Getting to work today was slogging through a celebrity funeral. There are a handful of people who are really impacted and care, and a football stadium of lookers-on, more interested in being able to say "I was there when" than having any actual grief. In the rain. It always fucking rains for funerals, doesn't it?
There were people, spread thin throughout the cracker-crumb crowd, who were here eight years ago. They stand out in the crowd - in posture, in pallor, and in the sense of discomfort we have at the pageantry. We all had the same look at the people around us. It was nauseating.
I didn't lose anyone in my family. I'm lucky. I lost a couple friends. Lots of people lost way more than I did. Lots of lives were crushed. Those people were up at the park by Liberty Plaza. Those people were dropping lilies with the VP and the Mayor.
The fucking morgue-fleas I had to fight my way through for a good half hour before I could make any forward traction on the slog into work today? The people with the cameras and the camcorders, who want to film a clip of "the big hole" or get a snap of someone famous or a NYFD in full uniform with a fucking black strap around their badge (both conversations I had to grit my teeth through waiting to get into the subway in the rain)? Those people should be bulldozed into the hole.
I'm reading The Long Walk by Stephen King. Part of my anger stems from the subject matter of that book, which I see reflected around me in the anticipatory look in the eyes of all the fucking tourists from Iowa who want to get a snap of "The Ground Zero on Nine Eleven". They are no different than the audiences in The Long Walk or The Running Man. This country was fundamentally changed, forever, eight years ago today. For a few shining weeks following that, at least in NY, the fucking world was hopeful. Then it all went back to being politics and shit. Now, the shit draws flies.
The people who gawk, today, are just trying to get a stiffy on the scent of ghostly smoke and the dust of phantom ashes. They find a way to connect it to their lives - to their politics, or their religion, or their xenophobia. To them, two planes killing a couple thousand people (ignoring the deaths over PA or in DC) was an attack on America. It is an ideological wound, which, now festering, drives them to abandon common sense.
To myself, and to many New Yorkers, it was a personal thing. It still is to me, sometimes - more often than ever since moving to FiDi a little over a year ago. That is part of what will inevitably drive me from the neighborhood - I will have to leave it, or I will end up hating too much of humanity. I've almost gotten into physical altercations twice as a result of people's complete insensitivity to the personal nature of this day. To them, it is like asking where I was when the Challenger blew up, or when JFK got shot. Where were you What did you see? What was it like? Who do you know that died? Did they find the body? To me, it is like asking who found the body of their dead grandmother who was murdered in the bath, or how soon was it before you fucked another guy after your husband died?
To them, initially, I say I don't want to talk about it. That generally draws apologies, and sympathy. But it is almost always cloying sympathy, because now they know there is a scar or scab, and they want to pick at it - to figure out which. They know there is a story there, and I'm being selfish by denying them that moment of sick connection - which they will doubtless regale with authority on some long-off night of beer or spirits - "I talked to this guy who was there and..."
Some people stop at the cloying sympathy. A couple have pushed it. Three times is my limit. I stop being polite after the third attempt. At the fifth attempt, I leave, or take a swing at someone. I've already been rude or hostile enough for them to see that coming. Both times I almost got into it (once a night manager in a hotel bar in Buffalo, once in a after-hours joint in a conference in South Carolina - some bar fly with a drawl who probably had a fucking stars and bars bumper sticker, but "understood what I went through"), the bitterness of my rudeness was sufficient to prod the insistent cross-examiner into physical action, before I lost the fight against the urge to smash their face in. Both times, someone else stepped in before things got ugly.
That is a scab, not a scar, and there is still a lot of ugly, ugly puss in there.
I wonder, some days, when precisely the world went mad, and what everyone was so busy doing that the moment escaped notice.
So I get into work stormy and full of hate, ready to chew sand and spit glass, and I start plowing through my email. My dad sent me this gem of a joke:
AN ITALIAN BOY'S CONFESSION
'Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I have been with a loose girl'.
The priest asks, 'Is that you, little Joey Pagano ?'
'Yes, Father, it is.'
'And who was the girl you were with?'
'I can't tell you, Father. I don't want to ruin her reputation'.
"Well, Joey, I'm sure to find out her name sooner or later so you may as well tell me now. Was it Tina Minetti?
'I cannot say.'
'Was it Teresa Mazzarelli?'
'I'll never tell.'
'Was it Nina Capelli?'
'I'm sorry, but I cannot name her.'
'Was it Cathy Piriano?'
'My lips are sealed.'
'Was it Rosa DiAngelo, then?'
'Please, Father, I cannot tell you.'
The priest sighs in frustration. You're very tight lipped, and I admire that. But you've sinned and have to atone. You cannot be an altar boy now for 4 months. Now you go and behave yourself.'
Joey walks back to his pew, and his friend Franco slides over and whispers, 'What'd you get?'
'Four months vacation and five good leads.'
It is a funny joke, and it made my day. It definitely didn't clear my head of all the blackness gathered like the thunderheads outside, but it sure as shit poked a hole in them. I think if anyone else had sent me that joke, it wouldn't have mattered. Because it was my dad, and because of conversations and disagreements we have and had on religion, and conversations I've had recently on the subject, it was all the funnier. I wonder if, on some cosmic level, he was on that wavelength when he hit forward. The parent wavelength - 'kid in trouble - throw a rope' - I don't know. That is the power of parenthood though. Pretty amazing shit.