Thursday, June 29, 2006

Big $ for Coastal

Hmmm, working on vacation sucks. Remind me not to do it any more.

The only thing that has sweetened my displeasure with jumping through all the hoops to bypass what Hands On Network has set in hard code for their website is what I saw on this morining. What is Well, PA stands for Public Assistance, which is the program that enables the Federal government, through FEMA, to give money to states, local governments, and selected private non-profits like Coastal Family Health Center, which is a community health care center, in the wake of natural disasters.

The Hands On groups and Project Hope have supported, and continue to support, Coastal through its rebuilding. As volunteers might recall, Jack Blanks showered us with Hope Nurses, while Nate Harrold lead the charge to turn 5 donated trailers from Merck into 1 operational, temporary clinic for the residents of Moss Point. That Moss Point effort was made possible by about $300,000 of a $400,000 grant that Project Hope gave Coastal.

Last week, Coastal got the nod for a $3 million from the Qatar government to cover operational expenses. Back in April, Coastal applied for a $6M Emergency Social Services Block grant. The state finally announced Coastal would receive the money it requested to build permanent facilities in Moss Point, Bay St. Louis, and Biloxi. Yes, $6,000,000 from the state and $3,000,000 from Qatar!!!!

The news couldn't be better for the residents of Biloxi and the Gulf Coast! Go Coastal and everyone who worked on the Emergency Social Services Block grant. In case anyone keeps track, this is the very same $6M I asked President Bush and Governor Barbour for when they came to visit our place back in April.

The money doesn't stop there, though. Finally, after about a 4 month lapse in effort, FEMA finally started giving Coastal money. I don't want to misrepresent John Taylor, the new FEMA contractor who works like a dog to get Coastal's project work sheets in the system (heck, John even comes out to do mold with us on Sundays!!). It's just that his predecessor took his sweet time putting in PW's, and oh yeah, FEMA is a government agency that moves about as fast as molasses at Absolute Zero (that's zero Kelvin ... or -459.67 F, which is really cold, so the molasses moves really slowly, or not at all).

Science lessons aside, this morning, just before the weekly conference call to discuss Coastal issues, I saw that had a new entry ... $157,000 for a computer system that Coastal bought to keep track of patient visits and billing. Awesome!!! This is the first direct result of my white-collar efforts on the coast. I have been down here since 20 January 2006, working on FEMA claims for Coastal. John, Chuck Clark (Coastal IT), Chip Cyr (IT consultant) and I worked together to collect narratives, explain the system to John, and write up a few itemized spreadsheets of expenditures. Without everyone's help, this wouldn't have gone through as easily as it did.

You don't know how excited this makes me. Finally, proof positive I'm not spinning my wheels down here and I have contributed something to the community despite not going out all that often on crews! Coincidentally, it's awesome we finally have a great FEMA Project Officer (John Taylor) working with us to get the claims through the system. Go John! Go FEMA!

Remote excitement from the frustrated Base Manager,

:: Chris ::

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sweet 16 Starts Tomorrow

The final decision of the Round of 32 has been made tonight, and the Sweet 16 starts tomorrow. I'd like to do some reflection at this point on the first round, surprises, upstarts, etcetera, as some of those decisions did make us think twice about this thing. Maybe taught us something valuable about the volunteer demographic regarding music preference. Or taught us that this tournament is absolutely unrelated to music value, subjective as it may be.

Blue Bracket:

Sweet 16 Match-ups:

Stawberry Fields Forever vs. Down Drinking At The Bar

Brown-Eyed Girl vs. Don’t Stop Believing

-We had our share of surprises. Wagon Wheel, the number one seed in the entire tournament (the only song that had not two, but THREE ballot entries from the aggregate entry pool, the stage in which volunteers were allowed to nominate their three choices for the tournament) was dismantled by Strawberry Fields Forever. Again, demographics do come into play- the beauty of this democratic tournament is that there is that everyone is equal, every vote is equal, and at heart, more people on average have a closer sentiment for the Beatles than they do for Old Crow. The same phenomenon occured with Atlantic City's early bow-out to Brown-Eyed Girl.

-Of note also in the Blue Bracket were some oldies but goodies, some country and folk that made some appearances. The most grassrooted of the first round match-ups in my opinion had to be Nina Simone's Mississippi Goddam's loss to Loundon Wainwright's Down Drinking At The Bar. The folky, wistful Wainwright pulled out that match-up, and I think that was the right choice- on a minor note, Simone in the tourney could have stood a better chance with Sinner Man. Also, that loss proved a running first round theme I hoped would prove true and did: just because a song has "Mississippi" or "Volunteers" in the title or lyrics doesn't mean it should get an automatic Sweet Sixteen bid.

