The pilot's readers profess love for his 9/11 memorial but condemn his ill-considered criticism of The The.

By Salon Staff

Published October 10, 2003 6:30PM (EDT)

[Read the story.]

I was afraid I was becoming a bit jaded about all the 9/11 media coverage, especially as the second anniversary was upon us. Then I read your column and I don't know exactly what is was that had me weeping at me desk... again. I love flying and insist on a window seat on every flight so as see everything that I can, always trying to recognize landmarks, trying to figure out where I am. Although I've never had the thrill of flying the Corridor, your vivid description was almost as good as being there. But what really got to me was the poignancy with which you described the view and the thrill, and how that will never quite be the same after 9/11. It was an unexpected but very relevant perspective. Thank you for this, and your other informative and entertaining columns.

-- Gretchen Winters

I have read every one of your 54 Salon columns and must say your column of Sep. 11, 2003, is the most touching and memorable of them all. Your column brought back fond memories of two of the most wonderful flights I experienced. Both were USAir flights between Greensboro, N.C. and La Guardia. One flight arrived at dusk and another arrived late in the evening. Both provided incredible scenic views of the city and were delightful ways to start off a business trip... I will always love viewing the skyline of New York. My heart aches because the twin towers are missing. I wish I had had an opportunity to be a passenger on one of your flights down the river. Please keep up the good work.

-- Jim Fogle

"There was always something unsettling about it, and I'd feel a twinge of relief, the slightest slowing of pulse and heartbeat, at the completion of the turn upriver, away from the buildings."

Beautifully written.

-- Maureen Flaherty

Your best yet. Keep it up.

-- Sam Gendler

Just a quick note to thank you for today's column. It was great reading and, of course, timely. And I shivered a bit and got a bit misty-eyed when you mentioned the Air France Concorde sighting.

Thanks again.

-- Ray Koltys

I've never been much of a patriot and, to be honest, was dreading all the 9/11 remembrances. Earlier today I saw a jeep with two gigantic American flags attached over its rear wheels cruising down one of the main streets here in Tampa, its occupants honking and waving to fellow motorists, with many of them waving and cheering in return. Maybe I'm a jerk, but this stuff nauseates me. Anyway, today was just another day to me, so I began my normal routine, which includes a scan of Salon.com. Surprised to see your column on a Thursday, I began reading it. Soon I was surprised far more, for, as I came to the last three or four paragraphs I found myself getting very emotional... very sad over the whole 9/11 thing. Somehow your description of "the corridor" pre- and post- 9/11 struck a chord in me. Your summary thoughts have affected me more than a hundred news stories or a thousand SUVs with flag stickers on them have done. So thanks for the article, and for your column in general. In a world where technology dehumanizes so much of our daily lives, we need "technological" people who have the ability to humanize their world for us. Or something like that.

-- Jeffrey Schlotter

"... pilots rolling wings-level to a vacant breadth of firmament." Kudos!

-- Jeff Pulice

I loved this story and I've still got a cold knot in my stomach and chill up my spine. What a great job!

-- Lisa Trow

I enjoyed your piece about the corridor run down the Hudson River. Back in '97 my family got an even better view, from a Airship blimp, which made just about the same run, but about 170 mph slower. We took off from Teterboro (looks like some of the other blimps use Farmingdale; I saw one coming back from the U.S. Open tennis on Sunday approaching Republic Field), which is just south of the Washington Bridge, headed out to midriver, turned south, and proceeded down the island. I think we were at about 800-900 feet, a little above 1 Penn Plaza, but below the tops of the Trade Center. It was an overcast day, so the view was not illuminated by brilliant sunlight, but it was the first (and last) time I'd flown beneath the tops of the WTC towers.

We went down to the Statue of Liberty, and then further south before coming about and passing over Governor's Island and up the East River, over the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, and the ships in the South Street Seaport. I could see my office, off Bowling Green, quite easily. Then up past the U.N., the hospitals on the East Side, and eventually, back across Manhattan over the middle of Central Park. The Hayden Planetarium had just been torn down and the construction of the Rose Center was at the "big hole in the ground" stage. The park itself was in full autumn colors, it being late October.

You get a great view from the blimp because you are underneath most of the aircraft, unlike in most planes, where the passengers and crew are effectively atop the machines. And the gondola tapers outward from the floor, so the windows naturally face downward.

The most disconcerting aspect of the flight was the door. The blimp seated seven in better-than-first-class comfort and you could move about the cabin freely. And even though the engines were right outside the window, they were less noisy that you might think. It was not quiet, but no Ford Trimotor (from what I hear), either. And you could even open the windows for a little air, an odd sensation in an aircraft. The door, however, had a little metal guard over the handle, and that was it. No elaborate securing mechanisms as on a plane, and I got nervous every time my 6-year-old daughter got anywhere near it.

If you can manage to boost such a blimp flight for your column, I urge you do so. Lighter-than-air has much to commend it.

-- Edward Furey

[Read the story.]

I am a longtime Salon subscriber and have read all of your columns word for word and immensely enjoyed 90 percent of what I've read. Right now I am so angry I could spit. I was enjoying this week's rant and was fully in agreement with all you had written. Then you alienated this reader with one word: "dreadful."

"The The? Does anyone remember that dreadful song 'Uncertain Smile' from c. 1983? I once had the extended version on 12-inch 45."

You are entitled to your opinion and usually I am highly tolerant. Hüsker Dü? Whatever. This time you crossed a line. Big time.

(a) The "Uncertain Smile" LP came out in 1982. The "Soul Mining" album was released in the U.K. in 1983 and in the U.S. in 1984.

(b) The song, though now dated as original synth pop of the early '80s, has incredible lyrics which stand the test of time. If the synth is grating on your eardrums, listen to the remix on the greatest hits CD.

(c) Matt Johnson rates with Lennon in the annals of music history and "Uncertain Smile" is among his better works (though he would be reluctant to admit that). Jools Holland's piano has something to do with it, of course. The lyrics of that tune are not his strongest (by far), but that is still in the top 0.5 percent of all modern music.

(d) You're wrong.

I need to go to a place where I can clear my head of you and your dreadful opinions.

-- Ted Hein

You swine! Matt Johnson is a living God.

Dreadful, indeed ... argh.

May all the rest of the The The's lunatic fringe fill your in box with rude words until you submit ... to something unspecified but hideous. So there.

-- Matthew S. Carrick

Airlines -- or air lines -- can morph and shed their names regularly, but you can't tell me your musical tastes have changed so much in the last couple of decades that you can cast off "Uncertain Smile" as no longer a good song. Especially if you had two versions of it.

Unless by "dreadful" you mean a "bummer," which I agree was The The's signature style.

My grandfather and uncle flew for United and TWA, respectively, back in the day; thus, I grew up with an interest in the details of airlines. I really enjoy your column.

-- Paul Chatalas

The The were way cool!!!! Leave 'em alone. Other than that, your column is always great reading. Thank you.

-- Lisa Reid

Salon Staff

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