Mornings in Maine I rise very early – much earlier than in Florida or East Hampton.  Summer sun-ups occur around 5:45am so I am up too.  I never sleep with the shades and curtains drawn.  To be awakened by the morning sun is the ideal way to ease into the day.  Once my feet hit the floor however my direction is pointed in one way only:  to the nearest source of hot coffee, which means a stop at Provisions in Kennebunkport, for an extra-large brew and a copy of The New York Times.  Afterward, I head west to Cape Porpoise for my favorite seat on the dock.  The bench is often buried under six-foot-high lobster cages which I move aside as I acclimate to the pungent aroma of fish carcasses left behind by the circling sea gulls.  By 7:00am most of the lobster boats are offshore retrieving the catch of the day.  There are usually a few stragglers doing maintenance on their boats on the dock—the dock with its decade’s old nails protruding, the wood worn down from the tread of so many lobstermen over the years.   

         Today, I sit with my back to the sun, remove the lid from my coffee cup and take my first sip of the day.  I open the Times with the sun over my shoulder and glance at the headlines. I scan the various columns, but my gaze shifts up, over the top of the paper to view a small island in the middle of the bay, now exposed by the receding tide.  A flock of geese land in the few feet of water remaining in the inlet. Soon they will be heading south, to my backyard in East Hampton, for a rest and some sun in Jones Cove. It is a glorious morning coffee break, birds and all, in one of my favorite places to sit and rest the morning lonely.

I mull over other mornings, with friends, and reflect on their favorite places to start the day. Carl Butz, my editor at Mountain Messenger, has his balcony on the second floor of his office in Downieville, California. He and I recently spent time there together during my trip to the High Sierras. I recall Carl, stroking his beard, with a cigarette in one hand and a coffee cup in another, speaking of mornings in that small town on the Yuba River.  Traffic is light on the main road with few shops open early.  The line of old storefronts is not unlike something out of a Hollywood western.  At any moment I expect a herd of cattle to be driven down main street with a couple of cowboys trailing them on the way to the railroad further down the river. This is Carl’s perch from which he watches over his domain.  

              Back in Danforth, Maine, Greg, my caretaker at camp can be found in the early hours of the day on the rock outcropping in front of my camp and Ted’s -my next-door neighbor. Greg rises just before the sun, grabs his ceramic mug with hot coffee and heads down to the water to inspect the rods he secured on the rocks overnight, hoping to hook a salmon.  He scans the horizon with the rising sun on his face, sitting on the big rock protruding into the water, then follows his fly line to the battery-powered glowing plastic bopper now below the surface, which means there is salmon on the line.  Greg reels it in skillfully and is positively giddy about catching another salmon overnight.  One night he saw the neon bopper disappear beneath the waves at 2:00 am and roused his daughter Darcy to go with him in the dark to retrieve his catch. 

 As a young lawyer living and practicing law in New York City, my favorite morning spot was the counter at the coffee shop at 655 Madison Avenue near my office. It opened at 6:30am and coffee with a freshly toasted bagel with cream cheese and lox was my breakfast of choice. I made sure I always had enough time to enjoy the meal and still get to the office before any of the partners.   

I look forward to visiting camp next week, where I will sit on my dock, feet dangling in the water, with my tin coffee cup in hand. No bagel but plenty else to satisfy my hunger for enjoying life.

Conversation with a Son of Ukraine

March 2022

One of my paralegals, Simon, hails from Ukraine. He and his wife Viktoriya, also Ukrainian, have lived in the U.S. for 15 years, and during that time have traveled back and forth to visit their family members in Ukraine, many of whom have also visited here. ! spoke with Simon yesterday about the terrible events unfolding in his home country. He shared with me some of what he has learned from his family who are Jiving through it and how he, and the focal Ukrainian-American community here, are responding to the crisis.

When the war started in Ukraine, all the national television networks agreed to combine their efforts and limit broadcasting to one station at a time. Should one be attacked, it would fall to the next station to continue broadcasting throughout the country. So those with power and a television can still receive independent news and miraculously, the internet is still available, allowing Simon to communicate daily with his parents, who describe the harrowing changes to their formerly peaceful city.

