I'm one of those native New Yorkers who likes to disprove the myth that we're all rude assholes. I mean, I'm a total rude asshole, especially if you are walking too slowly on the sidewalk ahead of me, or, god forbid, stopping suddenly to look at something. I will not only run you right over, I will mutter something so obscene you will stop and reconsider your various orifices -- Is that even physically possible?
But if you pull over to the side of the sidewalk, and pull out a map, I will be your best friend. For one, I want you to get where you're going quickly and easily so you don't stop suddenly in front of one of my fellow New Yorkers. I also enjoy showing off my wizardly knowledge of my hometown. I want you to go home and remember me -- "Remember that nice lady who stopped and asked us if we needed help?" "Yep. She sure was cute, and physically fit. And her knowledge of New York was unparalleled!"
So this morning, I see three fannypacked Midwesterners making confused round vowels over a map of the city, and I pull up like CHiPs to the rescue. "Do you ladies need some directions?"
And they give me that weird look, like I might demand a dollar from them if they engage me, but really I look normal enough, and I'm totally sincere. I want to help them. They sense this, and give in.
"Oh, thanks so much. Can you tell us how to get to the World Trade Center?"
Uh, yeah. You just go back in time a few years, and it's right there by the A train.
Why the fuck does everyone want to go to the World Trade Center? Do they know there's nothing there anymore? I always want to tell them, "You know they patched up the smoking pit full of the charred human remains of innocent people who died terrified, just so you're not disappointed when you get there." Or, "The view's much better from the Empire State these days." I mean, what the fuck are they looking for? I don't go walking up to you in your hometown, going, "So where was that car accident that killed all those highschoolers? I really want to go there and stare at the place they died!"
Let me tell you something: Ground Zero is not yours. Were you here that day, that week? Did you see the smoke? Did you smell that smell? Did you walk around and see the posters, the desperate pleas for loved ones who'd never be seen again? I walked from the memorial in Union Square, past cops who checked my ID, into my building every day to see my downstairs neighbor's face on a flyer: Avnish Patel, MISSING, never coming back. The picture stayed up for a month.
They should rethink the memorial down there. They should make it a high diving board over a fiery pit -- you could stand there and feel what the dead felt. Or you could go through a shower that dumped white ash on you, covered you with a viscous coat of ionized metal, fuel, flesh. You could walk around a maze full of people who look like zombies, everyone grieving at once; you could wait with them on long, sad lines to register to volunteer, to do something.
"Oh, go one block that way to Union Square, then take the 4 to Wall Street, and go west. And don't forget to check out Century Twenty-One while you're down there. Super cheap. Great shoes!"
Their eyes light up. Human tragedy, and shoes? "Oh, thanks so much!"