Monday, September 11, 2017
THE STOIC SENTINEL OF THE NIGHT:
THE GLEAMING GUARDIAN OF THE DAY
TAGS: SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, SEPTEMBER 11, 2017, FREEDOM TOWER,
COMMEMORATION, MEMORIAL, REMEMBRANCE, THE LEGACY,
PRESERVING THE PAST ACCURATELY, NEW GENERATION, FDNY, PAPD, NYPD
(Monday September 11, 2017, Vesey & West Streets.) The sun had yet to break dawn as this part of our City was already a hub of activity. Red and blue lights strobed from numerous NYPD vehicles cast their glows across the glass and steel facades of Brookfield Plaza and the adjacent buildings. A bagel joint across Vesey Street was doing a brisk business as dozens of uniformed NYPD MOS waited for their coffee. There were enough retired Cops to be seen some of whom work as armed security officers for private concerns; others milling about having come to this place on this day for what has become, over the last 16 years, to be an annual ritual of commemoration, memorial, and remembrance. The soaring Freedom Tower that rises from its square footprint of ultra-fortified concrete and steel concealed by a layer of prismatic glass whose flat-planned surfaces stretch to merge as a perfect square, 1,176 feet above the ground atop the multifaceted structure seems to stand as both silent sentinel and vanguard in its semi-lighted predawn state just feet north of the twin reflecting pools that were the original footprints of our majestic Twin Towers.
At the southwest corner of Vesey and West Streets a narrow gap in the steel barriers was the entryway into The Site, the hallowed ground that would host the family members of the deceased, the comrades of the fallen MOS, and the requisite pipers and honor details that would begin today’s ceremony at 8:46, the time 16 years ago that the first hijacked plane hit the North Tower. It would take well over 3 hours for the families and friends of those so abruptly taken from us to read the names of the dead. It was as somber a mood today as it has ever been and as long as this core of people from throughout the Tri-State Area live, it shall always be so.
The entry point was manned by young men and women wearing the light blue shirts and caps logoed with the “9/11 Memorial”. A cluster of Police Officers stood closely by as those special attendees wearing small blue lapel ribbons, some carrying flowers and photos of a lost spouse, child, or parent made their way towards the small stage erected between the reflecting pools. Police buses soon arrived carrying hundreds of FDNY MOS wearing their dress uniforms; on one shoulder the official patch of the FDNY, on the opposing shoulder the unique patch of their “House”; Engine, Ladder or Rescue Company. It was this elite Corps of civil servants who’d lost the most on that infamous day; 343 of their ranks perished on this ground. Yes, this was indeed hallowed ground perhaps the most sacred acreage in all of New York City.
Many of the uniformed MOS of FDNY and NYPD could be heard telling their own brief stories of September 11, 2001. Most had been in grade school, others in high school, some barely old enough to fully comprehend the magnitude of the events that would perhaps alter, if not guide, directly steer their lives into their chosen professions. Many of the older guys, some still active, other happily (still others not-so-happily) retired shook hands and hugged. Their tales were told in tones that could not be overheard. Some of these men were fighting the lonely battles of ravaging malignancies from exposure to toxins in the airborne dust and debris during their time spent over the months of the “Recovery”; that horrifically daunting undertaking that was both painstakingly respectful and massive in scale and scope as they searched for human remains amid the clean-up after the fall of our Towers.
Today was a day eerily similar to that bright Tuesday morning. This morning’s sky was a cloudless pale-blue; the sun rose swiftly and with it the temperature with a tepid breeze whispering through the juvenile trees and flying flags. At 8:46 the City became uncharacteristically quiet and calm as a chill raced along the spines of all in attendance. Even the throngs of tourists pressed along the barriers seemed hushed as if osmotically affected by the collective mood of the moment and those paying their deepest respects. The proceedings unfolded as the sun rose to its noontime peak momentarily banishing shadows from The Site.
