Brian and I at TGI Fridays

Friday October 5. 2001

it's not okay

Strange that last week when I drove to NYC, I had almost no problems with traffic. Of course, I wasn't going up the turnpike as usual, but from Route 80 in North Jersey. But today was fucking ridiculous. I had the presence of mind to turn on 1010WINS, NYC's stalwart AM all-news radio, as I neared the city. Then I heard: huge delays on the east and west branches of the turnpike, 90 minutes for the Lincoln, 40 for the George Washington Bridge. The Holland, of course, was closed eastbound. So I headed for the Bridge.

To make a long story short, I left Philadelphia at 3:30. I arrived in Long Island City at 7:10 after a ridiculous serpentine jaunt through Astoria, after getting off the Triborough, after zipping down Harlem River Drive (the only part of my journey that I actually zipped), after waiting to get on the bridge for 40 minutes and then being treated to a fucking gorgeous view of the river. It's a drive I've been able to routinely complete in a little under two hours, but this time it took nearly twice that.

And on Thursday, I get to do this all over again.

Anyway, the real reason I came up was to meet Brian Cooper, an Aussie RDTRNer. He was on holiday in the States, and staying with Koba. We went out to eat (sans Koba, who was at some sort of family reunion thing on Long Island) at a curiously quiet TGI Friday's near Grand Central, one of those massive tourist restaurants that (I shit you not) was so big it spanned an entire block, with an entrance on both 42nd and 43rd streets.

Anyway, while being served by the usual perky waiter, Brian bemoaned his lite beer, and I tried to disguise the fact that I couldn't understand a lot of what he was saying. I have always been so bad with accents (though I had no problems understanding Dani when I met her). My freshman year, when I was rooming with Amy, I had the hardest time understanding her thick Scottish brogue, and I was constantly asking her to repeat herself. She probably thought I was a complete dolt.

But anyway, I did have a good time with Brian. We talked about Australia (and displayed my complete ignorance of world affairs - I didn't even know Australia used dollars. I thought they still had pounds or something. duh), his job, his insanely long plane flight, the lax security at Logan airport, the art deco buildings around us. We even talked a little about it. It is there, 40 or so blocks south of Murray Hill. I looked downtown every so often, reminding myself of the mass grave that's there.

Before we went to breakfast the next morning, I helped John drop off his laundry. I waited outside the store in the cool morning for what seemed like forever, and my gaze drifted to a small flier. It was for a memorial service for someone who had died in the World Trade Center. October 6th, 2001, 10 am, St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church. It took a moment for me to realize that the service was in a half hour at the church directly across the street from me. Then I noticed several people in dark suits standing outside the dry cleaning store. It finally clicked as to who they were.

One man was holding a little boy, maybe 2 or 3, who was also wearing a little suit. He was animated and talkative and fidgety, and the man who was holding him and everyone around him was talking to him in that voice you use when you're talking to little kids at a funeral or memorial service. A happy, gentle, quiet voice that was nonetheless tinged with an aching sadness. Who was this little boy to the woman that died, I wonder. Nephew? Cousin? Grandchild? Son?

When John and I came out of the Dorian a half hour later, they were gathering in front of the church, all in dark suits, slowing starting to go in.

This happened, I thought. This really happened.

One Year Ago:
"Sometimes I would sit and wait for the clock to turn and squeeze my eyes shut tight and think of as many wishes as I could before the minute turned over."

Two Years Ago:
"It's not too gratifying to read about all the stupid boys I was lusting after in the 8th grade."