By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"We have but one question for the fastidious organizers of Sun & Star 1996, this fall's ubiquitous festival of Japanese art and culture that has relentlessly filled museums and concert halls since September: Remember Pearl Harbor? The sun and star have met and mingled before, and it wasn't in the cool darkness of the DMA or the quiet grandeur of the Meyerson in that breathless moment between silence and music. Oh no, my friends. It was on the blood-frothed beaches of Tarawa and on the fire-swept hell of Iwo Jima that sun and star first mingled, and it was no goddamned tea ceremony either. IT WAS WAR, dammit. WAR! It was a peaceful Sunday morning in paradise, shattered by treachery and well-aimed 500-pound bombs. But you got yours, didn't you, my little samurai? PAYBACK'S A BITCH, huh Tojo? You can make pretty little enamel lacquered boxes and folded paper cranes, but could you construct a simple self-sealing gas tank? HELL NO! Nimble is as nimble does, and your vaunted Zeros were just that: DUCKS IN A GODDAMNED SHOOTING GALLERY, from Midway all the way to Tokyo Bay. Never forget! Remember the Arizona!"
This past Saturday, it's five years to the day that we visited Carl's Corner, and it seems like I never woke up from that backseat drive. I'm in a drunken dream world, only this time back at the Green Elephant. Dozens of former staffers and well-wishers have flown here for a Met wake. There is plenty of remembering good times and bad--several of the staffers had been fired--and everyone wanted to heal old wounds and remember a paper that shouldn't have made it as long as it did, that somehow, through hard work and lots of silliness, made us all better writers, better people.
We don't spend a lot of time on what killed The Met. Despite my attachment to it and to the paper that won the war, I really don't care how it died. It had a good six-year run. Business is business, but business has nothing to do with writing or friendship or good times or your first story published, and that was what The Met always meant to me. Even later, when Stagen admits that he helped make the paper less viable by taking more control, by insisting that it put beautiful people on its covers and do more easily sellable service pieces ("I've finally gotten the paper I thought I wanted," he said to me, half-joking, "and now I think I've killed it"), it was hiring young writers and giving them a chance to sink or swim in a big-league media market, something other papers here never used to do. That's changed, and I think The Met had a lot to do with it, and for that I think it will always be an important footnote in this town's media history--more than any of us ever thought it would be.
Late in the evening, Kim Harwell, an editor for Guide Live and one of our former dining critics/editors, approaches me looking sad.
"Someone better get naked soon," she says.
"I always see nudity on my birthday when I'm with Met folk. Just like five years ago, at Carl's Corner."
"That was your birthday present? I forgot. Is that why we went?"
Of course. That made sense. I was there that night for no other reason than a gal wanted to see some nudity for her birthday. I remembered how that made sense at the time. How it continues to make sense, doing something stupid for no reason. Like starting a newspaper.
Later that night, she got her wish: Tim Rogers took his pants off at the bar and almost got kicked out. He later passed out on the Southwest Airlines seats we brought along, the very ones that had been in the Met offices from beginning to end. The ladies took turns drawing on his face with magic marker. A good sign. Monkey monkey.