Processing Tragedy, One Christmas Concert at a Time

December 17, 2012  |  Uncategorized

Generic recital photo…you get the idea.

Tonight was the winter concert for Z’s elementary school here in Brooklyn. It was more or less exactly what I expected; an unwieldy gaggle of bad sweaters and funny wool caps up on stage, mangling a catalog of inclusive-non-denominational-all-possible-holidays-represented melodies. A very Park Slopey recital and very nice.

As soon as the family walked in the door, I made a beeline for the parent coordinator and volunteered to help wrangle the first graders. I could tell that they didn’t really need me (the PTA at Z’s school is a very ‘shit together’ group of people) but, for some reason, I needed to volunteer.  I was delegated the all important task of lining them up by size (this put Z at the end with the girls, part of being the son of a 5′ 10″ dad and a 5′ 5″ mom).  Once everyone was in order, we marched in and sat at the foot of the stage to watch the older kids do their thing (a thing that included bongos, and dare I say, enough cowbell to get me through all of 2013).

I have always been a problem solver, someone that makes very quick mental pro/con lists, weighs options and considers possible outcomes. This doesn’t mean I’m some great puzzle solving intellect – you may or may not agree with a single solution I come up with. But I think about possible problems and possible solutions all the time. I’m a visualizer, a planner.

For example, I know that at our home in California the ceiling in Pebble’s room was redone after some water damage back in 2004, but the ceiling in Z’s room is still the original 1929 construction. So, in the event of an earthquake, I need to go to his room first, lest 200 pounds of lathe and plaster come crashing down on his bed. It’s not something I think about often, but I’ve done the math and that’s the best option. (well, the BEST option is to redo his ceiling but I never got around to it). For better and worse, this is how my mind works.

Back in the auditorium, somewhere in the middle of the second number (a heart warming Kwanza song) I realized that my heart was pounding and I was in full problem-solver mode. Without realizing I was even doing it, here’s what I had figured out:

The stage left door is  the most likely point of entry. A fifteen foot hallway, up three stairs, and out a set of double doors and you’re standing on 5th avenue. If there is going to be a problem, that’s where it is going to come from.

I have two options. I can go for the back of the theatre, but with a seated audience (or an audience throwing themselves to the floor in panic) the slow incline from the stage to the rear of the theatre would make us an obvious target. The stage right door, however, is way better. It’s about ten feet away with a steel plate across the bottom. It gives me not only distance but a more complicated line of sight to the far stage left door. As an added bonus, a dilapidated grand piano provides some measure of cover. Even someone experienced with an M4 would have a hard time making that shot on a moving target. Statistically, it’s a good bet.

Z is  five feet away, I can reach out and snatch him by his little red Christmas sweater, if need be.  

What the fuck is wrong with me? How could I possibly be running scenarios like this in my head when I’m supposed to be enjoying a holiday concert with my family?

Wait, I’ve got a better question. What’s the average 911 response time in this part of Brooklyn? It’s gotta be, like, 7-8 minutes, right?  The ER entrance to NY Methodist is on 7th street just east of 7th Ave. At a dead run, carrying 43 pounds, I could do that in about four and a half minutes.

Seriously, just shut up and enjoy the concert.

I wonder if I should have worn better shoes…something I can run better in.  Four and a half minutes would be okay, though. The human brain can go five to six minutes without oxygen so if you run hard, it’ll be okay.

When it’s the first grades turn to take the stage I follow them up and stand in the wings. It’s at that moment that I realized I volunteered tonight because I need to be close. I’m not processing any of what’s happening in the world very well and the problem solver in me needs to know that if someone is going to get to my boy, it’s going to be me.  But it’s all good. I’m going to get my mind right and enjoy the ‘hip-hop-holiday’ number. Z is not a natural when it comes to bustin’ a move and it’s  insanely cute.

And, anyway, I can cover the ten feet between us in 2-3 seconds. I can do it. Everything is going to be fine.













  1. I don’t think there is ANYTHING wrong with your brain. I actually think that your brain might just be in the correct mindset.

    Shortly after I started studying Martial Arts/Self-Defense in ’81, I have always thought along these lines. Where ever I find myself I scan the room, look at exits and windows. Heck, sitting at my desk, I have looked at the windows (pitch dark) and both doors several times. When ever I go to a shop/store/restaurant I tend to look at the exits/entrances. In a restaurant I attempt to seat myself so I can watch the entrance and exits whenever possible. I scan the people near me, I PAY attention to my surroundings. I usually have 4-6 items nearby that I can use as a weapon if need be (in my own home, I have easily 10 items as well as several actual weapons nearby (yes, ancient martial arts weapons, but weapons just the same…).

    This may all sound bit weird, but I have been doing this for a LONG time that it is all 2nd nature. I ATTEMPT to be ready to defend myself and my family at ALL TIMES. This is NOT something I have to try to do…it just happens. As simple to me as breathing… Don’t know what this says about me or my level of basic trust in humanity, but I like to think that it is better to be over-prepared than to be caught off-guard.

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