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Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

I do not want to talk about 9/11

Photo by NASA

Photo by NASA, via

I mean, I really do not want to talk about 9/11. So far, I have managed to avoid it. I haven’t watched any TV in days, partly because of busy-ness, and partly to avoid the inevitable outpouring of visceral, voyeuristic retrospections on what does it all mean? and ten years later, what have we learned?

No thank you.

For starters, the only reason this particular anniversary gets any sort of special attention is because humans have five fingers on each hand, and as a result, we have a decimal numbering system. If we lived in the four-fingered world of “The Simpsons,” we would have commemorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 two years ago, although in a base-eight numbering system it would be 11/13, and we would currently be in the year 3733 (yes, I found a base 8 conversion calculator online). The point is, the whole concept of a 10th anniversary is both numerically and biologically arbitrary.

In all seriousness, though, I wish we could just quietly commemorate the day for a moment and then go on about our business. I remember exactly where I was when I first saw what was happening, and I remember exactly what I did all day. I can sum it up for you quite succinctly: I watched TV and I tried to get drunk. That was it. I never felt any great sense of resolve. I felt pants-wetting fear. I am interested neither in commemorating nor reliving that time.

A Facebook status update is making its way around, that demonstrates the rather absurd lengths to which some people are taking their observance of this anniversary:

ON SEPTEMBER 11TH FROM 8:46 am -10:28 am … Everyone on Facebook should be silent, no postings or chats, from the time the first plane hit until the last building fell … Do this in memory of all who perished 10 years ago.

Needless to say, I am not going to do that. If other people want to observe a 102-minute moment of silence, go right ahead. I won’t even bother you. I intend to commemorate that time by not dwelling on it the way I dwelled on it in 2001.

I have ignored all of the “retrospective” news items on 9/11, even the ones I suspect I would find politically agreeable. I remember two pieces in the media from 2001 that have stuck in my memory, and they are the only two I care to remember:

You see, the steel in us is not always readily apparent. That aspect of our character is seldom understood by people who don’t know us well. On this day, the family’s bickering is put on hold.

As Americans we will weep, as Americans we will mourn, and as Americans, we will rise in defense of all that we cherish.

So I ask again: What was it you hoped to teach us? It occurs to me that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your hatred. If that’s the case, consider the message received. And take this message in exchange: You don’t know my people. You don’t know what we’re capable of. You don’t know what you just started.

But you’re about to learn.

All I can think, reading this now, is of the opportunities we missed to follow, as the saying goes, the better angels of our nature.

The hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon expressed confusion and surprise Monday to find themselves in the lowest plane of Na’ar, Islam’s Hell.

“I was promised I would spend eternity in Paradise, being fed honeyed cakes by 67 virgins in a tree-lined garden, if only I would fly the airplane into one of the Twin Towers,” said Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11, between attempts to vomit up the wasps, hornets, and live coals infesting his stomach. “But instead, I am fed the boiling feces of traitors by malicious, laughing Ifrit. Is this to be my reward for destroying the enemies of my faith?”

The rest of Atta’s words turned to raw-throated shrieks, as a tusked, asp-tongued demon burst his eyeballs and drank the fluid that ran down his face.

Bastrop, TX, 09/07/2011

The view from Highway 71 heading into Bastrop, September 7, 2011. That's not fog up ahead.

Dear sweet baby Jeebus, did we ever need to laugh that week.

I want to help the people who suffered and lost on that still-unimaginably terrible day. I do what little I can. What I do not want to do is relive that pain.

I also want to help the people who are suffering right now in my own city. As of yesterday, fires in Bastrop, Texas have destroyed 1,386 homes and taken two lives. I was in Bastrop this week. I doubt it is anything like Manhattan or DC was, but it is a place in dire need of help. I have seen an astounding capacity for strength, resilience, generosity, and selflessness out of the tragedy in Bastrop and other areas around Austin. This capacity was on display after 9/11, but that is generally not what we remember when we speak of commemorating that day.

9/11 was both a tragedy and a crime of epic proportions. Of that there is no doubt. But we have allowed it to define us for too long. On this most arbitrary of anniversaries, I sincerely hope that we can learn to remember without reliving, to help those who need our help now, and to honor what was lost by living our lives as best we can.

Related Blog Posts:

Media Blackout, Hope Doty, September 9, 2011

God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule, The Onion, September 26, 2001

Updated: I corrected a few dates and added a modifier.


No dogs in the bar, yankee!

Bailey (photo by rfirman)

You never take me out anymore

In New York City, a dog can help you testify in court but can’t help you drown your sorrows in a bar. Via Volokh Conspiracy comes the story of how the NYC health department is stepping up enforcement of a long-neglected ban on canines in the vicinity of food prep. Since booze is legally considered “food,” dogs aren’t even allowed in bars that serve booze but not food. They’re not even allowed on outside patios.

For once, I’m actually inclined to agree with the libertarianish arguments in the Volokh post, in that dogs are an easily-minimized risk in a business like a bar, and that people can certainly make an educated choice as to whether to go to a dog-friendly or dog-prohibited bar. It’s also quite a blow to the social opportunities offered by dogs. Not everyone is a dog person, but dog people tend to be social, and they might like a place to gather with their dogs besides a dog park. For a city that prides itself on its many social and cultural offerings, it seems unfortunate to make such a drastic prohibition.

I’m staying in Austin no matter what, but now I feel even better about it. We allow dogs on patios.