November 25, 2003
So, as promised, 24 months later, the PATH station at the World Trade Center has reopened. I rode it home Monday evening. The World Trade Center site, which has been closed and fenced off all this time, is suddenly not only open, but almost casually so. You can walk right in now, no lines, tickets, reservations required.
December 19, 2002
In fact, I was amazed that, the first full commuter day that this station was open, so many people were just casually using it to commute. As if it's always been there. People engaged in after-work gossip and laughter, walking right in without even looking at their surroundings, just the regular old commute. I found that strange. Either you haven't been here for all that long, and this is a new station, and that should elicit at least a little break in your routine -- it's something new, take a look around! Or else, you've been here a while, in which case you should remember this station the way it was before, and this I would think would at least give you pause to think about what happened in between. But to me it looked like people just jumping right back in, as if nothing strange had ever happened.
But for me, anyway, it was a little eery. Not only that this two-year-long closed-off area is suddenly and inexplicably open, but also because new and different as it seems at first, it is also suddenly recognizable, as that which used to be there.
The entrance is now where the Borders used to be; where Building Five used to be. You go down the stairs, and suddenly ...you are back in the Mall that was under the World Trade Center. No, it's not a mall anymore, it's not even really enclosed anymore, but you can recognize where you are from the Subway entrances and exits, the commuter's path you used to follow. Everything is raw concrete and exposed metal, but shiny and new and clean. Everything is open and exposed. Peeping in all around is the rest of the site, exposed construction, raw; open incisions of the street, a big, deep pit; new buildings going up, remains of damaged buildings covered in gauze. All well lit; shiny fencing on the edges of the construction, giant pictures of arial views of the area you are in and surrounding buildings, semi-translucent wall banners of I suppose inspirational quotations from people (none entered my consciousness).
And then you descend the long escalators to the PATH trains, deeper and deeper into the heart of the site. It's amazing, you are going right into the heart of Ground Zero. The net effect is like something out of science fiction -- these big spaces, the arc lighting, the shiny newness of the raw construction. You get on the train, and it goes round its track, right into the very heart of that huge pit you've been staring at these two years, circling around almost as if to give you a quick tour before plunging into the tunnel and on under the Hudson.
And so I rode the PATH again, the same tracks, the same stations, the same cars. A little over two years later, and one more thing has been restored.
The new round of proposals for the World Trade Center site were unveiled yesterday. I haven't finished looking at all of them. They're certainly better than the first round, but I don't know that most of my original criticisms don't still apply. I'm still of the mind that restoration has to be the main focus -- this should not be an opportunity for some full-of-himself architect to subject us to his "vision". Within the framework of restoration, I'm all for architectural virtuosity -- within these confined definitions, be as damn clever as you possibly can be. But keep the relationship the right way round! Architecture to serve the project, not a project to serve architecture.
July 17, 2002
Anyway, I do grow slowly weary of the whole thing. Do what you like! Future generations will see quite clearly our true character from what we do eventually end up doing, and so who am I to fight that true character? Just because I don't happen to like it? If it's who we are, it's who we are.
This is a little something I just banged together to express the growing
feelings of dissatisfaction I have with what I see after seeing the newly
unveiled plans for the WTC site in the newspaper on the train ride home. I
write as one who worked and continues to work downtown; as one who daily passed
through the World Trade Center; as one within the set of those directly targeted.
I write as one who has been living through the aftermath. I write as one
from a country that rebuilt itself from near total rubble. I write as one
who knows the US as an insider, yet as an outsider also knows the greater
world beyond. But mostly, I write in the heat of passion.
December 24, 2001
Comments on the unveiled proposals for the World Trade Center site
July 17, 2002
I have seen the new official proposals for the rebuilding of the World Trade
Center site, and they are, every plan one of them, caca . They have
nothing to do with anything other than showcasing some architect's "vision".
In effect, they say to the terrorists, "thanks for clearing out those old
eyesores so we can put something nice up" -- or if not nice, at least
new and visionary. The masturbatorial game of architecture,
at least, continues on, business as usual.
But this should not be business as usual -- this is not just
another proposal for buildings, this is a whole lot more. There is an inherent
statement involved in whatever gets put in that space. The statement of the
current proposals are, "eh, whatever -- look at my 'vision'". Not much
of a statement. What does it have to do with what came before?
