Pittsburgh, PA — There’s snow in these here hills. More than enough to close public schools in Georgia for upwards up two months. It’s actually weird being back in the eastern standard. Now when making phone calls I have to time zone subtraction instead of time zone addition.
Spent some quality time in Iowa City with my friend Peter. He showed me the nightlife that kids enjoy while attending the University of Iowa. Apparently one of the hip bar promos there is 21 pichers for $21 on your 21st birthday. No word on the subsequent 21 DUIs and 21 date rapes. Another inexplicably popular fad is pub crawl groups. This entails putting together a group, getting matching T-shirts made, and then all wearing them out on the same night when you go out club hopping. There is no way this would have worked in my college experience. Athenians are way too cool for that. But the city did turn me on to the coolest laundramat in the world. They provided free laundry supplies. If you needed detergent, fabric softener, etc. you just went over to the counter and took it. But the real kicker was their dryer policy. If your clothes didn’t fully dry on the first cycle (which mine never do) you simply alerted the attendent and then she provided the funds to remove the remaining bits of moisture from your wardrobe.
I had planned to visit Miineapolis and Milwaukee (really wanted to check out the birth places of Prince and the Violent Femmes), but the weather was not cooperative. I ended up spending a night in Toledo. While out to grab some dinner, I noticed a tavern tucked between a bowling alley and a Motel 6. If you think I passed up the opportunity to pound down a couple of cold ones there, then you don’t know me that well. I walked in and sat at the bar. There was a couple to my left, and a couple to my right. I ordered my beer, paid my $1.75 (and it wasn’t even on special) and sat back ready to soke in some culture. That didn’t take long. The TV was broadcasting the women’s figure skating medal ceramony. The fellow to my left looked at the screen and gave a breakdown of the result more consise than Scott Hamilton could ever dream of, “Two Americans and a chink.” I was quite sure the countries represented were Japan, USA and Russia. He then repeated his world wise assesment of the final standings, “Two Americans and a chink.” His female companion and the bartender were discussing which of the two girls had taken Michelle Kwan’s place. I knew the answer was neither. Seeing as how one of the skaters was on the team before Kwan, one was Japanese and one was Russian. I decided my involvement in this conversation would not add enjoyment to anyone’s evening (plus, the rest of Mr. Xenophobia’s bowling team was sure to stroll though the doors any second now). At this point, my personal nominee for the next US Ambassador to the UN piped up again, “I never understood how a chink got to be on the American team.” At this point all I could think was, “Wow. I sure am glad I’m up north with all these progressive thinking folks and not back down south where everyone is a racisct redneck.”
The next day I made my way into Cleveland to check out the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. However this plan was aborted due to the fact that the Hall closes at 5:00 PM. Not very metal. So I headed down to Amish country and kicked it with Maggie and James for a couple of days.
Then back up to Cleveland again. It was a weekday during normal business hours so it was OK to engage in some Rawkin’. The Hall was interesting, but not awe inspiring. It was kinda of like dining at the world’s best Hard Rock Cafe (but the $20 admission chare did include a 12 month subscription to Rolling Stone). Afterwords I headed down to Canton to tour the Professional Football Hall of Fame. The displays on the history of football were entertaining and educational. I now know where the term gridiorn comes from. I could have spent hours viewing the video displays of all the inductees. There was even a display on leagues that challenged the NFL. I enjoyed looking back on the USFL and remembering all those wacky mascots. There was also mention of the AFL, AAFL and WFL. But not a peep about the CFL or XFL. How could there not be a CFL exibit there? The fan interaction was a huge dispointment. It started out with a basic elementary school autumn canival game where you try to throw a football through a hole. Then there were a couple of stations where you could play Madden. After that a NTN trivia game and a chance to play QB1. BORING! The gift shop offered nothing more than 32 very small team stores. The usual crap you would expect and probobly not want, unless you desire a 2005 inductee shirt with Dan Marino’s head on it (by the way I hope he gets gnonoria and dies). After that I spent some time with new Cantonians Anthony, Jill and Alex. It was nice to see them all doing well and settling in.
I left and made my journey toward Pittsburgh. It was harrowing to say the least. Rarely traveled snow covered roads through winding mountains. But I made it.
Last week yet another report was released on the inept government response to hurricane Katrina. This one was titled Lessons Learned. Isn’t that cute. Sounds like the name of a reaffirming book written for elementary school kids. The first list in the lessons learned should have been (1) humans are not amphibious. A smile was put on my face that this report actually called the Red Cross to the mat. I continue my crusade against the heartless fuckers. Down with the Red Cross. Once again, I would like to say to the American Red Cross “Thanks for nothing. Abslolutley nothing. Except for wasting hours of my time waiting on hold, waiting in lines and sitting around shelters.” I was amazed that somehow, once again, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff avoided almost any blame. How could his department have bungled things so badly and he have abslolutely nothing to do with it? The funniest item from the press conference was this quote from White House homeland security advisor Frances Fragos Townsend. “I reject outright any suggestion that President Bush was anything less than fully involved.” Really? Outright reject? Would anyone want to admit to being fully involved in that debacle? Wouldn’t you want to paint a picture of yourself being somewhat out of the loop? Better to labled ignorant than incompetent, right?
It’s been six months since I intially evacuated. Six months without a home. Six months without sleeping in my own bed. It seems like a lifetime ago. Since then so much has happened to me and the place I called home. I still vividly recall those chaotic first few hours and days following Katrina’s landfall. The sadness of watching the images on TV. The joy of hearing a friend’s voice on the phone. The unimaginable horror of getting the worst news possible. The overwhelming relief of talking to someone upon whome I had all but given up hope. The frustration and confusion of the following weeks (and much of that same frustration and confusion still continuing to this day). Many of us have gone back. Many of us have moved on. Many of us are still in limbo. I have moved on, physcially if not mentally. My life is starting to fall into place. I’ve got all but one of my insurance claims settled (that K-21 claim is still in the works). I am still working with FEMA. I am still waiting to hear back from the SBA. And I still hate the American Red Cross. It’ll all be sorted out soon.
So I say to all my friends and loved ones on the Gulf Coast and around the world, from the bottom of my heart, HAPPY MARDI GRAS!
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