It's been a couple of weeks since I posted, and I've been hard at work wrapping up the book and trying to find some psychological footing. Nevertheless, I feel that it is my duty to bring attention to the latest sign of the upcoming apocolypse: Jeff Bezos is selling tacos on national TV.
Jeff Bezos: Yo quiero Taco Bell
Better yet, you can purchase the Quesidilla Handheld at Amazon.com right now! Check it out:
Amazon.com: buying info: Taco Bell Chicken Quesadilla Handheld
I have received over 4000 messages since Tuesday, most from strangers to whom my accounts had been forwarded via email. This is a document recording 10,000 words worth of their experiences and stories from around the world about 9.11.01. There are so many voices and such an outpouring of grief, solidarity, anger and compassion that I am endlessly honored to have received them. My thanks, condolences and hopes are with you all.
Thank you so much for your messages.
I have no words for the heroism of these Americans who saved our nation's capitol more horror at the cost of their own lives. They took a vote to attack--the most raw and primal form of democracy I have ever heard of.
On Doomed Flight, Passengers Vowed to Perish Fighting
Continuing on the hateful post below, this message from Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson has managed to renew and reinvigorate my total disgust for these men and their viewpoints. I'm embarassed that they profess to be Christian and I regret that they are Americans.
God Gave U.S. 'What We Deserve,' Falwell Says
Not to celebrate human stupidity, but let us not forget the name of this infantile, hateful columnist in the years ahead: this horrific tripe is written by ANN COULTER, who has a national platform to speak these words of hate:
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.
Another firsthand account, this one from inside the building:
WTC Terrorism Experience
This open letter expresses my own feelings so strongly, it's the first thing I've read in years that moved me to tears. I wish our President had read this letter.
An Open Letter
Salon report from two former Senators whose 30 month bipartisan investigation on what was needed to combat terrorism in the US was ignored and disregarded by the Bush administration. Instead, Bush's former gubernatorial campaign manager was placed in charge of FEMA and the millions spent on the study were ignored. No measures of any kind were implemented before 9/11/01.
When his comission was ignored, former Senator Gary Hart said just a month ago, "We're in an age where we don't want to deal with serious issues, we want to deal with little boys pitching baseballs who might be 14 instead of 12."
Years Of Unheeded Alarms
This is a good technical overview of why the building collapsed--I've been a little aggravated at listening to people bad-mouth the building's designers, and this article confirms my thoughts: it's actually quite remarkable that the towers were able to hold together as long as they did, and a testament to their stability that they collapsed straight down.
How the World Trade Center collapsed
Chris Tremlett, whom I have never met or spoken with, teaches English in Dubai, capitol of the United Arab Emirates. Her story on the student's reactions is sobering and important for the days ahead.
The View From Here
Here is an excellent resoure page of links, including breaking news, donation info, first-hand accounts and background information on the WTC, the attacks in 1993 and some historical perspective. This is solid, in-depth information that can help you feel grounded in a time of crisis.
9/11/01 Information Resources
The rescue workers need clean T-shirts and socks, fresh water...my friends at Netslaves have posted email and fax contacts for various countries in an attempt to get a grassroots effort started to get these companies to help contribute in bulk. This is something you can help with from anywhere in the world:
Aid the Rescue Workers
Yes, I know there are millions of photos already. These are simple digital photos, unretouched, and so they may help people who need a slightly blurrier, more human perspective. I am struck by how much the pictures look like the ones people take every day; unprofessional, simple pictures of skylines.
One of the most human accounts of Tuesday's horrific events is Paul Bacon's. He's written for Inside.com, McSweeney's, Might, Mother Jones and all the other places that the cool kids hang out, and you can peruse his fevered writings here. I met him at one of the McSweeney's readings I did this summer, about a thousand years ago.
Paul Bacon's Account.
I want to make people aware that Amazon.com, my oldest and dearest friends, have created a way to donate to the Red Cross that is quick, painless and Amazon has waived all their fees during this crisis. They raised the first million dollars in under 24 hours, and if you're feeling overwhelmed there are few things better than hitting "refresh" on your browser and seeing the donation totals going up over $1000 every thirty seconds.
CONTRIBUTE TO THE RED CROSS DISASTER RELIEF FUND INSTANTLY.
Thank you, everyone who works at Amazon.com. This is a very good thing you've done today.
I am writing this from my home in Brooklyn after leaving Manhattan. I have signed up for a time slot to give blood later this evening and have a few hours available before then.
After my last posting I made my way east through an urban moonscape--everywhere there is ash, abandoned bags in the street, people looking lost. I managed to get a cell line out to Jean-Michele, who is still in Seattle, and she helped me navigate with online maps as I plotted my exit strategy.
