Saturday, September 11, 2004

On TV they just said they need rain protection for the workers. I ran out and told M. that Blue Man should donate a bunch of ponchos (the ones worn by people in the front row), especially since they haven't done shows in three days. He says they probably have a few hundred extra ones but did not commit.

I just read an article in Salon calling for Osama bin Laden to be treated as a criminal to be hunted down with the cooperation of the various 'stans, instead of the U.S. declaring war on everyone. Another pointed out that the U.S. trained bin Laden as a terrorist back when the USSR was the enemy. An E-mail from M. Moore blames it on class and imperialism. Whatever the case, all of these American flags are getting a bit scary.

Dreyfus just called again and read an article over the phone to me: there are elevated levels of asbestos and dioxin in the air; I should "get the hell out of there." Maybe I can rent a car below 14th Street tomorrow.


Raining hard. After all that talk of a second wave of hijackers foiled at NYC airports last night, I was nauseous and migrainey and slept through class today; I think it was a defense mechanism. When I finally got up, M. was coming through the door (soaked) with coffee, bagels, and today's paper, which means that the streets are opening up. He called Blue Man-they are indeed doing shows tonight and he's doing a double. They also said he could take a few shows' worth of ponchos over to Union Square.

No word yet on when we'll get out of town. M.'s family keeps calling to find out what's happening. They say the rest of the world feels sorry for the U.S. (there's a switch), and of course they played our national anthem at Buckingham Palace yesterday.


I managed to get home, after a flight cancellation, a flight mix-up, countless delays, a gate change, and a three-hour check-in line (not to mention the endless wait at O'Hare for a train). I was so exhausted after five hours at frigid LaGuardia that I slept through the snack.

At home now I am quite at loose ends-it's weird being out of the eye of the storm. This place is so far removed from what happened, it seems almost like it didn't happen-especially if the TV isn't on. Strangely, I wish I were still there.

I think I last wrote on Friday morning. Friday afternoon I lost the headache and finally saw fit to catch up on some work, while M. went to BMG to pick up the rain ponchos for the volunteers. He came back a short time later after taking a nasty spill on his bike. After a cup of tea and a few minutes of ice on the knee and nonstop TV coverage, he was back at it (this time he took a cab). I did some more work, researched Greyhound tickets, and prepared lunch. When he got back we ate (in front of the TV) and had a nap. After he left for work, I checked the American Airlines Web site, and my flight had been canceled. After several attempts I got ahold of an agent and rescheduled (or so I thought).

I wanted to see what the first BMG show after the disaster would be like. The rain had stopped and the temperature dropped; everyone was wearing dark fall clothes and again it was very quiet. There were police from Miami (not fat) near M.'s house. In Washington Square Park I heard the music of one lone flute. There was still an occasional F-16 flying overhead.

In front of the theater there was a group of people holding candles. They were very young and very quiet and I was not in the mood, so I went down to the incense seller, near Kmart, and bought a couple of boxes of nag champa. She also handed me a tiny Ziploc pouch with a tiny seed in it and a note: "All things are possible with faith the size of this mustard seed. / Matthew 17:17-20."

I got a light for the incense and had my own vigil on a stoop a few yards down from BMG. After a while I started walking toward Broadway. People were watching CNN at Kmart. National Wholesale Liquidators, my favorite store in NYC (next to the Turkish grocery store Turkacino) was dead but for people buying up candles. In front, men in turbans (and some without) held candles. Most stores-even Crunch gym-had candles in front, with or without people holding them. A bunch of police cars had pulled up in front of NWL, lights flashing. We were standing and watching what was happening-nothing-when a passerby yelled, "Stop watching! Stop watching!" She was right, of course.

I went back to the theater near the end of the show. The house was half-full, and I took a seat behind the girls from Glasgow. They'd spent a good part of the day in Harlem, while one got her hair braided.

After sitting down I started crying. I'm not sure why-maybe because it was so pathetic, this whole "the show must go on" mentality, these people trying to have fun while outside others were wandering around clutching those photos. It was so sad; the frat boys in front, who'd be the first to go, were enjoying it way too much for my taste.