As the ceremony drew to a close and many among the gathered lingered at the reflecting pools, streams of MOS filed out crossing West Street to board buses or seek out a tavern. This being the neighborhood of high finance, banking, and brokerage with building lobbies lined with ultra-high-end retailers, there was not a regular bar within easy walking distant. Many of the thirsty found themselves in PJ Clark’s in the South Lobby of Brookfield Plaza overlooking the marina. A few MOS from Engine 44 sat mid-bar as more of their brethren shuffled in. The mood was quiet, respectful if that word can ever be appropriately applied to a barroom atmosphere. Some local workers were eating lunch and it seemed that they were all buying drinks for those gathered at the bar. The drinks were cold, beer served in chilled steins, and the unconscious strain of the day began to loosen.
Talk soon turned to responsibility. It was obvious to the older guys that a new generation now occupied the ranks of the FDNY and NYPD. Men were now FDNY Officers at younger ages than their predecessor’s due to the ranks having been decimated on 9/11. Both proud Agencies have long, storied histories, respected institutional memories, and remain the premier Departments of their kind nationwide if not around the world. Some expressed concerns regarding the integrity of the memories of that day and the days that followed and how vital it was that they be preserved…preserved and passed down, accurately, just as they happened. Individual stories of bravery, courage, duty, and sacrifice could not be permitted to hazily drift into exaggerated legend although many a legendary MOS gave his and her all as they breathed their last. The tales are what they are, true accounts of action taken in confidence and with purpose; those who tell them have the obligation to maintain the purity of the telling; each tale represents the ultimate sacrifice and so many of the tales are known only to God.
It is a bit disorienting to be in this part of town even for a native son. The complete transformation and reconfiguration requires a moment for one to get his bearings. Certainly, the images from 16 years ago are not easily juxtaposed on the glistening tableau of towering edifices born from the fires and ashes of the unimaginable horror of the demise of our Twin Towers. It had been unimaginable but we lived to see that horror and for many, perhaps more than whom readily admit it in unfamiliar company, continue to see, smell, taste, hear and feel it on nights when sleep is elusive or troubled.
As the rush hour exodus began most of the gathered began to scatter. Men made their usual rides back to Nassau, Rockland, Orange, and other counties east and north. Some boarded subways to continue to have a few belts in more familiar watering holes near their Houses and Commands. The day was somber and the drinking likewise subdued. It was not the reckless distortions of recollections most sought from the alcohol; they simply welcomed the warmth of the liquor and felt some of the day’s inherent tension lift.
The sun over New Jersey cast the Freedom Tower and her dwarfed neighbors shinning like mirrors. It was in this daily movement of our planet around the sun that played on the surfaces of the Tower in the timeless regularity that the tides ebbed and rose in the harbor so close by. In time, real cosmic time 16 years is the blink of an eye. In the span of our lives 16 years is no trifling chunk of days, weeks, and months. We progress from young men to middle aged, we watch are our children sprint from grade school to college. We see the signs of age in our faces as we shave and feel the labor of the years in our joints. But on this day, we pause, we pause and remember our lost as they were forever frozen in time at the age they were taken 16 years ago. They haven’t aged in Heaven; surely one gift of Paradise must be the cessation of aging. Temporal hardships and strife are behind them and they bask in the Warmth and Light of the Comfort of The Lord.
This year we close with a version of El Maleh Rachamim a Hebrew prayer for the rest of the departed.
God, filled with mercy, dwelling in the heavens' heights, bring proper rest beneath the wings of your Shechinah, amid the ranks of the holy and the pure, illuminating like the brilliance of the skies the souls of our beloved and our blameless who went to their eternal place of rest. May You who are the source of mercy shelter them beneath Your wings eternally, and bind their souls among the living, that they may rest in peace.
And let us say: Amen.
Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2017 © All Rights Reserved
Copyright Brooding Cynyc 2017 © All Rights Reserved
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
THE COSMETIC REWRITING OF OUR PAST
HISTORY IS LINEAR, OUR THINKING NEED NOT BE
The mosaic tile design, meant to represent Times Square’s status as the “crossroads of the world,” in a subway station on Friday.
