Monday, December 29, 2008

Cluster Fuck

Cluster Fuck

Vietnamese really kill me (not literally). I respect them because they rarely call 911. When they do, the patient is usually pretty sick and the ambulance is needed. However, like so many immigrants, we Americans are the ones who are expected to figure out how to communicate with them. I’ve learned no fewer than four languages, partly specifically so I could communicate in foreign countries. Such consideration is apparently not the norm when you are planning to move permanently to another country that does not speak your language. I learned Spanish quite involuntarily, picking it up from my patients and a couple trips to Cancun, since most Hispanic immigrants have absolutely no desire to pick up even the most basic of English phrases but insist on calling 911 on a regular basis.

But I digress. The Vietnamese. To wit: I was called once to a motor vehicle accident. One of the vehicles was a van with nine Vietnamese occupants. Fun. Of the nine, exactly one person had bothered to learn the slightest bit of pidgin English. He served as my translator for the scene, which meant that not only would I have to assess his injuries, medical history, name, address and so on, but he would have to be the intermediary for eight others for the same tedious questions. As I inquired about the rest of the van’s occupants, he would inform me of who they were. “That is my cousin,” or “that is my sister,” he would say.

“What is your sister’s name?” I would ask, scribbling on my life-saving clipboard.

“Um, I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? She is your SISTER, right?”

“Yes, I don’t know.”

“OK, how about that person?”

“That is my mother.”

“What is her name?”

“I don’t know.”

Dumbfounded, I wondered how the Vietnamese got along. How does one exist in a society where supposedly intimately acquainted relatives do not know the others’ names? Since I speak no Vietnamese, I can only speculate at their naming conventions. Noting that most Vietnamese are named Nguyen, I surmise that Nguyen is roughly translated “Hey you - person who I am somehow related to.” Another common Vietnamese name is Vu. Vu may mean “person living in house with others.” It is marvelously efficient to be able to distill these cumbersome English phrases into a single Vietnamese syllable, but for intangible reasons, it still seems preferable to have an actual name.

One day I was called to another MVA. It was another van. This time the van had tried to occupy the same space at the same time as the small tree was busy with the space. From the outside, very little damage was apparent, only the front end was messed up. A new radiator, a new bumper and the thing would be good as new. I approached the van while regarding the dozen or so silhouettes inside. I grumbled that this would be a time-consuming call, with lots of paperwork, as we would have a dozen patient refusals to write even in the best-case scenario. The driver, who was walking around on scene and had no complaint had already made it clear that he would not be taking responsibility for his passengers. I wondered who his passengers were, that he would be in their decision-making loop. I soon found out.

As I slid open the side door of the van, I was greeted by shrieks and howls of panic. Fourteen sets of dull, teary eyes stared back at me. Behind those eyes were swollen faces attached to oxen bodies. Few of the bodies made sounds which could be interpreted as actual communication. The van that had hit the tree was none other than the Short Bus. For adults. I had on my hands fourteen panicky, extremely strong, very large, very mentally disabled Down’s Syndrome patients. My worst nightmare come true.

For the most part, Down’s Syndrome patients are very sweet, happy, inoffensive people. Until you do something they don’t like. Like craashing their van into a tree. Or putting a cervical collar on them. Or strapping them to a backboard. If you have ever gone eight seconds on the back of a bull at a prison rodeo, I call you a pansy. Try riding one of these broncos. Or more specifically, getting them to ride with you.

As part of the first crew on scene, it was my job to triage all fourteen of them. None were obviously injured, and none were capable of informing me of any symptoms, what with all the bellowing and screaming and crying. All would have to be immobilized with cervical collars and spineboards and transported to hospitals. I called for extra units. Every clear ambulance in the city as well as several private-service units came to pick up their designated patients. As each crew appeared on scene and witnessed me trying to herd the c-collared behemoths, who were literally running around in circles, arms flailing in the air or ripping off the cervical collars I had placed, the medics stared at me as wide-eyed as my panicky patients. I wondered what they were startled with, they only had to deal with two patients each, I had fourteen! Slowly, we began to get each extra chromosome placed on the spineboards. It is significant to note that after dealing with our group of patients, who had no injuries, one of our EMT’s and two EMT’s from the responding private services had to go home with injuries sustained from caring for our little herd.

And to think I was complaining about the possibility of having to write a dozen refusals!

Another MVA involved a school bus. Forty-three third-graders were on a bus that got a ding in the back from a car inching forward in rush-hour traffic. There was NO damage to the bus, and only mild damage to the car. The car’s driver was perfectly fine and didn’t want EMS. There wasn’t a blessed thing wrong with any of the children on the bus. Naturally, the school bus driver nor the principal (who had miraculously bothered to show up) weren’t about to take the responsibility the children’s parents had entrusted them with. Neither would sign for the kids to not be transported by EMS. It was clear to a blind chimpanzee that there wasn’t a thing wrong with any of the kids, so instead of actually demonstrating that they had earned the position of responsibility that they held, both the principal and the driver thought it would be a better idea to deny an entire city of 350,000 people access to emergency medical services, because to transport all forty-three kids it would have taken every single one of our 911 ambulances, plus the vast majority of the private-service ambulances in the city.

