If I am lucky…

there will be a day when the memory of today, and where I am, will be as distant as the memory is right now of Jack’s bedroom at 320 First St. in Hackensack. We will all be together, happy and healthy.

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“The Last Days of Disco”

My God – Was this really the year we graduated Mt. St John’s? The year I started at Rutgers? I would have sworn that it was much later in the decade, deeper in the disco era – say, Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” But it really is the year that Gaynor had a hit with “Never Can Say Goodbye.”

Wow, was disco *really* that long ago? It’s like the jitterbug era was to us – ancient and peculiar in costumes, attitude, dancing, music, pastimes, sexual behaviors…But

How odd – I had associated this song with the disco of five years later, after I graduated from college …with the Bee Gees, and Glria Gaynor’s “I Will Survu=ive.” Instead, it’s Gloria Gaynor’s “Never Can Say Goodbye”:

Now, when’s the last time you thought of that, eh? Yet it still makes me move, more than any new song I’ve heard in years. We were in the bank today, Jake and I, setting up a joint checking account, and the bank’s sound system was playing a station offering “current” hits. It wasn’t until Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” (this summer’s Chumbawumba remake – at the same time, I really like it)) came on the I realized that *tunes* are what music no wonder has. Where are the hits of yesteryear? Seriously – there were hit tunes as long as radio and recorded music has existed. There were hits *before* recorded music. Otherwise, hoe could Gilbert and Sullivan have succeeded? Since “The Beggar’s Opera”, and that was in 1728!

{Now here is a digression, the sort of AADD (Adult Attention Defit Disorder) that the Internet has made the bane of my life). I discovered, while looking up the date that “The Beggar’s Opera” was popular, that it is theonly surviing example of a once-thriving sort of play called the “satirical ballad opera.” “The Magic Flute” wasn’t written until 1791! That’s more than 70 years later.]

Anyway,”The Beggar’s Opera” certainly had its share of hit tunes. Even Henry VIII had his own hit tune, “Greensleeves,” [popularly believed] and that song dates from at least Elizabethan times. So there have been popular tunes for at least 450 years – wherever humans have gathered together, and heard each other sing or play. Once the popular press could print written music, and the general public had enough money to purchase it, tunes could be distributed anywhere. Then there was the creation of affordable musical instruments, which could really only occur after the Industrial Revolution made the manufacturer, and purchase of, of musical instruments.

So 450 years of popular tune in the English-speaking world. Are there any such figures left in the English speaking world? Have I really lived so long that I am nostalgic for disco?

It isn’t that I abhorred it. There were many disco tunes I liked. But disco was primarily *unserious.* I was a serious person – I never had the alternative of being anything but. Someone at 52 Ski Hill had to be a serious person – there were the four younger kids to consider. So although I would dance to disco if I were at a party, I never went out to discos.I never felt cool enough, pretty enough, or rich enough. The disco look cost money! It cost a good deal to take the tunnel or the bridge into the city. Danksins cost a pretty penny. More than that, I was drawn to music like the Talking Heads, or Elvis Costello – music with a beat, but about serious issues.

Now I miss disco, like I miss the Twin Towers. They were both simultaneous creatures, and they both collapsed, turning into dust that left survivors gasping and confused. “Where to go now?” When you think about it, disco has its own holocaust, same as the World Trade Center.

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The Tenth Anniversary of “9/11”

I put “9/11” in quotes because it is no longer a date, but an event – just as “Pearl Harbor” is no longer a location. There is my *own* 9/11 story: it is actually three or four weeks long. It begins with that glorious, absolutely lucid, dulcet clear cerulean sky on that Wednesday morning, as I drove Jake to school, and we saw the light glinterring off the dewdrops on the fields at Douglass Campus. It was one of those glorious early-fall days that make you believe that “God’s on His Heaven, and all’s right with the world.” Jack was down in Florida with the PruPac bus, taking care of prepping its bus systems prior to its deployment.

