You Only Live Twice: A 9/11 Story

True story.

15 years ago…

On September 10, 2001, I was working in the graphics department of an asset management firm located in midtown Manhattan. My graphics colleague from the Atlanta office, Jose, was in town for marketing and branding strategy meetings.

As he left the office that evening, he told me about his plans to visit the observation deck of the World Trade Center the next morning before coming to work. Jose was an architecture buff. He was thrilled at the opportunity to see Manhattan from such a rare perspective. The weather forecast was for bright, blue skies.

The next morning, at 8:46 a.m., the first plane flew into the North Tower.

At 9:03 a.m., the second plane hit the South Tower. The tower with the observation deck.

Our offices were on a high floor on 6th Avenue and 46th Street. The employees gathered in the main conference room, which had sweeping, unobstructed views of the southern tip of Manhattan. We watched in stunned silence as one tower fell. Then the other.

It would be up to our manager to contact Jose’s family in Atlanta to tell them of the tragic misfortune. He was a young guy. Really bright. And so happy to be visititing New York.

At 11:00, Jose walked into our office.

He had overslept.

The hotel maid had drawn the blackout blinds—something he never does himself, preferring to rise with the sun. When his alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. the room was dark. He was delirious from being woken from a sound sleep. He thought he’d set his alarm incorrectly and that it was still the middle of the night, so he went back to sleep.

While brushing his teeth and cursing himself for having missed the chance to visit the observation deck, a special bulletin came on the TV. He sat in his hotel room, transfixed to the TV, not realizing we all thought he’d perished.

I hadn’t spoken to Jose in many years. I reached out to him this past weekend just to confirm I didn’t imagine this happening. It’s all true. He left graphic design and now works designing medical devices at M.I.T.

~~~~~~~~~~

I saw Springsteen perform earlier this year and sent a couple concert pics to my pal, Sharon Florin, an artist who specializes in New York City architecture and is a yuge Springsteen fan. She was inspired and made two fetching oil paintings based on the photos. That’s my photo on the left and her interpretation on the right.

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I like the paintings better. The photos look too stark. Too ‘real’. I prefer the implied blur of the paint.

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Lesbian baby daddy

bins

June 19, 1992

Woke up on Sunday and there was a downpour, which I love. I was ready to enjoy a Brooklyn shut-in day with the cats, a pot of coffee and the Sunday Times when the phone rang. It was Kat. I’d forgotten that I promised to meet her for brunch. It’s her birthday. I swallowed my sour mood and got on the subway to the Upper East Side.

I paid $25 for two dozen half-dead carnations. The guy who sold them to me was an ass. Kat’s girlfriend was there so it was the three of us. Her girlfriend is a gym teacher. You wonder where these stereotypes come from. I am completely at ease around lesbians. I don’t feel threatened the way I do when I’m around a girl I want to sleep with. When you’re with a lesbian, the pressure is off. We can just enjoy each other’s company.

Kat has a big apartment but it’s right on 2nd Avenue by the Queensboro Bridge. It’s only three flights up so you get a fairly constant concert of traffic horns, bus fumes, sirens, yelling and other urban horrors.

Kat asked me if I wanted to be a sperm donor. She and her girlfriend want a child. She said I’d be free from any financial responsibilities or obligations. They can certainly afford to raise a kid. It’s very flattering but I said no. What about that poor kid? Isn’t he/she going to want to know who his/her father is? What do I say when that day comes? “Oh, your mothers said I didn’t have to have anything to do with you and I was okay with that.” That’s not right! I’d feel ashamed. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I don’t like the idea. They should look past their own selfish needs and see how these other lives would be affected.

I had planned to go back to Brooklyn after brunch but Kat insisted—INSISTED—I join them for the matinee of Man of La Mancha on Broadway. I felt kind of bullied but she bought my ticket and I ended up having a nice time despite my bad self. They already had tix so I sat alone, which was fine.

Raul Julia was Don Quixote. He’s such a good actor. And a hell of a voice, too. Sheena Easton was Aldonza. She’s so beautiful and so my type that I didn’t notice whether or not she could sing or act.

In one dance, Aldonza is beaten and raped by several men. Her hands are tied together and one guy gives her the business end of a whip. The choreography included a lot of gyrating and thrusting hips that inferred penetration. It was pretty graphic stuff, especially for Broadway. It was uncomfortable to sit through. I’m still haunted by it. There were a lot of little kids in the audience. Their parents must’ve been mortified. I don’t know how my poor Sheena does it eight time a week.

Rapper Sister Souljah said that black people should take a week off from shooting each other and only shoot white people. Isn’t that pleasant? Presidential hopeful Bill Clinton went on TV and called her a racist. There’s a huge outcry in the black community. They’re saying Clinton attacked her. Jesse Jackson called it a cheap shot. Vice President and professional idiot, Dan Quayle, was making an appearance at an elementary school. After a student wrote “potato” on a chalkboard, he walked up and added and “e” at the end, thinking it was a spelling error. What an imbecile. That guy is only one heartbeat away from the presidency. What an unexpectedly entertaining presidential campaign this is turning into.

I was alone tonight and happy for it. I went to Café Mogador on St. Mark’s Place. I had a bowl of split pea soup and a cappuccino. I watched the pretty girls come and go. I’m invisible to them.

