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Psychiatrist time!

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So I was talking to an out-of-state friend who had an interesting theory on this whole Katrina debate (see the last post for details). He said, “Are you sure you aren’t just making excuses why New Orleans was destroyed because it makes you feel better? I mean, isn’t Tampa mostly just a bunch of bridges? A major city in Florida could be ruined, too.”

I won’t lie: he’s partially right. Visions of the 275 bridge–does that thing have a name? It connects Tampa with St. Pete?–were dancing in my head as I watched the water slowly rise and soak coastal Louisiana. That is one heck of a long bridge and it’s AT sea level. It’s so close that I get nervous when I’m driving during a bad thunderstorm, never mind a hurricane. And Katrina was allegedly a Category 3 when she broke the levees. Imagine what a 5 would do. It could wipe out parts of Orlando; Clearwater would turn into the lost city of Atlantis.

Maybe it is some kind of defense mechanism. See, they SHOULD have done more, it COULD have been avoided, and since we’re smarter/ more experienced/ better prepared, it won’t happen to us. Is that what we’re all really doing? It could be that we’re unable to produce any sympathy for New Orleans because we can’t stand to think about it…deep down in our hearts, we know Florida could be next.

Katrina Overload

I’m not here to start a flame war, a “poor-little-us” pity fest, or a competition to see whose town is in more trouble. That said, I’m going to finally write what everyone in Orlando is thinking: we’re sick of Katrina.

Katrina, Katrina, Katrina, day and night. But how can we forget about something that wiped out a major North American city? Say what you will, New Orleans is GONE, flushed out into the Gulf and (in some places) ruined forever. That blows the mind. A city no longer exists. It was emptied out and now it’s just a waterlogged husk with a few people reluctantly headed home.

So why do Katrina victims get so little sympathy from us Floridians? Two reasons. First of all, let’s go with the obvious: where were the folks in Louisiana when three hurricanes wiped out OUR cities? Port Charlotte and Vero Beach weren’t exactly standing tall by the time #3 barrelled over the peninsula back in 2004. Those towns aren’t as big as New Orleans, of course, but what about the cumulative damage to all of the coastal cities–and let’s not forget poor Lakeland, which turned into a hurricane speed bump? I do not recall telethons to help our victims. FEMA was slow here, too, and nobody fired their boss over it. Some people in Winter Park had no power for upwards of a month! Winter Park ain’t the boondocks, you know. So don’t tell me the hurricanes weren’t a major disaster…but instead of help, we got late-night jokes on “Letterman.”

The second point is the deepest, darkest thought of all, and I’ll try to say this with as much tact as I can. Florida prepares better. We just do. Our hurricane comes faster, we evacuate with a minimum of drama, and…uh…oh, gosh, how do I say this? We know we’re near a hurricane zone and so we don’t live next to levees.

THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT NEW ORLEANS “DESERVED” WHAT THEY GOT. No, no, no. Nobody deserves that. But in our most frustrated moments, it’s easy to remember how the city began evacuations a scant 36 hours before Katrina made landfall, and even then, the roads were clogged with traffic until the Superdome probably looked like the safer option. I remember the surreal experience of watching the backups with my dad, while he shook his head in wonder and murmured, “They’re killing all those people.” Why didn’t they open the southbound lanes of the highways to northbound traffic so people could get out of the city faster? Why didn’t they do it sooner? And above all else, why didn’t they at least make some kind of effort to shore up the levees as soon as Katrina appeared in the Gulf?

People who have been through tragedy sometimes lose sympathy for others. Period. It’s hard to see through your own pain in order to feel someone else’s. I think that’s what our real problem is in Florida; we tolerate no complaints from people who “should have done more,” like famiilies who live in trailers in coastal cities or the occasional nut who jumps on the Beeline/Beachline 4 hours before the storm hits and ends up getting killed. And when you think of it that way…that is not New Orleans’ problem, it is ours. Maybe the fault isn’t entirely on their shoulders.

So do Katrina victims get too much attention? Should we quit being so myopic here in Florida? Talk amongst yourselves.