-Finally, in a nod to the departed and good Janos Marton, Don't Stop Believing advances over Lost Highway by Hank Williams. Utterly disappointed: Luc LaMarche.

Yellow Bracket:

Sweet 16 Matchups:

No Rain vs. Piano Man

Ooh La La vs. Oye Como Va

-The Yellow Bracket, as I initially saw it, seemed straight-forward and predictable; again, the tourney proved its infinite nature was so much more than my worldly, mortal hunches. The only advance I correctly predicted was the worst, and that's simply Blind Melon's No Rain over The Oogum Boogum Song. Brenton Wood's visceral, funky classic, with a name that screams of onamotopoenglish, is so much better than poppy, angsty 90s grunge. Yes, Blind Melon had a lot of potential. Yes, No Rain is very popular. No, is it better than 75% of Funkytown music.

-Now come the surprises in the lower bracket. Walking In Memphis, my dark horse to win this thing, gets knocked out by Ooh La La, which I secretly and now publicly love but didn't think would make it past that crooning piano of Marc Cohn, relying on a song plot that deviates entirely from the music of his song. Wrong was I, to Britton’s disappointment; however, The Faces move on, and at this point stand as my favorite in the bracket.

-As concisely as possible: Thunder Road is 100% better than Oye Como Va, which detracts from every Latin song before and after it. XM’s Caliente and Fuego are crying over this, because they like everyone love Thunder Road. Oye Como Va also detracts from the musical talent of Santana. It’s like if we were relying on Uptown Girl instead of Piano Man in this thing. Or Young Turks instead of Ooh La La. Or I Got My Mind Set On You instead of Strawberry Fields Forever. I could go on. Oye Como Va progresses to the Sweet 16.

-Finally, tonight’s match-up saw Hotel California match up against Piano Man, both brilliant songs played more than they perhaps should on popular classic rock, which allows some of us to forget their brilliance in the first place. I love both, and Piano Man advances.

Green Bracket:

Sweet 16 Match-ups:

Africa vs. Beat It

You Give Love A Bad Name vs. Bohemian Rhapsody

-Oh green bracket. Where the 80s go to flounder. And somehow in floundering knocked out 90s, 70s, and even 50s alternatives. The Green Bracket is a poppy, precise side ponytail party. And eventually, once one of these Sweet 16 songs eventual emerges victorious, a poppy, precise side ponytail graveyard. On top of this bracket we had the #1 seed Pink Floyd’s Fearless bow out to Toto’s Africa, which maybe shows us all that having the last 45 seconds of a song be awesome African magic drum music works much better than random European soccer chanting. Sorry Mohawk. Love you, love your work.

-Africa matches up against Beat It next round, which somehow someway managed to best the musical brilliance of Joe, Donnie, and the rest of the New Kids On The Block’s “Step By Step.” That will be a ridiculous match-up.

-The other quadrant saw a grassroots disappointment, but simultaneously one that ties into my belief in this tourney. Yes, Jefferson Airplane is a wonderful band. Yes, Volunteers is a great song. Yes, Marco, I realize that the song repeats the phrase “Volunteers of America.” When 25% of a two minute quickie is dedicated to repeating that phrase, however, it detracts a bit from the song as a whole. So many other Vietnam-era songs I would have loved to see in this thing besides this song. Any CCR would have done better. Or something more substantial than the 2 minute JA White Rabbit style ditty. And no, by default this does not mean I’m a Bon Jovi booster. There’s more to be learned in what lost in this match-up than what won, because You Give Love A Bad Name, energetic as it is, cannot compare to JA’s aggregate musical talent, what it stood for, everything “Need Somebody to Love” screams at its audience. Bon Jovi powers forward on the coattails of demographic college-age appeal and faces off in the Sweet 16 vs…

-Bohemian Rhapsody. Bohemian Rhapsody beat Monster Mash. I’ll quote John Harlow on this one, forgive me if its not verbatim John-boy but its pretty damn close:

“Monster Mash is a song I enjoy hearing sometimes. Like, I’d say, once a year, probably on Halloween, probably in the morning when I’m taking a shower so I don’t really have to listen to it but I do notice that it’s playing.”