I was not about to let these clowns do that to my city, nor make fools of our service. I said “Fine, if you want a paramedic to transport all these kids, this is what we’re gonna do. Driver, you’re going to drive this bus to Charity Hospital. My partner is going to stay on the bus so there will be a paramedic with all these children.” I hopped out of the bus, followed it in my ambulance to Charity, and informed the doctors and nurses what was going on.

In the process of triaging all forty-three, the New Orleans Public School system education quality became apparent even more. None of the children had names like Kevin or Sandra or Brian. Instead, these kids who were already at a spelling disadvantage because of their educational institution, were further burdened with ridiculous names by their parents, who were also alumni of New Orleans “education” system. There were names like LaKym’ia, Tr’jyn, K’eshi’qUitia’kaY’e’’’’ and some that were probably spelled ‘A’p’o’s’t’r’o’p’h’e’. I wondered when people were going to start incorporating numerals, ampersands, carats, asterisks and parentheses in names. These kids were all doomed to a life of drug dealing, medicaid and litters of welfare babies because their ignorant parents had given them stupid names and their school officials didn’t have the education or smarts that a blind chimpanzee has.

One morning, on my day off, my wife and I were dozing in bed, half asleep. Our house was near the Interstate and it was common for us to hear sirens and traffic, so we had grown pretty inured to the noise. But this particular morning, sirens persistently drove by for a good half-hour or so. We began to wonder what was going on. I decided to turn on my work radio to eavesdrop on the goings-on in the world of EMS. As I went to my radio, the phone rang, which my wife answered. I turned on the radio and heard one of our medics calling our administrator: “ least fourteen dead, a couple dozen more with critical injuries...”

Holy shit! What the hell had happened? By the proximity of the sirens, I surmised that whatever it was must be pretty nearby. My wife hung up the phone. My sister, who was an emergency room nurse at the time had gotten a call from her then-boyfriend, who was one of our paramedics. He was on duty and was the first ambulance on the scene of a bus that had veered off the Interstate and crashed about a mile from my house! My sister had called to let us know she was going to the scene to assist and would we let our mother know she would be late preparing for the Mother’s Day crawfish boil we had planned for that day.

My wife and I stared at each other, wondering what the scene must be like. “Do you want to go?” she asked me. I said no, but she could tell I wasn’t really sincere. “You need to go there,” she said. I did want to go, not because I’m a trauma junky (I’m not, I got over that long ago), but because our EMS service was clearly overwhelmed and needed more hands for this event. Besides, we are expected to be prepared to respond for disasters, which this certainly was. I told her to get dressed and come with me.

We jumped into the car and headed to the interstate. A police car blocked the entrance. I informed the officer that I was off-duty EMS going to help with the scene. He asked me to prove it by showing him my city-issued radio. I did and he let us through. My wife asked what she was expected to do. I told her “anything.”

Upon arriving at the scene, I saw what had been the tour bus that had crashed. A full one third of its length was gone, crushed into a mangled mess at the front end. My administrator and several ambulance crews as well as an off-duty ER physician were tending to patients on the side of the road. My wife and I went to the patients and began helping get them on spineboards, splint fractures, start IV’s and apply oxygen. One woman who we cared for had, quite literally, every bone in her body broken, from the Laforte III facial fracture to the bilateral femur, tib-fib and ankle fractures, but was still awake and talking to us. My wife was not an EMT, but was able to assist greatly anyway. She had gotten first-hand education from the countless EMS stories I and my co-workers had related. We had run out of cardboard splints for fractures, and she began to fashion splints from various debris found lying on the ground. The physician and I were impressed by her ingenuity.

After the majority of the injured had been transported to hospitals, I climbed up into the wreckage to search for trapped survivors. The bus had veered off the road at a place where the interstate went over a concrete drainage canal. It flew over the canal and hit the far concrete wall, then bounced back up onto the side of the road. It collided so hard that most of the passengers had been thrown to the front, but even the ones still in the rear of the bus were dead from the violence of the impact.

The majority of the dead were in the smashed front of the bus. There was a pile of bodies that had spilled out of where the front had been. The passengers were mostly elderly folks who had chartered the bus from their nursing home in Lafayette to go to the casinos on the Gulf Coast. I stared at the pile of bodies and body parts. There was one woman’s dead face looking towards me; her face didn’t look quite right. I touched her head and it was squishy in exactly the way that one’s head shouldn’t be. I lifted up her head only to find that all that was attached to her body was a face and scalp. The skull that should have formed the framework for the flesh was gone, ripped out from its place atop the skeleton, leaving behind a grotesque mask where a proper head should have been.

