Wednesday, March 19, 2003

This past Monday night was incredibly long and fun but, by the end, an incredible feeling of sadness came over me. It felt like September 10, 2001 again, but this time KNOWING something bad is coming next. Ironically, our feature that night was Evert Eden, one of Morris Stegosaurus' - Monday's feature - favorite poets.

Somewhere in the middle of the show, word came in that Bush had given his ultimatum: 48 hours. Cristin remarked on the virtual declaration of war conveniently coming on a night much of America was out getting wasted for St. Patrick's Day.

Towards the end, a guy I'd noticed early on, thanks to his FDNY uniform, comes up to me at the bar asking if he can read. Obviously drunk, but equally obvious that something's inspired him, I tell him it's depends on how late we're running as we were near 11pm. With about 10 minutes left in the show, I tell him we're way over time but, if he really wants to read, I'll put him up. He declines.

During the post-show inanity, he pulls me aside to talk. With a kind of melancholy rage, surprisingly tempered considering his level of drunkenness, he tells me he really wanted to "tell those liberals the truth." He pulls out a couple of pictures from his pockets, the gloss faded from frequent handling, and shows them to me. Two friends, fellow firefighters, lost on 9-11. He chokes up a little bit but never varies his pace.

I tell him he should definitely come back anytime to share his feelings from the stage. He declines, says "It takes balls to get up there." The alcohol had given them to him this night but he knew it was a one-shot deal. I laught, remind him he fights fire for a living. "THAT takes balls," I say. Unswayed, he comes back matter-of-factly: "No, that's what I DO. But getting up there takes balls." We talk for another minute or so, then he staggers towards the door and leaves.

The moment casts a pall over the rest of the night and repeats itself in my dreams. There are no easy answers.

On the brink of war, I have no answers at all. I fully believe Bush has opened Pandora's Box and shit's about to get real ugly, real quick. I chafe at the idea that now we're supposed to line up behind his decision because our troops are putting their lives on the line yet, completely understand their need to feel supported in light of what they're facing. I'm sad at the resignation that something bad will likely happen here in NYC and that the people I care for most may not be so lucky this time around. That I might not be so lucky this time.

This new world we live in - really just the same old world that we've finally become a part of - is a scary one. It can be paralyzing when there is no middle ground between running for the hills and business as usual. It's hard to think about the stupid car that's in the shop or our 2.5 hour commute this morning because of it or how June 1 and the Bronx can't come soon enough.

It's hard to look past 8pm tonight when the deadline passes and the bombs start to fall.

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