Red Bracket:

Sweet 16 Match-ups:

Superstition vs. Dead Flowers

Night Moves vs. Reverse Cowgirl

-Not too much commentary for this bracket. From the get-go, Superstition is a clear favorite for this entire tournament. It’s funky enough to appeal to the younger masses, and nostalgic enough to grab the older vote. Beating Iron Man was fairly straight-forward, as Iron Man on the other end appeals to a very specific demographic— those who were teens and young adults when it came out and were also rebellious enough to immerse themselves in the heavy metal movement (which contemporarily seems silly because those groups were not really that heavy when compared to the 90s direction of Pantera and Insane Clown Posse ultra-extreme descendants…Ozzy, biting off bat heads in concert doesn’t translate too well to reality television with the fam 15 years later) as well as those youth today that relate to that sort of pseudo-rebellion. In addition, Iron Man is a lyrically stupid song. Walk-over for Superstition.

-Dead Flowers beat out Roundabout, Yes’s other song besides Owner of a Lonely Heart. It’s an 8 minute tribute to awesome 80sness. Which doesn’t translate well at all into tournament format when matched up against the Stones, as mediocre a Stones selection compared to the Stones pool of possible songs, that Dead Flowers may be. Mullet, my apologies. Please continue your incisive, aggressive commentary of the terribleness of the tournament because it is supremely amusing.

-Ah, Night Moves. I’ve been criticized by the founder of music tournaments over this song “going 2 minutes longer than it should.” The same founder has championed And She Was. Sometimes love makes us blind and overly critical. Janos Marton’s love of The Talking Heads I think has convinced him erroneously that its merit, as high as it maybe, is above that of 70s soul rock. Seger. Bob Seger. Learn to love him. Because he’s going far.

-And last, but not least, the only live performance of the tourney and possibly the most controversial tournament progression: Jim Schiller’s live performance of Reverse Cowgirl trounces Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come. It’s been criticized that having the live performance versus the speaker was unfair. There was a clear advantage. Even during vote collection, volunteers were heard to vote Cowgirl while emphatically whispering, “We don’t want to hurt the boy’s feelings.” Cowgirl ascends on, and thanks to Marco’s MP3 recorder at Open Mike, will be played as a live recording in the Sweet 16. Love you mean it, Jim. Love your work. Sam Cooke is one. I sincerely doubt Bob Seger will be two.

And that’s all the commentary I’ve got for now. I’ll update as we progress at this point, and am debating the implementation of a more scaled voting system in the later rounds. Til then, take care, love you all, and vote with your heart.


ramblings about things that are not work

We went out and played soccer before dinner and it was sooo much fun. I've never played soccer before, but I had a great time. We lost, I think, but I'm not really sure. And then we came back for dinner and it was pitas with falafel, and I am oh-so-very fond of falafel. But then I got to the food and oh, woe! oh, sorrow! no falafel! But then I saw there were still crumbs in the pan and it was good, especially since there were cookies and ice cream for dessert.

I caught a frog yesterday! It was in the shower, and I almost stepped on it. It had funny clingy little feet. The day before, I caught a marvelously fat toad in the parking lot. I never really see amphibians much back home, so this was pretty exciting for me. I ended up letting both of them go on the far side of the showers, so the puppies wouldn't find them. I love the puppies, but it would be sad if they caught the nice frogs.

I still haven't seen an alligator. I must go on an alligator hunt before I leave.

Talent show tomorrow! So excited! I want to perform, but I have no idea what I would do. Must think about this. Even just sitting and watching is very fun. I hope Nick twirls fire again!

I just signed up for mold tomorrow, and it will be my third time, so I'm going to get one of the coveted FIGHT MOLD! bracelets. Yay! Mold crew is fun because it's lead by fun people. Oh wait, that's work, and I wasn't going to write about work.

I love the way all the signs around this place have little smiley faces and positive messages along with their main idea. Right when I first got here, I sat down in the bathroom and was greeted with a cheerful, colorful sign which began, "Congratulations! You have chosen to use a rather tricky toilet, but don't be scared . . . "

Miss Rose gave me a book to read, because she saw me with a similar one and thought I might enjoy it. I love the way there are so many people here who do nice little things like that all the time. Only thing is, I don't have much time to read because my free time is spent listening to fascinating conversations.

La la la la la. Maybe I'll go wander around outside. It's a lovely night.

random short-termer

Monday, June 26, 2006

Team Lemonade

On Friday I led a crew in a new kind of assignment, to make social visits to community members that could use a listening ear. Immediate needs that required street teams are over, but the needs in the community for a connection between the volunteers and the residents are not.

