9/11 Tuna

A broken heart, a broken country, a big fish

Paul Greenberg


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September 12, 2001. Newly single and pushing 35. A love affair and the World Trade Center, both destroyed in a single month. I could barely distinguish one loss from the other. I could not get a particular Paul Simon lyric out of my head:

“Losing love is like a window in your heart.

Everybody sees you’re blown apart.

Everybody sees the wind blow.”

And so I called the Explorer.

“Thanks for calling the Explorer, Brooklyn’s rocket ship to the tuna,” Explorer’s answering machine croaked. “The latest catches are: Monday night — fifteen tuna, Tuesday night — twenty-four tuna, Wednesday night — forty-seven tuna. Tell us the date you want to go, and Explorer will take you to the tuna.”

The voice was convincing. I booked a trip and geared up.

Along with my love affair and the World Trade Center, sleep had also been destroyed during that month. V, the woman I had loved, had gone to Kabul to cover the war and I had become stuck on Kabul time. I woke regularly at 2:00 AM for Kabul breakfast and long sessions of useless Kabul rumination. The only companionship I had at that hour were the tuna Web sites — ScreamingReel.com, Noreast.com, Babylontunaclub.com. I joined the tuna discussion boards and tracked the satellite image of a patch of warm tuna water as it drifted up the coast. I found myself making lifting motions, trying to push the warm patch faster so that its arrival in New York waters would match my Explorer date.

“I wasn’t gonna go. I knew it was gonna be like this. But I walked out of the Trade Center last month. Tower Two.”

The warm tuna water did speed up, but so did the wind. Light breezes and mild seas were revised in the forecast to gales and swells. On Saturday I had a phone call.

“This is Dora from the Explorer.”

“You’re canceling the trip, aren’t you.” I said.

“To be honest,” the voice said, “Sunday is not looking good.” A long pause. “But if you want to go tonight, the captain, my son that is, he says it’s gonna lay down.”



Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org