The gears are really turning and the activity is a-risin'. YES WE CAN!
Friday, February 29, 2008
The gears are really turning and the activity is a-risin'. YES WE CAN!
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Tiring and exhausting, but well worth it.
(I don't think I need to tell you, but read the following posts days 1 through 10, and not 10 through 1 to get the full effect.)
We meet at 5:00am in the lobby of the Hotel Santo Domingo all somewhat clean. I mean, we all took showers, but we had to select the "cleanest" of our dirty clothes to wear today, an extra unplanned for travel day.
We have no trouble with immigration, outside of a crinkled forehead and raised eyebrow when they see we've already been stamped out the previous day. So, we make it to our gate for our 7:45am flight...only to have it delayed until 9:20am. Oh no, not again. This requires some of our traveling party to have to rebook their connectors yet again since they will miss it. Unreal.
And to add a splash of spice, a member of our party had lost his passport. Lost it. Gone. After quite a bit of begging and pleading on the phone with the U.S. embassy, INS, and other various governmental departments, it ended up that the fine folks at Hotel Santo Domingo FOUND it and drove the passport to the airport. Luckily the nerve-wracked missionary arrived at our gate with mere minutes to spare for boarding. Whew!!!
We finally make it to Miami, and at least we're on the mainland and we can DRIVE home if need be. Some more rebookings occur, some stand-by's are made, and most are denied. By 4:00pm I am the lone traveler in Miami, but I will land at home (in Greensboro, and not in Charlotte!) before most of the others do.
8:25pm and I'm boarding a plane for Greensboro. Can it be? Is it real? And at 10:45pm I touch down at Greensboro's airport: the final touch after two immensely stressful days of traveling and airports. A quick cab ride home (Kimberly has to get up at 4:00am for work, so I told her a cab would be fine for me...plus it's another receipt for the tax write-off!) and I stumble through our front door. At 11:15pm it's a quick removal of my shoes and dropping of my drawers as I pass out stinky and exhausted in bed with my beautiful wife and adoring dogs.
I am home.
Ahhhh...4:00am. Time to get up and shower and bring our suitcase (just one this time) downstairs in time for a 5:00am departure on the bus for our 4-hour drive to Santo Domingo. All 40 of us are on the bus. The Charlotte folks de-bus at Santo Domingo, then the Raleigh travelers continue on to La Romana for their later flight.
Our 11:15am American Airlines flight is delayed due to mechanical failure. Then delayed again. Then delayed some more. And finally....canceled. CANCELED. Crap. They open three lines to rebook the travelers, and whoever reaches their desk first is to rebook all 20 of us Charlotte passengers. Luckily our "group leader" made it to her line first and rebooked us all on Delta. Kicker is, we have to go get our luggage and recheck them at the Delta counter. It is now 3:00pm and the flight is at 4:09. Time to book it over there.
Sadly, baggage claim is through immigration. So we have to convince the immigration folks (who have already stamped our passports as exited) to allow us through. We get to baggage claim and we wait. And wait. And wait. By the time we get our luggage, we have to have the supervisor bypass us through customs. We make it back up to the main entrance to the airport at 4:00 for the 4:09 flight, and the entire Delta check-in counter is closed. CLOSED! The Delta supervisor in their office says it is not their fault we were late for boarding, as their plane was running on time.
So now American is off the hook for getting us a hotel voucher and dinner voucher since they got us a flight on Delta. Not American's fault baggage claim took so long to make us late. And it's not Delta's fault as they had nothing to do with American's cancellation nor the tardy baggage claim.
So we are refugees, passport stamped as exited the country with no plane reservations to get us out of the country. Literally hours and hours of wrangling with American Airlines supervisors finally gets some resolution. We will all be on a 7:45am plane to Miami, but then we split up into hodgepodge trips either through Atlanta, Chicago, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, or for me a direct flight into Greensboro with a mere 11-hour layover in Miami.
Hotel vouchers are for Hotel Santo Domingo in town. Trying to ask our cab driver what the hotel was like ("Bueno? or mal?") got us an answer that it was "3-star" and "old". Great. La cucharacha running amok.
We pull into Hotel Santo Domingo at 8:30pm to find a gorgeous hotel that rivals the Rennaisance in downtown Cleveland. Beautiful. And the bonus is that our rooms are on the Executive Level which require our room key to select that floor from the elevator. Nice. Finally something good happened today. Welcomed luxury for these smelly refugees.