My team of 3 set out, fresh lemonade in hand, to walk Nixon and Main, and check in on people we have served. It was an amazing day. The residents we met were open with us, and happy for a visit. They talked to us about living through the storm, about the conditions of their homes, and their plans in case of another hurricane. We stood in Anita's house - filled with white studs, and she talked about how happy she was to have everything she had - for all the groups that have come through and helped her out. It was humbling to see how thankful people were for what they had, and empowering to see how strong they were in the face of many struggles.

I'm looking forward to more days like this, maybe next time it will be team "sweet tea"

Elizabeth (Falcon)

Until next time....

So we are leaving today from Hurricane camp after being here for three months. I had a good time here being able to work on various projects all over Biloxi. I think it's pretty amazing that so many people from all over come down here to help others in need.

take care,

Joanie Brockett ( AmeriCorps *NCCC, Blue 5 )

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Tag Your Blogs all my Blog Compatriots....

My blog entries have pictures that I took, 'cause I rock.

So, we're all goin' to not be around in the literal sense someday. I mean, fully materially, anyway. I'm reading a book about genocide throughout the last 500 years-- it's a real upper! Sometimes I think that what we're doing in the Golf Coast is useless, and that I'm wasting my valuable short thime here on the Earth... but then again, I'd be hard-pressed to describe any useful actions I've encountered first-hand-- in short, Hurricane camp is roughly as good and productive as anything your average American would be able to come up with. Anyway, the afterlife is underrated.

Question of the day: Are 10,000 lbs of living mice worth more than 10,000 lbs of elephant?

Marco X (Utica, NY;; )

The Hurrican Camp Rap, yo

Hands On Gulf Coast

So the 3 kids from New York are leaving and if you were at dinner then you heard our semi-awsome rap about Hands On. For those of you who didn't, here it is:

Hurricane Camp Rap
(Beat taken from "Ice Ice Baby")

All right stop evacuate and listen
Katrina hit like a freakin' piston

Something grabs a hold of us tightly
Work all day, party hard nightly

Will you ever stop yo --I don't think so
Work non-stop....for no dough

To the extreme destroy a house like a vandal
knockin' down walls even in sandals


Scrapin' that mold but watch out for those fumes
Killin' your brain like a poisonous mushrooms

Teachin' boy and girls a pretty dope melody
Watch where you touch 'em or it could be felony

Don't wanna leave but our plane can't wait
Brought to hands on by a miracle of fate

If there is a problem yo, you'll solve it
Keep workin' hard, no hurricane will DISSOLVE IT


Written and Performed by Greg Sweeney, Bryan and Andrew Knipfing.
Performed by, kinda, Garett Martocello

We had a great time here and we hope to come back soon!

Never a Dull Moment

How would I describe my last night? Incredibly fun? Absolutely. Tinged with sadness? No doubt. What sort of event would fit this bill? A Hands On Going Away Celebration that combines the happiness of music and dancing with the soulfully felt loss of close friendships that have developed over the course of the past three months.

See, Blue 5 from Sacremento leaves tomorrow. They've been here a long time, so long, I don't even remember the day they arrived. That's beside the point. They've been here long enough to become part of the soul that makes this place what it is. They lead mold crews, they manage interiors, they recycle, they manage the finances and disbursements, they paint, they cut down trees, they manage the tool shed, and just add life, love, and flavor to the camp. I just can't say enough about how their loss affects us all.

But enough about them, remember, this blog is about me ...

The evening ended when the lightening and wind approached a bit too close for comfort. We quickly packed, ensured there were sober drivers, then headed on out. I took the scenic route back along the bay. Around Porter Ave, someone says, "You just missed the turn for 90." "Well, I wonder if we can keep going." Carolyn pipes up, "Yes, I'll tell you when to turn."

And so I drove ... and kept driving, right passed a sitting police car. "There's the police." Sh!t!, I didn't have my license.... "Oh sh!t! Are we on base {Keesler Air Force Base}?" Carolyn, "No." "Alright."

The barbed wire fence is what gave me the sneaking suspicion we were on base, even though we hadn't passed through a gate. The flashing blue lights in my rear view mirror confirmed it.
    "License, registration, and proof of insurance ..."
    "Well, sir. I don't have my license. These are brand new cars from Atlanta, so we don't even have the paper work on them ... but I do have the insurance card."
    "Step out of the car please and keep your hands where I can see them ..."
I won't go through all the details. Let's just say all the girls were a bit tipsy. I tell the MP (military police) my story about Hands On, what we do in the community, why the cars don't have license plates, blah blah blah. He goes to check my story out and comes back.

