Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

September 02, 2005

Stealing wireless in Cody, WY

Raciel, Cassio and I are sitting on a dark street in Cody, WY. Our motel didn't have wireless, so we drove around town trying to find a wireless connection. McDonald's had one, but you had to pay. Yellowstone had one, but you had to pay there too. Comfort Inn was pretty good, but somebody started staring at us and ran inside--so we left, and now we are in some dark neighborhood--and with a full signal. Cody has to be pretty tame.

Our motel is the Skyline Motor Inn. It is quite a place--absolutely spotless, but with nothing more recent than 1964. Furniture, fixtures, nothing is current--but it all is almost eerily spotless, including the outside. Cassio joked about the hot tub--there obviously wasn't one--but eventually pronounced the room "cute."

Today, we crossed the Bighorn mountain range in north central Wyoming. Great scenery. We climbed to 9500 feet and then descended through the Shell Creek Canyon, which was spectacular. The route was suggested to us by Aunt Lois, who we will visit in Burns, OR next week.

The guys each took over 100 pictures. It was fun to see them enjoy the scenery so thoroughly.

Tonight, we asked a local what the best restaurant in town was--and they suggested the Ribs and Chops. We went. It was a very quirky, fun place. The waitress started out by writing her name upside down and backwards in perfect script. "Maureen," it read--to us. From her vantage point it was completely backasswards. Don't know how she pulled that one off.

Anyway, the food was brilliant. Raciel decided to have a buffalo steak. The bite he gave me was over the top good.

So, all in all a great day.

I tuned in to some NPR coverage of Katrina. They went on about how bad the media coverage was--and then they launched into a light-hearted discussion about how this mess might affect the New Orleans jazz scene. Ugh. Again, I don't think people get it--until people are no longer starving and dying of dehydration, and until a decent amount of consideration has been given to the thousands dead, isn't any discussion about anything but what can we do about these poor people NOW inappropriate?

Fox News, of all people, seems to have caught on to this and has started using its correspondents and influence to demand this and that--I don't know if it is working, but it seemed to be helping in some cases--cases which are, of course, advertised loudly by FOX. Oh well, it is an imperfect system, but eventually commercial concerns might cause the networks to act decently.


Breakfast

Down in the breakfast area at the Comfort Inn here in Rapid City, there was what I consider a surreal scene: Regis Philbin and his hopelessly vapid and utterly idiotic blond co-host were yucking it up without any reference to the human catastrophe in New Orleans. People were watching the boob tube in a sort of daze.

Given what is going on down there, I would think the only responsible thing for any network to do would be to assist somehow with the disaster.

MSNBC is talking about entertainers putting on relief concerts--and oil prices, blah, blah, blah. All pretty self-centered concerns right now.


September 01, 2005

New Orleans

Something is wrong here. There are 10s of thousands of people threatened with death in New Orleans--starving, without water, dying by the dozen right now--and the television shows go on as if nothing is going on. The stock market analysts are prattling on cable about how to pick winners--you actually can't find much news about this horrible and still unfolding tragedy, at least at this hour tonight. Food shows. David Letterman going on as normal, joking, carrying on. It makes me sick. He didn't dare do that after 9/11.

We all stopped and did nothing for three days as they looked in vain for survivors of the 9/11 attacks. This disaster is certain to exceed 9/11 in casualties--and there are people starving down there now who aren't being helped--where is the outrage across the nation? Is it because it is mostly black people dying and starving? Is it because you can't blame this disaster on dark-skinned people who pray to Allah?

I just watched footage of a baby who isn't responding due to dehydration--the mother was beside herself--they had gone where they were told, and there have been no authorities there for two days. They were abandoned, and now there are rapes and shootings going on.

There are dead bodies in the Superdome. And the following is inconceivable to me: The New Orleans Convention center has been filled with 15,000 people--more than the Superdome--for the past three days and nobody of any consequence knew it. They were simply forgotten. There are dead people lining the concourse in the Convention Center--still in wheelchairs and lawnchairs.

I still get the impression people aren't aware of the magnitude of this. There could be 10,000 dead with hundreds more dying each night this goes on. We won't know for a long time.