Nearby I saw a wig - a blue-hair wig that might be expected in a bus of nursing home residents. Beneath the wig a bit of flesh peeked out. I assumed it was a brain, perhaps the brain of the skull-less woman. I moved the wig and gasped when I saw that the flesh was part of a severed arm lying on the ground. I placed the wig back on top of the arm, not knowing what else to do with it. I poked up into the wreckage above me. I noticed a woman’s face in the twisted metal above. I could barely reach her and could see less. I asked for an EKG monitor in case she still had a pulse; she was in such a spot that previous searchers might have easily missed her. As I tried to attach the EKG leads I managed to maneuver myself into a position to get a better view. What I thought was a seat cushion behind her head was in fact her own buttocks against the back of her head. I switched off the monitor. I had seen enough and climbed out of the wrecked bus.

Later that day, we had our crawfish boil as planned. After he got off duty, Frank, my sister’s boyfriend at the time, joined us. We talked about the crash, but tried not to dwell on it. The total was twenty-three dead on scene and twenty-four were transported to hospitals, with several of those transported dying later. We brought the extra crawfish to our headquarters for the other EMT’s to enjoy. Months later, the city awarded all who responded to the scene with a special commendation. The news interviewed me and my sister. I still think about it. It was probably the most trauma I’ve ever seen in one place.

I sometimes think of these experiences, most of the time I don’t. Regardless of whether I think about them or not, I believe I have learned the hard way the definition of “Cluster Fuck.” Pass the lube, please.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Boxing Day Carol

Once upon a time, long ago, there was a man named Jesus. Jesus got into a fight with another man named Santa. A great battle ensued. Santa won the battle, which ended with Jesus being knocked through a virgin vagina as a baby. The details of this phenomenon are complicated, so don’t ask.

When Jesus grew up, he challenged Santa to a rematch. Every year since then, the ongoing rivalry has resulted in a Death Match Ultimate Cage Fight. Wagers were staked on either Jesus or Santa. Wagers can take the form of cash or prizes. Today these wagers are called Christmas Gifts, since we now live in a more enlightened society. We’re not sure who has the advantage; Jesus lives in our hearts but Santa watches us all year. Somehow this surveillance has a bearing on the outcome of the fight, perhaps by gauging support for which contestant is our favorite.

In the uncertainty of the fight’s outcome and the inherent dangers of such a bout between two powerful pugilists each year, Christmas trees were invented. These brightly decorated trees are placed near windows and doors as a hedge to protect us in case one of the Death Match fighters gets knocked out of the arena into our houses.

Santa needs milk and cookies to refresh himself between rounds. These are placed near the stockings that are hung by the chimney with care. The stockings are used as makeshift boxing gloves in case Santa’s and Jesus’ wear out. Since the Christmas trees, garlands and wreaths block other entry points to houses, Santa must use the chimney to enter. Jesus has easier access; he can just return home to our hearts and exit through any of our body orifices into our houses. Jesus eats the Christmas dinner leftovers to refresh himself. Christmas dinners are deliberately made to have an excess of food specifically for this purpose.

Since more people seem to favor Santa over Jesus, experts are predicting him as this year’s winner. Results of the fight are posted on December 26th. And this, friends, is the reason December 26th is called Boxing Day. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Response to Readers

A reader asked me some questions which I said I’d be happy to address. To wit:

Do you believe that collective consciousness is a force powerful enough to effect real change as we have seen in the phenomenal efforts of the american voters this election?
Or do you believe that the average "joe the plumber" or "nancy the nurse" will retreat back into their own world or personal consciousness, embracing and protecting their individual cultures while ignoring inequalities, gender discrimination, and ecological destruction?
And finally do you believe that we, as a people, have evolved sufficiently to awaken our capacity for collective knowing and conscious action?

“Collective consciousness” is an interesting concept, particularly when applied to an activity such as electing a president. My impression of a collective consciousness entails everyone in a particular group being on the same page; having the same idea about a particular subject; sympatico. This can be as simple as a family unit knowing exactly what is being referred to when the crazy cousin is mentioned or as broad as a nation experiencing a moment of homogeneity, for example, everyone understanding a pop culture reference like the expression “voted off the island.”

But do I believe that it is a force powerful enough to effect real change? Obviously there is a form of collective rallying that brings about change. Examples of this are the American Revolution, women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement. However I wouldn’t classify the source of these phenomena under the same category as “collective consciousness.” To me, the collective consciousness is the “awake version” of the collective unconscious, as described by Carl Jung. It is my opinion that such a consciousness is completely passive, in other words, knowledge about a thing that is shared by a homogenous social group, be it a family, a classroom, friends at a local pub, a town or a nation. The changes to which this reader refers and the instances I mentioned above take a far more active participation. The result of the recent presidential election was not really a function of the collective consciousness, although obviously a certain degree of being “on the same page” was involved. Certainly the majority of the nation was sympathetic to Barak Obama, but his actual election was carried out because of millions of actions by individuals, not because a lot of people were simply aware of Obama and his ideas. Non-Obama voters were aware of Obama and his ideas, but this didn’t help get him elected.

