Life Aboard LULU

November 17, 2001 (You Can Take Yourself Out of New York...)
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You Can Take Yourself Out of New York but You Can't Take New York Out of Your Self

We are already one-quarter of our way into Year Three. For months now, I've been trying desperately to get my updates up to date, or else I'll have to rename them memoirs. As of September 11, I was still writing up stuff we did way back in May--including our visit to the volcano-wracked island of Montserrat. The devastation I wrote about in Montserrat seems paltry by comparison to what just occurred in to the Twin Towers, to the Pentagon and to our whole country. Though not, I imagine if you were a Montserratan.

The difference is clear, however: Those who suffered and died in Monserrat were victims of the impersonal and unavoidable venom of nature; those who died in the World Trade Center and their survivors looked into the ruthless face of human-and therefore not inevitable-evil. Or maybe human destructiveness is ultimately as unavoidable as Nature's. Certainly history points in that direction.

Those brief moments on September 11 ended multiple lifetimes, rerouted others onto scary, unforeseeable paths, tested the courage of so many, made us all feel helpless as children. Like the assassination of JFK or the bombing of Pearl Harbor, they scarred us deep in our souls, etched our memories in flame and seem to have forever changed our national way of life.

We too feel compelled to talk about Where We Were. That morning we were on the boat in Porlamar, on the Venezuelan island of Margarita, helping another couple with their email problems-seems we've got more than enough to go around. Logging on, we had an email, just moments after the first explosion, from our son-in-law Jeff, who you can always depend upon in a crisis. Soon enough, though, we would have heard it ourselves via the PBS news on our single sideband radio. Or it would have been broadcast instantaneously over the VHF by the first boat to get the awful news.

Though people seem to categorize us not only physically but journalistically "marooned on a desert island," we were no more insulated than most anyone on the planet. Within a week or so we would hear about cruisers who were hiking the Venezuelan pampas that morning. Passing through some tiny village, they were arrested by an image inside some house--the blossom of fire from one of the World Trade Centers. In 2001, satellite dishes sprout even from the roofs of Third World huts.

At almost any other time we would have been at anchor with only the boat radio, which gives us the Armed Forces Radio Network. ARFarts, as it's more universally known here, throughout the day features news from ABC, CNN, NPR. Lucky--for Gary anyway--we even get Rush Limbaugh from 12 to 1. But being in Porlamar was fortunate because just a short dinghy ride to shore is a sort of open-air beach bar, owned by a thirty-somethingish Thai woman named Jak who wafted here with her husband on a sailboat about three years ago. Fresh out of money to continue their trip around the world, Jak opened a restaurant that, despite her professed inability to cook, happens to serve the best food in the entire Caribbean. Breakfast, lunch & dinner, cruisers get cheap, excellent, Thai interpretations of all the best comfort foods from a variety of nations. Jak's main attraction that September 11 morning, however, was not the blendered fresh fruit juices or the bacon, ham, scrambled egg, tomato and cheese breakfast, but rather Jak's 28" cable TV.

Because we so enjoy Porlamar's ambiance, its duty-free wines, the constancy of a big cruiser network, with Jak's good food and sugar-sweet Venezuelan staff at its hub, all resulting in a convivial, self-contained little village, we've spent at least 5 weeks there this season. Almost everyone eats at the restaurant for some meal of each day--except Sunday, when Jak disappoints us all by closing. As in most of Venezuela, the restaurant TV runs about 14 hours a day, providing a low level background clatter of canned laughter from the Spanish-subtitled reruns of old American sitcoms. In most Venezuelan establishments what plays are the fanatically followed soap operas and the frequent beauty contests, both national passions; at Jaks the cruisers, and several old-salt bearded geezers in particular, prefer the sweet whiff of Back Home they get from episodes of Friends and Cheers

But for weeks after September 11 there was no Cheers--or cheer for that matter--and the whiffs of home were bitter and acrid. The TV at Jak's now ran almost 24 hours a day. The daytime glare of the sun sending reflections onto a mysteriously and permanently smeared screen made the CNN international coverage even more surreal: overlaid upon the horrific pictures of fire, devastation and bedlam in America were the pacific images of a calm island with a harborful of boats at rest. Gary and I were essentially plastered to that not-quite-in-focus TV coverage for days. But then, life as we knew it was also clearly out of focus. Somehow, the 100-degree heat in that beach bar felt an appropriate punishment for two who were safe from the hellfire that had been unleashed at home.

