There are events that are so influential that they linger in your mind for years. They continue to exist in your memory to such an extreme that not only is the event easily recalled, but the surroundings, the sounds, the smell and even the mood at the time of the memory can be easily summoned. The birth of child, a marriage, a death and other personal live changing events are obvious memories that cling to your life. These are the remembrances that build us into the beings that we are and that we hope to become.
Curiously, other events are so powerful that, although you weren’t a direct participant, you have the same set of recollections as the personal memories. For me, and I’m showing my age here, the Tet Offensive, the first Moon Landing, Bob Gibson mowing down the Tigers in the World Series, the shootings at Kent State, the fall of Saigon and both space shuttles explosions are pasted in my mind. I can remember where I was when I gained awareness of each one of those events, what my parents thought and saw, the mood in the house or campus bus for the first shuttle explosion. I can even the feel of the blanket on the couch where I watched Bob Gibson sneer his way to being a WS legend. I easily remember my dad sitting in his brown and weathered leather chair watching the fall of Saigon on the television. He was speechless and the glow of the TV was cast on his face. The general feel in the house was somber and yellow. And, frankly, as I type that, I don’t even know what it means. But “yellow” just jumps to mind. I guess that’s what a memory does to you. It makes you sense colors that couldn’t possibly have been there.
Not shockingly, the events on 9/11 is another one of those memories. I was in Toronto with a business associate named Lew. We had a morning meeting and then were to drive back to Cleveland. In those days, once you got past the metric system, Canada felt like any other US state. Same traffic patterns, same demographics, same cars, same everything. Crossing the border was as about as meaningful as crossing into a different school district. It meant next to nothing.
Four other business associates were also on the road that day. Three were in Boston, where the flights originated. And one associate was in Manhattan at a city club on E42nd Street.
Within an hour of the first plane hitting the towers, we were calling each other on our cell phones and were collectively trying to digest the meaning and impact of the towers being hit, and ultimately destroyed, by the attacks. The conversations eventually became more and more personal as the day progressed. It started to occur to all of us that we did not have a way home. The flights from NYC and Boston to Cleveland were all cancelled and within hours the borders between the US and the rest of the world were closed. We were all stranded away from our children, families and comfort of home.
The three people stranded in Boston eventually secured a rental car and drove the nine hours home a few days later. And although the three of them had little in common, they ended up with a bond that will last forever. The guy in NYC relied on the generosity of the club and roomed in the club until he could get a car and get off the island.
Lew and I had to spend five days in a completely deserted Toronto. I remember papers skipping along the streets as gentle breezes pushed through the city. We wandered the town to pass the days and nights looking for a place to hang out and catch a beer. Our opportunities were limited. Everything was closed. The workers and businesses were in shutdown. We went to the train station a few times because we knew there were people stranded there because the hotels were fully booked. We could find food and conversation there.
Eventually, the borders opened. But, by the time we crossed the border into the US, Lew and I had nothing to say. We had said it all, multiple times, over the previous few days. We had talked about family. We had talked about the horror of what had happened. We had talked about music. We had talked about the hatred that could cause such an awful event. We had talked about god. Every topic was fair game and there was no judgment. We were spent and so we simply crossed the border.
I vividly remember the personal elation and relief upon entering the US and knowing that I was on US soil. My wife, my kids, my home, everything that keeps me warm on a cold winter’s night was a mere five hours away and nothing was stopping me at this point. I’m sure Lew felt it as well but I can’t be sure. We never talked on the way home and haven’t discussed it since. I’ll never forget the silence on that sunny day as we drove home and the miles melted away.
The Human Condition on a Friday Afternoon
Some days you have to be
more than you can be
and by time the truth hits
you try to blame fate.
And the apology that you
had to give
to set yourself free
is too weak, too late.
The failure leaves
you twisting on a rope
just another lost day
up to this date.
You can play the victim
Spread the blame
But maybe the reality is
we’re just not that great.
Why do I laugh at stuff like this?
"When science teachers are exasperatedly trying to explain the concept of genetics to idiot children, they usually bring out examples of hereditary traits. They pick simple, easy-to-spot things like hair and eye color, and of course, tongue rolling. If you can roll your tongue into a gross tube shape, it means one of your parents also has the most pointless superpower ever. If neither of them have this ability, but the mailman does, it means your mother is a filthy whore."
Me feeling sorry for myself…but I’m over it now.
The floorboards creak
And the walls whisper
The pictures try to speak.
I feel locked in this empty house.
The time has passed
When joy abounded
I thought it would last.
But now it’s just an empty house.
Layers of paint peel
From the walls
Babies no longer squeal.
It is simply a big, hollow empty house.
The laughter’s a memory
Lost to the past
Every minute now a century.
Waiting for death in this cold, empty house.
The weight bears down
And crushes my shoulders.
No more smiles, only frowns
Are left in this meaningless empty house.
Some Old & Some New
My head is spinning
And the world won’t stop
Right now I’m standing
But I’m about to drop.
So, please speak to me
As the equal that I am
And stop treating me
Like a harmless little lamb.
Try to fix yourself
And let me be
Because the problems that you have
Are within you and not with me.
If this seems unfair to ask
Or you think I’m out of line
Then any offer that you make
I’ll respectfully decline.
Because it is time for me to go
You’re certainly no fun
And I’ll let my injuries scar
From the damage that you’ve done.
* old poem from the mid 80s? I was angry with some authority figures at the time and felt as if they were holding me down and beating me with mental torture (strong words but I was clueless).
However, the next poem posted…is a new one. I wrote it over the weekend after having too many shandys.
It was a compelling story
Deserving to be penned.
There appeared there was no beginning
And certainly there was no end.
We tried to get the meaning
It was destined to be a classic
But we died of total boredom
Because we simply weren’t fantastic.
The greatness that we felt
Was left hollow and not completed
The future we envisioned was
Flat, grey, blurred and quite defeated.
So, we stumbled down our path
As our anger came to blows
And our Eden became a wasteland
Because this final story we couldn’t close.