Sunday, August 31, 2008

Live Blogging This Shit

No, I'm not live blogging from New Orleans. I am simply alive, have completed the 12-hour-long, 250-mile evacuation, and have a dial-up connection. I am privileged: people who care, car, enough money, nice place to stay.

Once I was awake this morning and brave enough to face it, I caught one CNN news cycle on New Orleans. The points were presented in the following order:

1. The updated path and intensity of the storm.
2. A clip of Ray Nagin's statement that all "looters" will be sent directly to Angola.
3. An assurance that federal assistance will be provided to Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.

One: Muth-er-fuck.

Two: The CNN mannequin anchor as well as the people surrounding Nagin when he made this statement were positively gleeful. Let me be more specific: Their expressions ranged from extremely smug to so turned on that they were ready to get naked right there.

Three: Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of federal assistance to people. But a Category 4 is about to blast through Louisiana.

Where are ya'll?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I couldn't go to Rising Tide, and that makes me very sad

I was sincerely looking forward to it and had been since January. Then, Friday between 4 and 5 p.m., I was assigned a Saturday class (to teach, not to take). So it was my job or the Tide, and the choice was not an easy one. Friday night until 1 a.m. became the preparation phase, Saturday 9-11 a.m. the xeroxing phase, and Saturday 12-3 the actual teaching phase. Sunday involved hours more of teaching prep for the week to come. I know I missed out on a lot. I hope I catch you all in person next time, preferably sooner.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What Say Ye, Gossips?

Photo credit: Tabbi Cat

Perhaps it is presumptuous to apologize for not having posted lately. Something about the peaceful memory of Jamaica temporarily stilled my urge to rant. Since school starts on Monday, however, I'm finding myself more or less back to normal.

Anyway, I was already feeling a little off this morning when I left the house, but after finding a "Sex Offender Notification" in the mailbox, I felt as though I had been transported to a bygone era -- specifically that of 17th-century New England.

Apparently, a woman convicted of a "crime against nature" has moved in down the street, right into the middle of Uptown. My first thought of course was that a nature offender might not find herself comfortable in a neighborhood where we all adhere to a strictly vegan diet, drive electric cars, recycle everything (with the loving support of Veronica White), conscientiously tend our compost heaps, boycott all pesticides, heat and cool our homes with solar panels, vote Green unanimously, hang our clothes out to dry, let it mellow if it's yellow, and travel nightly en masse to bless the River, whose present oily sheen moves us to tears. Such a person may fly in the face of all we hold sacred here on Annunciation Street.

My second thought was that I needed to know which of the many possible crimes against nature this felon may have committed, since the more specific information we have, the more vigilant we may be in preventing future transgressions against nature.

The information on the mailer led me to the website Sodomy Laws, which provided the needed information:
A. Crime against nature is:

(1) The unnatural carnal copulation by a human being with another of the same or opposite sex or with an animal, except that anal sexual intercourse between two human beings shall not be deemed as a crime against nature when done under any of the circumstances described in R.S. 14:41, 14:42, 14:42.1 or 14:43. Emission is not necessary; and, when committed by a human being with another, the use of the genital organ of one of the offenders of whatever sex is sufficient to constitute the crime.

(2) The solicitation by a human being of another with intent to engage in any unnatural carnal copulation for compensation.
Please send your prayers this way even if you find it necessary to avoid this area out of fear for your eternal salvation.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Jamaican Vacation

Photos: Strawberry Fields

I still cannot fathom that we were lucky enough for the top floor of this cottage to be our vacation home for eight days. The ocean crashes below three sides of house, and with open windows all around, one gets so used to the sound that a kind of withdrawal occurs later. No air conditioning is needed because of the cottage's design, and hot water is provided by solar panel. The retreat, Strawberry Fields, is in a still somewhat remote area--Robin's Bay in St. Mary's Parish, on the northeast coast. The remoteness won't last for long, though. Given that the EU has built a paved road from Ocho Rios, which used to be a four-hour drive but is now one and a half, developers are salivating. There was a casino deal literally next door to the retreat, but it fell through, thank god. The Robin's Bay people want development, but not mammoth resorts, certainly not casinos. They want eco tourism, from what I heard. One 1600-acre estate, formerly Greencastle Estate (for which Robin's Bay was the slave quarters until Emancipation on August 1, 1838), has sold a hefty portion of its acreage with a stipulation that it can be used only for eco tourism development. Absentee owners of much of the other land, who have demonstrated little interest for half a century, have started serving eviction notices to "squatters"--families who built and passed down little houses without electricity or indoor plumbing. Speaking of emancipation, the poverty in Robin's Bay is so glaring that I wonder just how much has changed there since 1838. The one school has no inside walls and no indoor plumbing.

I'm not laboring under delusions that Jamaican people aren't jacked up every time they turn around. 83 cents of every tax dollar goes to (mostly interest on) predatory loans from World Bank, the government is unabashedly corrupt, and the contrast between rich and poor is unapologetically harsh. Still, the situation there isn't one of constant smoke and mirrors as it is in the United States, and being there, I realized almost immediately that the energy I use unconsciously, on a daily basis, to reject the constant bombardment of lies and the distortion of reality from American media, was restored. I know this is a phenomenon familiar to anyone who spends time in any remote area--that sense of liberation that comes from realizing that one's perceptions are not constantly micromanaged from all sides, all the time. I also realize that I was a very privileged and pampered tourist, lucky enough to be provided conditions under which this realization could occur.

Talking to Jamaicans, Europeans, and Canadians throughout the trip (and no Americans, thankfully :), I realized that my conversational partners engaged me as though they were tiptoeing around a severely mentally impaired person. For instance, a co-owner of the retreat spoke to me at first quite delicately about the possibility of visiting Cuba, explaining that there was much love for Castro among Cubans, as he had liberated them from the corruption and brutality of Batiste. Once I told him not to worry, I didn't buy into American propaganda about Cuba, or the embargo, or the insane fear of communism, he was noticeably relieved, as though by some miracle he may be engaging one of the less insane Americans and was not going to have to invest nearly as much energy as he'd thought into protecting the delusions of the guest he was having breakfast with. He uttered a line that I ended up hearing from several people whose job it was to be nice to us: "Many people here believe that the American people are like Bush, but I tell them that's not true." He was the first person I had a conversation with, so afterward I started making a point of apologizing and expressing extreme embarrassment about the actions of my country. I often got an earful in return: "What are Americans thinking?" "You know, we're not strangers to water shortage, but you are." "We won't fly on any American airlines or stop in the U.S. until you stop the war." "I won't buy anything American if I can help it." "My daughter's husband works in Florida, but she refuses to apply for citizenship because she refuses to say the pledge." "Do Americans realize that their economy is collapsing?" "If you elect Obama, you might have a chance." "Americans are probably going to get scared and elect McCain, aren't they?" and "We're so glad you're sensitive to how the rest of the world feels about you. Most Americans aren't."

Enough said.

This was the greatest vacation of my whole life.