Tuesday, April 29, 2008

PSO Wrap Up

The past two weeks have seen me bending time zones, and breaking into sweats. I've wrestled with details and executed financial decisions. I've commanded volunteers and decided the fate of numerous cash boxes. Pretty exciting stuff!

For the record, I can no longer say that I've not been to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I know, I know. It's something that I've always sworn off and avoided more times than I can count. But, somehow a few days ago I found myself staring out over the arid sands of America's 39th greatest city.

I have to say that Albuquerque’s airport isn't anything like I thought it was going to be. I imagined all cilantro and sour cream (typical southwestern fare). Instead, I was greeted by:

The Giant Monolith from the Christian version of 2001. You know, the one that all the prehistoric people who were people, it's just that haircuts hadn't been invented by God yet.

I was expecting Americorps training to be about what you'd assume. Statistics, Statistics, Statistics, Human Knot, Statistics, Human Knot Statistics. Though it sounds dry, it was pretty interesting. We actually ended up talking about personal perspectives on poverty and delving into the logic behind our ideas of poverty. We talked about Mollie Orshansky, and the poverty threshold (a subject which I'll expand more upon later). It's a pretty outdated, unrealistic, and unfair formula that we use to determine the line that is the cold hard "poverty threshold." But then, I'll come back to that when I've got the actual formula in front of me.

The rest of the time at training was a sea of recirculated air and complimentary drinks. We were fortunate enough to share the hotel with three groups of fine upstanding citizens: Mosquito Killers, Professional Bowlers, and the NCAA Sweet Sixteen rugby players.

On the whole, Mosquito Killers aren't as jolly as you'd think they'd be. I expected a group of jolly Chemists and business men who would reminisce wistfully about the good old days they spent eradicating malaria and saving whole villages from West Nile. I expected for them to tell me how much simpler it was before "it got so political". I guess maybe I was just unrealistic with my image of these guys. As it turns out. They're a little bit crazy. Here's an interaction one of them had with one of my friends at the bar.

Mosquito Man-(with a southern drawl and a touch of drool) "Hey, girl. What's up"

Young, Idealistic Girl-"Er. Nothing"

MM-"Listen I'm here on a trip."

YIG-"You don't live here?"

MM-"Hell no, this is a hotel, or did you not know? You gots to pay to stay!"

YIG-"Sorry, I was just kidding"

MM-"Well, see the thing is, that I'm gonna be here all night and I was wondering if you'd like to spend some time with me."

YIG-"I'm not sure, I've got to go to bed."

MM-"I hear that! I like you. You know, I'm not racist, but I really don't like being around anyone who's not white. You're white."


MM-"You know, I could never go to Africa, because I'd probably get AIDS from having sex with some of the black women."

YIG-"I thought you only liked white people."

MM-"I do, but if I was there them black women would be all over a white guy like me. Probably be good for them."


MM-"I'm married, do you think it's wrong that I'd be getting together with a fine young thing like you."

YIG-"I may look white, but I'm actually an African-American with AIDS."


YIG-"Go before I bleed on you."

Mosquito Man exits, by slumping out the door into his lonely racist world.
He then slunk off, only to return to try his racist.

The Professional Bowlers were a little tamer. They just had the brash confidence that comes with being a professional athlete in the only sport where you're encouraged to smoke and drink while you play.

The rest of the PSO was pretty uneventful. I got to see historic down town. According to the cab driver, they've got buildings that light up at night. So...I guess that’s...exciting.

Well, actually, when I say uneventful, I mean that I witnessed a woman have a seizure in our final training session. It was certainly weird. Since we’d been in a group together all week, she’d warned us that she might have one, but actually witnessing it was terrible. I know, I know. Of course it was terrible. It was just so quiet at first. She dropped her head onto the girl beside her and just started shaking. So quietly at first that I wouldn’t have noticed had I not been at her table. Then as the vocalizations began, everyone began to turn and take notice. The person running the session stopped talking, and the room was draped in an awful silence. See, there’s not much you can really do for someone who is having a seizure. You can’t slap them or talk them out of it; it’s just something that has to come to an end naturally. She had told us not to call a doctor or anything, so there wasn’t anything to do but wait. The speaker tried to go on, but it was clear that no one was going to listen. It’s kind of amazing to be in a room of able bodied, idealistic, talented people and still be completely helpless. No one wanted to say a word for fear that somehow there voice would make things worse. So we sat, frozen and mute with fear. The fear didn’t seem to be for her life. I think we all knew that it would pass. People were praying. I’m not very religious. I’d like to say that they were just praying because they couldn’t think of anything else to do…but I think that’s actually a little too cynical for me. I think that it was their contribution, that it was how they help. The prayer became a kind of muttered counter rhythm to the frantic vocalization of the seizure victim. Just the fact that they were speaking leant a since of order to the situation. It’s pretty amazing to see a room where everyone is focused on one thing, on one idea. “Please, let this woman get through this” was a silent mantra that floated through the room. But everyone was afraid. I think part of the fear was just realizing that there are moments in your life where no matter what you do, you’re going to be helpless. Where no matter your strength or skill, you are powerless. I know it sounds a little depressing, but it’s actually weirdly affirming. We spend so much of our lives pushing on the ocean, just trying to make a difference. It can feel as if you’re drowning. But moments like that make you appreciate the times when you can make a difference. They make you redouble your efforts and steal every opportunity that you can. They teach you patience. They teach you humbleness. And most importantly, they teach you that you can hold someone and when the worst is over, you can wipe someone’s brow and help them stand up again.

