Monday, 11 June 2012


After blogging about the unbloggable, I went hunting for feedback. Kacey Vanderkarr and Missy Biozarre prompted my chain of thought. Who better to ask? People like Missy were mentioned, tangentially, in the aftermath of the World Trade Centre’s destruction. I was far more interested in her view of the event, than in her thoughts on my blog comments.
   The tangential reference resurfaced throughout mid-September in 2001. What of the children watching television? How do we explain this disaster to them? Missy’s recollection is that she was outdoors playing basketball at school when a kid ran up and broke the news.
   Then she was indoors, watching the footage, not thinking very much about the destruction. Except to observe that watching the event was like watching a disaster movie on television. She had no connection. Not to the buildings destroyed. And not to the people who died. Though she didn’t quite take in the notion that people died. Not right then.
   Her main thought was that other people in the room were affected by what they saw. In particular, the teacher. Missy herself remained distanced from the event. Comprehension reached her later that Tuesday, when she witnessed her father’s tears. The first time she saw the man cry.
   Even with that personal event rushing in on her, she felt little other than curiosity concerning the attacks. Her view has a bearing, all these years later, on my cold statement. She tells me, candidly, that she can’t quite see what I was worried about.
   I was worried, in the cold moment of thinking what I thought, that I had lost the last scrap of my humanity. A realisation with grave consequences, had that been true. Missy bolstered her opinion by echoing the widespread sentiment that it is not a crime – not yet a crime – to have a thought.
   You’re not the only cold one in the room.
   Some of us are capable of detaching ourselves from horrific events. I think to do so, constantly, leads to a numbness that chips away at humanity. Yes, it’s good to switch off for short stints. Barrel through the crisis, deal with the problem, and then switch back on later.
   Missy’s statement about my not being the only cold one in the room suddenly cast a shadow over my life as I reviewed coldness. Yes. I know I must come across as cold at times. Just as I am convinced that this isn’t automatically a bad thing.
   There’s a certain type of writer fuelled by coldness and darkness. Cliché, I know. How does this feedback affect me? Missy holds the belief that blogging is cathartic. I start to see this, through her comments. That I can dump slivers of darkness into my blog, if I have to. Doesn’t mean I’m going to. The screen would turn black, for one thing. Just from mere slivers of darkness? Oh yes. I don’t believe blog readers are flocking to read these snippets, looking for a black cloud to pause under.
   Missy’s detachment on the day echoed mine, half a world and several time-zones away. Perhaps this quality in her younger brain steered her to the path of writing as an adult. Detachment. Observation. The writerly mind, at work. Misperceived as coldness. Unless the writerly mind at work is also bathed in coldness.
   I shift position. Ponder another fictional piece, based on reality. Though this later clashed with reality by coincidence. And I let it slide when I saw that I’d stepped too close. Could I discuss that now? In the next blog. A tale of a singer, the creation of characters, and life competing with art to determine which is imitating which.
   For now, I juxtapose images across the years. The time-zones. A writer-in-the-making ends her game of basketball to watch disaster unfold on television. Across the world, a writer-in-the-unmaking, about to lose a novel, comes across as just as cold as the girl being unaffected by the explosions.
   Years later, she wonders what I was so worried about. In response to that, I can’t quite form the words to say what it was that concerned me. So I talk about losing a scrap of humanity. I find difficulty in explaining how I managed to shift position so that I could blog about the unbloggable.
   History. I knew at the time that I’d never discuss yon cold moment. Recently, through contact with Kacey and Missy, I saw a way through the ice. Sometimes never means maybe later. What did I get out of this? An answer to that question about what the kids thought at the time. What do they think? How to explain? Age-old questions, predating television.
   Can you place yourself so far out in the cold that the only human response you have left is to note that you are that far out in the cold? There have been times in my life when I was there. It’s a still place. Nothing stirs. There’s no good or evil to it. No up or down. Though there is a door, behind you, that led in.
   The feedback I hunted for, at the start of this particular blog post, was actually my own. On the scale of things, I’m barely on the scale of things. I am not Primo Levi, considering the depiction of the unthinkable from the insider’s viewpoint. Levi was the participant/observer in history’s drama. I merely switched on a television, stood, watched, and thought what I thought.
