It's late October 1961, and the last of Berlin's lights have gone out, a crow caws, a faint wind nudges loose a few bronze leaves, and the gray visages of shuttered-up cafes and markets line black streets. In his sentry box, a lone GI lights a cigarette and wonders if he can smell snow coming.
Minutes pass. In their barracks, William Kosel's platoon dozes.
Around 2 a.m., there comes an avalanche of sound: a breathless sergeant spews, "Grab your bags!" Men, still half-asleep, clamber out of their bunks while overhead can be heard the crazy chatter of distress flares.
"I'm a Vietnam-era vet, not a Vietnam vet," said Kosel with a chuckle.
But that said, Kosel nearly saw the first shots of World War Three when his platoon was scrambled to Checkpoint Charlie one night in late October, 1961.
"It was an actual stand-off," said Kosel. He paused for a beat, took a sip of coffee, then added, laughing, "It was a stand-off, all right."
Kosel's time in the military included two tours with the Army and one with the National Guard (that's not to mention the time his Merchant Marine ship was commandeered off the coast of Kuwait during the first Gulf War).
"I still get veteran's benefits, I just haven't collected them in a while," he said of his many years of service.
Since then, Kosel's worked with the U.S. Postal Service ("Nine-and-a-half years...until I got sick of it," said Kosel), as a junior engineer on a merchant ship, and as a Real Change vendor.
"I guess it keeps me out of trouble," Kosel said of Real Change. He added that the paper helps with rent and allows him to meet people. These days, you can find him on the corner of Third Ave. and Seneca St.
There, $1 will get you a good read. And a good yarn.
Who's the special person who offers you Real Change? Nominate them for Vendor of the Week: [email protected]