Thursday, April 13, 2006


Ed and I finished in the bathroom and waited about 50 feet away, just out of the growing line. We sat down on the grass and I looked at this long-haired smiling man, proudly wearing his Army shirt with the insignia that identified him as serving in-country. Outside of my family he was the person to whom I felt closest.

I asked him how he was feeling, he said “Cool”. Ed lit a joint and continued “I`ve been waiting for this day forever, seems like anyway. Over there you don`t really know if anybody cares.”

Taking a hit from the joint, I tried again. “Ed, why`d you go back?”

“Because I was fucked up. Too much speed, too much anger. I lived in constant fear over there. Driving a gas truck every day, six hours north, six back. Then maintenance on the truck, fix any flats, fill the damn truck for the next day. You had to do speed to stay awake, except when you were getting shot at. I always thought of myself as one of those moving ducks in a shooting gallery? That`s what we all were. Dead any second. And the shooting was all comin` at me. I couldn`t do nothing but drive, get outta there. And vow I`d get a chance to shoot back some time, kill some of those bastards.”

I passed the joint back to him and opened a beer, saluting him. Ed stood up, said “By the way, where`s Mike?” Uh oh! We had been sitting for 15 or 20 minutes, no Mike. I fought my way through the line, got into the men`s room; nada. Ed circled the building and we met about 20 minutes later. I could feel the panic in my stomach; this was my younger brother who had been drinking and smoking, messed up, something he wasn`t very used to. I tried to think where he might go, how he might try to find us and decided my best bet was at the car near the Watergate.

Getting directions, we walked the first few blocks back, worry pervaded. Then, like a miracle, I turn a corner, dodge some people, hear a voice, laughing, “Yo Vinnie, Ed!” My brother is in a mob of crazies joining a counter parade. And he is marching under a sign that says “Kensington Gays Against The War”.

Ed and I practically fall down laughing, both from relief and from the sign. Ed had grown up and spent all of his life living in Kensington in Philly. This was a poor white neighborhood. In those days, you could spray a machine gun in Kensington and not hit a black or Hispanic person, never mind a gay man. Ed and I rush over to Mike and join him under the banner as we become part of the counter-protest parade, just a few more gays from Kensington!