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The Eve of War in New York City

Last night Dawn and I went into Manhattan to see Better Than Ezra play Irving Plaza. I dig Better Than Ezra -- their latest CD, which has been bought by approximately nobody, is really fantastic power pop, and if power pop is your bag, I suggest picking it up.

Going into Manhattan last night took us a bit of courage. I've been living at a low level of anxiety for a long time now, like a lot of people since September 11. The fear comes and goes, and it peaks and valleys, and it's a wholly new feeling for me, because I was never a fearful person before. It's been working its way up again starting with the night Dawn came home and said she heard on the radio that everyone was being told to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting to make their homes airtight against a biological or chemical attack. The whole duct tape thing is a joke now, something we can ridicule and mock in late night monologues, but that night on my couch at 11 o'clock, the kids asleep upstairs, a frozen hand closed around my heart and hasn't let go since, not entirely: Is this it? Have I done what I can to keep my family safe? Will I look back and curse myself for not being better prepared?

And I did what I guess a lot of people my age do when confronted with fear: I turned on the TV to see what it had to say. To be reassured. And the local news did reassure me: Mayor Bloomberg got on and told us all to stop with the duct tape thing, and that everything was going to be okay, and we shouldn't go crazy. This was reassuring somewhat, even if he was lying; I figured, either he was right, and we would be okay, or he was lying about the threat, in which case we were all in for it anyway. Either way I felt a little better. But not entirely.

The night before last, thinking about the concert on 15th Street in the city, and the fact that George W. Bush's ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was up at 8 o'clock our time, and that's when the doors open at Irving Plaza, it suddenly seemed very likely that Dawn and I would be at a new Ground Zero, maybe a much bigger one. And I didn't want to die for Better Than Ezra. I might risk death to see Rush, but not Better Than Ezra.

In the morning, of course, such fears seemed a little silly. So I decided we would go: After all, if we stay home -- say it with me -- Then The Terrorists Win.

We went. And I don't know if it's because it was a Wednesday night in the city or because people really did stay home or if I imagined the whole thing, but it seemed like there was almost no one in New York. The drive through the Lincoln Tunnel is almost always about a half hour, often longer; last night it took minutes. We passed the police officer in armor at the toll booths. The streets were empty. We found street parking next to Union Square.

The concert was good. Loud. One day I'll remember to bring earplugs.

On our way home Dawn turned south and drove us down to Ground Zero. There was no traffic. We parked across from it. The plywood walls which were up the last time I paid my respects were gone, replaced by tall fences and an official memorial. The dust was still in the cracks in the sidewalk. We didn't get out of the car. We drove home listening to the radio and the reports of the first missiles to hit Baghdad. The radio station ran a feed from CNN -- I haven't seen or heard Christiane Amanpour since the last war in Iraq.

During the concert, the lead singer, Kevin Griffin, said this to us: "I really appreciate you all coming out on a Wednesday night to see us. You made a conscious decision. You could have stayed home watching Married By America, but you said fuck that shit! I'm going out! I'm not even going to TiVo that shit, that's how dedicated I am!"

It was good to go out.


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