As an analogy, let's look at a mountain. Over time the mountain is eroded, worn down. Why? Not exactly because of “the rain” that falls or “the beach” at its base that scours. Just because weather and the forces of nature exist does not necessarily mean that they will affect the mountain. But each individual raindrop makes a tiny but indelible mark on the mountainside. Each individual grain of sand scours its own tiny groove in the mountain. Every glob of ice that freezes in the mountain’s cracks makes those cracks a tiny bit wider. If the rain or sand or ice are not in proximity to the mountain, they do nothing. Eventually, after enough actions of the tiny drops and sand and ice, the mountain is eroded down to nothing. Similarly, it was not the collective awareness of Barak Obama that got him elected just as the mere existence of weather will not erode the mountain, but the collective actions of millions of individuals that did so, much as the millions of raindrops and sand grains that, individually and collectively, accomplish their task. As I said before, this is a much more active participation than simple collective consciousness. Barack Obama (and John McCain and all the other candidates) had to not only exist, but inspire their constituents. This took work. Once inspired, the voters could not just sit home and cheer, but actually had to take action. This same process had to take place with the other examples listed above - the American Revolution, suffrage, civil rights, etc. In another analogy, a smoker may be conscious that his habit is harmful, but that knowledge is useless unless action is taken. Consciousness is necessary for any overhaul, whether involving an individual or group, yes, but collective action is a far more important step in implementing changes in a society.

Now I think the real question this reader wants to know is ‘do I think this “force for change” will continue?’ This is hinted at in the next questions asked. Will “Joe the plumber” and “Nancy the nurse” retreat back in their own little world and ignore the problems with society? Well, there have always been segments of society who are xenophobic, agoraphobic and any other phobia you can describe that involves anything new and different. The individuals making up these societal groups may vary, but the phobics will always be there. An even bigger question is: Will the people that rallied and supported and elected Obama continue their momentum and remain active participants in the process of “change,” or will they sit back and say “I’ve done my job; I voted; now let Obama do all the rest of the work”?

That seems to be a far more challenging question to answer. The American public has been motivated before to effect real change, such as in the other examples I’ve given. The American revolutionaries didn’t just get motivated for one day, it took years of action, work, suffering, meetings, fighting, and killing to accomplish their goals. Passion was not enough, action was what was needed. The same goes for women’s suffrage, civil rights and many other transformations in society. The real issue is whether or not Americans are willing to do their individual part in taking actual action in making things happen. Are we willing to make our voices heard, to speak to our neighbor, to make sacrifices for change?

But wait! What changes are we talking about? That’s another big question, isn’t it? Specifically, what is it we want changed? We’ve heard that word over and over and over. Change change change. Any reasonable person would want to know exactly what it is they are expected to sacrifice and work for. In our examples, the goals were very tangible: independence from an oppressive government, the right to vote, equal treatment regardless of race. In the current topic, I look forward to seeing what our new president plans on doing. But specifically what changes are we expected to strive toward? “Tax reform” seems a rather vague goal for everyday Americans to sacrifice for. “Universal health care” sounds nice, but what precisely am I expected to do about it? “Global warming” sounds like a good, solid cause to rally around, but there is no reason to expect that the country buying Toyota Priuses is going to restore the polar ice caps. The broad term “change” is entirely too nebulous for me to work toward. I’d be happy to do something, but what? At least in the American Revolution our forefathers were able to pick up a musket or sword and aim it at something tangible. Right now, not so much.

Lastly, I believe I’ve already answered this readers third question, namely if we have sufficiently evolved to awaken our collective knowing and capacity for conscious action. “Collective knowing” is just that. It requires no action beyond just being awake and somewhat aware of society around you. Collective action has been a part of human history since the dawn of civilization. In fact civilization would not exist were it not for some form of collective action, even if it is as simple as being part of a village in the most primitive hunter-gatherer society. The questions facing our society today are “Where and how should we direct our collective action? And are we willing to?’

Monday, November 3, 2008

Top 10 Good Thing Regardless of Who Wins

I totally know my "also-ran" Presidential candidate is not going to win. Hence I've compiled a list of the "Top Ten" good things that will happen depending on the certain outcome of the election, no matter which candidate wins. Enjoy.

Top ten good things if McCain & Palin win:

10. Tina Fey has four years of steady work at SNL.
9. Free elk & moose hunting licenses for all.
8. Democrats sulk for four more years.
7. We get to petition the government for a bailout whenever we’re overdrawn (precedent, right?)
6. We explore the U.S. like Lewis and Clark because other countries want to kill Americans.
5. Satellite photos of Russians looking across the Bering Strait saying “I can’t see her house. What is she talking about?”
4. Revolving door at Mexican border furnished with plush carpeting and string orchestra.
3. George W. Bush captured by Iraquis and exiled to Isle of Elba, Napoleon-style.
2. Great Britain declares independence from United States.
1. David Letterman and Jay Leno have awesome monologs while Sarah Palin in office.

