Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If It Smells Like Peat, Part 3: I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Kerry

Yes, beer was how Tom and I wound up on one of those day-long bus tours, falling into a burning Ring of Kerry (and I think we heard that song in the lounge in the Galway Clayton a couple days later).
See, after a near death experience driving down a detour in a deluge to a hotel where the wind was rattling the window, it was time to kill some brain cells in Killarney.
Though tempted by a fancy kangaroo dinner at a nearby restaurant, we hit a pub recommended by a buddy, then another place recommended by the bartender (who gave us passes, which I am not sure we even needed). At the latter, The Grand, a trad band was finishing up and a act called the Waxies was getting ready. The Waxies big drummer had on a Ministry t-shirt, which for a second we might be hearing Irish industrial metal. Another Waxie appeared to be wearing a thong, which showed when he bent over to set up a piece of equipment. Tramp.
Meanwhile, in the back room, a few dozen people were doing traditional Irish hooley dancing, including a dude about my age dressed in a sleeveless white T-shirt and long khaki shorts.
That revelry soon ended, making way for fog-infested euro dance music. Finally, the Waxies played and turned out to offer a good-natured mix of slightly alternative rock and Irish tunes in the front of the house.
They had a 20 euro minimum if you used a credit card, which, as an American I felt obligated to do.  
Heading toward my total, I found it odd that Irish were ordering Coors Light and that the young drinkers of Killarney, too, had been taken in by the Satanc potion that is Red Bull and Jaegermeister. Only in Ireland, they put the Jaeger in a shot glass and drop it in a glass of the energy drink.
I stuck to Guinness.
Before we hit the bars, in the hotel lobby, we ran into this guy named Paul from Zanesville, Ohio, who appeared to be in his mid to late 50s and who was traveling with him mom. We first saw them at Kilkenny Castle. And we would spot them again in Galway.
Paul claimed to own a furniture store, but the way he kept to himself and his chain smoking led me to believe he was CIA or NSA.
Tom’s leather trench coat probably set off a system at O’Hare that led to us being tailed - and to Tom having a four-in-one tool taken from his stowed luggage sometime before we left Dublin and got back to Chicago.
Anyway, Paul mentioned that he and his mom would be taking a bus tour of the Ring of Kerry, taking in the scenery.
Maybe it was a contact buzz from smelling burning peat, but on the way back from drinking, I thought it that this would be a funny thing to do. And good practice for life one day at the senior center.
So I asked the Malaysian guy working the front desk about it and find out the tour is only about $20 and all we had to do was be in the lobby at 10 a.m.
Easy enough.
Over breakfast, I scoured the tables and the lobby for possible fellow travelers. There were some whiny, elderly New Yorkers. That’s redundant, isn’t it?
Then there was a New Jersey like woman with a basketball shorts-wearing teen-aged boy who probably was her son. Was she home schooling him? Were they on the witness protection package tour?
And there were two good looking black women.
The room was rife with comic possibilities. But if you chose “None of the Above” as  your answer, pour yourself a shot of Jameson.
Nay, it was Paul and his Mammy (resplendent in a heather gray knit cap with silver sequins) from our hotel, and from other spots a Dublin guy and his Chinese girlfriend, and a quiet couple, sort of snooty, probably American, probably on their honeymoon, sitting up front like teacher’s pets. That was it. And they were all so well-behaved. I get that way when I am tired.
Our friendly bus driver looked like Phil Collins does now on his Twitter account. And he provided the tag line for the rest of our trip: Get off the bus, take a picture.
Because that’s pretty much what we did for the next six hours. Well, that and nap a bit on some of the longer stretches of the drive.
It was a beautiful ride - though by sitting on the side of the bus by his lonesome as  he did, Tom confessed it was sort of optically scary being in the passenger’s seat.
We hit a faux bog town, saw a statue of  Charlie Chaplin on the coast off Waterville, but didn’t kiss in the tunnel. Or the Blarney Stone at any point on the whole vacation.
Lunch wasn’t until 2:30 or so, and we wound up at this roadside place that was the opposite of an American truck stop. It was all cheerfully done up in pink and raspberry, like a parfait,  and filled with middle aged and older women who seemed to have coordinated their outfits with the decor. And the food was healthy stuff women the Western world over love to eat - salady stuff.
Best of all was one of the last stops, a waterfall flush with rain in a forest where the trees were covered in iridescent moss. Tom struck a Highlander pose for the folks back home. It felt more Hobbit to me. Plus there were people walking their limping cocker spaniels like a dog park back in the states - albeit a prettier one.
There was one more get off the bus stop, where there was a huge red deer stag. Had this been Wisconsin, Tom could have bagged his first ginger tail. Instead, he took a picture, one in which it appears a leprechaun is sitting on the beast. I am not making that up.
Back in town, that night was the start of the holiday shopping season, repleter with a long line at a department store. I bought Tom his Dalek Advent calendar, and we ate at a  new place run by women that had an indie or Hallmark film vibe about it. Either way, they served big, American-sized portions, on special for the festivities at just 20 euro for  each 3-course choice.
Our bellies full, we’d be Galway bound in the morning.

