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September 2001

Glitter

I’m too tired to post anything myself, so I’m turning the reins over to my friend Jim, who has some thoughts to share about the Mariah Carey train wreck, Glitter.

September 29th, 2001. The day I went to see "Glitter."

Remember how in 1980 Bette Midler came out of nowhere and gave a knockout performance in The Rose as the singer whose quick rise to the top and equally fast descent into fame-induced hell charred the lives of everyone around her? Remember how Bette became the critics darling, got tons of new fans, and received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress to boot?

Well, none of that’s going to happen to Mariah Carey. Nope. None of it. She'll never live this one down. (Future historians are likely to say that Mariah went straight to Beaches). The New York Post review of Glitter claims that whenever Mariah tries to emote in Glitter she simply looks like she's lost her car keys. What they didn't disclose is that not only is it beyond her limited capabilities to even "find her car keys," but had she managed to find the keys in this movie, she would've been promptly out-acted by them.

Yes, Mariah's problematic as the star of Glitter. (Of the seventeen times she says "what-eh-VUH," probably only about two are Inside the Actor's Studio-worthy). The directing is a big problem with Glitter. The nauseating "Let's pretend this is a Bazz Luhrmann film!" editing style of Glitter is a problem. Hell, as far as I know, the catering service and the cat trainer were problems on the set of Glitter. But the real, systemic, DEEP DOWN problem with Glitter is simply:

The Screenplay.

The screenwri a couple of years back. Lemme tell ya, that screenplay was her Gentleman's Agreement compared to this squishy dangle of Razzie bait. It puts the B in Banal.

Here's a sample of actual dialogue from early on in the film, when Mariah's character Billie (oh... as in Holiday! Gee thanks, Mom, for sublimating your frustrations at being a boozy lounge singer who never amounted to anything on ME!) first meets Dice, a Sleestak-y looking DJ thing (soon to be her producer-cum-boyfriend) at a downtown club during a theme night called "Least Convincing Recreation of 1983 — EVER":

DICE: Name's Dice — like lucky sevens.
BILLIE: I know who you are.
DICE: You do — really?
BILLIE: Yeah — I heard a lot about you.
DICE: Well. Don't believe everything you hear.

Followed by a pause to allow the charmed audience to finish their peals of laughter and Kleenex away the tears of mirth.

Glitter contains exactly ONE good line. During her first (disastrous, natch) video shoot, lots of little pieces of silver foil are blowing behind Billie and her "comedy relief" backup singers (although the only relief I felt with those two was when they were NOT onscreen) and the director character, in a fake Russian hiss, cuts the action and yells, "The glitter CAN'T overwhelm the artist!" I kid you not. He actually says that. (And a lot of other director-y things in an accent WAY less convincing than Walter "Mr. Chekov" Keonig's). The irony being, of course, that little silver pieces of foil caught in a wind machine actually ARE capable of overwhelming poor lightweight Mariah Carey.

Now imagine that the producers are asking the screenwriter to come up with a scene to show "you know, how Billie is an unsophisticated girl suddenly caught up in the whirl of Manhattan's hip downtown scene."

Great. What on-her-way-to-the-top movie would be complete without one of those scenes? So what did the screenwriter come up with? ESCARGOT! Yes, of course! There is actually a scene in Glitter where the befuddled Billie is served a plate of escargot in a fancy-schmancy restaurant — and she doesn't know what to do with it! And we don't even get the satisfaction of watching as Dice breaks the news to her that it's really snails! She has no intention of eating it, whatever it is. Period!

Sigh. She could've at least done a Lucy Ricardo and clipped the snail-holder to her nose and tried one. Even a Pretty Woman Snails-a-Flyin' Event would be better than simply cutting off the scene before the ached for and all-important snail reveal. O, what could have been.

I didn't check the credits to see of there was a Script Continuity person hired for this movie. If that’s the person who's supposed to make sure that all the scenes are strung together with SOME KIND of temporal sensibility, then either they didn't have one, or he/she was more out of it than Billie's mom.

OK, so after the "My Mom's a Drunk and Burned Down the House With Her Cigarette So I Have To Go Live In New York With My Cat" prologue, the movie cuts from Billie as a child to Billie as a club slut in the aforementioned scene at the downtown dance venue. The subtitle says "New York — 1983." Since Billie and Dice are all innuendo-ing around OUTSIDE, she in satin shorts, sports cap and pigtails that make her look like the bratty girl in Carrie, and he in an oooh-so-tight sleeveless black T and plastic pants number straight from next month's OUT magazine, one can only assume that it's NOT the dead of winter. So let's be generous and say it was a very warm April Fool's Day. Fine.