We worried not about our kids - rather smugly thinking them quite safe - but first about Jackie and Mel, who were scheduled to fly out of New York that morning on American Airlines. Later it would turn out they were on an afternoon flight, which of course got cancelled. We were afraid for our friend, David, our token and trophy Wall Street tycoon, who works nearby and, we feared, was just inquisitive enough to walk over so as not to miss something. We couldn't get through to his office. But David's long-honed survival instincts kicked in as soon as business allowed-when Wall Street stopped working, he raced for the suburbs.

But it was our kids we might truly have been anxious about. They were, in fact, all safe, but it could easily have been otherwise. I'd forgotten completely that our son, John, in Philadelphia has --I mean had--an office in the WTC, on the 100-and-something floor, where he worked once or twice a week. Mercifully, not that day. But his company lost seven fine, talented people; another eight or nine were not in the office. He's been delivering eulogies at memorial services and offering moral support to survivors ever since. Those of you who know him know nobody could do it better.

Our daughter, Suey, was on her way to lower Manhattan for an appointment--on our behalf, no less--the first time she'd been that far downtown in four years. When she stepped out of the subway, she saw the second tower collapse and the people jumping out. She shared the universal shock and confusion with others along the long walk back to 84th Street. The change in the city, she said, was instantaneous. She arrived home coated in ash and knee-deep in jitters, questioning a recent decision to remain in the city.

Jeff, it turned out, who, like John, also lives in allegedly safe Pennsylvania, was also slated to be in downtown Manhattan that morning. He too was safe, but wracked by his decision to give someone else the job. It was 24 hours before he found out the other guy also hadn't gone.

Suey lost two close friends.  Almost everyone we know knows some innocent who died for no reason that reasonable people can understand. Two years ago, at five-months pregnant, Lauren, another of Suey's friends found her husband dead, the victim of an asthmatic attack. In the aftermath of September 11, Loren founded a website to help others. If you know someone it's

While terrorists in distant lands, and even in Brooklyn, cheered in the streets, we, along with most of the world gawked incredulously, as events played out in "real" time, though I can scarcely recall more unreal images. How to connect the picture with the reality: the phantom plane disappearing behind the South tower, those shining, impenetrable sheaths breached and an aircraft locked on like a giant can opener? The crying, coughing, choked-up people swarming the streets, any one of whom could have been someone we know.

We watched, not only as it occurred but then over and over again as it repeated all day and all night: the electronic image of the second tower, the tallest building in New York coming down like an elevator. How to reconcile the violence of the actions with the silence of the videotape and the deafening noises our reason told us were really happening: fires roaring, glass shattering, concrete thundering, survivors crying, lovers weeping? Not to mention the screams of the trapped, dying below--though I would later read that probably never even happened: Each floor of the trade centers was 3-feet thick. As the towers collapsed, one hundred floors accordioning three feet upon three feet upon three feet, people were pulverized probably before they even could scream. Small consolation--and surely the most macabre manifestation of "at least they didn't suffer."

As Americans in this international setting of cruisers from everywhere, we were the instant recipients of concern and sympathy. We were, in a strange way, almost the first to experience the unanimous horror and support from foreigners. Even the French had words of commiseration and expressions of solidarity. One Norwegian, a stranger with a beautiful face and tears in her eyes, came over, hugged me and placed a long-stemmed rose in my lap. Her gesture, made so many thousands of miles away from the scene, was echoed by the throngs leaving bouquets and pots of flowers at New York firehouses. There just aren't the words.

Yet people tried. And their emailed words sent us some of the images of conditions back in America: Our daughter, Wendy, wrote that "people are seeing strangers as individuals. They are talking and sharing: strangers, friends, neighbors and acquaintances are all involved in what has happened, and the commonality of the loss and the shared fear of the future--is comforting, even if the stark reality isn't.   Even road rage has waned."

Our friend Julio let us know his family was okay-more or less. His email described the blast site itself, in all its worst specificity: "My oldest son Damon (EMS worker) finished his night shift at 8 AM Monday morning 9/11/01 and was halfway home when he was called on his cell phone.  He returned to his job at St. Claire  Hospital in Manhattan at approximately 9:30 AM.  His fellow workers left for the World  Trade Center without him. He rushed over there in an ambulance.  When he got there, he stepped out of his vehicle and had to run like hell because Tower # 2  started to fall.  He suffered minor injuries but the worst part of it all is that he lost most of his EMS friends that went there before him.  He remained  working there for 72 hours filling up body bags with body parts and then he went home. He cried for 3 days thereafter and then went in for mental therapy. He's back on the job and doing fine. Thank God.  He will always remember this monstrosity; so will America."

