It is the end of summer at South Street Seaport Pier 17. August is ending, September is beginning and the cold wind is already here. The sky is overcast yet in places piercing glints of light still shine. By the water along the deserted pier a rock band is playing to an audience of a handful. A middle aged couple, man and wife, stand leaning on each other, swaying back and forth, their hands in each other's jeans pockets. The band begins another sets. They aren't good but they aren't bad either.
Above Seaport and its mall gulls circle the American flag hanging on its roof like vultures. Grey clouds drift closer. A thin trail of smoke pours from the greasy kitchen of a luncheonette. 2001 is ending but it is also beginning and in the air there hangs the sense that all the good times are ending now.
* * *
I am heading to midtown. The planes have hit and the buildings have burned. There are elderly relatives with breathing problems who I need to get as far away as possible from the air.
At Union Square NYU Students are scrawling peace messages on sheets as behind them downtown burns. Further up at 23rd street the park is deserted. A homeless man sits on a bench by a stone table with a chessboard set empty of chess pieces playing a radio broadcasting mingled static and updates of the situation. Behind us, behind us, oh God behind us the sky is white and smoking.
It isn't Welles' New Jersey or Wells' England but the War of the Worlds is here.
* * *
It is early, too early. It's the day after New Year's. It's the first day of a new year. The first day of a new millennium. January 1st 2000. I walk through Times Square through a litter of glitter, empty cups and 2000 glasses, masks, banners, confetti. The city is quiet, at peace and everywhere lie the scattered hopes of a new future.
2000, a magical title. A series of zeroes headed by a 2 which when attached to any device or appliance bespeaks the future. 21st century. A new era. A shiny of time ruled by technological advancements and the spread of freedom around the world. The Cold War is done. The Soviet Union is fallen. The spread of the internet seems to herald the beginning of a brave new world.
I step on brightly colored confetti and though it seems foolish I bend down and gather a few to take with me. Souvenirs of a future yet to come. Fragments of the day we crossed the threshold from yesterday to tomorrow. It is the end of history and the beginning of the future.
On the way home, downtown, bird shapes fly overhead, intersecting and then falling apart, flying away. I walk home thinking of the future.