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09.03.02 11:18 p.m.

The deepest definition of youth is life as yet untouched by tragedy.

 -Alfred North Whitehead  

Previously in Xenology: There was a curse that prevented my visiting Bard that has been lifted. Dave had bad luck with femmes.

Emily and I had the privilege of seeing Conor last week for breakfast. We had invited Leah along to keep her from the clutches of an anally-retentive Beauty School Drop-Out keen on "reorganizing" the house, but it would have involved Leah waking up at 7AM. I cannot fault her the choice of additional sleep. We were supposed to have seen a concert Dave was playing the night before, but I was very sick with a cold and Emily declared that being in a smoky bar would only make me sicker. Otherwise, I would have stayed in bed as well.
On the drive down, we listened to Carry On Up The Charts: The Best Of The Beautiful South, which is one of my new obsessions. There are a scathingly satiric Scottish band but, to listen to the tunes without concentrating on the word, they sound like gentle crooning. While we were driving, Emily got paged by her mother and requested that I call in her stead and ask them to transfer her rent money into her account. Her mother informed me that they were deducting $15 that they felt M had owed to a video store. Emily was irate, as this would mean that several checks she had sent out would bounce owing to insufficient funds. I cowered in my seat and hoped she would calm down. She turned to me after taking a deep breath and asked, "Am I being a brat?" I carefully mulled my options and chose to cower some more. She decided that she likely was being a brat and she would just be grateful that her parents were still helping her out financially. I decided that now was a safe time to nod.
We arrived at his home on time, to my great shock. Punctuality always comes as a great shock to me. He dashed out, looking a tad disheveled and scruffy, but certainly happy. His mother came out behind him and, after hugging both M and me tightly, thanked us for being such good friends to Conor. We smiled, as we have long since given up trying to explain how very much we revel in his company.
He explained to us how he had been gone for much of the summer, training children in the art of hand-to-hand combat with foam swords at a camp called AGT. Flynn and he had been such model campers that the owners saw fit to provide employment for our Conor. It sounded like an amazing experience, if one happens to have a great deal of money to spend on the whims of one's child.
He told us a tale of the sacred circle in the center of camp. Within the game and in daily life, a circle of rocks was designated as a holy place wherein no battle could take place. It had to be circled once, clockwise, before it could be entered. When a Jehovah Witness's parents visited and the son eventually explained the concept to his parents, they berated him for calling anything other than the church holy. As they were such open-minded and respectful people when it came to their child's feelings, they decided to have a fierce argument about how he was a fool and sinner inside the circle.
Not the trees!  
I am guarding myself against the wrath of trees.
One would be inclined to think that, if they were so concerned with their child getting such ideas, they would keep him away from a camp wherein they are taught to pretend they are casting spells that call upon the forces of the earth. Soon after the parents drove away, a tree near the circle crashed down upon the lodge. This caused more trees to topple over, with a counselor trapped in the forest. A girl allergic to bee stings got stung by several (upset that the forest was collapsing) in the course of a few minutes and only had one epi-pen that would only keep her alive for twenty minutes, which is fortunate because the hospital was fifteen minutes away. However, they had to get to the trapped counselor to drive her to the hospital. The counselor said it was okay, because literally nothing could now fall. After the dust had settled and the allergic girl was driven to the emergency room, they looked to the circle. All the trees had cracked and fallen around the circle, but none within, creating a sort of canopy. Conor took this as further confirmation that the circle was indeed holy.
We had breakfast at the diner near my home, Conor's treat. Over pancakes and viscous syrup that treated "maple" more as a color than an ingredient, we tried to catch him up on our lives. What we told him, you have read, so I will not bore you unduly. I had ordered a dish called something like The Hot Busboy. I thought nothing of this, I just wanted pancakes. The waiters said, "Oh, we would all like one of those!" and gave me a look that suggested she thought it wasn't the food item I desired. I smirked and blushed, hiding my face behind my hair.
After breakfast, we whisked Conor back to his home so he could get a haircut and Emily and I could try to understand the purpose of fashion magazines. I think it has something to do with impressionistic sapphic imagery and the urge to starve moderately attractive people so they look like war crime victims. Call it a hunch.
After Conor was shorn so he could no longer be called "toussled," we decided it was necessary to visit the dirt mall. One can never get enough of filthy people selling bootlegged Oakleys and lighters shaped like penis-guns. To be frank, one likely needs less than one second of this sort to be satisfied for a year, but we are gluttons for the variety of the human-in-species-only experience. There is little to report on this front, as this world changes so rarely. However, in leaving, an elderly man slammed full force into me. Having been raised with proper manners, I turned to make sure he was not injured and exclaimed, "I am so sorry, sir!" He, in turn, showed me that he had hideous manners by calling me a fucking scumbag. After which I comforted myself with the thought that he will die unloved of a heart failure. It is already sputtering out if this is how he chooses to behave in public.
It seems as though, given that Bard is only twenty-odd minutes from New Paltz, Conor will have more of a chance of interacting with the story. We can only hope.

