Three Mile Harbor

Three Mile Harbor, I’m under the sun
It’s my little secret, I’m glad you could come
Three Mile Harbor, I’m down on the pier
I hope we can keep it, we’re lucky to be here.

The words come lazily, there on the dock.

I’ve borrowed Sean’s guitar while he and Kathy are at work, up the road at Michael’s. It’s only four or five in the afternoon on another perfect day, August twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth. I’d gotten to town on Friday night or Saturday morning, and now, after a few gin and tonics, have wandered to the dock, guitar in hands, lying there and staring at the blue sky, there on Three Mile Harbor. Lazy I strum, until the words come.

Back in Williamsburg, Labor Day has passed but the heat lingers on, the humid days the fire trucks the car alarms and stereos, never a moment’s peace in the ’hood and I yearn to return. But summer’s over, I’m another year older, and everyone’s getting down to business again. Another summer is over, gone, never to return. And, but for those couple days, I’ve missed it. Again.

Now I am thirty-five. I write for Billboard magazine, and that’s something, but I’m poor, I’m alone, I live in a ghetto, and I don’t even play in a band anymore. It’s a fool’s errand, that, and will only break your heart.

I was in the shower when the disembodied voices on the radio said that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I wasn’t sure if I had heard that right. For a while, on the radio, witnesses were saying it was a little twin-engine plane. Then, incredibly, another slammed into the other. I hurried to the television and saw the awful images.

Everyone was so dazed, that day. For a long time, I’d still intended to go to the office. Only slowly came the realization that the subway may not be running, and later still did the magnitude become clear.

One tower collapsed.

Still intending to walk to the subway and from there to the office, closing the apartment door, a glance toward the roof. The door was open. I didn’t want to look, but did.

My building is a few blocks from the East River, and across that Manhattan. The roof offered a close, vivid view, and from there I watched the second tower burn and burn and burn, until it too came down.

We all watched, a lot of us, for a long time. Someone had a radio, and we listened as a plane crashed into the Pentagon, another in a field somewhere. My neighbor Guy was a friend of mine. We had been in a band together some years earlier. He was from England. He was a graphic designer and did Web design for a bank in Number Four World Trade Center, there on the complex.

I went down three flights to his apartment. He was there, very shaken. He had been a little late for work, on the street, he said, when the second plane hit, and saw the massive explosion above and people leaping from the upper floors. He trudged home, over the bridge.

We watched it on television for a while.

He’s dead now, Guy. Only a few months later, he got some rare cancer. There were tumors growing all over, on his organs, on his spine, ultimately on his brain. He went back to England, and he died. I was too broke to fly over for the funeral.

In the afternoon, I went to a shabby bar called Greenpoint Tavern and spent all my money. The bars were packed, everyone glued to the television, but also talking and being together.

Smoke poured into the sky for days. The enormous emptiness where the World Trade Center had stood, unreal. The negative space of the imposing towers brought into view smaller, beautiful buildings from a hundred years ago, though. It’s terrible to say, but it’s true.

You know, the eastern seaboard was having the most gorgeous late-summer days, absolutely perfect. Comfortable temperatures and beautiful blue skies. That morning had been, like the others, sublime.

And then the skyline was very, very beautiful, but for the huge black smoke above, slowly, gently carried away in the cool breeze of those perfect late summer days.

On Thursday, I was at that crummy Laundromat/post office on Bedford and South First, sitting outside in one of the wooden chairs that lay around the place. A van made its way through the traffic on Bedford, and someone had written “Fuck you Arab,” with their finger, in the dirt on one of the rear windows. I had to get out.

I was back in the Springs and having a drink at Michael’s that evening. Shaken, not stirred, here the stress and fear might disappear.

It’s a gentle blur, now. The next night we went to someone’s house, and they joined us and from there we were at the Montauket, and as the sun set a drunken choir spontaneously formed to render “God Bless America,” there on the banks of Fort Pond Bay.

But all I knew was dread because the next day I had to return. Best to do as the locals do and drink, and drink, and drink, and take drugs, and talk about something else until four or five or six a.m.

But then it was fall, and slowly the fear subsided, and it was cool again, and you could be comfortable and wear your turtlenecks and tight jeans and boots and leather jacket and drink red wine and get a nice warm buzz in the evening, there in your tiny apartment, alone. And you could finish that song, there in your tiny apartment, and maybe someday people would hear it, there in New York and East Hampton, and it would be some kind of document, a record of that time that we will never come back from.

Three Mile Harbor, we’re driving to town
We’re nearing the end, it’s just after sundown
Three Mile Harbor, and September sunshine
The future is pending, and I’m feeling fine.