Now at the end of the movie, it's her SOLD OUT (we are reminded a lot) concert at Madison Square Garden. A close up of the ticket stub says "June 30th, 1983." Hold ON! Are we to believe that this entire movie, her whole glittering Homeresque epic journey from skanky back-up singer to sequin-gowned famous person, took less than 3 months!?!

I call no way.

And I swear that in a scene that shows Dice reading a Billboard magazine blaring the headline "Billie Franklin Sells Out MSG in 20 Minutes," the issue was dated APRIL 1983! SO... not only is this movie a rags-to-riches story... It's a TIME TRAVELLING rags-to-riches story! NOW I get it!

Dice gets shot in the chest and dies. Sorry to let that spoiler pounce on you like that, but we need to discuss the "Bad Guy" subplot (which is only slightly more annoying than the "Where's My Mommie?" subplot). I don't get it. Early in the movie, Dice offers Billie's original manager a hundred large (Dice's hip lingo for $100,000.00, not mine) to buy out her contract. He never pays the guy. So throughout the movie, the bad guy shows up every now and then and threatens to hurt Dice and/or Billie. SO WHY NOT JUST PAY HIM THE $100,000 THEY OWE HIM?

I mean, c'mon... Dice is on the cover of Spin magazine as DJ of the Year, owns a packed dance club (I think he owns it — he keeps calling it "my club") AND has a beautifully appointed loft! SHE JUST SOLD OUT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN and has had a #1 hit for 10 weeks (another continuity problem). THEY HAVE (or at least can GET) THE MONEY! It's not like they're putting the loot up their noses. (This movie seems to think that music people in the 80's didn't do drugs — boy now that’s realistic!) But no. They have no intention of living up to their verbal agreement. Instead, they let the problem fester until finally, on June 30th, 1983, (that’s right...Billie's big night!) the bad guy kills Dice. Billie of course goes on with the show (oh yeah — they've broken up at this point — it was a big scene — she took the now ancient cat, but no clothes — and MOVED OUT on his ass) and dedicates her big hit to his memory. The "big hit" that got her to the Garden, by the way, is a cover of "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On" which I believe in reality was a semi-moderate hit for Mr. Robert Palmer. Perhaps she should've done a Candle in the Wind-ish remake called "I Didn't Mean For You To Turn Up Dead." Was there anything GOOD about Glitter in the true sense of the word? Well, the ACTUAL songs from 1983 were mostly good, though I don't think it was the intention of the producers to so thoroughly counter-point the heinousness of the music created for the movie. And Ann "Frantic & Edgy" Magnuson was her usual wonderful self, even if the screenplay couldn't come up with anything more original for her to do than be a frantic, edgy publicist. I give her the "Gina Gershon in Showgirls Tongue-in-Cheek Award" for probably knowing that a piece of crap she was in, yet running in screaming joy to the bank with her paycheck.

I can't wait to see this movie again. (On DVD. With deleted scenes!) What I’m NOT going to reveal is the final scene. The scene that wraps it all up is thrown rock stunning, absolutely awe-inspiring in its sublime awfulness. If it weren't for the rest of the audience in the theater for the Saturday afternoon matinee I attended, (consisting of: two 11-year-old girls and me. Hey maybe they were script consultants!) I would've jumped up on my cushy seat and screeched "Jackpot!" over and over. As it was, I simply screamed it in my head. At least I think I was hearing my own voice. I’m not sure. Like poor Mariah, Glitter may have simply tipped me over the edge into temporary insanity.

Hopefully, one day, Mariah will be able to explain it all to James Lipton and again the world will make sense. Until then, I remain, as always,

Overwhelmed by the glitter,
Jim

Smooth Operator

So I’m sitting in the front row at one of the conference sessions, and I realize that one of the speakers is a total babe. He gives his shpiel, and it becomes also obvious that he's really smart and totally plays for the home team. So I’m sitting there trying to look all suave and intellectually engaged in the topic at hand, and I pop a contact. Suddenly, I’m a twitching, tearing spaz who can't see a damn thing. I have to race back to my hotel to get my glasses before the massive eyestrain headache sets in.

