Tag Archives: new york

As a Canadian, How I Remember

I remember waking inexplicably with a jolt at 5:45am PST.

As a child of the ’70s, in hindsight I’d now describe the jolt as “a disturbance in the Force.”

Something seemed wrong, deeply and pervasively wrong, but I didn’t know what.

I shrugged and got out of bed. I brewed the coffee, amazed at the deceptively silent and beautiful dawn rising outside. At about 6, I sat on the balcony, enjoying my coffee, taking in the warm, gorgeous September morning.

At the time, I had no cable TV. In 2001, the web wasn’t as accessibly streaming news like it does today, and I wasn’t tethered to things like I am these days.

Then, I had no idea our lives had all been altered in the preceding moments.

I showered and headed to work.

There, coworkers told me what happened:

Two planes, two towers, untold thousands of civilians, utter chaos.

The second tower had only collapsed about 30 minutes before I got in.

The significance hit me squarely. “This changes everything,” I muttered.

My coworker Leslie nodded, saying that, in less than an hour, the world her 5-year-old son would grow up in had changed forever.

***

I often forget that morning now, when the words “9/11” flash past in conversation or print.

I forget the fear, the uncertain future, the heartbreak. I often forget it all.

Now, “9/11” is not so much a tragedy that changed my perspective on the world as it seems to be a code for the politicization of ideals that polarize the Right & Left.

“You’re with us or you’re against us” were the words that soon would divide us all, months down the line, as 9/11 became a vehicle for political divide at home in America, and also became an ethnocentric push of the “American way” versus the world’s.

***

But, on September 12th, 2001, I considered myself not Canadian, but “small-N north AMERICAN.”

I wanted to get The Fuckers. I wanted bloodshed for my American friends.

I wanted to help, I wanted to pray, I wanted a million things — I wanted anything but to ever again see the image of people jumping from burning buildings to a certain but faster and simpler death, or that horrible mushrooming cloud covering city streets in dust and decay.

***

Somehow, in the months that followed 9/11, we lost the brief  closeness it brought us.

We lost the “we’re in this together” feeling that came immediately with the attack. We lost the reminder of how important community and camaraderie were.

***

I remember those early days, though.

There was a moment on the evening of September 11th when I was just stunned to hear laughter trickling down the street as young children jumped rope and rode donuts on their bikes. It seemed odd to me that happiness could be found anywhere in the world on a day like that.

I thought, in children’s laughter, innocence lives on. Maybe it could come back.

We still thought there were maybe 40,000 or more casualties that day. How could there not be? Well, the simple matter of the attack happening before 9, that’s how there could be less.

And thank the powers that be, too, that the terrorists didn’t time it “better” for the arrival of workers. After all, “maximum casualties” is their credo.

Still, as I fell into the endless loop of videos on the news, it seemed like happiness and hope died that day.

I remember going to bed on September 11th, at a loss for where my place in the world was.

Who was this evil, where would they strike, when would this end, why did they hate us, what did they pray for —  all these questions raced through me.

I felt like a zombie for days — listening to the radio, waiting to see how America would really respond, what the global fallout was going to be.

Like most Canadians, I knew already:

“We’re in it with you, wherever you go, if it’s to get the fuckers who did this, we’re in — lock and fuckin’ load, motherfucker.”

***

And Canada’s always been in it against Bad Fuckers with our buddies, the Yanks.

We’ve really stuck it out in Afghanistan. We’ve had a strong troop presence since Day One. We’re still there. It’s our way of life that was attacked that day, too. Canada had a lot of Canadians in those towers.

But, down south, with our good friends, the post-9/11 stance got murky and somehow the parties decided it was time to use 9/11’s attack for political means.

Somewhere, the message got lost — the people jumping from those buildings, the aghast onlookers on the street, the chaos and fear, that ALL got lost.

Wrong choices were made.

Wrong alliances formed.

Wrong goals set.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Did what happened in the coming years disrespect those who died that day? Did the politicizing of the horrors take America’s integrity out of those attacks? Did the day itself fall out of relevance in the stupidity that followed?

I used to think so.

I sort of forgot just how deeply 9/11 cut into my soul, how much it hurt me that anyone could have that kind of hatred for a lifestyle that they’d just blindly kill anyone they could.

I sort of forgot how much I learned about life in those days — how kind strangers could be to one another, how alike we all are when we cry and grieve, how strong we could be for those around us, how pivotal being a friend in a time of need could be.

The lessons I learned from 9/11 about the GOOD in each of us are what I want to remember for the rest of my life.

And, to do that, I need to remember how horrible it was for a little while.

***

This morning, I’ve been watching some of a History Channel documentary from 2008, 102 Minutes that Changed The World (aka “…Changed America“, its original USA title).

It’s 9/11 “as it happened” — unnarrated, unadulterated. Just amateur recordings from people on the street in Manhattan when the Towers began coming down, shown minute-for-minute as it happened, from hundreds of perspectives.

My heart’s been in my throat a lot.

Now I remember.