The only appropriate statement for all of this is one involving restoration
. The skyline of New York City must be restored to what it was. That
was the symbol that the terrorists attacked, and that is what must be shown
to endure. The inescapable conclusion is that the only appropriate proposal
for the rebuilding of the site must involve two huge monolithic towers. It
doesn't matter if no one liked the original architecture. This is
beyond that. It doesn't matter that probably no one will want to
use the space in the upper floors of a super skyscraper. This is not about
practical space usage. This is about symbolism. The two twin towers of New
York were a symbol of New York, and of the United States by extension.
The symbol, as any of a million cheap souvenirs of simple city skyline
with two tall twin rectangles at one end show. That is why they were attacked
-- the intent was to attack the United States. And that is why they
must be restored.
And restored, superficially at least, to resemble almost exactly what was
there before. A continuity with the past, a bridge to the future. We owe that
to all who had their lives sacrificed.
And here is where the great architects can show off their skills: within
this framework, maintaining the visual and symbolic continuity, build new
and useful spaces. And if the towers are to remain largely empty -- so what?
Use the space for a grand, sweeping memorial. And what better way to
demonstrate defiance: some great expense, some great lost revenue. Big deal.
We can afford it. Like a besieged city of the middle ages, we can throw a
couple of fattened calves in the faces of our besiegers: give it up, you
can't break us. Here is our skyline back the way it was; here is our wealth
to show you we can do it again, and again, and as often as necessary. Oh,
and by the way, the towers are just a little bit taller than they were last
time -- now again the tallest buildings on earth. It's all in the symbolism,
Now that would be an appropriate memorial to the memory of all those
who lost their lives, and for all the rest of us who are, and will be, still
13:00, September 11, 2001
I am OK.
Thursday, September 13, 2001
I was across the Hudson in Hoboken. I am uninjured though badly shaken.
This is something I wrote on Tuesday after I got back home, trying to sort out in my mind what I had witnessed. It is a little raw, and unpolished. Click here to read.
I went into the city for the first time again today. It was a beautiful day, and upper Manhattan seemed oddly normal. We tried to get into our office, but were stopped five blocks away, on Water St. and John St. There was fear of the collapse of two more buildings. Everything covered in soot, and everything blocked off with emergency workers and National Guard and tons of cops, but everything seemed in place, nothing really changed. Subway only went as far as West 4th, had to walk the rest of the way, along the East Side. Smoke in the air, no traffic, emergency workers in evidence everywhere. But except for the missing skyline reference point, nothing really to dissuade the idea that it was all a bad dream -- nothing noticeably permanently changed...
Saturday, September 15, 2001
Second attempt to get to the office and determine its state. Another beautiful day in New York. Drove in, nothing really noticeably changed across the GW Bridge and into Midtown, except the way off distant skyline. Subway went all the way to Fulton / Nassau. Got within a half-block of our office, to Nassau and John. Contrary to news reports, only lower Manhattan east of Nassau, not Broadway, was open -- a crucial difference for us. Got to see that our office building was intact, and no windows were broken, anyway. Things getting back to normal, cleanup of soot underway as people reopen their businesses. Still oddly unchanged, only the glimpse of the ruins of 5 World Trade Center throw things off, plus the missing dominating skyline feature.
Wednesday, September 19, 2001
First essay at back to normal, going to work. Rode train in, took ferry, as normal. Ferry now goes all the way around southern tip of Manhattan to East River Pier 11 at Wall St. instead of just across to World Financial Center. A somber ride. Two uniformed police officers on the ferry. Very noticeable lack. Ruins glimpsed through buildings. Damaged buildings clearly evident. Things open now till the east side of Broadway. Stood and stared into the ruins of Two World Trade Center at the end of Maiden Lane and Broadway. Cops keep trying to keep everyone moving along. First time the reality really strikes home. No one else in the office in the morning. Bad day. Question wisdom of trying to get back so soon. People come in in the afternoon. I go out for a walk along Broadway, from Liberty to Fulton. It's bad. It's really, really bad. Hide in the company of others for the rest of the day.
Thursday, September 20, 2001
A rainy, bleak day. Rode subway in from Midtown bus station. Smell of decay supposedly evident in Subway station. Viewed heart of World Trade Center from 21st story roof of our building, one and a half blocks away. Smoke still rising. Weather matches mood.
Friday, September 21, 2001
Went along Broadway again in the evening before going home. There is an oddly festive atmosphere now. Everything is all lit up, the cops are more jovial, people are coming out to see as if there were some special novelty, part of an evening out. Oddly, it lifts my spirits. It's good to see people out and alive and living. The cleanup has more of the atmosphere of cleanup now rather than rescue. Don't want to think about the flipside of that too much. Healing may be beginning.
