The day

It’s a rainy morning here, maybe the first big storm since we moved in here. It was nice to sit in bed and hear the rain bounce off the skylight above. There was a decent amount of lightning and thunder, which I almost slept through. There were, however, two cats with large tails sprinting around the house to get away from this large cousin of the feared vacuum cleaner monster that was booming through the skies.

I saw a guy get killed on a motorcycle yesterday. I mean, I didn’t see the actual accident; I sat in traffic forever, and when I finally got to the epicenter of sirens and emergency vehicles, I saw a debris trail of the remainder of a BMW bike smashed into a thousand pieces. Then I saw a yellow plastic sheet over a body, with one hand sticking out. That really freaked me out. If I just saw the twisted metal machinery, it would bother me a bit, but actually seeing the casualty made me start thinking about a family member somewhere getting a phone call. And what a day to get a phone call too – on the anniversary of 9/11.

I’ve been ruminating on that one a bit too. Now that I’ve been out of New York for a few years, it seems to be just a distant memory. I was just looking for the scans of the pictures I took on that morning, and ended up spending a few minutes looking at all of the other pictures I took around that period, like a whole series of shots of my old place in Astoria, and the batch of pictures on a rainy September night that eventually yielded the cover of Rumored to Exist. There’s so much distance now, I look at the pictures and try to pick out the little details that I forgot. When the towers were on fire, and before they collapsed, I walked south on Broadway, toward the World Trade Center, taking pictures. I don’t know why I did this, as pretty much everyone was headed in the opposite direction. I remember thinking that if a tower collapsed, what if it fell over onto its side, like a tree falling – how many blocks down would it fall?

I think I got down to West Broadway and Varick before the police had the area completely sealed off. That’s maybe ten blocks north of the plaza. By then, both towers had collapsed, and everyone was then trying to figure out how to get home with no transit running. A common thought is that all of lower Manhattan looked like that ashy Mount St. Helens nuclear holocaust you saw on the news over and over; it didn’t. I do remember seeing an unmarked police car tearing up Broadway the wrong way, sirens on, with a foot of ashes sitting on its hood and roof. And we all ended up breathing the dust for weeks. But that particular misconception got to me, mostly because everyone in the Midwest who watched the news all day and then called me expected my apartment eight miles away to be a virtual Pompeii, and my neighborhood was pretty much untouched.

It still amazes me that there isn’t a new building yet. I look at these pictures from the summer of 2001, of Times Square, and every single sign and storefront has changed three times since then. I look at pictures of the block where my old office was, and almost every small store went bankrupt and was then replaced with a Best Buy or Rite Aid or Bank of America or Nike store. This isn’t unique to post-2001 New York; it happens pretty much on an annual basis there. Manhattan sheds restaurants and stores like humans shed molecules of skin. They die, are brushed away, and are quickly replaced by new ones. Having a digital camera for almost a decade of this is a strange testament to this.

Went kayaking last week. I want to go again today or tomorrow, but given the weather, I don’t know. I need to practice before we go on vacation, because I want to take this kayak tour, and currently, I can barely get a straight line going with it. But it looks more like an indoor sort of weekend.

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