And people wonder why I can never land a fella.

Ready for My Close-Up

I am a freak, and here is the evidence.

I am feeling really tired this week. Lots of information to take in at the show, lots of people to see, and not nearly enough time to be the social butterfly I like to be when I breeze into a town.

And on a totally ambiguous note, I’d just like to say that when it comes to sweet but tragic crushes, when it rains it freakin' pours.

S.F. Update

Just so you know, I got to San Francisco safely and I’m having a lovely time so far. JFK airport was freaky — emptier than I could have imagined it, but not a hassle at all. The flight attendants for American were nicer and more accomodating than I’d ever seen them before, which I appreciated, seeing as I was flying in a Boeing 767, the new weapon of choice in modern warfare.

I’m geeking out in my usual style at the conference I’m doing, and having a splendid time catchng up with various celebrities like Jessie, Mark, Reese, Ricky, and Ayla. I’m almost tempted to go to the conference session where Meg is speaking, but I don't wanna cause any more trouble.

I'll catch y'all later!

Who's a Smart Boy?

Can I have a shout-out for my dear pal Paul Baker? Er, excuse me, that would be Doctor Paul Baker, as of this past Tuesday. Rock on! Paul finally snagged his Ph.D. for the linguistics research work he's been doing on Polari. I now feel like more of a slacker than ever before.

Stirring Thoughts

A great article in this week's Village Voice discusses exactly what I’ve been worrying about the last few days: that anger of the World Trade Center attacks could easily fuel a kind of xenophobic rascism that could make life awful for people in this city.

Una Noche Divertida

Sexy Mexicans are good for morale. At least that’s what I felt last night. My friend Josh and I decided that we've been feeling so fucked up about this whole past week that we could use a little cheery distraction. After some hemming and hawing, we went ahead with out plan to go see El Vez, the Mexican Elvis, play with his band, the Memphis Mariachis, and singers, the Elvettes (Priscillita, Lisa Maria, y Qué Linda Thompson), in an intimate little show down at the Mercury Lounge. It was a good call, and did wonders for our addled minds. The basic idea is that he's this guy from East L.A. who adds a whole South-of-the-border schtick to an amazing Elvis-themed cabaret act. This particular show is part of his "Boxing with God" tour, which actually gave him a good opportunity to plainly acknowledge how rough things have been this past week: he was able to express his sadness and sympathy and then seque right into the Gospel Elvis theme.

Not that it's just Elvis songs with the lyrics changed for comic effect — oh no! El Rey and his entourage do a whole show pulling from all over the spectrum of rock and pop history: Elvis, George Michael, Iggy Pop, The Doors, the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Naughty by Nature, and Simon and Garfunkel all appear in the reportoire. It was not unlike a Latino Kiki and Herb show without the pathos.

Lord knows there's been enough pathos this week. I’ve had to stop watching the news altogether as the media coverage turns completely to publicizing everyone's grief. It's upsetting enough to walk around New York right now, passing makeshift vigils and memorials at every turn, without having to watch people on TV being badgered by reporters to talk about their shock and sorrow. I just want news about what's going on now, whether or not we're going to give in to the public bloodlust and embark on a massive campaign of revenge. I’m trying to sort through my own reactions to this — reactions that have been much, much more powerful than I would have expected — and make sense of the changes in the people and the cityscape around me. Watching the TV coverage constantly churn up newer, sadder aspects of the whole thing is just not helping.

I think it'll be good to go to San Francisco next week and get a little distance from New York. Seeing all these candles and flyers and tributes, talking to people about what they've been through, and endless political discussions are really wearing me down. I don't expect the issue to go away, but I need to get further from the epicenter of so much sorrow and rage.

Flight!

Not that I’m itching to get out of town or anything right now, but it looks like work is letting me go to San Francisco after all. I’m doing nerdy conference stuff during the weekdays, but I get in next Saturday afternoon and will have that weekend, the next, and all the weeknights in between to hang out and run around and do fun stuff and whatnot. If you want to hang out some time, let me know so we can see if we can work something out.

Also, I finally booked my ticket for England. If you're in or around London sometime between November 17 and 26 and wanna hang out, let me know.

