Posts Tagged ‘Brother’

I was driving to work at Fortis Family on September 11th, 2001, just pulling into the parking garage around 8:45 am while listening to Neil Boortz on talk radio when he stuttered and went quiet for a long couple of seconds. He stammered unintelligibly, and then stated in an incredulous tone that he had just been handed a note: an airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. I pulled into a parking space and turned off my truck, leaving the radio running. After verifying what I thought I had just heard, I sprinted inside the building and up four flights of stairs to the breakroom and turned on the television to CNN.

CNN video in progress

The network was scrambling to get any sort of information on what had just happened; news teams were mobilizing to get shots of the skyline of NYC where an appalling cloud of smoke was erupting from the side of the famous twin towers. The shock and horror was evident on the faces of the anchors that were struggling mightily to absorb and translate the chaotic eyewitness reports that were pouring in across all sorts of media. Other Fortis employees were passing the break room, and on inquiring why the TV was up so loud I solemnly turned and said “something terrible is happening”. Nobody left the small hallway-sized kitchen; my co-workers reacted in one of two ways: they either crowded in and stared dumbfounded as the shaky handheld videos started being rolled out onscreen, or they turned stark white and ran to get their mobile phones to call their family and friends in New York. I distinctly remember someone asking desperately “which tower? WHICH TOWER!” because they knew a number of people at one of the insurance firms at the intersection of Liberty and Church Streets.

Fortis Family occupied half of the fourth floor of the building, probably 35 or 40 total employees, and most everyone was packed into the break room. Since I was the first person in, and closest to the TV, I was repeating the most concrete information that I had heard over every two or three minutes to keep new arrivals informed as more people crowded into the small space. Just after 9 am, we all witnessed the live reports that a second plane had flown into the South Tower. In the stunned silence, broken only by the horrified stammering of the news broadcast, I turned to my fellow IT Project Leader Ben Leslie and said “this is not an accident; this is deliberate…”

Front license plate on the old Nissan since 9/11

Front license plate on the old Nissan since 9/11

After verifying that the second plane wasn’t some sort of sick joke or acid flashback, I hurried outside to smoke and I called my parents in San Diego. It was quarter after 6 am on the West Coast and I shouted into the phone to get out of bed and turn on the television. My mom, struggling to wake up, said she’d have my father turn on the TV. I called my brother Kyle, who travels to NYC often — he was in Las Vegas, luckily, and left him an urgent message; later I found out he had several friends from Stanford that perished in the destruction. After sucking down several coffin nails in a row, I went back upstairs to the break room, shouldering my way back into a space where I could see and hear the unbelievable efforts of CNN anchors who were barely keeping it together while trying to report this ghastly event in real time. I made it back up in time to hear the rumor, then confirmation, that a third plane had hit the Pentagon and that a fourth–and possibly a fifth and sixth–plane had been hijacked: targets, unknown. As news crews and amateur videos flooded in, there were gasps and cries as we witnessed people hanging out of twisted steel windows waving clothing and to try to get help, and eventually, bodies plummeting dozens of stories downward as people jumped from those windows. Some people fled to their offices and cubicles, tears streaming down their faces; others were desperately trying to get through to loved ones, only to receive “all circuits are busy”. Others shuffled away in stunned silence. A couple people were praying.

Best newspaper headline of them all

By 10 am, the break room had mostly cleared out. People were trying to figure out what to do in order to make sense of what they had seen. Some were trying to go back to work; others were huddled in little groups throughout the fourth floor talking in hushed tones, some comforting others. I have an unhealthy interest in catastrophic events, and I knew that there was no fucking way I was going back to work. In fact, I was planning to leave for home to be able to use my home computers and televisions to gather as much information as possible at once as this was happening. I can’t remember exactly who the four or five people were in the break room with me — I think Art Saul was there — when the South Tower collapsed in a slow motion rush of almost graceful destruction. The wall-hung 27″ TV could not adequately contain the shaky on-the-street footage of the most horrifying thing I have ever witnessed in my life. Every person in that room was transfixed in sheer awe; there are not words to describe the scant 10 seconds it took for the building to irrevocably change the NYC skyline by plunging millions of tons of concrete and steel downward “almost a quarter of a mile” into a choking, billowing cloud of debris that flooded the streets and overwhelmed the cameraman. Somebody screamed in the break room. Co-workers came running. We could only point at the screen with mouths agape. Someone said “it’s just gone!” Someone else sobbed; “oh my god there were people in there!