Monday, December 12, 2011

If It Smells Like Peat, Ch. 2: Off to Cobh, prawns and kangaroo

If I  was not the best at following downloaded directions, I was even worse as a pimp.

I had joked I would find my buddy a redhead - like in a movie, where the brooding but happy go lucky American on the loose in Ireland finds true love, or at least a fine fling, before heading home, the better man for it.

But neither of us looks like George Clooney or even Rosemary Clooney, come to think of it. I could maybe pass for a Teamster in my usual trip outfit of black coat, hooded sweatshirt, stocking cap,  jeans and boots. Maybe.

Tom, well, he did have his sexy, long, black, leather trench coat with him. When he wore it,  I told people he was Keanu Reeves from The Matrix, off the wagon. Without it, he was just another big American tourist (a BAT, which is not to be confused with VAT, for which you could be refunded).

Surprisingly, the vaguely menacing garment didn’t get him stripped searched at the airport (or by a redhead), though security did take his 4-in-1 tool from his checked in luggage on the way back to Chicago.

Plus, it’s because he’s a Doctor Who fan. He bought  Jelly Babies candy along the way, per the show. I bought him a 1.49-euro Daleks Advent calender at an Irish version of Big Lots.

I’m actually writing this travelogue as the Doctor would go about one of his adventures, traveling back and forth through linear time. And this is getting way too pocket protector...

I am meandering again, like the roads along any given part of our journey. Where were we? Oh yeah, the redheads. There was a drunk blond the first night in Galway and her sister, in the hotel bar, on a shopping trip and chatting up us two tourists -  before the blond seemed to pass out and her sister took her up to their room. They were either married or engaged or both.

Besides, redheads were on Tom’s bonus list, not the bucket list, I find out. Never too early to start on either one, I guess. Anyway those ladies almost cost us eight more phantom drinks on the hotel tab, which could have been on purpose or because the bartenders at the Clayton seemed to be about as bright as Ashton Kutcher.

Put the Fiat in reverse. Day Two of the trip meant traveling from Kilkenny (named by the South Park creators) south, at the suggestion of Shay back in Dundee, to Cobh (pronounced Cove, thanks to the intricacies of the Irish language). We were gonna go to Waterford, but they don’t make crystal there anymore, and Shay said the tour is for grannies.

Cobh is a port from where the Titanic sailed, and where victims of the attack on the Lusitania were taken. It’s also from where a good many Irish left for good, including Annie Moore, the first person processed at Ellis Island.

I learned that from a Celtic Thunder song. I have a theory on them, too. Having recently experience one of their estrogen-tinged, fog-infested, purply-lighted shows  in person, with legions of women of all ages swooning, I am pretty much convinced it is a group made up of Irish vampires.

