Thursday, September 22, 2011

Money (That's What I Want)

The pizza place had just opened.  It was around 11:00 a.m. and I had decided to sit in the bar to order my pizza to go.  The waitstaff was sitting around waiting.  All the TVs were on with 9/11 tributes from all the different stations. The waitresses were talking about their weekend so far and watching stories about the heroic exploits of the FDNY.  Some stations had live coverage at ground zero while the list of victims names were read aloud.   Others had interviews with all sorts of people from first responders to evacuees to loved ones left to deal with tragedy.

I've got one eye and ear on the TV.  I've got the other set on the waitresses.  Each person is going through their own personal ritual.  Hair up just so.  Apron tied this way, not that.  Order pad tucked here or there.  One of the women was talking about dancing so much at a wedding the day before that she was exhausted.  In a good way.  Another was talking about living in NY in '01.  She remembered so much I couldn't possibly do justice to it here.  The bartender was sharing a funny text exchange from the night before.  The wedding dancer was saying that her aunt (I think) had been exhorting her to go catch the bridal bouquet. Evidently there was no way she was gonna get up there to try and catch that bouquet. 

"I don't like all of that tradition stuff". That was one of the other waitresses.  There was a buzz of responses to that. 

I didn't really hear any of it though. 

I'm watching ground zero on TV.  People there are making rubbings of names on the monument.  Water is cascading over the wall of the fountain disappearing into that black, black square in the middle. 

All the noise in the bar quickly fades as I hear that young woman's words swirling through my brain.  I'm suddenly alone in a room full of people.  I am amazed at the words I've just heard.  Even though her statement was about weddings I am immediately thinking of so many other things.


1. the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice; a story that has come down to us by popular tradition.
2. something that is handed down; the traditions of the Eskimos.
3. a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting; The rebellious students wanted to break with tradition.
4. a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices
5. a customary or characteristic method or manner; The winner took a victory lap in the usual track tradition.

Where would we be without traditions? In so many ways our lives are driven by tradition. I mean when you get right down to it. Aren't they? It doesn't matter your religious leanings or your political views; we mark time - the passing of seasons and years, well so many things really, in some traditional way.
I don't know how many times I had a toss with my daughter or son on the first warm day of the year just to loosen up the ol' arm.  It's a tradition taken up by many fathers.  It's a tie to the past and a hope for the future.  Or that walk in the woods we always took in the spring to see the green shoots coming up through the winter weary ground.  On family trips there was always a particular place we'd stop.  That highway rest stop that marked a leg of the journey.  It was something you could count on.  Watching a certain video at Christmas time just to make sure you were getting in the spirit of things.   There are so many life affirming traditions.  So many things we hang onto to let us know everything's gonna be all right.

We traditionally commemorate dark times too though.  The memorial at ground zero is of a tradition ages old.  People have gathered to remember lives lost in many places.  Auschwitz, Gettysburg, Hiroshima, Chernobyl; these are just a few of the places people go to remember, to mourn, or just to try and figure out how we could do what we do to each other.

Yup.  People travel to these places.  In fact people travel to these places so much there's a term in the travel industry for it.  Dark tourism. Or of course death tourism.  In an article on

I must be gettin' old.  I never thought the phrase "Isn't anything sacred?" would pass through my brain pan.  I mean it's about death and how people deal with the unknown we all must face.  It shouldn't be about making sure you have a nice stay at some hotel just so you'll remember and use them again on some other trip some where else.  Ya know?

Well, I'll see ya 'round.





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