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    Welcome to my blog

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

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What makes a farm? Chickens, goats, cows, a garden, good soil, rolling acres are all accidental qualities of a farm. Ultimately though it’s about the people who form the community, and despite differences of ideology or perspective create a family of sorts based on shared geographical terrain.

On Saturday, my parents, cousins, grandfather, aunt, and neighbors gathered to begin cultivating the garden for next year. It involved cutting down brush, probing for the taproots of weeds that extended deep into the soil and resisted prying hands with the same lively stubbornness of mussels in the mud. These practical chores manifested our communal desire to respond in gratitude to Matt Gonsalves the man who tended the garden throughout the summer. Each of us benefited from the rich red tomatoes, explosively hot chilly peppers, leafy and luscious kale greens, peas, and beans.

The work party was an opportunity for all of us to come together and simply enjoy each other’s company whether it was listening in as my cousin–fresh off completing a half marathon in impressive time–broached the status of her Colombian-born boyfriend or watching as an intergenerational bond of camaraderie formed between my 90 year old grandfather and the 6th grade tennis dynamo going to the U.N. School in New York City. Those two made an effective pair trimming back forsythia branches and combing the apple trees for the finest apples. Two and a half hours outside of the frenetic pressure cooker that is Manhattan this garden proved a blessing enabling me to spend time with people who have known me longer than I can remember.

One criticism of the age in which we live is that despite our penchant for novel technology and our boasting of an interconnected world we can still find a way to be isolated creatures. Tuned in to the latest trends, but tuned out to the people who should be closest to us. Thankfully the antidote is not ridiculously difficult. It’s simply making the time–in this case two hours on a Saturday morning–to work together with the option of spending an equal amount of time feasting together on barbequed hot dogs, cheeseburgers, corn, as well as beer. The best place to build peace in the world is not always in the worst war-torn region, but the place that I call home.


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Way back when—around this time of year in 2010 to be precise—I spent about two weeks in Poland visiting my girlfriend’s family. Meeting her parents was not all that we did.   She organized a personal tour of her beloved Polska, and naturally I took photos—494 of them.

Travelling for me usually means sloughing off my technologically advanced, but physically burdensome digital SLR and opting for the sanely-sized Nikon film camera, the FM2. Poland was no exception. I photographed posing family members, rusted rail lines, sanctified icons of Mary, and street scenes with roll upon roll of 35 mm film; a historical mission of sorts to freeze and transport these moments to an unknown future.

Poland lends itself to that goal of preserving what seems lost. Etched in its own history are the polar extremes of humanity’s display of good and evil—a divine revelation of the limitless mercy of God for all souls given to a young nun, Sr. Faustina Kowalska followed soon after by the diabolical eruption of World War II and the deaths camps spawned by Adolf Hitler.

The image above is in Krakow, once a cultural mecca of Judaism. Little did I know that less than a year after taking the photograph my relationship with “my Polish friend” would be history. If you’re interested in seeing the theme of Poland’s past intimately explored there is a touching film that I saw recently at Cinema Village entitled Ida.

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In New York City, there’s bound to be a protest scheduled for or against one cause or another-a rally in solidarity with the people of Gaza and against Israel (as pictured in the above photograph of Times Square), a counter-protest in favor of the Israeli government, a People’s Climate March (happening this Sunday), et al. Since I track politics with the same fervor that my cousin follows the New York Giants I have no shortage of opportunities to root for or jeer against the actors on the world stage in general, and American politicians in particular.

The latest disappointment is the Congressional vote in support of Obama’s request that the United States equip so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels with weapons and training. The gods that hold court in our nation’s capital have a wicked sense of irony in that Barack Obama, the man who in my opinion won the presidency as a protest vote against George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, is now committed to wrecking Iraq’s neighbor, Syria, in similar fashion. Noteworthy too is that his erstwhile presidential contender, Senator John McCain (R-AR) continues to spur him on.

In contrast, Senator Rand Paul’s speech on the Senate floor (of which I watched the first five minutes) expressed my own opinion that ISIS (the devils from hell killing, raping, and pillaging in the name of Allah) should be targeted and destroyed, but without sending weapons to the Syrian rebels. Despite Obama’s assurance that these rebels will be properly vetted it may happen that we are arming those with potential allegiances to Al Qaida affiliated groups. This is no way to win a war against terror.

Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), who sits on the opposite side of the ideological fence as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), echoed the same wary sentiment:

“While I support many aspects of the president’s plan to degrade ISIL’s capabilities, previous history leads me to conclude that arming Syrian rebels would be an ineffective solution with potentially serious unintended consequences in the long-term.”

