and perfectly tended gardens, the muted clockticking of natural death. In New York crossing the East River to get to my father, you could see the towers burning before they fell. My plane never made it out. That was Tuesday. It was Sunday before I could catch another one. Waiting in line for a boarding pass Sunday, I saw that Muslims would be among my fellow passengers. A bearded man, dressed Western style, was shepherding a young wife and four little daughters in long, ritual dress. They looked uneasy and I smiled at them. Inside, I was going berserk. “Are they using their women and children now to foil security?” I was beginning to panic. But then a skinny young U.S. Marshall appeared with a beefier Border Patrol agent. They ignored the family and pulled a young, single man from the line. Oddly, this little government ritualheretofore so foreign in New York yet so domestic in El Paso \(my old stomping grounds for both journalism and immigration civil rights mental reporter’s notebook after the young man had been cleared, and asked him what it was about. “Guess they thought I looked Arab,” he shrugged. “Actually I’m Venezuelan.” In Houston we were talking about my daughter seeing people jump from the Trade Center. Someone questioned the word “jump” and speculated that with fire licking you, you simply respond without thinking, whereas jumping takes a plan. I noted that girls in the Triangle Fire went out the windows holding hands. In New York, my children know about the Triangle Fire. In New York, my son had just made the soccer team at Stuyvesant. If he had done so in San Antonio, he’d be playing varsity against Douglas McArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan High Schools. In New York, the competitors are A. Philip Randolph and Norman Thomas. The city still wheezes with old Social Democracy. You want to hold its hand. The breathing is labored, but the eyes are still so beautiful. I had left La Guardia Airport that morning with a suitcase on wheels. For five hours I rolled it through Queens, desperately trying to get home to my children. I walked a bridge into Manhattan, against a tide of hundreds of thousands marching the other way. Back in the apartment, the kids and I spent the first evening with good wine and dumb jokesthe giddy, high spirits of immediate survival. Two weeks later our daytime thoughts are full of biochemical warfare. \(Will the terrorists spray tion and bombs and everything toppling. I had my first such dream last night, lying on a mat at the hospice, in and out of wakefulness as I timed my father’s last breaths coming shallower and farther between. Before this I’d been far more Freudian and ironic. The night of September 11, I dreamed that Rudy Guiliani’s wife called me to Gracie Mansion. Dark and attractive, she faced me in a nude glory of pubic hair and asked me to bring her clothes. They were fine, expensive silks. “Feel free to wear some yourself,” she invited, as black smoke billowed from the towers behind her head. I woke and realized that Guiliani’s “wife”his current love, that isis Judith Nathan, whose last name is the same as mine. It was such a droll, interesting dream that I wanted to hear other people’s. So I rented a telephone mailbox and put an ad in the Village Voice, asking New Yorkers to call. With minor variation, almost everyone reported the same thing. “Hi, this is Fran from Bayside. For three days before September 11 I dreamed that something terrible was going to happen to me.” “Yeah, I’m Bob, from Jericho. Nostradamus predicted this, and I was dreaming about Nostradamus before everything came down.” It’s all stupefyingly literal and stupefyingly magical. At 8:45 a.m. EDT on September 11, we were surprised. But in our 3 a.m. pitch-dark thinking now, we say we knew it was going to happen. Why? 0 K, so Falwell went over the top, telling us we deserved it. Still, almost everything since 9/11 is being framed in frighteningly religious terms. This is not about Islam, Bush intones, only about its misinterpretationwhich is still, of course, about Islam. Even so, he doesn’t really talk about religion. In one speech, our President told us the Taliban puts men in jail if they do not grow their beards long enough. He conveniently failed to note that fundamentalist Islam executes women who have extramarital sex. No doubt this went unmentioned because Bush’s fundamentalist Christian supporters don’t like women who have extramarital sex, either. These American Christiansmillions of How brilliant of our terrorists: Not only did they disappear 6,000 people, they also sucked us closer to the God of Moses, Jesus, muham mad, Nostradamus, and handwriting analysis. 11/9/01 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29 1111111111180111111111111111111.0..—‘——.-.rof
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