Saturday, March 26, 2011

More Signs of the Apocalypse

I was sitting in my friends’ living room this week in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, smoking cigarettes and drinking Budweiser out of tall-boy cans. It was late in the afternoon, and every one except me and S- was out, either still asleep or in the bathroom or at work. The news was on - NBC, six o’clock nightly news - and the anchorman was just wrapping up a story about the threat of nuclear disaster in Japan.

“This is it, this is what I was talking about.” said S-, “They keep having these stories on the news about how this is not the Apocalypse.”

There was going to be a full moon that night, and, because of the unique position of the Earth and the moon in their orbits, it would be the largest that the moon would appear in the night sky for 18 years. The news had segued into a story about the Indian Point nuclear power plant, up the Hudson River from New York, and how, if the East Coast were to suffer a comparable natural disaster to the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated Japan, then the entire city of New York would have to be evacuated.

“We have no way of knowing what the future will hold,” said the news caster, “and the events of the last several months, from the uprisings and subsequent violence in North Africa and the Middle East...” a shot of many angry Arab men chanting, followed by an explosion in the desert, “... to the tragedy in Japan...” cue crying families amid devastation, over the bodies of their families, “...have caused many to ponder whether or not this is truly the end of days.” And then a shot of a massive, blood-red moon rising over the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

I leaned forward in my chair. “But...” I prompted the man on the television. S- suddenly had his curiosity piqued also, as the silence left by the unspoken clause grew longer and longer, the unsaid reassurance from The Most Trusted Men in America that this, indeed, was not the end of the world, that there is no reason to panic, that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. “But... but...”

But nothing.

He signed off, leaving an eerie image of that bloody moon over the nation’s capitol and a provocative closing statement. Later that night, S- and my sister and I tried to go look at the bad moon rising from the roof of his apartment, but apparently S-’s landlord had an alarm installed, after having found the roof littered with cigarette butts and tall-boy cans, so that when we reached the top landing, we were assaulted by a loud and repetitive noise that caused us to run back down the stairs and out the front door, where we could see the moon just fine.

And so there we were, standing outside S-’s apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, smoking cigarettes, looking up at the moon, which was big but, y’know, had already risen, and so was not all that impressive. And we were laughing about how ridiculous the news anchor had been, and S- said something like, “Well, maybe this is the beginning of the end.” And I put out my cigarette and said, “Yeah, well... I think it’s more like the middle of the end.”

I tell you these things because I have been asked several times - mostly by my mom and by Jesse K. - why I have not been writing here since last December. And I guess that it’s mostly because things like this happen; that we can have months of cold and darkness, and that tsunamis can hit Japan and revolutions Libya, and that nobody - not even the anchorman on television, who is paid to do so, is willing to tell us that “Everything is going to be OK.” No, instead we have doom and soothsayers, folks who feed the panic, and layer after layer of insidious fear. There never seemed to be to me at least any one who would say something like, “DON’T PANIC” or “Everything is going to be OK.”

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