finally managed to overcome the excuses not to write and put two more
days into words. I caution you that they are darker and perhaps less
interesting then the previous efforts. My efforts will be shorter and
further apart, I am not sure how much more I can do that will hold
interest and I am not sure how to conclude this. I think my next effort
will be to describe the area around here as it has evolved over the last
week and a half.
tell you that living down here takes its toll. I am at the northern edge
of it all and you are always aware. Not so uptown, it is much less
toll is so insignificant compared to those who labor to clear the more
then 1 million tons of debris. And so meaningless compared to those who
lost loved ones.
people have asked what they can do to help. Now, I think the best is to
live life as best you can. And, be an American, which is more then
flying a flag and supporting your president. It's doing what we do best;
go shopping, go to a restaurant, fly (never been safer!) and come visit
are cheaper! You can even get tickets to "The Producers" at less then
the cost of most countries Gross Domestic Product! I ran into a Londoner
in Grand Central Terminal the other day. He was having a grand time, and
I thanked him for coming. He couldn't have been more pleased. Nor could
want to be added to the list, or taken off, please reply to me with the
request. If I've forgotten to add you or remove you, I apologize; please
let me know, gently...
included all the previous days diaries, in case you are new to this.
entries are titled "9.17.01" and "9.19.01" and are near the bottom...
haven't forgotten the web site either. Soon. I promise...
first week of restored “normalcy” started with the sound of low-flying
aircraft engines and then the sound of sirens. I didn’t want to know. In
my half-dream state it was more than disturbing. The radio kicked on and
at each newscast I forced myself to listen for the new disaster. There
pushed forward into real consciousness a bit later I recognized it as
the sound of helicopters and not jet engines. I felt a bit silly with
myself, but it shows how deep this scar is. For all of us.
most of us, I didn’t have the energy, desire or ability to try and work
last week. But, as a “rent-a-geek” I only make money when I actually get
out and do billable hours.
feeling otherwise, the world hadn’t stopped neither had reality. As much
as I felt it had.
client had been patient, as one would expect, but the work needed to go
on. And we were being asked to be “normal,” it wouldn’t be appropriate
not to try…
hard part was this job required a trip to Newport, in Jersey City, NJ.
It required a trip on the “PATH” (Port Authority Trans Hudson) train.
The PATH tracks are like a figure 8 with the top and bottom swirls cut
off. One bottom one went to the WTC and the other to 33rd
Street. The top ones went to Hoboken and Newark.
normal route would be to walk or take a quick train ride to the WTC. It
was the last stop on the “E” train, which I always took. Even though the
“A” and “C” trains, leaving from my station, would bring me close to the
trade center, the “E” brought you in it. It was like the last stop on
the Orient Express. From the first car, you would quickly jaunt past the
car cleaners, leaning on their mobs and brooms, waiting for the train to
clear, so they could quickly swab out the trains with dirty water and
get back to their rest.
past the bumpers at the end of the tracks, for they really did terminate
a few days after the attack, I had a dream I was standing in this very
spot. So real, I could see every detail, even in the dim station light.
I was standing there facing the tracks, for the trip home. Then a train,
larger then life, now in retrospect, like a tower on its side, comes
down the tracks, too fast. It smashes through the bumper, through the
concrete platform and right at me. I am frozen, motionless and dead.
dreams, at least, you get to wake up…
clear the turnstile on the way out, take a few steps more to the wall of
glass doors and inevitably pick the same exit door that someone,
hurried, oblivious and tense, would want to use to enter the subway. A
bit of the New York two-step and we would squeeze past each other. They
in a hurry to catch the “E” and maybe slip on the drying ooze on the car
many made it to safety through those same doors.
handicap ramp or leap the few steps into the Mall, just below the plaza.
To the left is the newsstand, in front the pretzel and ice cream stand.
Turn to the right. Borders is on the right. Still is for now. Then the
hair salon, then Lecters, the houseware store. On the left is another
passageway, I know the Warner Brothers store was there, what else?
the Lecters was Fine and Shapiro, the downtown branch of the upper west
side’s classic Jewish cuisine. If you were there at lunchtime, there
would be a line to get in, and being New York, you know that most were
left was a bank of phones followed by Ecce Panis, offering fresh bread
and only recently opened. On the right was usually my first stop. The
quick Japanese take-out and bar. Grab a cucumber and a tuna roll. Left
my wallet there once. It was still there 30 seconds later when I
returned. See, the stories aren’t true!
left at the brokerage house with the big scrolling stock ticker. Or go
past the watch booth past the stairs leading up or out, and hit the
Duane-Reade pharmacy for Pepto-Bismol in anticipation.
the first escalator the long one, under the new fancy LED information
display. At the mid-level, all the walls and columns would be covered
with one-theme advertising. It was printed on some sort of plastic that
adhered to the walls, every brick and blemish telegraphed through.
the next escalator, the short one. Or hop down the stairs. The lower
plaza. On the right was McCann’s bar, playing ‘50s music from ceiling
speakers. It’s dark and smoky, even before you get through their doors.
