As I start to write this, I look at my watch and realize that one
week ago, just now, I'd just seen the first tower go down. Here
in the new world it seems like a year, two years, a hundred years.
Time has taken on a rubbery quality.
Toward the end of Burn's The Civil
War documentary, years ago, there was a single phrase read aloud;
written by either a Yankee or Confederate some time after the war,
thinking back on his experience, and I keep hearing it in my head:
"Were these things real?"
Even as I go through each day, so
much of it still refuses to settle into anything remotely resembling
reality. Last night we watched Letterman, who was on for the first
time after the late news, and it was extremely strange, and vaguely
unsettling. He didn't make any jokes, of course, but this most hard-shelled
of all contemporary performers revealed depths of sadness, and fear,
and uncertainty, and anger; and then Dan Rather came out as his
guest and broke down in tears twice.
Yet, on the other hand, V & I
went over to Jersey City late yesterday afternoon to have dinner
with her mother and celebrate the new year (praying, as every year,
to have one more year). While I expected huge backups at the bus
terminal, we somehow managed to hit it right, and got from Port
Authority to Summit Ave. in Jersey City in half an hour. On the
way, as we went up Palisades Avenue, which runs along the top of
the Palisades (which, in this area, are utterly urbanized) and so
I saw all of lower Manhattan from the Jersey side, and the absence
of the Towers, and the smoke that continues to rise therefrom.
That, conversely, now seemed normal.
Valeria's mother, who is 68, was extremely
happy to see us. Jersey City has a large Arab population (and Indian,
and Phillipine, and...) and she was more than usually suspicious
-- relating stories of how two had been arrested (I have heard this
on the news as well), etc. She's holding up very well, though; of
course, this is a woman who grew up in Soviet Russia during the
Second World War, and under Stalin, and didn't leave the USSR until
1981, so she's had considerable experience, living life under conditions
that are only now beginning to become imaginable.
Besides the absence of the Towers
from a distance there are many things that are beginning to seem
normal to me now. Leaving the house fifteen minutes earlier because
my subway now becomes express at 96th, and therefore no longer stops
at 50th (unless I transfer). Seeing at least one policeman at every
subway station, and many more at the larger stations. Hearing, along
with the occasional airplane (I gather airports are becoming rather
ghostly, at present), the occasional F-16. Phone service, especially
long-distance & cellular, that comes and goes. Police barricades
along Fifth, metal barriers at the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller
Center, the sight of US flags everywhere, attached to car aerials,
hanging from windows, photocopied and taped onto doors. The occasional
Army humvee parked on Broadway. New York crowds, thinned out to
a level I haven't seen since the late 70s and early 80s, when no
one wanted to come to NY on a bet, save for the likes of me and
I'd recommend the new New Yorker.
The cover is by Spiegelman, and brilliant.
In the News, this morning, an article
about NY's Afghan restaurants, and how no one is eating at them,
and how they're quickly going to go broke; the people who run them
are, of course, in nearly all cases immigrants who came here to
escape the war during the 80s, or the Taliban since. And the new
total of people still missing is a little over 5,400 -- evidently
the additional 700 weren't reported until yesterday; I imagine many
relatives, companies, etc., were still holding out hope. A friend
in Australia has told me 100 Aussies have been killed; a friend
in Germany says anywhere up to 200-some Germans were killed; and
of course 500 Brits. 100 Russians. And U.S. citizens who, being
New Yorkers, were of every possible background, every color and
creed. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus.
An attack on Civilization, period.
I need to talk to my father again
tonight, to see how he is doing. Two weeks ago, tomorrow, my stepmother
suddenly died, as you and some others know (she was 52). Her funeral
was September 8, and then 3 days later...thoughts of her vanished
from my mind, mostly, since last Tuesday, and that makes me feel
sad, but even so I can only move forward. I know I didn't come close
to processing her death, but at some point I suppose I will -- or
maybe I already have, in this new world. I honestly don't know.
I'm not as scared today as I was yesterday.
I can't imagine this will last; today is Ros Ha'shanah, NY is quiet
yet again -- this time, for better reason then has recently been
the case -- and, clearly, something is in the air. But I don't know
what, and until that something occurs, I can only do what I have
been trying to do for some years -- since I came down with the TB,
really, back in early 1997; and again, after Jenna died, back in
March -- and that is, live one day at a time. The thing is, I have
been *trying* to do this; and I think, now, I finally am.
It is the most real of all unreal
feelings, to be doing so.
Jonathan Carroll has just sent the following, which I pass along.
Friends, I had an idea today and it may be nuts but maybe
not. I know you're all in touch one way or another with people
in the computer community worldwide and they're in touch with
others, etcetera. Here's my idea, for what it's worth. Computer
hackers are often thought of as nasty little shits who fuck up
everybody's day for no reason(s) other than to be annoying. But
what if for once they put their minds to a real and important
task-- what if that hacker community worldwide tried in break
to the computer networks of the terrorists? The Greatest Challenge,
the greatest "game" ever posed them and any results
would be, well, heroic.
What if this message or something
like it was sent out far and wide to these computer experts? A
genuine call to arms to people who believe nothing justifies what
was done in New York the other day and now knowledgeable, talented
people must do what they can to fight it far and wide. For hackers
that means crack their systems, figure out what they're saying,
give the results to the people who can put it to good use, etcetera.
Do exactly what they've been doing all along - hack the system
- but this time do it for something that means saving lives everywhere.
I leave the thought in your hands,