We heard about the smoke and ash everywhere; the glitter now gone--the theaters closed, the streets and restaurants summarily emptied; the howls of ambulances filling the (impossible!) trafficless FDR Drive; the everyday, ear-affronting noise of the city dispelled, replaced by roar of fighter planes in the sky. Somehow our imaginations could contain this. But our minds balked at some of the tiny details, which kept bringing us home the monumental scope of the tragedy.

"There's no one in this town who hasn't been affected by this horror either directly or through an acquaintance," wrote our friend, Ray, from what is under normal circumstances is Fortress Greenwich. "Wives without husbands, husbands without wives, children without one parent or the other, cars sitting in the parking lot at the station waiting for their owners to return." It was the image of those empty cars...

No one captured it more completely and compactly than our friend, Joan, who wrote: "The world is broken. What do we do now?"

Gary and I tried to figure that question out on a personal and immediate level. Our sadness was real, but we felt had to be blunted by the fact that we were so far away, by being totally disconnected from our true Home Port. We felt completely cut off from everyone we most cared about. Gary's grief and sense of aloneness was deepened by the fact that his mother had died six weeks before. Almost everyone felt a need to reach out and touch family and friends, to share frequently unspoken feelings-the kind of yucky, embarrassing things we frequently avoid.  To try to put the world back together.

We also felt the need to say and do something loving in the face of such implacable hate. We were jealous of Jackie & Mel, marooned in New York among their kids. I couldn't make the World Trade Centers disappear mentally, even as they had physically. I knew nothing could make that somehow palpable but witnessing their absence: only seeing the site could really erase the memory of those distant matchsticks punctuating the horizon whenever we'd sail out of New Rochelle harbor.

Our friend, Barbara wrote: "You certainly made the right decision in following your dream now and not waiting for tomorrow or the next day." I wrote back, "Yes, I do feel grateful to be living our dream. I usually do, but more so since this tragedy. Except that right now living our dream is the thing that's keeping us from the comfort of family and good friends to go through this with."

And so, one day a week later, we found ourselves in a downtown Porlamar travel agent, about to book flights for New York, to return that weekend to hug the kids and grandchildren. Just as Gary handed over our credit card, I panicked. What on earth were we doing and how irresponsible was it to be flying back to New York at that moment in the midst of this uncertainty, when the world was waiting to see how and when Bush would drop the other shoe?  A shoe that would surely be no penny loafer. Bush was looking and sounding more presidential than anyone (and especially this nay-saying someone) could have imagined.

Even Gary agreed it was foolhardy. So we waited. But for what? we had to ask ourselves two weeks later. It was as Bush had said it was going to be. Nothing would be resolved for a very long time. Somehow, characteristically, optimistically-as Americans do, or did--we'd expected some grand retaliation that would blast the bad guys off the planet. Then we'd all ride happily off into the sunset in our Suburbans and Lexuses.

It's seems its easier to incorporate the unthinkable than to adjust your actual ground of being.

So we flew home. It was the exact right thing to do. The hugs, of course, took longer, the need was greater than a simple week could encompass. So we stayed two. We dashed around even faster than usual, starting on Day One, with the serendipitous timing of the christening of Chloe, our lovely almost-other-daughter Lizzie's baby. The ceremony began just hours after our plane touched the hallowed ground of New York--and that ground did feel hallowed, as Lincoln said, consecrated, after all that's happened.

We sped immediately to Manhattan to see, not the World Trade Center, but Ryan and Suey and Tony. We barely had clothes-changing turnaround time in New Rochelle before we raced back to the city, to an immense Park Avenue cathedral whose name escapes me, but which would have felt quite at home in the Vatican. The service was accompanied not by portentous organ music but by a simple, sweet solo guitar; it was followed by a proper tea (that somehow gracefully encompassed wine) at the Stanhope. The Stanhope is a hotel jewel typifying all that is quietly elegant about New York. It sits catty-cornered across Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum, a grand New York landmark that was reassuring in its solidity. Surrounding the Met and underscoring the tranquility was Central Park, resplendent on a gorgeous Indian Summer day. It was a quintessential Manhattan event on a Woody-Allen Manhattan day and it made us know that life would go on - was, clearly, going on.