I remember how “tragedy” became redefined for me, and how now I think of heartbreak on a scale of Zero to 10, with 10 being “the big fireman in the street, staring in horror at the World Trade Centre, screaming and crying”.

Definitions of some words were forever altered that day for me, and when I think of some emotions, like “horror” and “fear” and “loss” and “terror”, I flash back to  faces from the news, of people on Manhattan streets, from the coverage that played for weeks following.

***

I don’t know where we are now… whether we’re a better people than we were before 9/11. I’ve disliked so much of what I’ve seen of people’s values in the years since — the forcing of prescribed morality by the Religious Right, the sanctimony of the “true patriot” ultra-conservatives, the horribly bungled military actions, the loss of rights for immigrants, the prejudism, the erosion of the economy.

9/11 transformed so much for us, even in Canada, but the almost-a-decade since has led to dark, dark times in America.

So… where are we now?

With the economy shape-shifting daily, people re-examining their values and material mindsets with an almost-Depression-era austerity, and everything else that’s come in the last decade, I’m hoping we’re in the process of finding who we are, much like Americans did in the late ’40s and ’50s.

I’d like to think what we’re undergoing societally is like spring-cleaning a house. First you got to get it really dirty, tear shit apart, find all yer crap, get rid of it, and then reinvent things from the ground up. Then, you have awesomeness.

If it takes me weeks to do that on the homefront, I can imagine it taking more than a decade for a superpower like the USA to get their shit done. It’s year nine, post-September 11th.

So where are we now? Where is America’s soul today?

I dunno. Somewhere between there and here… and There.

I think that if everyone looked back at the three weeks that followed 9/11, they might start remembering that, somehow, this worst-thing-to-ever-happen-on-American-soil horror managed to, for a very short time, bring out everything that the world sees as being the BEST of what America is.

As September 11th looms, I’d like to remind my American friends that, when the Towers came down, we were with you. When you went to Afghanistan, we were with you.

And when you really need us again, we’ll very likely be with you once again.

But the America we’re with is the America you are when it seems like there’s no hope, the America you are when you rail against evil.

The America we’re with is the one that celebrated the end of whites-only club the night Obama was elected.

The America we’re with is the one that rallied to help its fellow man in the days following Katrina, when the government didn’t even have its act together. It’s also the America that didn’t hesitate to show up first for East Asia’s Tsunami and Haiti’s earthquake, because its people expect nothing less of its government.

The America we’re with is the one that lets all people speak for what they believe in, that celebrates freedom of speech and equality for all, and who stands up for international human rights.

Luckily, most of the time, that’s the America we know & see, too.

Maybe, this week, with 9/11’s anniversary returning, Americans can remember who they were on September 12th, 13th, and the days that followed.

Because the world stood with America for a reason.

The terrorists never won that day, and if we remember who we are, they never will.

Fuck You, Hollywood.

We’re witnessing the end of an empire at the box office.

Sex and the City 2 is lying there like a dead fish, with all the appeal of a used-up 45-year-old prostitute after a night of chasing 8-balls with gin after running the line for a sex-train at a frat party.

Naturally, Hollywood is CONVINCED it’s because the chicks in it are all old.

“Well, of COURSE Sam needs a vibrator — she’s 54!”

Let’s for a moment forget the ages of the women acting in the show. Let’s forget that they’re all around 50+ now.

Let’s do something wacky and think about the movie itself. And, hey, let’s think about the writing.

First: Have I seen it? No.

Here’s why not.

If I’m watching a show where some lead actor/actress from a flick is out whoring their movie, putting on the charm, and they play a clip — just ONE 30-second clip from a 90-minute movie — and the clip sucks shit? I mean, they’re supposed to be showing the one most appealing, funniest, engaging, COME-WATCH-US clip they have from the ENTIRE movie. And it’s shit? Well, I know the other 89:30 probably isn’t gonna be an improvement.

But if that 30-second clip is from a 2-hour-and-25-minutes-long movie and it still sucks shit?

I’m in favour of euthanizing everyone who views it in the theatres.

The shame!

Everything I’ve seen of Sex & the City 2 looks like has-been writers puked up every failed cliché they’ve ever heard, slapped some pretty weird dresses and shoes I’ll NEVER afford onto fancy-pretty chicks, and spliced that shit together.

Let’s see what some of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes are saying about it:

  • There’s only one thing worse than faking an orgasm: faking laughter. Shame on you, Sex and the City 2, for being a 2.5-hour laughless fake-a-thon that never finds the right spot.
  • Shoes, money, outfits, shoes, vagina, money, shoes, jewelry, outfits, money, shoes.
  • It goes from being what we know and love to… what were they thinking?
  • A flagrant insult to the audience that made the first film a phenomenon. Shame on the writers of this soulless drivel for trying to pass this Canal Street bootleg sow’s ear off as a genuine Alexander McQueen silk purse.
  • Early in Sex and the City 2, I started a list of things that could easily be cut because they go nowhere. It’s a long list.
  • It has no plot to speak of, little in the way of wit or intelligence, and is about 50% longer than can reasonably be justified.
  • A degrading portrait of women through an unfunny story about four Ugly Americans abroad.
  • It’s supposed to be Sex and the City. This is Sects and the Souk.