    "Now, I know you're not drunk. I thought I smelled something on your breath. But I looked in your eyes."
    "No, sir. I'm not. I have to be honest. I had a drink at 9pm." {It was 11.30 when we were pulled over}
    "Those girls, though ..." and he just smiled and laughed.
    "That's why I'm driving!"

He let us go. The girls thought it was a riot. They took the photos ...

Anyway, fun never stops. Back at base, we learn Dr. G-Llove and Paul also had an encounter with the police. That's there story, though.

:: Chris ::

P.S. In case there were vicious rumors about me having a breathalyzer test or having had to walk the line ... NOT TRUE!

P.P.S. I didn't have the mumps. Doctor told me I didn't on Tuesday. Yeah me! It was a bit of a vacation.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

To blog or not to blog

I'm reminded frequently of the need to blog for Hands On, and I often sit and think that I should pitch in and whip something up. Then I quickly decide I wouldn't really know what to blog about. Hurricane camp is something that just about everyone should experience, and people never truly realize how much they needed to come down until they're already here. Many find the work to be extremely rewarding and the down time amazingly fun. People often ask if they think the situation down here ever becomes depressing because there's so much work to do and only so much one person can do, regardless of their length of stay. Rebuilding will be a long process, and no one is in denial about that. However, it's people finding whatever amount of time or money they can spare and coming down that prevents the situation from becoming bleak. The presence of volunteers in someone's home reminds them that people still care and their needs have not been forgotten. In my opinion, this often does far more than the physical labor that issupplied that day. So if you're wondering if this is something you could or should do, most likely the answer is yes to both of those questions.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

People Aren't Worthy of Being Understood...

Why the hell did some Bon Jovi song beat Jefferson Airplane's Volunteers in the music tournament? Becasue people are dumbasses. All nondumbasses, save yourselves now, while there is still time. I mean, the Jefferson Airplane lyrics repeat "Volunteers of Ame-ri-caa aa" several times-- that's what we, here at Hands On, are, if you didn't get it, dumbasses. Aesthetically, the song is super sweet, too. I mean, it was written in 1968.

The earth needs some serious "de-molding" if you know what I mean.

Marco X (Utica, NY;; )

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Music Tournament Update

We're halfway through the first round of the best alcohol-free alternative in the history of 2113 Pass Road: the Music Tournament. Reflecting back, I must admit that I have doubts about the worthiness of everyone's votes. This tournament isn't about what song you recognize and what song you don't, what song is happier and what song is sadder. At heart, this tournmanent, pronounced Tour-NA-ment, is about looking inside yourself and quantifying the infinite nature of music, putting a vote into a finite receptacle, and watching the entertaining process of democratic ephemery.

Standings so far:

Blue Bracket:
Strawberry Field Forever advances to the Sweet 16, defeating Wagon Wheel.
Brown Eyed Girl advances to the Sweet 16, defeating Atlantic City.
Still to play:
-Mississippi Goddam vs. Down Drinking At The Bar
-Don't Stop Believing vs. Lost Highway

Yellow Bracket:
No Rain advances to the Sweet 16, defeating The Oogum Boogum Song.
Oye Como Va advances to the Sweet 16, defeating Thunder Road (poor Springsteen)
Still to play:
-Hotel California vs. Piano Man
-Walking In Memphis vs. Ooh La La

Green Bracket:
Beat It advances to the Sweet 16, defeating Step By Step
Bohemian Rhapsody advances to the Sweet 16, defeating Monster Mash
Still to play:
-Fearless vs. Africa
-Volunteers vs. You Give Love A Bad Name

Red Bracket:
Dead Flowers advances to the Sweet 16, defeating Roundabout
Reverse Cowgirl advances to the Sweet 16, defeating A Change Is Gonna Come
Still to play:
-Superstition vs. Iron Man
-Night Moves vs. And She Was

Current Vegas odds:
-Brown Eyed Girl, 8:1
-Beat It, 30:1
-Superstition, 4:1
-Oye Como Va, 1,000,000,000:1

