Anatomy of a Photo

Wearing jeans, a white scarf, and borrowed sandals, a 14-year-old American girl became the most famous unknown person in the world overnight.      John Filo, student photographer at Kent State, took a photo of runaway, Mary Ann Vecchio, in 1969 that was plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the country and firmly into the annals of history.     On May 4, Kent State University students protested over Richard Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia.  On her…

Happy Veterans Day…1969, Mud Amidst the Mangroves

When I was nineteen, I was stationed in a remote Laotian village bordering the Mekong River. I was an Irish kid from the Bronx, nearly 14,000 miles from home. It had been a twenty-two-hour plane ride to get, “in country” and another four excruciating hours strapped to a cloth harness attached to the perimeter of a cargo plane to arrive in Nakhon Phenom, a town Bob Hope called, “the armpit of the world.” My first day…

September 11, 2001

“Don’t tell me what you remember,” I said.  I leaned in and looked Twiggy squarely in the eyes. “I want you to tell me what you absolutely cannot forget.” I was asking my brother firefighter that question because I was doing research for a book that has since been published called Combustible.  Although the Twin Towers had collapsed more than a decade earlier, Twiggy’s head immediately collapsed into the palms of his hands, voice quivering,…

Is this Microphone Even Turned On?

You don’t have the right to shove a ventilator tube down my throat.   I’m not talking to healthcare professionals or doctors here.  As a former rescue-worker myself, I know it’s their job to make every effort to save my life.  I’m talking to the misinformed half of our populace who refuse to take vaccinations.  People who prefer to make their way to their local congressman for brain surgery have no right to put me…

This ‘Don’t Breathe’ Star Doesn’t Waste Breaths

Beneath sparkling brown eyes, and salt and pepper hair, he flashed a wry smile before pausing and uttering one deliberate sentence about a Sean O Casey play.  “It reads good.”   Author and movie star, Stephen Lang, had deliberately used bad grammar to make his point.  The classically trained actor knew that my partner Frank Pace and I would get it.  After all, we were writers of sorts too.  Stephen was referring to Sean O Casey’s,…

MAYHEM IN MIAMI

By Billy O’Connor, Retired NY City Firefighter and 9/11 First Responder. It happened in Florida. Of course, it did. It also happened in what might cynically be called history’s richest third-world country. Profit is always first and foremost in the USA.      Don’t dwell on the dead.  Never mind the rescue workers who will have to put their lives at risk.  As the first responder’s efforts inevitably change from rescue to recovery, my heart breaks for…

Ratzo and the Mutt

The tubercular character created in 1969s “Midnight Cowboy,” Ratzo Rizzo was as repulsive as he was unforgettable: a hacking, limping, confused miscreant struggling to survive amid a jungle of cement, conmen, and car horns.      In 60-Truck, an FDNY firefighter named Jack Rizzi was well groomed, mannerly, and so honest that you could play craps with him over the phone.  Because these two men were total opposites, the brothers Christened Jack Rizzi, “Ratzo Rizzi.”   The…

That Demon Rum

                           One afternoon, many years ago I was tending bar when an ominous looking man with a Boston Blackie style pencil thin moustache walked in and slid into a seat.  He was barely at his stool when the Killer said, “Alcohol is the cause and solution of all problems.”   “Killer Miller” was an exterminator, hence the benign rhyming nickname.                      As a former drunk, the sentence hit my ears like a powerful left…

How to Beat Your Bookie

An hour before the NCAA championship game, a diner in my community interrupted my burger, “Hey man, I watched your podcast. Good stuff.”“Thanks Tommy,” I said. “Much appreciated.”“So, you were a bookie?”“For seven years,” I said. “I even wrote a book about it.”“Wow. So, you know your stuff,” Tommy said. “Who do you like in tonight’s big game, Gonzaga or Baylor?”“Know my stuff?” I just laughed.Last football season on our podcast A Mick, A Mook,…