Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 2008: Episode 1: Sprint Customer Service, Lloyd LaCuesta, the Day Before and the Month Ahead

It is 9/11. 12:34 as I look up at my clock. Time will pass as I type this message.


Starting at midnight, step outside my door, and take some pictures of the stars. Think about the meaning of the stars, fate versus human choice, the meditative and contemplative nature of night. Consider the inspiration it provides, as the Greeks felt inspired by Urania, or how Schiller’s Ode to Joy asked us to seek our Creator beyond the stars. Reflect how all of this relates to our present world in the post-9/11 era. Walk around the neighborhood. Maybe be a bit ludicrous, a la Philip K. Dick, and go get something at the local 7/11 that somehow resonated with 9/11. Even if it was just the daily newspaper.

I was on the phone with Sprint Customer Service for well more than a half-hour because VersaMail on my Sprint Treo 650 was not working. I was trying to send an email from my phone to Lloyd LaCuesta of KTVU, Channel 2. In the end, I got my emails sent off. Yet I stayed on the phone with Sprint to get them to open a customer service ticket for a problem with the Sprint Treo 650 VersaMail, and also, to get them to correct their Sprint Customer Service (*2) interactive voice response (IVR) system. It was like pulling teeth tonight, but in the end, I got Ticket # 17816784-080911. As that long string of digits indicates, it was now 9/11, 2008.

Wow! Lloyd LaCuesta!

I contacted KTVU Channel 2 on the afternoon of 9/10. My call log shows the call went out at 4:21 pm. They took me sincerely and seriously. I told them what I was trying to accomplish. I spoke the names: Flowers in the Cracks. Global Understanding.

I was asked some questions. I responded. What do people need to do if they are interested? Take pictures. Put them up on their own blog. Or send them to me by email. Alright.

KTVU took down my thoughts and said they’d pass it on to the powers-that-be to see if they thought it newsworthy. I gave them my cell phone number to contact me back. It felt solid. Real.

Then I packed my gear to go to Castro Street in downtown Mountain View. I had to go deposit a check at Wells Fargo, and then meet Franklin Pham and Harshi Lanjewar at Books, Inc. Franklin had recovered my lost notebook, and also had a very ludicrous encounter with a religious zealot on campus at San Jose State University (SJSU). It was time to share news and celebrate the day’s successes, as well as to prepare for the next day: 9/11.

At 5:16 pm my phone rang. I was sitting in the local Wells Fargo branch on Castro Street, getting ready to deposit my check to help fund the future of the Global Understanding Institute. It was none other than Lloyd LaCuesta.

He was a great gentleman. He listened to my story for 9/11, and what we were planning for Flowers in the Cracks. The power of that call, and Lloyd’s softspoken voice, are a dichotomy and a truth. His gentle familiar voice was speaking to me. He wanted to know what people could do. If they took pictures of 9/11, what should they do with them?

Lloyd had to head towards the airport, so he asked me to send him an email for follow-up. Post them on their own sites. Send me email where their pictures were posted. I’ll paste a copy of my email to Lloyd here for everyone to see in just a bit.

I was struck with the fact that, the ideas and the perspective I had to commemorate 9/11 had been deemed “possibly newsworthy.” Had we made the news? Not yet. We were, or are, a candidate for news. A candidate idea to change the world.

1:07 AM: Still Typing, Reflecting on the Day Before, and the Month Ahead

This evening as I walked to Castro Street, I called my brother Eugene in New York. He is facing becoming a father for the second time. The new kid is expected around the end of the month. I reflected how all of my nieces and nephews were born in the post-9/11 period. We spoke about how I am looking forward to my Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk, on September 27, 2008.

I told Eugene I’ll be walking in my Legio X Fretensis Roman reenactment gear. If people ask me why I am doing a suicide prevention walk in Roman reenactment gear, I’ll make a bit of a history lesson of it, comparing ancient Roman attitudes towards suicide to modern philosophies and ethics, such as the Christian attitude towards suicide.

Christians suffer to live through the sort of shameful acts Romans would have committed suicide over. Because Roman ethics were based in “death before dishonor,” people took thier life when they felt they could not recover from a personal blow, whether physical, emotional, psychological or economic, delivered by fate, chance, circumstances, or their political enemies.