So he had to call me from Florida to ask me if I was watching the TV after the first Tower fell. I was in the middle of a long phone call with Toni Mullins, who was distraught because she’d had to put her dog down that morning. Jack actually had the operator break into my call with her. I turned on the TV, and at first didn’t understand what was happening – there was a Tower, and a lot of smoke – but where was the other one? The announcers on the television seemed mystified, as well – where was the other Tower? Suddenly, we all realized – it was gone. It had collapsed. Such a thing seemed unbelievable, and still does. How could the Tower just crumble like that? It was so huge, so sturdy, made of steel and concrete and stone – where did it go?

What had happened to all the people that were in it? That was my next shocked thought. There were 30 to 50 thousand people that would work in the Towers on a weekday. What had happened to them? Now, we say “3,000,” and are horrified by that number. But on the actual day, and for days after, we were certain that the death toll must have been much, much higher. We have never given proper acknowledgement to the calm and deliberative way that those Towers were evacuated, and that so few people – comparatively – died.

But on that morning, I was still too completely numbed by what I was watching, too awe-struck, to process what I was seeing. The first coherent thought I did have was about the school. I knew Toni wasn’t there, and wondered what I could do to help. I drove over there immediately.

When I got there, the teachers were standing around in the hallways, stricken and frightened. Trish was a basket case – Bill, her husband, was supposed to be working on the roof of the North Tower that morning, helping to install a new antenna. She hadn’t been able to reach him, and was terrified that he’d been killed. None of the classrooms had been informed, and the teachers didn’t know what to tell the students. They drafted me, as Chairman of the Board of Directors, to go into every classroom and inform the students about what had occurred.

The children whose responses I most remember were the K – 2 grades. Every classroom in that age group (and there were three) had the same question: Did the planes hit the buildings on purpose? It was very difficult for them to understand that one – that TWO planes had to hit the TWO buildings separately. But when the children understood that, they all asked the same question about it: Why did they do it? What had we done to make them so mad at us? Those children all understood that this sort of thing wouldn’t have happened because of nothing at all. The mush-mouthed reason that adults later repeated dully, “They did it because they hate our freedoms,” obviously made no sense to them. These kids had no reason to feel compelled to mouth the old “acceptable” explanation that the adults clung o. They wanted to know what we had done to make them so mad at us! It’s a natural question, especially to children, who are very aware of the sorts of reasons that people get angry at each other. They figured we must have done something pretty dreadful to make them so angry at us.

Americans never did find out that reason – which is why we are in such a miserable space over there today.

I suppose my breakdown and suicide attempt 2 weeks later was a part of 9/11, as well. I got through the actual day alright, being very strong while everyone else was cracking up. I remember sitting in my bedroom that night, alone, hearing Barber’s elegiac “Adagio For Strings” playing on WNYC. (It seemed to be all they played for three days.) I copied Auden’s “September 1, 1939″ into my journal….”as the clever hopes expire of a low-dishonest decade.” “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” “We must suffer them all again.” I knew what was coming…at that moment, I was afraid that we would simply nuke Baghdad. (We were fortunate that Bush felt queasy, when Cheney was so gung-ho.)

The Anniversary here has been a lot of turgid, self-important programs on cable revisiting the horrors of the day. They are very difficult for me to watch. There has been a lot of memorial music on WNYC, including all the music that listeners suggested memorializing the day.

But for me, what I have been thinking about is the actual death of the buildings as well as the people. Those buildings were actual presences in my mind, even realer and more visceral than many politicians or celebrities. I’d never met the Presidents or television stars that are supposed to be so important – but those buildings… I knew them, had looked up at that 100+ stories from their bases in the courtyard, had been on the rooftop viewing area, had eaten some of my best meal ever in the restaurants, had watched the arguments over their creation, and then their years-long climb into the skyline…. and had seen them everytime I even got *near* to Manhattan. They mattered to me, in the way that only a monumental piece or architecture that is part of your life can.