   My memory of observing the destruction remains tied to the feeling of standing as the news unspooled before me. I didn’t sit. That remains a strong image. Shackled to the cold phrase about engineering. This jumble of thoughts, scenes, events, becomes a vague story surfacing in my blog.
   A young American ends her game of basketball with the guys. She approaches a television. What will we tell the children? The same sort of things mentioned in 1986. A teacher goes into space on the shuttle. That flight is televised live. The Challenger explodes. All across schools, teachers are switching off television sets and explaining the inexplicable.
   Five years before, I was thought beyond sick for writing about the inevitability of an exploding space shuttle. Gloomy, pessimistic, and – the word was used – morbid. Morbid, with special emphasis. My badge of dishonour. Simply my view of the world, filtered through all that reading I’d done on space exploration.
   Grissom, Chaffee, and White. The crew of Apollo 1. Dead on the launch-pad. I thought of those guys, when I wrote about an exploding space shuttle. Half a decade on, and my view of reality was all over the news. Parts fail. Standards improve. The phrase is uttered. Tombstone technology saves the lives of all who follow in the wake of those who died prompting its introduction. It’s never pretty. Always tastes stale and sour.
   Watching the shuttle explode, I didn’t feel cold. Writing of it was in my past. Concerning the incident related to the World Trade Centre…a fifteen-year chunk of time had rolled on by then. Time enough in which to have slices of my humanity stripped away.
   In fact, I don’t know what you were so worried about.
   Oh some indefinable thing, Missy. On a personal level. Not on a public one. Do I care what people think? I’ve had enough humanity stripped away to say no in answer to that one. These blogs were meant to be about my work. Not about the work I abandoned.
   This report from a fugitive was supposed to be rushed. Dashed off at the foot of some rain-sodden hulk of a hill. With pursuers close on my weary heels. No time for the personal. Just basic notes. No scope for catharsis. Merely an eight-line map of where I’m headed next.
   Images. I’m in New York. Standing at the site of one of two places I always harboured a secret desire to visit. I am not the sort of person to compile a bucket list – a menu of things I wish to achieve before I die. So visiting these two places is not on my lack of a bucket list.
   I want to write stories. Newsflash. I write stories. So, I have no need of a bucket list. Without telling anyone, I decide I’d like to visit the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Almost without planning, I do. The other place I’m headed, in my dreams, is the Empire State Building.
   There I am, in New York. Atop the Empire State Building. We – and that’s a huge crowd – are high up. A gaggle of American girls. Clouds. A low-flying aircraft. Rising panic in the young women. The aircraft is so low. Their thoughts turn to the destruction of skyscrapers as they make exclamations about the low aeroplane.
   My thought turns to the fact that the aircraft isn’t necessarily low. We are high up. Also, clouds play tricks with perspective. I found it impossible to travel through New York without picking up direct and indirect references to terrorist activity.
   Cops on the subway, just there for peace of mind, are at the sharp end if anything horrific goes down. Queues to get into certain buildings are queues for detectors. I have so much metal on my person that a crane magnet would easily cart me away.
   At the base of the Statue of Liberty, a man sets off a detector. That’s the sharp end. If he’s a bomber, he’s going to do the deed right here, right now. I have no time in which to react, as I am handed paper slippers when this potential breach of security occurs. This checkpoint is run briskly, and I don’t find out what, if anything, went wrong.
   Some security checks are shambolic, and not worth the effort. You want reviews? I pass through one checkpoint run by the Feds. Top-rated. Maximum points. I pass through another run by the U.S. Navy. Top-rated. Maximum points in crisper uniforms. These people know that they are not there to provide a show. Be careful, passing through checks like that. Otherwise, you might become the show for all the wrong reasons.
   There is no reading of minds at these checkpoints. Or, at least, not that I notice. La Biozarre’s point, made later, that it isn’t a crime to have a thought, strikes me as the first thought made a thought-crime when the time comes.
   Until then, I’ll think what I think. And I’ll think what I think, even when thinking becomes a crime. Will anyone be upset at what I’ve written about the World Trade Centre? I was the first shaken by the notion that I wasn’t shaken. That’s enough feedback, for me.


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