Note to self: don't writing a word this weekend. Lay off. Im tapped. Dial tone. How about you?
I was sitting in my studio Wednesday, windows open for the breeze. The planes were coming overhead every few minutes as usual - low slow and loud, with the occasional prop-driven mosquito threading its way around the giants. But around 8:30 I heard something different: big booms and dull thumps . My wife, downstairs reading Gnat a story, asked what the noise was, perhaps thinking I was playing with Soundtrack again. I went outside; the explosions were coming from the southwest, and I could feel them in my gut. Either an ammo dump was going up, or there were fireworks. But who schedules fireworks for the tenth of September?
Boom. Boom. BOOM. BOOM.
I wasnt the only person who got that queasy oh-crap feeling; thousands dialed 911. Channel 4 ran an extremely unhelpful news crawl that said southwest Minneapolis residents were reporting loud explosions. That was it: no explanation. In other news, cylinders have landed in London, San Francisco and Western Australia. Criminey.
The punchline: it wasnt just a fireworks show; it was the fireworks show for a fireworks convention, which would make it the king-hell fireworks show of all time, probably. I'm sorry I missed it.
Yesterdays entry was originally much longer. I lost half of it, alas - I was doing some desktop housecleaning, dragged it to the trash and deleted it without thinking. Probably just as well. It took a curious turn halfway through, and became a short story about a man responsible for keeping Udays cigar boxes full. Started out as a throwaway line in a list of people whose life had been changed by September 11 - but then I saw him, sitting at his desk in February, watching a fly on the window as he waited for an international call to go through. He walked away with the rest of the piece. I finished it, thought: well, thats different.
Then I went to the kitchen island to finish the piece. Thats where I am now; I like to write here. Most bleats come from De Island, mon. Enough fiction, I thought; cant write a September 11 essay about a guy who doesnt exist whose final thoughts are thanking Osama bin Laden, because now it means that his boss will never come for his daughter. Now for the Big Summing Up Piece . . .
And I had nothing. I just looked at the screen for fifteen minutes. This never happens to me. I can always write something. Doesnt mean its good - but as Ive said, in this trade you have to write when called upon to do so; its how you pay the rent. But I wasnt being called upon. There wasnt any deadline. No editor would be annoyed if I didnt write anything, no paycheck would be cast in jeopardy. I wrote a 9/11 column for Newhouse last week, and wrote about the subject earlier this week. The spleen had been vented. For a few minutes I thought, great: September 11 is turning into an essay-writing contest. Well, count me out.
I had a drink, smoked a third of the tiny evil cigars I favor, then wrote what I posted yesterday. Im glad I put the piece up, as some folks seemed to like it. Hugh Hewitt quoted it on the radio show today, alongside Victor Davis Hanson quotes, which was humbling. (Note to self: this may lead to a swelled head, which can be cured by immediately reading more VDH. Compare and contrast, class!) Hugh sounded sad throughout the show. Low and ground down. I understood - by five I was tired too, tired of the stories, the recollections, the pictures, the memories, the omnipresent weight of the day. At work I was talking to a colleague about a story Id read, a piece on a man who perished in the towers. He was the solider on the front of the Vietnam history We Were Soldiers. The piece has been going around the blogosphere, and even if I could find the link the sites bandwidth has been exceeded for a while so Im not sure a link would be helpful today. Anyway. Im relating the tale, how the man helped to evacuate everyone in his office, and cheered them with lusty old British war songs - and at that point I couldnt talk anymore. That was it. You make some gestures to indicate youve lost your handle for a moment; you turn away and get your grip. Didnt happen when you read the story; didnt happen when you thought about it the other day; but its happening now.
The day is full of moments like that. The day is bristling of sharp pikes, and youll snag on one of them before its over.
At some point you just tire of putting it all in solemn, respectful terms, and you think: this day just sucks and its always going to suck. Terrorism sucks. War sucks. Death sucks. Murder sucks even harder.
Then youre home. Barky dog, happy daughter, lovely smiling wife. This lifts the spirits. A pizza helps. Play with Gnat; give Jasper a bath, which he endures better than he usually does. Sunset comes. It starts to rain.
It hasnt rained here in seven weeks. The lawns are dead; the trees sag; even hardy evergreens have brown dead boughs. We need rain. And here it is: steady, calm, insistent. Health and life pouring back into the ground. It brings you back around; standing on the porch I thought: day's done, family's fine, and the trees are having a drink. I'm grateful for this.
Note to self: be grateful more often.