You could smell the stale beer before you could see the bar. I think
they pumped out like a pheromone for barflies.
there was always someone there, no matter what time of day or night.
front was a large newspaper and magazine stand. I would occasionally buy
a chocolate bar, if I needed change for the PATH, especially since
the fare just went up to $1.50 from $1.00.
the right past the McCann’s (your could go left too, but I needed the
front of the train) and to the turnstiles. You could buy a multi-trip
ticket, which I often did now that the fare went up. Easier then digging
up quarters. Or you could pay each fare at the appropriate turnstile.
through the tollgate, you choose your stairs for Newark or Hoboken. My
stop was on the Hoboken line so down the first escalator. Except at rush
hour when the escalator went up, so you had to loop around the exiting
traffic and hit the stairs that faced the other way.
platforms were dark, and dingy but clean. There were far more tracks
then trains, and I once figured out that the trains actually made a loop
somewhere in the deep recesses under the towers, so many stories above.
Man, you could survive a Nuclear Attack down here.
are some interesting pictures at:
recently had put up Computer Screens that ran news and sports headlines,
the weather, stock prices and PATH information. Keeps you distracted
whilst you wait.
promised an upcoming renovation to the station.
trains themselves were fairly modern, but the tunnels, dark, dank and
dripping seemed far more medieval. The tunnels are narrow; the trains
fit a piston in a cylinder and as they moved you could almost feel the
air resistance fighting any motion.
eating my instant sushi, I would watch out the front always expecting
disaster as the cars bounced and swayed against the air pressure and in
defiance of the narrow clearance inside the tunnel. The tracks twist and
turn and peel off at switches in mind-numbing frequency. It was
far more interesting then any roller coaster, and you didn’t get sick to
maybe from the sushi.
stops and you were at Pavonia/Newport, section of New Jersey where the
passenger and commuter trains would terminate and you would transfer to
the ferries to New York, all in the pre-tunnel, pre sky-scrapper era.
Until recently it was an abandoned shell of ancient industrial might.
today, it’s different. The station will never be renovated, it’s
destroyed, collapsed under 110 stories of tower and 5 stories of
underground floors. Its tracks are flooded by firefighting efforts and
destroyed water mains. There is fear that the “bathtub,” the gigantic
3400 foot concrete tub built to contain the huge subterranean foundation
of the WTC complex from the Hudson River may be damaged.
Exchange Place Station, the first stop in New Jersey after WTC, they
discovered water was coming through the tunnels. They have poured a
3-foot thick concrete plug, like a cork in a bottle, to protect the rest
of the system.
it’s different. I need to get to the other end of the system. Although
there are closer PATH stations, I decide to start at the other terminus
in NY at 34th street.
on the uptown “A” and transfer at West 4th for the 6th
Ave lines. Although it’s about one in the afternoon, the trains are
full, but not crowded. Most are quiet, lost in thought, sadness, grief
and, still, disbelief.
of young children squeal and play. In any other time we would be ready
to snap at their bad behavior, at their parents for being so insensitive
to the rest of us. But not today. They are spared, in their youth
and innocence, as children often are, as they often should be, as they
too often aren’t, from our wrath.
we could be so free, especially now.
that day, or maybe the next, I am in line to pay for some cookies for a
client at a drug/convenience store. A young child, maybe a year old, a
little chubby, a lot blond, and in a stroller, turns, pacifier in mouth
and grins at me. We make faces at each other, each leading to broad
smiles and gurgles of pleasure, in him and me. He is unaware of our
reality. I wish I could trade places with him, right then and there…)
PATH train is, too, quiet, somber and crowded. After many stops I get
out at Pavonia/Newport, but arriving from the other direction.
section of Newport is undergoing a “Renaissance” (what a terrible word
to describe unbridled commercial development) and what was the old
abandoned train/ferry terminal area is now malls, marina, office
buildings, a new “light-rail” system and tall and bland high-rise
apartments with a spectacular view of, well, downtown Manhattan, now
a small detour and head the half-block to the waterside. The sky is blue
and clouds fill the background. And the smoke. I am almost directly
opposite ground zero, on the other side of the Hudson. On any other day,
it would be a “million dollar” view. A small group of people sit by the
water, but many have their back turned.
my camera, but only two shots left. I take them. They could have been
postcards. From here you can’t tell anything’s wrong or missing.
for the smoke.
I do my
work, two hours in a small dim computer room. It’s almost mindless but
requires concentration. At least I am physically removed and isolated.
back is similar, but in reverse. Once off the PATH I head uptown to
check on another client. The “F” train is crowded. It’s closer to rush
hour, such as it is these days. A large woman is sprawled on the seat in
front of me; head back, legs and arms akimbo. She snores loudly.
Probably from the endless and repetitive media coverage.
Pleasant dreams, sweet princess…
on the way home, at the tail end of rush hour, the trains are more
crowded, but I manage to get a seat at the next stop. Someone sits next
to me, and in the spirit I am trying to foster, forever, I offer my seat
to her companion. She declines.
next stop there is a lot of commotion and struggle as people try to
enter and exit at the same time. I turn to my companion and say, “Well,
things sure seem back to normal…”
gave me the look.
“whad are ya, friggin crazy” look.
must be getting back to normal.
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