Transit officials have decided to alter the design, which has been compared to the Confederate flag.
Credit Richard Drew/Associated Press
TAGS: CHARLOTTESVILLE UNREST, ALT-RIGHT, ANTIFA, PRESIDENT TRUMP,
NYC, TIMES SQUARE, NYC SUBWAY SYSTEM, MONUMENTS IN NYC
(Saturday August 19, 2017, Henry Hudson Park, The Bronx, NYC) To native New Yorkers Times Square has had many differing distinctions. It is a world-famous landmark, the literal intersection of major surface arteries, the “Big Bow-tie”, The Great White Way and the Crossroads of the World. It anchors our flagship Borough and has been widely celebrated in prose and song. Beneath the glitzy facades of this latest “Disney World-esque” iteration the real vital arteries of our City course through a subterranean complex of subway tunnels, station platforms, and walkways. Ours is the most famous subway system in the world and the most heavily traveled in America with over 4 million riders a day commuting to and from here and there.
As harried commuters, we don’t often have the luxury of admiring the ornate intricate mosaics of tile-work that line the underground walls and station stops. But there are off-peak moments as we wait for the train that we might glance over at the adjacent platform and appreciate all that beautiful tiling artistry. Some of the finest work of this kind can be found among the oldest stations many of which have been restored over the last 20 years to their original vibrancy.
In light of recent events across the country where statues, monuments and other forms of visual representation of famous (or infamous depending on a host of personal variables) men from our unique history have created a backlash. Certainly, the most controversy centers around memorials and monuments to military figures from our Civil War that are splashed across the Deep South and border states; the old configuration of the “Confederacy”. But here in New York City, perhaps the “Heart of the Union” we are home to hundreds of statues and all other pieces of art depicting great men from our City’s history, our State’s history, as well as the history of our Country since its inception. The growing protestations surrounding all such representation now extends not only to piece of commemoratory art but also to names of neighborhoods, streets and landmarks throughout our Five Boroughs.
From this vantage point at 227th St and Henry Hudson Park it seems ludicrous that the efforts of some to create a nation governed by “Political Correctness” have no bounds in their militant desires towards that end. Henry Hudson the 17th century explorer is now being cast by some along with other of our most notable historical figures as “criminals” and “exploiters of Native Americans”. The current political climate and the Trump Presidency have been cited as catalysts for the many various protest groups and all those who wish to rewrite our nation’s history by eradicating any symbols or semblance of recognition of the men who so profoundly shaped our history, in all its often-inglorious imperfections. And now part of that fight includes a mosaic in the Times Square subway 40th St entrance and is repeated for several lengths of that corridor that, to some, bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the Confederate battle flag. This thinking, the creative extrapolation of an ideology erroneously, carelessly juxtaposed on a truly neutral piece of work or other form of free expression, represents a real and present danger to the fabric of our Democratic Republic.
THE COSMETICS OF REWRITING HISTORY
The events of the past week indicate a national Rorschach Test along the regional/political/ideological fissures impelling the debate about Race. It is laughable however to witness the mass media “grappling” with issues including “moral equivalency”, “White supremacy/nationalism”, and the fitness or unfitness of President Donald Trump to “faithfully carry out the” complex duties and staggering responsibilities of his Office. The debates raging on many and varied fronts have come to completely obscure the very real demands of governing not only by our President but by our abysmally inept, Congress as well. There has been no oxygen to support any semblance of a “Trump Agenda”; the only forces flowing through Washington DC are the vile and vitriolic long standing competing narratives of our nation’s racial history.