Back, Still Bewildered

Pardon my absence, but I took a total break from digital life this weekend, aside from scanning some weblogs for distraction now and then. I didn't have the energy to put words and thoughts together to post or send e-mails or even talk that much. I saw a lot of movies, tried to sleep a lot, and spent a lot of time walking around the East Village and Union Square. I wanted to get out and away from the news, but I didn't want to turn away from what's been going on here. Charlie hit the nail on the head, so I won't bother to paraphrase. We've been surprised at how deeply affected we are, and confessed that we were both relieved to discover we aren't nearly as self-absorbed as we thought. We also confessed that we have been writing nasty, indignant responses to every piece of spam we got last week.

I saw someone who made me happy in a way that made me sad. I shied away from human contact unless it was with friends who could just kick back and handle both the grave and the mundane. It was definitely not a good time for small talk yet.

So now let's see what the week brings us, shall we?

Outrage!

This bullshit make me want to puke. Jerry Falwell really is obsessed with being self-righteous.

Days Gone By in NYC

Back in the summer of 1989, my dad gave me his old Pentax K-1000 and a few pointers, and I set out to try and capture a bit of my New York City. I took hundreds of pictures, and there would be no way to capture so many views around the city without getting a lot of the Twin Towers in there. So here are a bunch of views that no one will ever experience again:

Looking down at the World Financial Center from the rooftop observation deck of Tower 2. The waterfront park below was still being built at this point.

Looking down at Battery Park and the mouth of the Battery Tunnel from the rooftop observation deck. This is the southern tip of Manhattan.

Looking up from underneath a light pole in the plaza beneath the WTC. From that angle, it's almost impossible to really appreciate the scale of the two towers.

Looking northwest at the transmitter tower (the main transmitter array is out of the frame), west midtown, the Hudson River, and New Jersey.

View of one of my favorite old office buildings from inside the marble-lined lobby of Tower 2.

Monuments

Bus shelters, light poles, and phone booths are slowly being covered with flyers showing the faces of people missing since Tuesday. It's a very moving tribute to the folks we assume are victims. Together, they form a widespread grassroots monument to these people.

In Union Square, giant sheets ef paper are taped to the paving stones. Throngs of people are writing messages and leaving tributes to their friends and family — pictures, candles, trinkets, flowers.

All over, notices are going up about where volunteers should go, where blood donors should go, where information about the injured and the deceased can be found.

I hope all those unlucky folks knew how much they were loved. I hope they felt some of all that devotion. And I hope the next time I try to explain to visitors that New Yorkers aren't as unfriendly as people always think we are, I hope those visitors believe me. I hope they get to see how fucking beautiful people here can be.

There's No Normal

It's horrible being back at work today. It's a complete farce. My boss is telling me that we really ought to be getting back to our duties, but it's ridiculous. I’m so agitated I feel sick to my stomach. It's just too distracting for me to concentrate on anything. Everyone I talk to has their own horror stories to tell, there are still sirens down in the streets, and people keep calling to see how we all are. We can't escape it yet, and it's much more difficult than being cocooned at home with the TV news. I desperately need to stop thinking about all of this now, but I’m too close. I’m pacing around the office like a caged animal at the zoo.

I was thinking as I walked up Park Avenue this morning that it was fascinating to see daily life creep back. People were walking to work, there was traffic again, everyone wasn't staring at the sky any more. It was a little subdud, sure, and there were cops and cadets and military personnel everywhere, but it seemed much more normal. It's not, though. Start talking to anyone and you find that Tuesday's massacre is still a visceral presence. Everyone knows someone who was down there, everyone is worried about someone who hasn't turned up yet. Everyone else seems to be as distracted as I am.

Also, I just got this story from my old childhood chum, Lynn:

Dear Family and Friends,

This is the first time I have been able to get access to email so I wanted to give you all an update. Let me start by saying that what I saw and experienced was life-altering and I haven't even begun to deal with the psychological effects yet. This is what happened.