~~~~~~

These wifi kiosks have popped up all over Manhattan. In addition to a wifi signal, they provide a touchscreen with full, free, internet access. it’s paid for by city tax dollars and advertisers.

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The problem they’re having is that homeless people are pulling up chairs and watching porn all day and night.

wifi2Fights have broken out. NYC is pretty cleaned-up as compared to when these journal entries were written, but it’s still got it’s share of grifters who game the system. In a twisted way, I find it admirable.

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I am not the enemy, ladies.

bins

April 6, 1992

Should I feel guilty about having fun at the pro-choice rally in D.C.? I believe in the cause wholeheartedly. It’s a matter of life and death. But Suzanne asked me to go with her and her friends and I wanted to seduce her. It was mayhem, as expected. The crowd was estimated at a half million people. How can they know for sure? Regardless, I think we got our point across.

I thought it was going to be a gentle, rolling sea of delightful bachelorettes but it was actually a raging tsunami of pissed-off political militants. There were portions of the rally that were downright anti-man. I felt like the enemy. I am not the enemy! I’ll tell you what it was a sea of: lily white faces. 100% Caucasian. Where was the minority representation? It’s their cause, too.

Planned Parenthood sponsored a special non-stop train there and back. I stopped at the Middle Eastern bakery on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn the night before to load up on snacks for the trip. I bought dried apples, cashews, dried bananas, peanuts, dried apricots, yoghurt covered raisins, some breads and a big bottle of water, the total of which weighed about 70 pounds. I got the gold medal for snacks. A fun, healthy, politically progressive combo. By the end of the day my body ached for a thick, undercooked cheeseburger. They all brought boring stuff to eat and glommed off my stash.

We got to the Washington Monument late in the morning. Bella Abzug spoke as well as the editor of Ms. Magazine and a bunch of other women. No men. None of them said anything new or inspirational. I was disappointed. You’d think a crowd that size would light their words on fire but each speaker was as boring and predictable at the next. Peter Paul & Mary sang “If I Had a Hammer.” Seriously? It’s not 1968, you idiots. Do something relevant.

We moved to the stepping-off point for the march and waited, literally, an hour before we could walk. It was that crowded. We were packed pretty tight and Suzanne started to have a panic attack so I told her to close her eyes and rest her head on my chest. I got excited. They had a bunch of boring, stock protest chants so I wrote this one on the spot:

2-4-6-8
I wish Bush could ovulate.

We finally moved and marched past the White House, which I’d never seen in person. It’s tiny. It’s like a toy model of the real thing. El Presidente made damn sure he was in Camp David for the weekend.

The march ended at the other end of The Mall by the Capitol Building. More bad speeches. Cindi Lauper sang a pretty song. There were a bunch of neo-hippies banging bongos, congas and drums with broken skins. At one point, Suzanne and I were sitting on a curb resting. I was spinning my web when, suddenly, bunch of them formed a drum circle around us and started drumming and chanting. There was some freeform interpretive dance that made me laugh very hard (inside). They resembled dying poultry.

