Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Summer of 609

It had been an infernal summer. A 65 cent dollar, scraping together a living in the bunghole of the anachronism that was the "Garden State". The death throes of a doomed and misguided relationship (what happens in Vancouver should stay in Vancouver). Left behind in the Santa's Village of the Ivy League Museum. Suspended in time, surrounded by a suburban swell of endless asphalt and indistinguishable strip malls. That summer, Dubya didn't drop into the Starbucks like Clinton did on his post-impeachment farewell tour. But you bumped into Russell Crowe all over the place, usually while he was telling his privileged undergraduate fans to fuck off between takes of the edifying John Nash story. We used to eat lunch at a table across from that bird, and I can tell you that there was nothing edifying about watching him eat.

What a stinking summer.

Taking care of the cat, and other domestic delicacies. Crisis, what crisis? after Crisis, what Crisis? But all I clearly remember is the stupefying heat, and the nocturnal cacaphony of those fucking insects. The ones you hear when Tony Soprano is swimming in his backyard pool at night. I'll never forget that soul sucking sound. It was as if a million night hags were having their Kafka highs simultaneously. At least I had a few weeks to get drunk while she was out of town. Go over to the omnipresent TGI Friday's/Applebees/Chili's franchise and get into the Yuengling for as long as my 65 cent dollar would hold out.

What a stinking summer.

Then that morning in September. As usual, we got up around 10 am (usual bedtime was 4 am). I turned on the TV -- nothing. I played with the rabbit ears a bit. Looked to be a grainy picture of the WTC towers on fire. That's interesting, I thought, but why wasn't the NYC channel working better? I looked out the window -- a bright, sunny (and still hot) day, a few clouds seemed to be forming to the Northwest, around NYC. Only in bits and pieces during that morning did I learn that those grainy pictures were from a few hours earlier, and both towers had already collapsed by the time we got out of bed. That's why I couldn't get a clear picture -- the rabbit ears picked up a feed from the towers. We had been at the foot of those things a couple of weeks earlier, and I had posed for a picture right beside that guy with the briefcase. I remember thinking that things were going to change a little bit, and I began to seriously consider ending my American experience. Things only got worse around there -- those anthrax packages were being mailed from the local town post office, the same one where I used to keep, regretfully, renewing my student loans. Soon after, buildings all over the place were finding some kid's doughnut icing on a computer terminal, and all the hazmat teams were out. On a daily basis. I reached Canadian soil before the end of the year, knowing I would never be back in the 609.


  1. 609? Sounds like a lottery. The winner gets a million bucks. The loser has gotta live in Jersey. Good post. Didn't know you lived there during the biggest event of our time. A lot of insight in this post.