After that, we gorged on kids and grandchildren. Two days after the christening Gary and I Amtraked it down to Baltimore on yet another perfect, warm day. Our daughter, Karen, brandishing our grandchildren, Ronnie and Sammy, picked us up at the station.    Her husband David, a journalist at the Baltimore Sun, was busy covering the state-wide repercussions of  September 11 and the anthrax scare

Sammy, at 18-months old, is a perfect little Buddha boy. He only recently walked--if not grudgingly then in his own internally metered correct time. He still hasn't decided to talk, but he gazes at the world through impossibly huge blue eyes, and smiles beatifically, as if observing, but not overreacting to, the fullness of life. He is the best baby I've ever met. Ronnie, at 4, makes up for his silence with her intelligent-and perpetual--prattle, her giggling, her joke-cracking, joke-getting and wise little observations. It's not enough that she speaks in English, she's also attempting Spanish. We were happy to reply with some hard-won Spanish of our own, which delighted her. Most things do. We spent a night with the Nitkins and then made the 7 or 8- hour (who's counting?) drive back to New York in the van with them. Sammy, who napped not a moment during the morning or entire drive, never cried once.

That week I attended-kvelling--various of Ryan's classes, parks and playgrounds, with him and his Mommy, Suey. Ryan is a drop-dead cute, platinum-blonded picture of your Irish tough; a solid little buster with a twinkly smile who is, despite the exterior, a sweet little boy, and, despite the stereotype, obviously a genius. At 18 months he can pick out any letter of the alphabet from any passing sign or billboard; he knows all of his shapes, even if both triangle and rectangle come out "ca-coo." Best of all he knows his Grandma Lulu, AKA "Doo-Doo."  Pronunciation is not yet his thing.

Wendy came in to visit and, while Tony was nice-guy enough to babysit Ryan, our little step-family had a typically Upper-Eastside Italian dinner, virtually at curbside with traffic once again whizzing by. The absence of impatient drivers and horn blasting is still noticeable in New York.

Then we scooted out to Philadelphia to fawn over the triplets and their nearly one-year-old brother Matthew. People are always asking, so here's an update on the triplets. Many of you struggled with us, John and Lisa through the triplets' premature births, with all the attendant emergencies and potential cataclysms. Maggie, Timmy and Zoe are pretty much normal, if small and still un-toilet-trained, three-year-olds. Their development is and will continue to be somewhat slower than their age warrants, but they are clearly fine.

They all talk in sentences and nothing much passes them by. Timmy and Zoe will likely have eye "issues." No one's sure how severe-or what that means. It's hard to get little kids to wear glasses, though Zoe is always willing to throw on an oversized pair of bejeweled great-grandmother sunglasses. Zoe will do most anything for fun--is, in fact, is willing to play almost any game, except maybe go-to-school or go-to-bed. Her eyes may not function perfectly but they too are huge, gloriously blue and gorgeous. She is a mischievous soul, still the tiniest by far of the three, with an infectious little personality and a fairytale ability to switch from elf to ogre in an eye blink. Maggie is droll and a Dresden doll, She is quieter than Zoe, except not around Timmy. The two of them have formed a team; they are constantly inventing games and in-jokes. They crack each other up constantly. I love joining in on the jokes. Timmy, like most boys his age, is obsessed with trains, but is equally willing, in fact anxious, to play dress-up with his sisters. There's very little cuter, in my mind, though it would likely disturb a homophobic, than Timmy bent over his Thomas-the-Train table wearing a headband, a gauzy skirt and a neckful of pearls.

None of them like Matthew around much--if he pulls himself up to standing next to any one of their roosting places, they're dying to push him down. "Go away, Matthew!" is the one thing all three triplets agree about in life. That and they all want to play with his toys. But God help him if he makes off with one of theirs. He needs to be one strong kid and he shows all the signs. John calls Matthew his "Biggy Boy." He already weighs about as much as each triplet and their complaints are completely lost on him. He gets around where he's going with equanimity and a big smile.

This trip we didn't get to see many friends. Oddly enough, we barely got downtown to the disaster site. At the absolute last minute, on the last day I was in New York, Gary and I inched along in traffic as far downtown as allowed, to Canal Street, where we parked the car and walked some 10 blocks to the financial district. But for the wierd lack of traffic, for a while the streets and buildings all looked quite normal. Then, three or four blocks along, we began to see the first commemorative flag pins, the screen printed tee shirts and emblemed baseball caps - NYC NYFD, NYPD, United We Stand.

