a tenth of the population - something will give one day and it won’t be pretty.

In just under two months we will be leaving the US and settling in Cologne. We had thought Berlin would be our destination but there is work in Cologne so that will be our base. More thoughts on this move in days to come …

Friday, September 16, 2005


Someone asked me the other day about Paris, then yesterday I was reading a story about a writer who lived in the first half of the 20th century. And in this story there was a piece of a poem by another man, about the streets of Paris and the way they speak to you in a thousand different voices and colors and volumes, some whisper like soft skinned ladies with pale brown hair and light cotton blouses and then, on a different twist of a gray stone way you hear the voice change.
I've decided to freeze it - the image of Paris that I carry around - late 1950's Black & White film images ... the stories of Jacque Tati and his frequently bright, loving and sometimes melancholic descriptions of France as a collection of communities, each held together by shared experience and loyalty to each other as human beings and citizens of the Republic. Paris is also about love ... and anyone who has a story about Paris, also has a story about a girl, or a guy, who they met one stormy, windy, humid night, a night of dancing without parallel ... and they burned bright for a very long time. And even now ... in Paris windows, on any October afternoon, I expect to see her dark brown hair fold away and brush the window frame as she turns from the street and away.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

State of the Planet

September 2, 2005

These times cry out for honest leadership to guide us through the dangers that beset us in every corner of this planet. It is the very planet itself, and our species continued existence that is at risk as we find ourselves governed by selfish, small-minded men with no vision for a future that does not resemble the past. We are at war with the earth and with ourselves. Violence in the form of armed warfare is tearing vast regions of the planet apart, violating families and sewing seeds of vengeance and hate that will torture us all for generations. Violence against our environment has destroyed our planet’s ability to regenerate the resources necessary to sustain life and has created conditions that spawn great and horrible storms, deep droughts and spreading deserts slowly encroaching on previously fertile land, sucking life itself from the surface of the earth. Violence against the poor, by ignoring their suffering and perpetuating a system of commerce and selfish accumulation and exploitation of resources by the privileged few, produces a massive daily death toll, an accumulation of suffering and despair that tears at the very essence of humanity and cries out for remedy. Our situation is no longer tenable; we are perishing but are too frightened to acknowledge the truth of our imminent demise.