Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sun Drenched Island of Horrors

It's a tropical paradise on the edges, with a poverty-stricken core.  Sadly, this arrangement seems to typify so many of the islands in the Caribbean. With Haiti, though, those glorious edges are especially razor thin and the broken down core practically swallows the nation whole. Corruption and abuse of power runs rampant as is often the case when wealth and educational opportunities for the people are scarce, and that makes the chaos arising in the aftermath of a crisis such as the one they're in now especially dangerous.  Finally, the island's infrastructure - especially in the most financially bereft neighborhoods - is simply not built to withstand a major earthquake and certainly not to enable any subsequent relief efforts, even if most of it hadn't been reduced to rubble.

The Haitian people have in the past held fast to their proud heritage through times of pain, as though they understood that this too shall pass.  After all, they've fought through a long history of tragedy and oppression.  In many ways this history is intertwined with the rich tapestry of the vibrant culture that often serves to document their perseverance.  But this time the hammer might have come down too suddenly and the damage inflicted could be too great. And that in the end is what makes it so heart wrenching.

I've spent the last half hour watching news footage of the dead and dying in Haiti, and in particular of an 11 year old girl who had been half trapped under rubble for two days with her friends and relatives powerless to free her (they contemplated sawing off her one crushed leg, but they had no blood supply to stem the hemmorging sure to follow so that option was abandoned).  They did finally break her free, partly by removing the dead bodies of other family members caught in the same concrete trap.  She died, though, during the subsequent four hour drive to the nearest hospital (likely she would have waited hours or days more in line to retrieve medical attention, so the odds were always long against her survival).  What really slammed me was the close-up of her face, trapped and crying, little black rimmed glasses on and looking like nothing so much as the scared, hurt kid she was; a once happy-go-lucky child caught in a horrifying situation.

When I hear and see these stories, my snotty whining over trivial matters seems so conceited.  Which it is in any case, but it's magnified now in the wake of these horrors.  Of course, nightmares like these unfortunately go on the world over every day. Scenes like this take place in our inner cities regularly. But it's the sheer concentrated scale of the Haiti situation that is overwhelming to me, even far removed physically and emotionally from the carnage, safe and warm on my living room couch. I don't know anyone in Haiti nor am I close with anyone of Haitian ancestry.  And still it's just overwhelming to me.  You'd have to be dead inside or Rush Limbaugh for it not to get to you at least a little.  I can't imagine the intensity of the emotions on the ground there.  Television images don't nearly do it justice, I imagine.  Thank God for that.

I've donated several times to the Red Cross and other like agencies this week, but I don't think this is something that money (or anything) can solve in the right now.  The infrastructure just isn't there and by the time the foundation is properly laid to help the many, a great percentage will be long dead.  It's hard to say, but I just hope the relief workers can get it into place in time to recover the bodies before decease rising from the deceased gives rise to a secondary catastrophe and an unthinkable chain reaction.  Until then, let's be grateful for the many little miracles they perform along the way.

All Play and No Work makes for a Confused Boy

Saturday. January 16th, 2010.  High noon.  I left the safety of full-time employment yesterday to dip my toes back into the world of consulting, this time as an independent.  I've had a lot of folks asking if I'd been laid off but in fact it was quite the contrary: my now-former employer is looking for and hiring technology folks with my skill set pretty extensively these days and were thoroughly disappointed to see me leave.  The follow-up questions are the same once folks hear I left of my own accord without a guaranteed job and with the national unemployment rate still hovering around 10%:
  • So why'd ya do it?  Life's too short.  Enough said.   
  • In this economy?  I'm lucky in that the market's pretty active for my particular niche and I have several interesting consulting engagement possibilities on the horizon as well as a couple short-term gigs in the bag.
  • Are you insane?  Yes, on multiple levels.   
  • What you did is like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane and then searching the sky for a parachute on the way down.  That's not really a question and the analogy isn't completely apt.  From my perspective, this particular aircraft has major structural defects and several of my fellow passengers look disturbingly dangerous (in fact, so does most of the crew).  That said, I do have a standing offer to climb back into this particular plane if I so choose.  Besides, the sky seems filled with functioning chutes I can reach out and touch.

So I'll be okay.  And I feel a giddy sense of freedom.  But I also feel a bit empty today.  I tend to be a workaholic and am going through withdrawal as I take the rest of the month off.  I need a fix or something that'll take my mind off this "no work and all play" thing staring me in the face.  Books, movies, exercise, withdrawing all my savings and going to Atlantic City, coming up with a sure-fire get-rich business plan, writing a novel, fixing up the house to sell.  All are possibilities I've contemplated.  My A.D.D keeps getting in the way of going further.

Perhaps baby steps are in order.  Finish reading the six books I've started over the past several months. Watch at least a few of the flicks that sit untouched on the DVR or in unwrapped DVD/Blu-Ray cases next to the tube. Writing?  How 'bout I write a whole short story instead of the fragments/"moments" I've churned out to date before tackling my War and Peace tome?  Just a thought.  Fix up the house?  I did call a roofer, who'll be here Monday for an estimate.  That's a start.  And I did go for a run just a bit ago to (try and) make up for the Girl Scout cookies I bought - and ate - this morning.   The kid at the door was adorable and I was hungry.  Now my feet hurt from the run and the downside of the earlier sugar rush is catching up with me.  But one run does not my "regular exercise" New Year's Resolution make.  So why not devise a daily regiment?

Things to ponder.  Meanwhile, I've been catching up with some music.

Elvis Costello at Hollywood High came out on CD/MP3 this week and I'm loving it.  Recorded in 1978, it catches Costello and the Attractions at the height of their craft.  They were a great live band and this is grand evidence of that fact.  I also picked up Graham Parker and the Rumour live in San Francisco 1979 which was likewise recently released (last month).  Parker and company are equally wonderful. Perhaps I'm showing my age just a bit, but the best of first generation punk and new wave circa 1976 - 1979 is likely my favorite era in music, certainly the best of the eras I experienced first hand as a music consumer (the heart of the "60's era" roughly book-ended around 1964 - 1968 is my other fav period but I was just a toddler then and only later enjoyed the tuneage in reruns).

Well, this post has been meandering, unfunny, and thoroughly boring.  Not altogether to be unexpected given my track record, but it's sub-par even when compared to that.  Better luck next time, dear reader.

And so I'm off for the evening, fighting a cold - a parting gift from my employer - while flipping between play-off football and Closer, one of my fav flicks of the 00's (I discovered it today sitting there in my DVR fresh from a recording off IFC earlier in the week).  Ahh, Leon's sweet young Mathilda all grown up.  Natalie's just a notch down from my all-time pantheon of Hollywood crushes but climbs higher every year.  She took a big leap up with the one-two punch of Closer and Garden State stuck in the middle of the "Noughties" decade.

And so it is
Just like you said it should be
We'll both forget the breeze
Most of the time
And so it is
The colder water
The blower's daughter
The pupil in denial
I can't take my eyes off of you ... I can't take my mind off of you ...