Down as close to the site as the public is allowed are barricades, manned by burly cops who are suddenly tender as nursemaids. "Please folks, you can't go any further." "Try not to crowd." "I'd appreciate it if you all would clear this corner, there's gonna be a car coming through." Suddenly some of the meanest cops in all of law enforcement--the Tough Cop poster boys--are no longer scowling menacingly at you but are actually looking you in the eye. And what's in their eyes is a deep sadness: it mirrors your own. There' s an unspoken communion, a silent acknowledgment this atrocity has been committed upon each of us. A crime not against innocent civilians, or a city, or a nation, but against civilization. No surprise that New Yorkers were, even five weeks later, still reeling in shock: because we have never been and how can it suddenly we are just like Cologne, Sarajevo, Hanoi, Jerusalem? September 11 was the day New York became Everywhere Else.

It was very windy when we finally got downtown. From the site came great balloons of gray air, of soot and ash from the fires still burning deep in the ground, of the concrete dust raised by the 24-hour excavation and removal of the debris avalanche. Giant cranes, almost paltry reminders of the vanished spires, ring the rubble, some dangling dumpsters that scoop like children's pails into the mountain of rubble - at that point still some 100-feet deep.

We could only peek down the narrow side streets to get a view of what is left. It was enough to see a jagged, blackened skeleton, a partial fašade of columned lobby and some 18 vacant stories above. At one side two deeply rusted steel beams drooped down like giant, headless flower stalks--quite dead.

What was it about those two buildings that so resonated for all of us and for so long? Their bigness, for sure.  They were above it all. And their twoness:  as singlets, they would have said little, but as a pair, a couple, they spoke comfortingly about loneliness, said something about solidarity. Bland, homely compared to so many of their neighbors, their ability to metamorphosize into great, sparkling panels of light made them frequently quite beautiful-and always unignorable. If, architecturally speaking, they were dwarfed by those clusters of more fussy, rococo buildings, instead they whispered to us of clarity, surety, simplicity. And they were strong, they could take it. They took the battering of those giant jetliners, fully fueled, in their sides and still they stood. They neither buckled under pressure nor lost their heads. Only the terrible inferno--the 1000-degree-heat that melted their steel skeletons-did them in.

They were us: not only us, but the best of us. The candles on the cake that celebrated the exuberance, the sheer energy of New York, of life itself.

From Venezuela I'd had trouble with the junk-news buzzword "Ground Zero," but that's exactly what it is: on the ground the remnants of two monoliths that all but evaporated, taking with them our monolithic sense of safety. And all those innocent lives erased, blasted away, along with our illusion of control, our complacency.

It is quiet around Ground Zero-visitors rarely talk. They raise cameras high overhead to take snapshots for posterity. There are tears in almost everyone 's eyes. There are no loud greetings among (de)construction workers; they enter and leave the area arms thrown about each other's shoulders. As shifts change, the passing backslap has been replaced by a silent knuckling of shoulders: a boyish show, among stalwart, silently suffering men, of support, solidarity, commiseration.

Ground Zero is cordoned off by cyclone fencing and police barricades, which have been painted in red, white and blue stripes. The fences are wallpapered with paper banners and homemade posters. There are laminated pictures of people who died, now-outdated, happy pictures with their children, spouses, parents, friends. Everything is covered with signed with messages of love. The faces of firefighters and emergency workers are overwritten with words of gratitude from strangers.

Visitors clutching thick Magic Markers kneel thoughtfully, searching for something to add, some way to express their feelings. In the bare places between signs, the empty wire fence diamonds are stuffed with small notes and myriad dried bouquets of flowers. St Paul's Church puts out fresh banners on its wrought iron gates whenever the old ones are filled, sometimes two and three times a day.

I read the verbiage: promises never to forget; messages of solidarity and brotherhood; angry outpourings at Muslims, at Bin Laden; quotations from the Bible, some the bellicose voice of an Old Testament God, some the pacific, loving words of Jesus or his apostles. Or even Allah. Saddest of all were the scrawled posters filled with the misspelled words of comfort sent by homeroom classes across the country and from all over the world.

Melancholy, incredulity and some kind of awe stifled my compulsive journalistic impulse to note down the most poignant. The one that encapsulated it all for me was a red, white and blue flag, the size of a storefront: all the stars stripes were the overlaid paper handprints of children. Someplace later, I read that The Manhattan School for Children had received something like 20,000 packages, mostly from other schools. It must have been the most frequent name Google searches for "Manhattan school" returned

Coming back uptown people remain silent, either grieving or honoring the dead. Probably both. Heads swivel back and forth in the gesture of "No.  This can't be."  Unsurprising the need we have had to connect with each other, to place unending flowers and plants at the firehouses, to produce a gush of money to charities: it's the reassertion of the simple gestures of humanity in the face of such feelings of powerlessness. We need to restore-however provisionally, however illusionary-the words "safe," and "familiar" to our vocabularies.

