Stayin’ Alive

Not as in getting funky, but as in not getting blown up on the subway. You know how every time there’s a terrorist attack, the media tricks some rescue worker or unfortunate bystander into using the phrase “body parts everywhere”, which they can then morbidly quote with relish? The next batch of human soup you can hear about just may well be New York chunky style.

So no movie review this time. A little like HtMT, I usually don’t use this blog to talk about me me me, but some shit is goin’ down in New York City right now that I feel like writing about.

Before afternoon rush hour yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg and the Chief of Police held a press conference to report the feds had uncovered credible evidence (the feds claim otherwise) of a coordinated attack of between 12-20 bombers on the subway system, perhaps as soon as that day (yesterday). Even better, the plot is tied to malcontents in Iraq (duh), and while military forces are carrying out top secret missions in Baghdad to foil the plot, we’re supposed to go on our jolly way riding the subway as normal.

Just like Bloomberg himself pledges to do. Whereas just minutes before, he said “It was more specific as to target, it was more specific as to timing.” Do the math! So naturally he’ll be riding the subway. It’s when he checks his watch and gets off that I’d be worried.

I walk home through Central Park whenever possible during the summer. It’s reason #384 why I heart NY. By early October it’s dark and chilly before I leave work. So before the news broke, I was already debating whether or not I would take the subway home. And then upon walking out the door of my office building, I saw a caravan of black SUV’s rolling through midtown. Not an unusual sight in a city housing the United Nations, but what was strange this time was their haste, the sirens, and the tinted windows actually open. For once I finally got to see who’s inside those things: imposing muscle men in suits scowling out at pedestrians. I decided right then and there that I would definitely walk home. I had a lovely scenic walk through the park at dusk, but this morning opted to ride the train back to work.

As puzzled media outlets have been reporting, New Yorkers have not been staying away in droves. People need the subway; the city doesn’t function without it. Only rich people live in a strata where public transportation is just something that rumbles beneath your feet occasionally.

But the subway is wide open to attack; I don’t care what city officials claim. Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone hasn’t bombed it already. In a London shocked by the first serious bombing in years since the IRA cooled it, more perpetrators pulled off another one just when you’d think the bobbies would have been more alert than ever. Luckily the bombs literally fizzled.

There are cameras all over the city (traffic cams, ATMs, buildings’ security systems… it’s said any New Yorker is photographed at least once every couple of minutes). But unless there’s some more advanced big-brother surveillance system that I don’t know about, the subway is just sitting there, asking for it. NYC has slowly but steadily been phasing out human-staffed entrances to the subway in favor of Metrocard (disposable smartcards you buy from vending machines) turnstyles. Today there’s a cop at every subway station, but there are usually several entrances to each station, and they are typically at least one block long. There are literally dozens of unguarded entrances where you could enter carrying a giant pink polka-dotted nuclear warhead and a placard reading “HEY LOOK AT ME I’M CARRYING A WARHEAD”.

Bloomberg also urges us to be on the lookout. What for? There’s at least one of everything on the subway. I say that with affection, not out of racism, sexism, sexual orientation-ism or any other -ism. This is New York #%$&in’ City, for #%$&’s sake!

Last night I lived through an extended dream, many details of which fled upon waking, but I do recall some large cataclysmic attack. As on 9/11, I was safely dozens of blocks away, but unlike 9/11, people I actually knew died and my guilt was so overpowering I cried in my dream. It’s disturbing that my brain personalized today’s events so much; I never thought my survivor’s guilt from 9/11 was anywhere near in the leagues of people who were actually there and made it out, or personally knew someone who did. A few weeks ago, I watched a movie that included footage of the planes hitting and the towers collapsing. It had probably been years since I had seen it, and even then I only saw it on TV like everyone else in the world (I was about 70 blocks away). I’m not really sure how to describe how it felt to see again, but it’s a little like I do right now.

2 thoughts on “Stayin’ Alive”

  1. Basement Belk! My god, I haven’t even thought of those words in years. Shudder.

    You may be more right than you realize: New York IS imaginary. One is never in a New York state of mind, New York IS a state of mind. I know this is cheesey, but Bono had it right:

    In New York freedom looks like too many choices
    In New York I found a friend to drown out the other voices
    Voices on the cell phone
    Voices from home
    Voices of the hard sell
    Voices down the stairwell
    In New York, just got a place in New York

    In New York summers get hot, well into the hundreds
    You can’t walk around the block without a change of clothing
    Hot as a hairdryer in your face
    Hot as a handbag and a can of mace
    In New York, I just got a place in New York
    New York, New York

    In New York you can forget, forget how to sit still
    Tell yorself you will stay in
    But it’s down to Alphaville

  2. Down here in the Red States New York is imaginary. Whenever I hear about it in the news, I forget I have real friends who actually live there. And it never occurred to me to wonder where you were on 9/11 either (in my mind’s eye you’re always in Basement Belk, sorry). As upsetting as such events are for the rest of us, I can’t imagine how stressful it must be for New Yorkers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.