Top 10 good things if Obama & Biden win:

10. The look on welfare recipients faces who voted for Obama when they are now expected to get jobs.
9. The look on Obama’s face when welfare recipients refuse to get jobs.
8. Canada welcomes rich folks seeking tax refuge with open arms.
7. Other countries not quite so dangerous to visit.
6. Christians get first-hand experience dealing with those mysterious Muslims.
5. Huge reduction in military spending because the U.S. can’t afford it anymore, what with all the”domestic” spending.
4. Everyone who shops at The Gap can look like the first lady. (4a. Fifth Avenue elite stores go out of business and the neighborhood becomes far more interesting.)
3. Revolving door at Mexican border replaced with one-way door into US, but no plush carpet or orchestra. Driver’s licenses handed out upon entry.
2. Universal healthcare clinics staffed by Obama voters. Affordable Chinese herbal medicines, rhinoceros tusks and chakri stones are the standard of care.
1. Russia, Cuba & China are our new best friends forever. Long live Obamunism!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Throwing Your Vote Away

So lately I’ve made it known that I am planning to vote for an “also-ran” in the presidential election. I do this for several reasons. First, I firmly believe that you cannot complain about something you’re willing to do nothing about. A corollary of this principle is that those who live in a democratic society and do not vote have no right to complain about what the government does. For decades I never voted, and sat silently in my un-political corner, adhering to this principle. Now I have grown weary of silence, and I plan on doing plenty of complaining. Hence I will vote so as to support my habit.

Second, the particular candidate who I plan on voting for is someone who I believe has a firm grasp on many changes that would be a strong positive influence on America as a nation and as a society. He has had many years serving in the federal government and has plenty of experience with foreign policy. I have read his writings and find that the vast majority of his ideas not only make sense, but are entirely workable.

There are other reasons as well, but the main point of this particular diatribe is in response to friends and acquaintances who have confronted me with their challenge about why I am “throwing my vote away” on an “also-ran” candidate with no shot of winning the election. My response is this: The candidate I have in mind has the right idea to make the changes needed to at least boost, if not fix the economy. His views on foreign policy are exactly what the country needs to limit its vast expenditures overseas while simultaneously reforming the rest of the world's general despise of the USA. His ideas on tax reform are quite fair and workable. I do not believe he is some sort of messiah; no president could ever be. In fact, I strongly believe that being president precludes any sort of messianic aspirations one may have.

Neither front-runner candidate (McCain or Obama) has any sort of plan that is any more than a reshuffling of the deck chairs on this particular Titanic country. My friends have encouraged me to not “throw away” my vote. Some have pleaded with me to vote for Obama so that McCain doesn’t get into the White House. Others have begged that I vote for McCain so Obama doesn’t acquire the Presidency. Both camps have asked me to vote for the lesser of two evils.

Who is really the one throwing their vote away? The one who votes for the guy who might actually do something positive for our nation? Or the one who votes for the lesser of two evils? Imagine what a great nation we could have been if voters actually elected the right man for the job, rather than the one with the “best” political endorsements. I am the one asking you: please don’t throw your vote away.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Mayor Ray Nagin Pinata!

There is a new Halloween treat out this year! Chocolate City Industries would like to announce the availability of the new Mayor Ray Nagin Piñata! The papier maché figure is a fun treat that all can enjoy, both children and voters alike! The enormous head is suspended above all the mere mortals in an appropriate position from which to supervise and “monitor” the piñata party. Imagine the fun to be had by all as they beat Nagin about the face and head with long sticks!

But the fun doesn't end there. Just like it's namesake, it doesn't take much for the Mayor Ray Nagin Piñata to release its treats that party-goers and media personalities can chew on for a long, long time! To cut down on weight, the head is mostly empty, but the mouth part of the piñata is filled with goodness. Yes, after the fun of whacking Nagin's head for a while, the mouth opens and spills out a seemingly endless torrent of sweets with virtually no nutritional value!

From the Mayor Ray Nagin Piñata, there comes a delightful assortment of treats. You'll find no shortage of chocolate bars – Chunky's, Nestle's, Milky Ways and Hershey's (with and without nuts). As a unique feature, the piñata will also gush forth with fortune cookies, all featuring a classic Nagin gem as a fortune. “New York can't fix a hole in the ground,” “By the end of the day, this will be a Chocolate City,” “Everything is the media's fault,” and the latest Naginism, “Just ask for the Ray Nagin special” are among the fortunes you'll find. Trade with your friends and collect them all!

With the new Mayor Ray Nagin Piñata, you'll find that piñatas aren't just for kids anymore! Everyone's fantasies are indulged with the ability to physically beat Nagin as well as a Category 5 tempest of delicious sayings right from his mouth! Also available soon from Chocolate City Industries is the Mayor Ray Nagin Piñata Mark II, which features the Mayor's foot already inserted in the mouth. In addition, soon you can look for the Stealth Piñata – an image of the mayor's spokeswoman, Ceeon Quiett. The Stealth Piñata makes a great gag gift to give to anyone who appreciates an ironic sense of humor. You can poke her, beat her and otherwise coerce her, but she'll never let anything fall from her mouth (for advanced piñata users only).

