The Day We Will Never Forget
A 2020 repost for The CUT.
Originally written in 2002.
A link to a PDF of that original document can be found at the end of the page.
8:46:40 a.m. Tuesday 11 September 2001, New York, USA
was the same moment in time as
12:46:40 a.m. Wednesday 12 September 2001, Dunedin, NZ.
Remember where you were?
Remember why you were?
2001: Spring Begins
Start of September, Wellington NZ
I went to ‘Fidel’s Café’ down Cuba Street. The coffee was good and so were the muffins. The people were annoying. Trendy young urbanites, all so cool and sure about the world and how they bettered it.
I found a place to sit, down the back in the courtyard. I let the coffee open me up. I ate the muffin. I needed the fuel. The weather was good and I was preparing to cross The Strait and go far south on a mission.
Next to me hung a dartboard. For a bull’s-eye it had a map of the USA with CIA written across it. Something came to me, strongly. I took out my notebook and wrote…
Put them behind the bull’s-eye
and you only give them the power
which in turn gives power
to your own silly little revolution
Where does the real power lie?
I finished another coffee. I took the note and worked it beneath the wire of the dartboard to replace the bull’s-eye.
I strode out of the café smiling. That guy, he’s nuts. I knew what I was going to do.
The original Word file for the following trip report was created 3/09/2002 at Otago Polytechnic Dunedin.
It contains no fiction,
and no exaggerations.
Remember September 11? When the first plane slammed into the side of the World Trade Centre September 11 was already yesterday in Aotearoa.
Don’t forget it.
This rhyme was written two days before my birthday, which just happens to be Haile Selassie’s. I was in the Wellington City Art Gallery looking at New Zealand art with NZ drum’n’bass Concord Dawn cranking in my discman when it came in the flow. I knew it was prophetic, I figured Wellington’s ‘Big One’ was due, time to shake down Babylon. Sometime later I changed it a bit and added some stuff, notably changing tense from future to present.
I hand delivered a photocopy to the office of the University of Otago Press for the editor of the NZ literature and arts journal “Landfall” at about 4pm on Tuesday 11 September 2001, NZ time. I wrote “Wellington” on the back with a date for the next month and the comment “My call will be: That’ll fuckin’ learn ya!”
I also included two photocopies from a book by a Victoria University of Wellington lecturer written about a Maori prophet and the ‘Maori Millennium’. One copy was of a page from an overview of millennial prophets. I arrogantly scribbled on it that one day it would all be about me. On the other page, in reference to a point about another prophet, I wrote a comment about my having been incarcerated as a grandiose delusional psycho.
But that’s not all…..
This is the inside of the gatefold cover of the Beastie Boys’ debut album “Licensed to Ill”. The photo is taken in their hometown of New York. I also delivered a photocopy of this to the editor of “Landfall” on September 11. I scribbled a note on it asking whether the Beasties were claiming rights to being Jewish prophets, or something like that, as their license to ill. They seem to be making some kind of statement with the album cover, what else could it mean? This is clearer when you know what the outside of the cover looks like. I didn’t include a copy of that with the stuff I delivered on September 11. I wonder if the man I delivered it for was familiar with the cover? Are you?
“Licensed To Ill”
“So what’s the time?
…It’s time to get ill!”
This is a photocopy of the letter that accompanied the stuff I delivered. My ‘grandiose delusion’, as it has been clinically labelled, was obviously in full force when I wrote it. I’d decided I didn’t give a fuck if I could get any kind of help from this person or not, but I made sure to ask for it, just for the record.
This is my watch, which I had with me on September 11. This is genuinely how it displayed the date. I got an idea when I was in Wellington, prior to travelling down to Dunedin, to get a cheap stopwatch. I thought that maybe I’d give it to the publishing person as a gimmick with some message like “Who’s fast?” (“What’s the time?” would’ve also been a good line). I found the perfect stopwatch in Rebel Sports, but didn’t give it away.
What are your legs? : Springs, steel springs. What are they gonna do? : Hurl me up the track. How fast can you run? : As fast as a…(?) How fast are you gonna run? : AS FAST AS A…(?) Then let’s see you do it!
The Unbelievable Full Account of My September 11
I woke up at my friends’, ‘T and A’s’, place at Tomahawk Beach in Dunedin. It was Tuesday. I was feeling pretty charged and ready for action. I was still fired-up from the previous day.
Monday’s post had brought a letter from my mother, forwarded to me by a friend in Wellington. I had become totally estranged from my parents early that year for reasons that were comprehensively confirmed by my mother’s letter. I was pissed off, hotter than hell, you might say. I went for my first run of the spring to blow some of it out. I donned my trusty adidas Trail Response runners (the only shoes I had) and headed for the statue of the World War One soldier way off high above the bay.
