One of the most bucolic, carefree days of my adult life was Sept. 10, 2001. It was an eerily beautiful fall day, just like it is again today, and a Monday. I took the day off from work to play in a charity golf tournament with some pals, which was a blast, and afterward we all stuffed ourselves with barbecue long into the evening. I made it home in time to watch the Denver Broncos stomp the bejesus out of the New York Giants on “Monday Night Football.”
Indeed, about the only disquieting moment of that day involved Ryan. His big Gold album was coming out in a few weeks, and despite all the buzz, I didn’t much care for it; some decent songs, including “New York, New York,” but most of it just didn’t move me. On the drive to the golf course, I told a mutual friend that I was not relishing the prospect of writing my first lukewarm review of one of Ryan’s works. He suggested I just not review it, but I didn’t feel like I could duck this one.
The next morning, my opinion of Gold slipped way down the list of important things because the world ended. I was in the kitchen tending to breakfast dishes when the phone rang. It was Leigh, my then-wife, who was on her way to Chapel Hill to speak to a class, calling to say she’d heard on the radio that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. Wow, that was…odd. So I walked into the den and turned on the television — just in time to see a plane hit the second tower in real time. Although it took a minute for what I’d just seen to register.
What, they got this on film?…Wait a minute…They’re…BOTH on fire?…WHAT THE???!!!…
The rest of that day was ghastly, and I felt like I was in a fog. I went to the newsroom but couldn’t focus on anything, until I spied the Bob Dylan album that had just come out that day; Love and Theft, sitting on my desk. So I fired that up, and suddenly the world made sense again. It was all still beyond awful, of course. But listening to Love and Theft was calming, in an odd way, because it conveyed a sense of just how such terrible things could happen. Context. On that horrible, brightly sunny Tuesday, that was about as good as it was going to get.
And so I wrote this, which ran in the paper the following Sunday. Meanwhile, there was comfort of a different sort to be had in Ryan’s “New York, New York.” As David Browne wrote in Entertainment Weekly a few weeks later:
Heard in the aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Center, “New York, New York” now feels cathartic and healing in ways it never did before. The same is true of the rest of Gold. In light of this recent horror, the album’s sprawling tour through American music, from coast to beer-stained coast, is like a diner full of comfort food…And Adams, for all the hand-me-down nature of his music and his degenerate-rebel image, sounds like a healer.
Eleven years later, they’re both worth another listen. Meanwhile, Dylan has another new album out on Sept. 11. I should probably go pick it up. Meantime, this is also worth another read.