If you're one of the first 500 to order, we'll throw in a piñata stick with which to beat the Mayor Ray Nagin Piñata. This is no ordinary stick; it's guaranteed to make the Nagin-beating experience 100% more enjoyable! How, you ask? It's tipped with a replica of the “Courage and Leadership in Recovery” award! But wait, that's not all! If you order now, we'll include free of charge a sheaf of apology letters from various city government and business associations addressed to anyone who might be injured or offended by Nagin's droppings. Get one today!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 Needs to Remove the "Comments" Section

I've created a file I intend to post on the next Times-Picayune article on someone killed in New Orleans. Every crime article devolves into commentaries on race, public corruption and bleeding hearts in the comments section. I doubt my creation with thwart the tide of idiotic editorials, but hey, it's a start.

Some person was killed in the nth hundred block of [Random Street] in some ghetto neighborhood. NOPD has no motive or suspect. Call Crimestoppers (yeah, right).

Posted by (Happy_Glad)
I'm just glad that there's one less thug to worry about on the streets. We can all be happy that the city's a little bit safer now. Let the thugs take each other out!

Posted by (White_Racist)
All these black people are ruining the Chocolate City. All black people are criminals and should be exported to the ocean!

Posted by (Black_Racist)
You're an idiot White_Racist. All crimes are committed by white folks. It's just that blacks are the only ones ever arrested.

Posted by (White_Racist)
No, you're the idiot.

Posted by (Black_Racist)
No, you are.

Posted by (White_Racist)
No you are.

Posted by (HolyMaryMotherofGod)
I just pray for the poor victims and their families! Oh, how forlorn the mother must feel! I pray for all victims of crimes because they must all be perfectly innocent!

Posted by (Pundidiot)
Well, I think all the crime in this city is because of [Public Official]'s greed and corruption! It's obvious that he/she is stupid and should be removed from earth! And It's all NOPD's fault too, because they should be able to stop people from even thinking about criminal acts! Get rid of all city officials!

Posted by (SaveTheChildren)
Were any children hurt in this shooting/stabbing/whatever? I hope not. Oh please let our poor fragile soap-bubble kids be okay...(boo hoo blubber blubber)!

Posted by (HurricaneHunter)
How can you people worry about murders and crime when there's a tropical storm in the gulf? We all know that all social ills are Katrina's fault anyway!

...And so on for about 100 posts. Thank you.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Crescent City Afternoon

(One of my old articles from a few years ago I found on one of my travel web sites I write for.)

Crescent City Afternoon

New Orleans, Louisiana

I walked out from Canal Place into the French Quarter to do some research on art galleries for an assignment. It was a typical New Orleans afternoon - sultry and breezeless, but not nearly as hot as it could have been. Most of the tourists would be gasping at the heat of the afternoon, but three-plus decades in this city had inured me to the heat and I thought that eighty-eight degrees Fahrenheit was quite nice. I pressed on into the streets, pleased that I had chosen such a tolerable day for my little outing.

It just so happened to be the day after Southern Decadence, the big gay and lesbian festival that draws a retinue from all over the continent. Gay guys were all over the Quarter, wandering in their little groups in and out of antiques shops and souvenir stores, occasionally eyeing me up and down. I didn't care. You can't live in town like New Orleans and be offended every time some fellow looks at you funny. Especially since it was me entering their turf down here. I let them walk by.

I passed restaurants whose smells made me want to stop in and eat, even though I had just had lunch. I listened to tourists trying to pronounce words like pray-leens, cray-fish and New Orleenz. I laughed for a second, and then caught myself as I recalled having to ask people in Ireland to repeat themselves five times because I couldn't understand their dialect of my own language. I felt a little bad about my intolerance of outsiders' ignorance or our very unique culture and dialect. Even I sometimes had a hard time with Cajun names for our own local food!

As I ambled through the streets I occasionally paused to watch some street performer juggling or playing music. They varied in skill from one to another. I noticed that the possession of talent didn't necessarily mean that you could draw a crowd. Many of the performers who had the most money in their coffers were the ones who did the crowd-pleasers. Musicians who hacked out "New Orleans" jazz and beloved pop tunes always had more money than those who lovingly and painstakingly played original compositions, no matter how well performed or composed. The fire-jugglers made more cash than the jugglers who juggled simple balls, regardless of how many times the fire-throwers dropped their sticks or how ineptly they recited their plagiarized comedy lines. You could tell the experienced ones; forsaking art for whatever got bills and coins lobbed into their boxes and instrument cases at their feet. I guessed the phenomenon of being a "sellout" wasn't limited to bands with big names and influential record labels.

Up Royal Street I went, searching for the shops I was supposed to write about. I found the first one. Closed. Annoyed, I peered past my reflection in the glass to get a feel for the store in case I didn't get a chance to come back when it was open. Distant thunder pealed, alerting everyone to the oncoming routine afternoon rainstorm. I took a few quick notes and moved on up the street, appreciative of the breeze that the nearby storm was kicking up.

