Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where did you all come from?

It may very well have been September 15, 2001, the first Saturday after that fateful Tuesday; I'm just not sure exactly what day it was. You'll soon see why. We had all been huddled around each other in my house - me, my mother, my father, and my brother. However, on this day my mother and father were headed to my Aunt's house in Staten Island. I wasn't ready to go yet. My brother had plans with his girlfriend of the time, plans that were in place for months so he pressed on with those plans. This left me home alone.

I had not been alone since my trek from New York City back to New Jersey on September 12th, after being stranded there all day prior. Being alone amidst a personal crisis is hard; being left alone suddenly is harder. I was alone maybe an hour when it hit me that I really had nobody around me. So, I decided I was going to relax and have a drink to take the edge off. You know how that goes. A little vodka softens the world around you just enough. I was a big vodka drinker back then. So a vodka and tonic with a lime to refresh me, distract me, and help me settle in for the many hours I was to be in that house entirely solo.

How long does a vodka/tonic on the rocks in a highball glass last? It's 10am. One drink isn't going to to the trick. So it leads to another. And another. And another. Before long, I ran out of tonic. Vodka on the rocks it is! A friend had checked in with me to see what I was up, as most were doing periodically. Some time had gone by and it was the afternoon by now and my inability to control my lips and tongue made him aware of my state. He got himself ready and came to my house, by which point the ice had run out and I was relegated to 2 fingers of warm vodka per glass.

From that point on the minute to minute details get fuzzy with only certain moments sticking out and the rest pieced together from stories later. I suppose others had called to see how I was, unbeknownst to them I was staggering around my house in a drunken stupor. My friend had been answering the phone and letting people know what was going on and that despite his best efforts to stop me, I was finding ways to get alcohol into my face. So... they started showing up, one by one.

At some point I managed to wipe away the haze to see a house full of people. 10 or more people had shown up after speaking to one another. One drove up from South Jersey about an hour away. One took a train from NYC out to the house. Nobody was doing anything. Everyone just kinda sat around. They were just there. Some were super close friends, others were friends of friends, some were people I kinda knew from around the way.

My brother eventually came home to find everyone hanging around and me nearly in an alcohol induced coma. Shortly after that, my parents called from Staten Island to see how things were going. They heard a nervous voice in my brother and enough background noise to know something was up. From what I was told, he said something simple like, "you need to come home" before someone else got on the phone and explained things.

I vaguely recall them walking in the door, but I can't begin to guess when it was. I don't know how the night tied up - wen people left, when I went to bed, what was said. I don't even remember the next day. I do know that my behavior was never addressed. As upset and worried as my parents and friends must have been, nobody scolded me at any point. We were all searching for a way through this and for one day I had a break in logic. It was self-medicating. It wasn't persistent or prolonged. It got the better of me for a day.

But regardless of the fuzzy details, I'll never forget the outpouring of support in my home that day. I sat down to have a drink and relax and before I knew it there were more than a dozen people at my side. Going through all of this over the years has been hard. Without some of the people in my life, it would have simply been impossible.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Stupid calendar

So I was fine. Being out of work I had lost track of time and the calendar. It wasn't until September 8th that I realized just how close to September 11th it was. It snuck up on me so quickly that I didn't have time to let any anxiety build and get me down. I think everyone knows my association to the event. Even after 11 years it's still quite hard for me at times. So much so, that a friend of mine who is named Thomas, the same as my late uncle, is also a firefighter and each year he changes his profile picture on Facebook to that of my uncle. It is so jarring to see my uncle's face paired with the same first name, that my friend lets me know ahead of time. Part of it is the loss of my FDNY uncle, but the rest are me own demons from surviving that day - barely at times. The loss hurts, but I could live with that. It's the fact that I am the only World Trade Center survivor walking around down here that gets to me and really hurts. It's a struggle to see those images and snippets in my memory. Moreover, it is the sounds that I'll never forget. 110 stories of crumbling, twisting, burning steel makes a noise you don't easily forget. If you're new to me or the blog and you don't know the story there are many blogs here about it

