Monday, April 09, 2007

Where Was I?

Well, it’s Monday and here I am. I wasn’t struck by lightning. This is not proof positive that my theology on Friday was sound, but I’ll take it.

My Cousin David, who is turning out to be an interesting writer and whose own theology is certainly less controversial, wrote a piece several days ago detailing where he was - and what his reactions were – to some very memorable moments. “Great idea,” I thought when I read it. My second thought was, “I’m going to have to steal this.”

And I have. So, without any further ado – because what the hell are you going to do with more ado? – here are my reactions to the same events.

(OK, just a tiny bit more ado. I’m not going to write about as many events as David did. This is because I am more chronically long-winded than he is. As a matter of fact, the only reason I’m not taking just ONE of these events and padding it out with more of my interminable bullshit is because, when I told David that I was going to steal his idea, I told him that I’d ask you to go to his place, to compare and contrast our experiences, so it wouldn’t be much of a comparison if I only wrote about one.)


I was at work, same place where I am right now. Ellen, a co-worker at the time, came into my studio and told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I assumed it was a personal aircraft, a Cessna or similar, gone off-course. When Ellen told me that it was a commercial jet, I asked her for particulars concerning deaths and such, but she didn’t have much more information. She had just heard it on the radio.

About ten minutes later, she came back into the studio and told me that a second jet had hit the buildings. She was now firmly convinced that we were under some sort of enemy attack and that we’d be at war any minute. She was trying to reach some loved ones via phone, but having no success. She was the first person I heard forward the theory that it wasn’t just an amazing accident. I had no details, other than what she had told me, so I hadn’t formed any theories. I was still thinking that perhaps it was just an amazingly tragic coincidence.

I tried to find something on-line, perhaps a photo. The internet was slow as molasses – our office didn’t have anything beyond dial-up then - and trying to get onto any site with photos was pretty much a fruitless task. I don’t keep a radio or TV in my studio. My only source for news was fellow employees.

Cindy, our office manager at the time, told me that one of the towers had fallen.

I said, “No, you must have heard it wrong. Part of the tower fell; a piece dislodged from the crash...”

“No, one of the towers collapsed completely,” she said. She was on the verge of tears.

Now I was worried. My brother-in-law lived on Staten Island and worked in the financial district area. I didn’t want to worry MY WIFE and I had no idea how much she may have heard about this, so I didn’t try to contact her immediately. I assumed that the timing – I had a basic timeline of events by now – was such that John probably wouldn’t have been in direct danger.

MY WIFE and I finally talked, of course, and when we were both home that evening, we watched the footage of what had happened with both revulsion and fascination. We had been unable to reach John. Phone communications to any part of New York were sketchy at best.

I’ll cut to the chase: As it turned out, John was safe. He had been in the general area, but basically out of harms way. We both thanked God for that.

John wasn’t wholly reticent to talk about what had transpired, but he didn’t seem anxious to do so, either. I was just happy he was safe, so I wasn’t going to push him for more detail than he was willing to divulge at his own ease. As time has passed, he hasn’t – as some people with less circumspection might – painted himself as more of a participant in the events of that day than he may have been. I may be forgetting, but I really don’t recall him mentioning it in conversation unless directly questioned by somebody. If I had been part of that, I don’t know if I would show the same commendable restraint.


I was 12 years old and I saw it on TV, just like every other person in the world with consciousness. If you’re so young that you didn’t see it when it happened, it’s hard to describe how amazing it seemed.

I grew up during a time when putting a man on the moon seemed like one of the most important things that could ever happen. For some reason, it seemed vital that the US put someone there before the Russians. It was drilled into us in school that the space race was this overwhelming national concern and should be a great source of pride. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine the fervor with which the government pursued that goal.

I’ll be honest and tell you about something truly stupid on my part. As the time approached for the landing, there was lots of talk among my friends about what the astronauts might find there. Now, none of us expected that the moon was made out of green cheese, but we thought that maybe there might be life of some sort or perhaps elements unheard of back here on Earth. Me? I thought there was a good chance that the first man to step foot on the place might disappear, swallowed up by the dust or maybe falling through the surface as it was unable to support his weight. My wildest imaginings had the moon blowing up when they planted the flag. I speculated that perhaps the craters were caused from within, by gaseous explosions something like volcanoes, rather than by the accepted notion of their having been caused by hits from meteors and such.

Nothing blew up, nobody disappeared, and there was no life. They brought back some rocks. All in all, it was an amazing feat, but I can’t help thinking that the money spent on accomplishing it could have been better spent on something else.


Newspapers blared the headline. Television and radio commentators talked incessantly about it. I’ve got to tell you: it didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. I thought it was a foregone conclusion.