I got to my next shop. It, too, was closed. I was determined not to get too aggravated by my failure to find open shops and galleries, yet I couldn't help but argue with the shopkeepers in my mind. 'Don't you know my pieces are like free advertising? Besides, you're missing out on all kinds of art and antique sales with all these gay guys in town!' I recalled a business report on the positive impact of Decadence on the local economy and wondered why everyone wasn't taking advantage of it. Then I paused and looked around me at the old buildings and streets, largely unchanged since the Spanish and French settlement. I felt almost ashamed that I had succumbed to the pervasive Yankee spirit that seems determined to erode away New Orleans' traditional laissez-faire attitude towards everything.

I had always been appreciative of the laid-back ennui so prevalent in Catholic countries I had visited like Mexico, Ireland and Italy. New Orleans, being primarily a Spanish colony, reflects that same feeling and hence embraces any time off from doing work. If you need evidence of this, just take a look around anytime there's a tropical storm anywhere close to the Gulf of Mexico. People don't track storms here to calculate how much time they'll have to prepare for the worst, but rather to see if a hurricane is close enough to furnish a legitimate enough excuse to take off from work. Today was a perfect example of this: if you're supposed to be closed on a Monday, then dammit, you're going to be closed, no matter how many rich gays are in town with cash burning holes in their tight pants. It is in contrast to the frenetic work ethic that brought us Germans, New England and corporate America. I grew even more appreciative of my town for gently reminding me that a Monday afternoon could be spent on a slow roam around the Vieux Carre, drinking in the ambiance that I supposedly am steeped in.

The rain eventually made its way down to my vicinity. You can always tell the locals from the tourists when it rains. The tourists took refuge in doorways and under overhangs, staring up at the sky, as if that would drive back the deluge. The locals, simply press on with wherever they were going or whatever they were doing, maybe opening an umbrella, maybe just getting wet. I kept going. As I never bring an umbrella with me, I just got wet. I smiled to myself, pleased with my own damp courage as I passed the cowering visitors. But soon the rain no longer wanted to share center stage with anyone and began coming down in earnest, driving even locals to sheltered areas lest they be painfully pelted with the precipitation. I paused and stood under an awning. The water was coming down faster than the downspouts on the buildings could handle, and it spurted up in geysers at knee level where the pipes were ill fitted into the ground. Nowhere else but in New Orleans could you have a rainstorm that poured down from the sky and up from the ground simultaneously.

Thunder and lightning cracked from the sky. From my awning, I happened to look directly at the sky when a brilliant bolt of lightning seared across the clouds, followed by an earth shaking rumble that jarred my bones. God was taking flash pictures, and the heavenly hosts of angels were all shouting "Cheese!"

But it seldom lasts long, and shortly after it began the sheets of rain diminished to mere pillowcases and dust ruffles of rain. I ventured down the walkway past the gay musclemen hiding in the doorways to the last art gallery in walking distance. I found it, recognizing it as the same spot where my car had been towed a few months before. I ducked in out of the persisting weather and knocked over one of the potted trees on the steps. Smooth. I was sure that the gallery owner would have a great first impression of this writer even though it seemed to me that such an ornament was ill placed on such a public thoroughfare. Nice going.

But he was very pleasant after all. In fact, the shopkeeper was actually the artist himself and I had a fascinating conversation with him. He offered me an umbrella to take with me as I left the gallery, which I politely declined (after all, I was soaked to the skin already; I'm sure I looked like a drowned rat) though I was truly impressed by his hospitality. I stepped back out onto the sidewalk and knocked over the same plant again. I was sure it wasn't my fault.

As I ambled back up Royal Street, I began to listen to the sounds around me. The rain had made everything sodden and most of the background noise was a hiss of some kind or other. Car tires squished along the wet road, remaining trickles of water hissed down from balconies onto the pavement and the moisture sizzled almost imperceptibly as it began to evaporate from the hot concrete and flagstone. Then through the hissing, a baritone voice boomed down the streets. As I got nearer its source, I could hear the song it was projecting. The verses of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" came through in what was unquestionably the best rendition I have ever heard. The singer was an old black man who had taken up in an archway on Royal that certainly had the most serendipitously perfect acoustics of any outdoor structure in the Quarter. I stopped for a minute to listen in awe. I had stepped into one of those picture postcards in the souvenir shops. I looked at the box at his feet. There was no money in it.

My town had surprised me once again. It is easy to get so disenchanted with New Orleans when you live here. You get fed up with the crime, the weather, the corrupt politicians and so on that you become blinded to the uniqueness that draws so many to our city. It had been an afternoon in the heart of New Orleans, spent doing truly "New Orleans" things; things that I now hoped others could appreciate. I hoped that my fellow New Orleanians would spend a few lazy afternoons in their town without trying to fight the heat or beat the weather or sneer at the tourists before deciding that they hate it here and move out. I hoped that more would appreciate the things that have always made this a great city since before there was an NFL and regardless of who is in City Hall and whether or not we have a big fancy stadium. Newly impressed by my town, I determined to make sure that it would not be long before I spent another Crescent City afternoon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Taco Bell Mexi-Mood

So I was at my local Taco Bell today, hankering for some fat-laden, artery clogging grub. After all I did write this article yesterday. While there, I noticed this advertisement beckoning folks to come join their team.

