Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Healing Has Begun, Time to Look Forward

Yes, I have stayed away from my blog for the duration of the Katrina Katastrophe. Partly because I have not had much time with my extra workload and my work here at the Louisiana Pink Cross HQ. And partly because there is just too much that could be said, and sometimes too much that is being said.

But I wanted to chime in now with some thoughts and observations. The clouds have broken and the sun is starting to shine through. (I'm meaning this metaphorically) Calm is beginning to return and reality is setting in, and in some cases the reality is not as bad as we thought it would be 2 weeks ago.

I had the unique experience to go down to New Orleans this past Thursday. I was working with a group that is "rescuing" computer equipment and files for government offices and law firms. Why? Because people are moving on and getting back to business. Anyway, we went into the heart of downtown New Orleans. Getting there, we went through many of the residential suburbs around New Orleans. We were able to pass through the many armed checkpoints into the city because we were on government contracts. I got to see first hand some of the things that have been talked about. What I saw was impressive (re: left an impression). I had never seen such destruction first hand. Aluminum siding literally peeled off building leaving their innards exposed. Roofs completely crushed by trees. Brick walls that had been blown off, landing on and crushing cars. Debris EVERYWHERE. And in the middle of downtown, the scars of desperation, markets and fast food joints with doors and windows broken by people looking for food. I did see some standing water on some blocks, but amazingly much of the streets had been drained in just a matter of days.

On the flip side, a good bit of what I saw appeared to be fixable, some rather easily. And just 10 days following the storm, there were crews on the streets cleaning limbs, leaves and debris. And, there were evacuees returning home to some parts of the New Orleans area that even had electricity. Just 10 days after the worst natural disaster in the history of our country.

I know, there are still a lot of rough things going on. Some communities will be rebuilding literally from the ground up, but I have yet to see anyone say that they won't and that they give up.

Another reason to set aside the despair, is the response from the human family. The last 13 days have been filled with overwhelming offers of help and support. Whether it be people opening their homes to strangers for undetermined periods of time, to volunteers from all professions rushing down to lend help and support, to rich celebrities and athletes putting their money where there mouths are and not rushing in for the accompanying photo op (I'm not referring to you Mr. Penn). The radio is flooded with ads from local franchises and businesses begging that their employees check in with them and promising a job to all who've been displaced. Even the Secretary of the Department of Labor has repeatedly pledged that anyone who lost their job and still wants to work will get a job. Doors across the country have opened for these unfortunate souls.

I will not get into the failures that occurred in the wake of this disaster. As a communications professional I cringed at times when I dealt with or witnessed breakdowns from civic leaders as well as other organizations. Suffice to say, things could/should have been done differently. But, can anyone say that the last time a Category 4 storm hit New Orleans things were handled better? This is new ground people. Let's just make sure that no one says the next time a Category 4 storm hits New Orleans things were handled worse.

In conclusion, my deepest sympathies to my friends and neighbors. Devastation is especially difficult to handle when there is no one on earth to blame. The Good Book says that there is "a time to mourn" but it also says there is "a time to heal." The healing has begun. Let's look forward to the opportunities that are being presented. To paraphrase a line from a well-known source: We can rebuild it, we have the technology. And we can make it better.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Comically Bad

This is pathetic enough that it shouldn't be shared, but funny enough that it should be. So I'll fill you in, just say that it happened to a friend of mine.

So my friend tells me how his Thursday night went:

"Well, I had become slightly resentful that my wife has gotten into the habit of going out with her friends a night or two a week while I stay home with the kids, so I decided tonight I was going to be the one to take off. That's when it began downhill. I called up the only two guys that I could considering going out and doing anything with, and was shot down. 'That's okay,' I thought. 'I'll just go out on my own and see what I can do. I'll have fun and come home and count up the number of times I was hit on, how great it was, and blog about it all. It'll be cool.'

What I really felt like doing was going somewhere to shoot pool, listen to a band play and drink way too many cokes. So I head to the local 'billiard center' that happened to be hosting a band tonight, by myself. I've got ten bucks in cash and plan to spend it on some pool, and maybe a game or two of Golden Tee (since I can't play that when I'm out with my wife.)

I get to the door, and I'm met with a $5 cover charge. Not bad, but unexpected. I'm going to come in and pay to play pool, but I need to pay at the door too? This band had better be good. Then I go to the bar to get a table and balls, another $5. Stoopidly, I offer over my other $5 bill. D'oh! Within 30 seconds I am out of cash and not an ATM in sight. Man, I suck at this going out thing. Maybe if I were a more attractive woman, the cover charge could have been 'waived', but that ain't happening now.

