Busted- a diversion

Nancy Knollenberg is a great producer of hansans, portable, elegant with their matching carabiners.

I took them to SanFil, where Mother Theresa’s nuns (sisters of charity, I think, but don’t hold me to that) run a sort of flop house for Haitians with nearly nowhere to go. They line up on benches to be seen.

God alone knows what chain of events leads to making that cut. They have a men’s ward and a woman’s ward- maybe 40 beds each in two big rooms. By the time you get through them, you want to throw out your clothes. There’s no running water except in the kitchen, and Rick sees the men down there. I’m upstairs, there are smells and wet coughs, a field day for Dickens, and I LIKE those hansans.

So I offered them to Sr Anusha, a sweet little optimist from Orissa.

And she said, “Oh those beautiful blue lanyards, you can’t get anything like that in Haiti, could you bring me 300 of them? We’ll put medals of Mary on them for the first communicants! Won’t that be special?”

My observation: “Ah, no, sister, I think that’ll be really stupid- take the hansans and shut up, why don’t you?”

But my response: “Well, I’ll see what Nancy can do.” Thinking, not for the first time, that faith transforms people into something beyond my ken.

Of course, Nancy can do anything, so this time, I carried 300 blue lanyards, in a nice box, no soap.

Meanwhile, Wynn called and said they were getting slammed trying to buy meds in the local market, could I bring some? Sure, whaddya need- 8 boxes of antibiotics, and an alarming number of pre and post anesthesia meds, anxiolytics for the newly intubated, narcotics, etc. Stuff I mostly don’t use and rarely write scripts for.

Hmm, ask forgiveness if we must, but not permission. I called my local benefactor, and filled the list. I remember the story of Clinton’s rice, but I’m no big shot, and my pals are operating on a shoestring here.

At the last moment, Judy caught wind of the developments. Not to be outdone, she emailed Thursday night, late, asked for cyclophosphamide, a chemotherapeutic, and why not, some cranberry sauce, whole berries and strained- Thanksgiving is upon us, and Rick likes it so well.

I put Genetta on the chemo- she never fails, and we got the goods, but the trip took much longer to develop than usual. Cranberry sauce took awhile, shoulda put Genetta on that, too.

Came past Port de Paix, over the mountains, it was pretty in the late afternoon.

By the time they finished the immigration shuffle, and the hot start failed repeatedly- every time I think I have it settled, I get stumped anew- it was dark and empty when I taxied over to the “Ti” airport (GA).

Only the one guy was there, and my familiars- Jean Franz, Alain, and Chery- were home, long gone.
With those fellows, 5 bucks- significant overpayment of the day rate, leads to rapid unloading of the plane, everything I brought lands on the truck in pretty good order, and off we go, smiles all around.

This fellow got a hard on when he saw all that I unloaded from the plane. I became worried when he didn’t want to help me unload it- coulda made a couple of bucks, coulda been family. But he had bigger eyes than that.

Where are you coming from?

Big airport

You haven’t cleared customs

Sure I did, look at these papers- cost me a hundred bucks

Those are from immigration. Customs is closed. I’ll keep these boxes here til the morning when we can open them.

You will not, some of them are refrigerated, and they’ll spoil (Shoot, wrong tactic- now he knows I care about them).

You can’t take them with you.

Goddammit, I paid everybody who put a hand out, now I’m taking these to the hospital. You can send your guys there in the morning if there’s a problem…

And an inspiration- Here- look at what I have, anyway, and I ripped open the lanyard box- It’s just a bunch of goddamned lanyards, and here’s some damned cranberry sauce.

I didn’t know the words for these, so I did an American thing, shameless- I shouted at him in English. Tried to stand taller, lean in, like Johnson in the Senate,1956.

By then Dimitri the driver showed up, sweet relief. Arms full, I blustered through the door, loaded the truck, and we were gone while he was still thinking WTF!? This crazy blon flew all the way down here with 15 boxes of lanyards? It’s amazing these people are so far ahead of us, unbelievable…

Meanwhile, I’m coming around.

Sister Anusha may be on to something.

I passed this around to Nancy and the boys.

Now they know you might need a bail bond as much as you need SAR. You are a man of many needs.

I’ll skip my usual oooin and ahhing over your work this time.

I loved this reference:

“I didn’t know the words for these, so I did an American thing, shameless- I shouted at him in English. Tried to stand taller, lean in, like Johnson in the Senate,1956.”

Not just a literate, humanitarian guy, Dick is now proving to be an astute political observer and raconteur. LBJ is one of my favorite Presidents to hate. I love some of the anecdotes attributed to him.

