Archive for September, 2008

Battered fan syndrome

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2008 by wally426

23-09-2008   Brooklyn, NY

There are more important things in life than sports, so why don’t most fans choose to focus on those things? People are hungry on the street, someone still needs to find a cure for cancer and the AIDS virus, there’s an enormous election coming up in a few weeks, Wall Street as we once knew it has completely collapsed… what is it about sports that keeps true fans in the doldrums while these things are occurring around them?

To the fan, their team is not only a representation of where he or she comes from, but a partner in a sometimes brutal marriage. The battle of teams is a legalized war between two cities, a demonstration of pride at its pinnacle. In most cases, the team will put their devoted followers through the ringer, letting them suffer with every loss. No matter how ugly their partner might look, no matter how badly the team treats their fans, we keep coming back. As much as we say “No! This is the last time”, we end up slinking into the stadium, listening intently on the radio, or watching between our fingers as the team’s counterparts drag the fans’ hearts through the dirt.

Last night the Mets and Jets fans took a tremendous beating. It felt like I had been slugged in the gut. I laid in bed, tossing and turning from the pain, wanting the suffering to finally end. The only solace came in a water cooler meeting with fellow sufferers, arms linked as a collectively beaten base of people who should be used to the scars by now. My father said that taking a loss would be easier as I grew older and grew accustomed to it, but I can see the same pain on his face when beaten fan syndrome sets in. The only anecdote for this terrible curse is the sanguine taste of victory. Until then, we wait with baited breath, licking our wounds until the next battle.


A piercing blue sky

Posted in Uncategorized on September 11, 2008 by wally426

10-09-2008  Brooklyn, NY

Charlie’s rooftop – August, 2001

Smith & 9th Street Stop – July, 2001

Last Day at work – August 16th, 2001

I have never written or really discussed these events in depth, but I figured after seven years it’s time to get it out. The article below is tough to read but touching and relevant. In a sense, it strips away the politics surrounding what happened that day and gives a voice to the thousands of doomed souls trapped in a towering inferno.

It wouldn’t matter if seven or eighty-seven years had passed, everyone knows where they were when it happened. Our grandparents had Pearl Harbor, our parents had the JFK assassination, and we had this day that inexorably changed our lives forever. This was somewhat different because media had changed the physical connection to the events. We were all front and center, watching, not believing what was transpiring at lightning speed. For some of us, it would be the ghost constantly following behind us, breathing cold air down our necks, burning our eyes with smoke and tears. Everyone was effected differently, but nobody could really forget what hellish visions passed before our eyes on the 11th.

This is what I remember…

The first trip up to Windows on the World in the North tower, seeing my city from a quarter mile in the sky. My last trip up there to get coffee, by far the best in southern Manhattan. The elevator ride that seemed to last five hours, how strange it was to listen to silence for that long with people in such close quarters. The overwhelming smell of new carpeting on the 38th floor of the North tower. Looking out into the plaza from an office window, watching the people scatter around like ants rebuilding a crushed hill of dirt. Crossing the Hudson in a ferry after a late night at work the summer of 2000, watching the beautiful skyline’s reflection in the dark swirling waters. Getting lost in the lobby of tower two my first day of work, propping my back against giant window and feeling the cold marble underneath me. Leaning against the north tower and gazing up at the endless vertical horizon. The wind between them… During my lunch break I would always sit and watch a spot that would inevitably produce a sizable dust devil filled with leaves and plastic bags. Walking between them after a late night at work and hearing absolute stillness, which was rare considering the usual gusty conditions. Lower Manhattan always became a ghost town after 7:00, so there weren’t any people. Most of the lights were out and it was so unbelievably quiet. It was as if I had the towers all to myself for a brief moment. Lastly, I remember seeing the skyline in its complete form for the last time, heading down route 80 on my way back to school.

