Time Transients

A new millennium in Phoenix, where the motorist in the next lane is your auld acquaintance

But something is different.

About half of the patrons are not in the bar. They're outside in the street.

A few are panhandling, but the others are standing close to the barricade, with Waylon Jennings playing on the other side. And they're listening, very seriously. I try to talk to them, and they shush me. They want to listen.

I leave and drive west on Van Buren Street. After a few minutes, I get out of the car and walk south.


Midnight strikes. Nothing happens.

The computers work. The lights stay on. The stores that are open stay open, and the others open when they are supposed to. The ATMs dispense cash. The phones work, the lights stay on, there is no terrorist action.

Midnight strikes, the century turns. Nothing happens, except what happens every New Year. For a few minutes, it's like a war zone as guns are fired into the air. In the barrio, where I am standing, the gunfire is combined with Latin music. A young man and a young woman wrap their arms around each other and kiss deeply while their little girl looks on and laughs.

The city's party was a failure, but Peter was right. It didn't matter. The party happened anyway. It happened in houses and streets all over the city. What we heard from the media, as usual, was fiction. We were told the world was going to end, and it scared us, but it didn't happen. Now we're told the city's party was a success, and we know that didn't happen, either. But no matter. The lies, and the fear caused by the lies, didn't spoil the fun. People met with their friends, put their arms around each other and kissed while their children laughed. Nothing managed to spoil it, even here, even now. Even in Phoenix.

Barry Graham lives in Phoenix and is a formerNew Timesstaff writer. His latest book,The Cactus Jungle: Reports From Southwestern Babylon, will be published in March. E-mail him at BGraham33@hotmail.com

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