New York Was Awesome

As I write this blog, I am in Newark International Airport on the final return of my Spring visit to the US where I schmoozed at conferences, visited dear friends, gave a bizarre seminar at Binghamton and ended with a public lecture in New York at the New York Academy of Sciences sponsored by the Nour Foundation.

I had a terrible time getting to Binghamton as Delta Airlines in their wisdom had decided on a policy of not holding flights for connecting passengers. So I missed my flight and spent a sleepless, smelly night in the same clothes in a horrid airport in Detroit. No doubt many of you have had similar experiences so I am not about to bore you with another diatribe against US domestic travel. By the time I got back to New York city, I was really grateful just to be back in a relatively large city.

So finally the public lecture in New York. The word “awesome” has lost its impact in today’s language full of superlatives. Anything appears to be awesome in today’s vernacular and so when I was told that my talk at the New York Academy of Sciences was going to be ‘awesome,’ I naturally assumed this meant that it would be better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Ground Zero from room Mar 2010

The Nour Foundation put me up in Millennium Hilton near to the academy. I was not prepared for the fact that this is bang smack next to Ground Zero which came as a complete shock. I had visited the Twin Towers just months before the 9/11 attack and so for me this was an poignant emotional experience. The porter who took me to my room told me all about the project to rebuild and how the hotel had also had to be repaired but when he opened the room curtains, I stared down in stunned silence on to the reconstruction project lit up at night with arc lighting and an army of workmen beavering away all through the day. Apparently they have no schedule to stop work.

The base of each tower is clearly visible, as these will become square waterfalls that fall inwards. The combination of the height, the proximity and the visible reminder of the structures where I had spent some time back in 2001, hit me with an unexpected sense of sadness. When I was there, I remember lying on my back in the plaza to take a photograph of the two towers rising up into the sky. I have lost that picture which is probably a good thing. Standing there in my hotel room, looking down on all that remained, triggered all the images of that terrible day – the smoke, the falling bodies, the brightness and the footage all came flooding back. This is what psychologists call flashbulb memories. I can’t imagine what it must be like for New Yorkers who were actually there.

This is where I gave my talk

I was so exhausted following my Detroit exploits that I crashed radically. When I awoke, the day was bathed in brilliant sunshine. New York never looked better. I was due to speak that night so the first thing I did was to find my venue. I found the address on google maps but at the street level I simply could not find the address. I was looking in the wrong place. It turns out the the New Academy of Science occupies the 40th floor of the skyscraper that is right next to Ground Zero. When I got to the floor where I was due to speak, I was dumbfounded.

The Manhattan skyline looking uptown from where I was speaking

Here is the view from the New York Academy of Sciences on a bright spring day. It was truly awesome.

The venue was fully booked, the talk went great and we sold all the books for the signing. My host Richard Rass from the Nour Foundation was absolutely charming and gave me a great introduction. I was not only high in the sky over New York but having an unbelievable evening. The word ‘awesome’ might be over-used but for me New York was truly awesome both in the sadness and elation I felt on the same day.

It doesn't get much better than this!


Filed under book publicity

7 responses to “New York Was Awesome

  1. podblack

    Heh, you sound like a member of the Young Australian Skeptics. ‘Awesome’. 🙂
    I took some video of GZ when I was in NY, but I was too tentative to get any closer than a street away. It felt almost (and you’ll laugh) almost against the ‘sanctity’ of the place to be a tourist and film the area. At the time, I was with a former tour-guide turned anti-9/11 conspiracy activist, Mark ‘Gravy’ Roberts – the audio of talking to him about the ‘truthers’ plaguing the area became the first interview for the Skeptic Zone podcast.

    Thanks for showing me what it looks like now – I’m very tempted to return and get closer, to learn more about how they have worked to rebuild.

  2. Steve Page

    Glad you had a good time (flights excluded), Bruce. Blighty did capsize whilst you were away, but we managed to turn it back over before you got back. 🙂

  3. Detroit airport! Yuck. I was there quite a few years ago and if it is still anything like it used to be, it is a real dump. I remember getting out of the plane and thinking, “OK, where’s the airport, then?” I was amazed that a big city like Detroit could have such a dinky little airport. Mind you, the drive through Detroit was even more depressing, with the place looking semi-abandoned, almost something from a dystopian sci-fi movie. I was very glad to get to the Canadian border and the green pastures on the other side.

  4. Yeah – that part of town is okay, and I’m glad to hear everybody has quit argufying over what to build in the hole since the politics and economics of the whole thing are a big drag.

    One of these days, Bruce, I’m going to have to read this celebrated book of yours. In the meantime, I wanted you to know that you may have inadvertently started a romance with this very blog. I wrote about it here:
    Skip down to the end to find the link back to you.

    Some would say “God works in mysterious ways.” Others would assert that nothing could be further from The Truth. I maintain that it doesn’t make much difference either way, especially on a fine spring day. I’ll hoist a pint tonight towards your continued success.

  5. Bruce,
    New York in the early spring is wonderful. Sorry about the layover nightmare. Spending so much time in an airport that you feel as if you need a change of clothes is never a good thing.

    Great view.

  6. Domestic air travel in the US is an embarrassment. Obviously the industry itself is a victim of the 9/11 terrorist attack. Millions of travelers are victimized daily by both the subsequent economic collapse of the industry and by our government’s attempt to protect us. I just shake my head and mutter “the terrorists win!” I was so disappointed to learn of your talk in Binghamton only two hours before its start – living three hours away made it impossible to hear you. I am eager to learn of the controversy you inspired. Have you thought about posting (in advance) your public speaking engagements?

  7. brucehood

    Dear Gerald,
    Sorry that you did not make it – it was for Binghampton students though. In the case of Delta, I think they simply schedule connecting flights too close together and play the numbers game as there are so many on standby to make it worthwhile. Yes, all my forthcoming talks are in the events section of the blog and I post them as soon as they are confirmed.

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