That was one helluva fortnight we just experienced. There were volcanic eruptions and ash clouds in Iceland, earthquakesin Chile and Indonesia, a slick, slow-motion Katrina headed for the Gulf Coast, an attempted terrorist car bombing in Times Square, and Nashville drowned.
And I was upset because my garage flooded. Millington and Dyersburg got waterlogged too, not to mention the hapless Beale Street Music Festival. The festival organizers have begun including the annual rainfall in the event's promotion. They have attempted to tie in the "Old Faithful" downpour with the folklore of the festival, and the mud is now supposed to be just part of the adventure. Sorry, no one but a toddler enjoys slopping around in the mud. This year, the torrential rains had to compete with the wailing of tornado sirens and a park evacuation. The Memphis in May folks need to stop pretending this mud-fest will one day turn out all right and go ahead and change the damn dates. Here's a thought: Schedule it the last weekend in May.
Of course, international events made the music festival the least of our worries. It seemed as if every type of disaster occurred except a bomb detonating in the capital. Oh, I forgot: Jay Leno's routine at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
And while the country's mass media was fixated on the Texas League car bomb that some swine planted in Gotham's theater district and dumb-ass politicians and their rabid, radio masters speculated that Obama sabotaged the BP oil rig to prevent further offshore drilling, Nashville went snorkeling. My Music City pals inform me the flooding was devastating, including the suburb of Bellevue, where no sane resident would have dreamed of wasting money on flood insurance before now. The downtown area and the Country Music Hall of Fame were under water, with several top musical acts, including Keith Urban, Vince Gill, and Rascal Flatts, reporting the total loss of their gear.
Meanwhile, a man-made disaster is oozing its way toward our friends on the Gulf Coast, like they need more problems. Perhaps it's time to ask Governor Bobby "Sox" Jindal: "How's that 'Drill Baby Drill' thingy workin' out for ya?" Everyone is hating on BP, but if it wasn't them, it would be another amoral conglomerate. Remember the scenes in all those western movies where the wildcatter strikes oil? The reason we call them "gushers" is the same reason it's not wise to drill offshore for oil.
The Los Angeles Times reported allegations of negligence by, guess who, Halliburton! Cheney's old firm was in charge of cementing the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and their work was as professional as the electric showers they installed in Iraq. In remote Alaska, the effects of the Exxon Valdez spill continue to be felt 20 years later. In Louisiana, the people who used to shuck oysters can now get jobs washing grease off waterfowl.
It took NYC's finest and the FBI only two and a half days to catch the unibrow bomber. A half-hour later and the guy would have been on the way to Dubai. With all this nightmarish airport "security" that we have endured since 9/11, the culprit managed to purchase a one-way ticket — with cash — to the United Arab Emirates and was taxiing toward take-off when the plane was halted and he was taken into custody. His first words to arresting officers were "I've been expecting you," leading some to speculate that this entire escapade was a scheme to test federal officials.
If the "no fly" list proved to be ineffectual, consider that the homegrown malcontent only recently returned from five months in Pakistan, bought a gun in Connecticut last month, and was videotaped stocking up on fireworks in Pennsylvania. Though the bomber's ineptitude has been ridiculed by the cable news stations, this country was only a few I.Q. points short of another major terrorist attack, proving our vulnerability despite the draconian Bush/Cheney policies. Is it that difficult to connect the dots between a Pakistani vacation, gun and fireworks purchases, cash for propane tanks and containers of gasoline, and a whole shitload of fertilizer?
On a positive note, many people are now converts to health-care reform after a rash of cardiac infarctions last Thursday when the Dow dropped 1,000 points. Now, the SEC is looking for a fat-fingered trader whose decimal-point mistake nearly crashed the market. When I was first learning about the stock market from my father, I asked him what was to prevent another crash like the one in 1929? He told me that after the crash, regulations were put in place governing esoteric practices like margin stock purchases, ensuring that what had happened leading up to the Great Depression could never reoccur. Satisfied, I rolled over in my crib and finished my nap.
Of course, that was before Ronald Reagan was elected president and the era of de-regulation began in earnest. I'm still waiting for an entire generation to wake up to Reagan's bogus claim that government is somehow the enemy. The government exists to protect us from our enemies, and right now it looks as if those might be domestic terrorists and unbridled, unregulated American corporate interests.
My sympathies go out to our neighbors inundated by oil, fire, and floodwater. With friends like these, who needs al-Qaeda?
Randy Haspel writes the blog Born-Again Hippies, where a version of this column first appeared.
The rain is coming down, slow and persistent from a low gray sky. It soaks the grass, fills the gutters, and falls hard on the flowers left on the Beale Street sidewalk outside of B.B. King's club ...