Hold your sorrow gently

You’ve all seen New York on TV, and it’s easy to imagine what the city sounds like. Cars, footsteps, and the occasional “Ey, I’m walkin’ here!”. But the truth is, cinema soundscapes leave out something important. Maybe it’s an accident, maybe they figure the sound will be distracting, but they leave it out. When have you heard New York, actual New York, real footage from real life?

Every city has sirens, but I’ve only ever heard these particular sirens in one other place; 9/11 footage. It’s impossible not to think about it, and it’s impossible not to imagine the layer of screaming and panic that has accompanied those sirens every other time I’ve heard them.

Flashbulb memories are clear and vivid memories, usually related to an important historical event, and sometimes shared by the world. They are clear because they are encoded during heightened emotion, and because they are strengthened every time they revisited. They are usually revisited a lot. I was 10, my mother woke me up and told me to watch the news, because “this is history happening”. She and my sister were watching in awe, changing seats and standing positions every few seconds, repeating the events to each other as though saying them would make it more believable.

I decided to visit the memorial. It was breathtaking. I guess I had expected something more soothing, like fields of poppies or statues of triumph. It’s just a big black hole in the earth where each tower stood, with water cascading into the centre. It felt like the monolith in Space Odyssey. In retrospect, I don’t think it would’ve been appropriate if the memorial was soothing.

Rebirth at Ground Zero is a time lapse film projection at the memorial museum. “Hold your sorrow gently. If it weren’t for the pain, you wouldn’t know what joy was”.

I decided to go to a comedy night in the West Village. I put my name on the wait list for the comedy cellar, and was told to come back at 9. A benefit of being alone is that interesting people tend to introduce themselves. When they find out you are on vacation, they try to make your experience enjoyable. I sat with a group of people and ate their mozzarella sticks. Where have mozzarella sticks been my whole life? More people joined this group, and after the third person asked me if I was a comedian, I realised I was sitting with tonight’s line up. They got me a good seat, next to two girls who had also spontaneously come to NYC alone to escape their real lives. Here I was, thinking I was unique.

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