Saturday is a day of leisure, our last day to see the sights. The usual plan each year is to travel up the coast to hit some beaches. Most of the veterans opted to stay at the hotel to lounge by the pool, hit the town, and just basically unwind. Us newbies looked forward to seeing the beauty of the coastline.
First stop: a beach whose name eludes me at the moment. No sand, but pebbles and stones and rocks. Fishing boats along the shore. A few rocky formations in the ocean with sprays of white flung into the air with each crashing wave. Peaceful. A boat had come in with a fairly large catch, and Jorge (doctor at the hospital, organizer of mission trips, and our "tour guide" this day) helped clean the fish and bought a few to bring back and cook.
Second stop: a photographic hotspot with breathtaking views of the mountainous coast, bright floral displays, and stunning colors of blues and greens in the water. Wow.
Third stop: a picnic lunch at San Rafael beach, a novel stop nestled in between a freshwater river and the ocean.
Fourth stop: a cold water spa with waterfalls (some manmade) and gorgeous scenery. Breathtaking.
We finally return about 6:00pm for a final group meeting concerning Sunday's travel plans. Dinner and an early night cap our trip. 4:00am comes awfully quickly, so it's the first bedtime with the clock reading "p.m."
Our longest day of the week time-wise. Usually our days begin at 8:00am and end at 5:00pm with travel, setup, and breakdown built in. Today, we traveled to the town of Canoa which was a short distance away, so our net work time was solid from 8:30 to 4:30; no lollygagging with a lot of travel to and fro.
137 patients today, with approximately 450 RX's. Our base was Escuela Canoa, a school. Large classrooms were used and space was a luxury not seen so far. Gnats were commonplace here. Bugs and mosquitoes were ubiquitous in their pestering of us, but today, the gnats were especially bothersome. Breathe them in your nostrils, get them in your eyes, squish them in your ears. Awful. However, the spacious environment of our pharmacy digs was most welcomed.
A good day to end our work week. And the festivites Friday night were lively indeed. A Dominican dancing troupe and band entertained the hotel bar. And around 11:30pm a group of us summoned a cab to take us to Club Atlantis in Barahona for some salsa dancing. We sweated and moved and enjoyed ourselves until 2:30am, when we walked back to the hotel as a group. Safety in numbers. Again, we work hard and play hard.
Today's trip is to a town which was completely covered in water and mud from the late 2007 flooding: Jacquimeyes. Amazingly, most of the mud has been removed and the devastation was hard to witness. However, medically, this was the sickest group of folks we had met. 16 cardiovascular deaths had occurred here since the flooding. Sixteen. The townsfolk almost felt as if their community was "cursed". 127 patients were seen, however it was our busiest day yet as most patients had 6 to 7 prescriptions per. Blood pressure readings of 220/110 were common. Unreal. Needless to say the "cardiac" suitcase was popular. Luckily, our setup was in an actual clinic with an actual pharmacy, so private examination rooms and a proper pharmacy were found. A busy and tiring day.
We (the traveling circus) need to keep on schedule since we have a 2-hour ride up into the mountains towards Haiti to the town of El Higiero. Much, much cooler here than at lower altitudes. Severely rocky one-lane paths, not roads, greet our packed bus and throw us around like a rag doll. We pass sugar cane fields and miles of railroad tracks. The harvested cane is loaded onto mesh railroad cars and transported to processing plants. The hurricane floods of October and December 2007 ravaged the fields and truly wiped out people's income. Times are tough and people are desperate.
Again, the docs and the pharmacy occupy the same building, a chapel; with the pharmacy raised on an altar platform. Worship us. The slowest day of the week with a mere 103 patients seen.
On the 2-hour drive back, an open truckload of people turns in front of us. And when I say "open truckload" I mean it: a pickup with people stacked upon people. As this road travels to and from Haiti, the national police are keen on picking up Haitians and sending them back. Police checkpoints are commonplace in the Dominican. Most trips we are waved through. Following a truckload of humanity changes things. The police stop the truck, and our driver is impatient and wants to pass. So he guns the engine. He has no room, so he rocks the bus back and forth in hopes the truck will pass. So such luck. So now we have brought attention to ourselves, so the law enforcement enters the bus.
"Buenos tardes," the stonefaced man says.
And in unintentional cheesy Romper Room unison, the bus responds, "Bueeeeeeenos tarrrrrrdesssss."
This brings a look of bitterness and anger upon the muscled policeman.
