Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On The Rim of the Great Crater: Lost Wanderings at the Bottom of the City

 Notes From a Post-911 Nocturne

The Night City rises slowly from the carnage below—Up from the torn streets, born on clouds of toxic vapor and particles, and illuminated by phosphorous lamps—Swirling slowly, slowly in the heavy and humid air, and by turns, green, yellow, purple, —Up, up to the rooftop of the Bennett building and heaving, foaming, and echoing with the squall of impossible night sounds—The reverberating dirge of doomsday clang & clatter. Ancient brick & mortar crumble and give way to vast criminal enterprise, heralded by the hiss & crackle of the welder’s torch—Way down there at the very bottom of a city whose name has become uncertain even to it’s own inhabitants...
    And now workers cling to the sides of the Bennett on scaffolds like some hideous insects— Grinding and blasting, and sanding away layers of paint and all the way down to the raw iron! The fatal renovation! The biting wind of a hundred years of pulverized paint, asbestos, arsenic, and lead, and the powdered bones of the dead—Clinging, swirling around old Fulton! You see, the dust from the attack had gotten into every crack & cranny of the Bennett—in and around every window frame, and architectural ornament! It was waiting there—waiting to be stirred up and released into the air! And now I can’t breath and my lungs are heavy and feel like lead!—I am poisoned again! But this time it’s far worse! And there must be some way out of this fucking hell!
    Vague rumors are recounted in the hallways amid hacking coughs & wheezing breaths. We retreat into our cast-iron shells, hunkered down amid rumor and the poison dust that swirls all around the Bennett and is drawn up through her interior, up through the great central staircase and dispersed through all the floors and chokes the life out of us, especially the ones who pretend not to live here! We tried to seal off the windows—in vain!  Weakened as I was by the previous poisonings and dislocations, I could not withstand this new onslaught of toxins. I was only able to enter my space if I held my breath—desperately trying to retrieve a few items from the room that was once my home—but no more! The terrible stench of the towers filled the Bennett, and the ground-up paint swirled all around and into my lungs and into my mind.
    The perimeter of the great crater spread far beyond the footprints of the destroyed towers. And now the Bennett stood naked! Stripped down to her cast-iron shell and obscured by vast rows of scaffolding! The beautiful and delicate hues of cream, and pink, and pastel green were ground away and dispersed into the air along with all my memories, and the Bennett loomed ugly and dull-brown, gray and black: The Great Cenotaph at Fulton & Nassau!
    I stand in the filthy street and look up in horror and disbelief at the shell of that doomed structure—but of course the Bennett was merely shedding her skin and was readying herself for a metamorphosis, a new life—I was the one who was doomed! Scraped away with the old paint and cast off and dispersed in the cracked sky, way down there at the bottom of the heaving and torn city whose name is now unknown to me!
    A thousand curses are hurled into the sulphur skies over the Bennett rooftop! Even X couldn’t help me, and was himself driven out less than a year later, amid intrigue and vast economic pressures as Downtown was gutted and re-configured. The disturbed rat’s nest of the Bennett was exposed as we scuttled through the Skeleton streets, illuminated by phosphor lamps hung by night-crews who toiled ceaselessly under the commands of their masters, who loomed over the city, leering at the riches to be made by the destruction of everything that I held dear! I fled in horror and disgust as I watched the downfall from a fractious bench in City Hall Park. I record the moments of the disaster like some loyal scribe, some dedicated ship’s officer who goes down with the ship.
    And now no place to sleep! Desperation fills me as I contemplate a night on the streets! I doze off one evening down by the Seaport around the back of one of the old buildings, waiting for a phone call that will tell me that I have a sofa or a precious piece of floor to crash on. And now poison-drunk and oppressed by chem-solvent nightmares too foul & filthy to recollect—their essence filtered through litmus and turning Egyptian Blue and Saturnine Red—a decoction of fear & regret—a potent and unspeakable liquid: the rarest poison known to man!
    The Great & Morbid City groans, heaves, blinks it’s myriad lights and spouts vapor from a thousand jets.   
One moment you are safe in your bed... and the next you are poisoned and sent tottering into the streets—
And what city is this?  The sanctuary of the Bennett no more!

At the Cross-Section of Voltage & Bromide Streets as Journal #34 is pulled over broken glass!
Oblivion neatly inscribed between pale and parallel rules—In a blurred mind-scape in a city whose name can change without warning. We are pulled along—pulled along: Along with the tides and there’s nothing to be done about it! And now drunk and wobbling through the halls and down into the Skeleton streets!
I am driven out! Again!
Run from the city!