I’m exhausted tonight, so I’m cheating a little and writing a 9/11 post a day early. And this is mostly going to be a cut-and-paste sort of thing. 9/11/2001 was smack in the middle of my original blogging tenure, so I sort of live-blogged the day. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, but working in a very New York centered industry and living with another east coaster plus a Fresno transplant who had also lived in Boston. None of us were New Yorkers, but we weren’t Angelinos, either.

But my story actually starts the week before. You see, I was already having a shitty week.

Sunday, September 9, 2001
All Shook Up

God damn it. Ever have one of those weeks? I finally decide to leave the house this weekend to go see Wet Hot American Summer (gotta love anything that has anything to do with The State, and this was written/directed/produced/starred by State peeps). Five minutes into the movie, an usher comes down the aisles, calmly asking people to evacuate the theatre. At first I thought he was kidding, but then I heard him say, “No, really. Smell the smoke!” Shit. Apparently, they don’t actually yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, nor do they set off alarms. Hell, they didn’t even bother to stop the projector.

So, we file out past a flaming concession stand (being dutifully chemically soaked by a teenager with an extinguisher) onto the street. As the sidewalk fills, Anne and I head across the street to avoid the smoke. Suddenly the ground starts shaking and I think to myself, “I didn’t know the subway goes under Westwood.” About twenty seconds later, I realize it’s an earthquake. Great, just what I needed.

Anyway, I’m fine, Anne’s fine, Matt’s fine, the cat’s fine, the apartment’s fine…. But I should have called it a week on Wednesday. The death of a celebrity dwarf never portends anything but trouble.

The next post is from the morning of 9/11. I ditched the song-titles for the day. Here are all my posts from 9/11. Sorry that they’re not time-stamped. We were awoken that morning with a call from Matt’s mom telling us to turn on the TV just in time to watch the second tower fall, so it must have been pretty fucking early, LA time.

Here are my locusts.

I will never, ever speculate about how much worse my week can get. Ever. I promise.

Meanwhile, e-mails and IMs are pouring in from people to let me know they’re still alive, since the phone lines are completely jammed. They’re not quite pouring in fast enough for my taste, but it’s better than nothing. All I can think of is thank God Judd doesn’t live over there any more. Thank God my parents weren’t flying to Los Angeles today. Thank God Los Angeles doesn’t have major targets.

Here’s some of what’s been going through my head this morning:

I wonder how people reacted to Pearl Harbor. I suppose if I saw the movie I’d know. Were they all huddled around the radio the way we’re huddled around the television? Did neighborhoods gather so people wouldn’t have to be alone? I’ve invited a couple of people who live alone over, and if you’re reading this and feel like you could use the company, give me a call. Meanwhile, we’ve turned to newsgroups and web chat boards to reassure ourselves that people are still people, pool our collective knowledge or who’s safe and what’s going on, and feel some strength in numbers.

Will the blood banks lift their ban on gay blood today?

This is one of those days you always remember, right? I can’t remember where I was for the Challenger disaster, and I was an infant when Regan was shot, but I will probably always remember where I was when I heard that Yitzchak Shamir was assassinated. It was near the end of Shabbat, when such distinctions still mattered to me, and my presidential phone rang, which is odd, because anyone calling me on that number would know not to call me on Shabbat. The answering machine picked up, and I heard the voice of Samantha Gross, who was otherwise entirely insignificant in my life, telling me that she’s sorry to call on Shabbes, but the Prime Minister of Israel has been shot and I should turn on the television. I didn’t believe the message, but I ran into my parents’ bedroom and asked my parents to turn to CNN, and there it was… It was the weekend of the USCJ Biennial Convention (and boy did they find out just how many people were watching TV on Shabbat that weekend), so I couldn’t get Joyce on the phone until she called me, but I spent the rest of the night watching TV and talking to my Jewish friends to try to make some sense and figure out what to do.

I’m embarrassed to be glad that the ban on gays in the military hasn’t been lifted yet, because if the draft is going to be reinstated ever, it will be soon. I’m not proud of the fact that I’m terrified of having to fight, but there you go.

If this were a James Bond movie, you know who would be behind it all?

Amtrack.

If you’re wondering what LA is like, the city is paralyzed. All the studios are closed. The theatres have all cancelled their shows tonight – including Madonna and the Latin Grammys. The Emmys, scheduled for Sunday, have been postponed. All the theme parks are closed. All the colleges are closed. The news keeps flashing the flight numbers across the bottom of the screen – after all, those flights were headed here. The Mexican border was closed, and now that it’s reopened, there’s greatly increased security and it’s “on alert”. The city and state government keeps making announcements in English and Spanish about not freaking out, not clogging the streets, not blaming anyone until we have information, trying to prevent vigilante “justice” etc. There were a fair amount of people buying water at the grocery store when Anne and Matthew went today, but it wasn’t crazy, they tell me.

