We could hear him before we saw him.
A light strumming on a guitar followed by a riff on his harmonica, floated through the evening air. As we walked closer we could see the Japanese fellow, earnestly singing Billy Joel’s The Piano Man to his companion sitting on the bench. Until we arrived, they were the only two at the simple mosaic memorial to John Lennon, the one that said a single word: Imagine. Dylan spotted a rat under the street light and ran to take pictures of the rodent. While she knew that John Lennon was formerly a Beatle, and a wildly famous singer, it was hard for her to share the feelings we felt, the sadness of this particular creative life cut way too short.
Four African-American women sat in a single row, along a dining banquet, eating a solitary Easter Brunch at a Brooklyn diner. Each of them—ranging from 40-something to mid-seventies—was dressed in their Sunday best. Huge bedecked hats with feathers and netting topped pastel suits.
A solemn and quiet gathering of locals and tourists crowded around the massive man-made waterfalls as the wind picked up the water and sprayed our faces. Though Dylan has always heard 9/11 spoken as an event rather than simply a date, it isn’t until we were at the memorial that we realized we had to share the story of what happened that day. Why it happened. How scared, and shocked we felt.
That the waterfalls now rest where two towers once stood. We like to think Dylan is a well-informed and certainly worldly 15 year old, which she is, but try this. Ask almost any kid under the age of 16 about 9/11 and unless they were personally affected or have a superior education, it’s likely that they know little. I think it’s because we already think they remember what happened. Because they were alive then, we believe the details were imprinted on their minds, like it was ours. Never mind they were an infant or preschooler on that fateful morning. I suppose this is the importance of memorials. Not only to honor the dead, but to remind those who can remember and to spark conversation with those who can’t.
Too many times on our visit, Andy and I have entertained regrets of having never lived in New York City when we were younger, and fantasies of moving here one day. Is that evidence of a deep immaturity to not feel settled and rooted in our mid-forties? Or is that a curse of travel? Or of our particular curse? That no matter where we wander, we insert ourselves into the scene and tend to imagine a life lived in the particular location we’re visiting. It’s a dangerous curse, prone to glossing over negatives and focusing on positives. But it’s also one that has propelled many explorers, immigrants and poets, to seek not only the unexamined, but re-Imagined life.