The subsequent images on that TV were mind-numbingly awful: people covered in dust and detritus stumbling out of the surreal darkness; people on the street who were watching fleeing the scene. Reports of casualties kept flooding in; they were too much to absorb: firefighters, police, Port Authority…and regular people. Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania; the Pentagon was on fire; rampant speculation on who was behind this monstrous — and now apparent — acts of gruesome terrorism. There were many more people in the break room when the North Tower collapsed at 10:30 am, and I am certain that some of them did not believe that the first tower had crumbled. I couldn’t take any more; I left work and went home.

President GWB delivering his infamous megaphone speech on 9-14-2001

I didn’t turn my television off for hours and days. I watched the Congress of the United States, helpless and trying to lead a country rocked with multiple simultaneous attacks spontaneously sing “God Bless America” on the steps of the capital live on national television. I remember the President stating through a bullhorn “I can hear you! I can hear YOU! The rest of the world hears you! And the people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” American flags and related items cleared the shelves. The stories of bravery and heroism continued to pour out of the news channels; hundreds of emergency personnel rushing back into the fray to rescue complete strangers; the ultimate sacrifice documented by cellular phones from Flight 93 who apparently rushed the cockpit with a drink cart to force the hijackers to plunge the plane into the ground rather than the nation’s capital as is the speculated target; a dead and injured toll that kept ratcheting up and up until it was too much for anyone, anywhere, to bear. And America set aside all of these petty differences we endure today, 10 years later, and in the face of horrific tragedy, we were a unified nation. True patriotism by 100% of the American people had not been challenged — nor demonstrated — in that same way since Pearl Harbor, and these were not military personnel: these were regular people like you or I going to their regular jobs and going home to their regular families in their regular neighborhoods.

The original version of the cover of In Memoriam

10 years later the political rhetoric has ratcheted up to where the rest of the world believes that we are paralyzed and divided. Even the events of 9/11 are being politicized and leveraged in the never-ending pursuit of political power, monetary gain, and network ratings. This is the ever evolving “normal state” of the USA; our 24 hour news cycle and the advent of all of this real-time 21st century technology allows us to air our dirty laundry constantly in 160 characters or less all of the time. Do not make the simple mistake that America is divided or paralyzed. This is democracy across a federation of 50 states, and the most successful democracy the world has ever known. On the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, I would present to you this very hallowed advice: do not fuck with the United States of America. It may take ten years and thousands of our people’s lives and millions of dollars of spending, but as one of our Presidents stated:

“Make no mistake: the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” ~George W. Bush

In the days and weeks following 9/11, I collected a huge number of nameless “basement” DJs and producers trying to express their feelings about this event, using songs that have deep meaning and laboriously, lovingly, and respectfully laying in samples of the newscasts that we witnessed that day. It is the innovation and leadership that I expect of my fellow Americans; all I have done is kept these archives for 10 years to share with you now. This is why my alter ego DJ Lurk will never produce any compilation that compares at all with this one: 09-11-01 In Memoriam. I hope this is my most-found blog post. I hope someone makes a lesson plan for high schoolers out of this. I hope Anderson Cooper calls me to interview me for my perspective. I hope that our political leadership downloads this entire album and it becomes required listening. I hope that the people who built these incredibly moving, inspiring, and truly important works of art find this and I can tell you that I love you for these tracks. I have blasted them out of my significant stereo system every September for a decade.

TL;DR: Listen to the first track, below: Faith Hill’s version of The Star Spangled Banner (WTC Mix) and see if you want to hear the rest.

DJ LURK — 09-11-01: In Memoriam

Faith Hill – The Star Spangled Banner

Blessid Union of Souls – I Believe

Live – Lightning Crashes

Collective Soul – The World I Know

Creed – Higher

Don Henley – New York Minute

Annie Lennox – Why

R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts

U2 – Stuck in a Moment

Live – Overcome

Sarah McLachlin – Angel

Higher Faith – Angels in Heaven

Splendor – God Can Explain

Jo Dee Messina and Tim McGraw – Bring on the Rain

Leeann Rymes – Please Remember Me

Jewel – Hands

James Horner – My Heart Will Go On

Lee Greenwood – God Bless the USA

Enya – Only Time

Here is an extra-special bonus clip: Depeche Mode did a little seen promo video for Enjoy the Silence on top of the World Trade Center in 1990.

I just finished burying my belovéd cat Kanji beneath one of the great eucalyptus trees in the garden at Edgemont Place. I had to do this once before with the Murdoch family cat, Frodo, in 1997, after I moved him in with my first wife and our four cats Kalvin, Anastasia, Hobbes, and Atari on Sutter Street. Frodo was over 16 years old, a canny outdoors cat with a penchant for rubbing so vigorously on the edge of roofs that he’d almost fall off. He had never been away from the fiefdom on Amiford, but the people who were leasing the house while my parents were in Canada were “allergic to cats” and didn’t want him around. It was only a couple of months later that he quit eating — even hand-shredded warm chicken — and I knew it was time for him to go.

