Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ann of the 12-Hour Days...

"Take chances, take a lot of them. Because honestly, no matter where you end up and with whom, it always ends up just the way it should be. Your mistakes make you who you are. You learn and grow with each choice you make. Everything is worth it. Say how you feel always. Be you, and be okay with it..."
- Unknown

By Patrick Alcatraz

MEXICO CITY - We were busy dispatching reports of the horrible earthquake that day, when my Houston Post colleague Steve Olafson asked about our ride back to the hotel. I said I'd be going for a drink before that, availing myself of the bar on the top floor of the Foreign Correspondents Center. Thousands were dead and here, on our third day in the city of millions, we didn't really want to head back to the El Presidente Hotel in Los Pinos, mainly because of the frickin' after-shocks. Steve nodded and we walked up the stairs. I had another reason for needing a drink; I'd invited this reporter from Chicago to join me and she said she'd be there. Her name was Ann, a thin and tallish women in her late-20s with longish soft-brown hair. She'd been seated next to me in the part of the building where we'd been using computers to shoot our stories to our respective newspapers. She'd seemed friendly.

The bar was lit-up like some backyard outing in Hawaii, reds and blues and yellows, a colorful scene that went against the black & blue pain being felt across the monstrous city. A massive earthquake had struck Mexico City three days earlier just as the day had dawned, dooming many, many residents who'd been either getting ready for the day or in the shower. Life seemed to have floated-off elsewhere, and maybe that's why I thought feeling a little bit of it with this woman from the Midwest might be a good idea.

Our photographer Gary Thompson joined us and then Ann ambled in. I waved her over and she angled toward us just as we finished talking about the next day's reporting plan. We drank talking about what we'd seen and experienced, me having been at the morgue to see stacks of dust-covered dead bodies and Steve about his citywide patrol aboard a local cab. Ann talked about filing a story to do with the collapse of an apartment building, where she'd seen and talked with opera superstar Placido Domingo. "He was there digging for an aunt," Ann said, looking perhaps too sad for my eyes. We talked for about an hour and then we headed downstairs to look for transportation.

"Ann's coming with me," I said to my colleagues.

We caught a battered cab sporting some fresh dents (falling concrete, who knows?) and we rode back to El Presidente not wishing to talk too much, at least not about the disaster. I had a bottle of wine near my bed, really because the newspaper had booked me into the 33rd floor and, well, thoughts of dying in a skyscraper collapse had entered my tired brain. But we were tired, and so we went, and we rode the elevator to my floor. In the room, Ann threw her shoulder bag on a small sofa and said she'd be freshening up in the bathroom. I walked to the small sink and rinsed-out two plastic cups, pouring wine into both and walking them back to the bedside tables.

Ann popped out and said she thought we should take a shower.

"It would be one way to go," she said, smiling, but thinking earthquake. I said yeah, there's a certain need in me to feel clean, sure. I was getting out of my boots when I heard the shower water storm out of the faucet. She said something about liking it kind warm and I said that'll do. What we did in the shower was what a man and woman would do, especially a man and woman coming off a long, long day of chasing death and reaction to death.

The lovemaking on the big bed finished off the night.

I saw her off the next morning, after breakfast in the room, and she said she had my card and would be in touch. I didn't see her again, but she did leave me a note at the correspondents center. "My editors are pulling me back to Chicago," she'd written. "Good luck to you."

Journalism is all about the next edition. So, I have come to learn, is wheelhouse romance...

- 30 -

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