Back to Cobh. Given its history - and a slim hope to write off my vacation as actual work - I thought, hey, I’ve found a sister city for Elgin, Illinois, where I work.

With me as co-pilot,  instead of near the museum, we wound up at the top of a hill near St. Colman’s Cathedral. He’s the patron saint of lanterns and coolers.

Right now, you’re probably saying to yourself, They wound up by a Catholic Church in Ireland? No way!

Next thing we’re gonna say is  that brown bread was served with every meal and that Tom developed a taste for black pudding for breakfast. Call Mr. Ripley so he can believe it or not.

Still, the church was impressive and offered a good view of the coast. It had gargoyles and kindly older women working in the gift shop.

We were hoping the museum would have more records available, but Tom did find a pin in the gift shop bearing his mother’s maiden name, Owen. Even in Ireland you don’t find too many Danahey souvenirs.

After Cobh, we headed east along the cost to Youghal (pronounced Y’all like in a country song) for another of Shay’s recommendations - prawns at Ahernes.

Only thing is, they weren’t on the menu. So I asked, and wouldn’t you know it, they just came in, and there hasn’t been time to change the menu (or maybe run to the Tesco).

The host/waitress recommended a dish made with garlic and butter along with the typical prawn cocktail and served in a round, escargot dish.  It was my favorite meal of the week, the prawns a tender combination of shrimp and lobster.

While feasting, I notice a decided lack of customers. Off-season or not, the host talked to a patron, a local merchant who admitted things are very slow. The TV and the papers have been dwelling on the sorry shape of the economy (and pondering the fate of the euro).

It’s just like home.

But the roads aren’t.  It was  getting dark making it time to hit the road for Killarney. We didn’t want to spend too much time along the roundabouts after dark - fearing the spawn of Celtic Thunder might be ready to pounce on lost tourist.

Once in Killarney, despite a wind shaking our downtown hotel room window, we walked off to find dinner. A restaurant across from where we are staying is offering tournedo of kangaroo with braised red cabbage and raspberry and port reduction. At 17 euros, we passed, saving that gastro experience for another day

Sunday, December 11, 2011

If It Smells Like Peat It Must Be Christmas - or Get Off the Bus, Take a Picture: Tales from My Irish Vacation

Part I: Let's Begin in the Middle (but not in Middleton, as we didn't take the Jameson tour).

So we’re driving along in Killarney when the smell hits us. Tom thinks he might have burned out the clutch. Hey, he’s been driving a stick shift Fiat on the opposite side of the roads, some of which are the size of bike paths. And I had been flinching until I got used to this, fearing the rear view mirror was going to snap off on something or other along the cobblestones.

Plus, heading up from Cork to Killarney, we had to take a detour - marked by a solitary orange sign the size of a sheet of notebook paper - up and down narrow roads, in the rain and wind, with a couple trucks passing us, probably going 60 mph or whatever the hell the exchange rate is, as we hoped no spray-painted sheep got in our way.

“I’m glad it’s dark. I think we’re on mountain roads, and that would scare the shit out of me,” Tom says. (Though the phrase doesn’t really work that well in Ireland, given the effect of drinking substantial amounts of Guinness).

But out of the car, checked into the hotel, and ambling toward The Laurels (for lamb stew, fish and chips, beer and overhearing locals talk to New Yorkers) and eventually The Grand (for a minimum 20 euros worth of credit card charged beer, a band called The Waxies, and a disco in the back) we still smell it.

It’s not until the next day, doing one of those Claddagh Ring of Kerry tours - stopping at some thatched cottages outside the town of Killorglin, where they crown a goat king every year - that we figure out the omnipresent evening odor (familiar to whiskey drinkers) is peat.

