“Deer” Nashville,

•March 3, 2013 • 1 Comment

“Deer” Nashville,

Radnor Lake (State Natural Area) and the Warner Parks in Nashville are almost petting zoos for white-tailed deer at this point because hunting is not allowed in the city. Of course there are good safety reasons for this, but seriously, the forests here are not regenerating properly according to local naturalists and park rangers I’ve listened to. This morning, I read a good article (from Virginia, but applicable in it’s entirety here in Tennessee) that does a good job of succinctly explaining why.

The article – ( http://potomaclocal.com/2013/03/02/deer-population-a-challenge-for-area-forests/ )

In a nutshell: no large predators and limited hunting means there are now too many deer and they eat too much native undergrowth, disrupting natural forest succession, decreasing overall biodiversity, and allowing invasive species to flourish which can further disrupt forest succession and biodiversity retention. The problem is particularly acute in fragmented suburban areas (like much of Middle Tennessee).

We should have a season for specially trained/licensed sharpshooters and bow hunters to harvest deer for meat at least one or two weeks a year in suburban/park areas, and perhaps raise the limits of how many deer can be taken per hunter, especially in these suburban/park/natural areas with artificially higher deer populations. I don’t pretend to know all of the public safety precautions that would need to be taken or what the crazy politics of this issue would be, but I’m pretty sure that suburban deer culling could be done safely and also take into account the wishes and concerns of individual  property owners. Scientific monitoring tells us that the deer population is too high, just as it would warn us if the deer population was becoming too low. Adjustments should be made accordingly.

Perhaps municipal or county governments could mandate that a certain percentage of the venison be donated to local food security organizations for distribution to people needing food assistance. Perhaps the state could refund the hunting license fees of those hunters who participated in a “suburban hunter safety education” course and then killed at least one adult deer in a designated suburban area/park. I’m sure that others who know more about hunting than I do could come up with some other/better incentives.

I tried to look into the relevant laws, and though the State of Tennessee does not prevent me from hunting on my private property in season, my municipal government does forbid me from discharging a firearm in my suburban backyard, and certainly forbids me from doing so in a city park. I totally understand the reasons why and agree with them, but I think there could be well regulated exceptions for the purpose of culling the out of control deer population. Chemical deer reproduction control methods do exist, but are expensive. Most hunters I know would be happy to shoot a couple more deer each year for free.

Deer at Radnor Lake SNA in suburban Nashville, TN
-photo source- (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikerhicks/5389077290/)

Of course another option would be to reintroduce large predators (bears, wolves, cougars, etc) to the Nashville suburbs, but given how freaked out people already are by coyotes (which are not controlling the deer population), that course of action seems even less likely than allowing suburban/city-park sharpshooters. But, just to argue the idea for a second, the predator reintroduction approach would help address an issue not even mentioned in the article, namely that natural predation would actually improve the health and genetic stock of the deer population through the process of natural selection. A couple of cougars roaming around suburban Nashville would kill a good number of young, old, weak and/or sick deer, thus improving the quality of the herd… and also eating people’s pets, scaring people (if not attacking them), and generally creating hysteria.

Thirdly, there’s always the option of making suburban sprawl and fragementation obsolete through a radical redesign of our cities and other communities, thus reducing the edge effects which so favor deer, and addressing a host of human development issues at the same time. Finally, we could just make all the people on the planet disappear next week and then deer/predators would quickly reestablish an equilibrium without us.

Thus, for what I think are obvious reasons, I believe that well trained suburban deer hunters are really the best short term option for dealing with the local deer overpopulation issue.

I’ve got tons of deer in my wooded yard (near Radnor Lake in South Nashville). They’re majestic and fascinating in their own way, just as most animals in the wild are. I like to watch them, and seeing them makes me feel like I am more “in nature.” As many others do, I enjoy that feeling, but in reality there is nothing natural about seeing so many deer all the time, and the forests they are living in are becoming more endangered too. So, in the interest of ecological balance, I would also be happy to eat the deer, or learn to hunt them myself, or have other people kill/eat them. A lot of gardeners and farmers would also be happy to see a smaller deer population. The goal I’m espousing is not to eliminate deer, but to bring their numbers down to a scientifically determined, ecologically sustainable population size. Rock Creek Park in suburban Washington, DC provides a good example of how one agency has decided to deal with this issue: http://www.nps.gov/rocr/parkmgmt/upload/Deer-Management-FAQ-Revised-May-31-2012-FINAL-VERSION.pdf .

Deer are not endangered in 2013, indeed quite the opposite. Killing more deer, especially in suburban areas, would not only be good for deer, but it would be good for our forests, native plants, and all the other animals and insects that depend on our native plants/forests.

I haven’t yet done enough research yet to understand fully how deer management decisions are made in Tennessee. Are the current limits/seasons based on maintaining a large deer herd with particular qualities for hunters, or is it based on the health of the deer herd, or is it based on maintaining the natural balance of deer in the larger environment? Reading through the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s website on white-tailed deer, it appears that the deer population is managed with a greater emphasis on maintaining hunting stock  than on maintaining ecological balance. Is this true? The ecological functioning of forest areas fragmented by suburban development are already far from normal even without the presence of abnormally high numbers of large herbivorous browsers. This is one aspect of poor forest health that shouldn’t be so hard to fix.

Venison anyone?

Tap Tap Culture

•December 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Another lost Haiti blog post…

Public transportation in Haiti reminds me of public transportation in Sub-Saharan Africa, with one awesome exception: Haiti has tap taps.