I had an 8 a.m. meetingg at City Hall with the Mayor. When we heard the first boom it shook the building but we assumed that it was due to the construction next door in the Tweed Courthouse. However when the Mayor's staff and an exec from the Port Authority ran out of the room, we knew that something was up. We ran to the windows and saw the top of the WTC on fire. Within minutes I watched another plane crash into the second tower. Panic ensued but we were told to stay in City Hall as [something missing here]

I made it across the street (about 200 yards away) to Park Row and got a call from my Dad on my cell. I told him that I was fine and that I was walking with my boss back to the office because they wanted all employees to check in. At that very moment I heard a loud boom and watched the first tower collapse into itself. There was a giant cloud of swirling dust, bricks, steel and smoke moving at lighting speed in my direction. The crowds on the street were screaming. I cried to my Dad [something missing here]

They gave us water and masks as they dealt with the severe casualties. I then heard another loud boom and saw the second tower collapse. I ran out of the lobby (which had all glass windows) into a windowless men's room (the nearest safety I could find). I scared the crap out of two guys peeing but who cares. After the second collapse everything was worse: more screaming, more debris, more wounded, more chaos. Eventually I ended up on the floor of a first floor hallway [something missing here]

In the late PM, the hospital organized walking groups and I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge to my girlfriend's house in Brooklyn Heights (about 1.5 miles away). I had to stop because I was throwing up, felt faint, had difficulty breathing, had diarrhea and was dizzy. She helped me out, cleaned me up and around 5 pm I began to walk home to Park Slope (another 2M).

Yesterday I went to an emergency facility. I had several tests done, including a chest scan, and the doctor confirmed that I have smoke/debris inhalation. My oxygen capacity is below normal but not to worry. It's not bad, but enough to be uncomfortable. My symptoms come and go as I get better. I’m on meds and hope to be okay very soon.

My office is closed. We do not know when we will open as the building has been damaged. If I am feeling better tomorrow, I plan on assisting my colleagues who are at work in Brooklyn. My company, the NYC Economic Development Corporation, is trying to find temporary offices for all the displaced companies (including us). So far everyone in my department, Real Estate Development, is accounted for, including my boss.

I happy to report that my good friend of 13 years, "Ziggy," made it out alive from the 72nd floor. He is a broker at Morgan Stanley and reported to work today at a temporary office in midtown. I am blown away by his bravery and commitment to help others.

The skyline looks very eerie now. I doesn't look like NY. It doesn't look like home. However, I have no doubt in my mind that NY will come back because we are tough people who deal with tough situations all the time without blinking an eye.

My love and sympathy goes out to anyone who may be affected by this tragedy.

Love and BIG BIG thanks to you all - L

If you don't live here it may be hard to imagine that we are all hearing stories like this all day long. I can't wait for things to settle down some more, because it's so exhausting to keep processing all of these experiences.

And Now a Word from Someone Else

I just got this story written by a friend of the family who still lives on Staten Island:

I just returned from an unforgettable trip to Manhattan to help with the wounded. The ferry ride which was once a beautiful ride was a sad voyage across the water. Not a plane in the sky and the billowing smoke floating westward from where the towers once stood, a sight that will be etched in my memory for years to come. I feel a bit in shock at the moment. What I saw was nothing compared to the horrific sights that others have seen. We arrived at the S.I. ferry and we thought we would wrap bodies because we were told they were bringing them to S.I. on the ferries and then putting them on ice at the ice skating rinks on the island. However, there were no bodies brought there all day so they asked us to go to Manhattan to triage people. When we arrived at the N.Y. side there again were no casualties, only a few of the workers with exhaustion and a few people in traumatic shock. I got into an ambulance and we started up Broadway when we heard on the police station that another building was going down at John St. and Broadway. Then we saw police, firemen, army personnel, and civilians running from the West Side to the East Side and and I was terrribly scared. The ambulance stopped there to set up triage and a girl about 30 was being dragged by the police and she was ready to collapse. I opened the ambulance door and hoped out and we gave her oxygen and tried to calm her down. The area looked like a war zone and was totally unreal. I had to ask myself what the hell was I doing in there, but we felt so helpless doing nothing. Anyway we got the girl in the ambulance and brought her back to the terminal and stayed there and waited for the ambulances to bring in the wounded but only 2 came. I fear that there won't be too many to be saved or bodies to be bagged, only body parts. I have many friends — firemen and family members of friend — that are still missing. One friend's husband is now confirmed dead. He was one of the rescue firemen. The fear now is what will happen now and how will it all end.

Anti-Arab Sentiments

I get a sick feeling whenever I hear reports of people blindly, stupidly lashing out against any Arab they come across. The entire Arab world does not hate the United States (read this). Those people who do wouldn't necessarily wish that thousands of people would be killed over political, economic, ideological disagreements. Do you know what Arab-Americans are? Americans. Who came here to live and work and love and have families and get to know their neighbors and interact with all of us. And even get jobs in or near the World trade Center or the Pentagon. Anger and frustration and wounded pride over all this is starting to give way to blind racism, and I hope others have the fucking decency to try and stop it, or at least keep it in check as much as possible.