Dark Horse: Walking In Memphis
Over-rated: Strawberry Fields Forever

The Volunteer Expierence

I am a local resident here in biloxi and can not give enonough thanks to the volunteers here i have been here at cmap hogc for the last 2 1/2 mnths and it has been the besyt 2 1/2 months of my life i hae met people from all over the world and country sometimes i think some maybe from different planets lol but i ahve worled almost all of the jobs on the chore board and then almost all of the jobs on the service board with the exception of roofin =*( but before i leave i just wanted to leave this little poem










Again i thank all of you for giving me the true VOLUNTEER EXPIERENCE it has bee a real journey through life

I love all of you

Geoff AKA The HAND

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bunk Beds are Beautiful

Well, corporate sponsorship has its perks. Not only does Home Depot pay for a lot of tools we use to do work in the community, but FedEx stepped up and bought us a lot of bunk beds. 63 to be exact.

To be honest, no one was really excited about the bunk beds coming. The architects are worried about loading the loft floor and fire code stuff. The long termers were worried about their living space being cramped. I was worried about having to manage the beds when they came ...

As it turns out, the crack crew of cleaners and bunk bed assemblers under the leadership Animal Rescue Ben and Luc (I haven't thought of a good name for him) with layout assistance and forethought from Eric, along with mad painting skills from Andy, meant that I had to spend very little time doing much of anything with the process. I made a few spot checks here and there and everything was going swimmingly well.

And so, what I thought would be a horribly messy day, turned out to have only two real hiccups. Someone parked their car in the way of the semi, which meant he basically had to earn his pay check in manuevering the rig and trailer backwards out of the lot. And ... of course all the screws had a hex head and none of our screw guns had hex drivers ... a quick run to Home Depot (tadah!) saved the volunteers from assembling bunk beds with ratchets and wrenches!

Now, it's beautiful in the loft and the long termers have space! Yeah.

:: Chris ::

These are a few of my favorite things....

Why do I love Hurricane Camp so much??
That's kind of a loaded question and the answer is definately too long to express in a one minute good-bye speech after dinner. So instead of trying to put my feelings into actual words, I just cried. What can I say I'm a crier. I wish I could so eloquently express how I feel like others have, but I'd probably screw it up. This is what I wanted to say: "Soo, I'm not sure you guys know, but I'm kinda a big deal around here. I'm what they call the "Marshmellow Girl." And even though the campfire has died, I'd like to pass on my Marshmellow Wand, in hopes that the Hurricane Camp fire will burn in our hearts forever...."But I didn't say that, I just cried. I love this place so much but I haven't figured out what is it exactly that I love. I am so greatful for everything I have learned here; not only on how to rip down ceilings or how to properly use a crow bar or demold houses, but I've learned life lessons that I'll never forget. I've learned what is important in life. I've learned that you can be so truly happy living in a tent and showering outside. I've seen so much beauty in this destruction zone, it is unreal. Anyone would be crazy to not come back. I love this place. May the fire in all of our hearts live on forever!!

Monday, June 19, 2006

fiy me to the moon

So I'm eating my lunch today in the main dinning room and something lands on my cup. It is a fly. My new little friend and his buddies all decide to perch themselves on either my shoulder, face, cup or table......waiting like vultures to dive down onto my food the moment I get up. They have become almost like family, eating with me at the dinner table. Last night, at dinner as I ate my meal, there were no flies to greet me once I sat down with my plate. I almosted missed their pressence.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Three Demons

I had a dream last night. Three demons blew into hurricane camp and did all my share of fun work and had all of my allotment of good time for me. They left me shoveling muck. But maybe the joke is on them. I should be here to do good things, not to have fun. A sweaty brow and dizzy cursing at the sun give one genuine worth. But how can I release myself from attachments, cravings, desires, longing? Are the alleged 'demons' really angels? No-- but they ARE the reality of the earth, and to embrace reality is to be empowered to change the world. I'll see you in hell, demons!

Marco X (Utica, NY;;

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Yes, the mumps. "How archaeic!" was the comment someone made. My grandmother laughed when I repeated it. "I haven't heard of anyone having the mumps in forty years." And there you have it.

Don't worry, loyal readers, I'm quarantined in a hotel somewhere in Ocean Springs, MS. I only venture out to get groceries and coffee.

Luckily, it's not terrible to be in quarantine right now. The World Cup of soccer is on, so I get to work on web pages, evacuation plans, phone calls to plumbers, and watch world-class football matches for many hours in a day. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a sports fan. During any other time of the year, I wouldn't be able to tell you the difference between the Buffalo Sabres and the Montreal Expos.