At least that’s the way I remember things. It’s been about almost a week since the trip ended. Vacations are usually best remembered as dreams, anyway. One before Christmas, even more so, given the quality of light and the harried nature of the season.

The year’s just about over, almost as fast as the vacation went. Whatever happened to languid days? Were they just an illusion of youth, like being skinny or having a full head of hair?

But back on the metaphorical tour bus. The above picture is from toward the middle of the trip anyway.

It began in Dublin. Actually, it began in summer, at the Milwaukee Irish Fest, where they offer deals. My buddy Tom had never been to Ireland. I had never been on an excursion of this sort, covering four towns in six days, tooling about with a a pal but without GPS. I had been wary, per my insecurity that the quirks of my personality would cause someone who had to spend a week, 24-7, with me, to have me mysteriously be swept off the Cliffs of Moher. Or vice versa.

But Tom has a teen-aged daughter, which pretty much prepares anyone for anything. And though I’m not a fan of the term “best friend” (as if you should list the people you love like books on the New York Times Best-seller List), he qualifies, if just for feeding me dinner as many times as he and his family have.

Plus, he agreed to drive this Miss Daisy. I know my limitations, and we’d still be trying to get out of the Dan Dooley lot by the airport if I didn’t.

And from that lot, we made our way through the mist, getting our bearings in a town called Naas (named after the Celtic rapper, no doubt), having lunch at an outlet mall in Kildare, then making our way to Kilkenny.
And by now you might be asking yourself, “What’s up with all the ‘kil’ towns?”

Kil means church. Make your own joke. Make your own town name (Kilthebastards, Kilingmesoftly, Kilsatan, Kilbill, Kilswitch, Kilthisbit).

We learned that from Johnny, the driver on the bus tour - but we’re not there yet.

We’re in Kilkenny, where I am demonstrating my lack of navigational abilities, even with downloaded directions. The roads change names (M = motorway; N = national route; O = Oprah now owns this area). Worse yet: roundabouts, where locals tell you to “go straight through” or “take the third intersection.”

Still, getting slightly lost isn’t so bad - it gives an idea of where to head later. And that’s to the local brewery, which turns out to be on winter hours and closed, dammit, and to Kilkenny Castle, which turns out to be a yuppie kind of castle, filled with tapestries, huge tables, and portraits of inbred English who once ruled the place.

We find the Marble Bar - recommended by my West Dundee via Dublin buddy Shay Clarke - and grab a sandwich at about 3:30 or so, which actually is the edge of lunchtime in Ireland.

We run into a guy at that bar from Chicago who moved to the area to be close to his wife’s family. He and his live off a golf course, which seems like something an ex-pat American would do.

He does not try to sell us a time share, and we amble off for a walk, then back to the hotel, which has a big, outdoor hot tub and our room has a heated bathroom floor and a shower without a door, like something out of the Kohler catalogue.

Time for some burgers, brews, then two, big, comfy beds with duvets (which confuses us Americans at first, being used to cover sheets). Time to put on the Breathe Rights.

Next episode: I find a sister city for Elgin, Illinois, we eat prawns, and ponder kanagaroo and cabbage

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Red and Black

What the puck! The Blackhawks rally

Sports are filled with overused metaphors for daily life. Cliches abound like beer commercials during a playoff game. But any Chicago team fan knows one sad truism: You really can't take anything for granted.

In most of our lifetimes, the Sox have won one World Series and the Bears just one Super Bowl. The Bulls had a nice run in the 90s, but their last title was 12 years ago. And the Cubs. Well poor Pat Szpekowski knows that tale all too well.

And that's just one reason why the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup partially mended the Carpentersville businesswoman's sports-broken heart.

Pat was a 11 in 1961, the last time the Hawks brought home the traveling trophy, and growing up in a Polish neighborhood on the Near West Side, not too far from the old Chicago Stadium. Her mom loved hockey. The family would occasionally go to games and more often would listen on the radio or tune in the black and white TV.

