Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: grief

It’s over here.

It helps explain why I went quiet for so many months, and stopped posting here altogether.

Every year, I think it’s going to be different. Every year, I write a little more about it, talk a little more about it, and every year I think it’s going to make some difference. Every year I believe I’ve processed it a little better, a little differently, learned to cope with it a little more.

Every year, I’m wrong again.

Every year, I think I might sleep a little later, and every year my body shocks me awake at almost exactly 8:45 am Eastern standard time. Every year I think I might just make it to my alarm, and every year I don’t. Every year I wake up confused and bewildered for a just a moment during which I don’t remember what day it is. And every year, I do, all over again. Every year, I get quiet and reticent.

Every year, I watch two videos. They are as traditional to me at this time of year as Twas the Night Before Christmas is traditional to December.

The first one is of Jon Stewart introducing The Daily Show on the day it returned to broadcast on September 20th, 2001.

The other is the video for Ryan Adams’ song “New York, New York.”

Unfortunately, WordPress, Comedy Central, and MTV don’t seem to play nice, so you’ll have to follow those links, but trust me, they’re worth it.

I just wanted to share them, because they are cathartic on a day on which I otherwise shut completely down. I tend to solidify like concrete, mute and rigid and immobile, and each of those videos seems to serve as tiny, persistent chisels, busting away all the defense mechanisms I’ve thrown up since the day I smelled that dust (some days I fear there are too many). And I figured, since I truly believe there is catharsis for all of us in sharing the memory of that day, I feel too that there is similar relief in sharing how we cope with it.

This year, I’ve had an epiphany, prompted by Making Light, a blog maintained by Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Making Light is intertwined with my memories of that day; there was a check-in post there, that day, and I remember I either posted there or to the well. Today, Making Light pretty much defiantly rejected commemoration of the terrorist attacks in favor of other anniversaries/memories:

I am sure that there will be many places to remember the dead, and to debate the lessons they can teach the living. I’m confident that the Making Light commentariat will have a lot to say on the subject.

This thread is not for that. This thread is for defiant normality. If the aim of terrorism is to produce terror, grief and anger, then let us laugh, and rejoice, and love.

And I both understand and acknowledge the value of such a sentiment.

Moreso, I say, I’m sorry, but grief, for me, is normality today. Today, I laughed at my students, and rejoiced in the fact that people read what I’ve written, but both come in utter defiance. That doesn’t necessarily mean that both are tainted, but still, I look around at where I am and what I’m doing and remember where I was and what I was doing. This year, I acknowledge it hurt, and I accept that it’s okay. In the past, I’ve felt at times like I don’t have a right to feel this way, because hey, I survived and that leaves me so much better off than so many other people, but this year I note:

I’m sorry. I’m not okay. I’m not even a little okay. I miss Manhattan more than I can express. I miss my friends and my crummy little apartment and riding the subway to work. I miss all the terrific people I worked with and all the wonderful friends I made. I miss the neon and the way the sidewalk sparkled under my feet. I miss blowing half my paycheck on bad CDs at HMV, and watching movies alone at Virgin.

But most of all, even though I may not be okay, I am grateful.

To you.

I don’t think I’ve said it lately, but thank you. Because a reader is not solely the single best thing any writer can have, but also, arguably, what makes a writer in the first place. In “Your Name on a Grain of Rice,” Roger Clyne wonders:

What good is my love song if you ain’t around to hear it?

I’m forever grateful I don’t ask that question.

It’s probably sacrilege to admit I’ve never seen the original Rocky in its entirety; I’m very nearly from Philly, after all, so close I’ve earned the right to call it that. The Sixers are the only team I’ve never watched play, and I’ve been to the Constitution Center, seen the Liberty Bell. I saw Grip, Dickens’ stuffed raven, in the Free Library, and I have a favorite cheesesteak place (it’s Jim’s, on South Street. Pat’s and Gino’s get all the attention, but Jim’s steaks are the best, hands-down). My first concert was to see Alanis Morissette at the Electric Factory on Seventh and Springgarden.

I mention this because I just finished Rocky Balboa. I started it up because I wanted some footage of Milo Ventimiglia for a sideproject I’m working on. Didn’t really intend to watch it, to be honest, just to skip around a bit until I found what I needed.

Boy, did I ever get sucked in. It’s a Philly movie. The famous steps (I saw two exhibits in that museum; Dali and Degas). The streets and the bridges and the cityscape.

And more than that, it’s totally fucking rad. I wouldn’t’ve thought I’d jump to blog a rave of Rocky Balboa, but I am. I mean, no, it ain’t subtle, but who needs subtle when you’re buildin’ up the hurtin’ bombs? It avoided easy sentimentality, and it had a real, honest-to-God good script, with a story about coping with grief and the nagging suspicion that your better days are behind you. And honestly? When Stallone actually mentioned his grief, over the deceased Adrian? Totally bought it. Totally bought him breaking down, and the anger and the fear and the hurt. And it’s so brief, so fast, but you suddenly realize that he’s been all coiled and balled up.

And then taking it out in the ring? Tapping into that “beast”?

One of the most powerfully cathartic movies I’ve seen in a long time, and just the right gracenote for the series. Well done indeed.