It encourages prospective employees to "apply your energy!" In the photo on the ad, there is more energy than an all-gay Broadway production of "Hairspray." (Yes, I realize that "all-gay Broadway production" of anything is redundant.) Anyway, look at the energetic kids in this ad! Laughing, smiling, singing and dancing! You'd have to measure their joy on the Richter scale.

Impressed by the depiction of frenzied paradise that must surely be the "Taco Bell employment experience," I looked around my immediate environs for the thrill-ride reactions that the local employees must surely be displaying, since they were already 'applying their energy' to this particular establishment.

This was my finding. Initially I was slightly disappointed, but then I decided to give these fun kids the benefit of the doubt. All that energy expenditure must take a lot out of an individual. Perhaps it was just intermission. No doubt they were just briefly recharging their batteries for another wild, wacky episode of Evening Shift at the Taco Bell. Patiently I waited for the energy to infuse the room.

Tick, tock.

One girl cracked a smile. Was this it? Was that the cue for the energy explosion?

The smile faded. Tick, tock.

The drive up window cashier chatted briefly with the expediter. The cashier at the counter register ate something from a bowl. Some burritos were thrown into existence. Another employee stared at the wall for a bit. Tick, tock.

Slowly, it began to dawn on me that the energy depicted in the second picture was about as intense as it was going to get. I nearly broke down in tears at the letdown. There was no singing, no dancing, no jazz-hands. I had been hoping for a napalm-fueled happy bomb to go off. All I got was the Snap'n'Pop of Apathy.

I won't let that get me down, though! I am determined to find that Taco Bell where those advertisement people are employed. I want to apply my energy. I want to soak up their energy. There must be a Taco Bell establishment with enough energy to power a town, judging by the recruiting ad. I will find that restaurant. I will be guided by its glow. There will be jazz-hands. I will be joyful. Amen.

Physical Proof of New Orleans' Third-World Status!

Along the periphery of the Lee Circle monument, a compass has been set up as a form of public art. It serves as a stellar example of classic backwards New Orleans third-worldism. The east marker points toward the West Bank. The north marker directs you downtown. The south marker beckons uptown. It seems completely wrong, but that's just the way New Orleans is. I love it here!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


So George Carlin just died. That got me on YouTube and and I found this video
of him describing stupidity.
OMG, I couldn..'t have put it better!

We've all heard of "IQ." It's a measure of our intelligence. "IQ" stands for "intelligence quotient." As those who paid attention in school know, a quotient is a form of fraction. One's intelligence quotient is defined as one's comprehension divided by one's age multiplied by 100. In other words, If you are 15 years old and have the understanding of a 15 year old, then the level of your understanding (15) divided by your age (15) equals 1. 15/15=1. Multiply this by 100 for your IQ equation and you have 15/15 x 100 = 100. Fifteen divided by fifteen equals one; 1 times 100 equals 100. This same formula works for any developing human. 1/1 x 100 =100. 7/7 x 100 = 100. 18/18 x100 = 100.

If you need a comparison, let's say you are 10 years old but only have the comprehension of a 5 year-old. Comprehension divided by age is therefore 5/10, giving us 0.5. To calculate this IQ, 0.5 x 100 = 50. This person's IQ is 50. Now let's say you are 10 years old but have the understanding of a 15 year-old. Understanding divided by age is 15/10. 15/10 = 1.5. Multiply 1.5 by 100 and this person's IQ is 150. When we look at the entire population of all people with all comprehension levels, the average IQ of all people is therefore 100. Besides the people who have an actual IQ of 100 (comprehension/age x 100), there are an equal number of people on both the upper and lower sides of the equation. Again, by the law of averages, the average IQ of the population is 100.

This has staggering implications in our day-to-day life. It means that since the AVERAGE IQ of all people is 100, then fully half the people you encounter on any day have an IQ of less than 100. There is an equal number of people with IQ's above 100 as there are below 100. In other words, fully half the population has a quantifiable, verifiable likelihood that they are raging morons.

My only argument with this analysis is "only half?" My IQ, incidentally, has been measured at 164. I state this not to boast, but to lament. This means that statistically, there is someone roaming freely on the streets with an IQ of only 36 (I got his 64 points). I feel that I encounter this person in a different incarnation at least daily. Further, all of my friends that have an IQ over 100 have their own intellectual inverse twin roaming around in public, instigating others to their own depths of stupidity until one day they will take over the world. At that point, the exceedingly few remaining people with IQ's over 100 will be forced to lower the general average IQ to something else, something lower than 100, officially making Earth a planet of retards.
How far along that path are we already?