Reggie Fleming was a talented enforcer for the squad, and also happened to be half Polish. That might have influenced Pat asking Fleming if she could head up his fan club.

"He told me, `I'd be honored,'" Pat recalled. She soon was putting out newsletters for 200 fellow Fleming fans across the US and Canada.

See, back in the day, many players led more working class lives and mingled with the common folk and became friends with fans. Fleming wrote letters to Pat's grandmother - in Polish. She went to his wedding.

"He was like a big brother to me," Pat said.

The two kept in touch over the years. She has scrapbooks, memorabilia and even one of Bobby Hull's bloodied hockey sticks to prove it. Yes, NHL hockey pretty much always has been a Quentin Tarantino movie on skates. And yes, that is the coolest sports gift. Ever.

Fleming wound up playing for several teams, including the Rangers and the Flyers. He lived out his life in the northwest suburbs and passed away about a year ago. Fleming's son, Chris, chronicled his dad's final years in videos still up on YouTube.

Pat couldn't make it downtown for the victory parade Friday, but watched on TV. I planned on going anyway. But talking to her sealed the deal on braving what turned out to be a crowd of about 2 million people and hearing "Chelsea Dagger" umpteen more times.

We had an inkling of how things would be downtown, when the 7:50 a.m.train from Elgin wound up sardine tight by Roselle, which made it a de facto express run.

I invited my friend Dave, whom I had not seen since college, who was in Carpentersville visiting his dad. His son Keenan and brother Bob, from Sleepy Hollow, came along, too. How can you not ask someone you haven't seen in more than 20 years do join you for such a day? Welcome home, indeed. Besides Dave lives in Texas now, and everything is big there, right?

Anyway, we met up with my cousin Dan, who drove in from South Bend, as he has hockey in his blood (which is redundant). We all used to play a floor version in his big family's big basement in Frankfurt - with a light plastic, neon orange puck. Hey, it was the 70s.

Dan played goalie for St. Jude's out of the rink in Crestwood, where he befriended former Hawks star Chris Chelios, then at De La Salle High School in the city. He tended net some in college, in intramural leagues while getting advanced degrees, and in true hockey player fashion, still laces up the skates despite cracking his back a year ago. He was playing forward in a 3-on-3 game, and a fat goalie fell on him. Ironic, ain't it?

Fitting, though, is that Dan grew up to be a reconstructive surgeon. He missed Patrick Kane's Cup-clenching goal last Wednesday night because he would be heading into surgery on a, 11-year-old boy who got hit in the face by a baseball.

Dan got to see boyhood heroes Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito on one of the double decker buses Friday. He has the photos to prove it. Everybody had a camera or smart phone working overtime snapping away the most red and black shots ever taken. Heck, even the fountains in Daley Plaza were putting out blood-like plumes of water, which is perfect for hockey.

Cori Nawrocki of Lake In the Hills, who stood next to me in along Washington Street near Dearborn, held her camera above her head, hoping to capture her favorite player, Johnathan Toews. Nawrocki disappeared, perhaps joining the Pied Piper like masses who followed a the bus with bubbly Kane to the rally at Wacker and Michigan.

But on this collective Ferris Bueller's Day off, my friends and I headed to the Willis Tower. Hey, Dave promised his wife he would stand in one of those Plexiglass boxes hanging 103 stories off the building. Maybe it was I bet.

Though you couldn't see the rally from there, standing on the top of the city seemed a fitting thing to do - and a great place for a player to bring the Stanley Cup late one night, if you know what I'm saying.

And should that tourist I saw in the elevator up happen to read this. I lied. Lady Gaga did not sing a song from the victory podium. Hey, I gave her something to tell her friends back home. It was the least I could do.

And while I was looking down at the city, I thought about what Pat Szpekowski said in advance of all the craziness.

"There's so much sadness in the world, and nothing seem to be going right. Faith gives us hope, and so do the Blackhawks," she said.

