Maybe you’ve noticed. Today is September 11th. It seems kind of inappropriate to talk about the stupid nonsense I usually spend all my time writing about, I’ll do the same thing everyone else is doing today and tell you where I was on September 11th, 2001.
I was working as the costume mistress at Beach Blanket, slaving away backstage at every show and having the inconvenient Monday and Tuesday as my weekend. I’d seen the upcoming work calendar and noticed that on Tuesday, September 11th, we were doing travel show at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for the Iron Workers of America Convention, or similar. This kind of gig is pretty normal, and while one gets paid a chunk of overtime for travel shows, wasn’t something I was normally into. However, at this particular convention, we were opening for the one and only Huey Lewis and the News. I HAD to work this travel show and spent the summer begging my boss, aptly nick-named Bosco, to assign me costumes for this coveted gig.
“Um, Bosco. Huey Lewis is like, my favorite. Of all time. Since I was 5. He’s from Marin. You have to let me go. Please. Seriously, I’ll owe you forever.”
The week before the event, I saw my name on the callboard as “Costumes: B.Spotswood, who will owe me forever.”
Yes! Thank you, Bosco.
I dragged myself out of bed at 6am, threw on some sweats, packed my dancing clothes in my bag and headed over to City Hall. As I walked into the auditorium, I found myself the only woman surrounded by 50 union workers and 4 or 5 of my cohorts from the Blanket. Doug, a huge, tattooed stagehand and good friend, who, as a child, had a poodle named Beaujolais, came running up to me.
“Hey girl, did you hear?”
“Did I hear what?”
“We’re under attack!”
“What are you talking about?”
Panicked, Doug explained the events as they’d unfolded so far. Our proximity to City Hall meant that they were considering evacuating us, and we nervously waited for word as to whether or not the show would go on. Misinformation flew through that auditorium like lightning, at one point we’d heard that then Mayor Willie Brown was personally on his way over to get us out of there. I sat huddled on some folding chairs with Bosco, as a lighting rigger named “Peanut” futzed with the knife on his belt, planning his escape into the woods.
“We’re at war, people!” Peanut announced. “And I’m heading for the hills.”
He came over to me. “I’m gonna take you with me. We can survive off the meat I kill and plants and shit until this business blows over.”
Bosco put a protective arm around me. “Peanut, you are full of shit, man. And people, we all need to relax. Let’s get to work. If we’re cancelled, we’re cancelled. If we’re not, we need to be ready. Cool?”
Oh, Bosco. Such a good boss.
I snuck back to the greenroom and grabbed my cell phone, called Alex asleep in his dorm at the University of Montana.
“Why the fuck are you waking me up?”
I instructed him to turn on the television, and we spent a few, freaked out minutes letting it all sink in. Really, at this point though, all of the horrible things that were going to happen had already happened, as it was 7:30 or 8 in the morning in San Francisco, making it just about 11am in New York. Bosco appeared in the doorway.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here, Bethina. Can you take Doug home?”
Doug, having worked himself into a frenzy at this point, started grabbing my bags for me, pushing me out the door and into the auditorium. “Come on girl, they might attack the west coast. Let’s split, honey.”
At a slight jog, we booked it through the auditorium to the underground parking lot in the middle of the City Hall plaza, Doug holding my hand and trying to avoid the air attack he was sure was about to hit. As he flung the doors open, I heard Peanut screaming at us in the background.
“Ain’t you coming to the mountains with me?”
No, Peanut. I am not going to the mountains with you. I’m going home to obsess over the news, call my family and curse the terrorists for fucking with my great country and keeping me from my one and only chance of kicking it backstage with my idol, Mr. Huey Lewis…