It’s the anniversary year for Great Society. In April of 2001, I set up Dirtyfreaks.com. I think there was the vague idea that it would be a porn site, but that somehow drifted into becoming a “literary” community. Which, then, drifted into insane ranting behind the guise of “Nacho Sasha” and, ten years later, I’m still sort of spinning around in circles in some vast emotional desert.
It’s also the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Yes, I know, every motherfucker in the world has written an anniversary article on that topic. Simply typing this out now makes me almost crazy enough to go blow up another building somewhere just for the sake of a distraction.
But, I’ll go ahead with this article. Because I’m an evil dog rapist. Though it’s boring to reminisce about the meaning of 9/11, and the changes that it ushered in for my city, my country, and my world. I think the thing to talk about is what it did not change. The fact that people before and during 9/11 were fucking waterhead assholes and, ten years later, they’re still a horrible plague.
My misanthropy runs so deep that things like earthquakes, and hurricanes, and flooding, and train crashes, and 9/11 fill me with this little spark of hopefulness and excitement. A little voice in my head whispers urgently: Now! Now! The revolution starts now!
In my late 20’s, it was the same voice that said I should be out there waving the flag and leading the revolution. Here in my late 30’s, the voice has shifted to bitterly grouching about the cost of Dutch Cocoa Archway cookies. But, still, the excitement is there whenever something happens. It’s not that I want to harm people, or for them to be harmed. (Well…mostly.) It’s just that I want the world to wake up.
I understand that the ultimate lesson of Fight Club is that we should beware cults of personality, fascism, and groupthink… But doesn’t that movie’s finale sort of lift the spirits? The death of debt, and the banks that control us, hopefully leading to the rise of something more…I don’t know. Simplistic.
But, no matter how extreme the disaster, we’ll always be the same fucking losers. Hell, what’s a couple of towers and the death of a few thousand salary serfs in the bigger picture? I sometimes wonder if we’re actually kind of over-reacting to 9/11. Certainly, on the day of, my grandfather shrugged his shoulders. “No matter what, it can’t be worse than Pearl Harbor.” He said when we finally caught up with each other late that evening.
My grandmother, living just outside of DC at the time, had a doctor’s appointment at 10:30am and, hell or high water, she intended to keep it. So my grandparents (who had labored for an hour to find something else on TV) left their house at 10am, as the first tower was collapsing, and drove to the doctor’s office. They arrived at 10:20, where the waiting room was filled with a cluster of weeping patients, nurses, and doctors all mesmerized by the TV.
They were pretty much ignored until, after five minutes, they began to loudly complain and stomp their feet. It took ten minutes, but as the north tower collapsed, they forced the doctor to honor the appointment.
I think about that doctor’s story. Where were you on 9/11? I was in exam room one being cruelly mocked by two old-timers who kept telling me to get over myself.
My story? I was at work being cruelly mocked by a customer at the publishing house that so kindly employs me during the week to talk to fucking crazy customers. An author called at around 9:45. At that point, everything around me was lapsing into a slow, dreadful panic. CNN had been receiving and breathlessly reporting false attacks around the country. At 9:45, if you were listening to the radio, it sounded like there was a full fledged invasion going on. We were minutes away from being evacuated which, instead of an orderly fire alarm sort of thing, was taking the form of supervisors racing through the halls and offices screaming for us to get out of the building.
I was attempting to help the author, but hopelessly distracted. The call started to go pear-shaped, and she lapsed into yelling at me and insulting me. Finally, my co-worker hung up my phone and pulled me away to join in the everyone-for-themselves evacuation.
That afternoon, the author sent the following email to all of my bosses, and all of the top brass at my company:
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 1:54 PM
To: (all the top brass)
Subject: Re: book order
Hi, Wonder if you can do me a favor? I tried to order some of the
new editions of XXXXXXX from the order office and after a few too many mishaps, was told by “XXXXX” that it was not listed as something orderable. XXXXX did not seem inclined to do much more investigating hence this message. Also Borders here in Ann Arbor (its headquarters) does not have it on its shelves and school has begun with some parents eager to have the new version…….so I say HELP!!!!! I must say I enjoyed seeing it prominently displayed at one time and hope a few people saw fit to look inside and maybe buy a one or a two??
Thank you. Hope all is well. As for XXXXX……I hope tomorrow is a better day.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment. It still shocks me. If you email me, I’ll tell you who the author is so you can boycott her.