I was 17 at the time. During the previous three years, I had undergone some pretty big changes in my life and in my way of looking at the world. I had taken up recreational drug usage, my parents were divorced, I had decided to become a musician, the only thing I wanted out of school was me, and I was carrying a draft card in my wallet. I’d always been an optimist, but now I was pretty cynical.

The standard image of drug-using youth is of lazy kids with addled thoughts. Sure, some folks are like that when they use drugs. However, I’ve found that the folks most likely to be that way when they use drugs are the folks who were that way BEFORE they used drugs. The kids in MY neighborhood were sharp. Taken as a whole, we were one of the smartest groups of kids in the city of Boston.

There was a core group of ten who hung on the same street corner. A few others came and went, but we same ten were always there – smoking dope, selling dope, drinking, whatever. Of these ten, four of us passed the examination for Boston Latin School, the most prestigious high school in the city and whose entrance examination was the toughest. Since two of the ten didn’t even take the exam - their parents were sending them to Catholic high schools - that means a full 50% of us who took the exam passed it. Three of the other four guys passed the exam for Boston Tech, which was the second-toughest school academically. There were no dummies on that street corner.

The point of telling you about our drug usage and our innate intelligence is that we had all come to the conclusion that the government was completely full of shit. The government told us, continually, that marijuana would rot our brains or do some other hideous thing to us to ruin our lives. It didn’t. We saw that the government lied to us about that. As a result of gaining that insight, we began to see the myriad other ways in which the government was screwing the people. Since we weren’t dim bulbs, we had very thoughtful detailed discussions concerning these things. And we came to the conclusion, during the Watergate hearings, that there were only two ways this thing was going to resolve itself: either Nixon would be impeached or Nixon would resign.

So, big deal. Nixon resigned? Not unexpected. And when Ford pardoned him, we weren’t surprised about that, either. And ever since then, I’m pretty sure that none of us has expected anything more from the executive branch than lies and deceit – maybe, at best, stupidity. I can’t say that I've been disappointed much.


Well, what I'll say here will piss off some people, that's for sure. Sorry if you're one of them.

Truthfully? I haven’t the slightest idea where I was or what I was doing. For some people, Elvis Presley was some sort of a god. To me, he was a sell-out.

Elvis Presley made good music at the start of his career. By the time he went into the army, he was already recording pap. When he got out, he made a string of second-rate movies and released albums full of saccharine dreck.

He became a parody of himself, the Liberace of rock and roll. He tried to get Nixon to appoint him as a junior G-man - a drug enforcer. He was a hypocrite and a poser, not nearly as talented as his publicity made him out to be. He had a soulful voice, but if a strict comparison is made between his vocal abilities and those of other great singers, he doesn’t rate very high in my book. As an actor, he was passable. His greatest contribution – and this is considerable – was as the white face that made black music more acceptable and popular.

I’ll certainly grant the man his place in the history of music, but anything beyond that is wishful thinking on the part of overzealous fans. Even now, I couldn’t tell you the year he died or the date, without looking it up.


My Cousin David, in his piece, went on to describe quite a few sporting events. I have my memories of those, of course, but I think I’ll save them for another time, as this is long enough for now.

So, where were YOU? What were YOU doing? I’ve been free with MY opinions; please be free with YOURS. I’d love to hear them.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Chuck said...

Let's see...for the moon landings, I was approximately 1 year old, but Dad said he held me up so I could see the TV. For 9/11, I was asleep, having worked until 2 AM (4 AM NYC time) the night before. And I also don't remember where I was when I heard the news about Elvis, but I was only 9, so I probably didn't care much about it.

endangered coffee said...

I was 7 years old when Elvis died, and all I remember is that my dad told me he went to school with him (he didn't) and I believed it for years.

Otherwise, it's pretty obvious who won the great cultural battle between Elvis and the Beatles. The Beatles continue to make new fans today, and I'd imagine that the King's ever-aging fan base does more to scare off potential new fans than bring them in.

Sassy said...

Is it bad that I was only alive for ONE of those things on your list? *ducks and covers*

This is a great blog idea though...maybe it'll motivate me to blog more often than once a week.

HottCops said...

I remember where I was when Martin Luther King was shot. I was in front of the tv. I remember going downstairs where my mom was ironing and saying, "Mom, do you know somebody named Martin Luther King? Well, he's dead." In my defense, I was only six and three quarters...

I should remember Elvis, but I don't. Probably cuz I never liked him.

Anonymous said...

Elvis Dead.... and now here are my thoughts about the Elvis Stamp.... Hmmmm; we were allowed by the Post Office to vote for the Elvis we most wanted to see on a stamp. Unfortunately my vote was wasted. I wanted a stamp showing Elvis sitting on the toilet with his pants down to his ankles in a drugged out stupor moments before he was found dead. Oh well.... can't have everything.