Monday, February 24, 2003
posted 7:09 AM

Wrote following for THE NATIONAL POST, September 20, 2001, where it was published as "Mr. Buk's Window":

All that terrible week I would think of the very small display window of E. Buk, a marvelously idiosyncratic antiques dealer in SoHo. E. Buk is never open. There is no shop directly behind the little window in a side street. A locked door, and, one assumes, stairs. A tarnished brass plaque suggests that you may be able to make an appointment. I never have, but when I happen on Mr. Bukís window (somehow I can never remember exactly where it is) I invariably stop, to gaze with amazement and admiration at the extraordinary things, never more than three, that heís dredged from time and collective memory. Itís my favorite shop window in all of Manhattan, and not even London can equal it in its glorious peculiarity and Borgesian potency.

Gazing into E. Bukís window, for me, has been like gazing into the back reaches of some cave where Manhattan stores its dreams. There is no knowing what might appear there. Once, a stove-sized, florally ornate cast-iron fragment that might have been a leftover part of the Brooklyn Bridge. Once, a lovingly-crafted plywood box containing exquisitely painted models of every ballistic missile in the arsenals of the US and the USSR at the time of its making. This last, redolent of both the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis, had particularly held my attention. It was obviously a military learning-aid, and I wondered what sort of lectures it had illustrated. It seemed, then, a relic from a dark and terrible time that I remembered increasingly as a dream, a very bad dream, of childhood.

But the image that kept coming to me, last week, was of the dust that must be settling on the ledge of E. Bukís window, more or less between Houston and Canal Streets. And in that dust, surely, the stuff of the atomized dead.

The stuff of pyre and blasted dreams.

So many.

The fall of their dust requiring everything to be back-read in its context, and each of Bukís chosen objects, whatever they may have been, that Tuesday: the dust a final collage-element, the shadow-box made mortuary.

And that was a gift, I think, because it gave me something to start to hang my hurt on, a hurt I still scarcely understand or recognize; to adjust one of my own favorite and secret few square yards of Manhattan, of the world, to such an unthinkable fate.

They speak of certain areas in Manhattan now as ďfrozen zonesĒ, and surely we all have those in our hearts today, areas of disconnect, sheer defensive dissociation, awaiting the thaw. But how soon can one expect the thaw to come, in wartime?

I have no idea.

Last year I took each of my children for a first visit to New York. Iím grateful now for them both to have seen it, for the first time, before the meaning of the text was altered, in such a way, forever. I think of my sonís delight in the aged eccentricities of a Village bagel restaurant, of my daughterís first breathless solo walk through SoHo. I feel as though they saw London as it was before the Blitz.

New York is a great city, and as such central to the history of civilization. Great cities can and invariably do bear such wounds. They suffer their vast agonies and they go on -- carrying us, and civilization, and windows like Mr. Bukís, however fragile and peculiar, with them.


Monday, February 24, 7 pm, at Bolen Books in Hillside Centre, 111-1644 Hillside Ave, Victoria BC, 250 595 4232

"The Tweed Curtain" is a Couplandism. See DC's Vancouver city-book, CITY OF GLASS, for the brief psychogeographic survey of Victoria in which the phrase appears. (Did you know that Victoria BC is the headquarters of global Satanism? No? You don't remember MICHELLE REMEMBERS?)

Powered by Blogger