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A Central Park Morning


Ah! A night’s sleep! It works wonders!

The latest word is that the number of missing may be too large. Some may have been counted twice (or more).

I had the morning off today; I just had to deal with a few calls and e-mails about tomorrow’s Yankee Stadium memorial event. So, my wife and I went for our first bicycle ride together around Central Park in about a month.

The calendar says it’s fall, but it’s warm and humid, and no leaves seem to have turned yet.

The New York Road Runners Club was having a race in the park, and, as usual, everyone was happily cheering the runners on. There were the usual tourists (speaking a wide range of languages), bicyclists, in-line skaters, families, wheelchair athletes, etc. On our corner, a female police officer was joking with a male police officer. There were many couples holding hands and smiling. There’s an awful lot of happy smooching going on in New York, and not just in our bedroom.

The sidewalk all along our block and the next is completely torn up. No one seems to know why. Welcome to New York. It may be a confusing mess, but it’s OUR confusing mess.

There are special laws in New York. The motor vehicular code, for example, can be reduced to two sentences (in this order): 1. Don’t park. 2. Don’t hit anything. Another apparent statute is one we refer to as The Law of the Conservation of Scaffolding. It states that, if a sidewalk scaffold is removed anywhere in the city, it must immediately be re-erected somewhere else. We New Yorkers take all of this in our stride. I think it’s our Dutch heritage.

The Dutch learned early on that the best way to do business was to have everyone as customers, and that means being tolerant. New York (formerly Nieuw Amsterdam) doesn’t have the picture-windowed red-light districts or marijuana-smoke-filled brown cafes of Amsterdam, but we’re still pretty tolerant. I once saw a man walk stark naked down 57th Street; most passers-by didn’t give him a second glance.

Those of you who have seen me at ITS events know that I am often sartorially unique at those — wearing a khaftan, a pareu, a wizard’s hat and robe, a towel, a sequined star-spangled banner, one legged pants, or even (in Nevis, where everyone else was in shorts) formal wear when I speak. In New York I could wear any of those (and often have, plus a kilt) unnoticed.

Like every New Yorker I have spoken to since the attack, I wholeheartedly approve of the job our mayor has been doing in managing the crisis. Like many New Yorkers, I did NOT approve of the job our mayor was doing BEFORE the attack. These days he is the very picture of calm, reasoned, and tolerant administration. Before the event, I don’t think even his fans would have used any of those words to describe him. He once attacked an innocent victim of a tragic police shooting (the result of an undercover operation gone awry) by improperly publicizing a sealed juvenile-offense record and saying, “He was no altar boy!” It later came out that the victim HAD, in fact, been an altar boy. One of his more-recent pre-collapse actions was the establishment of a “decency commission” to regulate arts funding, one that would likely have rejected Michelangelo’s David for its frontal nudity and the same sculptor’s Moses for its horns.

Mayor Giuliani has not previously been the poster boy for a tolerant New York, but he certainly IS being tolerant now and is doing a superb job. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that his new personna is real. If he were running for re-election, I’d certainly consider him. He is not, however, because a campaign funded by a conservative billionaire pushed through term limits. Twice.

Having had the morning off, I managed to catch up a little bit on newspapers. There was a full-page ad on the back of the World Business section of yesterday’s New York Times. It was placed by the ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, and it asked New Yorkers to petition the government to suspend this year’s election so that Giuliani may continue as mayor.

Suspend democracy as the result of a terrorist attack? No, thank you.

I received my first piece of post-attack campaign mail today. The gist was that we should go out and vote in Tuesday’s primary election, but it was also plastered with the candidate’s name, desired position, and picture. I DO plan to vote on Tuesday, but not for that candidate.

Here’s another item, this time from Thursday’s Circuits section of the paper: Just one of the five damaged Verizon telephone central offices served “175,000 phone customers and 3.5 million data lines.” Today, I am VERY pleased to report, we were able to make a direct-dialed long-distance call! FYI, New York’s battered phone system usually handles 115 million calls a day; since the attack, it has been dealing with twice as many. Go, team!

Tonight’s Metropolitan Opera benefit should be interesting. It will have the choral piece “Va pensiero” from Nabucco. Although it’s about exiled Jews longing for their homeland, it has become sort of the unofficial national anthem of Italy. Go figure. Then there will be an act of Un ballo in maschera (A masked ball), an opera dealing with political conspiracy and assassination in Boston (not to mention a love triangle). Then there will be the act of Otello in which the governor, prodded with false information, jealously kills his wife. Then comes the end of Rigoletto, in which a father, blind with desire for revenge, ends up causing the death of his daughter. Somewhere in there is supposed to be “Stars & Stripes Forever,” too. Again, go figure.

Thank you for all the encouraging and generous messages. I received a nice snail-mail card from one of you, too. Alas, it lamented my being so sad.

I don’t think I am (anymore). It’s tough to write about death and destruction in a cheery tone, but, rest assured, we ARE getting in some laughs (and not just gallows humor — like the fear that must have hit potential terrorists when they learned they could no longer use curbside check-in or e-tickets nor count on picking up a plastic deli knife at an airport fast-food concession).

So, here’s an even worse joke from one of this week’s shows:

Finkelstein had willed his body to science. When the pathologists pulled the sheet below his waist, they both stared in awe. It took a minute before either could speak or move.

“Wow,” said one.

“Yeah,” said the other. “Say, I know this is probably improper, but do you think I could take it to show my wife?”

“I guess so.”

So they removed it and placed it in a very large jar filled with formaldehyde. The pathologist put the jar in a large paper bag before taking it home.

His wife asked, “What’s in the big bag?” So he removed the jar.

“Oh, my god!” she gasped, taken aback. “Finkelstein died?”

TTFN Mark