Sunday, September 11, 2011

Another another 9/11 post

In July I was in NY for an old friend's wedding. The ceremony was to take place upstate. Like Voltron, all the boys from the old clique gathered together in NYC, and got in a van to drive there.
Those hours in the van were naturally filled with hilarious time-filling chatter. One idea, I pitched to the group, was to write a book entitled "What About Me? The Silver Lining of 9/11". Unlike my previous post, it would not contain ruminations about life or the military industrial complex, or how the human spirit shone through the WTC dust. It would be more of the selfish, Larry David variety: how a terrible thing can work in your favor. I had experienced that very thing on 9/11. Before the book idea popped in my head in the van, I told them a story of how on the night 9/11 I was supposed to play drums with a band called Million.
We were going to headline that night at the now defunct Brownies venue in the East Village.

I had joined Million simply out of the need to do something creative. I had the repugnant, golden handcuff job, but no creative outlet. I had not yet decided (or felt brave enough?) to fully reboot my art studio practice. I was still lost in the cloudy haze of post-undergrad adolescence. Since I had played a lot of drums in high school and college, it seemed to be the logical choice, given that I 'auditioned' for the group and 'passed' with flying colors.

After a number of practices, however, it dawned on me that I was not a very good drummer. I think I had the technical framework and experience to become one with determination, but by the time our show was set on 9/11, this determination had yet to fruit. I could not, for the life of me, remember how many bars I had to play in the long, Stereolab-eque grooves, or when the changes came. I also tended to 'drag' the beat. This key skill makes the work of "unflashy" drummers like the Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts deceptively simple. In order to avoid dragging, a drummer has to have an unerring, in-built metronome. Despite my years of experience, I was never committed enough to find it. Without this skill, I was essentially a sitting duck in a live performance. I was simply too fearful to remember anything. There were practices I would nail it effortlessly, but many others in which I felt like my instincts had been wiped clean. Thus, it naturally follows that when my band mate Jameson called to tell me on the night of 9/11 that our 'big', 'headlining' gig had been cancelled, and that all of the band's followers, and local music scenesters would be denied the opportunity to see us alight the stage, I was SO FUCKING HAPPY!

I felt like an inevitable, public embarrassment had been thwarted by the Axis of evil and that in some fucked up way, God or whatever entity saved me by causing the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history. On 9/11 I was holding two extreme poles in my mind simultaneously: "THANK GOD!" and "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS GOD"?

9/11, of course, was terrible. It was my generations's Pearl Harbor. It led to countless deaths of innocent peoples in the ensuing years and drained our economy. It led to the airport being more annoying, and to unnecessary, racist 'background checks'. It caused infinite heartbreak for countless families who lost someone that day, including my own mother, who had a friend on the first plane that hit the WTC, who I had known since I was a child, and whose death had orphaned her own children. But 9/11 also saved me. It saved me from a public embarrassment. So I pervertedly thank 9/11.

Million and I played a final show about a month later at another venue. As predicted, I could not remember anything, let alone hear my band mates' instruments due to bad PA systems. It was a terrible show. The band broke up a day later. I never played music again.

Setbacks make us stronger in life. I probably would have gotten over that public embarrassment eventually, if 9/11 never happened. But when you somehow are saved from an inevitable disaster, it's hard to not thank something out there for making it happen, even when knowing your own self-interest is a microbe compared to how it affects the rest of the world.

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