WTC Memories

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: / Teaching / Society / Civilization /
@ K. 2001

This reminiscence isn’t about terrorism per se or any politics in particular. I just had a thought about the World Trade Center and I want to share it. Putting it here makes a sort of sense, however superficial.

When I was PK Fine Arts, Ltd., my lawyer had his offices in the World Trade Center. I forget whether he was on the fifteenth floor or the thirtieth: either way, though far from the top, it was plenty high up. Behind his great desk, over his shoulder, was a great view of the Hudson: high enough up for scope, low enough to see details of the ships. I’m sure the view was a major part of the calculation of the rent.

I was in the art business: that’s appearances. He was in the law industry: likewise appearances.

To succeed in the art business, pk had to pretend to be committed to appearances: and I could, for minutes at a time, so long as the meeting didn’t last too long: get my check, and get out of there.

One would think, the World Trade Center being such a big deal, and being smack on the water, that such a view would be permanent. Pay the rent, wow the clients, forever.

Now, I wouldn’t set that scene up if I didn’t intend to show it demolished, right? But before I smash it, let me reminisce about the lawyer as well as his office. Marty had been attorney for Ben Shahn. That in itself made him a big shmear. Marty was American lawyer for the Picasso estate. Ditto. So how come Rockwell publisher, Eleanor Ettinger, told me that “Marty didn’t have a pot to piss in”?

Don’t forget: we were all in the appearances business.

Business can go up and down. That’s why business graphs look like a sideways lightning bolt.

In 1978/79 I’d made a pile of money. In 1979/80 I was working with Marty to make a much bigger pile: a $55 million deal. I told Marty that I had just talked to Isabel Bishop, that maybe we could do some lithos for her.

Marty’s jaw dropped. He stared at me. Marty got up from his desk, went over and started humping the wall. His tongue went to the groove butting adjacent walls. He licked the paint, the plaster: the Battery, the Hudson, and New Jersey backdrop for his grinding hips.

Something went wrong: with me, with everything. I’d put myself in a position to do tax shelters by selling art. Now, wheeling and dealing, I had no time to sell art, no energy left over. Besides, art was coming out of everybody’s ears, no one was buying. One year the government makes it clear that it wants to be fooled in a particular way, another year the government slouches around, its body language contradicting last year’s hoaxes. The government is always looking for some new way to be fooled, lawyers are always looking for some new way to fool it. But the art tax shelters were falling on their face.

Marty told me he wanted me to live in his office, to move in. No, no. I can only pretend for this minute, or that hour. I can’t move in anywhere. So I made myself scarce.

One day I absolutely had to see him. So I showed up.

Marty looked grim. He didn’t even bother with accusations: Where have you been?

But it wasn’t just Marty. Something else — everything else — was very wrong.

The Hudson had disappeared!

Some other ghastly steel and glass building stood between Marty’s big window and the river. His office looked no better than any of thousands of other executive suites lost in the canyons of skyscrapers.

Land fill! Manhattan was colonizing the river! Downtown was getting wider.

If that kept up, the newest intruder would have last year’s intruder to its one flank and Hoboken for its other.

Month by month the roads smelled more strongly of petrol,
and were more difficult to cross, and human beings heard each other with greater difficulty,
breathed less of the air, saw less of the sky.
Howards End

And I’ve never been in the World Trade Center again since. So I don’t know: when WTC went down on 9/11/1, what happened to that intruding building?

I hope to hell that it fell into that same rubble pile.

Not that I have anything against any of its specific tenants, you understand. I had nothing (that I know of) against any of the tenants of the WTC. But there’s something satisfying in ruin. Even in ruin that doesn’t miss you.

Is there anyone, anyone young at least, who doesn’t dream of waking up one day and finding everybody else gone? of inheriting the earth for them self? Adam? or Eve? or Stu in King’s The Stand? One of my sex stories (getting moved to an anonymous blog) recalls my first discovery that I was not alone in such wishes: the girl said aloud that she dreamed of being alone in the world with me, so that we could do anything we wanted: take our cloths off, drive the car …

And how many husbands wouldn’t be secretly pleased to turn around one day and find their wife, the mother of their children, turned into a pillar of salt? (Throughout human experience have women been lucky or unlucky to have husbands who never return from the hunting trip, the war, the sailing adventure …?)


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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