UPDATE: Some people seem to have the impression that I don’t want to see New Orleans rebuilt, which is not true. I’m complaining about the fundraisers and telethons because New Orleans is not the only city that was devastated–I want to see all the hurricane-devastated areas get attention, not just them. I would like to see New Orleans come back as a better-prepared city with strong levees and more efficient evacuation plans. Actually, my real dream is to see it come back so solid that nobody NEEDS to evacuate, but given their location below sea level, I don’t know if that’s architecturally possible…

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s one more circumstance to chew on…did Florida only get a quick response because ’04 was an election year?

A Day in St. Augustine

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I used to hate St. Augustine during high school because it’s been overrun by so many people in the past. Spanish, French, British, Spanish again, the pirates, eventually a state…seriously, who can keep track? You might as well put a freakin’ turnstile at the city limits. I had no hope of passing a pop quiz on THAT topic. And while it’s still not my favorite place now that I’m older–I detest the tacky neon and sluggish traffic that have turned it into some kind of Napoleonic version of Kissimmee–there are scenes, like this one, that are truly beautiful. Just ignore the “T-SHIRTS 3 FOR $10” sign directly behind you.

What part of, “Please wait until the ride comes to a full and complete stop” do you not understand?

This guy is in direct violation of #5 on my list.

Finally A Solution to Crime!

Well, it’s all been solved! Our growing crime problem stemming from increase gang and drug related violence has been summed up and figured out by the genius of one of our own expert professors at Valencia Community College! I just read an an article on Central Florida News 13 with the following:

Its not just crime statistics making news today. Now, a local expert says the Orlando Police Department does not have enough minorities working the streets.

Dr. Stanley Stone from Valencia Community College studied the department’s recruiting process and says the department has a weakness when it comes to hiring minorities.

Right now there are 732 officers, 450 of which are not minorities.

They are not only looking for officers who are not caucasion, they are also looking for more female officers.

“We need to make sure that police officers who we find are representative of the community. We need to have a diverse workforce,” Dr. Stone said.

Let me be the first to say, Dr. Stanley Stone, that you are a complete and total idiot. According to your numbers 61.5% of the Orlando police force are white males. According to the last US Census of 2000 the demographics of Orlando were 61.1% white. That means the Orlando police force is within 0.4% of being dead on with being representative of the community they serve.

But let’s put the pertinent numbers aside, as you obviously have done. Let’s look at the reason and logic of the situation. The issue in Orlando is a rise in violent crime. Should our focus be on making sure “the girls are being picked for the team”? I am light years away from making some bonehead statement like Newt about foxhole infections, but let’s be honest. This is a physical job and if we want to combat violent crime even more we are talking about kicking down doors and slamming full grown vastly predominantly male violent offenders to the ground on a daily basis. Having more males on the force than female is just going to come with the territory.

I also see where the esteemed professor is heading with comments of making the force more representative of the community, that some perception of a white oppressive police force somehow perpetuates the crime and makes people untrusting of police. Here’s a reality check, a lot of the violent crime involving minorities is conducted by and against minorities. Are you thinking that if the police force were all minorities that criminals would be less likely to commit crime? That doesn’t even make sense. These criminals are probably the least concerned about race than anyone in the community. The only color they care about is green, and they are going to run when they see blue lights no matter what color the car’s occupants are.

Its just sad people like this are in the role of educators.

Art Exhibit

Here’s a cool event:

The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens is exhibiting the art of Zelda Fitzgerald (married to F. Scott Fitzgerald, the “Great Gatbsy” guy?) beginning Nov. 7. There are other related events: a symposium called “Icons of an Era,” Nov. 15-17, and a gala in the museum gardens where you can dress up in evening attire of the era.

(For you non-literature buffs…here’s a quick guide to “The Great Gatsby.” Memorize the facts and mingle all night. Gala’s the 17th. You’ll have to figure out the fashions yourselves.)

I’m really excited about this because I am one of those geeks who reads books that other people still hate from high school English class–and I read them voluntarily! Isn’t that sad? One of my favorites is called “A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway. No, wait, come back! This isn’t one of those minimalist bullfighting/war stories with “thee’s” and “thou’s” in it. This is his memoir, before he had any money and he was living in Paris in the 1920’s. It’s very cool. One of his best friends back then was F. Scott Fitzgerald, who obsesses about Zelda like…well, exactly like your friends obsess about their love lives. Nothing has changed in the last eightysomething years. Here’s one passage about her, and it’ll give you some idea of Hemingway’s opinion:

“Zelda had hawk’s eyes and a thin mouth and deep-south manners and accent. Watching her face you could see her mind leave the table and go to the night’s party and return with her eyes blank as a cat’s and then pleased, and the pleasure would show along the thin line of her lips and then be gone…Scott did not write anything more [after “Gatsby”] that was good until after he knew she was insane.”