I regroup. I think, Okay, I'll get my table, shoot some stick, watch the scores on the TV's and wait for the band to crank up and maybe do some people watching. I'll get my free soft drinks, and just have to be an ass and not tip the poor waitress because I'm all out of cash. It'll be okay. I make my way to the table and realize I am pretty much the only one in town who thought coming here would be a good idea. Out of about a dozen tables, maybe 5 are in use. I know its early (10 pm), but a band is cranking up in 30 minutes, where are the people? That means the people watching is out.

As I begin to play, it dawns on me, playing pool against yourself is dumb. You know, I didn't win a single game. I was playing so bad that I was embarrassed, even though the place was half empty and absolutely no one had even noticed I was there. Speaking of that, the little blonde waitress didn't even bother to ask me if I wanted anything. She made her rounds of the 5 other tables, served drinks, made chit-chat, and walked right by me 3 times w/out a word. Oh yeah, I've still got it. So after forcing myself to play for 30 minutes (hey, I had to get my $5 worth), I gave up on the pool and made my way to a barstool to listen to the band as they got started.

As I sat at the bar, I reflected on my last 30 minutes of this exciting night out on the town. Then I decided to hell with it, I was whipping out the debit card to start a tab to order as many Red Bull's as I could stomach. I guess the bartender had some kind of premonition that my choice to begin wasting money I couldn't afford to was a bad idea, because he never acknowledged my presence. Yeah, I'm cool.

I managed to sit through about three songs of the most non-descript three guy band that was probably started in college and won't tour outside of a 250-mile radius. They weren't bad, but I couldn't even think of another group to compare them too. I finally decided to bail. Although I felt bad at first because I was the only one in the place that looked to be paying attention to them, I got over that when I realized they had bored themselves and were busy looking backstage while they played and making gestures to each other.

This is when I give up on the evening and head home. The depression of a failed evening was fortunately overtaken by the humor of the pathetic-ness of it all. I guess some of us have it, and some of us don't have a clue. Moral of the story: unless you're an attractive female or an unattached male with money to spend, just stay home, read the bedtime story for the kids and watch the Discovery Channel until you fall asleep at 11 pm and be comfortable with the fact that you are 38 yrs old, act like it."

So that's how my friend tells it. I can laugh because it's not me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Randomosity

A few observations from that which is my world:

The "Golden Rule" has been irreparably broken. How you treat people no longer has much bearing at all on how they will treat you. If someone likes you, they will like you regardless (i.e. how the creeps always manage to have long relationships with women). If you are not that important to a person, it doesn't matter how majestically you treat them, you just won't rank above a tool that can provide them something they want. Bottom line: the paradigm has shifted. If you are going to be good and nice to people, do it without expecting any reciprocation. If you are hoping your good turn will be returned, don't waste your time. But don't be surprised if no one else does either.

After watching countless (well, I never bothered to count) episodes of "Good Eats", I've decided that Alton Brown, in all his goodness, couldn't make a pitcher of ice water without kosher salt. I mean, who really even has any of that stuff? If it doesn't come in the paper can with the umbrella-ed little girl, I've never seen it.

I've come to the conclusion that I can never watch "A Current Affair" again, regardless of what Barefoot says. Their "investigative reporting" consists of reading the tabloid headlines at the checkout stand and looking up people's names in the public record files at the local courthouse. Case in point: "Did Olivia Newton-John's boyfriend's recent disappearance have anything to do with the fact that just over 5 years ago he filed bankruptcy and checked the annual income box of $0-$50,000, which means he could have been making as little as $3 a month! Next on A Current Affair." Yeah, I'm sure that's probably the key to the whole terrible mystery.

What are "they" always listening to? And by "they" I mean the athletes, recording artists and actors that are always walking around with headphones on. Are they really all listening to music? If so, what music? You cannot see an athlete these days without headphones on when he's not playing. In the lockerroom, on the sidelines, in the streets wherever. What the heck are they listening to? Be honest, its "How to Speak Spanish in 15 Days", right?

And speaking of "they", what's with all of the monitors, screens, video games and DVD players in their cars? I can't possibly imagine that they spend more than about 20 minutes in their cars, if they have to go any further, they fly. And it's not like they are trying to keep their kids quiet. I just don't get it.

Well, I guess that's it for now. Any comments or answers to questions can be posted below.