I was holding my five-month-old son this morning and thought it would be fun to listen to some music and sway with him a bit. He can’t quite dance yet. It was a gray morning, so I put on “The Chauffer” by Duran Duran and we wiggled in time. After that I put on “Changing Opinion” by Philip Glass and Paul Simon. May I recommend you listen to it as you read? It’s 2011 and you’re on a computer or smartphone, so you can do that now. Ten years ago, unless you owned the album, it would have been more difficult to summon a song from the ether. Ten years ago it was September 8, 2001. I was at a wedding in France. I didn’t have a son or a wife at that point, but I already loved “Changing Opinion.” I’d first heard the song a few years earlier when I began babysitting for Reggie the cat. Reggie belonged to my friends Bobby and Gerry in New York City. Bobby and Gerry were friends with my mom, and when I moved to New York to go to college, they were the only two people I knew in town. They were very kind to me, and whenever they went on trips they let me stay at their apartment and take care of Reggie, who was black and had a white chest. They had a great collection of CDs and I loved to sit and pore through them and discover new music. One album that particularly rocked me was Philip Glass’s “Songs From Liquid Days.” Though his music is usually instrumental, this album found him collaborating with lyricists and singers and creating individual songs. The lyrics of “Changing Opinion” are written by Paul Simon and sung by Bernard Fowler, and it’s the best song on the album, though they’re all very good.
Bobby, Gerry, and Reggie’s apartment was on the 24th floor of a building on Duane Street, at the bottom of Manhattan. The twin towers of the World Trade Center wholly dominated the view from their windows. The buildings were, quite literally, all you could see, even though they were a quarter of a mile away. So instead of sky, from Reggie’s apartment, you saw the towers.
I used to put on “Changing Opinion” and sit on the floor of their living room, pet Reggie, look at the buildings, and think, “Wow. I really like those buildings.” They were monolithic and elemental in their size.
They seemed to say, “We are here. We will be here.” Not that they spoke audibly, or in English.
It would have been roughly as shocking to hear them speak as it would have been to hear a mountain or a lake say, “Hey, cool shirt.”
The best time to look at them was at sunset and sunrise. They would glow brilliant pink or orange, depending on the day. THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL. Their majesty was so overwhelming that I used to take girls to Reggie’s sometimes because when you saw the towers at sunset, you wanted to procreate. Such was their magnificence.
They aren’t there anymore. The world does, in fact, feel different with them gone. I am glad that the song that makes me remember those buildings is called “Changing Opinion.” It is easy to look at people’s responses to 9/11 and judge them. I know because I do it. But I suspect that the most useful thing I could do to honor the people who died that day and in the wars that followed is to look inside myself and at the opinions and beliefs I cling to and see what I can change to effect some positive change in this mixed up world.
Around 2,500 years ago, when the world’s tallest building wasn’t very tall, some dude in India said this: “Hatred never ceases by hatred in this world. By love alone it ceases. This is eternal law.”
Do you have an opinion on that?