These people are legion. My grandparents, solipsistic authors… People whose lives were not changed on 9/11. They didn’t even care. I read all of these blog posts, all the articles, all the sound bytes, and I think, fuck, what a day that was. But it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter at all. We’re all still horribly, terrifyingly evil. The people it should have changed…it didn’t. They were busy writing nasty emails to my bosses, or hounding people to keep appointments, or complaining about a lack of service, or distressed that their shows had been pre-empted, or plotting retribution, or, like me, simply glad for the day off and in the grips of some form of sick schadenfreude.
Here at Greatsociety, two of the co-founders slowly dissolved into mania. Their lives only changed because, up till 9/11, they were unexamined. The day after, they realized that they were small and empty. For a few months, I watched them slowly disengage from life, and then they imploded in early 2002, robbed me for everything I was worth, and ended up squatting in an abandoned building in Memphis.
That attitude is a mystery to me. I understand people like my grandparents and that author who complained about me. They’re fucking nuts. It makes sense. I’m an only child of a broken home. A latchkey kid from the age of 12 to18. My dad was a fucking criminal who vanished for 15 years and my mom spent her life drunk and in a blind rage and talking to birds. My family, for generations on both sides, are all so insane I sometimes wonder if they were all reincarnate souls from the worst of the Roman Republic’s consuls.
I raised myself. I understand solipsism. The greatest tragedy in 60 years strikes America and the reaction is to howl because your Flying Nun reruns were pre-empted? Yes. That makes sense to me.
But having an emotional breakdown over 9/11 even though nobody you know was truly involved? That doesn’t make sense to me. I watched these so-called friends spiral downward and realized that I was the only person they knew who was really affected by 9/11, and that was simply because I was in the vicinity of the Pentagon. No harm done to these rubes. And yet they shakily bemoaned it as the end of the universe for months and months.
I asked them how they would feel if they were in New York, in the Pentagon, on a farm in Shanksville, or related to any of those people, or on the rescue teams, or working next door, or living a few blocks away.
How dare they fall apart. How dare they give up. Maybe I didn’t help their grief process. I spoke from a world of emotional and physical pain. For me, for most of my life, death seemed like a blessing. I had been betrayed and wounded by everyone who claimed to love me, and I was wracked with physical agony that, seven years later, would require a quarter million dollar brain surgery to correct.
Here’s the real secret: I wanted to die on 9/11. I wanted all the pain to stop. At any cost. I would have celebrated the murder of a billion people if it meant an end to my pain. I have joyfully embraced death, destruction, and disaster in the hopes that, maybe, somehow, I would be in the line of fire. On 9/11, when US jets blasted overhead, everyone around me threw themselves to the concrete. I stood tall, spread my arms, and looked to the skies. Let it end now. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Three years now I’ve been cured of the physical pain. I’ve only just begun to live. For over 30 years, I prayed daily for my life to end. From the moment I was able to form the thoughts that I would be better off dead, I’ve prayed for death.
For three years, I’ve not known what to do with my life. It took me one year to recover from the surgery, and all three years to recover from the addiction to pain medication (I am not recovered, by the way, I dream of the pills… I find stashes at work, home, and in my car to this day and I stare at them in horror and longing). It’s taken me all three years to realize that I can, for the first time in my adult life, touch, and feel, and make love.
Today, I see the beauty of it all. Ten years from this great modern disaster that ruined friends, changed lives, and didn’t even dent the strange world of evil people. I’ve just begun to understand that it’s worth it to live on. To play it out. To see what comes next.
There are those who have stood by me through pain and my own aggressively dismissive hatred for everything. Those who have watched, helplessly, as I struggled with something they can do nothing about. Ten years later, they’re here in DC, in Maryland, in Virginia, down in New Orleans, over in the UK, in France, and across middle America and Mexico.
I’ve been a bad friend. Yet they maintain. And I see, now, the importance of their friendship. The people I used to call friends were all robber barons. All evil people. All taking advantage of my weaknesses and desultory attitude towards life, responsibility, and related ilk.
Those people were exposed when the towers came down. I watched them break, I saw how silly they were. It confounded me then, but now I see. My greatest regrets in life? It’s meeting them, and tolerating them, and being their friends through junior high, high school, and the decade leading up to 9/11. Even though every instinct, from the day I met them in 1985 onwards, screamed: Stay away. They will destroy you.
I’ve distrusted all my friends, even through today. Take my boss, who says he’s my friend. He once said, five years ago, that he’s “only trusted friends 80% and feared them 20%.” It broke my heart, and I assumed everyone was like that to a degree.
But that’s not true, is it? The real act of friendship is all or nothing, right? Otherwise, why bother? And that’s what I’ve learned, ten years later…37 years later. All or nothing. There’s no room to be a player of games. Friendship is some weird breed of love. Those who have stood by me have done so not out of any sense of obligation or reward, but simply because that’s what we do. It’s what we are. Humanity may not be consumed by evil after all.