During World Cup, I still don't pay attention to the stats, but I do love to watch great football. Unfortunately, the US doesn't usually qualify as great football. Argentina, yes, that's beautiful stuff. I shouldn't bash the US team because they tied Italy with only 9 players on the field (Italy had 10).

You might wonder what World Cup has to do with Hands On, but it's extremely relevant. There are more than a few rabid football fans who would love to veg out in front of the TV, only they're too dedicated to spend that much time in front of a television...

So there you have it? Hands On volunteers are so dedicated that they only occassionally watch a game from the tournament that causes the rest of the world to grind to a halt.

:: Chris ::

P.S. If only other volunteers would write ...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


It's hard to separate music from the Hurricane Camp experience. It plays in the kitchen when people clean and cook. It plays when people grind out mold. It plays in the evenings, the mornings, and the afternoons. I mean, when you have a NCAA-style, 32-song tournament bracket to determine the best song of all time, you know music is part of our core.

What's great is that the volunteers listen to all sorts, bringing in hundreds of albums on on iPods and computers. So, we get exposed to lots of different stuff. Some folks groove to the zydeco, others the classic rock. Still others dig the oldies. There's even a small few who swing to the big band sounds of the 40's. My personal favorite, though, is the underground hip hop.

One day, there was a group from Colorado in the kitchen. I was about to turn up my music to drown out what sounded like bad music. I listened a little bit longer ... it had a funky retro beat laced with some modern hip hop. The guys singing had strange, but enthralling voices that you couldn't forget. Rather than play my music louder than the kitchen's music, I jammed to it.

When the CD finished, I raced straight down from my room (yes, you can hear everything in the loft ... even noisy people at 4am) and asked, "who is that?" "Gnarles Barkley." "Really, can I borrow it?" "Sure."

This is Hands On, of course, how could anyone not share? I burned a copy of the disk and have been listeninig to it pretty much non-stop since. It's just an awesome album that combines a lot of different styles that I really like.

The whole reason I wrote this post was because I was listening to it and it made me think of the little world that is Hurricane Camp. You have motivated, dedicated, inspired folks who come together with raw passion and a determination to rebuild the Gulf Coast. There's so much potenial and talent in the volunteers. It's only natural that ideas will be shared and the conversation and companionship will create a vibrant, tight-knit community living in a "compassionate commune" as the President said.

I guess I see the blending and sharing of music that inspires people as a metaphor for what happens with ideas people bring to Hands On. There's some aspect of rebuilding and life down here that unlocks a passion and a drive in each volunteer. In the same way we all bring different tastes in music, we also bring different skills and approaches to rebuilding the Coast. The different ideas combine, react, catalyze and precipitate into Hands On projects.

How often do you get the keys to a housing development handed to you, a recent college graduate, to perform a systematic mold remediation study? How often do you get to rehabilitate a large, delapidated park into a space that will help knit together a community that was fractured before the storm came to break houses? How many "project managers" are given almost free reign to piece together five single-wide trailers into a modern-looking, temporary, primary care clinic?

It's the freedom within structure that allows people's creative potential to solve real-world problems here on a storm ravaged coast. Sometimes the minutia of keys, people's frustrating personalities, broken sewage pumps, and loud late-nite noises in the kitchen cause me, in particular, to miss the grand human experiment going on around me.

I don't know how to wrap up this thought other than to say that for me, the music that I hear around the camp audibly represents the diversity in creative thought and expression that makes Hurricane Camp a vital rebuilder on the Gulf Coast and the place that people have a tough time leaving.

Dozer in the Park

Well, luckily I haven't had to post in a while, but I feel like it's time again. Niko and John are working on John Henry Beck Park. These guys have been frustrated despite their best attempts to get the park moving along. Everything from unpurchased property to missing irrigation plans to unavailable bulldozers have brought the work to a grinding halt. ... until now!

Actually, it was a couple days ago that the bulldozer and back hoe arrive at the park. I missed the first day of earth moving, but I managed to arrive just before lunch on the second day. I arrived with the camera to take photos of boys with their toys.

I don't know if they know it, but my favorite thing in the world - almost - is to watch big machines move earth. When I was little, I loved driving by construction projects where graders leveled earth, dump trucks dumped things, and back hoes hoed stuff. I know that's quite vague and sappy, but that's OK. Seeing the boys playing with the dozer and back hoe made me remember how much I love the outdoor construction stuff.

What was super cool was that Niko showed me how to drive the dozer. Can you imagine the office geek in the cab of the dozer? Well, imagine it because he was there!

