Tuesday, September 11, 2012


When I was a kid in NYC, the local TV station, WPIX Channel 11, was commemorating an anniversary or somesuch, and arrived at a creative ad campaign. Actors would play assorted people throughout the city, who were asked to help out Channel 11 with finding a proper symbol for the station. Invariably, over their shoulders, the towering endeca-digits of the WTC mocked their perplexity.

One of the dwindled but enduring artifacts of my college-era obsession with the ancient Greeks was a deep admiration for the geometric simplicity, the sleek, unadorned, cyclopean sincerity of those Towers. They were edifices of frank, unapologetic Commerce (which, in those days, I conceptualized more as a linear juggernaut, than as the nimble network I envision today). Of course, at the time, I also thought the Chrysler Building was, by comparison, a grotesquely baroque bastardization of Deco and Gothic and Neo-Fascist architectural indecision and pomposity. What can I say: I was, in so many ways, a thoroughgoing ninny back then.

Like those New Yawkahs from the WPIX ads, the Towers were an axis mundi for me, ubiquitous as the Moon. I remember going over the Queensboro Bridge in my parents' car, gawking at that impossibly high constellation of construction lights. Those brilliantly-silvered or celestially-coruscant or mist-wreathed binary reminders of the power of intelligence and will were ever part of the semiotic scaffolding which defined my world.

That billowing dust cloud contained a little something besides the (immeasurably more precious) molecules of my fellow humans. It marked the atomization of one literal and countless more abstract nuclei of my scheme of organizing my experience of self-in-world. It was like that character from "The X-Men," the one who teleports, and the air which had just been displaced by him would slam into the sudden vacuum with a "BAMPF!" They were gone. And, in ways both subtle and gross, nothing would ever be the same. If nothing else, the Phantom Skyline Syndrome is likely to be a life-long affliction.

I've striven to keep these Things as trans-political as could be, and I'd rather like to keep that up. Suffice to say, then, that the forced conceptual and emotional reconfiguration of things did not stop at the local space surrounding me. Rather, it spun vortices outward into my most far-flung theories of how nations and cultures and ideologies and power-flows were arrayed on the whole of the skin of this Globe. And the BAMPF is still echoing, as those views evolve at a pace which would make Stephen J Gould --rest his bones-- really proud.

This past July, I was on the Circle Line, with Ma'am 'Cyte, and the Li'l Cyte, and had my first close look at the construction of what I hope someday to stop referring to as the "Capitulation Tower."  Of course, any project of such scale and scope will evoke wonder, but the new WTC simply leaves a sour finish on my palate. Am I like a disgruntled denizen of Radio Row here? Or is it the absurd delay, political wrangling, failure to be configured as a reproduction of the Towers (11 floors taller, their footprints transposed with their fallen forebears'), its misleading altitude tally (a number of stories of non-habitable space --complete with token wind turbines)? Or maybe the residue of the wrenching realignments of the geopolitical context which are woven into its DNA simply by virtue of when it arose. I don't know.

I just know that I feel myself to be in a holding pattern as to the larger implications of That Other Tuesday (as the unusually self-referential nature of this year's post will attest). Maybe this is the Equilibrium before the next Punctuation (again, with the Gould). Maybe that's just an artifact of the election season. The many gods forfend that the next surge of change should be predicated on so calamitous a happening. May it be so that, whoever is wielding the ordnance, the feeder streams of the torrent which obliterated so many worlds that morning are being drained with implacable and irreversible efficacy ("Truthers" need not comment. It will not go well).

In the meantime, I suppose the news station "New York One" might have something to think about.

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