I warmed up along the beach and hit the track leading up to the ridge. The track had obviously been used by a herd of cows and had become a shin-deep muddy cowshit bog. The gorse on the sides of the track made it impossible to get around. I was swearing and cursing and was considering turning back when I realised there was going to be no dodging cowshit for me. I caned it hard, straight up the guts. I passed slowly through the herd near the top and, pushing the pain, charged up to the old digger, giving it my all. I came down via Centre Road back to Tomahawk and washed the shit off my adidas in the ocean. I met Jack the huntaway puppy and still had enough to out-run him along the beach.
That evening I was hanging out in the warm kitchen with my friend ‘A’ who was cooking dinner, I was still high from my run. My mother’s letter had got me going on ideas of things like fear and security and death. “You know what I wanna be when I grow up?” I said, talkin’ shit with a grin. “I used to wanna be an assassin, but I don’t care about individuals anymore, now I wanna be a terrorist.” I ranted on about it for ages trying to express the ideas I was having. I drew some parallels with themes from the movie “Fight Club”. I thought about the last scene and imagined dropping the buildings while they were full of people. Out of everything I’d spoken and imagined (apologies to Robbie Williams for taking out Wellington’s Westpac Trust Stadium during his concert) it was the strongest image and remained in my mind when I went to bed. I didn’t recall how the beginning of the scene also starts the film. It was a surprise when I saw it again for the second time in January 02. Tyler’s opening line in the first scene is something like “This is it, ground zero, any final words to mark this grand occasion?”
When I woke up the next day it was September 11.
I’d come to Dunedin for a reason. A few weeks earlier I’d sent some writing to a publishing person and had come down to follow it up. But I wasn’t sure what I wanted to talk to this person about or how I was going to approach him. I was contemplating how and if I’d deliver a prophecy to him. Hitch-hiking down I’d told a ride that was what I was doing. So I guess I was just waiting till the time was right.
That morning I figured that today was the day. The only money I had for the coming couple of days was a bit of loose change, enough for the bus into town, but not back, leaving enough for a few photocopies at the library. Prepared for the long walk home I caught the bus into the Octagon.
I went to the library and spent ages reading and choosing some stuff which I roughly put together for the publishing person. It was all about prophets and prophecy and me. I walked down to the varsity and delivered it to his office. Then I went and sat in the sun and ate my lunch which I’d made that morning. I checked the time, it was quite late, about 4pm. I hadn’t intended on being in town so long which was good because I could go and meet ‘A’ at her work and get a ride home.
As I walked along George Street heading to ‘A’s’ work I very luckily ran into her going the other way. She’d left early and was going to a meeting. She gave me a fiver so I could wait at a café and have a coffee. I walked past an annoying Greenpeace hawker dude, I knew what I was going to do if he asked. He asked. I gave him sharp steel straight in the eyes and said with a smile “Dude, peace is highly overrated.”
I went to the café Mazagran behind the art gallery, got my usual long black and went to grab a copy of the magazine “Wallpaper”, but saw the latest (July/August) copy of “Adbusters”. “Adbusters” magazine, subtitled “Journal of the Mental Environment”, is anti-consumerism, corporate America, WTO etc. Their work is brilliant, super smart, with design concepts that are second to none.
I spent about an hour reading through it. As always, I considered their work to be very good. However I was still affected by the same ideas from the previous night. The magazine is part of an activist movement called ‘Culture Jamming’. I couldn’t help feeling that their culture jamming was just too weak and that they weren’t really jamming it hard or far enough. Operation Mayhem v. Culture Jamming, K.O.?
There was a big cool photo (two page spread?) of riot police protecting a Nike Corporation building in a street full of skyscrapers (which city I don’t know). That made me think about the WTO protestor recently shot dead in Europe (I was thinking WTO, but was it an IMF protest?) I started thinking about an Adbusters video competition. It all seemed like some kind of high stakes challenge and caused me to have another wild fantasy which followed on from the previous night’s.
1999 Seattle WTO Protests
(As seen in Adbusters #36)
I visualised the ultimate Adbusters culture jamming video clip. The opening frame is the photo, in runs me, wearing my adidas (‘forever sport’). I sprint through the riot police fending off tackles, rugby styles, and make it through the doors into the Nike building. I turn and give the finger to the camera before detonating the super explosive strapped to my chest (which I changed in the next re-run to my custom-made backpack) which drops the building to the ground. The closing copy comes up saying “Just did it.” Adbusted, big time! I liked it, I replayed it a few times. I took out my pen and notebook to storyboard it, but I struggled with my bad sketching skills on the first frame and besides it was time to go.