 


Frodo

 

When I took Frodo to a highly impersonal 24 hour clinic to figure out what was wrong with him, the diagnosis was swift and sure: kidney failure. He wouldn’t miraculously heal and start eating and beating the shit out of the younger cats when they wouldn’t leave him alone like he was doing last week. It was clear that it was time, and when I looked into his eyes when I put him down, he was so much wiser and greater than I could ever be; he thanked me with a wink as he slipped over the edge and was no longer there in feline form.

I had no cat carrier at that time, so I took Frodo to the clinic in a paper ream box with a lid. As I took his body home in the same box, driving west on the I8, the clouds poured sunshine through a halo-like hole in the sky over the ocean, and I had to pull over to let the tears course down my face and to scream how unfair it is that I am left behind with all of this grief and a hole in my heart. I went home, got a shovel out of the shed, and drove to Monaco Street near the Amiford residence. I hiked up the drainage ditch I used to play in and around as a child, struck off into the depths of the old acacia bushes, and found a spot under a tree that I thought Frodo would like. And I buried his body there, in the wilderness behind the house where he would disappear for hours and sometimes days, hunting, napping, sunning, and doing whatever it is cats do when they go adventuring. Performing this ceremony made me whole over time: I knew I had done the right thing and done it with power and grace. It is not an easy thing to do.

 

Kan*Ji

the Japanese Kanji for Kanji

 

It doesn’t get any easier the second time around.

The week before this one, on Thursday, I woke up with Kanji curled up between my legs where I had fallen asleep on the couch. What puts this into perspective is that Kanji does not like to come inside the house. She’s always been like this; I am certain her previous owners didn’t allow her inside, and it was hilarious to watch her at Saratoga — where I inherited her — with an open door and a bowl of wet fud just inside enticing her to cross that threshold. When I moved and took her to Panorama, she stayed in my room for two weeks straight, terrified and freaking out that I had moved her from where she had always been. After she ventured outside, she found the spacious basement and spent her time sleeping in the rafters, only emerging to demand fresh kibble and occasionally sprint halfway up a tree when chased by the native cats Brother, Jedi, and Vader. She would continue to sleep at the foot of the bed every so often; a pleasant morning surprise keeping my feet warm and blinking her big blue eyes at me as I would be sleepily slapping the nightstand for the snooze button. At Edgemont, Kanji quickly took up residence under the house a

 

somebody is dreaming...

Kanji abed

 

gain when I let her outside and removed an anti-rodent mesh from the sub-basement. Over time, she found many hidey-holes, but spent most of her time curled up snoozing in the beat-up garage, sometimes on top of my carpeted DJ coffins or speakers. She did get used to coming in the house in order to feed and water, though, so I got used to her occasionally showing up inside, although she much preferred to enter via the window rather than crossing a doorjamb. So it was unusual to have Kanji curled up next to me, rubbing blood and pus all over my comforter from her ruined nose and ear because she just couldn’t quit being a kitten and, well, she wanted to communicate with me that she needed me.

I spent the last week with Kanji as an indoor cat. She had gotten skinny — skin and bones, really, so I plied her with wet fud and booted Brother out of the house so she could eat in peace. Lots of time was devoted to scratching her in all the right places, and gently, so when she would encourage me to rip the scabs off of her nose and ear to drain the grisly shit that was going on underneath, my fingers could dance around it. She peed on everything and I didn’t give a fuck; that Thursday she came in the house, I promised her that I would take care of this once and for all, and so we hung out hard-core: nerding it up while I solved Halo: Reach on Legendary mode with her next to me for good luck; watching Netflix Kung Fu movies until 4 in the morning on school nights; hand-feeding her American cheese slices and black forest ham on her Mexican blanket on the couch and hearing her little “om nom nom” noises; waking up in the middle of the night as she decided that she wanted to sleep closer to me, so she would carefully crawl on to my chest or between my calves and pretend like she had always been there. Kanji was fiercely independent, but she knew better than I what time it was.