Tap taps are the ubiquitous form of shared truck taxis that take people anywhere and everywhere in Haiti, for a small price. The name comes from the practice of tapping one’s knuckles or the coin that you are going to pay your fare with against the metal roof  or sides of the vehicle to signal the driver that you want him to stop. This is not unlike most bush taxis in Africa, but these Haitian taxis are painted over every square inch with outrageous scenery and even have custom shaped windows and strange appendages. Nairobi matatus are the closest equivalent I’ve seen in Africa to Haitian tap taps, but matatus go in for serious sound systems while tap taps are mainly about the artwork. It is not unusual to see a tap tap with Jesus, a European soccer star, a rapper, and the driver’s mother, all on the same bus, along with strangely entendre laden slogans like “toute doucement” ["everything softly"].

Tap tap owners and drivers seem to be competing to have the most wildly decorated tap tap, and supposedly potential passengers are more likely to choose the tap tap they ride in based on which one is better decorated. While I was in Haiti, I observed that in Port-au-Prince certain celebrities were more frequently chosen than others to grace the sides of city tap taps. Miami rapper Rick Ross was very popular, as was Snoop Dogg. Brazilian soccer stars Ronaldo and Ronaldinho were also popular choices. Jesus, often holding a sheep in an awkward pose, was the most popular figure of all, though bikini clad women ran a close second and I once saw an awesome tap tap featuring the character Legolas from Lord of The Rings.

Click here for a great video on Haitian tap tap culture.

I wish I had taken more/better photos, but most of the time I was in a moving armored car with inch thick glass and the windows rolled up [ridiculous and unnecessary]. Not exactly ideal picture taking conditions, but in any case, here are a few of my “transportation” pictures from Haiti…

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A Few Ferns And Flowers From Haiti

•December 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Sadly, I didn’t get much time at all to explore the natural world in Haiti, but I did have some nice plants in the yards of the two houses I lived in. Here’s a few of those for the plant nerds among you…  [click on any image to see it larger]

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Port-au-Prince Graffiti

•December 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Finally starting to dust off my Haiti photos…

Port-au-Prince has some good graffiti.  Much of it is political, some of it is ambiguous. Here are a few examples from my stash of photos…

Rasta dude. A popular theme.

Rasta dude. A popular theme.

 

This dude is going to do his voudou on you.

This fellow is going to do his voudou on you.

 

The lady is by a mysterious Haitian graffiti artist named "Jerry." It's my favorite.At upper left is some election graffiti that says "election without Lavalas now." Lavalas (means "avalanche") was the political party of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been in exile in South Africa, but who came back to Haiti just prior to the 2010/2011 presidential election while I was there. Below that are a bunch of Michel Martelly election posters. The slogan roughly reads "Vote for the bald head." Martelly eventually won the election.

The lady was painted by a mysterious Haitian graffiti artist named “Jerry.” At upper left is some election graffiti that says “election without Lavalas now.” Lavalas ["avalanche"] was the political party of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been in exile in South Africa [having been both placed in power and removed from power by the United States if the stories are to be believed], but who came back to Haiti just prior to the 2010/2011 presidential election while I was there. Below that are a bunch of pink Michel Martelly election posters. The slogan roughly reads “Vote for the bald head.” Martelly eventually won the election.

 

"American Embassy = Cholera" was written overnight on the outside wall of the IHRC/old-US Embassy compound where I worked. Cholera appeared for the first time in 50+ years in Haiti to add to its problems after the earthquake. The outbreak continues to this day, and has killed close to 8,000 Haitian people while sickening many thousands of others. Haitians blamed outsiders, and indeed the outbreak has subsequently been traced to effluent from a field base of Nepali origin UN peacekeeping troops. The UN peacekeeping force was already widely unpopular in Haiti, and this only worsened their image.

“American Embassy = Cholera” was written overnight on the outside wall of the IHRC/old-U.S. Embassy compound where I worked. Cholera appeared for the first time in 50+ years in Haiti to add to its problems after the earthquake. The outbreak continues to this day, and has killed close to 8,000 Haitian people while sickening many thousands of others. Haitians blamed outsiders, and indeed the outbreak has subsequently been traced to effluent from a field base of Nepali origin UN peacekeeping troops. The UN peacekeeping force was already widely unpopular in Haiti, and this only worsened their image though there was certainly nothing intentional about it. Haiti’s frequent floods, exacerbated primarily by environmental degradation, lack of solid waste management, lack of clean water sources for drinking and washing, and poorly maintained (or destroyed by the 2010 earthquake) sanitation infrastructure, leads to spikes in cholera every time a major rain comes to Haiti now.

 

This graffiti reads: "Down with Preval and MINUSTA." René Préval was the president of Haiti when the 2010 earthquake occurred, and was widely seen as having been an ineffectual leader in the post-disaster period. His term of office ended when President Michel Martelly came to power in the 2010/2011 election. To Preval's credit, he was the first Haitian president in 200+ years to make it through his legal term of office without being killed or deposed or illegally extending his reign. MINUSTA is the acronym for the UN peacekeeping force which many Haitians view as an occupying force (but which others believe is necessary for Haitian stability).

This graffiti reads: “Down with Preval and MINUSTA.” René Préval was the president of Haiti when the 2010 earthquake occurred, and was widely seen as having been an ineffectual leader in the post-disaster period. His term of office ended when President Michel Martelly came to power in the 2010/2011 election. To Préval’s credit, he was the first Haitian president in 200+ years to make it through his legal term of office without being killed or deposed or illegally extending his reign. MINUSTA is the acronym for the UN peacekeeping force which many Haitians view as an occupying force (but which others believe is necessary for Haitian stability).

