I was in living in New York City when September 11th went down. At the time I was writing a weekly humor column for a website called, Toast. My editor was Hap Mansfield, one of the coolest and nicest people I’ve never met! Well she told me to take a week or two off and I did as I started suffering a bad case of writer’s block. I was told most of us who lived there went through a case of being in shock and that whole day and the week that followed are kind of a weird blur for me. This was the first thing I wrote for Toast after all the shit went down. Thanks to Hap and to Toast for giving me an outlet to keep on doing what I love to do. If I didn’t have a deadline I probably would have wallowed around longer than I did back then. Anyway, here’s a tribute to my good friend, Mr. Booze!
My Good Friend Mr. Booze
When a bunch of maniacs brutally hijacked and then flew two planeloads of innocent people suicide-style into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th the news hit us all hard. And if you live in New York City, it really hit you in a most horrible and furious manner. I live about a mile away and shortly after I saw the horrific images on my TV, I found myself walking towards the rubble that was once the World Trade Center. It was a strange feeling to walk from my neighborhood, which was untouched, into a surreal, third world-like war zone.
Traffic was all sealed off, but the streets were full of people who had wandered down to witness the carnage firsthand. As I looked around and saw the weird brown sky, people crying, a dazed looking woman in her early twenties wondering, “Why?” out loud to no one in particular, policemen trying to keep order in the midst of chaos, buzzing helicopters, news reporters on every corner jabbering in front of hand-held cameras, sirens and dust and debris everywhere, I felt as though I had just walked into a real-life nightmare. And there was a smell in the air. Not just the smoke and dust, but a foul, acrid odor.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” I said to a man who had white powder flecking his dark blue suit coat standing next to me, “what’s that smell?” With a face stupid with shock he replied in a tired voice, “It’s burning flesh and hair. I heard there could be 3,000 people buried over there.”
All of a sudden I wished I hadn’t walked down there and found myself shuffling away as my mind started processing too many grim thoughts per minute. I wandered aimlessly and ended up in a deli about a half a mile away.
The deli was full of people, but nobody was speaking. The TV in the corner was tuned to CNN and everyone’s eyes were glued to the screen watching the never-ending updates, the rising body count and the gut-wrenching footage of those two planes crashing into the World Trade Center.
As I stood there and looked slowly around the deli, it was then that I saw him. Housed behind a glass door in a cooler, was my good friend Mr. Booze.
Mr. Booze stayed with me throughout a two hour stretch in the deli. Without regard for his own feelings or well-being he comforted not only myself, but most everyone else sitting around. After a couple hours I felt the need to take a walk. Thoughtlessly I abandoned Mr. Booze and walked the streets of downtown Manhattan and watched a shocked city trying to cope with a situation that was beyond even the most fertile imagination.
I was tired, but I didn’t want to go home and sit alone. I took refuge in a neighborhood bar called the Stoned Crow and as I sat down at the bar, once again I spied my good friend Mr. Booze standing behind the bar. I was afraid he’d be mad at me for ditching him at the deli, but Mr. Booze harbored no ill will. In fact he was even more comforting than before. Hours passed and Mr. Booze tirelessly soothed my shattered nerves. He never left my side until I decided it was time to go home and try and get some sleep.
Once inside my apartment I turned on the TV and watched for the umpteenth time the nauseating film clip of the World Trade Center collapsing. My head felt like it was caving in as I opened my refrigerator door to get some water to chase down four Advil tablets. I swung the door open and much to my amazement, there he was: My good friend Mr. Booze.
With the help of Mr. Booze I settled down and tried to get some much-needed sleep. It was to be a fitful night of waking up from nightmares, but like a doctor on an unending house call, Mr. Booze was there every time I woke up in a pool of sweat. He’d help me back to sleep and then an hour later he’d repeat the process, never complaining, never thinking of himself.
I finally drifted off for a few hours straight, but a loud noise outside my apartment caused me to awaken at 9:05 in the morning. I bolted out of my bed and looked out the window and saw that no bomb’s were bursting outside. Feeling both a sense of relief and embarrassment I rubbed my aching head and thought that maybe Mr. Booze had finally left. But as I opened my refrigerator door I found I was wrong. There standing guard at his usual spot, was my good friend Mr. Booze.
Mr. Booze stayed with me through the day and managed to lift my spirits just a little. That evening a few friends came over. We all shared stories of where we were when it happened, talked about the photos in the paper of the people who jumped from the buildings and how the once lively and circus-like atmosphere of Manhattan had turned into one giant miserable wake. The mood in the room was depressing to say the least. Until Mr. Booze showed up. In typical Mr. Booze fashion, he livened up the party and reminded us that even in the most tragic of times you have to keep living.
Mr. Booze even got all of us relaxed enough to where we started laughing at jokes and each other for the first time since Tuesday morning. Mr. Booze accompanied us to the Stoned Crow bar and then to another, which for some reason the name escapes me. When it was time to go home, Mr. Booze helped me find the way and once again his calming company helped me get to sleep.
Two weeks have passed since this madness went down and with the help of Mr. Booze I felt like I was back on track. I even decided to sit down and write my column for Toast. It was then that I encountered the worst case of writer’s block in my life. I couldn’t think of anything to write about. I was petrified. I thought maybe all the grotesque images I had seen in the past few weeks had stripped my ability to do what I love most.
Hours passed as I stared at my blank computer screen as depression set in. Just when I was ready to call it quits, I happened to look to the right of my keyboard. And there he was. My good friend Mr. Booze. I knew then and there what the subject matter for this column would be.
And so ladies and gentlemen, in closing I would like to ask...no, beg you to join me as I stand up and salute my good friend...Mr. Booze!
Related Post: A Dozen Years Ago...