On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was going to the bathroom when my mother knocked on the door and told me to come out quick. I nervously wiped myself, perhaps a little inadequately, and indignantly asked her why she couldn’t just leave me alone. “Building explosion,” she said. Immigrant English often comes abridged. “That’s a movie,” I said, quickly dismissing her. She gave me this hurt and embarrassed look. “On the news,” she said, pointing to the screen. I imagined a news broadcast savvyly employed within the narrative of a movie about a terrorist attack, an actor playing the anchorman, the extras playing the frantic victims, the advertising-enabling sheen of urgency just as sensational as the actual news. What network plays an action movie on a Tuesday morning? I reluctantly looked at the television as the second plane hit.
In Super Mario Bros,  in whose parallel universe the antagonist King Koopa’s castle looks exactly like The World Trade Center, the towers are disintegrated using a magical contraption conveniently shaped like a joystick. At one hour into the planes crashing into the towers, they too seem to vanish into the very mushroom cloud of dust their collapse created. What seems eerily prophetic may have just been common sense, for if one—be it screenwriters, or terrorists—were to choose an American icon of skyward progress and profane commerce to destroy, it would likely be The World Trade Center. What happened was not so much a political epiphany than the natural, or at least inevitable, conclusion to a laborious narrative stemming back to Muhammad and Jesus, in ways the original super brothers.
Confirmation bias is a supposition in which one vets and excises information extraneous to the support of an existing belief. All they see is truth. Any dot in the sky may be a UFO, or a large hairy hippie Bigfoot. From crop circles, to Jesus’ face in a piece of toast, to Lee Harvey Oswald’s “magic bullet,” there is a touch of divine intervention, or at least divine invention, in these magical legacies. Gore Vidal once said that he was not a conspiracy theorist so much as a conspiracy analyst. Part of the mysticism behind conspiracy theories is that they can only operate in the absence of evidence; or better, that their allure is proportional to growing arguable evidence. They are a thing of faith, a kind of secular religion whose devotions are suspicion and dissent. Patch up the holes, call it spiritual pastiche, connecting dots until they form images as they do far away constellations.
The event my mother thought was a movie eventually became one, narrated in voiceover by legions of journalists from opposite ends of an enormous party. There were muddy heroes, and pink pudgy villains. Signifiers as loose as pieces of paper floating down as bleached autumnal leaves. I could envision Don DeLillo, Karl Rove, and Noam Chomsky each rummaging around for scratch paper, weaving prose for which they were known. Various unrated director’s cuts featured beheadings, extremist snuff. Safely past the five-year-rule, United 93 would sensationalize it, while World Trade Center straight-up turned it into kitsch. One worries if there will be a sequel, habitually imminent, fated.
On September 11, 1991, exactly a decade from “the day,” to the day, Jeff Lebowski writes a $0.69 check to Ralphs for some cream, out of which he is to make a White Russian, or as he calls it, a “Caucasian.” This funny Lebowskian-Coenean racial smirk skips over the Black Russian, the original drink without the cream, whose whiteness is of lactose, not racial origins—though consider the etymology of Caucasian i.e. stemming from the Caucasus mountain range between Europe and the Middle East, which according to German anthropologist Johann Blumembach , way back in 1795, was the the ancestral homeland of the “white” race, an idea that really took off in the 1940s. One could figure that the white race, historically, is less antithetical to Blacks as it is to Arabs , the latter from which the former has perhaps been etymologically running since always. As Jeff Lebowski writes the check, he looks up at the television as George Bush Sr. proposes the War in Iraq.
The signs keep coming, so convincing, yet absurd. Fold a twenty dollar bill until you see a shape. Pause a cloud of falling debris until you see a face, a devil, an angel. The eyes of the Illuminati are everywhere. At night, the stars tell stories long after they’ve extinguished. Darkness is latent as the speed of light.