Me, of little faith, might not take things far. I'm not gonna cry like Jeremy Roenick.

But I can an at least agree with Cousin Dan. Calling as he neared his home in Indiana, Dan said "It definitely was was worth the drive. And if they do it again, let's plan on being here, too."

This being Chicago, we both know it's all a big IF. And that makes you appreciate a day like Friday all the more.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Musings for Shay's birthday

A Tuesday night at Emmett's in West Dundee, and the usual crowd is here. That's to say Shay Clarke and his pals are near the bar, not just for the $3 pints, with Munich Light being the favorite, but to mark Clarke's 60th birthday.

The gathering of friends spills into the restaurant. There's a cake at a table where Clarke's wife Traci is sitting. She cuts a small piece but can't place the taste. Turns out the frosting is laced with Bailey's Irish Cream.

The night merrily rolls along, and Clarke's buddy Joe Cullen breaks out an accordion to sing traditional Irish tunes. Joe looks Irish in the way the Hobbits do. You can kid him about it. That's part of being Irish.

There's a thin, quiet man with a full head of gray rock star hair sitting a few tables away. He looks like he could have been in the Rolling Stones or at least been friends with them. His name is Maurice Lennon, and he played fiddle with a band that formed in Ennis, Co. Clare, back in 1977. He would be heading back home for a reunion show Wednesday morning.

Do the math. Thirty-three years ago, Clarke was 27 and living in Dublin. Twenty-seven suddenly is 60 and somewhere in the middle of the Midwest.

Sitting in a chair next to Cullen, Lennon plays a few tunes that capture the bittersweet feeling of time's passing. Sure, at first, there's a guy at the bar with a southern accent who almost drowns out the subtle music. But a couple numbers into it, even he's being quiet and paying attention.

Lennon plays a number dedicated to Clarke's wife, "If Ever You Were Mine." This is how a love song should sound - sweet but not sticky, winsome with a hint of loneliness, the longing that comes from enjoying life but knowing nothing lasts forever. That's why there are violins.

Lennon finishes the number and points toward Traci Clarke, his muse for the night music. There is a round of applause, and Lennon matter of factly closes his case and evaporates from being the center of attention.

Cullen takes over and changes the mood with "Big Bamboo." It's a bawdy Jamaican number, and on accordion the shuffling melody seems more than a little like the Mardi Gras classic "Meet Me on the Battlefront." I tell him that he ain't being very Irish, laying on the Chicago accent nice and thick like a bad cross between a Guinness and a Miller.

It doesn't really matter, anyway. I stupidly say "there ain't no party like a Shay Clarke party," almost immediately cringing at my own bad joke. But I don't. It's like something my dad would have said, had my dad listened to rap. And at a 60th birthday party there's something to be said for acting a bit like your dad, even if you're the only one in the room who knows this.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And then I woke up

When there is a horrible world crisis - and if you think about it, when isn't there - it's not a real good idea to go to sleep with the TV on. You might wake up before 2 a.m. to see Katie Couric gabbing with Charlie Rose about her trip to Haiti. And it might scare the existential crap out of you.

I don't even know if scare is the right word. It's more a combination of outrage, impotence, futility, anger, angst, and it's why the word "fuck" exists in the first place. See, here's cute Katie with her dangling earrings and tight sweater playing a clip of a little black kid trapped in Haiti screaming at the top of his lungs, "Why God, why?"

And if you're Katie fucking Couric, this is golden right? You go back to your multi-million dollar lifestyle in New York with your compelling clip, and, as far as I can tell, this kid is still there waiting for someone to bring him medical attention or even a glass of water. Oohh Charlie, look at all this suffering! I mean, Christ, this is Emmy-winning, ain't it Charlie?

I heard her last Friday, too, talking with a family that had one bowl of soup between the 12 of them, and I was thinking Katie, take them back to the fucking media tent and get them some goddamn food, you self-serving bitch. See, she pisses me off because she's become my symbol for surreal nature of all this.