 

This creation by "Jerry" appeared just before Christmas 2010.

This creation by “Jerry” appeared just before Christmas 2010.

 

Another Christmas 2012 graffiti creation by Haitian artist "Jerry."

Another Christmas 2012 graffiti creation by Haitian artist “Jerry.”

 

I don't know what this is, but I passed it on the way to work everyday.

I don’t know what this is, but I passed it on the way to work everyday.

 

I'm going to call this one Gangsta Karaoke.

I’m going to call this one Gangsta Karaoke.

 

Some basic election graffiti: "Vote Pasteur Elie for Deputy of Gressier." Every neighborhood had favorite local candidates whose names were scrawled on walls all over the place.

Some basic election graffiti: “Vote Pasteur Elie for Deputy of Gressier.” Every neighborhood had favorite local candidates whose names were scrawled on walls all over the place. Not exactly subtle, but hey, free advertising!

 

Graffiti drawn on the outside wall of one the UN compounds in Port-au-Prince.

Graffiti drawn on the outside wall of one the UN compounds in Port-au-Prince.

 

Another bit of graffiti that appeared in January 2011 on the outside wall of the IHRC/old-US embassy compund where I worked. It says "Welcome Back Jean-Claude Duvalier." Former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier (son of even more former Haitian dictator "Papa Doc" Duvalier) had been living in exile in France. But, like Jean-Bertrand Aristide, he used the chaos of the post 2010 earthquake period in Haiti to facilitate his return. Writing this particular message on a US embassy wall is meant as a poke at the US, who helped remove Duvalier from power (under Ronald Reagan), and who certainly had no interest in seeing him return now.

Another bit of graffiti that appeared in January 2011 on the outside wall of the IHRC/old-U.S. embassy compound where I worked. It says “Welcome Back Jean-Claude Duvalier.” Former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier (son of even more former Haitian dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier) had been living in exile in France, but, like former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, he used the chaos of the post 2010 earthquake period in Haiti to facilitate his return. This graffiti is a poke at the U.S. government, who helped remove Duvalier from power (under Ronald Reagan), and who certainly had no interest in seeing him return at this time. So now Haiti has all of it’s living former dictators back under one roof and at some point that could prove mighty interesting, though it hasn’t much yet…

 

This "Jerry" creation appeared on a wall a couple of days after the Japan tsunami/nuclear disaster in march 2011. A nice gesture from an artist living in a place still utterly devastated by the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

This “Jerry” creation appeared on a wall a couple of days after the Japan tsunami/nuclear disaster in March 2011. A nice gesture from an artist living in a place still utterly devastated by the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Bristling At Life In A Bubble

•December 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment
One of several armored Chevy Suburbans and other armored vehicles that I used everyday in Haiti.

One of several armored Chevy Suburbans and other armored vehicles that I used every day in Haiti.

Still catching up on “old/lost” blog posts…

Of all the overseas jobs I’ve had, Haiti was the one where I felt most isolated from normal everyday local people and life. Initially, while working under the auspices of USAID, I was subject to embassy security policies which required that I always ride around in an armored vehicle. Usually it was an armored Chevy Suburban, sometimes an armored Land Cruiser, and sometimes it was an armored van. The windows were an inch thick and couldn’t be rolled down regardless of the heat, the doors swung low on their hinges from the weight of armor plating, and the back of each seat had an armor plate to protect against shrapnel or bullets from behind. Each one was packed with two way radios. Some of them had sirens and flashing lights behind the grills [the drivers loved to use the sirens]. Going up hills required full pedal to the medal power, and Port-au-Prince is almost all hills. I can only imagine what kind of gas mileage a Chevy Suburban with armor plating must get.

Port-au-Prince was divided into green, yellow, and red zones by the embassy security team. Going to or passing through a yellow zone required an armored vehicle. A red zone required an armored vehicle and armed escort. Going up-country by road required a convoy. There were lots of security alerts and lockdowns, and temporary no-go areas of unrest. The reports would come via radio or email or text. At night, all of the restrictions were greater, and we had a strict curfew. Sometimes I was glad for all of it, but much of the time the security felt ridiculous and unnecessary to me personally, especially going to work in an armored vehicle.

The funny thing was that different organizations had very different security zones. The Hotel Oloffson, which was in a red zone for us USAID folks at the time, was one of the only places that friends working for another organization were actually allowed to go hang out for fun. This just served to give the impression that the zones were entirely arbitrary and made up by each organization. I guess if there ever came a time when I actually needed an armored car, I would be happy to have it, but in general I feel like nothing makes you stand out more and be a more noticeable or likely target than riding around in black or white armored Chevy Suburban with embassy plates. Possible pick-pockets aside, riding in a tap-tap (truck taxi) with all the locals would make me feel much safer than riding around in an armored car with embassy tags. If I was working in a place with frequent bombs, or where people were actively trying to kill Americans, or where people were just generally shooting at each other or me all time, I would feel differently, but none of those scenarios were active in Haiti while I was there. It’s true that there were some kidnappings of Americans while I was there, but exclusively of Haitian Americans, people from the Haitian “big families,” being extorted for money. The one seemingly legitimate home invasion of non-Haitians while I was there subsequently turned out to have been a house’s two security guards waking up in the middle of the night, being disoriented, and shooting (unsuccessfully) at each other while scaring the crap out of the house’s expat residents.

The IHRC was literally a bubble, built by the Canadians after the 2010 earthquake to house the IHRC. An identical bubble was built to house the collapsed Ministry of Health. Supposedly there was a third bubble somewhere, but I never figured out where it was.