 

Handsome Girl Modelling School pose #113

Kanji on the back of my couch

 

I took Kanji to Heather at Cabrillo Vet four or five months ago to find out what was wrong with the persistent scabs on her ear and nose. Heather and her whole staff, by the way, are the greatest lovers of animals on the planet. Referring to me as “Dad”, Heather told me several months ago that this was fast-moving, untreatable skin cancer, and as tears welled up in my eyes, she informed me that Kanji had 1-6 months to live. Today I took Kanji back to Cabrillo and Heather to put her down. Over the last week, I would come home from work at GreenHouse, drop my heavy backpack of tech, and go looking for her. I was worried that Kanji would try some disappearing bullshit on me. At first, I would find her laid out on the couch somewhere, but as this last week went by, I would have minor panic attacks and search the yard fruitlessly, thinking that Kanji either couldn’t get back in the window or that she was trying some dumb “I’m just going to disappear” ploy. She was always inside the house, but these last three days, she was so embarrassed with her incontinence and appearance, she found a secret spot in my back closet where she would hide until I coaxed her out of it and encouraged her back to the couch. Usually, this involved playing Lady Gaga tunes and putting fresh food in her bowl; she loves teh Gaga while she delicately ate while trying not to bang her scabby nose into the kibble.

So the second vet visit ever was to put her out of this misery. I am comforted that I spent good time with Kanji and have lots of pictures and even a little bit of video (where she got excited and tore the crap out of the back of my hand). Heather and Cabrillo are very efficient; I signed some paperwork and there was no wait. We went right back to the exam room, and they gave me a scant two minutes to let Kanji out of the carrier and let her freak out and run around a little. As I put her back on the table for the procedure, I got one good look in her big baby blue eyes, and saw them change from fear to resignation to trust. I trust you. I. Trust. You. And that is how Kanji went forth into the great beyond.

 

This is where I buried Kanji

This is where I buried Kanji

 

I’m an Eagle Scout; I pride myself on being prepared and being good in the “clutch” situation. As I drove home with Kanji’s still form in the cat carrier, I couldn’t help but look at her as if she was just sleeping. When I got home, I didn’t like her body in the carrier, so I carefully pulled her out and laid her on her circular cat-tower-throne that she liked when she was sunning and sleeping. She looked like she always did, sans an infrequent mini-bath and look around while squinting and licking her chops before resuming her nap. I found my shovel under the stairs and dug a deep hole next to two of the massive eucalyptus trees here at Edgemont place. Curling her up in that hole, and arranging her limbs to cover her eyes and give her the semblance of a nap reminded me of doing the same thing with Frodo. And that’s when I knew that it doesn’t get any easier the second time around.

As I updated Kanji’s Catbook profile to provide how long she had been loved, I realized that I have known her since 2008. It is 2010; that is two years. But when you love unconditionally — something I have a problem doing with humans, but rarely with animals — that is a lifetime. I have received many beautiful expressions of sorrow and understanding from my friends and family, and I appreciate them all; however, none of them goes as far as a simple meow from Brother: “Are you OK? I love you. BTW where’s Kanji? Can I have her fud?”

Kanji is physically gone, like so many other cherished pets and loved ones, but that does not relinquish the responsibility of playing it forward: lives are spent setting examples, and I remind myself constantly that this is why they were here in the first place: to move and inspire me now. Even after I have laid one of mine to rest in the cool earth. Kanji is not even a girl; Heather took one look at her and laughed, stating “that’s a boy-kitten, Dad.” Having known this for over four months, I still could not quit referring to her as a girl; Kanji didn’t care about the context — only the tone of voice and the love contained within and that there was Fancy Feest involved if he/she acted cute enough. This is unconditional love, and I can haz it with cats; human beings, though, I am not so sure about. Kanji was like that: suspicious of “hoomins” — this is, perhaps, one lesson that is worth remembering; and, that once alleviated, love is all I have to give to you.

I.
There was a woman
Who I loved with all my heart.
It’s the only way
I know how
to love.
The problem I have
With falling in love
Is that I just keep falling
And falling on through.
It’s a perpetual autumn;
Storming leaves of memories,
Possibilities,
Skeletal trees.
And turning my collar up
Against the cold of this world.
Holding my hands out
To the warmth of the fire
That we had kindled
To keep the darkness at bay.
Every time these things end
I look up from the glow
Of the smolder, the embers,
For the ignition of a smile,
That familiar, beloved synching
Eyes to eyes:
It’s just understood
We’ll revel in the work
To pile on more fuel
From our common woodpile.
But nobody is there
Across the coals from me;
I’ve fallen through
The bottleneck of the hourglass
Along with all these ashes.