Her and Anderson and the rest can fly in an out at will to tell everybody about how horrible all of this is. No shit. But your modus operandi is to hit and run on to the next debacle in the short-attention span wired world.

There's a certain pornographic quality about this, these outsiders and their "journalistic" distance wallowing in the suffering of the poorest of the poor. I mean how can you watch a woman put her six-year-old son on a bus by himself in the hopes that somebody on the other end will be there to pick him up and stand by and do nothing, because it's not your job to get involved, it's just your job to record? That they can show this live around the world or put it on the radio or the Web instantly - but these folks are still waiting for aid just adds to how bizarre and frustrating this all is.

And I bet those people in Haiti are super happy that the thoughts of the Golden Globe Awards attendees are with them - if only they had electricity so they could hear that jackass James Cameron asking Hollywood to give it up for themselves and how his simple-minded "Dances With Smurfs" movie shows how we're all interconnected (and I didn't watch this - I caught it on YouTube). At least the actors shown listening had the sense to look uncomfortable with this nonsense.

And lest you think I am turning into some liberal-bashing tea-bagger, don't even get me started on that fat fuck Rush Limbaugh and how Haiti will be one big publicity stunt for Barack Obama. Yeah, Rush, Big Barry was just waiting for the hammer to come down on one of the saddest places on Earth, just so he could bask in the glory of its redemption. In fact, Obama is one of the X-men, and he can CAUSE earthquakes, whenever he feels like it, but only to divert attention away from the health care mess, the two wars, the recession and Iron Chef faking using vegetable's from his wife's White House garden.

I don't see your fat ass down in Haiti, Rush, preferring to let your bitter old white guy meanness pass as humor from a distance. Which is a good thing, because you look like you'd be better eating than Katie or Anderson. With all that marbled meat on your bones and the drugs in your system you'd cook up nicely should it come to that, marinate in your own juices. And you know that TV sort of secretly hopes it gets that terribly anarchic.

But for now, it's just hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of bodies piled up on streets and that kid crying "Why God why?" And that's not a question lazy-ass, soft-living me likes to hear at 2 a.m.

Because this all reinforces that despite all the advances in technology, despite our best intentions - and I do believe we are mostly a nation of the well-meaning - despite James Cameron being able to make a special effects movie for $300 million - that sometimes there's not a damn thing you can do beyond trying your best. And sometimes that's not enough.

See, you want to believe that you live in the land of Superman, that we can go in an instantly solve a problem, that cruise ships, their hulls stuffed with food, could be in port right now feeding the Haitian masses. It's not supposed to take a week to get the basics to these people just a couple hundred miles off the coast of Florida. We're supposed to have all this figured out, right, because that's who we are? Things are never, ever, out of our control, right?

And that little kid echoing in my head, bringing me to tears... And here I am writing about him, dare I say exploiting him, just like Katie did, grinding out tragedy for the media machine. I'm a jerk, too, in bed, sad little me, worrying about how meaningless and trivial his suburban life is, all because he forgot to turn off the television.

Why God why?

Kid, you're not gonna get that question answered. Ok. Maybe Pat Roberston will explain it for you. It's because your ancestors made a deal with Satan to get rid of the French, so God has been punishing your island nation ever since.

Maybe your clip will get played on a the inevitable telethon. Maybe some cheeseball on American Idol will dedicate a song to you.

Katie only had a half hour with Charlie. Now Charlie is babbling with douche bag TV exec Jeff Zucker about the Conan and Jay Leno controversy, which really has America polarized. Idiots actually were out protesting O'Brien's ouster from The Tonight Show all across the country. They met through Facebook, but the local news was disappointed only 75 showed up in Chicago to demonstrate.

I'm going to try to get some sleep in the hopes my cynicism subsides to mere skepticism by morning.