I want to start today with what happened in Times Square on Tuesday night. If you haven’t seen the video, here it is. I was not one of these hundreds or maybe thousands of people running, but my daughter was, out with her friends on a summer night, at the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not space. She had just said goodbye to her friends, and was planning to walk north, to see another friend, on the Upper West Side. She stopped by the TKTS booth to take a photo of someone doing something quirky, and just as she was reviewing it, the mayhem erupted. Hundreds of bodies coming at her. “Run,” someone said to her. She ran, her heart pounding. She ran. She called me too, as she was running, her voice, as you can imagine, shaking. “Mom. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m running. There’s an active shooter.” I was sitting on my couch, contemplating walking the dog. The moment I heard her voice, my heart, my heart. I knew something was wrong. I stayed calm, knowing she was afraid. I thought of my friend Fabien, who, on the night of the Bataclan attacks, left his apartment to find his teenaged daughter, out on the town, knowing what I knew in this very moment: I needed to see my child. “Mom, I have to go,” she said, as she entered a restaurant, the metal gates shuttered behind her, the Israelis who ushered her in providing solace, seeing that she was terrified, her eyes pooled with tears, talking her through it, assuring her she was safe. I went online, looked for any mention of active shooter, as I got ready to go to midtown, to find her, wrap her in my arms. And then, Twitter. Twitter kept us informed, a motorcycle causing chaos, a rumble that create panic. It was loud enough to spook a cavalcade of people to run, knowing what we all know, that the spaces that are open to the world are no longer safe spaces. I found an article, a police officer boasting of New Yorker’s safety, of an increased presence of offices in Times Square, yet, later, when I asked my daughter about the cops, she said she didn’t see any. Not one officer offering words of guidance, of direction to safety, not able to calm the hundreds of people running, running, running. I’d read online about the protocol among the Broadway community, in the event of a threat; they, they were prepared. The people strolling, not so much. I waited, waited, not knowing much more than that. That there was not an active shooter was a relief. She called me twenty minutes later, still shaken, now near Radio City Music Hall, my old stomping grounds. I told her to catch a cab, come home, I’d wait for her on the corner of our block. And so, I waited. I waited for her to pull up. And be where I needed her, safely in my arms.
So this is what pain looks like, a plastered smile on an almost composed face. This is me, today, after a week of trauma, of shootings and of icons lost and of my daughter being caught in a panic-storm. This is also what strength looks like, behind the pain, there is the will, the will to go on, to endure, to fight. So. Last night as I wound down, the news of a musician I’d admired taking the final step, to end his life at the age 0f 52. My word, it was a smack across the face, on top of the legendary Toni Morrison dying her natural death just a day before, the shootings still so vibrant in my broken tears. Music, music is the driving force of my outward life, that need to hear something by some band I fangirl over, always ever present. The Silver Jews fit that slot, of fave, a band formed in indie rock’s heyday, the nineties, when Pavement was at the tippy top of my pyramid of my top ten’s, well in came David Berman, forming this ragtag band with two of the five Pavements. Starlite Walker, in 1994, was on repeat. As he and Malkmus crooned “Well we’re trapped inside the song/Trapped inside the song/Trapped inside the song/Where the nights are so long,” I often stood, eyes closed, feeling that endless rattle of hopelessness, knowing it even. I didn’t know David Berman, I was just another anonymous body in the dark, swaying as he drew it out for our ears, for us to enjoy, not knowing the man, but knowing him nonetheless, that connection between artist and fan, that keeps the fangirl in me coming back for more, and for that magic, really, really there it was, in that poetry, “I don’t know/In 27 years I’ve drunk 50, 000 beers/and they just wash against me/like the sea into a pier.” The bruise of this will resonate for sometime, that, that I know, that sheath of sophisticated duality, of being an artist, of that portrait of your life, etched in beauty and damage. Thankfully, he’s left a body of work to enjoy, forever more.
“No one should have two lives,
now you know my middle names are wrong and right.
Honey we’ve got two lives to give tonight.”