Sept. 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. I went to the record store.
Sept. 11, 2001 was not a great day by any measure, but for me personally, 2001 was turning out to be a pretty awful year.
The end of August 2001 put me in the ranks of the unemployed, one of many casualties of the dot-com bust. So for the week preceding Sept. 11, I would get up and … well, that’s it. I didn’t really have anywhere to go, and since no one was hiring in my sector of the tech industry, looking for work was alternately pointless and fruitless.
I remember watching a lot of Law & Order during those lean days. A lot of Law & Order.
Cocco released a retrospective on Sept. 4, after having announced she was retiring from her music career. That news didn’t improve my mood. In contrast, Do As Infinity’s third album, DEEP FOREST, would arrive the following week.
In between those releases was Embrace the Chaos, the second album by Ozomatli. The band’s self-titled debut was a favorite among me and my friends, and seeing them live a few months before made that anticipation more pronounced. I planned to pick up the album when Waterloo Records opened that day.
I woke up and turned on the TV. My first reaction upon seeing the news was, “Again?”
I lived in New York City for two semesters on an inter-college exchange program from 1992 to 1993. I was running errands for my record label internship when I heard murmurs about the World Trade Center being attacked.
A car bomb exploded in the parking garage with enough force to collapse a number of levels and to disrupt subway service. That was February. By May, the towers had reopened, allowing me to play tourist before I moved back to Honolulu.
So I pretty much was in denial about the severity of the 2001 attack. New York is a resilient city, I said to myself. The Towers would be OK. I switched on my VCR and watched a rerun of Star Trek: Voyager instead.
After a few minutes, my subconscious finally parsed the implications of the report I saw on TV — it wasn’t just a garage bomb. The towers had fallen by the time I stopped the tape.
Broadcast news, of course, replayed the video of the collapse on repeat. I’m not sure when I decided to switch away from the news reports to the banality of daytime cable programming.
At 10 a.m., I went to the record store to pick up the Ozomatli album.
The Waterloo Records TVs, which usually played videos, was tuned into the news. Since the system was connected to a cheap antenna, the picture was fuzzy. Yeah, it was pretty absurd — big terrorist attack on the US, and I’m shopping for music. The other customers in the store were probably thinking the same thing.
But we also acknowledged that life — for us — had to move forward. Going to the record store was a bit of normalcy on which I had to cling.
It turned out the album didn’t really appeal to me.
My tastes had already shifted drastically to Japanese indie rock, and the album itself felt like a classic sophomore slump. The events of the day did little to improve my perception of the album.
As my unemployment stretched the following nine months, Embrace the Chaos would get traded for cash. I stopped following Ozomatli after that.