The IHRC was literally housed in a bubble, built by the Canadians after the 2010 earthquake. An identical bubble was built to house the collapsed Ministry of Health. Supposedly there was a third bubble somewhere, but I never figured out where it was.

Like many expats, I lived with other USAID people on a mountain overlooking the crumbled city in 2 adjacent houses with walls, gardens, pools, and 24 hour US embassy guards. my house had formerly been home to the European Union delegation in Haiti, and still bore the EU symbol on the front gates. There were a lot of us, so we shared bedrooms, two or three single beds to a room. Every morning, I was driven in an armored vehicle either to the Embassy (inside a guarded, walled compound), or directly to work in the bubble that housed the IHRC (also inside a guarded, walled compound). The only weekday respite from this routine was going to meetings at other places, which we did, a lot, but still always in the armored vehicle. We went to expat dominated restaurants and hotel bars after work, often within sight of (or just across the street from) earthquake crumbled buildings and squalid tent camps. We also had a cook and housekeeper in our big house. We drove in bus convoys on the weekends to Club Indigo, the one “safe” (according to the embassy) beach resort north of Port-au-Prince, a former Club Med, fallen into disrepair, but partially rehabilitated to cater to the thousands of expats who flooded into Haiti post-earthquake. We worked really hard, long, stressful hours, and also partied hard (sometimes at other fancy expat houses), but always inside the insular expat bubble. It was stifling.

Inside the IHRC bubble. No windows. Felt kind of like a space ship, or a set for a 1970's science fiction movie. It would have been perfect if they had made us all wear matching white outfits and slippers.

Inside the IHRC bubble. No windows. Felt kind of like a space ship, or a set for a 1970′s science fiction movie. It would have been perfect if they had made us all wear matching white outfits and slippers.

After getting contracted by Chemonics, I was under a lot fewer security restrictions. We could drive (by which I still mean be driven by a hired driver, Pierre) in a normal, beat up old car that attracted less attention, (though the embassy still provided us with an armored land cruiser or suburban that we used frequently because it was free). I could go to parts of town I couldn’t go to before, and didn’t have a curfew, although our embassy drivers still did. We stopped for street food more often. We went to cheaper, less well known beaches. But, I still lived mostly in expat world. our range of activities and locations was artificially limited. I lived in a hotel for a couple of weeks, and then moved into a beautiful, Chemonics provided house that had been a former ambassador’s residence. It was also on a hill, surrounded by a wall, with guards, and a pool, and overlooking devastation. I had great housemates and friends, but it still was isolated. We each had our own bedroom. I got the master bedroom and bathroom, and it was bigger than Athena and I’s entire house in Tucson. I got out as much as possible from the house, and was the only expat (besides my fellow Peace Corps Response volunteers at the IHRC) who left the IHRC compound everyday on foot to get local street-food lunch, but all in all, it wasn’t much.

Some days, it was so humid inside the IHRC bubble, that we created our own weather. We decided the IHRC was less like a sapceship, and more like a cave. A really cold, wet, air-conditioned cave. I thought AC units were supposed to remove humidity...?

On some days, it was so humid inside the IHRC bubble that we had our own weather formations. We decided that the IHRC was less like a spaceship, and more like a cave. A really cold, wet, air-conditioned cave. Also note: the IHRC housing team are the only people in the building. Our team was the only sector team actively up and running when I first got there. Why it took so long for the rest of the IHRC to get up and running is still a mystery to me. The IHRC actually got up and running on the schedule that had been planned, but it sure felt like it could have happened faster from where I was sitting.

Though I was working at a very different level, and was engaged in work that had a huge impact on the earthquake reconstruction in the medium to long term, there were many days that I desperately envied the on-the-ground volunteers working in the field, directly with Haitian people affected by the quake. At many of the high level meetings I participated in, I often wondered if anyone in the room had ever been inside an average Haitian home, or eaten or normal Haitian meal, or taken local public transportation, or spent time in the Haiti’s rural heartland, or gone to any club that wasn’t de-facto expats and high-society Haitians only, or walked through any of the shanty town communities clinging to the hillsides around Port-au-Prince, or walked anywhere for that matter. Is it possible to help a place without really knowing it? Yes. But wouldn’t your help likely be so much more effective if you did actually know the place and the people better? Certainly there are people and organizations working in Haiti that aren’t as trapped in the expat bubble as the world that I was moving in seemed to be, but these certainly seemed to be the exception rather than the norm when I was there. (Of the course the flip side of that equation is that there were some organizations that were so off in their own la-la land that they were completely oblivious to disaster recovery coordination efforts and would have been much effective if they had actually engaged a little more with the international humanitarian relief efforts and development initiatives already underway).

Eventually, we got partitioned into cubicles at the IHRC. This one was mine.

Eventually, we got partitioned into cubicles at the IHRC. This one was mine.

In any case, I made a lot of good expat friends while living in that bubble, but I didn’t make a lot of close Haitian friends, and that’s a serious regret. It’s hard to be content in the expat bubble after having been a Peace Corps volunteer, but Haiti was one place where my destiny was controlled for me much more than I would normally like. I hope I did some good there, working on housing reconstruction, rubble removal, risk reduction, and environmental conservation from the top down. I hope and believe that some of the work we did at the IHRC has spurred positive development and reconstruction that will help thousands of people, but I really, really wish that I had been given the opportunity to take one week of my time in Haiti to help out by planting some trees or physically rebuilding a house for just one person or family. That would have added immensely to my personal satisfaction with my Haiti experience. Oh well… something I’ve learned for next time.