Simon’s parents, residents of Kherson, the capital of the Kherson region in the south, are an elderly couple who have been for the most part trapped in their home, fearful of venturing out due to the presence of the volatile Russian soldiers who roam the streets, apparently under no command. They have neighbors and friends who for now manage to bring them food and other essentials. In Kherson, as in other areas of the country, many of the local residents regularly take to the streets, protesting the occupation despite the constant threat of assault and, when the tension heightens, being shot in cold blood by the occupiers. There is also the ever-present risk of shelling. His parents report that humanitarian aid, both for those remaining and those seeking to escape, has been hampered by the Russians with roadblocks and attacks on people in vehicles. Food and medical deliveries have been delayed or destroyed. Farm equipment has been sabotaged, preventing the village farmers from preparing for spring planting. The mayor of Kherson is still in charge of government affairs, though the occupiers are trying to take over administrative power, including recent attempts to organize a so-called “referendum” to declare the Kherson region an independent republic (much like what happened eight years ago with Donetsk and Lugansk, the two eastern-most regions in Crimea). At the street level, local Ukrainian vigilante groups have formed to deal with many of the occupying Russian soldiers, mostly young men, who have taken to getting drunk and aggressive, harassing and attacking local residents.

Simon and I spoke by zoom, he from our office conference room, I from my home office in Florida. I could see he looked tired, eyes darkened by lack of sleep. Wearing a green, military-style t­shirt, Simon resembled President Zelensky. He spoke seriously and his attitude was quietly steadfast as he described what his family are enduring. Simon has two little girls who he hasn’t seen much of lately, since he has been spending weeknights and weekends shopping for and packing up shelf-stable foods and emergency supplies. He delivers the items to his church where he works with his fellow parishioners packing up and organizing the donations for shipment via air transport from Newark Airport to Poland. His hope is that some of it will reach his family.

A few of Simon’s relatives were able to flee, traveling by bus and train to Slovakia where Simon’s brother, a doctor, is providing housing and support for family members as well as refugees.

At the end of our conversation, Simon and I agreed that it may just be a matter of time before the Russian people see through all the lies and propaganda. Once they realize their government’s grievous actions against their neighbors to the west, they will rise up. The day of reckoning must come.

Boscobel House & Gardens Concert

September 2021

The view from Boscobel House is magical.  Nestled within 68 acres in the heart of the Hudson Valley, New York, Boscobel House is the turn-of-the-19th-century dream home of wealthy Loyalists, with every detail restored and maintained, and since the 1950s, open to the public.  The House overlooks Constitution Marsh, with views toward the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, as well as acres of lush gardens and the majestic Hudson River dotted with ferries travelling back and forth from Manhattan to West Point and across to New Jersey. 

Patti and I were there one recent evening for a Chamber Music concert held within the house, in support of the Palm Beach Chamber Music program.  The performance was an all-strings quartet and opened with Beethoven’s lively String Quartet in F Major. As we listened from our front row seats, I took in the surroundings: the antique, yellow-striped wallpaper, the corresponding painted floor, and all of the carefully curated, historically accurate furnishings.  I marveled at how every detail was considered to create the acoustically perfect, historic room, ideal for intimate chamber music concerts such as this.  The adjoining rooms were also opened up for the evening and filled to capacity.  One was a dining room, where the house manager had laid out the antique dining service, as if we would be joining the family for a meal after the performance.  The adjacent parlor was also brimming with the lively energy of an enthusiastic audience– a diverse group of listeners some of whom came from as far away as Florida to join in the incredible night of music.  

The quartet played pieces by Puccini and Dvorak.  I gazed through the classical six over nine pane windows overlooking the gardens and beyond toward the Hudson. The final Dvorak piece, String Quartet in F Major “American” was a solo viola performance of incredible carnival-like folk music. During the piece, the cellist had on his serious face, while the violinists smiled throughout.  Ahmad, the Palm Beach Chamber Music director, gave a wink to his partners — proof that they hit the mark this evening.  COVID had canceled all events at Boscobel House for the last year and a half and this inaugural event for the Chamber Music program was a smashing success.

Afterward, we left via a walkway lined with ancient apple trees. I fought the urge to strip off a few apples for a nosh and shoved my hands in my pockets.  In the distance, the lights of West Point twinkled like stars, as the last ferry made its way across the river.