It must be Monday

As I came into work this morning I wondered why it was so quiet and everyone looked so subdued. As I walked into the office I remember thinking “maybe there’s been another terrorist attack and I don’t know yet”. Get in, turn on my mail and find an e-mail from a friend in the UK going “are you OK?”. Ho hum. ‘Luckily’ it appears to have been an accident. For a while though everyone in the office was stopping shock still and staring out of the window whenever we heard anything that sounded like a plane engine.

On a more happy, random note – went for dinner in Il Buco the other night and sat across from Matt Damon. Not as good as Matt Affleck but you can’t complain.


Last night I sat in bed for a while wondering exactly what time to set my alarm for. The reason behind this indecision? Well, depending on when I get up affects what time I get on the subway. What time I get on the subway affects what time I hit town. So then what time do I think would be safest to be in midtown in Manhattan? Is it likely to be attacked early morning again? Or in the evening? Maybe we’ve already been attacked by an invisible cloud of anthrax spores? Who fucking knows? Would the government tell us if they knew it had happened, or would they keep it quiet to prepare for the panic they know will come?

Everyone is being affected by this high grade paranoia to one level or another. In some ways it’s interesting to see how people react to it, moving towards behaviors they consider ‘safe’ to try and keep calm. As for me I’m trying to do more coding, something I’ve realised is one of my ‘flow’ activities (I immerse myself in it and am rarely distracted). In reality though, what can you do about it? Nothing. I could move somewhere else, but most places I’d want to move are probably still targets and also likely less prepared than New York is. So I’m just going to sit here and enjoy my headache – which I don’t think is a symptom of anything other than stress.. is it?

Meanwhile it’s nice to see that the high quality of US air terminal checkpoints is being maintained. “Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said FAA agents monitoring a checkpoint saw screeners allowing passengers to continue through after security alarms went off.” (from Yahoo). Jesus wept. I wrote about this a while ago, when on a trip to Newark I walked through but they didn’t check my wallet for anything such as knives. There really are some morons out there who have no understanding of how important their job is.

Time heals

Just got an e-mail of the “a friend of my cousin’s friend said..” variety, saying that we shouldn’t travel on trains today, or some day. Ah, more paranoia. So I went onto MSNBC to check out what the ‘official’ line was, presently it’s still just a ‘high alert’ situation and they’ve detained some people in and around planes – one of which was some muppet-stupid Arab who was a) on an expired student visa and b) happened to be carrying around an art knife in his pencil case which he’d “forgotten about”. Y’know he probably is completely innocent, there are a lot of people in this country on expired student visas – but even so he should be locked up just for being stupid. How can you “forget” you’re carrying a knife in the present climate??? I’m sorry, just doesn’t wash with me.

Being on MSNBC I went to check out their Week in Photo section, which normally has some amazing images. This week nothing seemed to inspire me, so I decided to check out the images from September 11th. Bad mistake. I looked at about four before tears were starting to well in my eyes again. It seems that the emotional wounds are still very open there. It has only been one and a half months. It’s like a different age though.

As an aside currently reading Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. It’s a very interesting book, and not as “self-help” as somebody said it would be. Lots of fascinating examples of how different societies enjoy themselves and the similarities between them. Also has lots of references to the religious beliefs that can drive people to kill themselves in service of “their god”, so very relevant at the moment.

Ready, aim, post mail…

Apparently this week we’re all terrorist target #1 (again). So what’s the guess? Sarin gas attack on the subway (I was attacked by a stink bomb late last week and that freaked me out)? Plane into building (I’m now around most of the remaining tall buildings in NYC, but it’s so last month)? Anthrax in my e-mail (that would definitely get me)? Poison in the water (I only generally drink G&T but it could get in the ice)? Wiring N-sync to blow whenever they do a corny dance move (now that is terror)?

In amongst all of this madness I’ve found increasing solace in the calming words of my cab drivers as they ferry me back to Williamsburg. Last night’s philosopher was from French speaking Ghana. Some guy cut him up and I commented “Ils sont foux” and from then on we didn’t stop chatting. Turns out he used to teach Physics back in Ghana but earns more in New York driving cabs. We discoursed on whether French or German were better languages, during which time I find out his elder sister lives in Hamburg and his younger sister in Toulouse. He heartily recommended that I go visit Africa, where, as he put it, the people are so friendly they will take you up a mountain if you ask. Something to combat the general psychic malaise that can prevail in New York. Nice guy.

