In 1974, a daredevil walked across a tightrope that connected the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. It was called “the artistic crime of the century.” The DA considered trespassing charges but dropped them in the face of the city’s enthusiasm for their new hero. The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey awarded him with a lifetime pass to the South Tower’s observation deck.
Last week, the NYPD demanded that the BASE jumpers who leapt off the Freedom Tower last September turn themselves in to authorities. After they surrendered on Monday, the NY Post said that the jumpers’ “only regret was getting caught.” My only regret is that we didn’t hold a parade for these guys. Have you seen the video? It takes balls to even watch. They are standing there almost 2,000 feet off the ground breathing heavily and saying things such as “Hell, yeah,” “Thanks, bro,” and finally, “You got this, man” before leaping into the black abyss. The highest bungee jumps in the world are barely half that height, and I doubt anyone reading this would have the courage to try any of them. These guys did it with no help from anyone, and they landed on the West Side Highway without inconveniencing a soul. But instead of giving them lifetime passes, the new Port Authority joined “the NYPD in condemning this lawless and selfish act.” Our life expectancy may have increased by ten years in the past half century, but our balls are 80% smaller.
This is a post-9/11 world and we should be concerned about access to the top of our new WTC, but that’s not the BASE jumpers’ fault. That’s our fault. By exploiting a hole in our armor, they did us a favor, a super badass favor. And it wasn’t just a hole in the gate at the top of the tower. They exposed a hole in the modern American way. The Freedom Tower itself is a giant testament to what pussies we’ve become. Why didn’t we just rebuild both towers from scratch on September 12, 2001? “Would you want your son to work in that tower?” replied one fireman at my gym to whom I proposed this scenario. Maybe not, but I don’t care if they became grain silos as long the towers that were there on September 10th remain there forever and NYC doesn’t retain a permanent black eye. I hate that extremist Islam can point to that stupid skyscraper as a trophy for the most effective attack on the Western world ever. It’s embarrassing.
The World Trade Center was built back at a time when New York had the biggest balls in the world. It was a bastion of freedom where men with big ideas expeditiously carried them to fruition. New York always had balls. As Mark Steyn points out, the Empire State Building was built as a “fuck you” to the Chrysler Building, and each was built in less than two years during the Great Depression. They started building the Freedom Tower in 2006, and it isn’t completely done yet. Back in the 1960s, any car on the street could be considered a taxi. Today, a permit will run you a million bucks. You can try to start your own company as Uber did, but Uber’s getting sued—again. You used to be able to smoke in NY bars. Now you can’t even smoke in parks. We’ve gone from Marlon Brando saying “I coulda been a contender” to a bloated Philip Seymour Hoffman indulging himself to death in one of his many luxury homes.
I immigrated to this country from Canada because I was sick of being bogged down with rules. America was founded on mutts from all over the world who were sick of being told what to do. Now we live in a culture where rules rule. If a nine-year-old girl wants to shave her head in solidarity with a friend who has cancer, she gets suspended. People propose that the word “bossy” gets banned, and having exotic pets is verboten. NYC has gone from a city that doesn’t call 911 to a city that calls it at the merest disturbance.
I like the fact that crime is down and we live in a much safer society than even twenty years ago, but that doesn’t mean New York City, America, and the West in general need to abandon the toughness that made them what they are. We need BASE jumpers and rule breakers. They personify the entrepreneurs that keep us all going. Pussies may be what gave birth to us, but we cease to exist without balls.