What I’m watching: In preparation for our interview with George Anastasia for the Philly Blunt this week, I watched this National Geographic special on the Philly Mob (which features Anastasia quite a bit). It’s a fun watch, and gives you a good background on the past 50 years of the Philly mob. Interview drops on Monday and it’s a good one.
Whose artwork I’m appreciating: Jenna, better known as @ifacepaint215. We took Avery to his friend Gabe’s birthday party last weekend. While the other kids were asking the facepainter to look like tigers and dragons, Avery said, “Make me look like a haunted house with a graveyard outside and also could we have a witch on a broom and a few ghosts escaping from the haunted house and a phantom walking in the graveyard?” Now this request came after she’d been facepainting all afternoon. But instead of doing what I would have done, which is packing everything up and quitting facepainting for good, she not only did everything he asked for but did an awesome job of it. If you need a facepainter, she’s your woman.
Where I’m grabbing a drink: Finally made it to Friday Saturday Sunday last weekend. Beautiful room, terrific drinks. How terrific? My wife got the Eggplant spritz. I hate eggplant and the damn drink was still delicious.
I got the Assassin’s Handbook, since it didn’t sound like anything I’ve ever had (what in the hell is cognac, really?). It was spicy (habanero!) and strong and tasted great on a cool Fall night. The space is beautiful, made me a feel a bit like I was in the bar in the Shining (that’s a compliment!). It’s a really fun place to grab a drink, and I’ve heard the food is great too.
Where I’m eating: Few places in the city where I love to eat more than Blue Corn in the Italian Market. Right next door to one of my favorite Italian places, Villa di Roma. Two first class restaurants, with no frills and no bells and whistles, just absolutely great food and drink. It’s a reminder of what a huge positive immigration has been for Philadelphia, and the importance of family in the two cultures that currently dominate the Italian Market: 15 family members work at Blue Corn, while Pip Deluca and his 5 siblings work at Villa Di Roma. You get that family feel when you walk into both. Really might be my favorite side by side restaurant combo in the city.
Got the Blue Tacos this week, and they were terrific. Can’t recommend this place enough. For what it’s worth neither can Craig Laban.
Until next week, if you enjoyed it, click like below. Be sure to follow me on Instagram, twitter, and facebook. And while you’re at it, follow the Philly Blunt on IG as well. We’re doing some incredible interviews on the show.
“Shut the f*ck up,” are the first words out of my mouth most mornings. I know that makes me sound crude and uncivilized, but when an animal the size of a breadbox is screaming in your face at 6:15 am, a time when you’d saw off your right arm with child-proof scissors for another hour of sleep, I don’t think it’s unreasonable. Sometimes I’ll grab her and toss her off my bed, which is basically a couch from a nice neighborhood.* Other times I’ll just succumb to my inevitable fate.
“MEOW!” she’ll scream from the floor.
“Shut…” this time placing the emphasis on the blue word in the sentence, “the….F*CK…up.” It has no effect.
“Meow!” Having been tossed from the trundle bed, she exacts her revenge in the hallway, knowing that my wife can now hear the meows from the other room, and if SHE has to get up an hour early on a work morning to feed the damn cat, I’LL be the bad guy.
“Meow!” A decibel higher. So I lay, one eye open, a battle raging in my mind over which is worse, losing an hour of beloved sleep or having my wife mad at me because she had to get up early. My decision is obvious, and I begin the slow slog down the stairs.
In October of 2001, my girlfriend Colby, my buddy from Hawaii Duff, and I had decided on somewhat of a lark to move to Philadelphia with essentially no money in the bank, and after a couple of weeks grew tired of sitting on camping chairs.
I lived on 6th Street, just south of South Street, in the old Levi’s Hot Dog building. It wasn’t far from where much fancier people put decent furniture out on the sidewalks on Mondays. One day, when walking home from another disastrous lunch shift at Sfizzio’s (where Zahav is now…that’s a whole other story), I came across a small sectional on the curb, and as I had a friend from work with me, decided to take it to the apartment. Initially, the small sofa was the height of luxury for guys who had spend the first two weeks in Philly in camping chairs. But it held a dark secret: it was inhabited by mice, and within a few days they had begun to attack the kitchen. It was time for a cat.