This is getting truly ugly. I think it might end up being one of the defining events of our otherwise inconsequential era. I am beginning to imagine what the political consequences might be, but that is surely premature and inappropriate while people are in such dire straits.


First day of trip

We all got up and going at 7:30 this morning on the first leg of our trip to San Francisco. To recap, Cassio and Raciel, two Brazilian farm exchange workers, have to be in San Francisco by the 9th of September to meet their plane home. They haven't seen the country yet, so I decided to take them myself so we could see some sights on the way.

Mom and Dad drove us to Fargo where we rented a car at the airport, a Pontiac Gran Prix-- (wonderful ride!) --and took off. It was a long day. I am not supposed to let these guys drive, according to the rental car agreement. Ugh. By the middle of the day, that agreement was in jeopardy.

Cassio's constant commentary in his utterly unique form of English provided constant entertainment. I had to explain all of the bad puns on the Corn Palace billboards along I-90. The Wall Drug billboards, some dilapitated, were getting quite thick, when Cassio finally burst out, "Don't you have laws against view garbage?"

View garbage! Perfect. I laughed, and Cassio got self-conscious--he said he had invented the phrase. Like many of his verbal inventions, it was unintentionally brilliant.

Raciel is calm and unflappable. Like Cassio, he has no problem getting his point across even though his training in English isn't advanced.

The guys seemed to enjoy Mt. Rushmore a great deal. We attended the history movie and raided the bookstore. Cassio enthusiastically stamped todays date with a Mt. Rushmore postmark on a couple of dozen postcards.



Rushmore



Cassio's hero, Gutzon Borglum, the carver of Mt. Rushmore. As we approached Mt. Rushmore this afternoon, Cassio decided that it would be much easier to memorize the name of one man than four men--the presidents--so he committed Borglum's name to memory while we were driving down I-90.



Raciel poses as the fifth president.



Cassio with a newfound friend.


August 31, 2005

Help Offered

I found this Help Offered sight to be encouraging.


Disaster updates

I think the Times-Picayune website probably provides some of the most compelling and accurate news from the disaster. Fifteen minutes ago, a post described a band of looters who were threatening a Children's Hospital.

Also, the scene at the Superdome is quite bad tonight--one wonders how the night will go there. The governor visited there tonight and said it was too grim their for anybody to stay--toilets overflowing, stifling heat, no ventilation, toxic water rising inside...


August 30, 2005

New Orleans

I have no TV, but checked in on the situation down south this evening--New Orleans is pretty much inundated, and, because the city is below sea level, the water won't go away until it is pumped out, which could take months. This is a horrible disaster. When Grand Forks was evacuated in 1997, it was the largest city--74,000--ever evacuated in the US since the Civil War. Well, Grand Forks made it through its devastating flood without a single death directly attributed to the flood. New Orleans has dozens dead, and it is possible that the worst is ahead. The levees aren't likely to be repaired and the water is still rising. It looks as though the worst case occurred anyway, even after it looked like New Orleans was spared the worst.

I'd bet that if people up here offered to open their homes, there would be takers. There are going to be at least 1/2 million people with nowhere to go. What about all the empty nursing home beds around here?


Gathering



I made some dinner tonight to commemorate Cassio's departure--Mom, Dad, Joe and Lance came--and employee Jordan and his girlfriend Lindsay came later to say goodbye to Cassio. All ended up in the crow's nest looking at the swans. With only one set of binoculars, Lance set up his laptop with his video cam and zoomed in so all could see on his screen. Some high tech in the swamp castle tonight.



Here is the computer image of the only swan who showed up tonight. There were also about twenty wood ducks.



Jordan and Lindsay's feet dangle off the crow's nest.


More swamp stuff

I just spotted a green heron hiding in the grass and put the binocs to it for a minute. It was waving its head after some dragonflies like a cat watching a bird fly around the room. Suddenly a dragonfly headed right into the heron's beak. He snagged it, and then had to deal with swallowing it without letting it go.