The IHRC bubble was located inside the walled grounds of the old US-Embassy complex in downtown Port-au-Prince. The Us donated the old embassy to the Haitians, and while I was there it was serving as the office of the Prime Minister. This photo is taken from the steps of the IHRC bubble as IHRC co-chairs Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive speak to the media.

The IHRC bubble was located inside the walled grounds of the old U.S.-Embassy complex in downtown Port-au-Prince. The U.S. donated the old embassy to the Haitians, and while I was there it was serving as the office of the Prime Minister. This photo is taken from the steps of the IHRC bubble as IHRC co-chairs Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive speak to the media on the steps of the old embassy building.

Haiti In The Mirror

•December 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

So, I read a recent New York Times article about Haiti’s ongoing recovery from the 2010 earthquake the other day, and remembered again that I have a huge stash of pictures from Haiti that I never did anything with. I had intended to create a lot more posts from Haiti while I was actually there (~ 10 months in 2010 and 2011), but in the end, I was too busy and tired most of the time. I had initially signed on to be a sustainable farming trainer of trainers in a rural area. Instead I ended up working in the earthquake epicenter in the field of shelter/housing/neighborhood reconstruction, and more peripherally, in environment. Talk about a change of plans, but at least I got to use the ecological planning part of my Masters degree!

I went to Haiti as a Peace Corps Response volunteer, and worked initially for USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, seconded to the Office of the Response Coordinator (ORC) out of the US Embassy complex in Port-au-Prince. I was then seconded (thirded!?) by the ORC to staff the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC). I worked directly for an expert in the field of post-disaster reconstruction planning and management, Priscilla Phelps [she literally wrote the book on the subject]. After the initial 3 months, Chemonics hired me as part of USAID contract to continue staffing the IHRC, but as a well-paid contractor instead of a volunteer. It was a wonderful, terrible, fascinating, interesting, frustrating experience. I learned an incredible amount about large scale disaster response and humanitarian assistance, about urban planning in a post-disaster reconstruction context, and about housing in particular. Without naming names or institutions, I can also say that I got a very unique and high level insiders view of the whole reconstruction effort and the politics/money/egos/best-intentions/good-ideas/terrible-ideas behind it.

I look back on my time in Haiti with very mixed feelings, and hope to spend time there again under different circumstances. Everybody I worked with, and all the people I met with, worked really hard for Haiti and for Haitians, but I’m not at all sure in the end how effective our work was. An incredible amount of money (in many forms) was directed towards Haiti after the earthquake. While it would be incorrect to say that the money was wasted, it would certainly be safe to say that the rate of return on investment has been decidedly less than was desired, with the “return” in this case being measured in terms of the number of Haitians helped in substantial and sustainable long-term ways.

Looking at the situation with a bit of distance now, I am convinced more than ever of the importance of good governance. I know one should not cast stones, but I feel reasonably safe in suggesting that Haiti’s governmental response to the 2010 earthquake disaster was disastrous in and of itself, and largely remains so to this day. As a national government, one must get one’s own house in order if one ever expects to help one’s citizens get their literal and figurative houses in order too. This is especially true in a disaster situation.

Haiti’s governmental house hasn’t really been in order since 1804 or prior, so perhaps I should not be surprised. As a happy non-diplomat a couple years removed from my employment in Haiti, I can now say openly that there was a distinct lack of leadership from the Haitian government in the wake of the disaster, and thus the international community didn’t have a useful partner to work with or critical governmental decision making from which to take unified direction.

Post 2010 earthquake Port-au-Prince (and surrounding suburbs) is not a place that breeds optimism for the future of Haiti. Stable good governance would go a long way to helping Haiti help itself.

Bill Clinton helped set up the IHRC, and acted as it's co-chairman. It's mandate was not renewed after it's initial 18 month term of existence expired.

Bill Clinton helped set up the IHRC, and acted as it’s co-chairman. It’s mandate was not renewed after it’s initial 18 month term of existence expired.

The IHRC, viewed by many on the outside as a complete boondoggle, actually performed a good number of the tasks assigned to it – helping to organize, facilitate, and put in motion a number of the positive developments mentioned in the article I read recently. Everybody on the outside wanted the IHRC to move faster, but in reality the IHRC moved through its accomplishments at an almost identical pace to the very successfully viewed post-Asian-tsunami disaster recovery entity on which it was modeled. So was the IHRC a complete boondoggle? No. Was the IHRC secretly an awesome, amazing, highly effective organization? No. The IHRC did some good work. It could have done a lot better. I’m happy to have had the experience. I loved the spirit and determination and friendliness of the people I worked with. Despite a lucrative offer to stay on, I left the IHRC to return to the US and get married and be poor (in American terms), and that, thankfully, has been way more satisfying than working at the IHRC ever was.

I also learned (again) in Haiti, that real disasters take a long time to recover from. We tend to throw around the word “disaster” too liberally (using it humorously, or perhaps conflating it with “accident” or “misfortune”), thus diminishing its true meaning. But the reality is that disasters overwhelm our human systems and abilities to cope. How long does it realistically take to rebuild a city’s buildings, infrastructure, municipal systems/services that were built over hundreds of years, or for a family to replace a house that took years of saving to buy or belongings that took a lifetime of experiences to accumulate? Realistically, it takes many years. The IHRC’s work, like the rest of the reconstruction, was also judged with unrealistic expectations of how long real reconstruction and “building-back-better” actually takes. Could things have happened faster? Yes. Should things have happened faster? Yes. Would everything be better by now even if things had moved more quickly? Absolutely not.

