Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Smoke Cloud, Summer Day

Sudden smoke over Manhattan on a gorgeous blue-sky day takes a New Yorker down some dark ways.

On Saturday I’m walking after late brunch (wild greens with grilled chicken strips, tarragon dressing), spending the afternoon with quiet space and a large book. The dark smudge over the skyline is completely unexpected, completely unwelcome. The chalky burnt dead smell of 2001 is in the air, faint but that’s not something you ever forget, ever.

Let’s be clear: this is nothing like 9/11, nothing at all. On that morning the smoke bank — I’m not exaggerating — covered this entire scene and more, from shoreline to highest point, from Chambers Street to the tip of the island, and blocked even the outlines of the river buildings from view. On that morning, time stopped and ran out like broken film spilling out of a stuttering projector. Still, I can’t help but flash for a moment from this crisp sunny beautiful day back to that one.

Brain: Hey, look at that. You know what that’s like?
Linus: It is not.
Brain: Well excuse me, pardon me for thinking.

I text a few friends, leave a couple of messages. What’s burning? The Brooklyn Bridge looks open to uneventful traffic moving both ways. The ferries are still running. No military presence in the harbor, no combat air patrol overhead. We know how to look for such things, these days. If the city troops aren’t on the road, then there’s nothing I can do. I look, snap a few pictures, and move on down the Promenade to the bridges, and the lazy park on the river.

Fast Forward, Change Gears: Usually Wednesdays are working days on my short schedule, but today I’m home on break after a Tuesday catalepsy incident with a failing network switch (which, my lucky friends, I will not tell you about — I am learning that one of the great cherished secrets of being the Computer Guy is that the less you tell people about your day, the happier they are about it). It’s cold and rainy, and if ever a set of days said “Summer’s Over,” it’s these ones rah-cheer. Now, either I can get started on all sorts of stuff that really needs doing at home, or I can go to the movies — so that’s an easy choice, and I want to see Stardust before it slips away. So off I go.

It’s a beautiful picture — not quite as magical as The Princess Bride, but running the same roads. There’s some this and some that and the story is as easy to wear as a familiar pair of warm gloves. Soon enough (no spoilers here) Charlie Cox as Tristan is chained up to Claire Danes as Yvaine, which never seems to happen to me as anyone.

While they await certain death and destruction, he explains why he’s rushing to finish his quest by the end of the week. You see, there’s this girl. Of course. But not just any girl. She’s Sienna Miller. And he needs to get The Thing and bring it to her before her birthday, which is Tuesday or something. Claire Danes nods sagely, to indicate that this makes no sense to her at all.

So, you’re trying to buy her love, she offers. Are you sure that’s wise? No no, he explains. It’s not that he’s buying her love, he’s proving how much he loves her by making this trip, mounting this voyage, plunging into the heart of this matter. It’s to show how much he loves her and how worthy he is, that’s why he’s here.

I see, says Claire Danes, who does. And … what is she doing to show you how worthy she is of your love?

Hmm, I think to myself. Hmm.

About Linus

The man behind the curtain. But couldn't we get a nicer curtain?
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