I’m not titling entries until this is over. It just seems silly to try to attach names of showtunes to this.

I’m numb. And hungry. Anne almost bought donuts, but Matthew said that just because the country is going to hell, that doesn’t mean we need to. Fuck him. I like donuts.

On the West Hollywood Public Access channel:

SPECIAL CITYCHANNEL NOTICE:

If you see anything suspicious, call the Sheriff’s Dept. at 310-855-8850. Stay tuned to West Hollywood Citychannel 6 for updates on the situation.

In response to the events on the east coast, the Sheriff’s Dept. is on heightened alert. Deputies continue to monitor critical facilities in West Hollywood.

All City meetings have been cancelled for today (Tuesday). City Hall is closed for the remainder of today and will repopen tomorrow (Wednesday).

The City has also responded by creating two Community Support Centers at the West Hollywood Park Auditorium and Fiesta Hall in Plummer Park.

Both locations offer free counseling services, on-going news coverage on large-screen televisions and refreshments.

* * *

I’m thinking… What kind of refreshments? Think I might meet anyone? How do I look?

x10, those awful pop-up ad people with the cameras, are now doing pop-up ads encouraging people to give blood. I can’t decide if that’s tacky or not.

No, I don’t remember what those ads looked like, either.

I don’t want to end today on that note, so instead, I want to link to Charlie’s account of his day in New York. It’s bittersweet and heroic – not in the sense of saving lives, but in the sense of preserving dignity and humanity… What a mensch.

Sorry, but it seems that Charlie (aka Blogstalker) has made his blog invitation only sometime in the last nine years, so I don’t have the link from above. Charlie, if you stumble on this and want to let me know if that post is available to read anywhere, I’d appreciate it!

Anyway, that was my 9/11. What isn’t visible in the blogging is that at the time, I was working on the cast album of the Pasadena Playhouse production of Do I Hear a Waltz?, which was directed by David Lee. David lost his dear friend (and creative partner) David Angell that day — he was on one of the planes — and yet David somehow managed to take several phone calls from me and work on the recording script, probably because amidst terrible tragedy it can be helpful to immerse oneself in work. I don’t know that I could have done it.

Here’s my 9/12:

“Hey Dave!”

“Hi.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Uh… it’s the day after yesterday?”

“Oh, but other than that?”

I need other than that? Susan is also experiencing this – west coast kids just don’t understand this. I’ve been mostly shielded by it, since most of the west coasters I’ve been dealing with have strong ties to theatre, which means Broadway, which means New York. But would you expect me to be happy the day after someone dropped a bomb on congress? This is basically the same thing. I mean – forget the World Trade Center, and forget the three other buildings that are either collapsing or on the verge of collapse right now in that neighborhood – THERE’S A BIG WHOLE IN THE FUCKING PENTAGON. Doesn’t that mean anything to these people?

On my way to work I noticed Micelli’s, a local Italian restaurant, had put up a giant American flag on the side of the building. Then I noticed similar displays along my route. A sign and banner store is giving out free American flags to anyone who makes a purchase today; I saw a man attaching one to his roof rack as I drove by. I almost lost it.

I decided to go to McDonald’s for lunch today – it was the most patriotic thing I could think of when 2:00 rolled around and my stomach’s growl drowned out all other noise in my head. On my way to the car, a grasshopped slammed itself into my forehead. Matthew assures me they aren’t locusts unless they’re plural.

Okay, by this point (if you’re still with me), you’re probably thinking the song from Funny Girl at the start of the post is supposed to be lead to some deep reflection of how I’ve changed over time. But I’m way too tired than that. That’s only part of the reason. The real reason is in this, the final blog entry I’m going to reproduce, from Saturday, September 15, 2001, also entitled Who Are You Now?:

Who Are You Now?

On Thursday night, I decided that it was time to resume living. Sure, on Wednesday I went to work and went to a bar and otherwise went through the motions of a day, but I knew that I wasn’t doing what I had planned. Thursday, I would keep my plans – to once again see the new print of the film Funny Girl, this time in Los Angeles, where it would lack the 70 mm splendor of the San Francisco print, but would nonetheless be a good bet to help me escape.

