Sunday, October 5, 2008
New York and "Falling Man"
I landed in New York City last Wednesday evening, with just enough time to get to the W Hotel near Times Square and get a bite and a drink before bed. I was up at 7AM local (which was 4AM according to my nervous system) for a pair of business meetings and then caught a late-afternoon flight back to San Francisco. This is the fourth or fifth time I've made an overnight business trip to New York, with absolutely no time to see or do anything interesting in the city. In fact, the only reason I've been to the Empire State Building is because I was walking down the street between meetings and happened to look up and realize that I was standing right in front of it.
I usually come into Manhattan from JFK via the Williamsburg Bridge, which affords a sparkling view of the skyline where once I might have observed the twin towers.
They're gone now, of course. I never got a chance to see them. My first trip to New York wasn't until a few years after what Islamists euphemistically call "the planes operation."
I took a book along with me for the flight home, and the book was Don DeLillo's Falling Man, our greatest novelist's sad meditation on 9/11. I read it front to back over the course of the flight. As usual, the author casts no judgments about our times, offers no political opinion. He makes precise and haunting observations, and leaves it at that.
There won't ever be a time that I look out from the backseat of a cab traversing the Williamsburg Bridge at night to see the New York skyline lit up and don't imagine the towers, in the spot on the southwestern tip of the island where they once stood. There is a skyline in the mind that is more permanent.