| September 22, 2005
A Moment's Pause
On Tuesday, I had lunch with my friend Dalton. He asked me
if all this traveling had changed me?
Yes, of course, is the easy answer. The more difficult question
On the tour through Asia, I became aware of myself acutely
as an individual moving through a universe, unfamiliar, yet
part of the world in which I lived and in which I needed to
These were countries where English is the second language
and where my head sometimes hurt from the work of unraveling
meaning from words spoken in English.
I sensed myself as a singularity, an individual, alone and
almost unconnected, moving through the universe. All through
this tour my touchstone with the familiar were a couple of
short phone calls each day back home.
I put myself more than once in the shoes of those a short
century ago who had no phones and could understand why letters
from the 19th and 20th century were so vital and alive; far
away so much is washing over you there is a terrible need
to communicate to someone familiar that the desire to put
word to experience is an almost visceral need.
The yearning for home and loved ones is a palpable, pulsing
presence that lived, just under my skin, an itch not satiated
by phone calls.
For me, there is a heightened awareness when traveling alone.
There is no one to lay off responsibility upon. You are there
and must cope. It's why in Taipei I was
so glad to have a hotel car meeting me '
I didn't have to discover the local taxi
etiquette after a long flight from Singapore.
There I experienced the fourth anniversary of September 11th.
It filled my thoughts as I filled my day with a long walk
through that city, wandering without purpose in the heat and
humidity of a city that had just been lightly brushed by a
typhoon roaring its way across the China Sea to kill a hundred
on the mainland.
On Friday I had had dinner with some folks, including a young
Taiwanese woman sitting next to me who had been on the last
PATH train into the WTC that awful morning. She found herself
running for her life and she didn't really
stop until she was back in Taipei ' as far
as she could manage from the horror.
Walking the Taipei streets, I found myself painfully alone
with thoughts, my emotions and myself. I suspect I am like
every New Yorker who lived through that day, able to experience
a 'movie moment' when
closing eyes returns you to the moment when the reality of
9/11 became REAL for you.
My moment was on the corner of West Broadway and Spring,
seeing the first tower burning and watching people stream
up the streets, terrified, horrified, struggling to comprehend.
That was very early on in the day's agony,
before the second plane, before knowing about the Pentagon
It was not surprising but interestingly noted I had hardly
tracked the arrival of the date; with my schedule it seemed
challenging enough to know what day and city I was in much
less a specific date.
My feet took me to Taipei 101, according to some measures
the tallest building in the world. I forced myself to go to
the Observation Tower because I was afraid, fearful of being
in a building that echoed the Trade Towers, to be high off
the ground and encased in stable steel.
Doing the audio tour, I found myself momentarily frozen when
told me I was looking at Taipei's Domestic
Airport. Planes could be clearly seen climbing off the runways.
How easy it would be for one to climb and turn and plow into
the building where I stood. It was gut level, irrational and
Descending to the ground, I walked away from Taipei 101 intending
to continue on my meanderings through a city that reminded
me a bit of New York's Chinatown. But I
didn't; my feet turned back toward my hotel
and the safety of my room, the small universe claimed as 'home'
by me for a few days, where I could feel sheltered by the
almost familiar as I experienced my aloneness.