Anyone with even the shallowest familiarity with current events and the “news” knows most of the particulars of how a protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a local park in Charlottesville, Virginia by members of the “Alt-Right” and semi-fringe various groups constituting a coalition calling themselves “Unite the Right” turned violently ugly on Friday August 11th. The following day a counter-protest of sorts coordinated by a similarly loosely connected movement known as “Antifa” (short for anti-Fascism) also turned violent and fatal after a marcher was killed by an auto driven by an avowed “Alt-Right” member. These events triggered a cascade of demonstrations, marches, and protests on all sides. Throwing rhetorical gas on the fires already blazing, President Trump in his notoriously inelegant, clumsy, off-the cuff remarks during an unusually combative confrontation with the press in the lobby of Trump Tower in NYC on Tuesday ignited a firestorm of outrage from all quarters.
Apparently, the President did not sufficiently excoriate “Neo-Nazis”, White Supremacists, White Nationalists, and their associated groups to satisfy the press. Soon politicians were crawling out from under the rocks they live in while Congress is on recess to blast the President. Quickly the Trump Administration was engaged in a full-frontal assault from the blatantly hostile press and self-serving politicos alike. Various business titans and CEO’s appointed by the President to serve on a handful of advisory boards began bailing out claiming they could not support the President any longer.
THE ANCHOR OF HISTORY
The pace of the world has accelerated dramatically over the last 20 years. Around the globe there is conflict and turmoil, instability, wars, and unprecedented humanitarian crises. It seems that each day (or news cycle) that we are sailing blindly through turbulent uncharted seas. One of the many purposes of history, or preserving the lessons from our collective pasts, is to provide context and perspective; everything old is new again and in the annals of history lay the nuggets of wisdom that can produce solutions to the problems that roil not only our society but the world community writ large. Many of the memorial sites, monuments and other depictions of important events and people from our past bear the inscription “Lest We Forget”. This simple three-word phrase itself carries the wisdom of the ages; those who forget the past mistakes are doomed to repeat them.
There is a cyclical element to history. Surely the times and the people, societies and cultures are continuously evolving often at break-neck speed yet we can usually locate historic corollaries, eras of similarity that are endowed with a specific gravity that might serve well in the present. Yes, history is linear. Our thinking need not be. The anchors that moor our past firmly to the shore of reality need not imprison our thinking today and for all our tomorrows. The past does indeed hold timeless wisdom but it often takes careful examination to ascertain its current relevancy. What we choose to remember and revere are not necessarily one in the same; distinctions can be drawn while maintain a steadfast hand on the helm of current relevance. But it is a fool’s errand indeed to make any attempts, no matter how cosmetic or “noble”, to divorce ourselves from our past.
Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2017 © All Rights Reserved
Copyright Brooding Cynyc 2017 © All Rights Reserved
Sunday, August 6, 2017
WHO WE CELEBRATE IN DEATH
SPEAKS VOLUMES ON WHO WE VALUE IN LIFE
SPEAKS VOLUMES ON WHO WE VALUE IN LIFE
A street ceremony was held for NYPD Randolph Holder Jr. who died in the line of duty.
TAGS: NYPD DETECTIVE HOLDER, STREET RENAMING, LINE OF DUTTY DEATH,
PUBLIC SERVCIE VS STREET FAME,
CHRISTOPHER WALLACE, ALEX HALEY V MIKE TYSON, RODNEY KING, LA 1992,
NYC “ROTTING APPLE”, NYPD EFFORTS BIG APPLE
(Friday August 4, 2017 Collier Ave., Far Rockaway, Queens, NYC) Fulton Street in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn is, as the crow flies, a baker’s dozen miles from Collier Avenue in the Far Rockaway enclave of Queens. Where that particular section of Brooklyn is benefiting to some degree from gentrification after being infamous for decades as a hotbed of violence, drug abuse, criminality, and urban decay, South Queens has always had a sense of safety and security; it is still working to recover from the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Today memorial ceremonies were held in each location celebrating the lives of “native sons”. That the ceremonies for each man occurred on the same day will forever be the only commonality between them; they were as different in life as they are in death. One was a career criminal who died in a hail of bullets. The other was a third generation NYPD Officer who was shot dead in the Line of Duty. They were born and raised in abutting Boroughs into secure environments yet they made diametrically opposed choices that would forever define their lives.