List of 9/11 related blogs:

  1. It's September and time to remember
  2. Anniversary Anxiety
  3. September Blues
  4. 10 is just a number like 9
  5. 10 years later I'm changed

Once a couple of people reminded me by asking how I was feeling, it started to set in a little bit. But still I was ok overall. It is now the day before and I was going on about my business without much worry. I had some paperwork items to accomplish at work that were time sensitive and, consequently, had my attention. On the way out I grabbed a navy blue t-shirt. Given how few shirts of that color I have and the amount of FDNY t-shirts I have, the odds are that if it's that color it has an FDNY reference on it. Sure enough it did. Again, I thought nothing of it.

Next thing I know, I'm on a common office at work, discussing some paperwork and convalescent leave items with a boss. As luck would have it, someone I know VERY well and was once incredibly close with comes over to shake my hand and say hello. I said hello back and continued my conversation. When it was over he came back. Remember... it's September 10th, I'm wearing an FDNY T-shirt. Ok, got the image? What does this person say when he walks over for the second time? "Nice beard, you look like a terrorist!" and proceeds to look at someone else and say, "Doesn't he?" while waiting for a response from them.

Contrary to your expectations of my reaction, I just sat there in disbelief. I did not address it. I knew there was no middle ground. I could have either sat in silence like I did or I would have gone off the deep end and ended up in tears. I also do not think there was any malicious intent. This person just thought he was real fucking funny and didn't have the situational awareness, social ability or plain common sense to think about his words before they flew out of his mouth. If he was dumb enough to not know how offensive that was, he doesn't deserve my attention, even to correct him.

Unfortunately that comment brought the levees to max capacity. When I got home and told a friend and my girlfriend about it I felt the swells beginning to overtop them. Then I sat down to tell everyone about my progress this year and that was it. That did the trick. Recounting the story to my readers is just more than I could bear. It has come around in full swing and I now dread tomorrow.

Facebook doesn't make it easier either. While I appreciate how many people want to keep the memory and patriotism alive, the barrage of "so and so updated their profile picture" updates in my newsfeed to see pictures of the firefighters raising the American flag at ground zero or the beams of light or the buildings themselves only brings the horror to the forefront of my memory. The TV footage of that day and the commemoration at Ground Zero with the reading of the names is a brutal assault on my emotions. I can never fully recover from it, but I get a little closer to having a scar instead of a live wound each year. I just wish the anniversary didn't rip off the scab every September and I could complete my process. Maybe once I'm home with family I can take the final steps of grief and come to a terminus in my healing.

I don't know. Clearly, this isn't my year though.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

That is a tasty burger

I saw this picture today.

This is the world's largest burger. It has 60 pounds of bacon, 50 pounds of lettuce, 50 pounds of onions, 40 pounds of pickles and 40 pounds of cheese. In its entirety it weighs 2014 pounds. That has to be about 1500 pounds of beef.

Here is the video of it being built for the Guinness Book of World Records:

None of this is even about the burger though. The responses I saw had people complaining that this wasn't going to Africa or the poor here in this country. Could they donate this if they wanted? Sure. Do they have to? Nope. Should they be ridiculed if they don't? Absolutely not.

This is the Black Bear Casino that did this. They made their money and it is their call how they choose to spend it. It's not like they robbed the poor. They didn't get beef from government assistance and use it for this. People walked through their front door every single day and willingly handed over money. They took their profits and made a gigantic burger out of some of it.

For every single person that thinks this burger should be donated to the homeless, I want you to stop and think about the last time you bought something with the sole intention of donating it. Beyond that, I'd be curious to know when you donated something you already had and weren't going to use. One step further. How often have you thrown things away that could have been donated, but it was just easier to dump it? If I was a betting man (I am), I'd bet that many of the complainers find some hypocrisy within themselves after taking a long hard look at these questions.

As I was writing this I stopped to watch a video of a Republican that snuck into the Democratic National Convention and asked random passers-by the same question. Are you in favor of banning corporate profits? Nobody was against it. Some modified their answer to say they supported a cap on corporate profits.