The Towers have been gone for so long that I can divide NY into “Towers NY” and “After Towers NY.” When I watch movies from the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, and I see the Towers, it’s the indicia that the movie is truly ancient. Even more than the autos or the clothes or the haircuts, it’s the presence of the Towers that date these films. Once, seeing the Towers in a movie was a quick way to know that the screenplay was actually taking place in Manhattan. Now, seeing the Towers affixes the film in *time.*

Now it’s impossible to head to Manhattan from anywhere in New Jersey without seeing The Hole. The Hole mean “Where the Towers Should Be.” No building, no matter how fantastic, can ever fill The Hole. You would have to build the Towers up again – perhaps, this time, in gold cladding, rather than silver.

The Towers were more than a landmark – they were a marking of the land, a talisman, a promontory used to align one’s travels to and on the island. Now that negative space is the monument. The only fitting occupier of that space is the Tribute In Light, beams of light, shooting up into the heavens.

The best part about the Towers was the ride up to the top, in those elevators that had a pressure differential as you entered them, because of the vacuum of air being pulled from the top. The Windows on The World, especially when it held Cellar in the Sky, was also a truly magical place. The food was great in Windows; in Cellars, it was extraordinary at times. But the view from that restaurant! To dine on top of the WTC was truly a magical experience, one of the great reasons to visit NYC in the late 20th Century.

Actually visiting the *offices* in the WTC was a different story. Unless you were in an office with a window, you might as well have been in any corporate rabbit warren – with the difference that you would have to walk down dozens of flights in case of a fire alarm.

The Towers seemed to be show up in every movie shot in Manhattan during that period, as well – the visual proof that the film was set in New York. When they were built, they were supposed to be the Rockefeller Brothers’ Great Pyramids. (Anyone else remember when we called the Towers “David” and “Nelson”?)

They were not attractive, but became almost beloved *because* of their stark, blunt, preposterous bland monumentality. (It certainly look like the new “Freedom Tower” is going to be the Ugly Tower.) And, yes, Phillip Petit bore them aloft into the realm of transcendence. The film, “Man on Wire” is a wonderful documentary of the event. But the children’s book, “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers,” captures the true spirit of the feat …especially the last illustration, which shows Petit walking on a tightrope suspended between the memories of the Towers, nothing more.

I don’t think America will ever build their like again, not in my lifetime.

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I’m going to give my Facebook friends a break

I must publish 3 or 4 links a day to my FB page: videos I find interesting, music I’m listening to, newspaper article or facts I wish to comment upon. It’s certainly a much greater volume than anything my friends engage in, with the exception of Doug Sharp.

There is also the heavy posting routine used by news sites or the politically aware: TPM and Abbey Arletto also publish as many links to stories. But they are using FB in a political sense – to keep in touch with readers as news developments occur during the day, or to simply motivate people to action.

Well, today is the day that I will begin to use my blog, instead of my FB page, as the way to broadcast all the *stuff* that I have been encumbering my FB page with. If my friends wish to hear what I am saying on a variety of issues, or to keep up with the links I find worth the time to enjoy, they can follow me here. If not, then I have done them to favor of decluttering their lives.

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This summer, it’s New Order on my iPod

This is the song that was playing over the theater’s sound system just before I walked down the aisle at my wedding – completely by accident. I remember standing in the back of the Forum,looking at the stage, as my sisters arranged my dress’s train. I had been feeling very calm and determined, with a “Let’s get this show started” sense – the same purpose and certainty about the part i was to play that I’d felt before walking onto the stage in any successful production I’ve been in.

Then “Touched by the Hand of God” began to play. New Order had been my favorite band since the day I’d first hear “Power, Corruption and Lies” on a tape deck in Adam’s room when I crashed with Jamie back when I was becoming a broker. All through the ’80s, New Order was my touchstone. They still weren’t well-known here in the States, so I would always be excited when I heard them on MTV, or find them on a jukebox, or in the DJ’s box of singles at a wedding. I listened to them continuously during the period when Jack and I broke up; they kept me upbeat with their music, and their depressed and slightly cynical lyrics matched my mood. Joy Division was the choice of the *truly* indie and hip, but i couldn’t listen much to them, because I was actually clinically depressed, and Joy Division made it worse. (Ian Curtis’s suicide was the warning sign on the door of the room that was their oeuvre: “Danger! Fatal if swallowed when under the influence of depression.”