  1. When he chose to keep Bobby Kennedy in the cabinet, his conservative Southern Democrat advisers were astonished and cautioned him. LBJ leans back and drawls “Sometimes it’s bettah to have the camel inside the tent pissing out than the other way around.”

  2. LBJ is striding out of the White House, across the South Lawn, toward one of the two identical Marine Corps helicopters. Which one he uses on any given day is a secret up to the last minute, decided by his Secret Service detachment. The young Marine escort says, “sorry sir, wrong one, that one there is yours.” LBJ stops, looks at the two big choppers, then back at the Marine, and with a sweep of his arm, says “Son, I am the Commander in Chief, they’re all mine!”

Any good Philadelphian ranks Franklin first in the American pantheon- first big syndicator, he knew how to make a buck, thoughtful in his creation of the junta, had a proper appreciation for a beautiful woman and a good Madeira, wasn’t afraid to dissect a corpse in the basement, so slick a politician that in 1774 they weren’t sure whose side he was on, and they later felt he was the father of the revolution, confident enough to break France’s bank in order to secure our fortunes, delightfully dismissive of the pissant Adams, sensible enough to put slavery off for another day…but most of all because he always paid attention, taking notes and thinking. Electricity was huge, but who remembers the 21 year old’s description of the Gulf Stream current, or the first descriptions of frontal systems in the Northeast? What an agile mind. The first American.

If you’re a Yankee, Lincoln rates high- presided over Franklin’s deferral, invented himself and rose to the task as he went along, got it mostly right, was self deprecating and funny as hell- “You call me two faced. Do you really imagine if I had another face that I’d use this one?” There was a sadness near the center of him, enormously appealing for some reason, and despite mad writing skills and terrific speeches, a bit unknowable.

But Johnson was a man for our times. I don’t think even his friends liked him much, and Herman Root bought him by the tender age of 26 or so- now Haliburton, if you’re keeping score, so that’s where some of the money came from- and still does (You ever wonder how the German weapons companies and chem companies responsible for Zyclon B survived, publically traded to this day? Root could tell you).

Johnson was a crude man, but he knew the utility of power. The photo I had in mind above was from Caro- a terrific sequence of a physically imposing man.
I heard the camel piss quote attributed to Bobby Kennedy when they were about to appoint Johnson VP.
Surveying Kennedy’s intimates- Schlesinger and the like, Harvard bow ties, a Johnson aid said Boss these guys look really sharp. He responded, yea but there ain’t one of them could get elected dog catcher.
Pushed the voting rights act through a Senate that had 'bustered it for 78 years.
I’m no conspiracist as a rule, but I believe Johnson got his boss killed- the only guy with the balls, the town, and the searing ambition, and the most to gain.
Made an effective president too, though it was not the fate of our generation to like him much. The Civil
Rights act, arrived at late, was something to hang your hat on, and the We Shall Overcome speech worked despite himself. Fighting a war off the books was not so good.
I came upon Robert Caro’s excellent biographies of Johnson a few years ago, a fascinating man, and I’ve been boring my kids with Johnson stories ever since.
And Lady Bird set the standard for useful First Ladies.
Eisenhower built them, but LB made them pretty.

Anyway, whenever I act like an ass, but an effective one, I think of Johnson. It’s a legacy, isn’t it?

I am a Southerner, but Lincoln has been my #1 hero for most of my adult life…can’t count how many books I have read on the man and they keep coming out by the dozens every year. Hope Spielberg’s movie does him justice. I figured you’d appreciate his gift for writing and humor. My view is he near the top of list of great writers in the English language. Not only could he make people laugh, he also could use humor as a powerful weapon to disable opponents.

Yea, I agree with that.


Edited: Didn’t realize originally this was on the public side of the forum.

At a time in our history when great leaders usually appear, but for some reason they have not, it is so interesting to see the COPA intelligentsia wax of such fascinating leaders of the past. Our leaders are, as my father used to say, “Letting their Duke think instead of their Einstein.” In our short attention span theater of today, leaders are missing the strategic opportunities right in front of us. For the first time in US history, we are in danger of not being able to live as George Washington planned to in his farewell address:

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of
partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart,
and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.

Emphasis mine, obviously. By the way, there has never been, nor will there ever be, a better President than Washington. Bad teeth notwithstanding, he was just made better than the rest of us. No human has ever been given an empire and walked away, except Washington. Please, let those genes come together again, soon.

Washington’s achievements were all the greater when you realize that he couldn’t blame anything on the previous administration (although he did have to resist the temptation to finger crazy old George II).


Hanging with Mother Teresa’s nuns! Wow. Just how do you manage the compartmentalization these days?

Maybe you just hope some of the salvation will rub off on you. You could definitely use it.