With the new year and new decade approaching, I realized I hadn’t indulged in much retrospection. Then, standing in line at the grocery store, I noticed a recent Time magazine cover. Little Baby New Year was screaming his head off under a banner reading “The Decade From Hell.”
Okay, yes, we’d barely begun when we got 9/11. I remember that morning well. I was walking from my home in Columbia Heights down to my old Washington Blade office at 14th and U Streets NW. As I descended into downtown, the smoke in the distance was obvious. That it was pouring out of the Pentagon or that it was intentional turned everyone’s world upside down. In the course of one otherwise beautiful morning, all that hope that accompanied the end of the Berlin Wall, the rise of democracy, and the mood of movies like Big Eden and Trick was gone.
I was relieved, at least, that I’d just been moved from news reporting to A&E editor, so I didn’t have the sad task of hunting amid this nightmare for gay-related angles on which to report.
That terror wound has yet to heal. But that was just the beginning. More than 25,000 people were killed in Iran’s 2003 earthquake. In 2004, we got a scary outbreak of avian flu. Mother Nature chose to wash that down with a tsunami that killed more than 300,000. Her chaser was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It seems long ago, in a sense, but just as Lower Manhattan is still the site of a massive pit where once two of world’s most iconic buildings stood, New Orleans is still recovering. Avian flu didn’t do too much damage, but H1N1 will probably keep us on our toes a while longer. Not that we can afford much panic when we’re trying to pull ourselves up from the global recession.
So, “Decade From Hell”? I can’t really challenge that. But from a gay-male perspective, the 1980s were arguably worse as AIDS decimated our communities. On an even more subjective level, the 1990s were worse for me. A five-year relationship began and ended. My father died. So did my sister. Jesus Jones may have made “Right Here, Right Now” the upbeat unofficial anthem of the ’90s, but I was in more of a “Peggy Lee sings ‘Is That All There Is?’” sort of mood.
From this closing decade, however, I actually recall many bright spots.
I rang in 2000 on tiny Eggmont Key at the mouth of Tampa Bay with close friends. On an isolated beach, we soaked in a creamy sky of stars and held tight to bright hopes for the future.
Six months before 9/11, I met my partner. Don’t ever listen to those naysayers who warn that you’ll never find love in a bar. March 22, 2010, will mark the nine-year anniversary of an affair begun by cruising each other at JR.’s.
Through the past decade, I’ve managed to avoid attending a funeral for anyone truly near and dear. I know people who died, people I would’ve like to have known better — Wayne Nesbitt comes to mind — but I was spared the devastation that death dealt me in the 1990s.
At Metro Weekly since 2004, I’ve been satisfied professionally, particularly with the opportunity to meet more amazing members of the community than with any job prior — again the aforementioned Nesbitt, a cover interview in 2007, comes to mind. So do Frank Kameny, Rea Carey and Darlene Nipper, Khadijah Tribble, Dr. Dana Beyer, Judy Shepard, Eboné Bell…. It’s the tip of the iceberg of amazing people who’ve let me spend so much time with them. It’s selfish, but those long interviews have probably enriched my life more than any reader’s.
The decade may be ending with marriage-equality losses in New York and Maine, but again, selfishly, marriage equality is within reach for D.C. My partner, Fernando, and I have the happy task of considering what happens next with our D.C. domestic partnership. Our friends will need to give us some time to save up for the open bar.
Till then, the vow I’m going to make is to not be unsettled by visions of 2012 or The Road or even Zombieland. I will think instead of the foundations being laid for the new Freedom Tower that will eventually fill that Manhattan wound. Even as the wars continue, I will remind myself how remarkable this current president is, particularly relative to the bulk of the closing decade’s leadership. With my last column of the 2000s, if you’re reading this — and likely even if you’re not — I’m wishing you a happy new year and a happy new decade. See you there. L’chaim!
Will O’Bryan is Metro Weekly‘s managing editor.