Colby and I went to the Morris Animal Refuge just before Halloween with the intent of taking home a kitten, but we saw two who were brother and sister and didn’t have the heart to tear them apart from each other. So we took home two kittens, who we named Popiko (cat in Hawaiian, we shortened it to Popo) and Malia (after a mischievous dolphin that I loved when I worked at Dolphin Quest in Hawaii) in the hopes that they would alleviate the mouse problem.
Popo was the early star, active and excitable the way a kitten should be, never catching mice but letting his presence be known. Malia, on the other hand, spent most her time chasing her own tail and staring at candles. So it came as a shock when one night Malia hopped up on our “coffee table” (technically a piece of wood placed on top of milk crates) with a mouse in her mouth. She was hailed as a conquering heroine, and the pride she found that night has carried her through to this day.
Colby and I broke up a year later, and for some godforsaken reason I demanded to keep the damn cats when I moved in with a work friend at 19th and Bainbridge in early 2003. One night that spring, a door in the back was left open, and Malia disappeared. Frantically, I made up posters and hung them on telephone poles. I then walked into the back alley calling her name.
“Malia! Malia!” Finally I heard a meow, loud but coming from a distance. I looked over walls, behind alleyway detritus, until finally I decided to look up. Stunned, I saw her perched atop the second story roof of a nearby house. How she got up there will always be one of life’s great mysteries. In the meantime, I had to figure out how to get her down. I went home, grabbed a ladder, and tied a shoestring to it. I climbed the ladder to the top of a back porch, then MacGuyver-style lifted the ladder up by the string. I climbed it again, and leaning tenuously (as one does atop a ladder on a flimsy deck porch) I reached for her. I was hoping to expedite the process, knowing that at any second a neighbor could be dialing the police in reference to a man on a ladder on top of a nearby porch deck. Playfully she avoided my reach and went to rub up against a nearby chimney.
“You little bitch,” I muttered under my breath to no-one in particular. “Malia, come here.” She meowed, rubbed up against the chimney one more time, then pranced over my way. I grabbed her, dropped the ladder down one floor by the shoestring, and together we descended.
The past 18 years have gone whirring by, and she’s been there for just about all of it: multiple roommates, girlfriends, and other pets moving in and out. She has taken it all in stride. Like most cats if there’s food in the bowl come morning and again in the afternoon, the rest takes care of itself. After six years apart, Colby returned to Philly and we got back together, then got married. Malia could have cared less, though it did give her one more human to draw heat from when the weather turned cold. Once we had a kid, there were two.
Let’s not get overly romantic here: once you have a dog, a wife, and a kid, the cat takes a backseat, and becomes more of a chore than a close companion. But she went missing again in October of 2015, and I found myself once again desperately searching the back alleys of the neighborhood for her, posting flyers on telephone poles again, looking under nearby parked cars. Don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone, I suppose. After a couple of weeks of fruitless searching, my buddy Vaughn came by to help me hit up a few alleys. After an hour or so, we called it quits.
“You put up signs, you’ve spent days searching through alleys for her, you’ve done everything you can do,” he said. “Now it’s for the universe to decide.”
I would continue to walk to the wall in our back yard, call out her name, and shake the cat food, but once we past the month milestone it seemed to be little more than a pitiful habit. Until, one night, I saw something move down the alley.
“Malia!” I cried. She ignored my call and kept scurrying towards the gate at the end of the alley that emptied onto Pemberton, slid through the grates, and ran across the street.
The next night, I walked back there again. I was about 75% sure I had seen Malia the night before, but couldn’t be certain. I peered into the alley again. There she was. “Malia! It’s me! Come here!” She looked up, saw me, and sauntered back the other way.
“You little bitch,” I muttered under my breath to no-one in particular. At this point I was just annoyed. “Well she’s had her chance to come back. She knows where we are.” I stomped back into the house.
It was late October, and the next night the temperature dropped drastically. Sure enough, Malia came prancing back into the yard. The queen, after a month abroad, was ready to be pampered, fed, cleaned up after, and most importantly kept warm by her people.
Her brother died a few months ago, at age 17. He was, for about the past decade leading up to his death, an old man: feeble, sickly, and cranky. He existed to eat and ate to exist and the rest of it was bollocks. Malia is quite different. She has always enjoyed it when company comes over. She loves being rubbed on the head and adored and worshipped like the goddess she undoubtedly is in her own mind. A few months ago she decided she was sick of cat food, and simply stopped eating. She was essentially on a hunger strike, and willing to die for the cause. And so we started buying tuna fish, which she enjoyed for the next month, until she decided she was ready for cat food again.