And that’s what pisses me off.

This movie isn’t failing because of the actresses. It’s failing because a director with shitty judgment had his hands on a shitty script that some fucko chose in a Hollywood office, and Decider Dude’s probably been sleeping with vapid starlets and hasn’t had his finger on the real-life pulse of America for three decades.

YET he thinks he knows what’ll appeal to broad-spectrum women around the world. Yeah. Right.

This movie is failing because it’s nothing of what the original series contained — cynical-but-true jabs at being single, sexy, smart women trying to get by in a big-city life at a changing time in American city culture.

So, it’s got nothing that made it great, except for actresses that play characters who aren’t the characters they were when America fell in love with them. Brilliant. Sure, that’ll be a raging success.

And the problem with these failing movies that have “older” actresses is, they’re usually shit from the get-go. They were shit on paper, they’re shit being shot, and they’re shit when they’re edited together for the screening room.

What’s the deal? Actresses don’t get great money-making projects past 45, so they get all scared about their future, then jump when Hollywood says they’ll slap a couple million payroll for ’em onto this lame-ass “but it’s sure to be a hit, look at all the OLD actresses we’ve lined up to appease the suburban-mom contingent!” movie.

The even bigger problem is with fans who’ll take anything shovelled at them under the guise that it’s even REMOTELY connected to the original story enterprise. Yeah, you know who you are.

This has NOTHING to do with the original series. It’s a bunch of chicks doing stupid, contrived things that only a BAD Hollywood writer would come up with.

We need great indie filmmakers to make awesome movies about women in their 40s and 50s that are edgy, ironic, bitingly funny, and not apologetic about crashing a few stereotypes. (I remember one called The Graduate.)

The movies we’re making for women have NOT improved. This is the same stupid-ass writing that’s brought us horrible, horrible, horrible chick flicks like The First Wives’ Clubs and The Women and The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and all those cliché my-time-of-the-month films.

Apparently all women have to do in their 40s and 50s is to be unhappy about love, confused about life, and needy about having friends.

The problem here isn’t the age of the actresses.

It’s that Hollywood doesn’t know what real life for women actually entails. It doesn’t know that life’s more complicated than soccer-practice “taxi” trips and bill-payments.

Hollywood doesn’t understand that not every woman gets manicures or pedicures.

It doesn’t get that not every woman is sitting around deviously hatching a plan to manipulate a man.

It doesn’t get that some of us actually love ourselves and our lives.

It doesn’t get that my quality of life isn’t determined by the ratio of man-delivered-orgasms versus personally-given ones.

Hollywood doesn’t understand women. At all. It didn’t 20 years ago, it doesn’t now.

I’ll confess: I’ve never been a real fan of Sex & The City.

That’s more because I’m not a girlie-girl and don’t really get into “girl” shows. I enjoyed some of it sometimes, but I’ve always been annoyed at how much validation its characters received from the male sex, or how much they all had to rally together and prop each other up against the un-validation given to them by male characters.

It always was a cliché — but a really well-written cliché with great laughs and realistic characters, and more true to some of the struggles of women in their 30s/40s than it is about them aging.

Now, though, it’s just another money-grubbing cliché-spewing pathetic example of why the mainstream movie machine is still broken.

And you smart, sexy, intelligent, successful women who are giving your money over to the box office to watch this piece-of-shit movie that stereotypes, demeans, and mocks the modern woman:

You’re part of the problem.

Shame on you.

So, Here We Are Again

The whole 9/11 thing is feeling weird. Reminds me of when five years had passed since my mother’s death. Has it really been so long? Boy, was that all it was? Five years?

Grief gets weird when you live with it for a long time and then — poof — it just vanishes, like. Guilt can come on, then. “I should be more depressed. Shouldn’t I?”

I’m watching some of the retrospective stuff. I think it’s important to remember it all, but I just don’t want to face any marathons. I forget sometimes, though, how fucked up it must have been to live in NY in those early days.

I’ve been thinking about that day. The weather today was very similar to the weather then — clear, sunny, warm, with just a hint of fall on the light wind. I remember the silence that morning. I never found out until I got to work — I never saw the news or anything that morning. I was enjoying coffee, sitting barefoot in my deck captain’s chairs, curling my toes around the metal railing.

I remember walking into the office, my closed captioning office, and the radio was turned on for the first time (and last time) ever. All the employees had no headphones on and were numbly editing files that probably needed no more editing. I knew something huge had happened.

“What?” I asked.

“Someone’s flown planes into the two World Trade Centre towers. Thousands of people are dead. They think it was terrorists. And someone hit the Pentagon, too.”

And like that I knew life on the continent had changed. No longer were we untouchable. Quite the opposite.

I didn’t think I could lose any more innocence after that day, but I was evidently wrong. I grow more jaded and disenfranchised with every passing year.

For a time, 9/11 made us all better people. We found the commonality. We had community. We had a cause. And something happened. A chasm. Conflict. Chaos.

Strange how quick that tide turned. Sad, too. Sigh.