II.
Songs get tied
Like complicated knots
Around my feelings;
They remind me of how
I used to think about forever.
Some are bright blossoms
Stolen from yards
On the way to your window
In the middle of the night
To kneel and present you
With a moonlit bouquet,
My Juliet.
Another is the crosshatching
Of spray painted poetry
Hanging in midair
Amongst the tree branches
Between the shadows
Of the stars that were ours;
Witchcraft and wizardry
For an unrelenting passion.
Tapestries of smoke
And of tie-dyed freedom;
Soft paws of haloed kittens,
The chocolate and the champagne
Of the once in a lifetime.
Threads on a magick loom
Synchronicity unparalleled,
Spiderwebs like a hammock,
An embrace as if I was coming home;
Touch burning like the fire of a faerie,
Or the resurrection of the phoenix,
Tracing sigils in the sky,
Re-ignition of belief
Like a firestarter
Or finding a soulmate.
I am haunted
By the breadth of my music
And the depth of my commitment.
The failure
of my eyesight.

III.
The carnage is absolute;
A battlefield strewn with my corpses,
Beer cans and shrieks and cigarette butts,
The best of intentions and
The stench of taking things for granted.
These raw wounds
I have sustained over my lifetime
Of loving how I should have been loved
Never seem to heal;
They just ooze and pulse
Making heartbeats painful;
A crazy accumulation of luggage
Like owning an airport carousel
Of baggage you can’t strip off.
It just grows with you,
Older and less attractive,
Smelling faintly of urine and gangrene
When you can’t bear
To perform the required surgery.
It hurts too much;
I’ll excise memories I want to keep
Along with the decaying flesh.
Retrospective or post-mortem;
It’s still the death of a relationship
That I thought would live forever
As if I had infinite chances,
Infinite quarters.

IV.
I was pinned to a mortarboard
Like a butterfly from a caterpillar,
When I had to eulogize my friend;
My brother, my partner-in-crime,
Someone who understood
By the merit of not being female
The depth of love and an enduring relationship.
I don’t ever want to do that again.
It is the same with love;
I know I can, and it will be better,
But the pain of losing someone to provoke that work
Is too much to accept;
Besides, who the fuck will do that for me?
The answer is as clear as hindsight:
20-20.
I listened to my voice echo hollow through a church
That he wouldn’t have appreciated
To the people who were left behind,
And became even more haunted.
I did my best to represent,
Tell tales, romanticize, believe
And I went home with ashes in my mouth
To cry, cry out, want to evaporate,
Disappear, erase myself from existing
Because I had lost something precious:
A true friend.
It’s a lot like losing your love
Because you have lost a friend.

V.
The light switch is off.
This is the eye of the storm for me.
Now I deal with the still shatter of leaves,
The cold of being alone,
And shoving my hands into the campfire.
There is no warmth.
This destroys the fabric of memories
That took deep commitment
And sweat equity;
Deeper resources than I had without you.
And I see them all retreat,
As if they never existed;
Vanish into the thin, thin air
That I breathe.
Flatlined.

VI.
To move along,
Because there is nothing to see here;
It’s a pretty penance,
My cross to bear;
One that gets weightier
The more years I carry forward,
This boulder I am pushing uphill.
It’s that lost luggage from the carousel;
It’s those old wounds from the battlefield;
It’s those lyrics of happier times
When I would write, compose, sing
Of how I loved being in love
And how I expected forever
But you only had right now to give.

VII.
Perspective is a function of wisdom,
Which is a byproduct of experience,
That is what happens when you live and die
Through these things.
Perhaps they build character;
Actually, they create defense mechanisms
To try to prevent this from happening again
And again.
Expectations collapse
And you lay bricks and mortar in the fortress
That you think will keep you safe
But not sound;
You all are quite persuasive.
Certainly isolated
In the aftermath
Of bequeathing your everything —
Heart, mind, soul —
To your everything
Around that campfire
And you look up and discover
That she is long gone.

One lone onion
Singing in the kitchen,
Singing in its red net bag,
Singing on my cutting board.

He’s singing “Faith”
By George Michael:
Faith will keep him
Whole and untouched.

My beef stew simmers nearby,
Watching and waiting.
I hide around the corner,
Knife in my hand and
Tears in my eyes —
His brothers and sisters
Made me weep.
George Michael never makes me weep.
Wham!

Eagle Feathers

Posted: November 27, 1992 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

from my hair flutter many eagle feathers,
tied to the dark ends of curls,
framing my face in the chill wind
which flies over flat expanses:
the seas and the prairies.
it is this wind which cloaks
my feathered brothers and sisters
while they hunt with their keen eyes.
in these skies, dusted with clouds,
runs the horse of my spirit
and my name, glancing from
one end of the world to the other.
these eagle feathers tug at my hair
in the wind to tell me: fly! fly!