There were so many different agendas being addressed that I began to feel disengaged from the core reason for the march. There was a feminist speaking (screaming, actually), calling for a new political party composed of just women, gays and minorities and with that voting bloc, they would take the White House this fall. Let me know how that works out, dreamers. Oh, and by the way, thanks a lot. Part of her speech was an attack on Middle America. You know, where my family is from. She screamed, “They don’t want US, so WE DON’T WANT THEM!” That’s a marvelous approach to our problems. Build those bridges, cupcake.

We got back to Penn Station about 11:30 at night. Everyone was exhausted, dirty and quiet. On the way up the escalator I thought the girl in front of me looked an awful lot like Mary Stewart Masterson. In the Times this morning, it said she attended, so I suppose that was her. Pretty.

I spoke to many, many people throughout the day and at some point in a conversation, I was eventually asked, “So, where did you go to school?” I like the look of disbelief on people’s faces when I tell them I’ve never stepped foot on a college campus. It allows me a brief respite from my self-loathing, which usually returns in fairly short order.

~~~~~~~

There’s a great Stuart Davis exhibit at the Whitney. He’s one of my favs. He plays to my graphic design sensibilities.

On June 23, 1964, after watching a French film that ended with ‘fin,’ Davis added it to the painting on his easel before going to bed.

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That night, he had a stroke and died in the ambulance on the way to New York’s Roosevelt Hospital. That’s how I’d like to go. Do the thing I love the most, go to bed and never wake up.

~~~~~~~

Two from Christie’s contemporary art auction a few months ago:

Christopher Wool
And If You
Enamel on aluminum
Est: $12,000,000-18,000,000
Sold for $13,605,000

Jeff Koons
Lobster
Mirror-polished stainless steel
Est: $6,000,000-8,000,000
Sold for $6,885,000

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That Christopher Wool is such a fraud. But Jeff Koons! What an innovator! Only $6 million?

Kidding. What does either piece mean? Anything? The lobster was interesting in that it looked exactly like an inflatable pool toy. You didn’t know it was metal unless you rapped it a few times with your knuckle.

Sittin’ stoned alone in my backyard

Dear Trent Lewin:

Thank you for the ping. Very thoughtful of you. A few summer projects have prevented me from reading blogs, commenting or writing new posts.

First, my backyard performance art installation, Ode to Summer, opened in June.

Ode to Summer, 2016
String, canvas, a tree, tube steel

I tie one end of string to my right foot and the other end to a tree. I lay in my hammock—a Father’s Day gift—and by moving my right foot slightly from left to right, I’m able to rock myself gently to sleep. To wit:

 

Second, I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which was a disappointment. To rinse that bad taste out of my mouth, I reread Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, a book I first read 20 years ago. I’d forgotten how beautiful and perfectly-written that story is. There’s not one wasted sentence. It filled me with melancholy and hopeless yearning for my youth.

Also, I wrote a book. I dared myself to do it. I took the journal entries I’ve posted here and many more that I haven’t and created a 75,000-word narrative. It’s currently being edited. Do you have any idea how much it costs to hire a professional editor to beat and thrash a manuscript into shape? It’s not cheap. I had to sell one of my rare books. I don’t know if it’ll ever see the light of day. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I did it! I’m pleased with the results. That’s what matters most.


Here’s a proper art exhibit, since you asked.

Nikki Rosato’s Inbound exhibit at the Seward Johnson Grounds for Sculpture is a sampling of her wall hangings and sculptures.

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Her medium is paper road maps. Remember those, old timers?

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She cuts away the land masses, leaving only the roads, boarders and waterways.

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Only the linear forms remain.

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It’s exacting, effective work.

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For sculpture, the maps are placed over Lucite forms.

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There was some mumbo-jumbo about the work being metaphorical for a personal journey. Get it? Map = journey. There was also some stuff about negative space and spatial counterpoints. As usual, I freely admit to lacking the intellectual capital required to see through to these metaphysical suppositions. The pieces were fetching and I respect the work that went into creating them. Isn’t that enough?


The many moods of Tillie.