Bizarrely, I caught a taxi crosstown. I was standing at a corner, I�m not even certain where, and a taxi was sitting there. A very pushy woman, whom I will always be thankful for, barged her way into the cab. In a moment, without thinking, I climbed in too. The driver, a Pakistani guy who had an improbable smile, immediately took off.
The ash blocks out the sun downtown--it�s like driving in an impossible midnight, and even more impossible that I�m in a cab, with this woman who won�t stop trying her cell phone and another man, my age, who looks like he�s been crying. Maybe he just has ash in his eyes. I know I do--I feel like I will never see properly again, though that�s probably just trauma. I don�t even know where the driver is going. The crying man got someone on *his* cell phone, starts explaining what he�s seeing out the window. It�s like having a narrator traveling with us--I only notice the things that he is describing as he describes them.
God bless that taxi driver--we never paid him. He let us all off, and I think he got out as well, near the Brooklyn Bridge. There are cops everywhere, people are herding themselves quite calmly, mutely, onto the bridge. We all walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, which is unbelievably beautiful, the wires and stone of the bridge surrounding us and the bright sun ahead, passing out of darkness.
No one is talking to each other, but there is a sense of warmth. Everyone has their cell phones out, fishing for a clear signal. Those who catch them talk hurriedly to families, friends, people in other cities, children in their homes. It is comforting to hear their voices, telling how they are okay, shhh, it's okay, I�m okay. As we walk out into the sunlight, I am so happy to be in this company, the company of people who are alright, those who walked out.
I was in the city today to turn in some of my book, I had stayed up all night writing and I was so worried--is it ready, have I done my work? Those questions seem small today--not unimportant, but smaller, in a new proportion. I kept thinking of how much I have left to do in my life, so many things that are undone, people I haven�t spoken to in years. It's overwhelming to feel everyone around me thinking the same thing, the restless thoughts trickling over this bridge as we come back to Brooklyn.
From the Promenade I stand with hundreds of others, listening to radios, watching the plumes of smoke and the empty holes in the skyline. People stand there for a long time, talk to one another in hushed tones. Someone hands out a flier for a vigil this evening, which I will go to after I give blood.
What can be said? Just this: we will emphasize the horror and the evil, and that is all true. It is not the entire story. I saw an old man with breathing problems and two black kids in baggy pants and ghetto gear rubbing his back, talking to him. No one was rioting or looting. People helped each other in small and tremendous ways all day long�a family was giving away sandwiches at the Promenade. Everyone I talked to agreed to go give blood. If a draft had been held to train people to be firefighters there would have been fights to see who got to volunteer.
No matter how wide and intricate this act of evil may be it pales in comparison to the quiet dignity and strength of regular people. I have never been more proud of my country.
I am writing this from downtown New York. In a perverse reversal, I have no way to contact anyone except through my high-speed wireless internet connection--phones are out, and electricity in the area is intermittent.
The media will ultimately tell the story better than I, but I can tell you that there is massive loss of life. The sky is black with ash, the people have been panicking and fleeing in unadulterated terror. I have never seen anything like it. It is very difficult to breathe, even with your mouth covered--the ash blows down the streets and burns your eyes. It feels like the world has ended. When the screaming started and the crowds began to run after the second plane struck it was a horror film running in overdrive, jumping frames and cutting in and out. Time got lost--I don�t know how long this went on. I have a cut on my leg. I ended up in a Wendy�s where a huge number of us took refuge. I don�t know where the workers were--I helped get water for people.
I am starting to see emergency workers, and the streets are clearing somewhat--at least the first waves of panic are passing. I�ve seen bodies draped in white sheets--it took me a time to realize those were bodies, not injured people; they must be out of room or not be able to get them to the morgues or the hospitals.
I�m headed for the Brooklyn Bridge to walk out of the city. I�m going to stop at any hospital I find to give blood before leaving. If anyone reading this can, please donate blood--I heard from a medic that the hospitals are already running out.
Act Now And I Will Write You Into My Book For $5
And the creeping march of commercialism and advertising continues--a story from Salon concerns a writer whose latest novel was originally comissioned by a corporation and featured "paid placement" for products within it. The ethical lines are murky--there have been patrons in the arts for thousands of years that demanded a kind of "brand fealty", but the fact that this sort of thing is happening NOW is no accident--corporations and corporate interests are infecting every aspect of our waking life.
It makes me wonder at my own placement with regards to Amazon.com--while I am critical of the company in many ways, does the act of bringing the lens of attention on them make me complicit? I don't think so, because they certainly haven't paid me to do this, but at the same time if the book sells very well on Amazon, I'll have to hash out those feelings in more detail.
On the other hand, every time Amazon sells a book they lose on average between 19 and 38 cents, depending on whose numbers you believe, so maybe it is a bizarre act of corporate defiance.
At any rate, here's the link to the relevant story:
Salon.com | Your ad here
This Sunday I played Bumbershoot, Seattle�s titanic arts festival.
