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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Subway Stories, Vol. 3

Earlier this week, I rode the subway with a man named Jeff Boss. I know his name is Jeff Boss because he announced it as soon as he entered my car, along with his candidacy for President of the United States as well as for the United States Senate.

Jeff Boss, according to his flyers - and also his website, which you can view here - witnessed his sister-in-law, a top-ranking NSA official, arrange the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Although he didn't understand the meaning of her conversations at the time, after the attacks it all became clear. After narrowly escaping his own death by arriving late to his new job (presumably given to him by the same government-connected family members?) at the WTC on Sept. 11th, he survives to tell his story, only to be thwarted by the NSA at every turn.

There are two obvious options here: either he's telling the truth, or he's not.

As I watched him from across the car, debating passionately with a young man who regarded him with patience and skepticism, I could almost see these two options stretching out in front of me, two separate but parallel stories, both passing through the same plane of reality in which Jeff Boss stands on a New York City subway car desperately clutching his flyers and his truth, while the world around him dismisses him.

Consider the first story: Jeff is telling the truth. A few days or weeks or months before September of 2001, he happens to stumble upon his sister-in-law - who actually IS an high-ranking government official - on a very confidential phone call, during which she actually IS helping plan or facilitate the terrorist attacks on behalf of the U.S. government. How he happened to simply stumble upon such a sensitive conversation, let's not ask. Mistakes get made, Sister-in-Law screwed up. She doesn't know how much he heard or understood, but she can't take any risks. Panicked, she calls a colleague, or maybe a superior. A few more calls are made, and Jeff has a new job that assures his presence at the WTC at the time of the attacks. But, as fate would have it, he is running late that day and is spared. Why doesn't the government just try and kill him again? Let's not ask that question either. Maybe now, if he had already told somebody what he knew, his death would look too suspicious. Maybe Sister-in-Law, wracked with guilt, steps in and says look, we don't have to kill the poor guy. It's easy enough to discredit him. Whatever the case, now no one will every believe what Jeff Boss - who is not crazy - knows unquestionably to be true.

Or, there is the more likely story, the one I choose to believe: Jeff Boss IS crazy. Yes, he does have a family member (maybe his sister-in-law, maybe not) with high-ranking connections, but their worst offense is a little nepotism - they happened to pull some strings and get Jeff a job when he needed one, working at the World Trade Center. Now maybe this is a better job than Jeff deserves, and maybe his family member's neck is sort of on the line for him, or maybe Jeff is just sort of a notorious deadbeat, but whatever the case, he is told sternly and insistently that he must not be late on his first day. So of course, he is late. And as it happens, his irresponsibility saved his life. Overwhelmed with survivor's guilt, he tries to give meaning to what happened. What kind of asshole is late on his first day of work? he thinks. And why was that asshole spared? From the depths of his incomprehension and shame, he creates this delusion.

The fascinating thing about these two stories is that one or neither of them might be true, but both of them cannot be. These stories define two entirely separate, both somewhat sad, worlds. And I can never be sure which one I live in. I can guess (and I have), but I can never know for sure.

A world in which the nation I believe I live in is ultimately good and free and democratic is concretely, quantifiably different from a world in which this same nation would, like a dictatorship in a captive country, murder its own people to get and retain power. And yet, from my vantage point, they both look exactly the same.

Maybe this is where I get a little too existential for my own good, because here is where I start thinking about God. With God, like with Jeff Boss, we have two options: either It exists or It doesn't. And a world without God is an entirely, unequivocably different world from a world with God. And yet, both look the same to me. I've often wondered, how is that possible? And the question has bothered me. Yet here is Jeff Boss on the subway, showing me how it is.

And what does that mean? What do I do with that, if anything at all? I don't know, but there it is, standing in front of me with a flyer in its hand.

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