It is magic, writing news. We have an honored front row seat in life,
the chance to walk through the bat cave for six hours seeing the last
ceilingsful of bats, mysteriously dying. It is a privilege to listen
to the victim tell of brain injury, grief, monster trucks or false imprisonment.
It is a gift to be able to read the actual Slut List, meet a hunter at 5:30 a.m.,
write haiku from the signs in the train car, talk to Billy Collins by cell phone,
watch the drips fall off Michael Phelps’ shoulders, hear “good luck”
from the flood victims who need it more than we do, work with Dith Pran,
watch a bishop get elected, attend a Nocturnal Bird Migration Concert,
know a little bit about just about everything, start with rumors and end
with reality, swear by precision, become incapable of fibbing, ask
questions with abandon, take notes on talkers more profound
than any of our imaginations, distill it, discuss it, dither over it
and hit Send, so a million others can know what we learned.
It was here I learned Mohammad Attah’s eyes were so dark,
no one could see his pupils. It was here I talked to the man
who bought his late wife’s favorite perfume to spray it on his pillow
before he went to bed, the only way he could sleep.
You can’t buy a front row seat like that. It’s priceless, and there are fewer
and fewer of them. And for ten years I’ve been paid to sit, or stand,
or run, or speed, or blog, in the front row. How few are this lucky.