"Americano?" he asks the driver.
"Si," the driver responds.
Now, we have a bunch of us in scrubs, stethoscopes around our necks. So the driver, in a fantastic fit of sarcasm, responds in Spanish to the tune of "What the f#&@ do you THINK they are????"
This precipitates an exchange where the policeman wags a finger menacingly at the driver. A flurry of Spanish flows with vigor and resolve. We then just seemingly drive away with no reprocussions whatsoever. Surreal.
The same routine this morning: a sluggish 6:30am wakeup, breakfast, packing the bus, and splitting off into two groups. Our destination today: Batey #4.
The first thing that hits is the strong odor of manure throughout the Batey. A little poorer than Batey #7. We all occupy the same building this time: a schoolhouse. Docs in the rear, pharmacy off to one side, the waiting queue on the other, and triage at the front door. Again, manure. A rather well-manicured baseball field occupies the space next to our spot. However, due to the nature of our pharmacy workload, I am unable to really go over and take some photos. Kids are playing baseball everywhere we go: with broomhandles and beercaps. Incredible.
130 patients seen, approximately 400 RX's filled.
We're back at 5:00pm and after that wonderful cool shower (I no longer care we can't get HOT water) it's dinner and a hilarious evening of karaoke. There is a hut on the grounds were local wares are sold, and salesman Anthony can get us anything we want. He mentioned Monday that he would bring cigars, and he did. Cubans, Dominicans, the lot of it. Stubby Dominican robustos and long Cuban monsters are burned with reckless abandon....by everybody. The irony of a medical mission trip moistened by Scotch and beer and fired up with Cubans is not lost on anybody.
Karaoke brings us to 11:00pm and then conversation takes us again to the a.m.
This is a fun group. We all work hard, and we play hard.
We awake at 6:30am, groggy and sluggish. Breakfast occurs, water bottles are filled, and the roving pharmacy in suitcases is loaded onto a bus. 8:30am and the hospital group leaves for their surgeries and cases, and the roaming clinic group rides the bus for a Dominican neighborhood, or "batey" (ba-TAY).
Batey #7 is our stop: a poor conglomerate of shacks and shanties. Rocky dust-covered roads jostle the bus. Those with motion sickness are stricken; Dramamine is in order. We arrive at the "clinic" of Batey #7 at 9:30am and set up our pharmacy in an outbuilding. The doctors, nurses, and triage station take their spots in the clinic proper. Four ladies with craft supplies set up outside with beads, string, glue, etc. for the kids.
The crafts were the hit of the day for the kids. As the four ladies were sitting on the ground showing the kids how to make bracelets and necklaces, the kids attacked. Like shark programs on the Discovery Channel where chum is thrown into the water and the camera shows a fury of teeth, the kids were all arms and fingernails and screaming. The ladies are overwhelmed and literally crawl away trying to stay intact. The little monsters ran off with all the crayons, all the glue, all the markers, and all the string. OK, so what do we do the rest of the week? Luckily, the ladies were not hurt. Added quite a charge into our first contact with the locals.
Anyway, at 10:30am we see our first patient and fill that first prescription. We work on tables and pull our drugs out of suitcases. I had heard that it's back-breaking at times, and they would be correct. We set-up while the others wait for the patients to roll in. Then we're filling RX's all morning. Then while the others take a break for lunch, we're still filling the backlog of RX's. Once we're caught up and done for our own lunch, the others have been off for about an hour and are itching to get back to work. So once we're done eating, there's no time for lollygagging like the others could do. Back to filling all afternoon, and again, once the final patient is seen, we're still filling. Everyone else is photographing or playing with the kids, and we're still working. Once we're done, we pack up our supplies and drug-filled suitcases and pack up the bus to go home. Our day is packed, and our day is hectic; however it is a day of wonder and amazement. Our first day is sweaty and dusty and hot, but it's successful and I'm beyond content.
We're back to the hotel by 6:00pm and a nice cool shower is in order, virtually the best part of every day. Then it's dinner and another evening of Presidente beer, a bottle of Scotch, and Cuban cigars.
Final tally for our first workday? 140 patients were seen, with approximately 450 RX's filled. A good day...outside of the riot.
