The Spartan Club, 2010ce
I pump iron in Paki meat head gym on the corner of Ave H and Coney Island Ave, I see my old squad partner Sebastian there, once a year or so, looking like death back to life. ‘Stop smoking, stop drinking, and think about your reasons.’
I normally the 58B 12 hour unit out of Station 58, in a forgotten little hood called Canarsie. Station 58 is the RCC regional command for the Brooklyn Division, Division 3. It is the largest Station in the borough, except for Station 43 which is technically in Division 5; Staten Island. The 58 is located on East 83rd Street and Foster, in this ass end of town where there’s nothing but warehouses, truck depots, and people in need of Salvation Army. The base is an abandoned Sanitation Garage, steel shutters roll up to reveal a small fleet of our trucks and various stages of decay.
Everyone calls me by my last name “Mr. Ali”. But, my crew calls me Mir. I affiliate with the Desi Riders; posted up on Foster Ave; we sit there with our cars pimped; all official.
At the Fire Academy and by that I mean fire suppression academy on Randal’s Island which everyone dubs the Rock; there is a mini skyscraper which is being built to simulate and train for the management of a high-rise fire. There is a vast bunker some call the ‘gas room’ where the probies learn to trust their PPE Bunker gear in a simulated roll over inferno. The two weeks of Academics are taught on web cast, multimedia vid-terminals in pristine clean white on blue rooms. Their cafeteria is a veritable shrine to nearly 200 years battling the demons blaze in NYC. There are climbing walls, training courses which light up and must be put out. There are several steel columns from the fallen towers fashioned into a bar for feats of public endurance. There are three cars worth of subway train to learn how to engage in rescue efforts in the MTA.
The whole compound takes up nearly 6 acres and includes nearly twenty buildings to train its cadet classes of sometimes up to 300.
I’ve been there only four times.
The first time I got paid a great deal of overtime to be a moulaged victim in a massive inter-agency counter-terrorism MCI cluster-fuck simulation.
Don’t hold your breath when the other show falls homie.
The next two were to receive two days of Hazmat Training so the Department can claim plausible deniability when the ‘other shoe falls’ as they say of Al-Qaeda. The final time was when I graduated. First thing I’d ever graduated ever. Was kicked out of grade school, dropped out of high school, hadn’t finished college.
The cheap looking blue certificate hung on my wall next to my Good Enough Diploma. It has taken two rounds and eaten nearly six months. It was the hardest thing I had ever had to do. And I sort of did it twice, but I don’t tell everybody that.
Me and Adon.
But my point, that last time I went to the Academy I looked up at a plaque hanging in the archway where the cadets must enter to get their gear. That plaque read as follows:
“Let no dead fire fighter return from dead to say my training failed me.”
“Juxtaposition” is one of my new favorite words. I learned it from my academy squad partner and car pool buddy Sebastian Adon. The Fort Totten EMS Academy comparatively is housed in two wards of a rundown Confederate Prisoner Interment Camp cum multi-agency supply and training base. Its cadets utilize three relatively un-air-conditioned, relatively un-heated Cold War style buildings to engage in our medical training, one black tarmac run way to learn to operate an emergency vehicle and 7 to 9 miles of highway in either direction to undergo our physical training.
We share our base with a Battalion of the National Guard, an NYPD harbor unit, an NYPD Canine unit, the Park’s Department, a Historical Society, and perhaps a ground to air missile nuclear defense system that doesn’t work from the Reagan years of operation Atlas.
There is no slogan hanging on the gates of our facility or above the dirty stinking locker room we stow our gear three to a locker. But on a tree downhill from building 205 where we engage in medical examinations, timed scenarios, and general EMS re-education; carved on a tree near the water. Some old timer once carved these words in that ancient sycamore there, in tiny bloc letters as they looked out across to the Coast of Crescent Breach.
“Pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living,” that’s what they say in the Banshee.
And my training never failed me, but when they send us into the field there was just so goddamn much we had to make up as we went along. I need to get out of this chicken shit EMS outfit and become the first practicing Muslim fire fighter, that’s the plan.