The woman eventually came out of it and amazingly sat up and just continued as if nothing had happened. She was a little embarrassed, but that was it.

Afterwards, no one really talked about it. Which I think is good. It doesn’t help very much to lose your self in the moment of chaos.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sunday's in the Park With...Robert.

It's Picnic Season! Below you'll find the evidence of our seasons first outing. It's nice to go outside and embrace the blues and grays of the city.

Gabrielle brought me a flower for the picnic. It's amazing how people react to you differently when your holding a flower. They don't know you, but they're jealous of you. You've got a flower. A living(maybe), breathing(maybe) piece of evidance that somebody loves you.

The Pensive Springtime Soul is seen above in a rare combination of rocking out and exploring "feelings".
(Left to Right; Robert, Gabrielle, and Ben) Our picnic threesome.
You may not know this, but the petals of the wild mum are naturally covered with cocaine.

It's true, I like flowers and strawberries. But that doesn't make me effeminate. Just check out the manly look on my face.
You don't have to make out with it. It's a strawberry. It'll love you even if you just bite into it.
Gabrielle presents the duality that resides in every man's soul.
Gabrielle makes me prove that I'm not drunk every time we go near water. It must my tendancy to drown. Also, I'm a super hero.

We wrapped up the day by hoboing it. I met a lovely dirty man named Travelin' Pete. Seems Travelin' Pete murdered a man just cause he liked his "travelin" pants.

Excuse Below.

The world continues to rotate on it's wonderful axis as it rockets through this crazy old universe on jets made out of love and Newtonian physics. It seems that we have fought another long fight and have once again vanquished Mother Natures cruel gaze, expelling her abnormally cold hands once again to frozen shores of the Cocytus.

As she takes her leave, Chicago springs to life. It's part of a cycle that is as old as nature itself. It's called the "Cycle of Abuse." Now, I know I may seem slightly histrionic here, or maybe just like a Lifetime Original movie writer condemed forever to mini series for the Weather Channel, but it's true. As Chicago enters into the bitterness of the post solstice slump, it's proverbial abusive behavior becomes more and more apparent.

December's end means that the weather begins to drink too much at parties and yell obsenities at your friends. You tell yourself that the weather isn't really like this, that it's just had a hard day at work. After all, I mean it has been working since the beginning of time without a vacations. You tell your friends that they just don't understand, that they don't live here.

In January you begin to doubt yourself. Sure you can ignore the inevitable cruelty of the weather. In fact when your inside at work, or hanging out with your friends you barely think about it at all. But you begin to think about how things used to be. May and June were so wonderful, all sunshine and refreshing afternoon storms. But still as soon as you step outside it's bad again. Worse than it was before. The weather is cruel first thing in the morning and during the day now. It's as if night times darkness lasts longer, and day time's warmth is nothing but a memory. You are numb, but you press forward into February, knowing that if you can only get through this, your relationship with the weather will be great again. Just like it was when you first moved in together. Atleast you know rock bottom.

February brings you to your absolute depth. It's like What's Love Got to do With It. You're coming into work bruised and limping. You're too embarased to say you slipped on an ice patch on the way in, so you just grin and bare it. The wind is screaming all the time now and there's no letting up. You lock yourself in your room for days just to avoid being near the Chicago weather. Friends notice a change in you and offer safe places to stay with them. You pack your bags, ready to head out to California or Texas. Anything but here. You look at the city and it's as if you don't even recognize it any more.

But just as your foot is out the door, the sun comes out. It's as if the weather is telling you that it's just the booze. That it's going to change. And suddenly. There you go. Things are great. Sunshine, a little wind, but that's to be expected, Seasons don't change over night. There's a little snow, but it's ok. It's the city you fell in love with again. Your happy and going outside again.

But still your friends insist that it'll get bad again. But how could it, it's so beautiful now. The past is just that past. Winter's learned it's lesson. It's in treatment. Everything'll be fine right?

No. You've got to break the cycle, or you're just going to end up here again. Seriously. If you don't stand up yourself you'll be stuck here forever.

Get out now!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Two Things That I Am Missing Tonight


And the beautifully terrified girl without a mouth who lives with me.