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my glamorous life

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#56 the thing is

The terrorist attack took out long distance phone service for nearly a week. Last Saturday I finally heard my brother’s voice on the phone.

The thing is, he’d been hurt.

The day after the attack, a gang in my brother’s London neighborhood jumped him, threw him down, and kicked him repeatedly in the head.

They got his cell phone.

He got a concussion.

Last Sunday, I walked to a building on the Lower East Side. It’s an old art deco residence in a neighborhood that hasn’t changed much since the 1920s. No Gap. No Starbucks. Not a cell phone in sight.

Mostly old people inhabit the residence. Most of the time, on a warm, sunny Sunday, you’d see them sitting in the adjoining park.

The thing is, the park was empty.

A few blocks west, I came upon a Catholic church holding a yard sale. The tattered clothing of poor people was being sold to raise money for the victims of terrorism.

Two members of the congregation, a firefighter and a janitor, were among those listed as "missing" in the World Trade Center disaster.

The word was "missing," but we all felt they were dead, their bodies blown to atoms in the fire that still burns in lower Manhattan.

Two nights ago a novelty shop on Sixth Avenue at Third Street was blaring mainstream FM rock radio.

The DJ said, "We’re all getting back to normal living, that’s the message, and it’s a beautiful night for it, folks – clear skies, temp around 68. And for those of our listeners who lost someone in the World Trade Center, our hearts here at [station call letters] go out to you."

I have never heard anything sound so insincere. But perhaps I have not been listening.

My Internet access has been restored, and I find that neither respect for the dead nor the looming cloud of war has slowed down the "opt-out" marketers whose inanities clog our global information networks.

Penis enlargement.

Just what I needed.


Saturday, or was it Sunday, the TV networks began running commercials again. Carrot Top shilling a 1-800 number while cracking panty jokes in a laundromat. Babes With Guns, a very special season premiere.

We are blessed with a rich culture, woven from thousands of years of European, African, and Asian art, philosophy, and political thinking. But you wouldn’t know it to look at the junk we put on TV and export to the world.

Suddenly pop culture looks like excrement smeared by a mental patient.

Of course it always did. But suddenly the shallowness feels shameful. Am I the only one who feels this way? What dream have we been living in?

Somehow in my pursuit of happiness I failed to notice that children were dying in Iraq.

Somehow when car bombs exploded in London, or gunfire ripped the West Bank, I felt a moment of sorrow and disbelief, then went about my business – never realizing that love was my business, the world was my business.

We use love to sell mouthwash.

The thing is, I am under a cloud — literally. A cloud of pulverized metal, asbestos, and human beings blankets my city.

I find it hard to work, hard to think. Like my mother when she began to come down with Alzheimer’s, I find myself at a loss for names, a loss for dates, a loss for titles of books I’ve read.

I say, "that guy, that actor, who married that woman, actress, who was in Batman" when I mean Alec Baldwin.

I say "that fucker" when I mean bin Laden.

That one doesn’t bother me.

The thing is, like everyone, I keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The thing is, I feel helpless as an embryo.

20 September 2001

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