New Order took the same lyrics and embedded them in a far more danceable beat and up-beat sounds. Their first single, “Ceremony” was actually a remake of a song written by Curtis. When you compare the two, you see the difference. It appeared to me that Sumner, Hook and Morris had the same intellectual insights and attitudes about the difficulties of living and finding love in the modern Anglo-American world that I and Curtis and millions of other did. However, they also had a strong will to live in spite of all the misery. It was exemplified by the desire to dance and feel the joy of the moving body. Since I share that basic impulse of never, truly at the bottom of everything, never giving up, I found that combination to match my own experience identically. For me, their music was a lifesaver many nights. I remember listening to “Shellshock” over and over: “Hold on! It’s never enough – it’s never enough until your heart stops beating. . Don’t give up the game until your heart stops beating.” It’s impossible to kill yourself when you’re dancing.

When George and I began hanging out with the crew from the Frog and The Peach – a lot of them gay and in their early 20s, thus at least five tears younger than I. (When I was in my 20s, age differences seemed much larger than they do now.) There was a lot of what was called “alternative music. A party at James’ house was the first time I heard “Meat Is Murder” by the Smiths, for instance. I actually would brings new music by New Order to the events, since I was the greatest devotee of the band that you could find outside of Manchester – well, at least in NJ, it seemed. There was “Brotherhood” and Low-Life.”

Then, when Jack and I started up again, “Bizarre Love Triangle” seemed especially apt. “Every time I see you falling, I get down on my knees and pray…” The videofor it was by the artist Robert Longo, and showed clips of besuited yuppies falling out of a clear blue sky, twisting against gravity. It became the song we always requested at parties, and would always get up to dance to… but to me, it also spoke of the “falling” that happened as one capitulated not only to love, but to the exigencies of life.

“Touched By the Hand of God” was the song that accompanied me throughout the entire engagement, through all the long hours working, all the plans and work for a wedding that I could actually afford, and yet make memorable. The lyric “I’d never looked at you in a sexual way in my life before…” always made me think of that moment in 1980 when I watched Jack – playing pinball back when it was a full-contact sport, using body English – and suddenly felt a surge of desire for him. It was shocking. because I’d known him for at least three years, and had actually categorized him as “not my physical type.” That moment of recognition – and then the moment when I decided to accept it – had always struck me as fateful.

I stood there in my wedding dress – the heavy silk satin with its own story – and looked down the red carpeted aisle, past all the movie-seat rows filled with our guests. I saw the baskets of beautiful home grown bouquets of various colors, the helium-filled balloons in gold and crimson and a translucent pearl tiede to the backs of the chairs. I saw the Unitarian Reverand, standing next to Jack in his tuxedo, and Kevin, his best man. The snes of calm remaniend, but sudeenly I realized that this moment was not one that I could control. It hadn’t happened because I had willed it, or planned it, or worked for it. It had happened because I was acting out an intention that came not from me or from Jack, but from that higher power I identified as God. God had touched me, saying “This step is the way that you have the experiences I desire, for you and for Myself.”

“I was touched by the hand of God … I never knew it, but of course I was.”

It still gives me the same chills it did then – 23 years later.

When I’m really angry or frustrated being married, I play this song, and remember why I made the choice. It helps put all the daily shit into perspective.