Yet because Christianity is based in forgiveness, in the admission of our errors, in taking responsibility for mistakes, in healing broken relationships, suicide is not a social necessity. We are suffered to live so that we can redeem ourselves from our poor situation. We have a chance to redress grievances with others, or to redeem ourselves for our failings. A whole different perspective!

Not that I mentioned this to my brother today, yet I also want to draw attention to the issues of suicide-homicide. For that is truly what the 9/11 hijackers were. People who were so bent on killing others, they did not care if they killed themselves.

To truly solve the problems facing our world, we have to convince people to give up suicide-homicide. It is not only Islamic terrorists. There are entirely US-born-and-bred disturbed persons, such as the shooters and bombers at our schools, our businesses, our places of recreation, our government offices, and at our churches.

Yet I needed to get going and deposit my check in the bank. I actually orbited the front door of Wells Fargo a few times chatting with my brother. At last, I headed in. That’s when Lloyd called.

After speaking with Lloyd LaCuesta while sitting at Wells Fargo, I walked down Castro Street and talked with my friend Molly. She had a sort of up-and-down day, which ended pretty down. Yet she was happy to hear about my enthusiasm. Over the afternoon and evening I also touched base with my friends Eli and Lorelei. It seemed like a lot of people were buzzing around to chat. There was energy in the air. With my phone buzzing consistently, I felt like a communications hub.

Getting into Books, Inc., I began a conversation with a brand new friend, Purima. We talked about our mutual stints at Clean Water Action, our hopes to join Environment California (one of the initiatives of the ever-pervasive CALPIRG) and, more generally, environmentalism and fund raising. Interestingly, there was a teller at Wells Fargo who had worked for Environment California a few years ago. We shared smiles and that spiritual, smiling “right on” of people who want to see the same cause succeed. Purima is the same way. Young, enthusiastic, and idealistic for our world.

Over the course of the evening, Purima was brought into the American Dream circle of Franklin and Harshi and I. As I typed up my ASAP email to Lloyd LaCuesta, I did very poorly at eating my dinner before it got cold. Franklin and Harshi meanwhile helped Purima solve a computer virus problem she had with her PC, and recovered vital files of her artwork.

She was interested in Franklin’s movie, and what we were doing for 9/11. I gave her a Global Understanding movement poster, and had her sign my atlas. She is from Chennai, India.

After a bit, I went to hear the author Aaron Greenspan read from his book Authoritas. He spoke about his education at Harvard and the controversy surrounding the foundation of Facebook. I asked a few questions after the signing. One of them was about the difference between the varnished truth of a friend of his, telling a fictional account of those days at Harvard, versus his work of non-fiction covering mostly he same events. He also talked about the issues of hype surrounding Facebook, when in reality, the economics showed the company was still losing money. A claim which may be hard to prove, given Facebook’s private corporation status.

I compared Aaron’s observations and situation to my recent essay on the Platonists, who preferred the unvarnished truth, versus the Sophists, who liked to polish the truth a bit. I asked who was likely to win. Aaron smiled and laughed, and said that the issue likely would not be objectively resolved in this century.

He signed a copy of his hardcover for me: “We’ll see if the Sophists win, but for now, hopefully they’ll have an interesting book to read. Thanks for coming! Aaron.”

When I returned, Purima and I spoke more, and worked together to launch a very basic, very simple website for Sardines Ristorante Italiano, in Fort Worth, Texas. (Nightly Jazz!) Sean at Tech Support was a gentleman as he walked us through a few hiccups in getting the site off the ground. Once we got underway, I was glad to show her how to get things done on the web “Old School!” Hand-cranking HTML made the evening feel very 1993 all over again.

We both committed to working together over the coming weeks to get it in better shape. CSS and all that. I’ll aid developing her web knowledge and graphics career. In return, she’s voluntarily committed herself into the ranks of Global Understanding. Quid pro quo, and extended reciprocity. Social dynamics in action!

2:06 AM: Time for a walk.

Sprint is taken care of. This essay is written. I’ll post the letter I sent to Lloyd LaCuesta explaining more what we are doing, and then go for that walk. Time to return to the ideals I had in mind for the day. Time to go reflect under the stars.

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