Osama bin Laden is dead.
Following a late dinner at Van Loc Sunday, Rocks Off was a block or two away from Leon's Lounge when a friend texted us the news around 10 p.m. When we entered the bar, our buddy Lonesome Onry and Mean's daughter in the military had just messaged him the same thing.
The Mets-Phillies game was still on television when we sat down. After we walked outside for a cigarette and to send one more text of disbelief ("holy shit"), the bartender had flipped to CNN.
Wolf Blitzer and the network's senior military/intelligence correspondents were onscreen piecing together the story while they waited for President Obama to deliver his address. It was a little hard to hear what they were saying, because several people at the bar were discussing their opinions of bin Laden in what elementary-school teachers would call their "outside voices," using language that, no matter the subject, would have earned them a trip to the principal's office.
It was already a busy night, and the bloodlust in the air became almost palpable; the mood was revenge, not relief. For most people, that is - one girl walked in while Obama was talking, saw the caption onscreen and literally jumped back in shock, which is more how we felt. Rocks Off couldn't help but wonder if it was like this when news of John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald's deaths got out.
After the president's address, the whiskey shots started pouring and people started yelling at the bartender that he "better pick something good" to put on the turntable. He chose Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," which slaked the bar's thirst more for its driving beat and splenetic tone than its actual meaning - John Fogerty is not lining up with those people "made to wave the flag" at all.
It hardly mattered Sunday. It was a night for blowing off steam, not irony or reflection. "Fortunate Son" is pretty potent when your blood is already up.
Merle Haggard, who you'll hear from in a minute, once sang "we don't make a party out of lovin'." Rocks Off can't say we're sorry bin Laden is dead, but too many people have died already for people to treat the situation like their favorite team just won the Super Bowl. In our opinion, anyway.
Bin Laden may be dead, but al-Qaeda is not; to us, his end seems more like cutting the head off a hydra than slaying a dragon. One of the things we did manage to hear the CNN guys say was that there is some debate over how much influence and control he wielded over al-Qaeda by the time that squad of Navy SEALs found him sometime Sunday.
And it doesn't take any military or intelligence training to know the chances of some kind of reprisal just zoomed off the charts. One of the first things we heard this morning is that the State Department has issued a warning to all Americans abroad, especially in the "hot zones," to basically stay put.
That doesn't sound like much reason to party to us, but obviously Rocks Off was in the minority Sunday. Below are a few songs that have passed through our heads - some chosen mostly for their titles, others not so much - in the 12 hours since we heard the news, not counting the six or so that we actually managed to sleep:
CCR, "Fortunate Son":
Rolling Stones, "Rough Justice":
Merle Haggard, "The Fightin' Side of Me":
Led Zeppelin, "No Quarter":
Johnny Cash, "I Guess Things Happen That Way":
Metallica, "Seek & Destroy":
Pearl Jam, "Masters of War" (Bob Dylan cover):
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New Order, "Shell Shock":