I have very recently gotten off the phone with both Melissa and Emily in discussions about September 11th.
Emily was sobbing, confused and terrified. It all began again for her today when it occurred to her how very close this first anniversary was. She needed to know what I had planned to do on this day. Was I going to treat it as just another normal day? Of course, I wouldn't. There have been none of those days since it first happened. I find myself crying on the way to school when I hear something about it. Every day I am at the library, I peruse a magazine from just before the attacks or one just after and cry over whatever conglomeration of foodstuffs I have brought. It is a depressing way to spend my lunch half-hour, but I need to remember because I know I am increasingly in the minority. My co-workers who walk in on me silently crying in the break room must think I am disturbed.
Emily and I weep in fear for her as well. Had she not changed her schedule only a few weeks beforehand, she would have been in the World Trade Center when the first plane crashed. She may well have died like thousands of innocent people had. My best friend and love would have been incinerated. I feel disjointed even thinking about it. It doesn't seem possible. The last time I didn't think Death could touch my life, I lost Todd and my grandmother in a matter of weeks. I no longer have this insular hubris. I know how close I came to losing her forever. Had I zigged instead of zagged, her schedule might not have changed...
Before the attacks  
As Ground Zero once looked.
While we spoke, I tried to remain brave. Emily was lachrymose enough for us both. I tried to soothe her as best I could, but we were watching a special on Flight 93. At the end of the conversation, she sobbed, "I think I am just going to get into bed and watch Star Trek. Then I can pretend that everything will be all right... If I call you in an hour and ask you to come over, will you? I won't ask you this, of course. I just need to know that you would. It's like a safety blanket." I assured her that I immediately would, an easy enough promise to keep when she says she will not call me on it.
Melissa and I discuss matters more concretely. I explained that I did not trust Bush Jr.'s regime in the slightest and I thought they were one of the worst pox to ever be unleashed on our shores. I continued how, from what I have read, I believed Bush and/or his people were very much informed that this was going to occur (evidently librarians in Florida knew in 1999, so I cannot see how the government could not have known) and decided to allow it so the Shrub could use it to settle his father's old scores. Also, I read in Reader's Digest that, once Cheney was spirited away into a nuclear bomb proof shelter (and after he ordered everyone without direct ties to him out of the shelter because "they were breathing too much"), he demanded all planes near him to be shot down. If guns were not sufficient, the pilots were to become kamikazes and ram into the planes. He was asked whether he should confirm this decision with the president. He rebuffed the person and proclaimed that he was "sure [Bush] would suppose whatever [Cheney] said." Of course, overriding the president is an illegal abuse of power.
As I have covered, if I cannot trust the government in the least, I am uncomfortable living with it. Right now, I worry that I will awaken tomorrow to a world where I can be killed for saying these things. After all, Ashcroft says it is "Un-American to question" and Cheney has said that freedom of speech shouldn't apply to political criticism. The last time America deal with this mind-set, people were thrown in jail as Communists.
Emily fears that, in a few days, Bush will pronounce in the middle of a solemn speech that he is attacking Saddam Hussein because of September 11th of the prior year. I don't think she is wrong, since his regime seems to want to attack Iraq despite this action being totally condemned by the United Nations, NATO, every country on earth, the USA included, and Congress. Do these sound like the actions of a government that is supposed to represent its peoples or of a gluttonous war-monger?
Osama bin Ladin and George W. Bush were both pampered oil brats. Both are willing to sacrifice their followers/citizens without a second thought trying to accomplish what they perceive to be a divine mandate to destroy from a desert god historically thought to be of peace and love. Neither one was rightfully elected to their governmental position (Osama, granted, does not officially hold rank, but he does have great influence). Both are content to hide and be pampered while they order more to be sacrificed. Both have done a great evil to their respective nations by killing innocents, demanding the death of more, and putting a great stain on their nations image.
We survived Reagan, however. Perhaps this too shall pass.

Soon in Xenology: Jacki's party. We hang out with Dave and Zack. But not together. Being flirted with.

last watched: Still Crazy
reading: Lolita
listening: Carry On Up The Charts: The Best Of The Beautiful South
wanting: to not have to worry that our government is about to cause the deaths of millions of people.
interesting thought: I have been raised with a mythology that democracy prevented the corrupt from destroying the nation.
moment of zen: biting back tears while having to reassure my love that I can be a knight.
someday I must: vote in a leader that doesn't disgust me. (Hey, I tried, Bush wasn't elected, he was installed.)

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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