Hours ago, a neighborhood basketball court was opened and christened as the Christopher “Biggie” Wallace Courts at the Crispus Attucks Playground near the border of Bed-Stuy. Shortly after and a world away, a street naming ceremony was held dedicating the intersection of Briar Place and Collier Avenue in Far Rockaway as Detective Randolph Holder Way. If our society can be judged by who and what we celebrate, of our priorities, values, and character, today’s media coverage of these two events speaks volumes regarding what we do and do not deem worthy of mention. The Notorious B.I.G. park dedication, as he came to be known, was covered widely in all major media outlets in NYC while the ceremony in Far Rockaway was covered solely by the New York Post. But this disparity is nothing new. The profound rifts and schisms bemoaned by media and politicos of all stripes are just the most recent baring of decades long outright antagonisms, sporadic upheavals, and entrenched attitudes. It did not take a President Obama or a President Trump to shake some of the dusty cobwebs off our most ossified perceptions on race, poverty, drug abuse, crime, broken families, and the malignant cluster of thorny issues under the rubric of urban decay.
ALEX HALEY VS MIKE TYSON
There could not be a more bizarre pairing of famous African American men in the history of late 20th century America. Alex Haley’s groundbreaking 1976 novel “Roots” became an epic TV mini-series that transfixed the country in 1977. The story recounted the real history of his family ancestors from slavery to the post-Civil War years. His work spawned a movement that created Black Studies, African American history, and all manner of Afrocentric academic programs across the campuses of our colleges and universities. Haley was not a talented and gifted “African American author”, he simply was one of the greatest writers of his generation and his impressive collection of works rank among the most influential of his day and times. He died on February 10th, 1992. Many media outlets gave short shrift to his passage aside from the brief, pot boiler obits in some newspapers.
Perhaps there was a reason aside from lack of interest in the paucity of coverage his death received. Something that was obviously more important, of far greater significance and cultural gravity also occurred that day in an Indianapolis, Indiana courtroom. Mike Tyson, the most feared heavyweight boxer of his time was found guilty of raping a Miss Black Teen pageant contestant. The Tyson story was a literal media frenzy while Haley’s death was a media afterthought. Many Black communities across the country protested via blatant civil disobedience over the fact that Tyson had been convicted. This roiling anger and resentment in many Black communities would be in full throttled evidence a few weeks later after the four Los Angeles Police Officers who were captured on film beating an unarmed convicted felon, Rodney King, were all acquitted of all but one minor charge. The violence and riots that ensued reverberate in many pockets of South Central LA and elsewhere to this day. Many point to that particular case as the genesis of the widespread distrust of and hostility to the Police within Black America.
B.I.G. VERSUS BIGGER AND BETTER
Young Christopher Wallace was a good student. By age 12 he had added minor drug dealing to his curriculum. His physical size enhanced his nascent street image and allowed a penchant for intimidation and violence to flourish. He eventually dropped out of school and began associating with others involved in the growing rap music scene in Brooklyn. As time went by he gained some success and local notoriety that set him on the road to national acclaim among the rap music audience. The details of his life from that point on are irrelevant since he cast his loyalty to rappers on the West coast. There had been a low-level war of insults, “dissing”, and malignant competition between the New York City bred rappers and their counterparts in Los Angeles. He was shot to death on March 9th, 1997 and his case remains open.
On October 20th, 2015 NYPD Officer Randolph Holder was assigned to a housing unit in East Harlem ad responded to a call of shots fired at 420 E. 102 street. Callers to 911 reported gunfire between members of rival gangs. Holder wound up in foot pursuit of one suspect when that individual stopped suddenly and shot Holder in the forehead. His killer was apprehended shortly thereafter, PO Holder died almost immediately.