I’m dying to see this exhibit. And don’t worry, your American Literature lesson is over for the day. :)

The Homeless and Orlando

Every big city has this problem. Every society for that matter. Homelessness.

Recently, city leaders decided to crack down on the distribution of food given out to homeless folks. And the homeless and their supporters have responded to this by protesting on the steps of City Hall. Seems Monday, they’ll be doing this again from 1-2pm.

I live downtown. And almost daily I’m met with panhandlers in various spots. A current fave is the light on North Bound Orange Ave as you’re about to get on the 408 at OUC.

I was raised to by my family to be generous, considerate and to help people in need. And so I find myself at an odd crossroads when I’m faced with handing over cash to someone who is obviously homeless and has a dirty, discarded cup and he’s rattling it at my window. But there’s something inside of me that won’t let me roll down my window and fork over any spare change I’ve got. And I’m not sure I can tell you why.

If the firemen are out with their boots on a Saturday, boy I am emptying my purse of anything and everything in the way of dollar bills, coins… I’m even digging in the seats. Through my work, I donate to a variety of United Way Charities and Goodwill as well. I’m all for helping people who need the help, who are down and out, who need a leg up.

And yet sometimes I have to wonder why I keep seeing the same faces at the traffic lights or under the bridges. I honestly can tell you that there is a whole community of people who are out there and are homeless… and I might get hate mail for this… but they seem to WANT to be homeless.

Am I the only person who feels this way? I realize that because I live in downtown, I see it more than others who live on the outskirts. But if for months and YEARS you keep seeing the same faces… and you have to wonder.

And I do wonder what has brought them to this point in their lives… but more importantly I wonder what keeps them there. Do we lack enough social programs to help people become self sufficient again? Do we just have no other options for them? Is this a one-way ticket that’s impossible to get out of this situation once your in it?

I don’t have any desire to condemn these people because I know nothing about them or their life circumstances. I honestly admit I know very little about the programs in place to help folks living on the streets. But I think instead of trying to hide these people or push them off into a different part of our community (i.e. by shutting down their meal options), maybe we need to start a dialouge about it.

What do you think Orlando? Am I wrong for not handing over my spare change? Are we as a city ignoring our most fragile and fraile? Is the city just trying to sweep this problem under the rug instead of addressing it? Or has it been addressed and these folks just want a free ride with no rules?

Winter Garden Music Fest

This Friday and Saturday night the West Orange County town of Winter Garden will host the inaugural Winter Garden Music Fest in downtown Winter Garden, sponsored by the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation, Inc. which operates three museums: The Heritage Museum, The History Center and The Railroad Museum.

winter_garden_music_fest.jpgIn addition to a wide variety of musical groups and performances featuring something for everyone’s musical tastes, there will be a multitude of different foods at the International Food Court as well as food and drink available from the outstanding downtown Winter Garden restaurants.

Plus the downtown streets will be filled with merchandise vendors offering everything from jewelry and stained glass to candles and incense. There will also be booths set up for the various musical performers allowing them to offer CD’s, posters and band merchandise.

The Winter Garden Music Fest is free and open to the public. The event will be open Friday, October 27, 2006, from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday, October 28, 2006, from 4:00 p.m. to midnight. Directions, street locations, vendors and performance schedules can all be found at the official web site.

Graz, Austria Joins the Metroblogging Family

Graz Vienna city hall

The Metroblogging family has a new member — give a hearty welcome to Graz, Austria!

Graz is beautiful city in the south-eastern corner of the country, just south of Vienna, that balances its designation as a World Heritage city with the growth of modern times. From scenic vistas to incredible architecture, Graz will take your breath away. Stop by and say hello to the 50th Metroblogging city!

Willkommen zur Familie, Graz!

Biketoberfest News?

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So what’s going on in Daytona this weekend? The only reports I heard were that Biketoberfest was “stinkin’ hot” and more crowded than anticipated, but I didn’t hear anything else about the festivities. Anybody have any news? Good? Bad? Indifferent?

There’s a schedule of festivities here, but today’s the last day. Have fun.

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