From Manhattan to Dave Barry: Happy New Year
BONUS: Photos of 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Can I say that 2024 will definitely be better than 2023? Not a chance. Presidential election years are rapidly becoming unbearable. And this one will be miserable, no matter the outcome.
We all know the disasters that will ensue if Donald Trump is elected to another miserable term. If Joe Biden is reelected, Trump will again claim that massive voter fraud is the cause of his defeat and he’ll engage is a desperate campaign to reverse the results to stay out of jail, even if it means prompting his supporters to become violent. One need only to look back at what happened three years ago to see the inevitable replay.
In the coming year, I would urge — to the extent it’s possible — that you focus as many of your waking hours as possible on the local: your town or city hall; your schools; your family, friends and neighbors. We actually have some control over what happens in our own communities — and that, my friends, is reassuring.
I’m a town employee now and have seized on my high-visibility position as an opportunity to better acquaint myself with my fellow citizens and to reconnect with others after working long hours up in the Berkshires for nine years. Taking that part-time job at the Salisbury-Sharon Transfer Station is perhaps the best decision I’ve made since retiring 18 months ago — other than starting this column, of course.
With our two adult children living far away (San Antonio and Seattle), my wife and I stayed at a relative’s unoccupied condo in Westchester County, New York, and traveled to Manhattan by train to see some sites on both December 25 and 26.
On Christmas Day, we had lunch with a friend on the Upper West Side and then found our way to Fifth Avenue where we were surprised to see a pro-Palestinian march that we later learned had resulted in half a dozen arrests for disorderly conduct. There were lots of cops walking along with the demonstrators, so we never felt threatened. The demonstrators chanted and carried signs demanding a ceasefire and an end to the Israeli action in Gaza. It would have been nice to see a sign calling for the release of the 100 or so Israeli hostages Hamas continues to hold, but that was obviously too much to hope for.
Since we were in the neighborhood, I insisted we try to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s got to be one of the most famous churches in the world. And enter we did. There appeared to be some sort of Mass going on, but the church was nonetheless open to the public. There were many items for sale, including candles and votives. There were credit card terminals set up at several locations inside the church for anyone in the spirit of giving to the largest Gothic Revival Catholic cathedral in North America.
On the day after Christmas, we visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Lower Manhattan. As you can imagine, the exhibits were terribly moving. I recommend it to anyone who cares about that awful day. It’s worth noting that the memorial also honors the memory of the six people who died in the first World Trade Center bombing of Feb. 26, 1993, in the North Tower basement. Both the museum and the grounds outside are heart-wrenching must-sees.
I don’t have a close personal connection to that day but on 9/11 I was working as development director at a school for kids with learning disabilities in New York’s Hudson Valley, where the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 had roared toward the WTC from Boston that morning as I drove to my office. One of our students from Kent, Connecticut, had a brother, Jamie Gadiel, who worked as a junior bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 103rd floor of the north tower, just above the impact zone of the first jet. One of my advisees, a friendly but dewy-eyed fellow, walked into my office in tears and asked plaintively, “Am I going to die?”
All 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees who were in company headquarters that morning, amounting to nearly 70% of its total workforce, were killed. It was the largest loss of life suffered by any single organization in the attacks.
About two years later, I traveled to New York to visit with a donor at Goldman Sachs. After I got off the subway and began walking down Broadway toward the company’s world headquarters on Broad Street, I looked to my right and saw what appeared to be a large open space. I wonder where in Manhattan an open space of that size could be found, beyond Central Park.
So I walked two or three blocks west and was confronted with Ground Zero. At that point, the site was broom clean but two large holes remained, along with too many makeshift memorials to count. During our holiday visit to the site, it was gratifying to see that the victims have since been memorialized in a way more befitting their deeply tragic fate.
P.S. If you haven’t read it already, take a look at humorist Dave Barry’s Year In Review. It’s always a rollicking read. To wit, I’m happy to see that Dave shares my view of the ubiquity of tipping and the resulting fatigue:
So 2023 was not a good year for humanity. And not just because of AI and pickleball. There were also disturbing economic trends, the worst one being that soon we will not be able to engage in any kind of economic transaction, including with armed robbers, ATMs, or vending machines, without being asked if we wish to leave a tip.