I have a good friend…no, a great friend, who was born and raised in New York City.
He’s one of these guys who can live anywhere in the US, but still call himself a New Yorker; it’s like the Hudson River runs through his blood.
He lives in Pennsylvania, damned near halfway between Pittsburgh and The City, but you can’t get this guy to look West for a team to cheer, he’s Yankees and Giants and six rings be damned. With him it’s all about Big Blue and The Wrecking Crew, guys with a “T” in their name…Tarkenton, Taylor, and Tittle, and a baby named Manning. He’s an atypical New Yorker, not brash and loud, nor is he cold, but when you talk to him, you feel The City of Cities in him.
He’s told me stories of growing up New Yorker, and he never insults you by reminding you that he grew up in the center of the known universe, and you didn’t, but you have to know it…you gotta respect New York for what it is, and New Yorkers for who they are. It’s Mecca for humankind, the Crossroads of the World, The Big Town, the Empire City, Gotham, The Big Apple. A city so much larger than life that you say its name twice, because saying it once just don’t cut it.
You have to say it twice…even Frank had to say it twice.
New York, New York.
The greatest celebrity in a city filled with celebrities is New York itself. We loved Lucy…in New York, the show died when they moved to Connecticut. The Honeymooners, honeymooned in New York, and Seinfeld did nothing there for years; and that completes the listing of the three greatest sitcoms of all times.
Sex in the city?
We know what city.
Everyone calls us Yankees, but The Yankees play in New York.
You don’t even need words to tell others how you feel about her.
That will do.
It took me damned near forty years from the time I first set foot on US soil to walk the streets of Manhattan, eat a slice at Ray’s Pizza (not Original Ray’s, Ray’s Original, Famous Ray’s, Ray’s Famous, Famous and Original Ray’s, the One and Only Famous Ray’s, or Real Ray’s), a cannoli from Ferrara’s, a bagel boiled in New York water (they ARE better), and while I’ve been a citizen since 1976, it wasn’t until that moment when I stood in the silent halls of Ellis Island, and paid my respects to a bunch of empty suitcases, that I finally felt like an American.
I stood on hallowed ground as an American on that trip, ground consecrated by brave men and women, living and dead…ground made Holy by those so many of those brash and loud New Yorkers, and their last full measure of devotion. I don’t mind telling you that I wept.
I spent the day doing what I do every year on this day, or at least what I’ve done since that morning in September, before we lost our collective innocence and a little bit of our soul. I watched the shows, and the images of towers that never seem to stop falling, looking for something to make madness into sense, but nothing came. Nothing ever comes, it’s madness ever the same, no matter how many times I watch them fall. And I called my friend, called him several times in fact.
We spoke of a dozen things, but never of the ragged wound that never heals in the heart of the city that never sleeps; his city. I just never never seem to gather the courage to ask the questions that burn at me every September 11.
When you look, are they still there my friend?
How can you convince your soul that they’re not?
Are the fathomless reaches of space not enough to mask the lack of their presence?
Or do your eyes simply see the sight not there?