Is there a moral here? Have I learned anything over the past 18 years, other than “Maybe shoulda gotten a dog”? I don’t know. Does there need to be? Isn’t that kind of the point of cats, that there is no point, they just confound you by hopping in front of the coffee pot, fridge, or sink, wherever it is that you’re trying to get to? That their existence is driven not by love or affection but by food and body heat, and that we spend thousands and thousands of dollars over the years to give them both? There’s probably some sort of moral about unconditional love buried in here somewhere, but my sleep deprivation has left me incapable of articulating it. I’ll just leave it to the universe to decide.
*My wife and kid sleep in the “good” bed, as he has taken over my role as “preferred cuddler” in this house, and the cat and I sleep on what I only found out three weeks ago was called a trundle bed.
What I’m reading: Articles about infamous Philly Daily News columnist Pete Dexter, who now is better known for writing the novel Paris Trout and the screenplay for Mulholland Drive. This profile of him in Philly Mag in 1979 is terrific, though his life would get even more interesting two years later, when he and Tex Cobb got beat up together in Gray’s Ferry. He would quit writing for the News after that and started writing novels.
What I’m watching: my son is really into Halloween. Definitely his favorite holiday, and has been ever since he was two. Dunno what it is, but he loves mystery and horror. It started with Little Red Car (don’t watch this link unless you want a terrible song stuck in your head for, uh, roughly forever). He soon moved onto Scooby Doo, which is pretty fun to watch. But I wanted to see if he was ready to step up his horror game, so I recently showed him this cartoon of the Fall of the House of Usher. It’s read by Christopher Lee and it’s a really fun Halloween watch, whether you’re 5 or 50. He digs it, and the other night we watched a short bio of Poe. I’m really excited for him to become a Poe fan.
What I’m listening to: Sometimes I check in to see who is coming out of Camden musically. If ever there’s any hope that something good can come out of the most brutal of circumstances, it comes from forgotten towns like Camden. One of the guys I like the most right now is a young dude named Mir Fontane. As I’ve expressed on the past two editions of the Friday Five, I’m a huge fan of people who can paint a picture, and this young guy does it incredibly well. Especially powerful is a song of his that simply titled “Camden.” The cast of characters he describes in the first verse is nothing short of Dickensian:
RaVicky gettin money Cause he got a little set now Shae lost her baby So she back smokin that wet now Pooh got booked I heard he workin with the feds now Til Tony caught him slippin’ Shoulda never turned his head round (BANG!) Keisha still fuck around with Crackhead James Heard he sold a flatscreen So he could buy more caine. And Jermaine sit on the block Snd it’s a shame cause he smart His momma crying every day And say he breaking her heart The whole hood shed tears When they heard Diggs got killed It’s been two whole years And no bids got dealt A n***a that I called my homie Fucked around and changed on me Pulled the heat from off his hip And tried to make it rain on me This what y’all call hell But this what I call home And I’m gonna grind until I get it And once I get it I’m gone The white folks want the drugs, So they come and spend their bucks here Til they ain’t got no bus fare, Now them n***as stuck here
New Philly Blunt podcast dropped this week: An interview with Ange Branca of Sate Kampar. She grew up in Malaysia, but moved to Philly in her early 20s. After working in the financial sector, she got bored and decided to open her own restaurant, cooking Malaysian food unlike anywhere else in the city. A great listen if you want to hear how Philly looks to someone who not only didn’t grow up here, but grew up half a world away. You can check out Sate Kampar here on IG (and go by there and try the Rendang Daging.)
Place I’m checking out: The last one is kind of expensive but yet at the same point totally worth it. We love the fall around here: as I stated earlier my son loves the Halloween season especially, but my wife has always loved pumpkins, fall leaves, the whole thing. So on Sunday we headed to Shady Brook Farm in Yardley. It was $18 each just to enter (!) but once inside it was a great place to take a 5 year old. There was a hayride to pick apples and pumpkins, a big playground, speed pitch (I got up to 60 mph, which I was fairly happy with), inflatable castles. And for adults, they also have an outdoor bar serving pumpkin beer and so forth. We went during the Eagles game (they were playing the pathetic Jets, so I thought it would be a good one to miss) which was a strong move. I’m sure it’s much busier when the Birds aren’t on. There is also a corn maze but I have a terrible sense of direction and I hated it. At the end of the day it’s too expensive but I’m sure insurance there is a bear and when you and your family have a great day it’s hard to put a pricetag on it.
