Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Well, since many of my friends have written their 9/11 stories, I suppose I will write mine.  Mine pale compared with some, and certainly with any of those from people who lived in the City that day.  But I have two disconnected stories, and since this blog is really more of a diary than a blog (thank you faithful readers, all 4 of you), I figure I might as well write them down while I still remember them….

I started out in Houston, moved back to Dallas, then to Los Angeles, then back to Dallas.  I was living in Dallas in the late 80’s.  In most of the office buildings there then (as today) there is a little shop/burger bar/convenience store featuring some kind of (usually) edible items, along with the usual assortment of candy, Cokes, etc.  The food in our little café was REALLY good, surprisingly so.  It was my first introduction into Iranian food.  The proprietor, Amir, a genial man with laughing eyes, always with a joke, a smile, a positive attitude, was a fabulous cook and prepared his family dishes.  We lapped them up.  If he wasn’t too busy, we’d invite him to join us, and eventually he told us his story.

Amir’s father was one of the “big” generals of the Shah of Iran (no, I don’t remember his name).  Amir was a happy-go-lucky student at the University of Tehran, majoring primarily in girls.  The family had money—Amir’s mother went shopping in her chauffeured Benz—so there wasn’t a LOT of pressure on him to graduate.  He was taking a leisurely course through college.  One morning, however, a teacher brought him an urgent communique from his father—“Come home immediately.”  Fearing for his family members (“Is Mother sick?”) he raced home.  His father was in his full “Imperial” uniform.  “Hurry, grab what you must have and get in the car, there’s no time!”  The Benz tore past the security at the airport and pulled up beside a waiting plane.  The family piled out and boarded—except for Dad.  He stood back, threw his most full, powerful salute, and watched his family fly to freedom.  He was executed 2 months later, on television.

Amir and his family arrived in New York with nothing—no money, no friends, very rudimentary english.  They had a distant cousin in northern New Jersey, and to the cousin they went.  Amir learned enough to fake his way into driving a cab, and did so for years, carefully saving money.

His brother found work in Dallas and soon Amir went for a visit.  He fell in love with it, and soon was running the little snack bar and regaling us with his stories.

After a while, though, he got an opportunity he could not refuse—one of his friends was going to sell his store in New York.  Amir sold out in Dallas and returned to New York, leaving us with those awful pre-prepared pimento cheese sandwiches on cardboard….

The next year, my company became ambitious and sent ME to New York.  I love New York; once you live there, a part of you is always a New Yorker. 

The first year, you’re a tourist—don’t go to sleep, you might miss something!  It’s Disneyland for grownups!  Ride the rides!  See the shows!  Eat the food! 

The second year you are a New Yorker.  You KNOW.  You can get around effortlessly, you know when the best time to visit each museum is, you know the best dim sum (the rest of the country had never heard of dim sum), the best falafel, the best burger, the coldest beer, the best deli, the best place to get a “pie” (New York for “pizza”).  I still find myself standing “ON” line, rather than “IN” line. 

The third year, somehow the glitz has faded a bit.  It’s hard to be glamorous when your best outfit has just been splashed with the black slush in the street from a passing M5 bus.  You start missing your car.  I have been peed upon by another adult human being one time---in New York. 

We were smug, we New Yorkers, in our own greatness.  A visit to the Trade Center was special, even for New York  It is impossible (and I tear up trying) to describe High Tea at Windows on the World.  The food:  sublime.  The service:  astonishing.  The atmosphere:  priceless.  Ordering another pitcher of martini’s, having them whisper down the throat as the sun sinks and the lights begin to come on….Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city!

In any event, I had a lot of business in the Trade Center (lots of insurance brokerages and law firms there), and was a frequent visitor. 

You took the #1 train, because it stopped there.  You could take the #2 (limited) or #3 (express) from Times Square, but that could be fraught with peril—the #1 trains were the new Japanese jobs, silent, graffiti-less, gleaming stainless steel with a/c that WORKED, while it was a crapshoot on the old bumpy, much painted, much graffiti-ed, sometimes ratty—as in, rats running through—though they got you there much faster. 

I got off the #1 train one day, happy-go-lucky, heading for an appointment when I heard yelling.  Yelling in NYC has two timbres:  street-corner prophets yelling about the end of the world (tune out) and urgent yelling, like NYPD yelling, “GET DOWN!”  This was that second timbre and I immediately turned to look.  the yelling was coming from Amir, who had seen me walk by his shop on the mezzanine of the South Tower and chased after me.  The cops were on the alert until we grabbed and hugged each other ferociously, obviously long-lost friends.  The cops went back to their doughnuts and Amir and I had much to say.  I went to my appointment and when I was through, spent the rest of the day with him, catching up.  He owned the little shop In the mezzanine in the South Tower, he was very very proud of it.  He proudly showed the pictures of his sons and his lovely wife.  He invited me to his home but I had other obligations, and demurred, saying we would do it another time.  As I walked away, I turned and saw him standing in the door of the shop, arm raised in farewell.  I raised mine as well. 