The following is a comprehensive (and eclectic) list of the Senators who voted against the bill:


Baldwin (D-WI)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Begich (D-AK)
Brown (D-OH)
Coburn (R-OK)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Enzi (R-WY)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Heller (R-NV)
Leahy (D-VT)
Lee (R-UT)
Manchin (D-WV)
Markey (D-MA)
Moran (R-KS)
Murphy (D-CT)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sanders (I-VT)
Sessions (R-AL)
Warren (D-MA)


Where else can you see Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) forming a temporary alliance, if only for one vote? American politics is at times disheartening, but it sure can be entertaining.

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Mortality, the reality that I will die, is not something I choose to dwell on particularly often.  Sure, I am aware of it, but my own hard-wiring to stay busy has prevented this fact from really seeping into my consciousness.  On Ash Wednesday, which ushers in the liturgical season of Lent (still a long ways away), I go to Church and receive ashes on my forehead in the shape of a cross with the priest or minister proclaiming: “Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”  Whether to serve as a caveat or a gentle reminder, the statement encourages reflection.

Why?  What’s the point?  Life seems busy enough just happening.  Why reflect on a future event that will come, with or without my added intellectual reflection?

The answer is found in the Gospel.  In his homily today the priest mentioned that the time will come for each of us to face God.  He will ask, “How did you treat me in my distressing disguise of the ‘poorest of the poor’ i.e. the homeless, the criminals, and the people we have a difficult time wishing well.”  There’s a problem if the answer is, “I just didn’t think it was you.  I didn’t realize….”  As children of God our raison d’etre is to love each person as God loves us.  Anything less than a total love means we’re missing the mark.

The above artwork entitled “Remember” is by Matthew Kirby, a Brooklyn painter whom I came in contact with via Heather King.  Tonight I helped Matthew print photographs of this painting and several of his other works.  As art is wont to do, it caused me to reflect that my time here is limited.  As Pope Paul VI said, “There are only so many tomorrow’s, begin today what you want to accomplish.”  Far from being a morbid thought, acknowledging that there is an end encourages us to treat as sacred the time that is happening now.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin has no qualms about strong-arming his political opposition, at home or abroad, into submission.  Neighboring Ukrainians, long-inured to Moscow’s sordid influence of their political process are finally standing up.  Ukrainian-born, New Yorker Tetyana Dzhula offers her first-hand perspective of the brewing conflict that has NATO on edge.

Interview conducted on September 2, 2014

Me: Tetyana, Are you in Ukraine now?

Tetyana: I’m in Ukraine.

Me: May I ask you a few questions? You have a unique perspective being in Ukraine now…

Tetyana: Sure. Let me switch to my mom’s iPad. I’m on my phone.

Me: Here we go:

What village are you from?

The town is called Zbarazh. It’s in western Ukraine.

How far away from the fighting is your village?

The region in trouble is about 700 miles away, eastern Ukraine.

What is the general mood among the people there?

The general mood is complex. The military invasion started in March when the Russian soldiers took over Crimea. It’s been over six months of turmoil. I don’t know how to explain it. We are both drained, but also full of strength and love. I’ve always loved Ukraine, but some people have come to love it only now. Our country’s situation with the bad news coming every day is very hard, but at the same time we are united and helping each other so much that there’s also a lot of happiness.

You mentioned earlier that twenty-three men were recently mobilized from your village. Are they ready to go to the front?

My grandma said this. She also told me that two of my neighbors were mobilized. I believe that they are training now in western Ukraine, which usually lasts just a few weeks. They will be going to the east soon.

Have you heard first hand accounts of people encountering Russian soldiers?

No, not first hand. Most of our media includes reports from the east, constantly. Updates are every hour. The situation changes quickly so there’s a lot of reporting, which includes soldiers speaking about their experiences. Putin claims the Russian military is not in Ukraine. This allows Russian soldiers to do what they want, because officially, “they are not here.” From the Russian side of the border they are shelling our easternmost cities and towns.  They are firing from their side of the border, and still they blame us! In our occupied cities, the Russian soldiers are harassing, kidnapping, and torturing people. They murder families, everyone including small children, if they are trying to leave the town. If the Russian soldiers are retreating, they plant mines. Many children die from exploding mines. These terrorists leave behind mines that look like pens so that people will pick them up. They also wave white flags, and when the Ukrainian soldiers approach–they shoot. They fire on the ambulances, which are trying to pick up the wounded. They are also firing at hospitals and water pumps in order to destroy the infrastructure.

Do you have confidence in the political leadership of Ukraine?

We have the invasion right now because we’ve changed the leadership. The president that ran away was controlled by the Russian government.  Putin now has no political control so he is using force. There are lots of problems, but we think that we are on the right path. People generally like the new president and the prime minister. They are not ideal, but they are pro-Ukrainian and pro-western. We also give them credit for taking over at such difficult time.

What do you see as the end game of this conflict?

I see Ukraine liberated after heavy loses. Putin spent too much money on this war, and he still doesn’t even have Ukraine yet. I think his inner circle will grow tired and angry with their loses and make him stop.


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