Monday, September 15, 2008

Still the lights

So, I like the lights.

The twin columns of light they project into the sky from where the towers used to be on the anniversary.

I like them.

Most things related to 9/11 I dislike.

I dislike the politicization of the whole thing. I dislike Rudy Giuliani. I dislike the conspiracy theories. I dislike the fact that it could have been avoided, or at least altered, if a few men on watchlists had simply been held off their flights. And I severely dislike the fact that innocent lives were lost, that it's led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of more innocent lives, the deepening of hatreds and the waste of wealth (at the very least, how does it cost the Pentagon $10 million a year to maintain a memorial? There's the DoD for you...Minerva my eye.)

And I'm not nostalgic for it. That day sucked. The smell of death and burning metal that hung in the air for a month and a half after sucked. The feeling of imminent dread that bled into the terrible glacial dread of history sucked (sucks).

Anyway, the L train skipped First and Third Avenues so I walked from Union Square down to Arlene Grocery on Stanton to see the reunited Mommyheads and Johnny Society.

And there were the lights. Around every corner, at the end of every street towering over the still-freshly-scrubbed college kids and unwashed krusty punk squatter-wannabes and invisible homeless and European tourists and Sex and the City fans.

Autumn makes me nostalgic. Can't help it. It does. They didn't write a song about autumn in New York for nothing. The lights were a ghost reminder that this isn't the same city I moved to in October '96. Giulianiism was in full swing then, but the cauterization of character and independence wasn't yet complete. That took a businessman to pull off.

I first heard of Johnny Society within a week of moving here, having seen their name listed at Brownie's (gone) while perusing the Voice looking to see what bands were around. The name struck me. But I didn't go. I stayed home and watched the World Series.

Their name would subsequently come up over the next couple years when I'd ask folks what New York bands were around that I should check out. "Johnny Society," I was told.

I never managed to get to a show.

By 2002 I'd met Brian Geltner, who was playing in Nervous Cabaret (now that Elyas Khan's fled to Berlin, on hiatus as my favorite band in New York), and subsequently met Kenny Siegel and Gwen Snyder when I tagged along to shoot some of the recording of their first album up at Kenny's Old Soul studio in Catskill. I met Brion Snyder (if America made sense, at least three songs off "Build Another Empire" would be all over the radio) when Geltner signed him up to play the Rhodes on and record the original music for "Every Dog's Day."

The best and hardest-working people around aren't the best known or the richest.

Corporate meritocracy is as much of an oxymoron as fascist meritocracy. Welcome to Republican America.

But, acknowledging redundancy, this city ain't dead yet.

There are still the lights.