Friday, May 31, 2013

In the Land of Myth & Honey

Wandering down to ground zero on the off-chance I could slip in to see the new memorial, which opened in April, but required a complicated reservation/line up kind of logistics that made me balk. Back in NYC again, I felt compelled to at least try my luck, and my friend Rob was game, so off we went. Turned out they had a line for walk-ons and it wasn't even crowded. In we went, down long snaking fenced passageways and through a building where they put us through airport-like security (note to self: baggy pants may be comfy and stylish, but when you have to take your belt off for security, they provide serious challenges). Emerging and wending our way through more fenced walkways with arrows and lane markers for the two-lane traffic (a lot of people, but like an LA freeway in 1978--moving at a good clip), we eventually reached the park, crowded with newly-planted California white oaks. The behemoth loomed (seen below from the cemetery at St. Paul's, and below that, rising above the memorial park). I don't like this building at all, its name (Liberty Tower) or its sort of defiant jingoistic phallic blunt expression of power and strength. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn't built in the place of the twin towers at all, but off to one side. I'd made the wrong assumption that commerce had won out and they'd simply scuttled the idea of creating a park and begun to build the next tower. I'd forgotten how much space was there and always had been, even when the towers were still standing. I'd clearly not read much about it after my initial interest was curtailed and finally evaporated by the squabbling and political punditry over how best to memorialize the event and rehabilitate the space

Imagine my surprise when I saw this:

There are two of them and they inhabit the space where each of the towers stood. It was powerful, eerie, not at all avoiding the idea of was almost Aztec in its direct look at death through art. My mind about the memorial and the space changed completely and I felt like there was a brutal honesty to this memorial I could have never imagined and that almost made my jaw drop. It's somehow perfect, meaning one feels a lot of conflicting and difficult emotions about love and death and society and the individual, earth, air, fire, water. It's a little like the sublime one experiences before an awesome natural phenomena--even a little like the sublime and disturbing awe one feels watching the towers fall.  And it must evoke that somehow. It really feels like a giant waterfall to me--like Niagara, Vernal, Iguazu...there is an awesome power coupled with a sort of respectful fear and then the eerie descent into who knows can't see what's down in that pit, that well. We discussed it a bit and thought the hole is a bit abysmal, like hell itself, but the falling water tempers and softens the harshness of the image...there is a comfort and letting go in the water that urges you to remember them, each, like us all, a single drop in the falling water.

I started reading the names which are listed all along the rail surrounding the falls. Shocked at all the Irish names--Brennan, Murphy, Sullivan--I remembered that horrible rumor that spread across Pakistan after the attacks that it was all part of the international Jewish conspiracy and all the Jews had been tipped off and stayed home. Well, I read on....Kaplan, Bloomfield, Weiss, get the idea. We kept reading--there were names from every culture on earth: Indian names, Arabaic names, Spanish and Italian names, Chinese, Korean and Japanese, African, Nahuatl! This is another part of couldn't help thinking of all the people who have come to NYC from all over the world...come to this place, to this hole in the ground, this collective grave, the consciousness of which (falling like water) moves the experience far beyond America and patriotism and into something universal, but still haunted by a global system (species?) that blindly sacrifices human beings in the service of empire. This is USA, this is Rome, Babylon, the Third Reich--same as it ever was. All around us stand their towers. Who are they? Humans all, but too lost in the lesser side of their natures....I think of Auden and his poem, "September, 1939": 

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

This memorial is in the lobby of the American Express Building across the commemorates the lives of 6 people who died there...each one is described above their name with words like 'kind', 'always smiling' 'helped everybody,' and single drops of water drop from the ceiling every few minutes to splash and send small ripples across the pool in each of the 6 triangles
Here's all the info on the 9-11 Memorial:

The Frank Gehry designed building, one of the most beautiful skyscrapers I've seen in a very long time

Yes, some of those towers are so beautiful...the empire may own them and finance them, but artists design them. In the end, the twin towers belong to the people who had worked in they have their twin pools to refresh and connect with the other humans who come to learn about interdependence...I dreamed of them all there, swimming about in those pools, some of them pulled down into the well, but all strangely mermaid-like, naiad or nymph-like...creatures of the water

How strange this statue, trapped behind a fence in the construction zone at Ground Zero, commemorating the US soldiers who have been liberators of the comment, just meditate on that for a brief moment

 We drifted down past Wall Street and into the oldest part of Manhattan...


Author friend and brilliant man all around, Rob Stephenson

Eventually, we came upon the Vietnam Memorial (there are letters home written by soldiers embossed into the glass)

Once again, shocked...youngest guy to die in Vietnam...15

An intense day all around, we returned to water once again at the close of it, and we sat for a long time viewing the bridges, the water taxis and young lovers amidst the warm breeze and the sweet calming grace of water

No comments:

Post a Comment