The weirdest part of the show was at the end, when they tried to make the audience pull the paper down to the front of the stage. The last third of the theater was empty; our side was woefully weak. Also I think people weren't sure what they were supposed to do. The crew had to do most of the work.

Afterward, the girls said they loved it and got their picture taken with M., as did many others. Instead of collecting money to fight AIDS, the musicians held out buckets for disaster relief.

I walked back through Washington Square Park, which was strangely empty. Then I noticed light near the arch. It was well after ten and people were still holding the candlelight vigil; the chain-link fence around the monument was stuffed with flowers, flags, notes, poems, last suppers, murals, and pictures of the missing. Below, hundreds of votives burned. It smelled wonderful.

People were wandering back and forth in front of the memorial, and after adding a lighted stick of incense to it, I did too. And again I started crying. I stayed a long time, wandering back and forth. Some people were draped in flags or wore flag bandannas or carried flags. But most seemed to prefer to let their mascots-dogs or children-wear the stuff. Behind us, in the sunken fountain area, there were more candles. There were also huge white sheets of canvas attached to the fence, and baskets of markers, so that people could add their own messages (many were). Almost all of them advocated peace and a well-reasoned response to the tragedy. "Arab-Americans Are Our Fellow Americans" was another typical response, as were messages of sympathy.

In another corner of the park there was a group sing-along, to songs such as "I Can See Clearly," "Ziggy Stardust," and that horrible Red Hot Chili Peppers hit. People stood in a circle around the guitar players. The ringleader was going around and singing in the faces of people who weren't belting their hearts out. I backed away and watched from a safe distance. The male half of a couple who'd just arrived said, "There's coach!" and ran to the other side of the circle to high-five one of the loudest singers. I slowly made my way home. It was Friday night, around 11-dinnertime for NY'ers-and the streets were empty. But the sidewalks were full of candles.

Next day I got up at five and walked to yoga. After two weeks of walking unmolested down Bleeker in the dark to the Puck Building, this is the day someone decides to "Hey baby" me. I walked faster and he followed but finally gave up. (I was wearing steel-toed boots.)

Only a fraction of the class showed up at yoga, but at least Teresa and Mary, another Chicagoan, were there. Teresa said she hit a wall on Thursday, after interviewing children who saw the crashes firsthand; she was staying on to continue covering what happened. Guruji made a few jokes this time; the mood was better, and so was my practice (although my balance was still nil). I brought my camera to take pictures of the second group for my Yoga Chicago review. I snapped a shot of my group in savasana; after class I learned there would be no second class. That was it. And I have one photo of the class-people in corpse pose.

On the way out, a group of us walked toward the door. A woman in front of us screamed "OH MY GAWD!" and we all jumped back two feet, ducking our heads. Turns out the nincompoop just ran into someone she hadn't seen since Tuesday.

On Saturday morning, M. and I sat around the house until we realized we'd be much happier outside. The candles on the stoop were still burning. We sat in the sun on a bench on Hudson, and watched the people walk by. Again the F-16s flew overhead.

We thought it would be hard to get a cab to the airport, but a van stopped right away. A woman standing on the sidewalk said, "You got a good one. You'll have a good trip." M. said he loved me and told the driver to take the Midtown Tunnel, which was open. On the way to the airport, we got stuck behind a giant dump truck, which was filled to the brim and emitted a horrible smell. I didn't want to speculate about its origins.

At the airport there were some bomb-sniffing dogs outside and U.S. marshalls inside. Other than that, and the delays and lines, the only difference was that they had to count the number of passengers and pieces of luggage before we could take off.

Everything here seems the same, except there are those flags everywhere. I guess there is one difference-when I got off the train, a CTA employee offered to help carry my suitcases down the stairs, which was a great help. She also opened a special exit gate for me, and wished me a good weekend.

M., it turns out, left JFK on time, and got a free upgrade to boot.

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