Some parts of the United States gulf coast, and many parts of New Orleans have not yet recovered from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, and that’s in a country where resources are relatively plentiful, government is relatively functional/effective, and systems for disaster response and recovery are relatively mature. Haiti has none of those things going for it. My thankfully limited exposure to large scale, acute disasters (Hurricane Katrina, and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake) has taught me that however much people may expect/want/hope for disaster recovery to be immediate/perfect/complete, it never will be. That’s why it’s a disaster. Things get better over many 10’s of years. The waiting and everything that goes with it is frustrating for those affected. People get angry, and understandably so, but not always reasonably so. Almost nobody has the full picture.

Ideally, we (as individuals, communities, societies) learn from mistakes, but history suggests that oftentimes we don’t. Sometimes we learn from our mistakes but don’t act on what we have learned because it seems inconvenient in the short term. Needs and desires and political/financial expediencies compete with each other even when hard data clearly suggests what should be done. It’s complicated.

That was another take home message from my post-earthquake experiences in Haiti, and a large reason why I have not written many details before, and am not doing so now. It’s complicated. I see and understand many sides to all of the issues involved, but I don’t have all the answers. Neither do many of the “experts,” and I’m not even one of those.

Two final takeaways from being in Haiti, and from looking back at that experience now:

First, there have been several more powerful earthquakes in populated parts of the developing world since the January 2010 Haiti quake, but none of them have even remotely caused as much death, destruction and long term disruption as the Haiti event because these places were better prepared for disaster. Their national and/or municipal disaster risk reduction plans were better implemented. That’s everything from evacuation and emergency response plans, to having and enforcing a building code which factors in the types of disasters likely to befall that region, to regulating and monitoring the quality of available construction materials, to updating and enforcing environmental regulations which allow nature and natural systems to mitigate many potential disaster effects. Though some work has been done (on creating a building code and on a very limited building inspection regime for example), much of it with outside help from the US/EU/World Bank, the Haitian government has largely failed to tackle most of the underlying reasons for the 2010 earthquake being so disastrous. That means Haiti will inevitably suffer from major disaster again, and it will be worse than it needs to be or has to be. It’s a lack of good decision making and political will more than it is a lack of resources. That makes me mad/sad. More resources inevitably flow to those governments that prove by their actions that they are responsible stewards who can move their country forward as a whole [I realize this is a subjective qualification, but one can also look objectively at a lot of data and come to the same conclusion]. Haiti’s government didn’t, in my opinion, rise to that bar while I was there, and I can’t find much evidence to suggest that they have risen to that bar subsequently.

Second, I note that Haiti is in an area particularly prone to natural calamities of various types. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and tropical storms all spring immediately to mind. Landslides and floods are frequent and directly related to the above events. Climate change is and will continue to make the weather related calamities occur more frequently, with less predictable patterns of timing, and with greater intensity. This will likely get worse before it gets better… for a long time. Haiti is perhaps the nation least equipped to deal with climate change impacts of any in North or South America. Haiti suffers from nearly complete environmental degradation of its mountains, hills, coasts, suburban regions, and urban areas. Haiti is not responsible for a great deal of climate change, but the government could do a lot to mitigate climate change’s effects on Haitian citizens by taking serious, sweeping action to clarify and simplify centuries of complex land tenure decrees and statutes, by actively abiding by international environmental treaties it has signed, and by enforcing even its existing environmental laws [our team at the IHRC cataloged them, there are actually a lot more than people think] — especially those related to mangrove protection, surface mining, tree cutting, urban planning/zoning, and protected area management. A serious push for urban sanitation and solid waste management solutions would also make the majority of the Haitian population less susceptible to climate change induced flooding and associated outbreaks of diseases.

None of these actions would be easy, but they would be incredibly worthwhile and would contribute immensely to making Haitians healthier, lowering disaster risk, increasing tourist and investment potential, and helping to break the cycle of disasters that helps keep Haiti perpetually impoverished and always fighting to recover from losses rather than starting from a stable footing and being able to move forward with the rest of the Western hemisphere. Get it together Haitian Government. I know (and agree with) some of the arguments about the negative effects of international aid and other “meddling” in Haitian affairs, but this is largely on you. Seriously. I have seen how you work from up close and personal experience, and while I met a couple of very nice and seemingly good-hearted individual politicians in addition to all the smarmy ones in my time there, I can say without reservation that on the whole, and as governments of the world go in general, you suck.

(here are some good pictures that accompanied the recent New York Times article)

Highlights From Bonnaroo 2011 (Part 2)

•November 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

(Here begins a series of never published blog posts from the last year and a half.)

The continuing adventures of Jesse and Athena at Bonnaroo 2011. (For Part 1, please click here.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day three dawned, and we were already battle weary. It gets hot early, and unnecessarily bright. Next time we will bring better fort building materials.

This was the day with the hardest choices about what to see and what to miss. It was the longest day. Overall, it was the best, despite a couple of so-so misses.

First on Saturday’s docket…

Cheer Up Charlie Daniels – An up and coming Nashville indie rock band with good costumes, good energy, and a killer live set on one of the smaller stages. Bonus points to the lead singer lady with an awesome fro and wearing a wonder woman outfit first thing in the morning. This was one of those caught-my-interest-while-walking-by bands that I hadn’t planned on seeing and wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. I’d see them in a club any day, but not in a big venue.

nice wonder woman outfit!

We caught Cheer Up Charlie Daniels playing first thing in the morning.