A brief note on paranoia

As an aside – I’m finding all this anthrax business mildly stressful. It constantly sits in the back of your mind, reminding you that the city is now more than ever a terrorist target. Stupid things like going to pick up some litter off the ground becomes a large decision – where did it come from? Could it have been near a post office which is infected? Personally I believe that the attacks come from America rather than abroad but that’s just my feeling on the matter. On the way back from work last night someone threw a stink bomb into the subway carriage I was on. As I left the carriage to head out onto the street it just made me think how easily that could have been something like sarin gas or some biological entity. You can’t do anything about it though – the only option is to cower in terror somewhere and never leave the house, whch isn’t really an option and could be just as risky. Life is there to be lived and we’ve all got to go sometime (ideally later rather than sooner of course).

Take care, be safe.


I finally went down to the site of the World Trade Center. It was 2am, dark and cool, and I found myself at a 2-Step Garage benefit (featuring the Artful Dodger) at a place a few blocks south of Canal. This is the furthest south I’ve been since 11th September and I realised I needed to go and see the site myself. So I excused myself from Pam and Ann and set out South down Broadway.

Silence on the streets. No cars taking their usual late night fares back to the Wall Street area. Groups of people, all taking, some joking and laughing, walk down Broadway. Occaisional glances to my left, over “Do not Cross” police barriers reveals nothing except the glare of the powerful lights helping the workers at the site. I carry on southward. Barriers dictate my route, across Broadway, down the East side of the road. My fellow travellers are funnelled, condensed. I find myself wondering how I’ll feel. I find myself hoping I’ll be able to see something, so I know I’ve been there, something other than the absence that can be seen from my roof.

The police barriers are festooned with letters of hope, encouragement and the occasional missing person. People stop and read the letters. Other people that is, I walk forward – purposeful, resolute now that I’ve decided on my goal. I find myself distracted by the twin curves of a girl’s arse. Should we fuck in celebration of the life we still have? To populate the world with more people to replace those lost? Or just to remind ourselves that we’re alive and can hold someone close. I wonder if other people are thinking the same thing. Deep in my contemplations, or is it distractions, I realise I can see distressed buildings to my right, through the barriers. I stop. There’s no sight of the towers – or the remains of the towers – but I can see the building I used to walk alongside to get into the north tower when I worked there. It’s facade has been ripped off, pieces of wall dangling over the plaza.

I walk on. That was not what I came to see. I find myself hoping that there’s still some remnant of the towers, something I can point to and say “there it is”. Or was. More barriers, more coverings. My heart sinks. Everyone seems to be squeezing views through small gaps in tarpaulins. I keep walking. Then, suddenly, there it is. A lone shard of tower, jutting pitifully towards the sky. The spotlights reveal its nakedness.A young guy is taking some footage on his video camera over the waist high police barrier. I stop. Leaning into the barrier for support I look. This is what I came to see, but I want more. There must be more surely. This can’t be it? All that remains of two towers, each a quarter of a mile high with an acre on each floor? I walk on. Someone’s taking photos on a tripod. As I walk south I find no ‘better’ views of the devastation. I walk back to the barrier.

In front of me, the traffic light pointlessly changes from red, to amber to green and back again. No cars are going down this road. No crossing is happening. The light adds a strange sense of contrast to the brightly lit devastation that lies down the road. The exo-skeleton of the tower I used to walk into for six months. The rising arches that started the metal sheath that ran all the way up to the 96th floor where I worked and beyond. The runners along which the automated window cleaner would ride and occasionally scare the hell out of me when it came to my window.

Tears start to come to my eyes. I lean into the blue police barrier for support. The people around me start to fade away as I focus on the skeleton of that once mighty building. I feel sobs welling in my chest as I think of all the people who lie there. Tears stream down my face. Around me flashes from disposable cameras shatter the gloom, interspersed with laughter. I want to rip the cameras from people’s hands and smash them to the ground. I want to scream at people and ask them if they’d laugh when they visited Auschwitz. If they’d giggle and joke as they toured the showers where thousands of people were tortured. Fucking tourists. I know I’m not one of them. I’m here to pay my respects. To impose a reality on something that has affected my life for a month now. I’m glad I’m crying. It’s the right thing to be doing. I let the tears flow, the grief burst out and cleanse itself. I hear someone next to me ask the policeman if there’s anywhere nearer. There isn’t. I return to my vigil.

