Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Petals upon the pillow
 Blood red rain as it dies
Beauty eternally burns
 In those dreamy eyes
Whence those kisses fall
 From lips I yearn to taste
And I speak your name
 To your heart I've so long chased
Rhythm and Beats
 Music on my weary soul
Those melodies you sing
 Your hand  I wish to hold
It's love, It's love
 That rises in the sun and crowes
It's love, love my dear
 Like petals from rose.


For I am Black, and Loathed.
And in the Skies I shall watch
Below the murk and the lost and hopeless and despised
I am King.

The streets run with tears
The rivers thick with wretch
Ne'er taste the flesh of the dead
With your nameless lips

Ground Zero (or How I Stopped Having Hope for Freedom in America)

Ground Zero.

Most Americans will know what that means these days, I assume. If you are part of that tiny percentage of people who don't, I'm referring to the site that was, prior to 9/11/01 the location of the World Trade Center's North and South Towers. Now, it's just a couple holes in the Earth located in lower Manhattan. It's more than that. It's a Memorial to the lives lost there, and it's a really great place to take facebook profile pictures, AND it's got a gift shop.

No. I'm not kidding.
A fucking gift shop.

But I'm ahead of myself here. Let me start at the beginning...

When we arrived at the site, there was a chain-link fence wrapped in blue privacy fabric with the 911 Memorial logo (Yes. Logo.) waving gently in the breeze. The new towers, still under construction, loomed overhead against the sky, and there was a distinctly large police presence. A line looking remarkably like a queue at Six Flags awaited just beyond the velvet ropes. All visitors must have tickets to stand in line. It seems that one must secure a visit time and print tickets via the internet or some such nonsense - but there were attendants announcing that tickets were available at the gate for those not possessing them today, a somewhat rare occurrence it seemed. The memorial is not yet complete, but visitors are allowed to view the portions ready for public consumption. So with newly issued tickets in hand, we ventured down into the circuitous pathway, showing our tickets when prompted. Remember- ALL visitors must have a ticket, and it must be displayed until you are instructed otherwise. Sorry. Moving on...

So we wound our way around into the construction, and through several checkpoints before arriving at <cue fanfare> SECURITY. It looked a lot like the TSA screening area of your local airport. Remove all hats, glasses, belts, coats, bags... you know the routine. As I reached down to untie my shoes (That's a good citizen - do what you are trained to do), I was told I could leave them on. My bad. I was wearing steel toed boots. After passing through the metal detector and setting it off twice (I announced that I was wearing them), I was ordered to lift my pant legs up over the cuff of the boot for inspection. Then we were released into the line again, for two final checkpoints. The first was attended by a woman lining the ticket with magic marker (I assume to prevent reentry into the free exhibit OR to prevent me from passing my ticket to a terrorist waiting just on the other side of the fence). The second was just another bored guard, I believe.

Then we made out way down the cattle chute (STAY TO THE RIGHT) and into the Memorial plaza itself.  It's lovely. Two enormous holes in the ground, granite-lined, with waterfalls into a pool that drains into the center column. There is a wide rail engraved with the names of all those who lost their lives that day surrounding each of the two holes - one each for the two tower locations. Essentially, they are the footprints of the towers themselves, permanently vacant from the New York landscape. The light poles dotting the plaza are reminiscent of the towers in shape. Groomed trees are placed strategically throughout, crating a space that begs for reverence and thoughtful insight. However, the throngs of visitors are busy making sure that they are getting good shots of themselves for the family album or Facebook. It's noisier than I would expect, and the theme park atmosphere is juxtaposed against the somber browns and deep grays. People move about quickly, making sure to visit all four sides of each  depression. It's maddening to someone like me who has a very different idea of what respect for the dead means. Don't misunderstand, I'm all for a party for the dead. I'm all for celebrating the lives of those who have passed. But this was like setting up barker's row at a funeral home.  It just felt wrong.  Many visitors were doing the "Take our picture?" thing to others, smiling and making sure that the background clearly identified itself as the 911 Memorial. Sorry, ladies. Take your own damned pictures like so many of your neighbors are doing.

Ever visit the Viet Nam Memorial Wall? It's respectful of the reason it was erected. Same for the Korean War Memorial, and so many other places that mark tragedy in our world. I wonder if the USS Arizona Memorial feels like this?

I'd had enough. Personally, I think the towers should have been rebuilt. No matter what you believe was the real cause of the event, there would be no greater fuck you to those responsible than to get on with living. But no, we chose this instead.

We made our way out, following the instructions to STAY RIGHT, and followed the crowd. And the last stop was the "911 Memorial Visitor's Center" complete with GRAND GLASS WINDOWS displaying such wonders as the NYC PD custom motorcycle and banners ensuring that you knew where you were.

Into the glass doors we went. To the right, two large images of something related to the memorial, and to the left? Well, it was a gift shop. Tee shirts and shot glasses and books and all manner of collectibles ready to go back home with you. All sorts of things for you to remember your visit to the 911 Memorial.

Sorry gang, I believe that you got it all wrong. Tear down that Memorial and rebuild the towers. Let life get back to business as usual. And may whatever god help the first poor jackass I see actually wearing a 911 Memorial tee shirt. Raping the memory of the tragedy is not a great way to make sure we all never forget that day.

I mean, seriously - If this is so great, why not just have Sandy Hook School Memorial ashtrays?

I am angry about all of this. I am really pissed. And a big part of it is our willingness to just stand in line with our papers and be ready to show them when ordered. I'm angry that we line up at airports and take our SHOES off so we can be inspected and X-rayed and examined before boarding a plane. I am angry that I can have my regularly-sized tube of toothpaste that I was told to place in the provided bags thrown out, while a forgotten can of hairspray comes onto the plane with me.  I'm angry that we are slaves to regulation in the name of safety. I'm angry that the war on terrorism has been used to perpetuate the war on tourism. We are supposed to be free, remember?

Not so much anymore, I'm afraid.