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Donald Trump says he is “the least racist person there is”

In this one little clip is everything that I cannot stand about the way the topic of race – specifically, racism against black citizens – is being discussed in this election season. It’s obvious that the a certain breed of Republican feels absolutely no compunction about making pronouncements about racism and racial issues. They are even proud and eager to do so, in order to demonstrate how “non-PC” they are. Trump’s a major player in this movement, because of his cynical embrace of the birther issue. Trump is the perfect example of the publicly permissible GOP racism. It’s based on his natural inclinations, but it’s ultimately deployed as a marketing tool. It feels good, and makes him money – what’s not to like, as Trump would put it?

Trump is racist in the way that many white Republicans are racist. They believe that most black people are lazy welfare cheats, who do drugs, live in the projects, and have a lot of kids out of wedlock. They’re violent, rather stupid, and “lower the quality of our schools.” They can’t govern themselves; just look at Detroit and DC. As far as the Republicans are concerned, these are the *facts.* All you have to do is look around to see the proof!

This virulent set of beliefs has been around since the invention of American chattel slavery at least. I don’t need to recite the history of American racism here, or the many permutations it has taken.This election season is going to be one of the most emotionally draining ever, because there will simply be so much more of it on display. But Jack says this is actually a good thing, because finally it will be out in the open. Rather than purely coded language and policy positions that do not directly state their reasoning, we’ll have outright NeoConfederates happy to defend their beliefs in blunt language. I thought that the behaviors common in my childhood – the time of ax handles and barring the schoolhouse doors – were permanently gone with Lester Maddox and George Wallace. But it looks like I was wrong. If the GOP is eager to do away with Social Security and the entire 20th Century, they include civil rights legislation in their dustbin.

Of course, these Republicans will also tell you that they are not the racists – the “Libs” are. The libs, you see, notice things like the GOP attitude towards blacks and Hispanics, and actually point to race as the cause for the GOP’s treatment of these groups. “The libs are always playing the race card! We don’t treat these groups the way we do because of their race – we treat them that way because of the truth.”

These Republicans always prove their openness by pointing to the “outliers” among black people they’ve trumpeted. These exceptions demonstrate GOP non-racism. Alan West, Herman Cain, Randal Pinkett – these are the “good ones,” who are clean-cut and Conservative. All they have to prove their open-mindedness are the few anomalies, which become anecdotal proof, such as the one Trump employs. The entire black middle and working class doesn’t exist in this field of reference.

There will be a strong push for the Republican GOP candidate to have a black running mate, such as Cain or West. In the GOP’s eyes, this is a strategy that will “make the libs’ heads explode! How can the GOP, which is supposed to be so racist, actually have a black VP candidate? They won’t know which black man to vote for!” Herman Cain may have originally come to public notice because he was opposed to Democratic policies – specifically, Clinton’s health care proposal – but he stayed in public notice because he was the anecdotal proof. Cain may even believe some of the positions he argues. But he’s made a lot of money as a Right Wing radio personality because he was cynical enough to knowingly exploit his condition as the anomaly.

In the long run, none of it really matters for the Republicans’ political chances, either in 2012 or thereafter. The majority of Americans can see the truth about GOP racial attitudes, because they are on display and put into action everyday. The demographics of this country, as demonstrated in the last census, shows that the GOP will be a rump party by 2020, if not before. The only hope they have is to employ voter caging and other voter barriers to keep all “those people” from voting.

If the Dems want to really kick the GOP to the curb, they should be doing tons of outreach to voting groups the GOP disdains. Economic populism really speaks to all of us. After all, the GOP strategists employ popular racism as a tactic to further their real strategy: picking the pockets of every taxpayer in the nation, and turning all the commons into privately-held, for-profit assets.

It’s the modern Enclosure Movement. But that’s another post.

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How unexpectedly moving…in so many ways

Total, utter game changer. And they *have his body.* They’re bringing it back to Obama like the ancient warriors delivering the head of an enemy to Caesar. But it’s the world that is truly Caesar – the ultimate power that demands proof of the enemy’s defeat. What a legendary battle this has been over the past ten or more years… Osama’s death does not make it over, and we still have so much to correct. But I had not realized what a *personal* struggle, what a burden, this has been, ever since that September day …

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