Post No. 300—Or, Wa Wa Wee Wa! (Redux)
That’s right, Dear and Faithful Long-time Reader. This is Post No. 300 of FIGHTING FIRE WITH UNLIT MATCHES (now bigger, in bold, and in all caps). In honor of this auspicious occasion, lets take a look back, shall we?
This blog’s first entry was posted on October 31st, 2005, a little more than three years ago. It was about some words I like, including “pogonip” and “snowclone,” as well as Why I Hate Halloween and Why Last Night’s Party (the photo website, not the party) Is Dumb.
My one-hundredth entry was posted on December 18th, 2006, less than one week shy of exactly two years ago. It was a sort-of review of the Beatles “album”/Cirque du Soleil soundtrack Love. (It—meaning the entry, not the album— is not very interesting. But feel free to click through.)
Post No. 200 entered the world on November 1st, 2007—again, about a month and a half more than one year ago. This post I’m kind of proud of. It’s a poem about, on a sun-struck fall day, eating dessert with a friend after a movie, and talking about who from college we still talk to.
And now here we are at Post No. 300, on December 12th, 2008, three years and 1.5 months after I started this blog. Suffice it to say, a lot has happened. It’s been nice to have this and to write in it, and to occasionally have people tell me that they’ve really enjoyed something I’ve placed here.
With that in mind, here’s this (Happy holidays!, and thanks for reading):
Cameras were everywhere, both still
and video, in the hot Brooklyn loft apartment.
Periodically, a boom mike swung overhead
of the long table at which we were seated.
It was a dinner party that was being filmed.
Across from me and my date was a lawyer
and his wife. I kept saying to the lawyer—
seated diagonally across from me,
who worked in the district attorney’s office
and whose brother was a friend of mine,
also present, snapping pictures, stonily silent—
I kept saying things like, when the mic neared,
“So how much does it cost really to buy a judge?”
Somehow, as people at dinner parties searching
for topics are wont to do, we got on the subject
of old jobs, in high school and college. I told
about the summer I worked in the hot dog stand
of the minor league ballpark at Ray Winder Field.
That summer seemed like many summers, or the ideal
of a summer. At least it seems that way in memory.
Then the lawyer said, “Yeah, Andy”—his brother—
“is really the only one of us who’s living the dream,”
meaning taking pictures, traveling. I could identify.
The lawyer continued: “My best summer job was
the summer I cleaned pools. All day I’d just clean
pools and listen to Talking Heads on my Walkman.”
And the scene came to me in a flash:
T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops: Handsome Tom,
having not yet met his wife or moved
to the city, having not yet attended law school,
the blue of the pool echoing the sky’s own blue,
the summer after college and no plans yet made,
calmly trawling the pool with the net-on-a-stick tool,
the Talking Heads’ polyrhythms coming in
from the cassette through the cord and on into
his ears, between which was an untroubled mass
exulting, lightweight, in the methodical
and the elementary: warmth, sun, sky, pool.
This was later, on a Sunday in early October
on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Brunch.
My friend was telling me that on the way
to meet me, she’d passed by a building
on Smith Street that was besieged by firemen.
They were ripping and scrabbling at the side
of a building in which an electrical fire
was smoldering. The fighters-to-fire ratio
fell heavily in favor of the fighters, and so
a crowd had gathered to watch. “But,”
my friend said, “There never ended up being
any big flames. Eventually everyone moved on.”
“Sometimes there are big flames,” I said,
“Like when my place burned.” “That’s true,” she said,
“I remember the pictures. And then once
when I was little, there was a big fire
in the middle of the night on our street, and we all”—
meaning her family, including eight-year-old Maya—
“came outside to watch, and all the neighbors did, too.
Just stood in the street and watched the place burn.”
Then I saw Maya, too, on a dark New England street
in the middle of the night with her mother, sister,
brother, and father before he died, dressed
in a thin night-shirt with bed-mussed hair, holding
the hand of an adult as she looked up, face upturned,
bare feet on the asphalt, still-warm from the day’s sun,
orange light flickering over her face, which even then
bore foreshadowings of the beauty that came later—
Looked up with a child’s eyes at the whump and crash
of a big house being taken apart by fire—
and behind her eyes was an unformed mass that saw
the fire not as a tragedy, but merely a heretofore
unseen assemblage of sound, light, and heat.