Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring Break: "Drunk on a beach in Florida": HOUSE PARTY !

In an article for the Charleston (SC) daily newspaper, The POST AND COURIER, Ken Burger tells us that " Most American students spend spring break drunk on a beach in Florida." Many do as did we, but here in South Carolina during the carefree college years. Thoughtful readers are as tired of the sanctimony and self loathing of reformed booze artists as Florida residents are fatigued by annual onset of artful boozing by college kids on spring break. Was the writer's generation doing then what out of state college volunteers are shown doing here ?

Is this another wild house party full of drunken college kids? No, actually this very attractive new house which is seen behind the Mustang was built by college students on spring break. We didn't bring our portable Breathalyzer, but we know drunks when we see them and this is one happy, but sober group of people.

The second photo shows a close up of the volunteers who did most of the heavy lifting and hard work. They subcontract the critical segments which require licensed technicians for electrical and plumbing work, but these young people have put their hearts and backs into building this house. They built this house in a neighborhood which may be called challenged or disadvantaged or said to be in transition. The plan fact is that it's the nicest house by far at an area in which it took courage to build and to live. This could well inspire others to make a similar effort as builders and as new neighbors.

So, rather than tearing up a rental house, these college folks have built a home for a family who will never forget their unselfish gesture. The smiling lady in the white hat is the new owner of the house. The volunteers are smiling from the joy which helping others has brought them. It is reasonable to presume that they will leave a trail of smiles in their wake as the donate their spring break to those in need in South Carolina.

"Drunk on a beach in Florida" Part 2: The ILLINI rock !

We came away from the house party with a good feeling about and toward the college students. They had literally made a new home for a family in a distressed neighborhood at North Charleston, S.C. We wondered what else was on their agenda.

The next day we found them repairing and repainting an old building which serves as the headquarters for Habitat for Humanity in Charleston. The place had begun to look long in the tooth and very short on appearance. These college volunteers have painted the entire exterior of the building. They have also repainted the sign on the front of the building and were busy applying siding to the exterior of the second story. This old place on upper Meeting Street needs all the work which the students are providing.

We noticed quite a few Illinois license tags on vehicles clustered around the building. Many of these students are from the University of Illinois. When it comes to lending a helping had to humanity, the ILLINI rock !

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

One Year Later: Disaster Relief in Branchville ?

On March 15, one year, one day ago, a tornado touched down at Branchville, SC, visiting damage upon that small town as seen in the photos. These few buildings were badly damaged, but most were not including structures very close to the vortex. Torandos are like that: selective, narrow, arbitrary.

Unlike our coastal hurricanes, tornados do not get named, cannot be planned for and you don't know that they're coming until they are gone. Hurricanes are like large armies massed and marching across someone's country. A tornado is like a stinger missile out of nowhere. Another difference is that tornados do not unite people as the hurricane usually does. One family loses their house, but the one across the street hasn't a scratch. The immediate neighbors all pull together, but beyond that narrow radius, few people really give much of a hoot.

If there is not a uniform blanket of photogenic devastation, it's not exciting enough for network news and fails to gain notice, it didn't happen. The big question, of course, is who or what agency will clean up this mess. Some buildings are likely under insured if they insured at all. Declaring this a "disaster area" is a bit complicated.

A law called the Stafford Act defines the process that triggers most federal disaster assistance other than assistance for crop losses. A big news splash is very helpful because the criteria for disaster declarations are vague. The law defines only two categories of presidentially declared disasters: "emergencies" and "major disasters".

Where the costs of a damage exceeds the resources of state and local government, a governor can ask the President to declare a major disaster. If the President determines that the damage is severe enough, the affected area then becomes eligible for FEMA assistance.

One year and one day ago we predicted that was unlikely to happen. To date we seem to be have been correct.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Hunkered Down in our Hacienda Hideout

Where does the rolling Mustang come to a rest? Most of our posted photos are in the field, off the road or on the move. One must wonder. Batman has a cave in which to store his Batmobile and a great mansion in which to read his newspaper. We seem to deserve a nice little hacienda hideout, a bit this side of Bruce Wayne, but comfortable and functional.

We have a great view of the waterfront from our private perch. In that comfy white chair we spend hours in reflective repose. We snatched that table from the set where a Corona ad was being shot. We keep the same such bottles on it so the table will feel comfortable in captivity. Just over our chair can be seen our trophy Blue Marlin nearly half the length of the car and almost as blue. When the urge to roll strikes us we leap from the chair, bounce off the red awning and land gracefully on the Mustang's trunk. We're not as good as J.T. Hooker in "The Big Chill," but then we're not on TV.

Where exactly is this place? Well, it's nowhere that Map Quest can find us and no amount of Googling will yield our coordinates. It's not that we're anti social, but we'd just as soon not have any Amway sales callers or Jehovah's Witnesses knocking on our door.