With such a late arrival, we are given the morning off and sleep in. We eat a buffet breakfast at the hotel's outdoor dining area, then tool around the hotel grounds. A private beach, a swimming pool, a 2nd tiny pool, a hut with wares for sale, plenty of deck chairs to relax in, ahhh. After lunch at the same outdoor dining area, the group is divided into two again: one goes to the hospital to set-up and inventory, one stays at the dining area to divvy up the drugs and sort them. From 1:00-5:00 pharmacy's little helpers count out 30 acetaminophen tablets out of 1000 count bottles and pre-label them in the dispensing container of choice: the Ziploc baggie. Ibuprofen, Cipro, Flagyl, Amoxicillin, Prenatal Vitamins, etc. are all pre-counted and labeled. The work is drudgery, but with about 20 folks helping, it's 4 hours of relative breeziness. Then me and the other two pharmacists inventory what we have and pack them up in suitcases based on disease state: cardiac, G.I., pain, antibiotics, etc.
The hospital crowd returns and we eat dinner, again at the outdoor dining area. The longest game of 9-ball occurs, lasting literally an hour. We suck. Afterward, a nightly ritual of Presidente beer, a bottle of Scotch, cigars, and conversation takes us to where the clock shows "a.m." We call it a night, awaiting our first day of work Monday morning.
Real Time with Bill Maher is on HBO Friday nights from 11:00pm-12:00am, and even though there will be an EARLY wake-up Saturday for the trip, I can't miss it. Right? And of course after the show, the energy is high and the adrenaline is pumping so there is no somnolence. The plan in the morning is that our group of 40 is divided into 2 subgroups: one flying out of Raleigh, and one out of Charlotte. I am in the Charlotte group.
5:00am, the alarm goes off. We are to meet at a church in Lewisville, on the other side of Winston-Salem, and then caravan down at 6:30am. Now mind you, I think this is crap, as we live off of I-85 and can get to the Charlotte airport in a smidge over an hour. But that's OK, I'm a newbie so I'll go with the flow and meet in Lewisville.
11:30am, our flight departs on a teeny American Eagle puddle-jumper that has one seat, the aisle, then two seats. I cannot stand tall in the aisle. I am cramped. We fly to Miami.
Our last meal in the states consists of pizza and beer in Miami. U.S.of.A. macro Budweiser swill. Time to make our way to the gate for a 4:00pm departure for Santo Domingo. All is well, and everyone gets on board. Let's go!
Um, we need fuel. So we wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, a fuel truck is found from its hiding place and by 6:00pm we're in the air. Two hours to find some gas. It's a harbinger of things to come as we acclimate to "Dominican time".
Immigration in Santo Domingo is easy, and my passport's visa stamp virginity is taken away. So now it's time to get our luggage. So we wait. And wait. And wait. Apparently the luggage compartment door is jammed and they cannot open it. Sigh. Finally we get our luggage: one personal suitcase, and one soon-to-be-donated suitcase packed to the 50-pound limit with medical supplies, drugs, baseballs, toys, etc. On to customs and we slide right through.
We meet the Raleigh group outside the airport by our bus and stop for pizza and Presidente beer. It's nice to catch up with everyone and rejoice that there are no more meetings, no more planning sessions, no more emails. We are all in the Dominican Republic and ready to go.
We board the bus; our luggage is dangerously stacked and tarped down with bungee cords onto a Daihatsu pick-up truck; and off we go on a 4-hour drive to our home for 9 days: Barahona, DR.
2:30am (1:30am Greensboro time) we arrive at the Hotel Costa Larimar in Barahona. We consequently pass out in our beds. Day One of travel is finally over.
Friday, February 15, 2008
To complete the "Presidente beer teaser" post from this past Wednesday, here's the scoop:
Early early early on Saturday morning, Chris will make his way from Greensboro to Charlotte to Miami to Santo Domingo to Barahona. The Dominican Republic.
A North Carolina medical team goes down once a year in February to Barahona, Dominican Republic on the southern coast fairly close to Haiti. One of the pharmacists on last year's team contracted dengue fever and, understandably, was not too keen on returning in 2008. Our friend Greg, one of Kimberly's Wake Forest classmates, went on this trip in February 2007 (similar to one Kimberly went on during nurse anesthesia school back in October 2006) and mentioned months and months ago that there was an opening. Chris, to the surprise of many, immediately jumped at the chance to go. Now, after months of planning, meetings in Winston-Salem, medical supply acquisition, Hepatitis immunizations, live Typhoid vaccine in the Gordon refrigerator, and malaria prophylaxis, the time is finally here.