Until next week, be sure to follow me (and argue with me!) on twitter. And if you’re a sports fan, be sure to follow Shibe Sports on IG. Just did a photo shoot last weekend and gonna be posting some great photos over the next few weeks. Finally, if you enjoyed the Friday 5, be sure to click like below. Have a great weekend!
Hollywood shill JGT is serving as a hype man for Gemini Man this week, as two of this week’s rounds will be VERY LOOSELY based on the film…no questions on the film itself, since it hasn’t been released yet. But some questions loosely inspired by it. Hey, come on, Will Smith’s a local dude! I can sell out for Big Willie! Quiz starts tonight at O’Neals at 8 pm. See ya this week!
Hey gang, a very rare two quiz week, as I’ll be hosting a Halloween quiz at the Comcast Center tonight, but a regular quiz for the rest of the week. So you’ve got a shot to play twice this week. Here’s this week’s schedule:
Here’s 5 things I’m reading/listening to/watching this week.
I randomly stumbled across this buzzfeed article from 2013 this week, and HOLY SHIT is it an amazing read. It’s about how a sweet young kid became a medic during the War in Iraq and suffered severe PTSD, came home, and started robbing banks. It’s heartbreaking, and just brilliantly written. It’s a grim reminder of what a complete catastrophe the War in Iraq has been for everyone involved (except, of course, the people who made money on it).
Paper bag of lucha libre inexplicably by the door at Dirty Frank’s.
After last weeks podcast interview (with Ange Branca, co-owner of Sate Kampar, the critically acclaimed Malaysian restaurant on Passyunk), we headed down 13th street with Fergie to Dirty Frank’s. Fun crowd, and a perfect bar. Most places are aiming for the level of authenticity that Frank’s has. The beauty of Frank’s is that it’s not aiming for anything except to be what it is. Here’s a great piece that Drew Lazor did about Frank’s for Vice a few years ago. One of my favorite places in Philly to grab a drink.
Watched the 3-part Bill Gates doc on Netflix this past weekend. It’s really terrific. It was somewhat pro-Bill, but not a fluff piece by any means. He’s a really complex guy, and he’s a supreme intellect, and this doc shows both. I’ll say this: in terms of the biggest computer pioneers of our time, I think Bill Gates has a sincere desire to leave the world better than he found it. I don’t feel the same way about Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.
I’m a big fan of lyricism, singers who can paint a picture with words, and people who tell the stories of the down and out, so needless to say my favorite genres are hip-hop and outlaw country. Last week I talked about Ka, this week I wanna shout out one of my favorite outlaw country singers, Guy Clarke. Just stumbled across him a couple of years and haven’t stopped listening since. A few of his songs that I especially love are Dublin Blues and Stuff That Works, the latter a song which reminds me a lot of one of my grandads. And just absolutely love the following verse:
I’ve got a good friend who’s seen me at my worst
He can’t tell if I’m a blessing or a curse
But he always shows up when the chips are down
That’s the kind of stuff I like to be around.
Says pretty much everything you need to know about friendship in just four lines.
This last one is just me showing off: on Thursday night I got to go to the Hershey Hotel to host an event. What a cool place! My wife and I had gone about ten years ago and had a chocolate martini at the bar, and I was excited to go back for the event. The highlights of the place are the amazing atrium (above, which incredibly was originally the parking garage), the Hershey Gardens (just past the entrance to the hotel, an awesome garden and butterfly exhibit), and the Iberian Lounge, the hotel bar that opened in 1934 and basically hasn’t changed a thing in the 85 years since. There’s a kind of cool secret at the Lounge…the road on the painting behind the bar….follows you as you walk from one side of the bar to the other. It’s an amazing optical illusion. If you have a chance, step inside for a drink and check out not only the bar but the atrium, both of which are open to the public even if you’re not staying there. Extremely cool.
