Rabu, 14 September 2011

Return to Normal

Two weeks after the collapse of the Trade Towers the wind shifted from the west and a southern breeze directed the funereal plume of smoke into Lower Manhattan. The fumes were thick with poison and smelled of BBQ. I caught a train north to Boston. My sister put me up in her basement. On the weekend she suggested that we drive to Newport. The yacht club was holding its annual boat show and her husband was thinking of purchasing a new boat."I supposed life must go on." The TV had resumed its normal broadcasting and baseball was in the final stages of the wild card race. The Red Sox were too far out of first to gain a spot in the play-offs. 2nd place to the Yankees felt good after 9/11. "I'm not really into boats.""I'll bring my bike and you can ride around Newport." My sister understood my mindset. We were family."That'd be nice." I hadn't been to Newport since the 1969 Jazz Festival. Led Zeppelin closed out the show. My older brother and I left during DAZED AND CONFUSED to beat the traffic. The bass line thundered for miles, as we drove away in the night.That Saturday was a tribute to a New England autumn. Clouds dotted the sky and the southern wind bore a balmy breeze. We dressed for the season. My sister's husband drove to Newport in his 3 year-old Audi. Work at his law firm had resumed several days after the planes hit the Trade Towers. The cars on the highway drove 10-15 miles over the speed limit. The radio was playing Gloria Gaynor's DON'T LEAVE ME THIS WAY.I sat in the back seat with my 4 year-old niece. She was talking about her doll. Its name was Shirley. I listened to every word, wishing my name was Shirley too. Anything to get the image of a burning man hurtling out of Windows of the World.We arrived in Newport around noon. The parking lots for the Boat Show were packed with gleaming Benzs, SUVs, and sports cars. I unloaded my brother-in-law's bike from the roof rack. My sister suggested a ride around the peninsula."We'll meet you back here around 4.""It won't take him that long to bike around Newport." My brother-in-law liked doing things fast. He had graduated from Harvard. "I'm in no hurry." I had finished BC without any honors. I took my time. These days rushing around seemed senseless."Uncle Bubba, wear a helmet." My niece was well-trained in safety measures."For you always." I tugged on the plastic brain basket and waved good-bye. I looked over my shoulder passing Brenton Cove. The Jamestown Bridge gleamed in the sunlight. It had replaced the ferry in the 70s. I quickly circled stone walls of Fort Adams. Several families were picnicking on the lawn. The aroma of hot dogs wafted through the park. People were having fun. Farther along I passed the Country Club. Men and women stood on the fairways dressed in colorful clothing. A solid whack signaled a good drive for an older man. The ball flew through the air to the green. He wore a broad smile, as he handed his iron to the caddie.Upon reaching Ocean Avenue I headed east along the rocky shore and wheeled into Goose Neck Cove toGooseberry Beach. The shimmering white sands were empty. The lifeguards had retired for the summer and swimming was prohibited by law. I ditched the bike in the dunes and swam in my underwear in the Atlantic. The water felt good and the cold sea brought back memories of childhood visits to Newport with my parents. I toweled dry with my teeshirt and continued on my route past the mansions of Bellevue Avenue. Surfers dotted the break beneath the Marble House. The waves stretched like corduroy to the horizon. I had fried clams at floe's Clam Shack. The fried batter complimented the clams' taste and I washed down the traditional New England repast with a Narragansett beer. It was 3 and I headed back to the Yacht Club. The day was winding down and many of the visitors were relaxing around the tables of the bars set up for the Boat Show. I rested the bike against a chain link fence and sat at a bar. The nearby conversations were mostly about boats, but a trio of overweight men in their 40s were talking about 9/11. The subject narrowed to revenge. "We should go over there and kill them all." A bald-headed man spoke in strident tones. He looked as if no one in his family had left the USA since World War II."Why go anywhere?" His friend was red-faced from either drink or sun. "Press a button and nuke them to the Stone Age.""And who are we attacking?" I was curious as to their choice. The list of usual suspects had been rounded down to two by the president and CIA. Their accusation came too quick to be the whole truth."The Iraqis and Saddam." The more athletic of the group pointed in my direction with suspicion. He wanted more than an eye for an eye from the perpetrators of 9/11"How many Iraqis were on the planes in 9/11?" I knew the answer."Ten." It was a guess."None. Not one.""Bullshit." He was convinced on their guilt by the wrath of politicians and TV news reporters. America was out for blood. It didn't really matter whose blood."Not bullshit. The truth. 15 were Saudis and the rest from anywhere else but Iraq.""Saddam financed it through those towel-heads in Arfghanistan." The jock had a decent sense of geo-politics. The Taliban were sheltering the enemy.None of the pilots were Saudi and something was fucked up about that, but I couldn’t put my finger on what. “Why do you think we were attacked?”“It’s unimportant. Fucking the Arabs is what we have to do. Tora Tora Tora just like the Japs at Pearl Harbor.""No mercy." I was into revenge too. The buildings had fallen less than a mile from my apartment on East 10th Street, although I wasn't giving the president a carte blanche for total destruction of the Middle East. "They deserve whatever they get."They clinked plastic champagne glasses and hooted like owls on steroids. My brother-in-law motioned for me to join him. I left the bar without any good-byes. "You have a good ride?" His hand was filled with brochures."It was a good day for it."And so were the days after it, for I was alive and alive was a good thing for anyone believing in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was the American dream.

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