12:12 PM, Apr 29, 2013
After having semi-surgery this morning-a root canal, I headed with my companion to Common Roots to celebrate the successful operation (this seems incredibly ironic now when considering the restaurant’s name). We selected a seat on the patio in hopes of getting some sunrays and waited for our order. After a few moments outside we noticed black smoke coming over buildings northeast of our location. Immediately, I took to foot to observe the fire after a few moments of filming the smoke. I ran through back alleyways and through yards in search of the house that was clearly on fire. I came to 25th and Bryant. To a horde of people gaped at the spectacle:
The front of a green and brown two-story screamed of flame and smoke. Water burst out through the incendiary wall of heat. Firefighters within defenestrated axe blades into the open air throwing glass shards on the grass below. The house was easily a quarter demolished; fire and ash being its makeup, on lookers gathered across the street from the old Victorian, they don’t make them like that anymore. Neighbors ran out shouting their Oh Gods and I can’t believe it’s. A lady walked up as my camera cut out, she spoke frantically, informatively, but not wanting to be named. She said they were trying to start a grill on the patio, or something, and then this…
Teams of firefighters scrambled, sirens howled, streets became congested and cars became immobile on their tires. There were more camera phones than emergency techs, there were more eyes staring in amazement than shouts of orders from upper ranks of the fire-crew. There were more freelance amateur reporters than actual witnesses. I wondered when the food trucks and beer tents would show up to capitalize on this showing of People’s Lives In Flames. This was, now, truly a show.
In the melee my phone buzzed a few times. I left my girl back at the patio. I had been taken up in all the excitement and wanted to report what I saw too. I answered the phone, which unexpectedly deleted the video footage of the house actually burning.
At this point, I realized, I had forgotten the most important thing: To mind my own business, and not go looking for excitement when I already had it in front of where I sat. She was sitting across from me when we first saw the smoke. Now, I told her on the phone. I’ll be back Babe. I walked past the other makeshift reporters, headed down the alleyway, back through a yard, and onto the patio. I was on a mission to get back to the table and drink my IPA in the sun with my companion.
I turned and made my way back to lunch, a helicopter hung over head 20 minutes too late for anything good (I hoped); flames probably lacking luster, the smoke had already turned white and was becoming hard to decipher from the distant skies.
I ate my red bean burger. It was fantastic, and I sat and I thought. I had a conversation and focused on the importance of where I was. On now, April 29th, 2013, around 1:00 PM, this day was now, the sun and the food and the company was most important, and tangible. Not this fire down the block. Not the house that would no longer exist come tomorrow. All the belongings that weren’t mine, the destroyed memories. This, this right here. This was in front of where I sat. The fire had nothing to do with my situation at all.
The helicopter circled as it flew above, ever present throughout the rest of our meal.
I ate and thought about how I would be on the local news tonight. I put two fingers to the chopper blades, which batted at the sun. I put my eyes to the food and finished my beer. After we finished our plates we walked away, back to our two-story Victorian. That was now. This was today.