Search and Recovery


10 A.M., Saturday, July 17, a telephone conversation.

First man, son of former famous politician: “Are you up?”

His friend, a reporter: “Of course I’m up.”

First man: “Turn on the TV.”

Second man: “What happened?”

First man: “John Kennedy’s dead. Well, he might not be dead, but his plane disappeared. Can you believe this? He was flying his wife and her sister to Hyannis Port to Rory Kennedy’s wedding. My sister called me this morning. She was there for the wedding and everyone got calls to say the whole thing was postponed. Too much, huh?”

Second man: “Has the TV vigil already started?”

First man: “Oh, of course. They’ve stopped all other coverage. Rowland Evans, that ‘close Kennedy family friend,’ a total asshole, my parents hate him, is already on the phone with reporters blowing it out his shorts.”

11 A.M., Saturday, July 17, taxi heading down Fifth Avenue at 33rd Street.

Passenger: “Heard any news about the Kennedy plane?”

Driver: “What?”

Passenger: “John Kennedy Jr. and his wife. They think their plane crashed, but they can’t find any sign of them. It’s been on TV all morning.”

Driver: “I don’t listen to the radio. I get up at four and I work until 11 and go to bed. Passengers complain if I put the radio on. A medallion costs $275,000. You know how hard you have to work to make that kind of money? Half the time I don’t know what’s going on in the world.”

Passenger: “Well, it’s kinda weird. They were flying to a wedding on Martha’s Vineyard. No, wait, they were flying to Hyannis Port, but they were dropping somebody off on this island. And the odd thing is they disappeared. Where are you from originally?”

Driver: “I’m from Peru. And, listen. Where I come from we don’t think it’s weird when people disappear.”

4 P.M., Saturday, July 17, Fire Island Pines, deck of private house at 262 Bay, location of Fifth Annual Fire Island Dance Festival to benefit Dancers Responding to AIDS.

“Is there any news?” inquires paunchy balding man in Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirt (obvious Pines anomaly) sipping orange juice and Dubonnet.

“They, like, definitely found like parts of the wreckage,” replies handsome gym bunny in Cravath, Swaine & Moore baseball cap. “Oh, look, there’s Mark Green. But they’re not declaring him dead yet.”

“It’s so strange,” says third man, steroid acne, nipple ring, biohazard tattoo, drinking Diet Coke. “I found out about Lady Di in the Boiler Room. I walked in and there were,
like, all these guys in the bar watching cable TV and crying. And now I hear this and I’m on Fire Island.”

“You see,” says paunchy balding man.
“It’s because you’re gay that all these people die. Ooops, did I say that? Am I processing this too fast?”

6 P.M., Saturday, July 17, Tompkins Square Park dog run, three humans, one mutt, one pit bull, one Akita.

Mutt man: “This is like really a weird thing to say, but you don’t think someone could have targeted them?”

Pit bull woman: “Oh, that’s really paranoid.”

Mutt man: “Remember when his mother said she wanted to leave the country because people were targeting Kennedys.”

Akita man: “But why now, why him?”

Mutt man: “I don’t know. It’s just a notion. Like maybe some anti-Castro types or something.”

Pit bull woman: “That’s pretty far-fetched.”

Akita man: “I don’t know. Didn’t he just do a really positive profile of Fidel in George?”

10 A.M., Sunday, July 18, Crunch gym, Lafayette Street, two people watching soundless TV while walking fast on stationary Precor elliptical trainers.

First person: “It’s really sad, huh?”

Second person: “Normally I try not to get caught up in this stuff, but yeah.”

First person: “I don’t know why.”

Second person: “I hate to say this, but
partly it’s because he seemed kind of normal.”

First person: “Dumb as a box of hammers, I heard.”

Second person: “Yeah, I heard that. But he used to train at a gym where I trained, this skank gym in the East 90s. And, like, despite the fact that everyone was checking him out every second, he just went on about his business.”

First person: “That must be . . . that must have been . . . ”

Second person: “I mean, I don’t think he took showers there, because someone could be there with a spy camera and imagine how much that picture would have been worth.”

First person: “Never mind the Net.”

Second person: “You know what just occurred to me? If he was the sexiest man in the world and now he’s dead, the rest of us just moved up a notch.”

4 P.M., Sunday, July 18, Central Park Skate Circle, midpark at 72nd Street, two sweaty in-line skaters.

Skater one: “Did anybody get news if they found the bodies?”

Skater two: “I haven’t heard.”

Skater one: “But a suitcase washed ashore with the sister’s name on it.”

Skater two: “Damn. I can’t even get my luggage that fast.”

Skater one: “That’s sick. You know, I knew a girl once who was in a car crash in Bermuda and the car went over a cliff
and everyone died except her and she was stranded on a rock and the bodies kept washing up around her. I think after that she kind of went insane.”

Skater two: “Yeah, but I think if they never find the bodies, you’d go twice as insane.”

8 A.M., Monday, July 19, N. Moore Street, two artists, longtime Tribeca residents, outside residence of late John F. Kennedy and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy.

Artist one: “How are you? I’m so embarrassed, but I had to come.”

Artist two: “I don’t even know why I’m here. Well, okay, I was watching the whole thing every minute all weekend and I was out getting coffee this morning at Bubby’s and I just like had to stop by to see if the flower tribute thing was going to happen.”

Artist one: “You know, it’s so strange. I happened to be in London when Princess Diana was killed and there’s no possible way to describe that image of this wall of stuffed animals and balloons and rotting flowers in plastic wrapping.”

Artist two: “The Jeff Koons memorial grief carpet.”

Artist one: “Right, right. Jeff Koons
by way of, like, Mike Kelley. Or maybe Jason Rhoades.”

Artist two: “You know, a woman jumped out the window of a building where I lived once, and the next day someone had drawn a chalk circle on the sidewalk and put candles and flowers inside. It spooked me but I kind of got it. Someone had died there and someone else immediately hallowed the spot.”

Artist one: “You need that. You need some kind of primitive gesture. All this talk about stoicism is so sick in a way. I kind of want to see just one Kennedy fall on the ground and scream and rend their garments or something. I mean, what about Irish wakes, where everyone climbs on the table and hugs the corpse?”

Artist two: “It’s about class, I guess.”

Artist one: “Yeah, fucked-up upper class puritanism. In this culture, all you get to mark death is pictures of a blank fence in Hyannis Port and a 24-hour news feed with live coverage of the waves.”