AxeMan; home from Paris, has a hard landing. He feels like he has been dropped into Dante’s 9th Circle of Hell, much of which is illustrated on the arms, legs, thighs, upper and lower backs (as well as areas he is gratefully not privy to) of the hordes parading the streets of the neighbor-hood in Brooklyn where Euro-twang is the most recognizable lingua franca, the argot, and where he has been spending an increasing amount of time over the past several years. That circle starts and ends at the new Ground Zero, Union Square, scant minutes and three metro stops away. By August of 2001 Union Square was, if never sleepy, still manageable. True, there had been significant change in the twenty-four years that AxeMan had travailed (with a birds-eye view) in an office twenty floors above the legendary six square blocks where a great deal of New York history had been written. In that building, as in much of lower Manhattan, afflicted men of one variety or another carried large portfolios containing photographs, magazine layouts, architectural drawings and other oversized data in and out, up and down elevators, across the still maneuverable streets. They had their own argot, portions of which they recited as they ‘patiently’ waited elevators to move and/or for lights to change. They D-I-D N-O-T jaywalk, a practice that could easily have wiped them out, but they were dissappeared anyway by the predecessor to FedEx; bicycle messengers. These cyclists, ougtrageously costumed as Tour de France racers, were, more often than not, African American, and they were like piece workers, hustling like mad just to make a buck. Surely there are recorded accidents of the cyclo-messengers and the pedestrian messengers who probably never knew who or what hit them. More interestingly, to AxeMan, the two-wheeled maniacs made for an extraordinary collision between themselves and the newly minted hip-motic student culture generated by the lofty dream of N$Y$U, Cooper Union, Parsons and the New School for Social Research. Hip-hop, Double Dutch, break dancing and Afrika Bambaataa. Hip-hop, the name, was said to have been first used in print in The Village Voice, another downtown denizen directly across the street from AxeMan’s center of operations. Change had been incremental, but by September 11, 2001 all the players were in place for the seismic downtown shift.
AxeMan’s creator, less than two hours after the second building crumpled in dust, came to read Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish to a congreation of near zero. All that was missing was the TV cameras. It took them two whole days to find this new locus of public grief, but when they touched down, mobile units all over, Union Square raised itself from the dead. A new ground zero, a cultural mashup, had emerged. He became increasingly isolated in a corner that he had always thought represented some special place in his own cultural development. Change that he had embraced for more than thirty years was at the brink of altering his perceptions. Change.org and their endless petitions, almost all of them worthy, were creating an overload for his hardening head. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 had given him a sense of the possibility of Hope, but Change as he saw it was a somewhat more complicated game. Another extension of the Ninth Circle of Hell (more to come). If the creator has a master plan, WTF is it?