No, this isn’t about smoking. If it were about smoking, it would be about smoking dope, not tobacco. Either way, I got to thinking yesterday about how I’m getting older, and time is flying. I can remember so vividly, like it’s a movie on an IMAX screen, life in New York City when I was twenty years old. I called Brooklyn home then, and lived only a few floors above a small Pool Hall / Bar, and directly on top of (it seemed) the N-line. When boredom set in, it was the perfect excuse to climb the stairs to top floor of the building and quickly get through the rooftop access door hoping the quick sounding of the alarm would be just another meaningless vibration to the ears of anyone nearby. Once on the roof, I could make my way to the edge, sit down and just stair. I’d gaze at the sight before me as if it were a fantasy, a page from an encyclopedia (that’s how goddamn long ago it was – no Internet, Google or digital cameras back then) or a
snip from a movie. I’d sat there and stared like that a dozen times, yet it was still hard to believe that I was gazing upon the most beautiful, breathtaking view imaginable (to me at least). The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood mightily towards the rear of my view, as if they were proud parents, smiling proudly over their beautiful skyscraper children in front of them. With the hazy sky as their backdrop, the 110-story buildings were a symbol of power, strength, financial prowess and world-dominance. New York City was and still is Earth’s Capital City, and my presence there gave me a sense of pride and superiority that was as good as any high -drug-induced or otherwise. The fact that I just happened to have a small bowl of super-strength herb with me, and a pipe to smoke it in, all while New York called me one of its own was enough anticipation to literally give my stomach butterflies -not the nervous kind, but the kind that a kid might get when he’s on his way to the amuzement park with his dad!
So the minutes faded into an hour, thoughts from my past flooded my mind as I heard the voices of my parents giving me praise and instructions, I saw the smiles on the faces of my friends as I wondered where they were while I sat enjoying my wondrous view of lower Manhattan, and I saw the demons that always rode on my shoulders, both sides even, and they screamed at me and told me how I reminded them of Satan himself. I laughed until I cried, and then I laughed because I was crying. I recalled how I was always running from something, in search of comfort and peace, and then it hit me how my running, which I’d always hated and called my greatest weakness had brought me to right where I was sitting at that very moment. How could my weakness lead me to a good place? Ii wondered. I heard the lyrics to a song by Rush, “The Camera Eye,” and pondered if maybe Neil Peart might have been sitting right where I was when he wrote that song! I quickly corrected myself and thought of the many other spots, in Manhattan, that he could have been sitting at to receive the spiritual inspiration he did to write those words. He wrote:
Taken from "The Camera Eye" Grim-faced and forbidding Their faces closed tight An angular mass of New Yorkers Pacing in rhythm Race the oncoming night They chase through the streets of Manhattan Head-first humanity Pause at a light Then flow through the streets of the city The buildings are lost In their limitless rise My feet catch the pulse And the purposeful stride --Neil Peart
So as I sat there and enjoyed the last few minutes of my high and felt sorry for those friends of mine, and the people I’d left out west, because they would never get the chance to be where I was, right there – right then. I took one last meaningful look towards the World Trade Center and thought how mighty it was, and how I might be able to one day show this site, which meant so much to me, to the people I loved, after all, something so big and strong, like the proud parents they were, minding their skyscraper children, would surely be there when that future time came!
Imagine my surprise, when twelve or so years later, I stood in the reception area at my office in some big western city I won’t name, and watched as those big, giant, powerful towers stood burning, like witches tied to a stake. Then they fell to the earth. I recall looking at a co-worker and saying “there goes at least 30,000 people. There are 50,000 people who work in each tower, each day. That’s un-fucking-believable!”
Fast-forward another fifteen years, and I’m driving down the freeway, living in another big western city, thinking about my parents and others that had helped me become the person that I am. I wanted to say “Thank you…” right then and there, as I was in one of those reflective moods where words of love come easy and thoughts can be so meaningful, and wishes come so quickly. I don’t know how or why, but the Twin Towers came to my mind, and I remembered sitting there, on that rooftop in Brooklyn. Those goddamn towers are gone now. Blown up and toppled like they were made of feathers, I thought to myself, and I thought they’d be there long after I was gone.
So ends my dose of truth. You can take what you want out of this post, if you want to take anything at all. What I was hoping that you’d take was the fact that the strong, mighty people we look up to, such as our parents, mentors, friends and grandparents, as big and strong as they are, will fall to the earth like those two towers, and then they’ll be gone forever. Maybe we’ll get to see them again, some day; it’s nice and comforting to think like that, and it’s that very thought that holds the minds of so many people to their “religion.” The religious dogma I was taught as a child, has grown into a web of lies, and brings me nothing anymore. Maybe I’d better just quit writing and tell my loved ones that they are my loved ones.