September 20, 2001

Listening to PBS commentary on Bush's address to Congress. I love Mark Shields. I mean love. He is able, succinctly and with great humor and edge and insight, to illuminate politics and national affairs with a sense of history and both institutional and personal politics.

Today I feel lost and sad. I am utterly unable to focus on work. It rained quite hard through the day and I imagine that the relief depot effort ended with a whimper rather than a bang. As it was ad-hoc, I have no contacts to have a drink with, no last harrah as we fold the last tent up. I imagine the roadway now darkened, the truckers who counted on comfort and cough drops driving into the perimeter in silence. These are the days that routine, a full-time job, structure, family would be of enormous help. The way that things have not changed, and yet the ways they have, would be more evident, less solitary and subjective. Freelancing is lonely and amorphous. Oh, to end a fractured workday of mutual distraction and unproductivity with a beer and some friends. Oh, to be a scholar or policymaker or have some position of responsibility and decisionmaking that matches my desire to act with purpose. Today's Times had an article about people returning to their apartments in lower Manhattan and had a picture of Yaffa of Yaffa's, the ubiquitous doyenne of weird (she was on the cover of the style section around the time of 100 dalmations, in her cutout ragbag black and white outfit and her brace of dalmations). I was hoping to spend last tuesday afternoon at Yaffa's, where I worked and met Heather W (a fellow waitress). I thought being with a group, having a beer, that close (Hudson and N Moore) would be the right way to spend that day, but the street was already closed and remains so. It's pretty amazing, what's happened to businesses close to the world trade.. those areas are so quiet, like some older frontier town feeling, and the restaurants have become gathering places for only local residents, as no one else can get in. I crave that feeling, because things matter so directly there. Yaffa's had an amazing mixed clientele; many big-name artists and filmmakers with nearby lofts, and fedex people and warehouse workers from the remnants of industrial downtown. When I was in Soho a week ago, the only open restaurant of that entire chi-chi bistro zone was Fanelli's, a nice old bar and basic Italian food joint where I've spent quite a few good evenings (similar vibe to the Ear Inn on Spring). It was almost deserted but open and intimate and inviting, although I felt a trespasser as I didn't live in the area.

I do believe that although I'm not 'directly' affected by this tragedy, that we here have absorbed and are still absorbing the energy of a lot of close-by suffering, that we are breathing the molecules of destruction and death, that in some non-mystical way (more akin to how we have levels of sub-rational senses) we felt that wave of intensely and violently released energy, of souls, perhaps. I now feel closer to understanding what was in the buildings and the character of the people in Berlin, a place of seige and fear and betrayal and rubble and rot. Just two blocks from where I lived was the Sophienstrasse, once the heart of a Jewish quarter, now with plaques commemorating days of massacre. I'd walk down there because it's pretty and cobblestone-y, because it has a wonderful local bakery and an English fish-and-chip place where it intersects with Orienenbergerstrasse. It does hurt that Stefan has not called. I believe he has a new child by now, with his American wife. I miss the community I knew there, how it was always group dinners with freely flowing grappa and long nights of clubbing in the unmarked hinterhof illegal kneipes. It's so possible to fall through the cracks of your own history as if through wire mesh. I read that Ann Carson is collaborating on a performance/opera. I'd like to call her. Suzanne called, wrote, and invited me to visit. Nathan called to report anti-Arab sentiment in his mixed-recent-immigrant neighborhood. Anger from Carribeans who've wasted their Lotto dollars in Arab-owned bodegas, anger, oddly, from Chinese-Americans.

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