How dark is the human mind! How pale in thought, how diminished in potential; cringing in hovels of doubt and self pity; as unsure of itself as the basest of beasts in the wildest wood; surrendering it's brilliance to the quagmire of economic uncertainty; a pallid gray-green mass hidden in the shadow of the calcified skull awash in the red blackness of human blood waging dementia with the cacophony of it's negative emotions. Taking it's place after death in the dusty record of the morass of could-have-beens.
A Tale of Too City
by Paul A. L. Hall
The best and worst of times quotation may well apply here as well, but I present this not for literary stimulation, but rather to submit careful observations that I gathered at great difficulty and personal privation, which were not easily accrued but rather were painstakingly gleaned over the years, among other things, after and during an arduous fifty-thousand-mile journey in the United States alone (a part of my twenty-year more-than two hundred thousand mile travels.
The USA voyage I financed only by selling my own home-made underground newspaper as I traveled. I started with eleven dollars I used to print the first edition warning about a coming depression, which, thankfully, turned out later to be merely a triple-dip recession. With a back pack full of one hundred copies, I stuck out my thumb to hitch-hike south from Washington, D.C., went around the USA, and returned to Washington D.C. a month later (after having hitched across the northern part of the country in three and one-half days), with enough money saved from my enterprise to purchase a month-long Greyhound buss pass, which the hobos call "riding the dog". I traveled at night, sleeping on the bus using a piece of black foam rubber I found in a trash can at Honolulu airport to immobilize my head as I slept sitting up in the bus seats and this was fastened by an expensive neck tie I found tied around a fire hydrant in Mobile. I wore silver dark glasses so that those looking at me couldn't tell if my eyes were closed or not.
Not to digress, the Megalopolis I refer to in the first paragraph is a blend of several cities into one huge massive one, which stretches from Virginia to Massachusetts along the East Coast.
So our "Too City" also is made up of many cities. And here I concentrate on two of them, having also, by the way, lived in both. One city has the largest office building in the world the other arguably the largest business establishment in the world. Both were attacked on September eleventh (911), 2001 by hijacked airliners. I'm writing, of course, of Arlington, Virginia and New York, New York. The largest office building is the Pentagon, where I worked as a spec 5 Signal Corps information specialist couriering documents back and forth between there and building T-7 near what was then called "Friendship Airport" in those days that housed my outfit, The Army Materiel Command back in the 60's.
In New York, after I hitched across the country my first time (that took six days) in 1970, I got a job driving a cab and I could remember the ominous feeling I had as I watched the framework of the World Trade Center go up. I drove nights and would get up town and work my way to Chinatown and Canal Street. There was one restaurant there where I would eat which had great food at a very low price. I ate with chop sticks and sipped the free unsweetened green tea from large duralex glasses while white bearded Chinese elders in the back played dominos around huge dimly-lit round tables. Most nights I never made it when business was good. But when it was not so good, and I got all the way down town without picking up a fare, then the good meal would kind of make up for it.
Coming towards lower Manhattan especially, and from a distance, you could see the naked light bulbs gleaming miles away in the framework as it went up, each day higher and higher. The tiny yellow pinpoints twinkled in the atmosphere between like stars you never saw in the city. I used to look up, but usually all you could see were the visible planets whose reflected light was much stronger than stars and could penetrate the smog and the millions of bright lights of the city that never sleeps. I knew New York would not be the same with those things up. It was doing just fine with it's ethnic villages, it's great restaurants, it's art and music and literature, especially theatre, it's now modest sky scrapers in mid town. I saw that era out as cold economics slowly crept in and took hold.
Of course like everyone else I was horrified when they came down, snuffing out in an instant so many lives. I tried so very hard for the last twenty years to warn people about this. It was worth everything I had to make the effort because that's what it took. Isn't that what they say, "Give it everything you've got"? Well, that's what I did. I don't know. Maybe it did some good.
It's wrong to mass people together like that in one place at one time. How do you explain it away? It can't be anything more than greed and arrogance. In my fifty thousand mile trip I saw an empty country. Look at the satellite pictures of the USA from outer space. What do you see in the night over the country? Where are the most lights? On the coasts. Just pack them in along the coastlines, crammed into cities because maybe they're scared to be pioneers and decentralize. They are "kick me" signs just waiting for any of scores of organized entities with destructive agendas to walk right in and do their worst.
Why didn't they build the Pentagon as towers? Well, of course, arguably there are tactical reasons. I used to have to run down the hallways in order to make my appointed rounds and get back to T-7 on time. Once I even saw Linden Johnson and Clark Clifford walk down the shopping mall corridor along the bare bayoneted honor guard pathway, rifles at present arms acting as a boundary for the crowds on both sides and heard the office worker say to herself how it was just like "1984" (even though it was still the late '60's). The president said, after the strains of "Hail To the Chief" had abated, "My fellow Americans, during ... [and he said things I don't remember, but ended with:] ... "many have fallen by the wayside, but the Department of Defense has remained faithful".
Now, in the attack on the eleventh, each building was hit by one aircraft. The Pentagon being one, and each of the Twin Towers being the other two of the three buildings I'm talking about. Two fell from one hundred stories tall and one, the Pentagon didn't. It was only a few stories tall, but it's expanse was flat on the ground. It may have been because of tactical foresight of the architects, but I put forward another argument. In economic terms, the people in the Pentagon had more invested in their training as a whole, than the average human being in the towers that died that day. When I was there, a person with no more than a buck sergeant, a spec five, in rank, my training alone in terms of late 60's monetary inflation adjustment was then valued at more than one hundred thousand dollars, and a lot of that was my basic training alone. Now it may be coincidental that the loss of lives was hundreds in the Pentagon disaster and thousands in the Twin Towers collapse, but the fact still remains, there was some thought involved in the Pentagon production as to what kind of a target it might be, so they built it low to the ground.
But, you see, ever since man started building things, they made towers. Ever since the pyramids, it's an ego thing, trying to outdo each other to see who can build the tallest building and it's always just for the time being.
I designed a tower back in the days when I was trying to write to then Mayor Lindsay about free subways more than paying for themselves in boosted prosperity in Manhattan (and of course getting nothing more than the polite form letter in reply, though someone did include a personal line for the Mayor). In my design the elevators were going laterally instead of vertically, because this tower was miles long instead of high; it was on it's side and would have been even safer than the Pentagon, because had the terrorists been a bit more resourceful and hit the Pentagon with ten jets they would have knocked it out along with the Twin Towers.
If I had any advise for those who are wondering what to do now, I'd say, don't renew your lease. Get your office out of that sky scraper. Head out of town where you can use your communication devises to better advantage. Go west, young man, woman, old man, old woman, whomever. Decentralize.