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PNC1PNC2PNC3You go little plant! They built an outdoor concert pavilion on top of you but you found the light, anyway. We should all have such pluck.

Van Gogh’s ear. Schnabel’s head.

I’ve got a ton of art to post. Not all of it is good, but it’s all interesting. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Here’s a double-dip.

Elmgreen & Dragset
Van Gogh’s Ear

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Another large-scale public piece at Rockefeller Center. It’s a 30′ upended swimming pool. It works best if you don’t know it’s there. You turn a corner and are met with this displaced object. It’s comical.

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I’m not sure how they arrived at the title. Does it look like an ear? Elmgreen & Dragset’s previous installation was Project Marfa, a Prada store located in the middle of the desert in Texas. Equally pointless. Nice contrast and angels.

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This errie giant is standing sentinel at the Whitney. It seems as pointless as the previous piece but I like it.

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Urs Fischer
Standing Julian
Wax, pigment, steel and wicks

It includes wicks because it’s a candle. This is a wax statue of Fischer’s friend, fellow artist Julian Schnabel. The idea is that the wicks are lit each morning when the museum opens. It’ll burn down and be discarded. There are two wicks; one is on his shoulder.

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The clothing is made of steel but passes convincingly as cloth.

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The cast of Schnabel is a remarkable likeness. The mold can be repurposed. Fisher should create an army of Schnabel candles. He can sell them at Pier 1 Imports.

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The second wick is inside his head. I wonder how long this has been burning?

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bins

May 18, 1992

I called Lucy and accidentally slurred a couple of words. She asked me if I was drunk and I decided to run with it and told her yes, I was. I said I had a few glasses of wine and pretend to be drunk. I continued to slur a word every now and then and say things I’d never say sober. I occasionally threw in a cuss word.

I told her I thought she should change her mind about dating me. She said she’s a nightmare to date and she’d only make me miserable in the end. That’s probably the best piece of free advice I’ve received in a long time. I sure would like to see her naked, though. I occasionally think she’s ready to crack and surrender herself to me but then I look in her eyes and I see there’s nothing there. Do you know how sometimes a girl will look right inside of you and give you a soulful, sorrowful look that tells you everything you need to know? I get the opposite from Lucy. One look and I can tell she feels nothing for me.

She asked me to come over a couple of times during the course of the conversation. I told her Kat was going to Atlantic City over Memorial Day and that I’ll be staying in her condo in Long Beach in her absence. She stamped her foot and wanted to know why I hadn’t invited her along. Is she really that stupid?

On Saturday I had comps to a Broadway show, “A Small Family Business.” It’s by Alan Ayckbourn, who’s one of my favs. I met Maureen at the theater but once we got there we decided we’d rather see something lowbrow. We tried to give the tickets away but had a hell of a time. People in New York are so full of suspicion. Nobody wanted them. We were on our fourth couple when I finally thrust them into a guy’s hand and said if he and his girlfriend didn’t want them, they should pass them on to someone else but to NOT THROW THEM OUT.

We ended up seeing “Wayne’s World” in a disgusting Times Square theater that I wouldn’t bring mom into. It smelled like cats sprayed all the seats. The plaster was cracking and there were big holes in the ceiling. It smelled bad and looked worse. [Note: this is what pre-gentrified Times Square was like. I don’t miss it.] Sinéad O’Connor sat in front of us. She was with a gigantic bodyguard.

The movie was stupid, just like everyone said, and also very amusing, just like everyone said. We ate pizza and ice cream before the show and bought popcorn at the theater, which tasted like cat urine. We were kind of sick afterwards. I got home in time to see Geraldo Rivera box Frank Stallone on Howard Stern’s TV show. Geraldo got a proper ass-whopping. His protective headgear wasn’t on secure so when Stallone punched him, it would slip a bit and he couldn’t see. Hilarious.

I’m reading a book of essays by David Mamet. He says it’s no longer a thrill to see his words in print or spoken on the stage or screen. What a dick. Even if you felt that way, why would you say such a thing?


The storm that ate Manhattan. I took these from my office window on Thursday at 4:00. This entire sequence took 30 minutes.

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