Afterwards, AMA and I were driving our friend Orleana (pseudonymous but dear pal of Darren's) home, and on the way to Wmsbrg to drop her off, we all had the simultaneous inspiration to try to get as close to "Ground Zero" as we could, as none of us had ventured that far since they opened Broadway. (My friend "Gillian", who teaches at a downtown high school, has written a detailed account of her experience at Ground Zero).
It was about 2:00 in the morning, and we parked in Chinatown. The streets were slick...shops closed...restaurants closing. The smell of lingering smoke and rotting fruit hung in the muggy air as we traipsed to the site. It was like entering a foreign, occupied country. Police and rescue workers everywhere, National Guardsmen, everyone busily working but also fatigued and starting to look almost casual.
Floodlights have turned the area into a perpetual 5:00 PM twilight, like the movie shoots we so often stumble on when walkin' about Manhattan. None of the passersby looked anguished anymore, just curious. We chatted with a cop, who told us some possibly apocryphal tales, one of which is that the grid of iron--that waffle-like facade that shows up in all the news photos like a grim graveyard fence--is from the top of the WTC, not the bottom. That sounds plausible enough. I find that a little chilling, imagining that piece of iron wafting down from 100 stories up.
I thought that returning to my stomping grounds would unleash a torrent of emotion, but I couldn't process the information I was seeing. First, I couldn't get my geographical bearings, except when I positioned myself behind Brooks Brothers (now the temporary morgue) and tried to imagine waking to the Lemongrass Grill to meet Lesh for lunch, as we did so many times. But even so, the whole area has been so thoroughly transformed that it didn't really belong to me in a way that I could wrap my head or heart around. It was like when my mom was in a coma, and all I could think was, "That's not her."
The 24-hour-a-day life of downtown feels oddly comforting to me...Since I was a wee'un I've always dreamed of living in a world where everyone stayed up really late and all the stores and buildings and businesses and schools were open round the clock. As much as people claim that NYC never sleeps...it does (until now).
We ran into another friend who, unbelievably, was going to work to check on some things. We joked a little with him, and then left, sobered and more emotionally confused than ever.
After dropping Orleana off, AMA and had a big, awful but quiet fight that was brought on mostly by bone-tiredness. We slept it off, and then at noon on Saturday drove up to the gentle, cosmopolitan city of Montreal to celebrate our one-year anniversary.
My senses were dulled by a bad cold, but it was nice to go to a city where the air is fragrant and the peole walk slow...where they babble softly in French until they realize you are American and then they shift to colloquial English.
We ate crepes in Vieux Montreal, side-stepped obnoxious panhandling teens (with perfectly coiffed punk 'dos) in the Latin Quarter, walked all over the city, and read a lot (we're both purty broke, so it was a real grass-roots kind of tourism--which I prefer...just soaking up the genteel atmosphere).
I kept checking CNN to make sure my city and country were OK. AMA saw David Byrne at the Spectrum while I sacked out early and then the next day I took a beautiful, relaxing and humble Sivananda yoga class while AMA explored Little Italy. I have an affinity for any yoga center run by actual monks.
We saw an Anti-US protest march on the Rue de St Catherine. Mostly in the name of peace, of course, which resonates, but one rankles just a bit when a parade of folks are freely dissing one's homeland. It was revealing to hear and see this distaste for Bush and the US with no filter of politeness, and without the motive of knee-jerk Oedipal loathing that fuels a lot of anti-Bush/US feeling in this country.
On the way back home today, we dropped in on my sister Bea who was feeling bad because she didn't understand what the WTC attacks were all about. (She's brain-injured and schizophrenic...or somethin'). At one point she cried, and said softly, "Did you lose anyone?"
I was so moved--she is developing some kind of social awareness and compassion that she didn't used to have. And she actually used the expression "wake-up call" to describe the events of the past 2 weeks (she's too outside society to use trndy phrases). And she called into question some thoughts that my Dad had about the situation, which she doesn't often do (she kind of worships and hates my dad, and he tells her what to think).
All in all a very full and peaceful weekend.
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