Alright, that about does it for this week. Until next week, be sure to follow me on twitter, instagram, and facebook. And be sure to shoot me a line if you wanna liven up your work event, wedding rehearsal dinner, or holiday party.
As you may have noticed, I’m back to “blogging”. Got my WordPress updated and now it’s so much more fun to write on here, gonna make the most of it. Here’s a few things I’m reading, listening to, enjoying.
Speaking of Kensington, our latest podcast episode, with total badass Cheri Honkala of Kenzo, just came out. Find out why she’s sick of people complaining about Trump, what it was like running as the Green Party’s VP in 2012, and what life is really like at the frontlines of the opioid crisis.
Been listening to Ka lately. He’s a firefighter in New York who used to be a drug dealer, and just a tremendous poet. No glorification of that life, just a stark retelling of his younger days. The beats are sparse to give the spotlight to his rhymes, and he definitely does not disappoint. This whole song deals with his love of money versus his conscience. Love guys who can paint a picture like this:
Used to chip it at the lab
Bag, then flip it on the ave
Every trip I’m like “This one is the last.”
Two weeks later, I’m dipping in my stash
Back to the crill again, feelin’ thin
If you doin’ it to eat is it still a sin?
Used to feel bad, but then in a short time,
It’s like “Fuck your family, somebody got rich off mine.”
Gonna start posting about the more interesting questions I ask each week. Here are a few fun facts from last week:
Q: Who had a hit with the song Keep on Loving You?
A: REO Speedwagon. Curious how they got the name? Band member Neal Doughty took a History of Transportation class in college. One day he walked into class, saw the words “REO Speedwagon” on the board, and went with it. The REO Speedwagon was a 1915 car made by Ransom Eli Olds, who also gave us Oldsmobile.
Q: If a US coin is marked with a D, it was minted in what city?
A: Denver actually produces the most coins of any mint in the world.
Q: What four letter word comes to us from carnival sideshows, where it described people who would bite the heads off of snakes and chickens?
Geek. The following is from the Geek Anthropologist: it wasn’t until sometime in the early 19th century that, “the Scottish word geck, meaning ‘fool,’ changed to geek and began being used to describe a certain kind of carnival performer. Geeks specialized in eating live animals, including biting the heads off live chickens”. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “The modern form and the popular use with reference to circus sideshow ‘wild men’ is from 1946, in William Lindsay Gresham’s novel Nightmare Alley”. Initially used to refer to a very specific type of carnival performer, the word soon became synonymous with freaks—that is, any individual who exhibited a physical trait that deviated from what was commonly understood within a society or culture as “normal.” Although the term designated a sense of social stigma and shame, circus and sideshow performers adopted the term “geek” as a collective and positive form of identity. While the general public could come to gawk at the freaks, performers referred to themselves as geeks, established in opposition to the norms and rubes in the audience.
Q: Because this 1995 rap hit heavily sampled Stevie Wonder, Stevie wouldn’t allow any cursing in it.
A: Gangsta’s Paradise, which sampled heavily from Stevie’s song Pasttime Paradise. Rolling Stone did a great oral history of the song a few years ago. This is from Coolio: “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death/I take a look at my life and I see there’s nothing left” — I freestyled that; that came off the top of the dome and I wrote that down. I thought about it for a minute, and then I wrote the whole rest of the song without stopping, from the first verse to the third verse. You know, I like to believe that it was divine intervention. “Gangsta’s Paradise” wanted to be born; it wanted to come to life, and it chose me as the vessel.
I found this fascinating, because Steven King, in his terrific book On Writing, says the following: “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”
In other words, Gangsta’s Paradise was out there, Coolio just discovered it and did an expert job of digging it up!
Q: What man popularized tobacco in England, spent 13 years in the Tower of London, was let out to try to find the town of El Dorado, then was beheaded upon his return?
A: Sir Walter Raleigh. He was also dissed by the Beatles in their song I’m So Tired: “Although I’m so tired, I’ll have another cigarette/And curse Sir Walter Raleigh/He was such a stupid git.” After his execution, his wife was presented his head, which she had embalmed and carried around in her handbag. (Seriously.)
Thought I’d post some of the questions from last week’s Ultimate Music Quiz. I think it was a pretty good one. I’ll post the video round on it’s own. Round Four was a live music round (Reef and I rapping Rock n Roll classics) and I won’t be posting that.