I have a long history with Funny Girl. I don’t remember when I first fell in love with the music. I think I saw the film on video sometime in the neighborhood of fourth grade. I do remember that my dad made me a tape that never left my walkman for a good chunk of years – on one side, 30 minutes worth of the Funny Girl score – omitting most of the songs that didn’t make it into the film and the big set pieces like “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” that would bore a fourth grader when divorced from the picture. But who needed “Find Yourself A Man” when you had “Don’t Rain on My Parade”? The flip side of the tape gave the same treatment to Funny Lady. I drew my own cover for this “two-fer” tape, producing what I thought were remarkable replications of the two films’ logos – Funny Girl‘s upside down skater and Funny Lady‘s face, teardrop, and rose.

I have always been something of a performer, even though I rarely actually jump on stage these days. I love to be loud, funny, and most importantly, the center of attention. Back then was no different, and I particularly took to the numbers Barbra did in her Brooklyn accent – it didn’t take much to cajole me into performing “The Swan” or “I’ve Got a Code in my Doze” from memory.

My last summer at YMCA Camp Coniston, the summer before I entered the seventh grade, was in many ways a low point in my summer experiences. The close friends I came to camp with were all bickering with each other, I felt alone, I wanted to go home but didn’t even know how to articulate that. Worse, I was committed to be at camp for four weeks – double the time I had spent the previous three summers. It was all made worse by the drama counselor deciding that musicals were too hard, so we were going to do these really lame kiddie plays instead. (Camp musicals were a big deal for me – hell, my introduction to Oklahoma was playing “Man #2” in a camp tab version.) I begged the counselor to let us do a musical – any musical. She said if I could come up with the materials, we’d do it, knowing full well that a twelve year old kid trapped in the woods of New Hampshire had no way of producing them. I took that as a challenge, and spent all of my free time trying to write a script for Funny Girl based on my 30 minute tape, my vague memory of the movie, and my imagination. I still remember the look and feel of the notebook I used – it was an 8.5″x11″ sketch book, with heavy, unlined paper and a glossy black cover. I figured I could come up with my own version of the script, and on visiting day between the sessions, my parents could deliver the folio of vocal selections from the score I had seen for sale at Boston Music Co. Of course, I never did finish that script (although I think I still have that notebook tucked away somewhere at my parents’ house in Stoughton).

I guess my last memory of Funny Girl dates from high school, although it may go back as far as the eight grade. I lived a mile or two from school, and would often skip the bus and walk home, generally because I was involved with afterschool activities almost daily. Unsurprisingly, my walks were always accompanied by music in my ears, although by that time I had upgraded to a tape of the full Funny Girl score – how did I ever live without “Cornet Man” before? I don’t remember why I was ever unhappy or lonely (which I suppose is a blessing – who needs to relive the pain of high school?), but I do have a very visceral memory of walking through Stoughton Center (when the revolving Asian restaurant was still Thai and had that great lunch buffet), relying on “I’m the Greatest Star” to raise my spirits. There’s something about the words, the music, and the performance of that song that captures defiance, self-confidence, and most importantly, joy in the face of defeat that never fails to enliven me. I think I actually sang along (doing all the voices and the schtick), maybe even dancing through the town square. I probably looked like a moron, but hell, it made me smile when I really didn’t want to. Isn’t that one of the most important functions of art?

Last week, I interviewed Peter Filichia for the Fynsworth Alley Stage Door. He talked about the dearth (and hopeful comeback) of musicals where people are nice to each other. You know, shows like Me And My Girl that manage to keep the conflict necessary to have a story, but do it without a really villainous character. I smiled, because I knew exactly what he was talking about. That’s the music that makes me dance.

So there you have it. My memories of 9/11 include paralyzing fear, alienation from the rest of the West Coast, and Funny Girl.

But ultimately, 9/11 wasn’t and isn’t about me, and when I think of 9/11 today, I think of the lives lost and the repercussions both in the lives of individuals and the culture of our country. This year, I hope as we remember the day, we can commit ourselves to ensuring the country doesn’t let fear and ignorance win, while also ensuring the human cost of the day isn’t swept away in the ocean of jingoism.

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About itsdlevy

I live in Brooklyn with my cat, Rhoda Morgenstern. I work in Manhattan as the marketing director for a Jewish non-profit organization. I spend too much time at the theater and at brunch and especially at 54 Below. Find me on Twitter (and pretty much anywhere else) as @itsdlevy.

One response »

  1. […] I believe this is a song title I have previously used on more than one occasion to title a blog post, but given the message it conveys, that seems appropriate. Using what I’ve got is a recurring theme in my life, whether I’m referring to my talents, my connections, or simply reusing old material. […]

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