Monday, September 26, 2011

Women Are Always Right. There, I Said It!

Hey, Nick here! Wow, has it really been two weeks since our last blog entry? I’m so sorry, guys. Sometimes life just gets the better of us. 

I wanted to talk about a topic that the women are going to love, and the men might actually hate me for. But you never know – you guys out there just may learn something valuable. It’s time for: Our Women Are ALWAYS Right: 101! 

Men, no matter how you try to spin this, there will most likely be only a handful of times in your relationship when you will actually be 100%, utterly correct about something. Believe me, you will do whatever you can to find that moment when you might actually be right. A moment in a conversation when there’s a teeny inkling of a possibility when you could possibly be right. The moment your wife or girlfriend says, “You’re right,” is probably the most glorious moment of your life. So glorious, in fact, that you will ask her to repeat it. You will celebrate with a beer and call your friends to vast in your “rightness.” You may try and get her to say it on video to keep for all time, but that usually doesn't work out.

The reason I write about this today is because last week my wrongness almost cost me $600! Two short months ago I purchased a fancy new cell phone. One with a big touch screen that basically does everything but my laundry. The salesman at the store talked me into getting this protector case for it that is supposed to make the phone break-proof. I hated this case. It’s big and bulky and looked like I had a DVD player on my hip. My wife warned me time and time again, “Don’t take that phone out of the case. You’re going to drop it.” She must have told me that a dozen times, but I’m too stubborn to acknowledge it. In my mind, there was absolutely NO WAY I would ever drop this phone. I was so delicate with it. I handled it like a newborn baby – ever so gently. ‘I didn’t need that stupid cell phone case,’ I thought. ‘I’ll show HER!’

Well, last weekend I was out with clients showing houses and just as we got to the last house I took my phone out of my pocket and it slipped from my hand. I swear, it seemed like a slow motion scene in a movie as my phone fell from my fingers and crashed, screen first, to the concrete. 

After leaving my clients, I spent 3 hours at the cell phone store where luckily my insurance covered the damage and only cost $100 (I say only, because it could have been MUCH more than that), and came home to Anne with the, “I told you so” look on her face soaking up her rightness. She didn’t even need to say the words. Needless to say, I’m back to having a phone the size of a DVD player attached to my hip.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/01 - We Need a Sense of History

On the day before my mother & father's 30th wedding anniversary, 3,000 innocent people lost their lives on American soil. 10 years later, my father reflects in his New Jersey Star Ledger blog.


On the evening of September 10, 2001, my wife and I arrived at a hotel at the Jersey shore to celebrate our anniversary. Next morning, when the planes hit, the first thing I did was call my office in NYC. The father of one of the young women who worked for me was an executive at a company on the upper floors of the World Trade Center. Waiting for some word, she did not come to the phone.

Now, in my mind's eye, it is Friday morning, September 14. I am getting off the train at Hoboken, track 17, next to the lapping waters. Ruins across the Hudson still smoulder. At noon, I leave the office after a useless morning and head out to lunch for lack of anything better to do. Flaky ashes drift over
East 29th Street .
I take a furtive glance down Madison Avenue; the sky fades from peerless blue to murky grey. I start walking, aimlessly, uncertain of which takeout place I should choose.

During the weekend, as self-administered therapy, I clean and re-stain our back deck. Every time a plane flies over into Newark Airport on an altered flight plan, I imagine an explosion.

In those days after the trauma there was plenty of unadulterated existentialism in the air: Resolution to go on with business as usual would be rudely interrupted by speculation about who did this horrendous thing -- and why. People resolved to change daily habits, become more empathic toward others. To remember the dead. In a Vanity Fair editorial, Graydon Carter declared an "end to irony" and called for a return to grounded values. No more cynicism. No more conspicuous consumption.

In retrospect – and I hadn't realized this until now, established as a teacher at Montclair State University, and no longer commuting – the fact that I had been working in the City, day in and day out, for fifteen years had a lot to do with my disposition in the weeks and months after 9/11. I felt as if I were entering the fray every time I emerged from the subway; as if I were a member of the advance-guard for the culture at large, stoically representing "American interests at home" or some such.

We were, each one of us, "soldiers of civilization," indispensable interlocking cogs determined to keep the Huge Machine cranking along. Hence the cosmopolitan surge in eye-contact, the counterintuitive desire to connect with passers-by who would have been ignored in the era before That Day.

The layers of years accrete, and iconic images of billowing smoke and gashed concrete and ruined glass remain in the forefront of my mind, and I still hear the wail of echoing sirens.

But as an historian, I have spent my writing life trying quixotically to make coherence out of events that have already happened. It's not just because, as a writer, I have come to believe that when you live through a global drama of epic proportions you need to memorialize it. And it's not just because I am compelled by a popular pedagogical obligation to "teach the conflicts."

I wish for our students that they will take some time during this grey and dreary week to reflect upon 9/11/01 as a way in to historical consciousness in general.

By Neil Baldwin