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Monday September 15, 2003, 12:47

The world becomes a much quieter place when you walk around with headphones on all of the time. It becomes a more informed place, at least in my case as the only thing I tend to listen to is NPR, but quieter nevertheless. I have my own soundtrack playing in my head and as I walk towards the man walking towards me, white buds emerging from his jacket, I know that his iPod is bringing him to a world that is completely unlike the one that we are physically inhabiting together. There is no "together" when walking down the street where everyone is somewhere else, and there is no story to tell when the only story I know is whatever is happening elsewhere in the world.

Which is, as always, another excuse to myself. Writing has just gotten boring because I don't have anything to say. Having isolated myself from the stories that could possibly be interesting, I have had neither opportunity nor desire to spill the beans about the things that have happened, and that's just sad. So do I pick myself up and dust myself off, or do I throw in the towel? Glutton for punishment that I am...

There was no connection when I entered Union Square the other night and stopped to look south at the towers of light1 rising up and striking the cloud cover, illuminating the sky. Someone else looked up, a woman about half a block away, and together we stared as the rest of the world walked past. But when I looked back, she was already walking away, turning the corner, probably heading home after a long day at work.

I hadn't had a particularly long day at work. I think I was heading home after a meeting or two, but neither was particularly long, nor did either result directly in my being able to, say, buy dinner, so the classification as "work" is somewhat suspect. The interesting thing is that this was September 11th, and where last year on that day I was a wreck, completely useless at work (which, at the time, consisted of a little nook in the corner of a cute little flat in London, much as it does now, if one were to remove the word "nook" and replace "London" with "New York") and feeling the need to revisit emotions of a year prior. This year, another year later, images on the television of two planes smacking into the World Trade Center did not leave me with warm fuzzies, but I got on with my day, which either shows resilience or insensitivity.

For two years now I've rarely been out of my house without my Walkman and at least one camera. The fear of being caught off-guard has left me constantly listening to live radio which has put me in the awkward position of wanting to both be in touch with what's happening in the world and wanting (but failing, it seems) to be a part of the environment in which I am living. So much of the world is lost behind headphones. There is the aural loss, of course, more than that is when I've lost the ability to observe the world around me when it becomes irrelevant to me.

So what is the answer? Stop walking with headphones and lose my one chance at finding out what is happening to the world around me? Or leave them on and lose the part of New York that was always so inspiring to me?

These should be my only worries.



1.Those two towers fill the space left behind by the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. Personally, I think that this would be a fitting, permanent, solution to the problem of what to do with the space; an eternal flame for the 21st century would be fitting, but for the fact that it's not too eternal if you can't see the thing during the day. Regardless, it is quite a spectacle at night as something so prominent and so ethereal.

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