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In good times New York is not actually a Sex and the City episode. Mostly, singles look at each other across crowded rooms and sit in frozen wonder at the presumed conversational chasm between them. But with tragedy as a common bond, "What to Talk About" has not been a problem. "I was struck by how easily we could just jump into a conversation," says Allison Brown, 34, a lawyer who chatted up a stranger in a cafe the day after the disaster. "We started talking, and it was only about what had happened, but it was in the context of our personal lives." That night Brown ended up kissing her new friend on a Manhattan stoop. She admits to some lingering guilt over feeling good at a time when people were feeling so bad (enough guilt, in fact, that Brown and others quoted in this article requested pseudonyms). Still, she says, "it was affirming. And I'm really thankful that it happened."
There's no way to know just how widespread the trauma-into-passion phenomenon is. But names for it, at least, are proliferating. "Apocalypse sex" is what Jeff Sonios calls his encounter with a woman he met at the Lakeside Lounge, an East Village bar that was hopping in the days after the disaster. Lindsay Oktay, a U.N. conflict-resolution expert who has weathered crises in Angola, Kenya and now Manhattan, prefers "Armageddon sex."
"It answers that deep need, emotional and physical, to be as close as you possibly can to somebody," she says. Mark McPhee, 31, had what he termed a disaster tryst with a woman he met on the subway. "Pretty much all we talked about was the World Trade Center and how glad we were to be alive," says McPhee.
New York bartenders can see the need for contact in their customers' eyes. "We've been so over-the-top busy that it's hard to always know exactly what's going on," says Dawn Darcy, a bartender at the Gate in Brooklyn. "But because of this shared experience, people here are far more apt to talk to strangers. I don't know if it's always sex related...but if it is, that's beautiful." Elliot Bloom went home with a woman he met at 2A, a bar in Greenwich Village; he is not so sure it was beautiful. "People died," he says. "I have guilt about it. But I'd rather feel guilty and miserable with somebody else than all alone." --By Josh Tyrangiel
The Loyal Opposition
United we stand: That is the mantra, the logo, the declaration of codependency for the new Fortress America. How, then, must someone feel who stands apart, in opposition to the nation's righteous war fever? Ask Catherine Herdlick, a graduate student at Parsons School of Design, who helped carry a banner reading PEACE NOT WAR last Thursday in Manhattan's Union Square. Ask the 500 or so demonstrators who convened there a day later before marching north to Times Square. They are the first peaceniks of the 21st century.