Helping Out

Yesterday was very frustrating, being on the other side of the river. The day before, it was a relief to get out of Manhattan and back to the comparative safety and stability of Brooklyn. Yesterday, I felt ineffectual. Riding around on our bikes, my neighbor and I didn't know if we were allowed to go over the bridges and get around downtown. We heard they were only calling for skilled volunteers like medical personnel or construction workers to help with debris, and we didn't yet know about the clothing and food drives. We certainly couldn't donate our homo blood, and we just felt kinda useless.

But there's stilll tons to do. If you're in New York, keep checking to see if another wave of volunteers is needed. If you can donate blood, please keep trying — hospitals will still need more as the fresh supplies dwindle. Get in touch with the Red Cross for updated information in your area.

There are also plenty of ways to contribute to the massive cost ofthe rescue and relief efforts:

From the Bradlands: "A dollar or a bunch, if you've already given blood (or made arrangements to do so) and are still looking for a way to help those affected by yesterday's events, here are some ways to donate money that will help people:"

Views from Brooklyn Heights

I had to get out of the house today, get away from the TV and see something with my own eyes again. I took my bike down to Brooklyn Heights so I could see the view from the Promenade that faces lower Manhattan, just south of the Brooklyn Bridge. I also wanted to stop in on my friends Jason and Holly, since Holly, a teacher at a high school right by the World Trade Center, was settling down from an all-day ordeal of getting 20 students and herself home from ground zero.

All the views from across the East River were odd, but not horrific, since all the damage was west, along the Hudson River. You could see smoke but no wreckage. And the skyline was wrong. The dominant feature that was always taken for granted, sometimes appreciated, was just plain gone. People were out checking the scene, and it was odd mix: some people were enjoying a sunny day, some were taking tourist photos just as if the buildings were still there, and here and there people just sat crying or sitting silently.

The view from the water by the landing of the Brooklyn Bridge

Jason, Holly, and I watched the news for a while, but we had to get away for a while. We immersed ourselves at the movies for a spell, then returned to the Promenade for sunset.

It's CRAZY to see those large black spots in the skyline view. Everything ought to be lit up like Christmas, with the Towers topping it all off. The darkness is VERY eerie.

Life is returning to normal in some ways. I go back to work tomorrow, and the restaurants and streets of Brooklyn were full of people, even if they were a little subdued. I’m very curious to see how the next few days go. People here have an incredible ability to adapt and reassert their daily lives. I wonder how long it will take for daily life to conform to this new set of circumstances.

News from Abroad

It's fascinating to get first-hand accounts of how people abroad are reacting. Mark has been either shellshocked or weepy over in Italy, and people there have been coming up and just giving him hugs when they realize he's American. They don't get the full sense on the shock this has to a New Yorker, especially one who used to work in the WTC, but they really get the sense of gravity about the whole thing.

My friend Terry called from London, all full of flashbacks of growing up in Belfast and and seeing outburst of terrorism periodically. There, the IRA managed to get the attention of the government, but the scale was so completely different. I could never really appreciate living through the kind of ongoing apprehension thay have, but I wonder if they can appreciate the newness of all of this to us.

People from all over have been adding comments to my entries here, reminding me that this is as big a shock to everyone else, not just those of us staring at the big clouds where the shape of the skyline has totally changed.

Later That Night

My DSL is gone for now, so I have to use crappy AOL dial-up. That is, when I can actually get a phone signal. Phone service goes in and out, and I haven't been able to make any long-distance calls on my cell phone. I’m OK, and I think most everyone else I know here is, too, but it's tough to get the word out to people elsewhere. I was able to talk to my sister for a few minutes, who said that her husband, a police detective, was on his way downtown when he had to go to the Bronx instead to look into a homicide. She thinks he won't be home for a couple of days, spending his time instead at one of the makeshift morgues they're setting up. My cousin, a fire chief, is apparently OK, but his sister's husband, also a firefighter, hasn't been heard from at all. Ralph and I have just sequestered ourselves in the house, glued to the TV news in lieu of any other means of contact with the outside world.

