Dear Declan —
On Sunday i took you to the Intrepid aircraft carrier off the west side highway in the 30s, a floating museum showcasing fighter jets, supersonic surveillance aircraft, a cruise missile bearing submarine, and other child-friendly chattels of the world’s reigning superpower. You were transfixed — you pulled at my arm and dragged me from exhibit to exhibit for a period of several hours and protested with all your four year old might (which is considerable) when we had to leave.
It was clear to me watching you (and myself, for that matter) that military equipment appeals to even kind, gentle boys like yourself on a deep, reptilian level. First there are what you call the “buttons and levers and controls” which fascinate you, whether it’s on a trash compactor or 1970s Soviet Mig. Then there is the physics-defying wonder of airplanes — the absurdity of the idea that massive steel objects weighing thousands of tons float through the air like birds. And finally there is the allure of pyrotechnics, and the idea that we can punish bad guys in a severe and precise manner, at a time of our choosing, as pentagon officials love to say. It’s like the boxing glove at the end of the long accordion-like scissors contraption that enables you to mete out punishment to the mean kids from a safe remove.
You asked me recently if there are any “bad guys” in New York. I told you there were only a few million, if you include the perpetrators of the recent worldwide economic implosion. You are very interested in bad guys lately — in identifying who they are and what we can do to them, but of course it’s all in a Bugs Bunny-like context right now, in which characters that get blown up end up with black faces, singed, smoking hair, and a desperate need for a good bath.
You nurturing side is also apparent in your recent obsession with “rescue helicopters” — you have a toy one at home, complete with a winch and a cot for injured people, and we had a lot of fun pretend-flying this one:
I have a hunch you and i will be seeing the Intrepid again soon.