More minutes pass. I don’t want to leave this sight in front of me, but the tears are getting too much. I feel embarassed at my grief. No-one else is crying. I turn suddenly and head directly away, down a quiet road. As I round the corner the tears come stronger. I feel like sitting down and crying but I walk on. My tears start to subside as I walk towards Brooklyn Bridge. A numbness is upon me – I avoid looking at people. The pavement is much more fascinating and safer. I don’t want anyone to say to me “are you OK?”, I want to be alone, private.

At Brooklyn Bridge I get into a cab. The ride home is quick, painless. $8.50 plus tip. At home my neighbour is having a party. Life goes on.

+1 month

Hard to believe it’s only been a month since it all happened. Everything seems pretty much the same as usual – apart from everyone saying “well, I’m sure it’s not anthrax” every time someone says they don’t feel well. The towers still aren’t there, although people are talking about putting up temporary replacements in the form of large beams of light. That would be cool – like the gel light I saw down at Tribe last night (St Marks and 1st), which, for a mere $1,500, produces an effect not unlike flames licking over the wall (or water if it’s projected blue) – incredibly hypnotic and beautiful.

On a more random observation note, more in keeping with how New York life really is… How come in New York bars you can, in fact you must specify the brand of vodka for your drink, but you can’t ask for Pepsi or Coca Cola rather than crappy post-mix no-brand coke?

Ho, ho, ho, bang

I got this joke sent to me today: New York – Year 2032

A father and his son are walking the Manhattan streets when the father
stops at a vacant lot takes a deep breath and tells his son: “To think
that at one time here on this very lot stood the Twin Towers.” The son
at his father and asked: “Dad, what are the Twin Towers?”

Father says: “My dear son, the Twin Towers were two tremendously tall
buildings with lots of offices that was the heart of the United States,
but approx. 31 years ago, several Arabs destroyed the buildings.” The
boy then thought for a minute and then asked his father: “Daddy what are

Now it may just be be, but the attitude that thinks wiping out an entire race due to a few people is just a little bit fucked up in itself. While you’re at it, why not kill all caucasians for Timothy McVeigh’s actions? That would stop random psychotic behviour. Argh! This all just makes me so pissed off. Plus I pulled my back stretching in the gym this morning so I’m in pain and hence in a bad mood already. Hmph!

Top ‘o the Morning to Ya

More hate crimes… The American government is stressing the importance of not over-reacting with ‘Arab Americans’ on the one hand, and on the other it releases the list of “Most Wanted Terrorists” who are… yep, all Arabs. So does that mean the IRA people who plant bombs in London to kill innocent people must be Arabs too? I never realised that the Arab people were so evil..

Sigh. I keep alienating all my American friends by my comparisons of IRA terrorism to WTC terrorism (I don’t say ‘Arab’ terrorism as at least with the IRA they claim responsibility whereas noone has for the WTC attack). Not really surprising – most Americans don’t like to be reminded how many of them fund IRA terrorist activities due to Irish roots. Everyone in America claims Irish roots… say, maybe that’s a simple solution for all Arab Americans… they can say they’re Irish-Arab Americans, then everyone would love them again and the world would be a less violent place.

Still not there

The question keeps arising of which photo from September 11th makes you most upset. I find that quite hard to answer, and if it’s anything then it’s the pictures of the building’s warped structure sticking out from the ground like some rapidly erected memorial. It’s the stories that are really getting to me though. I bought a pile of magazines prior to my trip back to the UK and Cyprus – almost every other story made me cry. For some reason I find the pictures are easier to distance your emotions from.

I just stood on my roof last night and stared at the slightly glowing dust cloud that hangs over lower Manhattan. It’s still so hard to believe that there are still 6000 or so bodies in that rubble. Every newspaper in New York seems to have articles about gas masks. Is it time to get out of here? Or is everywhere soon going to be the same? Who knows. It’s nice to be with friends though.