The mayor's discouraging anyone from going to work in Manhattan tomorrow, so I’m hoping to just ride my bike to Simon's house in the church tower and get some long-distance photos of the devastation downtown. It seems even more unreal since I’ve now been watching it only on TV. I need to see the evidence with my eyes again so I know it's completely real.

The Trip Home

Of course, this was the ONE DAY that I left my camera at home. The site of the Towers from the street and from work was fiction, surrealism, completely impossible to really accept. If you've ever been to New York, you know that you can see the Towers from all over the place. They're like a pair of compass needles for the whole city. My whole trip back to Brooklyn was punctuated by hundreds of views of the smoke rising from the rubble where I’d otherwise be seeing the Towers themselves.

Midtown was completely insane. From the office, I could see people swarming all over the streets, and people standing on the roofs of every building around, staring fixedly at the plume. Down on the street, it was mayhem. People were rushing everywhere, generally north. Tempers were flaring in the panic — especially in the fights over cabs. Paranoia was out of control. I passed an SUV on 3rd Avenue whose engine caught fire, and people were just flipping out when they saw the smoke. Every time an F16 flew overhead, every head around looked up — everyone is afraid of planes today. I joined a throng of people heading to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel after seeing cardboard signs go up saying the tunnel was open and every car around was taking people out of Manhattan. It really was an effective evacuation of the area. I caught a cab with a few other people, then walked home from Long Island City — a long, hot, weird journey filled with other refugees from a day that started out like any other.

I can't turn away from the news. The jingoism is driving me crazy. This is an attack against US, for God's sake, not democracy itself. Can the rhetoric, because no one's good enough to get it right. I actually prefer watching Adolph Guiliani and Governor Pataki talk about it, because they're shying away from the "threat to American ideals" bit (for the most part) and concentrating on the massive, massive rescue effort that is underway to control the chaos and the disaster in lower Manhattan.

When the dust settles (literally), I just know that Shrub is gonna do something stupid. Yes, we're going to have to do something, but he's not the person I want to call the shots right now. Even worse, he might come out of this as some kind of hero, just because he's in office right now. Whatever peope are able to do to handle the situation, he'll be able to claim credit for his leadership. Man, I bet they couldn't get Colin Powell on the phone fast enough this morning.

The Long Trek

Bridges are open to pedestrian traffic, so I’m going to walk up to the 59th St. Bridge and head home. It's going to be an absolute mess down there. We're going to look like villages full of war refugees with good shoes and courier bags. Wish me luck.

Again...

Pearl Harbor, Kennedy's assassination, the Challenger explosion, and now this. Another generation is going to have their first memory of exactly where they were and what they were doing when the shit hit the fan.

Ongoing Attack Thoughts

So part of the Pentagon collapsed from the explosion there, and there's a hijacked jet out of Pittsburgh that’s in the air. Is the Air Force going to have to shoot down an American plane filled with civilians?

It's completely insane around here. None of us are happy being in a skyscraper in Midtown right now, but there's nowhere to go really. I can't get home, I can't get anywhere outside of Manhattan, and the lower tip of the island is just a smoking mess right now. The skyline I’ve known my whole life is a different shape now. It's going to be one long, weird day.

More Attack!

So I guess the Sears Tower is actually OK, but the Washington Mall is on fire and there have been explosions at the State Department and Capital Hill. Oh yeah, and there was another explosion at World Trade Center 2 and the tower collapsed.

Fuck! The second Tower just collapsed. Lower Manhattan is a black cloud. They've evacuated the Empire State Building, two blocks from where I am now.

I’m guessing we're going to war with someone or another before too long.

Attack, Part Three

And now the fucking Sears Tower in Chicago. Wow.

Attack, Part Two

Jesus, they crashed a plane into the Pentagon, too. This is basically putting the entire country on alert. There's no long distance phone service right now, all the websites with news seem to be shut down, and people are officially freaking out. I suspect I won't be flying to Denver tomorrow night.

Go read what Andy's seeing.

Attack!

I heard some guy on the street telling a cop that he just saw a plane hit the World Trade Center. He didn't look like a crank, but the cops seemed as dumbfounded as I was confused about why they were listening to him. Until I looked up and saw the cloud of smoke in the sky. I went up to my office on the 20th floor of a midtown office building, where I could see the smoking top of the WTC through the window, while a TV showed a replay of the second plane colliding with one of the towers. They've shut down all the airport, bridges, tunnels, and downtown subways while they wait to see if the damage is done for now, or if the city is actually under attack by terrorists.