Saturday February 16 to Sunday February 24. Nine days in the Dominican helping out at clinics in sweaty and dusty bateys (neighborhoods). And with the recent flooding late last year from storms Noel in October and Olga in December, the help is needed all the more. After each day's hard work, the ironic sustanence of choice for this medical team is (hence the teaser) Presidente beer with Dominican (and Cuban) cigars. Barahona's 10-day forecast is basically the same day to day: highs of 88 and lows of 67 with a 20% chance of rain. Ahhh...
As a result, The House of Gordon will be on hiatus until Chris returns. Kimberly is a house and content editor and not a physical typist in our little endeavor, so the bloggish internets will be silent until Monday the 25th. Plenty of pictures and hopefully a daily diary to be posted then.
Adiós. Hasta luego.
As an aside, Major League infielder Julio Lugo is from Barahona, so maybe I can scout a good kid for the Indians to sign. Last year's trip included a few games of béisbol (as seen below), so it should be fun.
1. (sometimes initial capital letter) a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
2. (sometimes initial capital letter) the philosophy, principles, or methods of fascism.
3. (initial capital letter) a fascist movement, esp. the one established by Mussolini in Italy 1922–43.
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.
Keith Olbermann, in his most recent "Special Comment" on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann on February 14th was an especially heated, passionate, and livid man concerning our president. Rightly so.
The first 1:47 is background to the rant. Then it swells into a thrilling commentary lambasting and skewering George W. Bush. ABOUT TIME! We're so glad SOMEONE finally has the stones, cajones, hell the outright BALLS to call out the president for the fascist he is. Yes, fascist.
If you [George W. Bush] believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business, come out and say it. There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend: YOU'RE A FASCIST. Get them to print you a t-shirt with FASCIST on it. What else is this BUT fascism?
There's one thing we know about Big Brother, Mr. Bush: it's that he, well you, are a liar....You said the lives of countless Americans depend on you getting your way. This is CRAP. And you sling it with an audacity and a speed unrivaled even by the greatest political felons of our history.
You are a LIAR, Mr. Bush. And after showing some skill at it initially you have ceased to even be a very good liar. And your minions like John Boehner, your Republican congressional crash dummies, who just happened to decide to walk out of Congress where a podium full of microphones await them, they should just keep walking. Out of Congress. And if possible, out of the country. For they, sir, and you, sir, have no place in a government of the people, by the people, for the people. The lot of you are symbolic descendents of the despotic middle managers of some banana republic, to whom "freedom" is an ironic brand name, a word you reach for when you want to get away with its opposite.
The president has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the president at his word, he's willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.
and finally, the absolute clincher
As recently ago as 2006, we spoke words like these with trepidation. The idea that even the most cynical and untrustworthy of politicians in our history, George W. Bush, would use the literal form of terrorism against his own people, was dangerous territory. It seemed to tempt fate, to heighten fear. We will not fear any longer. We will not fear the international terrorists, we will thwart them. We will not fear the recognition of the manipulation of our yearning for safety, we will call that what it is: terrorism. We will not fear identifying the vulgar hypocrites in our government, we will name them. And we will not fear George W. Bush, nor will we fear because George W. Bush WANTS us to fear.
If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Crazy. The snow began in earnest at home right before she arrived, and apparently went all night. We woke up to a fluffy movie set scene of snowy wonder. Enjoy our North Carolina snow:
And of course, the worthless local school system canceled classes today due to this horrific quagmire. You'll notice that there is no snow on the pavement at all. But hey, that possible dastardly black ice is a detriment to the education of our future. Idiots....
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Web extra peeper catcher interview
"What the crap!"
"That's Countdown for this, the one thousandth seven hundred and fiftieth day since the declaration of 'Mission accomplished' in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night, and good luck."
Sad. Truly sad. Infuriatingly sad. We're absolutely sickened.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Then it was on to Triad Stage to see another of our season pass performances: the George Bernard Shaw play Mrs. Warren's Profession. Written in 1894, this play still holds up today with the notions of powerful women, educated women, and their aspirations for themselves. Triad Stage's website described it thusly:
A mother with street smarts and a daughter with a college education go head to head in a comic battle that is still as provocative and amusing as when it scandalized the world in 1894. Shaw, a master of wit and ideas, creates an unflinching portrait of working women and the men who seek to love or control them. At first impressed with her mother's grit and entrepreneurial zeal, proper young Vivie must confront the truth about her mother's profession (the world's oldest) as she seeks to claim her own independence.
