MY 9/11 STORY

We've all got one.
  1. I was the last person in Manhattan to find out about the 9/11 attacks.
    Including babies and the elderly.
  2. I was bicoastal at the time, just getting my feet wet in LA. On September 10, I spent the day with a beach volleyball player I was dating. He asked if I missed New York, and I said: "yeah, especially at this time of year. I love autumn."
    He said, "that one's FALL, right?"
  3. My agent was also Dick Cavett's agent, and he was appearing on Broadway as the Criminologist in "The Rocky Horror Show" at the time.
    I'd heard he was taking a few weeks off, and that they would be stunt-casting the role with various NYC media types. I was like: GET ME IN THERE.
  4. She got me in there. I'd be doing a week between Cindy Adams and I think Penn & Teller.
    I got the call at the Third Street Promenade. I jumped up and down. Broadway! With Sebastian Bach, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jarrod Emick, and Terrence Mann, the original Rum Tum Tugger!
  5. Rehearsals were to start the next afternoon. 9/11.
    Get on a plane TONIGHT, she told me. At the time, you could actually get a same-day flight pretty inexpensively.
  6. I didn't have time to tell anyone, or get my hands on a script. I bought Rocky Horror on DVD and watched it on my portable DVD player on the redeye.
    Because sleep was not an option.
  7. I had a whole row.
    Almost as rare these days as a portable DVD player.
  8. Got into Newark at around 6:30? 7? Hard to say.
  9. Took a car to my place in the East Village, got in around 8. Said hello and goodbye to my roommates as they left for work. Went down to my bedroom for some pre-rehearsal shut-eye.
    We had THE BEST apartment at 7th and B. Two-story four-bedroom. Mine was downstairs, at the bottom of a spiral staircase. Quiet.
  10. It was, as everyone remembers, a perfect morning. Blue and crisp. Autumn. (That one's fall.)
  11. My best friend and roommate Lee was dating this girl named Tara- TAH-ra- who was young. 23? 24? She used to call in sick from work, stay at our place, do bong hits and watch classic Match Games on the Game Show Network.
    And then tell us about them. "You wouldn't believe what Brett Somers said today." We would believe it. We'd lived through it.
  12. I slept pretty hard, the way you do when you've just come off a redeye. At around 10, I heard TAH-ra's voice upstairs and I thought: here we go. What's Richard Dawson done THIS time?
  13. I remember very clearly having this thought:
    "I literally cannot think of anything worse than having to talk to TAH-ra right now."
  14. Rolled over, slept for 3 more hours.
  15. At 1ish, I woke up for good, and figured I should go up and say hello. She might not have even known I was home at all. I wasn't supposed to be.
    Plus, some of those old Match Games are kind of funny. They got pretty drunk.
  16. I walked upstairs. Tara saw me and the look on her face was one of horror.
    I said: don't worry. It's just me. And can I tell you some exciting news?
  17. She said: are you just waking up? I said I was. She said: do you know?
  18. And I looked at the TV and something was definitely wrong.
  19. She said: The Twin Towers fell down.
    And my eyes focused on the rubble and the destruction and the seriousness in Peter Jennings' voice.
  20. I remember hyperventilating and her hugging me. She told me everything that had happened. I found out everything, all at once, from a woman who may have been high and was definitely expecting to have spent the morning with Charles Nelson Reilly.
  21. There was a roof deck on this building, with a gorgeous view of the city. We went up there. A bunch of my neighbors were there, including a few who had come from the area. They were COVERED in dust. Like mummies. I don't even know if they knew.
    But the horror was a few hours old to them. I was in jammie bottoms. I don't even know if I'd brushed my teeth. This was brand new to me. I hope at least one of them laughed about it at some point: an unspeakable horror unfolds, you barely escape with your life, the whole world shuts down, and then five hours later the able-bodied young man in 105 is like: wait, WHAT happened?
  22. I went back and forth like that for a couple of hours. Roof deck to TV and back.
    Just finding new places to say "oh my God."
  23. Cell phone service was spotty, so I couldn't reach my folks. I IM'd a friend in California and asked him to call them. "Just tell them I'm okay." He did, and they were like "of course he is, he's in LA."
    Oh. Right.
  24. The worst thing was that you couldn't help. They wouldn't let anyone near what they were just starting to call Ground Zero, and they were turning away blood donors.
    They knew what we didn't want to know: nobody was going to need blood. Nobody was alive under there.
  25. Lee came home around 3, and I don't remember which one of us suggested it, but the idea was: we should probably start drinking.
    We went to 7B, which some people call The Horseshoe Bar. The news was on there. It was silent otherwise. It never is. Especially when it's crowded, which it was.
  26. @kellysue met us there. And then my friend Ned, and then more and more. And every minute or so, someone would pop up and run outside. Like: oh God, [friend] works down there, I should check on them. I did it myself. You'd have to try your call a bunch of times before they'd go through. My good friends were all okay.
  27. The smell reached the East Village by late afternoon. It was like an electrical fire mixed with gasoline mixed with...burned hair? It was people and buildings.
    The cloud reached the East Village the next morning.
  28. The people in the bar were not at all united. When Bush spoke, everyone was silent, but when he recited a Bible verse, a few people hissed, and then others said "Hey, maybe this is giving people some comfort." Then there was live footage of bombs dropping over Afghanistan, and some people cheered and some said: NO!
  29. Somebody hung a huge American flag over 4th street that night. By the next morning, a few chunks had been ripped out of it.
  30. The bars and churches were all open and they were all packed.
  31. We went to BBar, because incredibly they were still going to have Beige that night. The first song the DJ played was Siouxsie & The Banshees' "Cities In Dust."
    We thought: well, that's a little on the nose.
  32. After a while, the gay guys in the group broke off and went to The Cock. We were drunk and afraid and nihilistic and weirdly horny.
    And it was OPEN. That's what's so weird to remember. A lot of life was going on as normal. And "disaster sex" was a real thing. Salon did a piece on it.
  33. There weren't many people there. A few were dancing. And on the edge of the dance floor, cigarette in one hand, rocks glass in the other, single tear rolling down his cheek like the Native American in the litter PSA, was
    Rufus Wainwright.
  34. We left.
  35. By then, people were starting to hang up flyers with people's faces on them. Like lost dog flyers.
    Did they think their loved ones had pulled themselves out of the pile and would just be wandering around? Lost in the city, with amnesia, waiting for a kind soul to point them home? It was the most heartbreaking thing I had ever seen, and it has not been matched. Not even close.
  36. I hung out in the city until that Thursday, when we did that special TRL episode, and I went straight from there to Penn Station, where I got on a train to Chicago, where I rented a car to drive the rest of the way back to LA, with a stop in STL to see my family. Total whim. Didn't bring a bag. Had to buy new everything.
    All they had left at the rental place was a red Mustang convertible.
  37. "Room For Squares" had just been reissued by Sony. I bought it from a Best Buy in Oklahoma once I got tired of talk radio.
    What up @john
  38. When I got back to my place in Santa Monica, it was just as I'd left it. On my kitchen table were the newspapers from September 10. Stacks of pages of news from a world that didn't exist anymore.
    What could we even have been talking about back then?
  39. I kept them. I still have them. I thought: I'll want to have these, because the world will never be as silly, as frivolous, as unserious as this, ever again.
  40. I think a lot of stupid things.