I was grateful today that it wasn’t one of those blue-sky September days, but muggy and cloudy. Every September when the sky is that clear, unclouded blue I remember how lovely it was on 9/11 in 2001, and how that day fell apart into terror and dread.
It’s amazing to me how New York City has come back and how people have carried on with their lives. New Yorkers (and New Jerseyites, for many of them were killed that day) are tough.
The reading of the names still makes me cry, and the footage of the attacks is still horrifying. But every day people commute to the city to work, and millions of others live there. The Freedom Tower looms over lower Manhattan. Downtown businesses came back. Children have been born who will have no personal memory of what happened. Tourists come and go in their hordes. At least now they have a memorial to look at instead of a gaping hole.
“Never forget” is the motto you see at many fire stations and police stations, throughout the tri-state area, where first responders poured into the city to help the New York City forces. But I wonder, will the day come when the pain is not remembered? At least, will the day come when a blue September sky doesn’t make us uneasy?
I live in a small town in the Hudson Valley, not in the big city, although it isn’t far away. Most of the people who live here commute to New York City or work for a company nearby, and a few work for the people who live in the area. It’s become increasingly more expensive over the years, both for real estate and the cost of living. So the people who live here are less working-class than they were 20 years ago.
On the other hand, there is a wider variety of ethnic groups than there were several years ago–everybody isn’t Irish or Italian any more (although plenty still are.) But people tend to be prosperous and suburban. You don’t see women with multi-colored hair or men with multiple piercings. We’ve started to see bushy beards and tattoo sleeves as hipsters have started moving in to raise families.
There’s one guy who is different. He’s lived here for several years. He is big, brawny, with long grey hair and a grey beard. He looks like he ought to be riding a Harley. Except he wears a skirt.
He is not the least bit effeminate. He wears athletic socks and running shoes, flannel shirts in winter and voluminous dress shirts or t-shirts in the summer. And he wears them with a pleated or gathered skirt, sometimes in denim, sometimes in a lighter cotton fabric. Once I saw him in a wool kilt, but only the once. His skirts generally come just below his knees, so he can walk along with an easy stride. Sometimes in the summer he wears a broad-brimmed straw hat, like people wear in the tropics for sun protection. So far as I can tell, he doesn’t wear jewelry or makeup.
I have seen him walking along the sidewalk with grocery bags, by the main road that runs through the river towns. I saw him on a winter day picking his way along the sidewalk through the snow. In a flannel shirt and a gathered skirt.
Every time I’ve seen him I was driving, so I’ve never had a chance to ask him what his story is. I’m not sure I could be rude enough to do that, anyway. Does he find pants constricting? Does he sew his skirts himself? They’re pretty big, like him, so I don’t know exactly where he could buy them ready-made. Is this some kind of political stand against sex roles as defined by clothing?
Whatever his reasons, I admire the way he does what he wants without regard for public opinion. I hope no one hassels him for wearing his skirts. And I’d love to know why he does it.