Two Guys Talking on the Subway…

Mount Shasta from the Shasta Daylight. Photographer: Kile Ozier

Someone close to me retweeted this thread by Tucker Shaw (Of “America’s Test Kitchen“), yesterday. I glanced at it and began to read; doubting I’d make it much past the first bit, about two young men talking on the subway…

By the second one, I was completely engaged.

In the years immediately following the worst of the pandemic, it seemed to us – to me – as though the youth that followed wanted no part of this legacy, did not want to know what that experience was. It was bad, that’s all they were willing to hear; then would turn away, physically, spiritually, socially…

I don’t blame them…at all.

When one arrives at an intersection, a crossroads, and off to the left a huge, dark, virtually impenetrable cloud of sadness looms while to the right is the bright sunshine of possibility shining on one’s own special future…the choice is easy and understandable.

These days, there exist groups and organizations and likely millions of ad hoc conversations among the survivors still dealing with our own Waterloo, our own Normandy. Except our battles lasted for years.


Years of putting friends and lovers – and those without friends or lovers whose families had thrown them out and ceased communication – into the ground or on the surfaces of oceans deep or in forests quiet.

PTSD? Probably. Who had time to Process any of this? Boys (mostly) would get sick and die in a matter of weeks, evaporating before our eyes as we desperately tried to comfort them and one another.

Then. Gone. And we turned to the next one. And the next one. And the next…

No time to grieve. Thus, I believe we still continue to harbor that pain, that bewildered emptiness, and support one another though a loss that remains incomprehensible; returning to enclose and haunt our hearts still, these thousands of nights, later.

Through this most recent decade, though, I’ve encountered scores of young people (everyone’s a young person to me, anymore!); younger men and women who want to know how it was; what it was: newly stunned at what took place during those awful years.

I am gratified to see the compassion and concern in the bright eyes of these questing people. I welcome their questions, their articles, their projects, their documentaries…

And then I hear conversations that reflect an objectivity, a clinical perspective that from here seems so profoundly detached from the experience. I want to grab shoulders, look them in the eye and say, “You have no idea!”

But that’s an unfair challenge to those who were not there.

I wept beside my partner, Jaxon, as I shared “Angels in America” with him for the first time. “This is how it was…”

This is how it was…

I had such a notebook. The list got too long and became too painful.

Then comes this thread from yesterday; the response of Mr. Shaw.

Simple. Eloquent. Evocative. True.

I share this in the name of keeping the human experience, the residual power of those dark years alive, current, appreciated.

It wasn’t so long ago…

Thank you, Mr. Shaw.

His Posts:

This is how it was.


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