Shahidah Omar – Interesting. Good interesting as opposed to bad, but interesting in the way a new food might be not exactly gross, and possibly even good, but nevertheless not something you would order again. Shadidah brought an all female band, and played an entirely unique hybrid of thrash rock, electronic dance, smooth R&B, aaaaand…. opera. Sometimes all in the same song. She also dances a lot and flings her long hair around with vigor. I really wanted to like her music more, but never quite got over the hump. Too esoteric, or she was having an off night, or she’s just not talented enough, or maybe I just don’t like her style of music? The jury is out. I’d give her another shot, but I wouldn’t pay for it.

Shahidah Omar had style, but substance?

Abigail Washburn – Athena and I came back for a second dose of Abigail today – this time with a different set than yesterday and a different duet partner. Equally good. I’m totally smitten, at least with her live show. Rumor has it that she and Bela Fleck got married last year (2010), which happily means that she’s a local Nashville girl now. The joke is that their offspring will be the one banjo player to rule them all. Mostly I just like to see smart, friendly, talented people playing smart, friendly, talented music. Two thumbs up.

Old Crow Medicine Show – We got great spots near the front. OCMS puts on an excellent, high energy string band show. Sort of a rock-n-roll punk energy applied to bluegrass and old-time music, with good songwriting to boot. They were on the #2 big stage and easily held the audience, which is saying a lot for a bluegrass band in a big outdoor rock venue. “Wagon Wheel” was of course a highlight. I also really enjoyed the songs from their new Tennessee Pusher album. The horn section from Mumford and Sons came out to join them for a couple of songs. Horns make a great addition to the OCMS sound! One of the band members was sporting a Purity Dairy baseball cap. I grew up with Purity Dairy milk and Ice Cream. I want one of those hats, but Athena asked a driver the other day and he says even the employees can’t get a hat anymore. Bummer.

Old Crow Medicine Show hitting all the right notes on Saturday.

Black Uhuru – Sadly, Jah has left the building. Black Uhuru were a reggae superpower during the late 70’s and early 80’s. I have a bunch of good music by them on CD, but this Bonnaroo show presented a band a bit past its prime musically, and well past its prime in terms of excitement. They were not bad, and would still blow most small-time reggae bands out of the water in a head-to-head roots reggae battle, but the fire is gone, and with it my interest. They still play their instruments and sing with professional aplomb, but their old songs sound old, and their new songs sound blah. Maybe it was just the after lunch hot afternoon sleepy time slot, but Black Uhuru didn’t do it for me, and the meager crowd seemed to agree. I’d still see them in a club, but I won’t waste an outdoor festival pick on them again. I saw Toots and the Maytals a few years ago, who are older and have been around even longer than Black Uhuru, and I’m sure they would still kick Black Uhuru’s ass in terms of excitement and musicianship.

Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas – I have a complaint. Alison Krauss always sounds EXACTLY the same, which is to say that she sounds really good, and so does her band, but seriously, I’ve seen them perform live four times now, and each time they performed exactly note-perfect renditions of the songs on their studio albums. That takes a huge amount of talent, but eventually it’s also really boring. This Bonnaroo set was a prime example. I love Alison’s voice every time I hear it. She plays great fiddle, but NEVER lets go and jams out (at least not at any of the shows I’ve been to). Jerry Douglas on dobro is consistently amazing. Her band leader Dan Tyminski (of O Brother Where Art Thou fame) is top notch. In fact, he and the band outshone Alison both on this occasion and the last time I saw them. Alison and Union Station have the talent to rock it out hard (in a bluegrass kind of way), but instead this performance seemed fairly robotic. It’s Bonnaroo for God’s sake. Have some fun Alison. Also, stick to bluegrass. Stay away from middle-of-the-road contemporary country crap and slick production, and yes, PLEASE make another album with Robert Plant. Unlike this Bonnaroo show, that Raising Sand album kicked ass!

Alison Krauss and Union Station played every note perfectly. Again.

Mumford and Sons – Wow. Here was the biggest miscalculation of the festival on the part of the organizers. They put Mumford and Sons on the #2 big stage instead of the #1 main stage. What were they thinking? This was by far the most overcrowded show of the whole festival, but it was also one of the better ones. Roots music meets alternative pop with an English accent. Is there such a genre as British Americana? A big excited crowd makes for an exciting show almost regardless of who’s playing, and in this case Mumford and Sons was in good form and the crowd knew all the words for singing along. I didn’t even get close to the front for this show, and short of crowd surfing there was literally no way to get there. I had fun in the back though, and I hope these guys won’t turn out to be a one album wonder. For now though, I’m digging it, and expect to see them again someday. I’m crossing my fingers that there’s no sophomore slump for these gents. More of the same please.

Loretta Lynn – Simply. Amazing. Loretta Lynn has the kind of old school showmanship that younger acts just don’t get, and she was definitely the master of ceremonies on this stage. Not only that, she looked totally psyched to be at Bonnaroo. So, after spinning nearly effortlessly through the best of the classic old-school country canon (not just her own hits), with a solid backing band who all looked to be less than half her 80 years in age, she opened up the floor for requests, saying something to the effect of “I can sing any song you can think of.” And she did. She took every request and sang it. She warbled here and there, but mostly sounded strong, and as experienced older masters do, she let her band take up the slack and seamlessly fill in the holes or stall for time as needed. This was the first time I have seen the “Queen of Country Music” play live, and I suspect it will be the last… but man it was good. It was awesome to see an elderly Kentucky backwoods country gal completely win over a crowd of 20-something college rock fans and hippies. I almost cried.

The Queen of Country Music, Loretta Lynn, sang every request.