Not once was the term "prostitution" mentioned, but rather it was implied with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. An entertaining play, and an altogether wonderful evening for a date. Of course, every time Chris hears the playwright's name "George Bernard Shaw", he giggles quietly and is immediately transported to a Monty Python sketch:
"You shine out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark."
Known for fusing his classical music roots with a myriad of soundscapes, Haitian-American artist Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) has carved a reputation for himself as a passionately innovative composer, performer, violinist, and band leader. His exploration of musical rhythms and classically-driven sounds is peppered by his own cultural references and vibrant musical imagination.
3 violins, a viola, a cello, a keyboard, a bass guitar, a drum set, and a DJ all mix together to weave a musical tapestry of funk and classical and outright fun. Nifty new instruments such as a 5-string bass guitar, a 7-string violin when plugged into a pedal board sounds like a heavy metal guitar, and a viola that is made to sound like a bluesy crying guitar both blew us away. Incredible. 2 hours of fantastic music and entertaining performers.
Here are two snippets to give you a taste:
Way cool. An incredibly fun evening.
"Seamlessly blending funk, hip-hop and classical music to create a revolutionary new sound."
Friday, February 8, 2008
Thursday, at approx. 11:05pm on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - the exact same sentiments are uttered. To wit, Exhibit A, this YouTube video at the 2:29 mark (but be sure to watch the entire clip for entertainment's sake):
Great minds think alike.
Kimberly's working. The dogs are dropped off at the vet for Sam's final post-op follow-up visit and Maxie's once over. My chores are done. Time for an Oscar-nominated movie that Kimberly doesn't want to see: No Country For Old Men. The requisite trailer for your viewing pleasure:
An adptation of a 2005 Cormac McCarthy novel, 1980 Texas is the scene of a drug deal gone bad, $2 million in cash, and the events that snowball once the money is taken by an unsuspecting man. A blank-stared and intense Terminator-esque hunter and killer sets about to retain the satchel of cash no matter what the cost, no matter who stands in his way, and will go to every end to see his perseverence rewarded. What began as a chance discovery inexorably has decided one's fate in ways you couldn't dream of.
Tommy Lee Jones is an aging and defeatist sheriff who waxes poetic on all things crime-related: the increase in violent times, the disdain for order, the ruthlessness of the criminals, and his seemingly drowning struggle to keep ahead of the bad guys. How do you thwart an evil-doer who has no conscience and appears to be unstoppable? Do your choices even matter in the grand scheme of things?
A heavy film. Two hours that frankly left Chris mentally drained. Thought-provoking and dark. Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem) and Best Picture nominee No Country For Old Men receives a strong "Matinee Plus" from Chris, and another blood-soaked "Avoid" from Kimberly.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
"If I fight on in my campaign all the way to the convention, I want you to know I've given this a lot of thought, I'd forestall the launch of a national campaign and frankly I'd be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. Frankly in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror."
Pardon our French, but a hearty "Fuck you" to Mitt Romney. Nice. Typical Republican talk, stirring up fear in order to win an election.
Democrats = surrender. Vote Democratic and you die. Shut the fuck up.
That is all. Carry on.
Viggo Mortensen is up for Best Actor honors, so Eastern Promises, a film originally ignored in theaters by the Gordons due to its unadulterated violence, is fired up on our DirecTV Pay-Per-View to be properly informed Oscar night viewers. Naomi Watts is a nurse in London who is present when a nameless underage pregnant girl dies in childbirth. (One note: Chris has been a pharmacist for 13+ years, and no pregnant girl has ever hemorrhaged at HIS counter. Sheesh!) Anyways, Naomi's intrigued, so she searches the girl's personal effects for identity clues. A diary leads her to a Russian restaurant, with the restaurant owner's spoiled/immature/violent son and their driver, the aforementioned Viggo. A diary, huh? Well that changes how we feel about you, Naomi....
As Leonard Maltin says, it's a "dark, claustrophobic, and brutal world" that David Cronenberg creates. As always, the trailer:
Well, the violence was definitely in full force here. Watching it today after putting in my time at Walgreens and before Kimberly returned home from work was certainly in order. The baby as central to the plot is evident, the baby as pawn in good vs. evil also is. Working to save the baby, working to erase the baby, working to infiltrate the inner workings of Russian mobsters in London are all major themes, as is to "find a better life".