Then there was that morning – The sky was so blue, an absolutely perfect azure hue. On my way back from American Foreign policy class (which we ironically discussed the US’ policy in the Middle East), I had picked up a scone and a few flowers for Amanda. I saw the worried look on her face when I came to the doorstep. She wouldn’t let me in because she didn’t want me to see the TV. Then we watched the inevitable unfold, not believing what was happening. I tried to call a few people at work and got nothing. Later on that afternoon, I made soup in the kitchen and let go for the first time. Robbo sat in the living room pretending not to hear the sobs. Later that night, I saw Victor at the candlelight vigil by the reflecting pool. I hugged him so hard and cried on his shoulder, wondering why the hell this was all going on. Speaking to my mother the next day, I heard her lose control, saying over and over “You would have been there… even if you got out you would have stayed and taken pictures”. Truth was, she was right. Ira had been up at Windows getting coffee when the first plane hit. Maybe I would have been with him? Another poor soul who couldn’t have possibly anticipated such a terribly macabre fate.

The nightmares came shortly afterwards… Running up the skinny staircases, trying to tell people to get out, yelling at the top of my lungs, seeing their charred and mangled faces, the skin hanging from their cheeks. They wouldn’t listen, no matter how much commotion I caused, no matter how many fire alarms I pulled. The new carpet smell of the 38th floor had been replaced by the smell of jet fuel. Looking out into the plaza, I see a line of people falling upwards to the tops of the towers, their voices penetrating the glass in agonizing demonic shrieks. Looking up a flaming elevator shaft as a roaring moan of buckling steel and crumbling concrete fades my vision to black… The dreams were so real, sometimes I swore I could still smell the jet fuel. I would wake up at nearly the same time, 3 AM, unable to get back to sleep. Even after seeing the mass of twisted metal a few weeks later, the dreams wouldn’t stop. There wasn’t anything I could do, nothing any of us could do.

Even now, they will come back unexpectedly after reading an article or seeing a show about that day. The last bout came two years ago after reading the article posted above. The dreams were relentless, they wouldn’t stop. I would wake up in a cold sweat, feeling so guilty for not being able to save anyone. They continued for another few weeks until one night when I was out at a bar in lower Manhattan with a few friends. The whole night I was agitated. The bar we were at, lovingly dubbed the patriot, had a proud tradition a-la Coyote Ugly of women dancing on the bar to old country music tunes. As one of the bar maids jumped up on the bar, I snapped a photo and continued drinking. Shortly afterwards, she approached me from behind and asked to give up my film, to which I politely declined. She summarily called the bouncer over and he did his job by choking me with one hand until one of my friends grabbed the camera and ripped the film out. Enraged, I stumbled out onto Chambers Street and told everyone to go home without me. The site was only a few blocks away. I walked south on Church to Vescey, hoping to find some answers in the huge abyss of blue light that flooded the gaping hole where the towers once stood. It was quiet, just like the night after work all those years ago. I could hear my footsteps echoing in the plaza, and wept with the longing to go back to that moment. I thought about the deafening silence, how it must have contrasted with the chaos that had engulfed the place on a perfect summer day. I walked around the surrounding buildings, grabbing at the ashes that were still lodged in the grates, then looking at the only piece of the original site that remained, the survivor’s staircase. The first day of work, I had gone up and down those stairs so many times, desperately looking for the right office with nervous anticipation. Victor swung by in a cab after a few minutes and picked me up. When I got home, the ashes in my pockets spilled all over the floor.

After that night, I really thought about what made the situation so terrible. What was my subconscious trying to tell me? Why was I trying to save something that couldn’t possibly be saved? What was I trying to save? I had lost a couple of acquaintances that I made that summer, but nobody really close to my heart. It slowly dawned on me that it was the actual towers that I was so upset about losing. The most striking aspect in the skyline of my city had been indelibly changed, knocked back to its 1968 form in a matter of minutes. I couldn’t fathom that those buildings suddenly weren’t there any more, and it pained me to no end knowing that they’d met such an awful fate. They had gone from being two magnificently solid structures to being crumbling tombs. They moaned, screamed and died taking all those inside screaming with them. I felt like I should have been there. To do what, I don’t know. All I know is that after those ashes came tumbling out of my pocket and scattered, the nightmares never returned.

The endless vertical horizon – August, 2001