I actually worked at Bumbershoot a year ago, as the guy who checks out radios all day long and checks them in at night. I got the job through a friend who was losing her mind as one of the main organizers of the festival. She needed someone, and as I had been unemployed for six months at this point, I leaped at the chance.
If this opportunity ever comes to you, take it. Working for an enormous arts festival has a lot of perks: free food, free coffee and all the art you can swallow. The downsides are that the food is day-old cheesecake donated from Entenmanns, the coffee is paint thinner mixed with sewer juice and the art is happening so fast and in so many places that you absorb it in fractured pieces. Fire eater/cheesecake/hand out radios/juggler/cheesecake/poet/recharge radios/cheesecake/rock band/cheesecake/dancing girls/cheesecake. Four days of cheesecake does things to a man that should not be spoken of aloud.
Nevertheless, it was a great experience to do fucked up shit for pay, like making candles for Sandra Bernhard and calling a limo for Eric Bogosian. Impressions: Sandra is something of a prissy bitch (�the candle must be ADORNED in CINNAMON sticks and the WAX must be CLEAR�) and Bogosian is a pretty laid back guy. I didn�t get to speak with him, but my wife said he sounded nice, which counts as she is a great judge of character. I somehow slipped past her radar.
This year it had all changed�I was still working for Bumbershoot, but this time as a performer at the Seattle Rep�s largest theatre, which seats an ungodly number of people. When we had our technical rehearsal in the morning it was great�like a poor boy had come down from the mountains to see how city folk live. Instead of a garage we were performing in a vast cathedral. Instead of 10 lights I had to refocus every week because rock bands shook them there were 400 units, arrayed in perfect symmetry and ready to command. The sound system was not my stereo brought from home and juryrigged into an ancient set of amps�they have their own CD player! After living on the fringe for years it was a little like being welcomed back into heaven: the heaven of subsidized theater. Like most of my ideas of heaven it was too open, empty and austere for me to ever feel like I was really at home.
The techies were delightful, and showed Jean-Michele the intricacies of calling shows with union operators; normally she does it all herself, but in this space there are rules and regulations as well as computers, so that all her delicate and refined timing had to be translated into beats and numbered counts for the machines. For the most part it worked, and the crew was sharp, but at the end of the day you can�t beat the human touch�she knows what I�m doing before I do some nights.
The show went up at 9:30pm, opposite DAVID LEE ROTH. Yes, I had to compete with the inimitable DAVID LEE ROTH, Lord Of The Ninth Hell, for my audience. Luckily the show organizers were correct in their assumption that the Rothians, his worshippers and lackeys, would not be the same folks that want to watch some guy talk about his old job for 90 minutes. We pulled in a pretty full house, which amounts to around 500 people, I think�no one seems to know how big the theatre actually is. The website is woefully ignorant, and I have heard guesses from �around a thousand� to 400. In any event, it�s very large and the techies were impressed.
The show itself went splendidly, aside from one moment when I had this intense sense of vertigo near the top of the show and was convinced I would fall into the audience. I was in a very bright light and could see nothing, so this voice in my head kept saying, �Goooo ahhheeeeeaad�jump. You miiiiiiight as weeeeelllll jump�� Damn you, Roth! The siren call of that aged rocker did make me wonder what would happen if I just stepped off, dropping me six feet into the surprised faces of yuppies out for some culture-in-a-box. I do not think they would have let me body surf.
The show ended splendidly with a standing ovation, and as I left the stage I really felt different�like this experience, having moved from being a guy who labors to a main attraction at this festival captured a piece of what these last nine months have been like for me. I was content and satisfied to have such a neatly drawn example in my life�like the lines parents draw on the kitchen walls to track how much taller their kids are the next year. I felt like I had grown, in my work, my approach and my expectations. It was a very Jedi Master, now-I-have-learned-to-deflect-bullets-with-my-mind moment.
I trotted out to meet my friends and companions after the show, excited and ready to go out, to discover that no one but us had brought a car. So we loaded nine people into a my parent-in-law�s wood-paneled station wagon along with a 70 pound hardwood fire door and all the props, stacking people like cordwood in the back atop one another. We then rode around town, soon discovering that since my brother was under 21 we couldn�t eat anywhere because fascist Seattle cards constantly and with prejudice.
As we passed our fifth restaurant, I was so oddly happy. The aimless driving and searching, the underage problem, looking for something to do, the sinking despair�it had happened to me one more time. It�s high school, right in front of me. I am 28�it may not happen again. When it came it was so welcome and so unexpectedly perfect. It was youth, all miserable driving nights and cups of coffee and the constant wish that something would happen.
I don�t think I would remember the first experience with clarity if it had not been for the second. I never want to be young again, but it was important to be reminded why.