Reporting, Recording and Relaying - But Always Telling It As I See It

Friday, April 29, 2011

Engine 54, Ladder 4 Battalion 9 - When September 11 Becomes Small

(I posted this last week upon returning from a trip to New York with my family.  This Firehouse really struck a chord with us, and made 9/11 more personal than ever.  This station has been, unfortunately, in the news quite a bit since bin Laden was killed.  Today, president Obama visited, and several news stations have reported from here.  As difficult as it was for us to be there two weeks ago, I can only imagine what those New York Firefighters are dealing with now.)

Ground Zero is a construction site, more distinguishable as a hole in the skyline of New York than as a footprint of the tragedy that occurred there. That will change as buildings rise and the Memorial is assembled. When that is finished, it will serve as a stoic and solemn place in otherwise harried Manhattan. But right now, it is a construction site.

Engine 54, Ladder 4 and Battalion 9 is not a construction site. It is a firehouse in Midtown, barely noticeable on Eighth Avenue. My family and I only saw it because we were eating across the street as a fire engine was backing in. After dinner, my wife went to the store next to the firehouse as me and the boys paid our bill and walked across the street to meet her. She called us over to look at the beautiful memorial painting on the garage door.

On September 11, all fifteen firefighters that were on duty at this fire station were killed. They rolled through the door that we stood in front of and never came back.

For me, September 11 was no longer about the towers falling, the Pentagon burning or the field in Shanksville. It is no longer about the massive things. It is about a FDNY garage door.

How many times a year do we tell someone where we were on 9/11? We share those stories often. But it strikes me that the real story is about the people who can no longer tell us where they were. These stories are told by a photo on a mantel or a memorial on a garage door.

I remember where I was on September 11. But more importantly, I now know where fifteen New York City Fire Fighters were. They were at Engine 54, Ladder 4 and Battalion 9 - behind the garage door that would soon honor them for years to come.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

NYC - Notes From Above Ground

An overview of our recent trip to New York City.

Best overheard conversation: Security Guard, “You want Bison Shoes?” Foreign tourist, “Yes, Bison Shoes.” SG, “Oh, you want to buy-some-shoes?” FT, “Yes, buysome shoes.”

Worst tactical mistake: Trying to outthink the subway map. The D train does NOT stop at 81st Street, just like the map says. The D Train does go straight to Harlem…just like the map says. This becomes very clear as you rocket by the 81st Street station.

Craziest Person: The black guy in the Jesus robe at Grand Central Station, preaching about somebody or something being a motherfucker. (Second place goes to the three girls in Greenwich Village who were wearing what appeared to be prototype Snuggies.)

Most awkward moment: The simulated sex scene in the musical, American Idiot. My kids agree with me on this one.

Best celebrity sighting: Samuel L. Jackson almost running me over as he was coming out of our hotel. (Second place goes to seeing Robin Roberts outside the Good Morning America studios. That is second place because she was the only other celebrity we saw. I am not counting Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day since we were supposed to see him in the awesome musical, “American Idiot.”)

Biggest Adventure: Trying to cross Times Square Saturday morning to get to McDonalds…while they were filming a movie (with Sam Jackson) and had half of it closed. The problem was, we didn’t know exactly what was closed and were constantly shepherded by people in black cargo pants with walkie-talkies. We finally made it - via Staten Island. (Sure, McDonalds may not have been your choice for breakfast, but after dropping eighty bucks the previous morning on breakfast…well?)

Uh-Oh Moment: When the cab driver that is taking you to the airport comes to a stop sign in Queens, looks both ways and says, “Hmm…let me think.”

“Really?” Moment: When tourists pose in front of the Dakota Apartments, where Lennon was shot, with a big smile on their face.

The “WTF is this about” until you figure it out: The elevators in our hotel. There is a keypad at the elevator bank. You enter the floor you want to go to, and it assigns you an elevator. Hence, there are no floor buttons in the elevator. Hence, many people rush on when the doors open, only to realize there are no floor buttons inside…then say, “wha?” as they ride to the 40th floor with you. (This hotel also had the lobby on the unusually high eighth floor.)

What we didn’t bring that we should have: A podiatrist to care for our feet after the end of each day.

Misguided assumption about New Yorkers: They are impatient. Actually they couldn’t be more patient. Otherwise, the 24/7 glut of traffic and pedestrians (compounded exponentially by wandering tourists like us) would drive people to mass homicide.

Best part of the trip: Spending four wonderful days with my family.

Worst part of the trip: Knowing it will be awhile until we take our next family adventure

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Get Your Ass In Here

I wonder if Elena Cara was the least bit nervous when she walked into the back room of a floor tile shop in Las Vegas for her cosmetic surgery. Didn’t the lack of a receptionist and year old magazines provide a clue that this may not be the place to have her butt made bigger? Didn’t the pallet of ceramic tile and the bucket of thin-set seem out of place?

Sadly, Elena would die later at a hospital due to the botched (obviously) buttocks enhancement operation performed by two Columbians who were later arrested at McCarran Airport. To state that they were not doctors would seem antithetical.

I know nothing of Ms. Cara, and I’m sure in many ways she was a lovely woman (albeit with a self-diagnosed flat-ass). But given the chance, I would have to ask, “What the fuck were you thinking?”

Come to think of it, my first question wouldn’t be to ask what she was thinking, it would be, “How did you even find out about this place?” I can’t figure out how to download a ring tone to my phone but Elena managed to track down two Columbian nationals performing black market surgery in the back of a store.

It takes a uniquely savage personality to get through all the mental hurdles required to stroll into a tile shop to have your ass operated on. Hell, I get nervous slipping into the blood pressure cuff at the gym.

If there is a moral to all this, I think it would be – never enter a situation that can be the opening line of a joke. “A woman walks into the back room of a tile store where two Columbians wait near a card table…”

(I recognize that this may not really be that funny.  Afterall, a woman is dead - and that is tragic.  I'm just mystified by the human condition.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

From Bad To Inspirational

Before my boys suited up for their lacrosse game against Peters Township, the eighth grade team was attempting to finish theirs. By the fourth quarter, the opposing coach in this eighth grade game had yelled, screamed, cussed and nearly physically attacked anyone within striking range (this included his players physically retraining him from getting at the on-duty EMT). Our coach informed the referee that our team would no longer continue the game under these circumstances. When told of this, the opposing coach launched into yet another tirade. Perhaps it was too late, but the referee called the game, awarding the win via forfeit to our eighth graders.

One of the great things about youth sports is that after every game the kids line up and shake hands. After this game, the out of control coach was yelling at his kids to NOT shake hands. It was disgusting. More so, it was embarrassing for his players who were shedding their gear in disgust as our kids waited on the sideline for the handshake.

Then, it wasn’t.

In spite of the overbearing asshole of a coach, the kids once again showed that at times they have a far greater grasp of respect and dignity than adults. A few of the boys rallied their humiliated teammates, had everyone line up and walk over and shake hands. They did this in spite of their coach and their embarrassment. They took off their right glove, put their goalie in front as is tradition and walked tall. They shook everyone’s hand.

Was the coach disgraceful? Yes. Were the kids inspiring? Absolutely.

I think these kids learned a valuable lesson; and maybe reminded us of one too easily forgotten. Things go awry sometimes and maybe through no fault of our own we get caught up in someone else’s bullshit. But none of that should absolve us from taking off our glove and shaking hands.