May 5, 2005
A Relatively Ordinary Week
The last weeks have been full of flashy sort of experiences.
Film Festival moments, encounters with folks who have blue
blood backgrounds, stars of one sort or another.
We had a weekend dinner with our friends Paul and Lorraine
at their home. Their houseguest for the weekend was Iman and
her daughter by her husband, David Bowie. Iman, of course,
was one of the first SUPER models. She was delightful, quiet
and focused on her child.
This week has been quiet.
Two handmade grenades went off outside the Manhattan building
housing the British Consulate in the wee hours of this morning.
The city is walking just a little gingerly today, wondering
what this was all about.
Since 9/11 there has been a fear that the nature of any attacks
against the city could change from massive to individual,
bombs going off as they seem to have last night. In our dark
subliminal we fear suicide bombers on crowded subways. The
city is plastered with signs that remind: If you see something,
say something. Very like London in the 1970s.
Officials are being careful about what they say and
do about last nights event. Attention is being paid
but the media is being careful not to overplay. All in all,
we are giving this event a measured response while our stomachs
It changes the nature of the way we look at things. Before
this morning, we have been mostly focused on the weather.
Spring is having a terrible time establishing itself on the
East Coast. For every moment that promises spring, there has
been a counterpoint that harkens back to winter.
Against this erratic environmental background, New York functions.
Deals are done; buildings continue to rise, buses still run
while everyone asks: what the HELL is going on with the weather?
Downtown there are major fights about what is to be re-built
at the World Trade Center site. Compromises are everywhere
and everywhere there is dissatisfaction. The Freedom Tower,
already behind schedule, is now further behind schedule because
various Government Agencies are declaring they have security
concerns with the design. A major re-design has been ordered;
delaying the building considerably.
This mornings incident, albeit small, strengthens the
case for caution.
I have spent time recently walking by the hole,
the Ground Zero of our time, and am witnessing that SOMETHING
is going on but I am not sure what is happening. Construction
is occurring but from what I see in the papers no one is sure
what direction that the construction is taking. As is true
for New York adventures in architecture, fractiousness is
the order of the day. There has been no civic movement in
this city that has been achieved without a great deal of discord.
Daniel Liebeskind, the wunderkind architect chosen to guide
the rebuilding has been minimized and has left for more fertile
grounds elsewhere. On the north end of the site, a new World
Trade Center 2 is arising, an island in a sea of confusion.
It is a glistening tower that evokes both hope and pain.
All of this, I think, is a metaphor for what I suspect is
America today. We have enormous amounts of activity but are
not quite sure as to where that activity is taking us. We
are paying attention to the grenades but are not sacrificing
our attention to the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland.
I find it disconcerting we seem confused. I have always thought
of us as a country that knew where it was going [granted,
I think that has been delusional]. However, now I am afraid
we have traded direction for activity and activity for purpose.
And while we are swirling in activity, having enjoyed relatively
normal times, someone out there made a couple of hand grenades
in their kitchen, blasting us back to a grimmer reality.