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Take Me to 9–11

Above: the chair (the white glider) where I sat and watched the news on 9–11.

I once had an Internet date with a young woman who dabbled in stand-up comedy. I watched some of her act on YouTube. Her best joke was of tourists who land at JFK, hop in a cab, and blithely say, “Can you take me to 9–11?”

I am the last person who can add anything meaningful to the commentary on the 20th anniversary of this terrible day. But it also seems wrong not to acknowledge it.

I remember waking up that morning—my phone rang, it was a friend (who always liked to be first to know things) who ominously asked, “’re from Boston, right?” I’m not, but close enough, so I always answer yes to that. He told me to turn on the news and I did.

I distinctly remember the paranoia, in those first few days, in Los Angeles, of feeling like at any second you’d see a flash outside and it would be a nuke. (A paranoia that the show 24 later brought to life.)

The attacks were horrible and all the consequences were horrible: the Islamophobia, the war-mongering, the security theater at airports...torture porn shows like 24.

I follow politics very closely and, myself, am a lifelong liberal Democrat, but moderate/pragmatic in my approach (not unlike Obama, Biden, and most mainstream Democrats). I almost never write about my views because, running Film Score Monthly, political (and religious) arguments on our message board are an ongoing scourge. I have long found it best to withhold my own opinions so I had some credibility in asking other people to shut up. (It reminds me of the exchange on the Larry Sanders Show. Hank: “What religion is Larry?” Artie: “ a talk show host.”)

Also...this sounds like a cliché...but I have a lot of right-leaning friends. I grew up with them: working class folks on Martha’s Vineyard—older, white, non-college educated business owners and tradesmen—who boasted about political views that were to the right of Attilla the Hun. Even as a teen, I just sensed that a lot of their appalling wisecracks were just to blow off steam, and that they didn’t really mean them—they were caring family guys with good hearts. This doesn’t mean their sexism and racism should be forgiven, but I understood where they were coming from. I sensed that arguing with them was pointless, and I just tried to enjoy their company and friendship.

As an adult, I played several years on rec-league hardball baseball teams in L.A., and met the same type of guys—usually, the blue-collar white guys—and, again, as far as I could tell, I liked them and they liked me. I remember this one guy, an arch-wingnut by his own admission, was running our team for a game, and it was time for us to take infield practice, and it was taking forever.

I said, “Scotty, how come you can fix the tax code for a country of 330 million people, but you can’t get the other team off the infield?” And, you know, he laughed.

This is a pretty artless transition from commemorating a national tragedy to talking about how great I am because I can joke around with the political opposition.

Apologies, truly.

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