1. The #1 song on Billboard right now is Truth Hurts, by what artist?
2. In what Broadway musical will you hear the song Joseph Smith American Moses?
3. In what city did Kanye West start his career?
4. The Righteous Brothers released the single, Hung On You in 1965, but it was a flop. DJs preferred the B side, a cover of a 1955 song from a prison movie. What was it?
5. This woman’s Love to Love You Baby was banned by the BBC when was released, due to its sexual overtones and 17 minute running time.
***6. The name of the debut Metallica album was originally going to be Metal Up Your Arse. What did they change the name to?
7. UFOs are in the news right now, because of video released by Tom DeLonge. DeLonge was formerly a member of what band?
8. Otis Williams is the last suriviving member of what iconic Motown group, whose hits included Just My Imagination.
ROUND TWO Name that artist. I give you their real name and where they’re from, you tell me their stage name.
1. Chan Marshall, Atlanta
2. Farouk Balsara, Zanzibar
3. Alecia Moore, Doylestown
4. Aubrey Graham, Toronto
5. Enrique Morales, San Juan
6. Anna Mae Bullock, Tennessee
7. Richard Melville Hall, Harlem
8. Reginald Dwight, England
ROUND THREE VIDEO (Name the artist or group)
ROUND FIVE Impossible
1. Radiohead got their name from a 1986 song by what group?
2. What group from Newark released their major labor debut, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, in 2004?
3. Chuck Berry only had one single go to #1 on the charts, and it was a 1972 novelty song. What was it?
4. What woman is the first and thus far only artist born in the 2000s to have a #1 single in the United States?
5. When it was released in 1977, the album Two the Hard Way by a group billed as Greg Allman and Woman was a dismal critical and commerical failure. Who was the woman?
6. Backstreet Boys second album was titled Backstreet’s Back. What was their 3rd album called?
7. The Doors were the house band at this legendary LA venue; other groups to play here include Led Zeppelin, Guns n Roses, and No Doubt.
***8. What British group released the album Welcome to the Pleasuredome in 1984 and what American group released the single Welcome to the Terrordome in 1990?
As I’ve been telling y’all, the combination of quizzo and karaoke is pretty incredible, and next Wednesday, you get YOUR chance to get up on the big stage and belt out some songs. I’ll be hosting the Ultimate Music Quiz at World Cafe Live, a wild musical romp through popular music of the last 60 years. From the British Invasion to Boy Bands, from Gangsta Rap to Glam Rock, from nu-metal to New Wave, we’re gonna cover it all.
The prize for the winners? Music, and lots of it: you’re going to get free tickets to all shows at the World Cafe Live through the end of the year. You heard me right…all the live music you can handle*.
Between rounds, instead of me just playing tunes, YOU are going to have an opportunity to hop up on the big stage and perform in front of a crowd. So figure out what your song is, and come out and sing it. We’ll have a prize for best musical performance.
And 20% of all ticket sales are going to an incredible program: Beyond the Bars, a program my podcast partner Reef is involved in. It’s a program that does music education and provides musical equipment for youth who are in prison.
So there you have it: an awesome night, an opportunity for you to perform, a huge first place prize, AND an opportunity to do some good for the community. Pretty kickass combination. Hope to see you there!
Nothing particularly salient or exciting about my 9/11 experience, but for posterity’s sake, I thought I’d write a few words.
I had moved back to Virginia from Hawaii the previous November, determined to move to New York and write plays. I was young and dumb and had big dreams. But first I needed money and restaurant experience. So I stayed at my dad’s house in Nassawadox, took a gig as a substitute teacher, and waited tables at the Trawler. At the end of August, 2001, I went to New York to try to find an apartment and a job. I interviewed with someone who worked on the Sopranos. The job was 60 hours a week, consisted more or less of getting coffee for the stars of the show, and paid $26k a year. I looked at apartments in Brooklyn and Queens. The cheapest one was in Queens, and was essentially a hallway with a shared kitchen. It was $1500 a month…to move in, I needed first, last, security and “finders fee”, an astounding little real estate trick where you essentially gave away money for absolutely nothing. I didn’t have $6000. New York was not going to happen.
So I went back to Virginia, depressed and with no real prospects. My “New York or Bust” mentality had gone bust. A few days later, my sister and her then boyfriend came to visit from Hawaii, where she was still living.