Even more fun though than riding in the jerky bulldozer was climbing into the tree to take a panoramic series shot from a stout limb. It felt good to take off my crumbling flip flops and let me bare feet touch the bark of the tree while trusting that my hands would grip the gnarls and knobs of the trunk. It wasn't so much that the height gave me a great perspective, it's more that climbing in the tree was fun and some how connected me to nature.

Too bad the moment was fleeting ... the boys were off to lunch and I needed to see the lab in Gulfport for some blood work. More to come on the results.

:: Chris ::

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Total Biloxi Experience

Over the past 5 days our small group from South Dakota has been in Biloxi, Mississippi helping relief work from Hurricane Katrina. It has been quite the experience too. In our short stay we have been working hard removing mold, walking dogs at the Humane Society, and lending a hand at the local Boys and Girls Club. In each experience we have come to a greater understanding of the need of volunteers in the town of Biloxi.

I found out about this trip through the University of South Dakota in which I attend. Our department in which I major sent out an email explaining the trip. We were connected to an Americorps Alumni which helped set up the trip. I was really excited about the trip and ready to get started. When asked why I wanted to do this I simply had no response. I still don't know my motivation other than to help people which in some cases that meant helping people whom I'll never meet. I count it a blessing regardless.
It has been our pleasure to work with Hands On and Americorps which have provided excellence leadership for our volunteer project. The operation wouldn't run as smoothly as it does without them. I greatly appreciate the time I have had down here and I am personally grateful for the opportunity that I had.

The first three days down here we removed mold from low-income family housing. We were required to wear Tyvek suits that kept the mold off of us. We also wore eye protection, gloves and respirators. It was extremely hot in all of our gear but we made sure to drink a lot of water. The first step in the mold removal was scrapping the mold off all wood surfaces, which was up the the ceiling of the first floor due to the water levels that arose in the area. Next we let the house sit for 30 minutes before vaccuming the mold spores off all horizontal surfaces. The last step was the chemical wipe down that killed any chance of mold remaining. It was definately the most hard and intense work I've ever done in my entire life. It made it worth it to know that we were helping people return to the lives they once had. The housing development was built and finished a few months before the Hurricane hit and it is still in desperate need of volunteers. It is hard work but so rewarding in the end. We are very thankful for the kind volunteers from a local church group that brought us refreshments, chips, and cookies to cool us off and give us a break from the strenuous work.

Our fourth day we spent at the Humane Society. We helped clean up different areas and walk dogs. It is still overpopulated and the animals are in need of some kind people to adopt them. It was definately a nice break from the mold removal.

The last day we spent at the local Boys and Girls Club where four elementry schools were brought together for a summer program. There seemed to be well over 200 kids there. We were told that two of the new elementry schools were completely destroyed in the hurricane. Also one teacher said that 20 perecent of the students in the classrooms were never brought back. Many relocated after the hurricane. It was fun playing with the kids and they greatly enjoyed the attention of each of the volunteers.

When I told people about my plans to take part in this volunteer project in Biloxi, many seemed confused. They were under the impression that all the work of rebuilding had been taken care of. I found it to be quite the opposite. It's not always our ignorance to blame. I hate when news programs cover the damage of the storm and then soon forget people are still in need. I really didn't know what to expect but there was a great need and there still is. It's not too late and I doubt that there will be a point such as that any time soon. I encourage anyone who wants to make a difference in the Gulf Coast to consider going to Biloxi to help out. There are so many touching stories of those who made a difference. I am very lucky to have been down here this week and experience all Biloxi has to offer.

South Dakota

Friday, June 02, 2006

new post!

okay so im suppose to do a post because i have so much the time to do in the office. other than diverting my duties to solicit camelbak to donate paks so that people can be hydrated (of the utmost importance in hot hot mississippi) and trying misererably to unclog the overflowing toliet, i think i contribute much work here :) being a part of americorp has given me the chance, the opportunity be it no matter how cliche it sounds to serve the national community here in biloxi. its been great seeing progress and gives a cheesy sense of hope and recovery. albeit overwhelming it seems as if we are really helping improve life down here. its great. plus the commune cooking is very educational because people's cooking skillz are much appriciated. oh ya and there is bubble tea here in mississippi, who would have thunk. the vietnamese population is here high and this vietnamese person told me due to the similarity in weather to vietnam here. its hot and humind. very similar to miami where im from.

americorp*nccc member, charleston campus.