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WENATCHEE, WASHINGTON, USA

[Joe Muhammad has just finished his latest masterpiece, a thirteen-inch statuette of a man in midshuffle, wearing a torn Baby Bjorn, staring ahead with lifeless eyes.]

I’m not going to say the war was a good thing. I’m not that much of a sick f**k, but you’ve got to admit that it did bring people together. My parents never stopped talking about how much they missed the sense of community back in Pakistan. They never talked to their American neighbors, never invited them over, barely knew their names unless it was to complain about loud music or a barking dog. Can’t say that’s the kind of world we live in now. And it’s not just the neighborhood, or even the country. Anywhere around the world, anyone you talk to, all of us have this powerful shared experience. I went on a cruise two years ago, the Pan Pacific Line across the islands. We had people from everywhere, and even though the details might have been different, the stories themselves were all pretty much the same. I know I come off as a little too optimistic, because I’m sure that as soon as things really get back to “normal,” once our kids or grandkids grow up in a peaceful and comfortable world, they’ll probably go right back to being as selfish and narrow-minded and generally shitty to one another as we were. But then again, can what we all went through really just go away? I once heard an African proverb, “One cannot cross a river without getting wet.” I’d like to believe that.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t miss some things about the old world, mainly just stuff, things I used to have or things I used to think I could have one day. Last week we had a bachelor party for one of the young guys on the block. We borrowed the only working DVD player and a few prewar skin flicks. There was one scene where Lusty Canyon was getting reamed by three guys on the hood of this pearl gray BMW Z4 convertible, and all I could think was Wow, they sure don’t make cars like that anymore.