Come evening I was totally relaxed. I had completed my current mission. Now I was open for something new to lead me on. I smiled contently as I reran my day, especially as the afternoon’s visualisation played one last time before I drifted off to sleep as peacefully as I ever had.
I awoke early the next morning and could hear there was a buzz going on. ‘T’ came and told me to get up so I could see what had happened in the middle of the night when I was ‘dead to the world’ fast asleep. Wow. What a confirmation!
“The CIA did it” was my call.
“Brad Pitt did it!” was ‘A’s’.
We watched the World Trade Centre go down in a cloud of dust on a black and white TV screen not much bigger than a slice of bread.
“Babylon is fallen,” sung ‘T’, from a song by the band Steel Pulse.
Shoes by adidas.
From Rebel Sport Wellington.
“From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron” Rev19:15
Still to come: Motherfucking Earthquake Wave Nirvana, Boxing Day 04
03/09/03 September Death Spring
Exactly one year after the original Word file was created at Otago Polytechnic, 03/09/03, I put my car off a cliff up an isolated national park road. Was it an accident? I didn’t do it intentionally, but I had just blown off living in Christchurch and my friends, and had gone on the run with suicidal visions of some kind of “Thelma and Louise” finale. But that’s another death spring story…
Nothing seems to kill me no matter how hard I try Nothing’s closing my eyes Nothing can beat me down for your pain or delight No And nothing seems to break me no matter how far I fall Nothing can break me at all No one for giving up though not invincible I know :-Chris Cornell, Soundgarden “Blow Up The Outside World”
Fight Club: The 2019 Flame Zone Dream Build Read
(Post: December 2019)
People are always asking, did I know about Tyler Durden’s birthmark. Yeah nah. Actually yeah, nah nah. Nobody ever asked, and I only just read the book a couple months ago. This year was the 20th anniversary of the film’s release, but the book was published ’96/97. While camped up for a few months in the bush, at my ‘Flame Zone Dream Build’ site, I took the opportunity to buy the book on Amazon for Kindle. Wow. Smokin’ hot.
“You have a birthmark, Mr. Durden,” the bartender says. “On your foot. It’s shaped like a dark red Australia with New Zealand next to it.”
“Everybody knows about the birthmark,” the bartender says. “It’s part of the legend. You’re turning into a fucking legend, man.”
Huge praise to Chuck Palahniuk, and also to Jim Uhls who wrote the screenplay. Both phenomenal. And not just because of what I did to it in 2001. Visionary shit all ’round. Check this bit from the book, in light of what blazed in 2019…
What Tyler says about being the crap and the slaves of history, that’s how I felt. I wanted to destroy everything beautiful I’d never have. Burn the Amazon rain forests. Pump chlorofluorocarbons straight up to gobble the ozone. Open the dump valves on supertankers and uncap offshore oil wells. I wanted to kill all the fish I couldn’t afford to eat, and smother the French beaches I’d never see.
I wanted the whole world to hit bottom.
Pounding that kid, I really wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every endangered panda that wouldn’t screw to save its species and every whale or dolphin that gave up and ran itself aground.
Don’t think of this as extinction. Think of this as downsizing.
For thousands of years, human beings had screwed up and trashed and crapped on this planet, and now history expected me to clean up after everyone. I have to wash out and flatten my soup cans. And account for every drop of used motor oil.
And I have to foot the bill for nuclear waste and buried gasoline tanks and landfilled toxic sludge dumped a generation before I was born.
I held the face of mister angel like a baby or a football in the crook of my arm and bashed him with my knuckles, bashed him until his teeth broke through his lips. Bashed him with my elbow after that until he fell through my arms into a heap at my feet. Until the skin was pounded thin across his cheekbones and turned black.
I wanted to breathe smoke.
So great. Especially as breathing smoke became a near constant occurrence due to all the distant, and not so distant, bushfires.
If you have neither seen the movie nor read the book, then you must watch the movie first. That way will considerably soften the spoilers. And now you’ve read my story, you’re really in for a treat. Really. I’ll paste the end of the first chapter. It’s available online as a preview. It won’t affect seeing the movie.
Maybe we would become a legend, maybe not. No, I say, but wait.
Where would Jesus be if no one had written the gospels?
I tongue the gun barrel into my cheek and say, you want to be a legend, Tyler, man, I’ll make you a legend. I’ve been here from the beginning.
I remember everything.
(Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. First published in Australia in 1997. Penguin Random House Australia. Kindle Edition.)