Biggie Smalls, another moniker Christopher Wallace employed, died as he lived. His music has been dubiously hailed for its “’authenticity” with the New York Times going as far as calling him “The Bard of Brooklyn”. A morbidly obese career criminal and self-designated “thug”, “gansta”, and “strong arm drug dealer” could not hold a candle to the dedicated, courageous Police Officer that gave his life in the service of our City. That their lives and deaths were celebrated so differently is a shame; it is actually an insult to all MOS, past and present, of the NYPD. Once a society elevates obscure people to the heights of acclaim for their “talents”, however banal and overlooks those among us who serve unselfishly and literally put their lives on the line after time they go to work, there is an erosive force at play.
CULTURE AND SOCIETY
Often it is necessary to juxtapose events against each other in the effort to find moral clarity. What transpired today in Brooklyn and Queens stand in stark contrast to each other; simply by memorializing the lives and deaths of two New Yorkers who’d walked such divergent paths, says much about our priorities. The political environment of today reflects the many gulfs straining the cohesiveness of our society. The multiple fractures evidenced only serve s borders of the divisions that wrack society. New Yorkers of every political and apolitical affiliation share points of agreement if they’d step aside from behind the shields of their core beliefs. The dramatic transformation of New York City in 1992 as compared to today are as profound as they can be. It took people to “cross” Party lines to elect Rudy Giuliani to the Office of the Mayor in the hopes that a “Republican” tough on crime, former federal prosecutor could and would take what was our “Rotting Apple” back to our rightful place among the greatest cities in the world.
From 1993 until 2014 strong Mayors, Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg, each coupled by effective NYPD Commissioners exerted the monumental forces required to “clean up” our City. The process was not always pretty nor was it without controversy however, one cannot deny the results. But in the slow yet steady swing of the societal pendulum, the very creative, proactive strategies and tactics that allowed the NYPD to achieve what seemed an impossible goal, have now come under scrutiny. People have short memories. Anyone among us who lived through those darkest or dark years of 2000 plus homicides a year and the staggering rates of crime of all categories, cannot help but acknowledge just how far we have come.
The politics of race are always in the shadow of every discussion of culture and society. A small coterie of “activists” have emerged from the flames of places like Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore and have capitalized on the knotty issues of relations between the Police and the public, particularly the Black public. The “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) ‘movement’, such as it is has no relation to the principled individuals who over 50 years ago lead the legal and political struggle for Civil Rights. PO Holder was a Black man shot dead by a black gangbanger; where was the outrage? Where was the BLM protesters? The overwhelming majority of violence and street crime is Black on Black. Again, where are the BLM agitators? Black America is not the only constituency that can speak from both sides of their mouths when it suits their “cause”. But they are the most hyperbolically hypocritical. If all Black lives matter why are these self-appointed leaders and activists protesting nightly on the streets of the south side of Chicago; a major American city that has been in the suffocating embrace of gun violence and murder for the last few years. Perhaps the reality of Chicago is not of interest to the BLM movement?
REST IN PEACE, SIR
The sun will come up tomorrow bathing Brooklyn and Queens in its summer light and heat. Kids will play at the new basketball courts in Brooklyn while people in Far Rockaway will go about their business and crossing the street at the newly designated Detective Randolph Holder Way. To some, perhaps many, the designation of each of those locals will not register; others will perhaps remember the men whose names are now synonymous with each place. That is just the ebb and flow of life in our vast City.
Biggie Smalls may very well remain in the consciousness of young African Americans for his music and the gangbanging life he lauded in his raps. So be it.
PO Randolph Holder posthumously promoted to Detective, will forever be Honored, Remembered, and Respected for his Service and Sacrifice. The institutional memory of the NYPD will see to that. Rest Easy, Detective, Rest Easy in the Light and Presence of the Lord. Fidelis Ad Mortem.
Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2017 © All Rights Reserved
Copyright Brooding Cynyc 2017 © All Rights Reserved