That means that every year, no matter how many people walk through the doors of Best Buy or how many products they sell, or how well they market themselves, or how awesome they are as a business, they stop earning at a certain point and have to give that money away. The ban means that after bills and employees are paid, they keep nothing. NOTHING. NO PROFITS. How can they expand or build new stores or grow as a company or innovate? These lunatics want the whole country to be built as a non-profit organization.

Do I think companies are greedy? Yes. Am I greedy? You bet your ass I am. Do I want to make as much money as possible by being handed it from other people? You can fucking keep it. I'll make my money. I'll earn it. I plan to earn more than I can spend. I don't want a handout. I don't plan on giving handouts either. I will donate to charities. I donate now, while I'm not making any real money. There are less fortunate than me and as a good person I choose to help them. However, to mandate how much of my EARNINGS I have to give away is ludicrous. The word earn means - obtain in return for labor or services. That's an exchange at a pre-determined rate. And now you want us to give it back?

People handed their money to this casino, knowing full well they may lose all of it and then want to dictate how the casino spends that money? I know the rich get richer. They have the resources to keep building. I know people who have come from absolutely nothing to be wildly successful. Do you know the name John Paul DeJoria? Probably not. Do you know the company Paul Mitchell? That's the connection. Did you know that John Paul DeJoria slept in his car while developing his hair care products? Did you know that his plain white bottles with the black writing that are now trademark of the company are that way for a reason? He couldn't afford to print them in color. Now he's a billionaire and he gives back. He's a huge philanthropist - BY CHOICE!

If I make a ton of money and I have to give some of it then I want even less fortunate to give some to those even less fortunate than them. There's always someone less fortunate than you. If we mandate it, then that goes for everyone. If you are given 10 food stamps. Give 1 to someone who only gets 5. You still come out ahead, right?

Either that or get your heads out of your liberal asses and realize that free markets and capitalism are important. People are entitled to keep what they earn. They worked for it, it's theirs. They can make gigantic burgers and then throw them away if they like. It's their choice. You cannot tell me what to do with MY resources you lousy communist bastards.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Pop goes the question

The last two things I watched on TV included a marriage proposal. Now I consider myself to be a fairly traditional and old-fashioned when it comes to items like marriage and all the parts leading up to it. I wouldn't get married on a beach, I don't understand destination weddings and I never challenge the old way of doing things. However, both of these instances on TV got me thinking.

In a typical engagement proposal the man asks and the woman either says yes or no. Now, as we advance through the years, men and women approach a level playing field. Salaries are nearing equilibrium and other than front line combat in the military, women and men can hold pretty much all the same jobs. Progressive thinking tears down the oppressive gender roles of the 1950s. True love shows us all as partners. I agree with all of that.

But when I got to thinking about the proposal itself I wasn't sure how I felt about it. The man asks and the woman holds all of the power to say yes or no. Presumably, the proposal isn't random. If the question is popped, the asker should have some indication of the answer, I would think. I guess the idea is, for the question to be asked the couple is in love and has had talks about a life together. The answer from the girl shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

However, she does hold all the power, doesn't she? As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. No matter how sure we think we are, as men, she can always spontaneously say no for any real reason or for none at all. And then all of the planning and preparing are laid to waste. So, we ask in earnest and whether or not the relationship proceeds is in the hands of the woman.

I suppose I don't understand why an engagement, which is the first major and formal step toward a union and partnership, all hinges on the decision and, sometimes, whimsy of the female. They don't propose to men (generally speaking). We don't get an opportunity to decide. Our decision is valued on in whether or not we actually ask the question. Bear in mind that the question is only asked after we have already invested a significant sum of money. Imagine the embarrassment of having to bring an engagement ring back. Buyer beware doesn't really apply here, simply because the onus is not on us as men.

So a surprise proposal requires the man to assume significant risk. I feel as though women get the best part of this situation and men can end up holding the bag. The whole concept makes me nervous and I'm not sure I understand how it's fair in 2012 when all anyone wants is equality and to tear down the walls between genders.