March 25, 2002:
I took the ferry to the World Financial Center today, the first time since September 10th. They've built a new docking slip on the other side of
the ferry terminal in Hoboken, and they're inaugurating new service schedules today; all the ferries are free
this week. So I left from this new slip,
on one of the fancier ferries they don't normally use for this trip. But as soon as I got off the ferry at the
World Financial Dock, everything was
suddenly very familiar, as if nothing's changed, and it was just yesterday and not six months ago that I was here last. There are ads up on the
walls like there always were, trashcan, benches, people catching ferries. (The World Financial Dock has been open for a long while, just not
serving the crush of regular commuters, and ferries running only infrequently.) The awning covering the ramp was new.
I walked along what was my usual path. Everything's there, just like it always was, right down to the big green movable "Keep to the right" sign
at the curve on the walkway. Up to a certain point, you can't even believe anything's happened or changed.
The Winter Gardens are of course all covered in scaffolding, and the glass is all oddly shiny and polished. And all closed off. Of course things
have changed. You're tempted to just walk in and expect the atrium to be there, palm trees, marble stairs and
all, and all the shops and stores to
be there. Of course they're not.
And that's when you look at everything and see how different it is. The first and most obvious is the lack of
the huge twin tower skyscrapers as
you round the corner past the ramp off the ferry. And the plywood and blown-out windows, and the hastily erected concrete barriers to reflow
traffic and section off areas. And the scarred, dead trees along what was a thriving outdoor bar and café scene. (Dead? Or just winterly
And yet it's the same place I've always gone through daily for the last year and a half. The outdoor gardens have been replanted, looking ready
for Spring. There's that loose cobble stone that's been there forever, that wobbles and makes a hollow sound if I ride my scooter over it.
I wasn't being practical today. I walked along my old path, knowing I would not be able to cross where I always crossed. I didn't forge new
paths to the north to see if I could find a better commute to ease the bother it has been. I didn't even ride
my scooter; I carried it and just walked,
inevitably closer to the point where it would suddenly stop being all the same and familiar.
I even lost my orientation for a moment in what should have been the familiar: a restaurant on the corner of this building -- wasn't that an
expensive knick-knack store? They've rebuilt that fast? But no, I was at the wrong corner -- I was confusing it with the next corner -- this had
always been a restaurant, only it was normally unapproachable for all the people there.
My corner knick-knack store is no longer there, everything all boarded up. The entrance to the upscale apartment complex around the corner
no longer has its pain-in-the-butt non-flush-to-the-rest of the sidewalk mini marble plaza -- the square on the walkway is now just black asphalt
in the middle of the cobblestones. The dead-end turn-around traffic-circle in front of this entrance is just as busy with deliveries as it ever was,
only now it's not a truck full of Snapple beverages or exercise equipment outfitting a new gym: now it's bars
of steel and other non-finished, raw
materials, disappearing into the boarded off areas through entrances of clear plastic and duct-tape.
And 'round the corner to Liberty Street and what should be a full view again of the giant skyscrapers and the busy Westside Highway and
pedestrians trying to cross and eternal construction of the new bikepaths and greenway.
Of course, I can't really get to the corner, it's all cordoned off, I can't even approach on the side of the sidewalk I used to use. And yet it could
all still pass for normal, because of course normal is that things do change somewhat everyday, and this all really does seem so familiar after all,
until, crossing Liberty, through the gaps in the plywood and trucks, you suddenly see..
NOT what your brain had filled in as supposed to being there, but a big huge SPACE, and a big huge HOLE, and cranes and rubble, and a
clear view across that shouldn't be there, and what should be, missing.
And the scarred buildings remaining. The gutted out , boarded up, wounded looking perimeter, sentinels around
the new vast open space.
I knew it was there. I've been staring in at it daily for six months now from the other side. But this was from somewhere I haven't been in six
months, yet had been daily for a year and a half before that. A place that had changed, yet hadn't changed, right down to the loose cobblestone,
and suddenly was very, very different. In my mind, though, it has always been the same -- and why shouldn't it
be, the pragmatic brain, natively
wielding the razor of Occam, asks? Extraordinary hypotheses require extraordinary evidence. I won't believe it
till I see it.
I still don't believe it. A year and half's worth of daily exposure isn't that easily dislodged, especially in
today's world of special effects. Hell, I
even have what it's supposed to look like on video. On video! Video doesn't lie!
And since I can't go my normal way, I go around in a long detour on new streets I don't know. And new streets
don't have built-in notions of
what they're supposed to look like. And since I walk new streets, my mind can guard my old streets as eternally there, unchanged, same as
they've ever been.