The Gordon Movie Scale? "Matinee Plus" for Chris, "Avoid" for Kimberly due to the violence. Mortensen was convincing as a Russian, making a Best Actor nod quite convincing as well.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
John and Wendy Savage live struggling artistic lives in New York: Wendy in NYC as a floundering playwright, John in Buffalo as a college professor under the gun in writing a book on Bertolt Brecht. Their estranged father, living in Sun City, AZ is struck with dementia and needs to be placed under permanent medical care. What to do with a man who ignored you your entire life while coming together with a sibling with whom you haven't shared a roof with in years?
John and Wendy (appropriately "forever young" Peter Pan names) experience their impromptu need to in fact grow up a little bit. A drama with heavy material that manages to lighten up the air quite a bit with sharp comedic dialogue. We enjoyed this greatly. We found ourselves laughing during moments where the story was indeed grim, because Hoffman and Linney thrived in the humor. Best Actress nod for Linney? She was indeed strong, but not a "wow" in that department.
Gordon Movie Scale? Full Price Minus.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Gordon Chili is a voluminous hodgepodge of ingredients culled from Martha Stewart, Williams-Sonoma, and plain old trial-and-error. Here's the picture diary of our chili extravaganza.
1 pound of beans and 5 pounds of ground beef:
18 roma tomatoes, 7 vidalia onions, and 1 garlic bulb:
And, depending on local grocery stock (Harris Teeter, The Fresh Market, Lowe's Foods) the chile ingredients seem to change year to year: mulatto, ancho, poblano, anaheim, serrano, holland, etc. Various adjustments and modulations occur with each creation, leaving us wondering just how in the hell our chili will turn out in the end:
Tomatoes are charred in the pan. Quartered onions and garlic follow. Once cooled, the tomatoes are peeled and cored. Onions and garlic join the tomato flesh in the blender to be pureed.
And now, respiratory system danger ensues. The chiles are smoked in the pan. (The same pan is used throughout to meld all flavors into each other.) The first time we smoked the chiles, Kimberly mistakenly missed the warnings in Martha Stewart Living to provide adequate ventilation to the proceedings. A minute or so into the inaugural chile smoking, Chris's eyes well up and violent coughing erupts. Now we know, and the windows are open and the stove exhaust fan blows. The culprits:
The chiles steep in a broth/water/beer mixture for 5 minutes as the tomato/onion/garlic puree waits. Then the chiles get blended also...albeit in portions, as doing the entire volume overtakes the blender's lid with chile remnants staining the cupboards and ceiling.
The beef is browned. 1/3 is done in the bottom of the mammoth pot and 1/3 in the same pan we've been using all along. Puree, tons of spices (2 cups of chili powder (!), cumin, oregano, coriander, etc.), and the pan-browned meat are all added to the pot. The final 1/3 is browned in the pan again and mixed in. Chocolate chips are sprinkled in (a good handful more when Kimberly isn't looking) and a healthy dose of ground cinnamon finishes it off.
It simmers. And simmers. And simmers. It absolutely CANNOT be consumed that day. It needs to sit. It needs to meld. It needs to coalesce. We cooked this up Friday for the Sunday game. It's worth the wait.
A scrumptious recipe of brown sugar cornbread is baked up the day of the game; a perfect accompaniment to our chili. Just the right amount of sweet to compliment the spicy.
Gametime, and the entire package is ready to go. A dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese, and a hoppy India Pale Ale like Bell's Brewery "Two Hearted Ale" fits the bill to wash it all down. Another successful Gordon chili endeavor.
I hope this finds you well.
A question, a reflection, and an endorsement.
Why is our country divided?
Why has this division been growing?
Can we not all agree that we are a country that supports its families, that protects its citizens and respects its neighbors?
A country that educates its children?
Are we not a country that can lead by example rather than by force?
Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people?
I would like to think so.
But I believe that corporate greed and its involvement in policy making, along with political cronyism have made it nearly impossible for the people to govern.
So we fight amongst ourselves over the spin of political slogans and half truths.
And so we are divided.
It is time for a change and that is why I support Barack Obama for President.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
No longer perfect, dear Patriots. 18-1. Kimberly's brother in alumni matters, Don Shula (John Carroll University class of 1951) remains the last head coach of an undefeated NFL football team. Screw you Bill Belichick! Thank you for allowing the talk of you being a "genius coach" to subside for a bit. Where was your brainy activity when you coached the Browns?
Congratulations, New York Football Giants.