Conscious Aging: Back Home Again

Boston was 55 degrees when I flew out of Logan Airport on Wednesday morning, and Seattle was 33 degrees when I arrived. I’d brought a warm jacket to wear in Maine, and I took it out of my suitcase and put it on when I deplaned and went to get transportation home.

The week was very full — first reconnecting with Paul and Jeanne, and then going with them to the Camden Conference. The Conference did two important things: raised my sights from the daily tempestuousness that is the Trump presidency to higher and broader ways of thinking about the world. And, the Conference reminded me that really, really smart people who value competence and integrity and have a sense of mission continue to work on complex matters of foreign policy, totally aside from the venality and shallowness and self-dealing of the Trump administration. I’m reminded that history moves in waves, and if we are now in a period of self-inflicted chaos, this too shall pass. The speakers were properly and soberly concerned about the damage being done at the behest of the 35-40% of voters in this country who seem to have gone off the deep end. But the speakers, not all from the U.S., offered hope, cautiously, that one day intellectual honesty and decency will return to our national stage.

I got to visit with my sister in law Amy, and her husband Will. And, I was included in a lovely dinner party with Paul and Jeanne’s friends.

After the Conference we returned to Boston, where I saw my niece and her husband and met their small daughter. I got to go to my beloved Aquarium, and wound up at the home of my nephew and his wife and their kids for a mini-Klainer reunion.

All good. I’m here now for the next month, and then will go to San Diego with Matt and Amy and the kids for spring break.

Cruise season starts here in Seattle by May 15, and that for me is the official start of summer and great people-watching as the lines begin to form to board our regular cruise lines. Feels right around the corner. I was amused while away to read about a Carnival ship that had a knock-down-drag-out brawl between an unruly family and cruise staff. That followed last summer’s reports of a murder aboard another popular line. I know most cruises are not so high drama. I’m not a big fan of going on cruises, although I’ve been on a couple. I just like to watch the whole enterprise from afar — good plot material if I ever decide to write more fiction. πŸ™‚

Downtown Boston

Paul and Jeanne and I had all day Tuesday in Boston. In addition to our morning trip to the Aquarium, we walked a bit along the harbor and through the Faneuil Hall market area. Once again, I was flooded with great memories. I like it here.

Boston Trip: Suites

I scored a suite upgrade at the Eliot, where I stayed in Boston proper, and at the airport hotel, the Hyatt Boston Harbor. Very chi chi. This is one of the benefits of traveling in a non-peak season. Hotel staff work hard to make you happy; they want winter travelers to come back πŸ™‚

Boston: Dinner at Uni

Paul and Jeanne and I drove down to Boston, and I have two days here with them before flying home to Seattle. My niece Suzanne and her husband Jeremy and their toddler daughter Amelia live here. We had dinner on Monday night at Uni, on Comm Ave. On Tuesday, I’ll see the rest of the Klainer clan at my nephew Peter and his wife Erica’s home.

I love good food, and I love sushi.

Uni was a real winner. The best dish of the night? A salmon sashimi with jerk seasoning, crispy plantains, scallions and sour cream. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

Conference Eve: Dinner Party

I haven’t been to a full-on dinner party in years: ten around the beautifully set table, candles, fresh flowers, beef bourguignon with mashed potatoes made with butter and cream, garden peas, squash, salad with blood oranges and chopped nuts, and good wine. A fire going at the end of the large combined dining-living room. Snow pending outside. Great conversation. Ice cream and home made fudge sauce for dessert.

Paul and Jeannie’s friends Barbara and Wally hosted dinner for a group of friends who’d been at the Conference, so we had that to talk about. The two couples have been friends forever, and so we talked about long friendship too, and new friendship, and change, and getting older. The four of them are on the verge of turning 70. Paul is Jerry’s younger brother.

Seattle is a very casual city, and people eat out. At the most, we gather for wine at someone’s condo or apartment and then go out. Those of us who have downsized got rid of a lot of serving dishes and such that we would have used to entertain, and if we live in 900 square feet we likely don’t have a big table any more to host ten. I assemble food, but I don’t cook anything any more that takes time and skill and prep space, like beef bourguignon.

But a full-on dinner party is a lovely thing, and I enjoyed being included very much.

 

Reflections on the Camden Conference

The speakers were uniformly well versed in history and classical literature, and all could put their comments in the context of that larger historical and literary setting. I’m proud that we have such stellar people in our foreign service and legacy press, and that correspondingly well educated people from other countries want to come and participate in our civic conversation. As proud as I am, I’m that saddened that the ranks of these people who work in our current State Department and Foreign Service are being hollowed out and dismissed under the deeply misguided and woefully shallowTrump administration.

We build into the environment we have”.Β 

“We often make policy assuming the environment will remain static, and it never does.”

Both of those were observations by the Canadian, Cleo Paskal. Her expertise and viewpoint were fresh, ones that we don’t often hear. Plus she had a funny, abrupt and ironic way of zeroing in on the crux of the matter. Other speakers, like the one who had been Deputy CIA Director, were long practiced in obfuscation and never really said anything right out in the open.

These people were not just policy makers or analysts or reporters, but problem solvers. Most of them were optimistic that the challenges we face are manageable if we ask the right questions, seek input from global partners instead of going it alone, and compromise.Β  Chas Freeman, a longtime diplomat and foreign policy specialist, said outright that if we elect people to Congress who pride themselves on refusing to compromise, we as voters are actively subverting effective governance.

All of the speakers were rigorously data-driven and fact-based, andΒ  none were comfortable with the denigration of expertise and experience that characterize the Trump administration. I think they all tried to be optimistic, but felt we are in for a rough few years until the chaos Trump works so hard to foment reorganizes itself into some kind of new order.

A global order based on American hegemony is over. In the best case, we will have regional powers who will negotiate with each other over their spheres of influence. In the worst case, we have no order at all for a prolonged period of time. Human suffering will increase greatly under the latter scenario.

The Camden Conference next year will focus on China. This is a rare experience of civic engagement, with deep dialogue between audience participants and outside speakers. If you have any interesting in that sort of thing, you might want to consider coming. The dates are Feb. 22-24.

 

Maine Coast: View in the Sun

On Saturday the temperature dropped sharply, into the teens — a crisp cold that I’m no longer used to, living in the more temperate Seattle. But the sun was strong, and made being outdoors more than tolerable. Snow was expected late Saturday night.