It was a mutual friend of mine and my sisters, Katie, who woke me up that Tuesday morning with a phone call (on the landline of course, as at the time, none of us had cell phones).
“Have you seen that an airplane crashed into the World Trade Center?” she asked.
Still half asleep, I replied, “No. Let me get my sister.” I hollered downstairs for Errin. The TV at the house was not on. Nobody knew what was happening.
I remembered thinking that it was bizarre that a plane had veered so far off course as to hit downtown New York. Then I went downstairs, turned on the news, and sat there stunned, my anxiety and the TV news telling me that the world was ending.
Time has created a thick enough haze that the rest of the day only plays out almost as a series of photos. I remember writing down my feelings, something to remember my thoughts as I was feeling them in a notebook which has long since disappeared. We sometimes forget in retrospect, but at the time it was happening, we had NO CLUE exactly what it was that was unfolding. Was the entire country under attack? Were these 4 planes the start of hundreds of them falling from the sky? It truly, for a few hours at least, felt like the apocalypse.
Some friends and I went to the Exmore Diner for lunch. Of all the strange and absurd thoughts I had that day, for some reason I remember one of them being “Well if this is it, I want my last meal to be at the Diner.” Plus we just had to get away from the TV for an hour or two, try to process the madness without being absorbed by it.
I don’t remember much else. It’s incredible how 18 years can fracture the memories of even the most memorable days of our lives. But there are a few things I still recall: calling the blood bank to see if they were accepting donations that could help New York (they could always use blood, they said, but not for New York). My sister making a call to Hawaii, and was told that she no longer had a job and should not come back if she could help it…the economy was about to be crippled now that people were too scared to fly.
Her boyfriend at the time actually flew back to Hawaii on, I believe, Friday the 14th to retrieve their things. I had never heard of anything crazier than getting into airplane 3 days after watching those images on TV over and over and flying across the world, then the next day turning back around and flying back, a 12 hour flight including layover. He might have been the only person on the plane. I don’t think I flew anywhere for the next year at least.
The fear of another attack was crippling, both personally and for society as a whole. Remember the whole “Dirty Bomb” scare? The anthrax in the mail? We were shown that beneath our outwardly tough exteriors we were scared, vulnerable, and worried.
I was also not technologically savvy. I remember a few days after 9/11, seeing a picture of a man on the WTC rooftop, with a plane about to hit it, and thinking “My God, that’s awful.” It’s almost funny that now my mind would instantly realize the picture was a hoax, but at the time online hoaxes weren’t a usual thing.
I still have a journal I loosely kept in the late 90s, early 2000s, but never look at it. I decided to give it a look to see if there was anything that jogged any memories. Not really, just a corny, supposedly deep message the week after.
One week ago I went to bed convinced I knew it all. Now I know nothing.
I moved to Philadelphia the next month, into a tiny apartment just off of 6th and South. By that point, things had returned to some semblance of normal, though they’d never quite be the same. Independence Hall now had awkward barriers surrounding it, as if a dedicated suicide bomber was going to be repelled by a 3 foot fence. But it was a lie we told ourselves to believe that something, ANYTHING was being done to prevent another attack on our institutions.
I left one more short journal entry about it.
Things are extremely frightening right now. Anthrax in Florida and New York. Attacking Afghanistan regularly. There will be revenge and moving to Philly does make me nervous.
There was a sense of unity for those next several weeks, but it soon went away, as anything seen as not appropriately “patriotic” meant that “the terrorists had won”. It soon became apparent that the Iraqis, who had nothing to do with 9/11, were going to be blamed for it, and that protests by hundreds of thousands of people in the streets to try to stop the war were fruitless.
The War in Iraq both ended the sense of national unity and split the country in half, a fissure that subsequent politicians have manipulated until we’ve reached a point where if terrorists attacked again, we’d attack and blame each either other instead of them.
There was a chance to learn from 9/11 and to emerge a better nation. We blew it. We pay no more attention to our fire fighters and EMT crews than we did on 9/10/01, while we love our reality show celebs so much that we made one President. We responded to 9/11 by becoming more artificial, more sarcastic, and less sincere, with a shorter fuse and less patience with each other. It’s a sad postscript to the saddest day in American history, a day that we promised we’d never forget, but one in which each year we remember less and less, both through the haze of time and in our treatment of one another.
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