THEN there was The Great Chicago Fire. The stories of how fire began were wildly contradictory, but I was there. Some people say fire was started by a stampede of cows. Some say it was just one cow. Some tried to blame it all on someone they didn’t like. One fella tried to blame it on his own brother, just because his brother had stolen away his girlfriend and married her. The wedding took place in Las Vegas. It was a modest affair about 150 guests, non-denominational (which really pissed off the parents of the bride, but hell, you can’t please everybody). During the ceremony, some rotten little punks yelled “Fire! Fire!” and the whole place cleared out in no time. The maid of honor even broke her ankle in two places after being shoved down the altar by the always overly zealous justice of peace. Well, the ankle was pretty bad and the maid of honor had to be shot, and exactly one week later the entire black burned to the ground. Even the bricks burned. But at least nobody tried to blame it on a cow. And the wedding went ahead as planned. And some people actually believe that Nero fiddled as Rome burned, and that he really did look like a badly aging Peter Lorre. On Sunday nights we’d all gather ’round the television set to watch the Disney shoe, and I would always fall asleep from boredom. But I had a big ol’ Siamese cat named Butch who’d always loved to play with my face within moments after my head hit the pillow. So I’d awake started, sometimes crying, sometimes covered with blood and crying, starting into the idiot box. Sometimes I’d see Walt himself, sometimes Mickey and Goofy. But sometimes I’d see a thousand bright blue caribou racing a dust storm to the finish line, neck and neck all the way, like nature’s own Indy 500! Flesh and blood against the elements! And I remember wondering to myself… “Why are they racing?” Then one fine day I understood why the race took place. I t was because the hairs on those caribou necks were being tickled by the instinctual knowledge of a fire raging not too far away, and most certainly headed this way. Humans often get the same feeling… like an oddly warm breeze malevolently fueled by the maddening flames behind it. Come ride the fiery breeze of Galaxie 500!
-KRAMER, New York City, 1989.