March 30, 2001
[trumpet fanfare]: Fernanda and I got married! Links to
the wedding on the main page. Trip to Brasil followed (still hating those
2001, a Space Odyssey
And life continued, 9 to 5. The interactive web development company mercifully
was released from its year-old merger with the advertising firm, and is now
without a doubt the best job I've ever held, even if the company is struggling.
To think I get paid for this...
OK, so what happened then is that I stayed busy working at
Drexel ELC, training the replacement for the position I was doing interim,
taking on more and more computer work, trying to unobtrusively update the web
site, and actually hanging out with people and having fun and ups and downs
and boy's night "smut nights" that weren't, and so the rest of the year slipped
by without me doing anymore updates here. Read some of what I was up to
Along the way we moved out of the ghetto of West Philadelphia to a more civilized place along Benjamin Franklin Parkway by the art museum. Definitely worth doubling our rent for the sake of sanity!
Fernanda graduated in December, and
we moved to northern Jersey in the beginning of 2000 when she took a job with
Syncsort. I sent out an email telling people of my new address and phone number,
and without even trying, got a job with my old college friend and suitemate
in lower Manhatten, a block and a half away from the World Trade Center, at his
interactive web development company. So now I was a professional web developer.
My first ever real "9 to 5" job, I joined the commuting masses. And life went on.
We quickly discovered that despite our combined now unimagineably great income,
we could not afford to buy any sort of house higher in grade than "outhouse" in
northern Jersey, so we continue to rent our "short-term" apartment. In September
we travelled to Austria and Germany as Fernanda had to leave the country to get
her work visa at an American Conulate outside the US. Two-week-a-year vacations
We went up to Boston for Lauri's 30th birthday; first we drove up to Jeff's, then on to Boston the next day en masse.
The psychohistoric equations must show that this is a Cusp Time; a Seldon Crisis when suddenly everything happens at once. I got promoted
today to take on my boss' position for the interim period until a formal search
finds a permanent replacement. Meanwhile, the help desk position job that I had
already written off suddenly turns out to be still on, and I'm "one of the
stronger candidates". Not only do Fernanda and I finally get out and go to a
party of some Brasilians on Thursday, but on Saturday our Danish friends call
to finally get together on Sunday after like 4 months of meaning to. I get mail
from Germany from people who've seen my online resume and are interested in me,
as well as email from others about more or less the same. Tax refunds give me
back more than was withheld, and I have more reading material than I could get
through in a month of Saturdays (well, maybe just enough). When it rains, it pours!
We got furniture! A couch, and a table! Our living room looks cool! Now we just need people to come and visit...
They took away the cgi stuff I was using!! No more text counters, but more importantly, I can't embed my finger information in my page anymore! I can't have my web page say whether I'm logged into my e-mail account or not anymore! It was so nice and I was so pleased with it, and now it's gone!
Looka-me! I'm a tree! (At Longwood Gardens)
So, we're driving along I95 at night, going to a movie. The battery light is on, and before you know it, Sptt-thpbtt! ffffttt... The engine dies. So here we are, on the side of I95, dim lights, cars wizzing by at hundred miles an hour.
We have no phone, there are no phones on the highway, yay. A friendly neighborhood tow-truck guy on his way home sees us, stops, and so we get towed to his garage. He takes us to the train station, we finally get home around 11, still not having managed to get to the movies.
The next day, I take my bicycle, get on the train, ride out to where the guy left us off the day before (a one platform station, and me all the way in the back of the train... I had to jump down onto the tracks, with the conductor handing me my bike...)
So off I ride down "Street Road" to get to the garage, and the road is so crappy my bike starts to disintigrate. First my rear light falls off (OK, gotta get there before dark), then I ride along a bit, and POW!, something breaks, hard.
Turns out it's my rear tire gone flat, and me still miles away from the garage. Would have been better off without the bike at this point, just walking the whole distance...
Fortunately, after a mile or so, a nice guy saw my plight, and drove me the rest of the way. Got the car, $300 poorer, disintigrated bicycle, but what the hay.
On the way back, I saw that there was a train station right by the garage..
Meanwhile, I'm never going to get to go hang-gliding!
And I got to spend the weekend with bicycle parts all over the living room, endlessly patching the tire.
I have been playing around with the cgi scripts; now I can say, before they take it away, that hits have been registered here.
They took it away! Now I have to use an ugly graphical counter:
Moved to Philadelphia; Fernanda started at UPenn, I started working at Drexel English Langauge Center at the front desk
July, August, 1998
Traveled to Australia, visited Sydney for 10 days, spent the rest of the time in Adelaide, South Australia