I never saw him again.  You know, you get busy and things go on and such, I was young and living in the most exciting city on the earth—we lost touch.  I moved back to Dallas, then to Nashville, then Little Rock.


Those who know me well know of my 6th sense, my “spidey sense”, “guardian angel”, “psychic ability”, whatever you want to call it.  It has saved my neck many times.  Usually, at the time, I am not consciously aware, but I will suddenly hit a whole set of obstacles and then find out later why.  Nowadays, I recognize it more easily and heed it more consciously.

Arkansas played a disastrous game to open our new Stadium in Fayetteville.  The game was against Tennessee and it was marred by a ferocious lightning storm.  My buddy Rob had come up for the game; I had to hustle him out that Sunday after the game; I had suddenly acquired a business trip to Charleston, West Virginia.  (I rarely choose my trips, they choose me).  I had to leave Sunday and fly all day—there is no good way to get from Little Rock, Arkansas to Charleston, West Virginia.  I finally wound up with a not-too-bad American deal—American LIT to DFW, DFW to STL, then STL to Charleston.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Got there Sunday night, spent the night at the Hampton, got up next morning and had my meeting, then headed to the airport to see if I could squeeze on a better flight.

There had been a storm in the midwest and American was AFU (figure out what that stands for).  The guy before me in line was an asshole, berating the poor gate agent.  He finally stormed off and she wearily said, “Next”.  I got to the front, said, “Ma’am?”, she looked up.  “Take a minute and take a few deep cleansing breaths.  Stretch a second.  I’ll wait.  We’re not going anywhere.  Take a second.”  She did—and by golly, she was going to get me to my destination.  It’s amazing how far a little kindness will go.

She routed and routed, finally coming up with a bizarre but workable solution.  “Ok, here’s the deal, just hear me out….Charleston to LaGuardia.  LGA to Miami.  Miami to Dallas.  No extra charge.”  I said, “Book it!” and cheerfully boarded my flight for LGA.

It was one of those spectacular fall days in New York City that seems straight out of a storybook, or a picture postcard.  Blue sky, you could see to Jupiter.  Bright yellow sun outlining all the brilliant, crazy, wonderful shapes that are New York, the most marvelous place on the earth.  We took off from LGA and, as luck would have it, we took a path known to many a New Yorker, the same path that would many years later be taken by Sully Sullenberger—take off, bank sharp left, come straight back down the Hudson.  Beautiful, spectacular views.  We got to the World Trade Center (which I had seen thousands of times at least) and I suddenly, without warning (to myself or others), and out of the clear blue sky burst into tears.  I do cry easily, but I “mist up”.  I do not burst into tears; I do not bawl; I do not “boo hoo”.  I couldn’t stop all of the above.  The flight attendant came to see if I was all right.  Every time I’d look at the WTC, I’d start a fresh round.  I had no explanation but was inconsolable the entire rest of the flight to Miami, thence on to Dallas. 

The date was September 10, 2011.


denouement:  I arrived at LIT very, very late at night, then had another hour drive home.  I was exhausted and, as I could then, dropped into bed.  Woke up late the next morning (hey, it was my company…) and padded into the kitchen.  This still occurs.  “Let. Dog. Out. Coffee. Must. Have. Coffee.”  So, I fixed my coffee and padded into the room I used as a den/office.  Flipped on the TV and they had some stupid disaster movie on—WTC on fire.  Where was the freaking Today Show?  I flipped to CBS—same movie.  With enough java juice, it dawned on me that there apparently was a fire in one of the twin towers.  Geez!  and I was just there yesterday! 

As my slow brain made this realization, the second plane hit the South Tower.  It was one of those moments (I don’t like them) when you go from either all or 3/4 asleep to suddenly all-the-way-awake, every pore, every bone, cobwebs gone, on the alert, adrenalin pumping---and I thought, “OH MY GOD, WE’RE BEING ATTACKED!”

As first one, then the other, of the magnificent twin towers sank in a flaming pile of debris, as people leapt to their deaths, as brave firemen and policemen gave their lives to help others, suddenly it struck me like a thunderbolt:  I had seen these towers YESTERDAY.  And wept bitterly.  Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen…Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is your judgment come….(it’s bad to remember all these bible verses at the wrong time).


So there you have it, my 9/11 stories.  I prefer not to dwell on it.  It makes me very sad.  The loss of life was horrendous, the entire country staggered.  I’ve never told those stories publicly before, only to close friends.  But, here they are.

Maybe someday, I’ll have the courage to write down some of my –other- stories.

Meanwhile, let’s salute the City with the Chairman:


Start spreading the news
I am leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York

These vagabond shoes
They are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York

I want to wake up in that city
That doesn't sleep
And find I'm king of the hill
Top of the heap

My little town blues
They are melting away
I gonna make a brand new start of it
In old New York

If I can make it there
I'll make it anywhere
It's up to you
New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in that city
That never sleeps
And find I'm king of the hill
Top of the list
Head of the heap
King of the hill

These are little town blues
They have all melted away
I am about to make a brand new start of it
Right there in old New York

And you bet baby
If I can make it there
You know, I'm gonna make it just about anywhere
Come on, come through
New York, New York, New York

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