Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It
Thanks to my readers who turned up at Jim
making me the most popular author at the signing and furthering
my ultimate life goal of Showing Everyone. Thanks also to
Carin and Adam of Norwich, CT, who met me for lunch on Sunday
and graciously invited me to stay with them. And very special
thanks to hot bisexual hippie chicks Simone and Meghan.
I think the seed of this idea must’ve been planted at a lunch at Grand Central’s Oyster Bar a year or more ago, when a coworker of my friend Steve’s referred offhandedly to “my favorite thing about 9/11.” My hair practically stood on end, it was such an amazing cartoon title. I grabbed my little notebook, jotted it down, and then did nothing at all with it for a year until now, when, through the mysterious alchemy of the Artistic Process, I’ve somehow managed to hone it into a much less funny cartoon. This cartoon hardly exhausts all the reasons to look forward to the next terrorist attack, but I don’t think I’ll elaborate on them here because I have an early deadline next week and I’ve already started work on Part II of this cartoon. I am hoping there will not be another terrorist attack before next Friday since if that happens my editors in Baltimore are sure to ixnay it and I’ll have to come up with another idea quick. Although on the other hand this week would be an ideal time for another terrorist attack since I’ll be out of town. Well, luckily, when the next terrorist attack happens is pretty much out of my hands.
I’ve found myself thinking about the next terrorist attack lately, partly because I am settling permanently in New York, terrorist-attack capital of the country, and because here in the northeast it’s what I’ve come to think of as terrorist weather—the bright, clear light and crisp, bracing air of early autumn. (The fact that it is not, in fact, early autumn is disquieting, but that’s another cartoon.) A couple of weeks ago I asked my friends Alex and Kristen, New York lifers, whether they ever worry about the next terrorist attack. They both hesitated and conferred via eye contact before admitting that, yeah, they kinda did. “Do you?” they asked, tentatively. “I think about it pretty much every day,” I said. We all relaxed, at ease in our shared secret terror. This certainty of the next attack’s inevitability, combined with the helpless ignorance of its time, place, and nature, has receded into a constant low-level hum of anxiety in the nerve endings, especially for those of us who live in New York or Washington, D.C. It's just a few degrerees warmer than the normal background radiation of the fear of death that suffuses everyone’s internal universe. You try to figure out how you'd get out of the subway;* you imagine all your friends anxiously calling and emailing to find out whether you're okay; you wonder whether that plane isn't flying awfully low. Kristen happened to be a block away from the water main explosion at 40th and 2nd this summer, which she said everyone in the vicinity at first assumed must be a terrorist attack, and that in addition to the other, more vivid and immediate emotions that seized the crowd, like panic and mortal terror, there was an insidious, unmistakable strain of relief--relief that at least the waiting was over, here it was, this was it, finally, the next attack. Like the relief of letting out your breath after holding it a long time, or of being startled after long suspense, or at finally being struck after waiting, hunched and cringing, for a blow. The Worst is never quite as bad as dreading the worst. Unless of course The Worst turns out to be having to jump from a window a thousand feet up rather than be immolated by flaming jet fuel, given which choice I guess pretty much any of us would gladly opt for a lifetime of crippling dread.
“ Barn Slut” is a title appropriated from myself—longtime readers may recall that it first appeared in a cartoon called “Whatcha Wanna Do?” drawn seven years ago, during my first winter in New York. For some reason it’s been on my mind lately too.
* Incidentally, my friend Aaron pointed out on a visit to New York that a comparatively cheap and much more effective use of Homeland Security funding, rather than having machine-gun-toting cops randomly searching passenger's bags on the subway, would be to upgrade the PA system, so that you could actually understand an official saying, "There is a terrorist atttack in progress, please remain calm and await instructions, you will all be killed shortly" rather than hearing a blaring unintelligible buzz that sounds like "SHERBET SHERBET BURVIL PENNSACOLA."