Making this a coast to coast visit - I flew the next morning to Los Angeles, for a weekend with Bobby. I hadn't seen him since last Thanksgiving. (There are some huge, daily prices to pay for this "carefree" life of ours.) On Saturday night I was Bobby's date at a hospital fundraising formal, the kind of thing all doctors hate and only a mother could love. Being with him in his milieu was yet another tonic, observing his rapport with the other doctors, meeting his new friends and seeing the obvious adoration of his cancer patients. One included Dom de Luise, quite literally no small fry,  who enveloped Bobby in a bear hug from which I felt there was, orthopedically-speaking, no escape.

Another patient was a Hollywood chef who seems to be Wolfgang Puck's current rival. Friday night Bobby, myself and some of his friends sat at a minute, super-trendy restaurant being fawned over by waiters, receiving special little plates: trial-balloon dishes, perfected delicacies and unusual wines, as if we were the true celebrities, rather than the people next to us--Steven Spielberg, Gwyneth Paltrow, Blythe Danner, Harrison Ford and Minnie Driver.

On Sunday the two of us did one of our favorite things: we overate. First we consulted Bobby's LA restaurant files, whose size and thoroughness easily surpassed my New York ones. For 11AM brunch we sought out the best Cuban sandwich and empanadas in the city. Then we shared an early 3PM supper, ordering 6 or 7 different dishes at a Chinese restaurant in the Valley. Stuffed, both with good food and some even better memories, I rolled myself aboard the Sunday-night red-eye from LA to Miami, where I met Gary the next morning. The two of us returned to Venezuela, restored.

People have been scoffing at the laxness of the new security. In nine flights this trip, I found the new precautions real and reassuring. Our flight out of Miami to New York was cancelled, with the airline picking up our overnight tab, because the FAA inspectors hadn't done a random pre-boarding passenger security check--about the fifth that night. On the flight from New York to LA, the pilot refused to open the doors after landing until a crew arrived to rule out the possibility the  strange powder in the lavatory that a passenger-possibly hysterical, just possibly correct--had spotted was anthrax. At every checkpoint, computers, carry-on bags, dopp-kits, makeup pouches were rummaged through: not all, but many. People were asked to remove--and airport security inspected--boots or any kind of heavy work boots that might stash a knife. I wasn't allowed to carry even a soft ice cream into the gate area. National guardsmen with lethal weaponry were everywhere. I felt about as safe as it's possible to feel these days traveling by air.

It's comforting to be back in Venezuela, where the threat to security is a very real-but still and all only national, without anthrax, without nuclear weapons or biological warfare-coup of some kind,  either for or against Chavez, depending on who you talk too. But all this is far away on the mainland and we're sticking to the offshore islands. Unlike most Americans, we feel safe again, at least for a time. We're returning December 8th to spend Christmas with the family and to celebrate my-how could it be?-60th birthday.

My final thoughts are about future updates. Since Sept 11, annotating our cruising life, recording our daily activities and my piddling reactions to them has seemed so frivolous, even downright presumptuous. Describing the last 6 months and 12-or-so islands; writing about our safe little paradise; sending out updates while back in the States everyone, including our children and grandchildren, is faced with such peril I felt would be monumentally, overweeningly egocentric.

Then our friend Sharon, who just a few weeks after September 11 lost her husband to a six-year battle with cancer, asked me when was I ever going to resume writing? I told her how I was feeling. She, echoing David Letterman & Rudy Giuliani, reminded me it's for us the living to take up our daily lives and responsibilities. Relishing life, having fun again is our obligation, a very personal way of thumbing our nose at the pompous, self-righteous, strutting--however devastating--of terrorists.

So, a little embarrasedly--because I still have trouble reconciling the humdrum, everyday goodness of our boat life with Bin Laden's, or the Taliban 's or the Right to Lifers' or any monomaniacal group's terrible usurpation of that power which is only God's or Nature's or the Unifying Principle of the Universe's to wield--I am continuing these updates. I will send along, in a few bursts, much that I had written before September 11, starting from May and I hope eventually to catch up in the present with our recent past. Feel free to consider them ancient history.

Bless you all. 



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