I’m trying to log on to various news sites for updates, but I think there are going to be lots of logjams on the new feeds today.

My brother was in the WTC when the bomb went off there in 1993, and he heard this massive boom and turned around to see hundreds of people starting to run his way. Before he was even able to figure out what was going on, he had to turn and run before he got trampled.

Day to day, we forget to worry about things like this, but every once in a while we're reminded that it's damn dangerous to live in a major city with so many powerful symbols. We're a big, sitting duck in many ways.

But I’m OK, in case you're worrying, Mom.

Birthday Wrap-Up

OK, so the birthday shindig was pretty great. We took over the outside patio of this nifty place in Williamsburg, and lots of the gang showed up, and I had a lot of fun and basked in a lot of love, and generally felt all swell and choked up with gratitude and all sorts of maudlin good stuff. A detailed account would bore the crap out of all of you even more than it would me, so I'll pass. Suffice to say, thanks to everyone who came and brought me such excellent treats and bought me Cokes and made me so happy. And now onto a few pics (not nearly enough to capture what things were like, but there are more here):

The morning after the party I dashed out of town to scenic Boston so I could rendezvous with my dear, fab old pal Brin while he and The Bunny were here on the Coast for a couple of days. There were lots of nostalgic freak-outs for the both of us, who've barely seen each other in five years, and now found ourselves wandering the old stomping grounds, which had changed an awful lot in our absence. (Not so surprisingly, though, Boston's gay nightlife seems to be trapped in a horrible preppy time warp.) The Boys, Miki, and I spent a day on Cape Cod with Brin's mom, and it was just generally swell. It made me sad, too, to be reminded of how close I still feel to Brin, despite the years and the distance. Clearly, all the things that once made us so close are still there, and it's a damn shame that we don't get to enjoy that more often. Oh well, life is a journey, and god only knows where it may take us. Right now, I don't have the energy to express my feelings about all this with much clarity, but suffice to say I was pretty bummed when we had to say goodbye after such a short visit.

I nearly died from shock when the good Mrs. Sherman produced a little plasticine self-portrait I had made while fiddling around one night back in college. Somehow, it made its way back to the Cape and survived all these years, providing some more vivid evidence of what I used to look like back when I was a sweet young thing.

Over the Hill

It's very fitting that on my last day of being 30, I notice that grey hairs have finally appeared among the whiskers on my chinny chin chin.

Bootylicious?

Poor Beau — apparently life in the country has driven him crazy, and he's become delusional. Today he writes me and says, "Can you explain to me why everyone I talk to, both in the Blog and outside in the real world not only seems to KNOW you, but wants you biblically, horizontally, tied up, tied down, wet, and basically in such compromising positions that you could start your own fucking religion? I mean, what's with that? Who the HELL are you? Why are you so DAMN popular? As for who's talking about you...the question, Nancy Drew, is who ISN'T talking about you. Multitudes of boys are touching themselves furiously over you I mean, you've got a following like a groovalicious boy band or something. Lord have mercy on us all." Judging from the total lack of positive reinforcement I’ve observed in matters such these, Beau has sadly tapped into the goings on of some Bizarro universe where Lois Lane hates Superman and I’m not a loser who can't get a date.

In case I’m totally wrong, please remember that my birthday party is Friday night and sacrificial cute boys are totally welcome to join us.

Tidbits from the Archives

Consumers Should Be Seen and Not heard

I’ve been completely absorbed in Naomi Klein's No Logo : Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies lately, which is a fascinating read. Granted, it's preaching to the choir in my case, but she really does a wonderful job of articulating a lot of things that stick in my craw about the state of marketing and branding these days, among them:

We have almost two centuries' worth of brand-name history under our collective belt, coalescing to create a sort of global pop-cultural Morse code. But there is just one catch: while we may all have the code implanted in our brains, we're not really allowed to use it. In the name of protecting the brand from dilution, artists and activists who try to engage with the brand as equal partners in their "relationships" are routinely dragged into court for violating trademark, copyright, libel or "brand disparagement" laws — easily abused statutes that form an airtight protective seal around the brand, allowing it to brand us, but prohibiting us from so much as scuffing it.

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