While floating on a buoyed coffin for two days after the Pequod  sinks, a ship from a past chapter saves Ishmael, which was less a miracle than a mere logistical necessity duly observed by the author in order for the novel to be told. Ishmael’s omniscient-third account was a more trusted device than Ahab’s first person would have been, a most unreliable narrator of psychiatric derailment. A Moby-Dick as told by Ahab would have been so rhetorically consumed by its delusions that one would not be able to see the whale for what it was: a mirror in whose reflection we accidentally find ourselves. Such Melvillian allusion to 9/11 is almost petty, perhaps even didactic, and it would be grossly liberal of me to empathize with the events from the side of the terrorists. “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic,” went Stalin’s perverse justification. The death of 3,000 is held liable to a line-up of the usual suspects: Bin Laden, The Bush Administration, C.I.A., The Federal Reserve, Israel, etc., such mystical and evasive leviathans in a deep black sea, each one of us perched upon the masthead alone—or worse, making comments online—wading through entropy for evidence, possessed by hurt.
I eventually believed my mom that Tuesday morning, caving into her story that it was real. I felt a sick thrill in seeing people running around trying to cry, their tear ducts clogged with dust , like for the six months or so, this movie would be free. When I returned home, the café where I got my morning coffee every day had been vandalized. The owner looked like he was from “there,” and while “there” was vague, it was explicitly east of Caucasus. He always smiled gently at my patronage, taking the unfolded bills into his hands, but today he wasn’t smiling at anyone. There was a huge crack in the glass made by a stone. An orphaned piece of mountain smoothed over by water’s patient hands, into our own. I sat down next to the crack and tried to read the newspaper, but was afraid the glass would suddenly collapse and slice up my face. Paranoia is an everlasting companion. The crack looked like some giant failed fractal, a planned plan gone astray, each luminous tip in the sun splintering off aimlessly, perhaps in search of who did it.
1. Super Mario Bros., Dir. Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton. Buena Vista Pictures, 1993. Film. Dennis Hopper cites the reason he played King Koopa, easily seen as absurd and humiliating, was so the son could have shoes. He says, hauntingly in a spirit evocative of Apocalypse Now, “It was a nightmare, very honestly, that movie […] I was supposed to go down there for five weeks, and I was there for 17.”
2. Ryszard Kapuściński, “Vidal salon,” 4 May 2007, The Guardian. Vidal actually goes on, somewhat contradictory, to say that the Bushites (his snarky term for the Bush Administration) could never have pulled off 9/11, given their incompetence.
3. In Decas craniorum, Johann Friedrich Blumembach (d. 1840) categorized 60 human skulls into five races: I. Caucasian (white), II. Mongolian (yellow), III. Malayan (brown), IV.. Ethiopian (black), and V. American (red)—or, respectively, prosaically referred to now as White, Asian, Southeast Asian, Black, and Native American. As for the “missing” Arab and Hispanic races, one might pensively put the former into the brown and the latter into the red races. Fortunately, subsequent disciplines Genetics and Cultural Studies render Blumembach’s theories overly simplistic, and eventually, obsolete.
4. Possibly, in Hebrew, from “arava” (wilderness) or “haraba” (desert), Arab connotes a similar wandering and diaspora experienced by the Jews, and one may note with sad irony the current anti-Semitic associations of an essentially Semitic word.
5. The original name for Starbucks Corp., until some intuitive co-founders vetoed it—Pequod’s phonetic beginning “pee” is indeed rather perverse for a drink company—in favor of Ahab’s sullen Chief Mate Starbuck, whose noble skepticism and reluctance throughout their seaward journey may be seen as a heeding to capitalism, a more contemporary interpretation of Moby-Dick (1851).
6. Short of a more technical name, “WTC dust” contains known carcinogens polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and dioxins; numerous studies in science journals have shown elevated rates of respiratory illnesses and cancer (prostate, thyroid, myeloma) in survivors and rescue workers. Such findings, when interpreted in a report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), were dismissed by George W. Bush, who breathed in and thought the err was fine.