First, he shook several times in an attempt to kill the thing. But the dragonfly persisted, flapping its wings furiously. So the heron worked the dragonfly up his beak closer to its throat in a process which lasted about a minute. The heron took care not to open wide enough to let the dragonfly escape, but tightened his grip at the same time--until, gulp, the thing went down the hatch--and the heron immediately started looking for more.

If I were to try the same thing and the dragonfly was in proportion, I supposed it would be about two feet across. There's no way I could swallow something of that size in one gulp, shake my head a few times and look for another one.


August 29, 2005

Trip

Cassio is downstairs packing his things. Cassio, Raciel and I are leaving Thursday morning for a nine-day trip. Our goals are to see the things in the western United States Cassio wanted to see, namely 1) the heads (which he saw in cartoons in Brazil growing up but never thought actually existed) 2) the geysers 3) a ranch (so we can establish just what the difference between a ranch and a farm is) 4) the big trees. The trip will end in San Francisco where I will drop the two off for final days of meetings and their flight back to Brazil.

Cassio just disassembled the hunting bow given him by Uncle Orville. He is having a bit of a time fitting the tripod for his transit in a suitcase--no doubt he will find a way to take that apart, too.

Thanks to the internet, I was able to shop for motels and plan routes today. I look forward to posting pictures on the weblog of the trip. The past week, the weblog has been a bit heavy with text. Look for a slew of photos soon, provided I can find wireless internet connections along the way.


Bird-watching with two pros

Friends Bruce and Mary came over tonight for a bird watching session in the crow's nest. We sat with our legs dangling over the edge and our elbows on the bench for an hour-and-a-half, until our legs went to sleep. Bruce is a professional wildlife photographer, and Mary is very knowledgable about birds as well.

It was a busy night on the swamp. The swans were right up by the house when Bruce and Mary arrived. There were at least forty wood ducks standing out on the stumps and the brush. Eventually, we saw several blue-winged teal. As the sun set, a family of mallards came out of the grass right in front of the house with a very recent hatch of little ones.

A pair of pileated woodpeckers landed on the tree right in front of the house. Bruce hadn't seen one of those close up in quite a while.

A blue heron made a brief appearance at the other end of the swamp, and Bruce eventually spotted several green herons in the trees, a place I hadn't seen them perch before.

The highlight was seeing a rail, a small quail-sized waterfowl which has beautiful bronze plumage. Its odd flight pattern got my attention right away, and we managed to find it in the reeds after it landed. Bruce recognized it right away. They are rare and difficult to see even if they are around.

Also: Swallows, fly-catchers, and a juvenile sapsucker.

A pretty darn good way to pass an evening. As always, I learned a lot from Bruce and Mary.


August 28, 2005

Apocalypse?

With an awful hurricane bearing down on New Orleans, we could actually see an entire city wiped out. This is a disaster scenario which has been bouncing around for a long time in New Orleans and around the country amongst those inclined to talk about such things, and now it appears as if it could happen.

In addition, the hurricane is has already taken 1 million barrels of oil per day from our supply--oil is set to pass $70 per barrel when the markets open tomorrow. The ripple effect will hit the pumps within days, I suspect.

Self-centered thoughts: Just as I am about to take off for the west coast those darn gas prices are going up again!

More measured thoughts: There are apparently some old folks in New Orleans who are just going to sit out the hurricane--however, they are talking about a 28 foot surge in ocean depth in a city which is already ten feet below sea level. If the surge overwhelms the dikes, the water in parts of the city would be close to forty feet deep. This could be a horrible tragedy.

How long before Pat Robertson lays the blame for the New Orleans hurricane on all the moral depravity which goes on there during Mardis Gras? Or is he still reeling from the response to his call for the assassination of the Venezualan president?


Morning in the swamp castle

Here is a shot of my living room a couple of mornings ago. A couple of you have asked for some more house shots--I have no problem obliging!


Ulen

Joe and I played in Ulen this afternoon at a fundraiser for the Ulen History Museum. The fundraiser consisted of a "tour of homes" in Ulen. The final stop was at the home pictured here. We sang in a screened-in porch. The people gathered on the lawn. It was an ice cream social.

Here is the Baldwin Acrosonic they imported to the porch for us to play on. It was a nice piano. We played for nearly two hours--didn't realize we had that much music.