Bootsy Collins – Bootsy came on late. I mean really, really late. Like 5 minutes before the next act was supposed to come onto the same stage late. But who cares. It was Bootsy Collins. He doesn’t give a shit. As the former bass player for both James Brown and Parliament/Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins has a legitimate claim to the title of “funkiest bass player in the solar system,” and trust me, he would be the first to tell you how cool he is. He’s not what I would call shy. Bootsy is what I would call awesome. He came out into one of the bigger tent stages with a huge contingent of players (the “Rubber Band”), including the bassist/guitarist from Public Enemy, and basically funked up the joint until whenever the hell he wanted to stop. Stage manager be damned. The kick ass bass playing was only matched by the outrageousness of his outfit. AHHHHHhhhhhhhh…… the name is BOOTSY baby! Yeah.

Bootsy Collins points to the funk on Saturday night.

Buffalo Springfield – On the #2 big stage. This show was both an overall festival highlight for me, and probably the most frustrating show of the whole weekend. GRRRRRR. Buffalo Springfield were incredible. They rocked hard. They looked 30 years younger. They sang like teenagers. They had energy to spare. But the sound was turned off! It was almost inaudible beyond the first thirty rows (where I was not). The main speaker stack blew out at the end of the band before Buffalo Springfield, and the sound techs couldn’t get it fixed until after Buffalo Springfield finished. It was like listening to a rock concert while submerged at the bottom of a swimming pool. The sound thunder from this stage for all the other bands this weekend blew everyone away, from the front row to the campground. So why the hell did the the stack have to blow before they went on. GRRRRRR. They sounded so good. I just wanted it to be louder. So. Much. Louder. Thankfully, the band seemed completely oblivious as they thrashed about on stage. Presumably their mix through the monitors on stage was plenty loud. Stephen Stills looked and sounded better than I have seen him in 20 years. Neil Young still runs circles around all of his old rock-n-roll buddies though. My favorite moment of the whole day was the entire crowd (including me) screaming along to a super hard, super distorted, super long version of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World,” which I had never actually seen him perform in all my days of seeing Neil’s live shows. It was the best encore they could have picked. Wow that was great! I’m guessing I’ll never see Buffalo Springfield again, and if I do, they’ll never be this good. So, this was a definite highlight for me. Neil Young reportedly said after the show that it was “the greatest thing [Buffalo Springfield] has ever done.” At the very least, it was the biggest crowd they had ever performed for as a band. They were excited and it showed. This could have been like the Rolling Stones or The Who looking old and sounding terrible at the Super Bowl, but it wasn’t. This was top notch classic rockers getting the real Led out one last time. I hope somebody got a soundboard mix or professional video that didn’t go through the PA system… everything I’ve seen online is crap from the audience.

Dr. John with The Meters, Alan Toussaint, and Arthur Neville – A New Orleans super group. Pretty much the pantheon of New Orleans musical royalty really. This was great, funky fun. Dr. John’s starting to look and sound a little old, but he’s still got the rhythm, and he can still tinkle the keys with the best of them. The Meters lived up to their funky selves of yore, and the Toussaint and Neville names are inexorably linked with 60’s/70’s New Orleans jazz, blues, and “second line” street party music. This show was a little bit of all of these, and not enough of any of them. I wanted to get a closer view and had to settle for being off to the side in front of a speaker stack. All I could see of Dr. John behind the big grand piano was his snake skin shoes sticking out the bottom, and his wild gris-gris hat sticking out on top. His piano playing always makes me happy. This time was no exception. The Meters were reunioning just for this Bonnaroo gig, so I’m guessing this was yet another once in a lifetime musical catch for me. This show was good, but it should have been great.

The String Cheese Incident – My notes for this show simply say, “Good. Same as always.” Which is to say, hippie rock meets bluegrass. Long, extended jams. Lots of noodling. Lots of fun. Lots of spaced out sections interspersed with the whole audience jumping up and down in happy unison. A normal String Cheese show. Nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe a little rusty. I like SCI, and when they are on, they’re quite good. Michael Kang is a good mandolin player, but not as good as he thinks he is. Any number of professional Nashville musicians would kick his butt in a mandolin picking accuracy or speed contest, but the fact that he more often plays electric rather than acoustic mandolin helps him hide the flaws. It’s fun and the band sounds good regardless, still, I cringe a little bit when he misses. It’s like a singer going for a high note that he can’t quite reach. In this case, Kang goes for fancy runs that he can’t quite strike all the notes on without flubbing a bit. He’s always done it. He probably always will. I probably shouldn’t care. But I do. Thumbs up for this show.

Girl Talk – The biggest dance party of the festival was surely this one. A giant sweaty, dirty, bouncing, epileptic fit inducing mass of flesh and fun and flashing lights. Athena and I watched from the back for awhile, but we were on our way to Gogol Bordello, so we didn’t wade in. Girl Talk, whatever the guy’s name is, is a wizard with popular samples and good beats. Just the right combination of clever, fun, and raunchy. A good time was had by all. At some point I’m going to have a proper dance party with this…

Gogol Bordello with Devotchka – Bizarre. Fantastic. Crazy. Mixed-up. Outrageous. Wonderful. I honestly had no idea what I was going to see, and after the fact, I’m still not sure. All I can say is that it was entirely unlike anything else at the festival. Musical. Theatrical. Kind of like Rocky Horror with an Eastern European Gypsy punk rock string band sitting in for the actors. There were lots of musical guests who’s names got lost in the chaos. All I can really say now is that whatever this was, it happened at 3 AM, and I liked it.

What a day.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

We slept in Sunday morning. Saturday was epic. Sunday, the denouement.

Railroad Earth – I thought I knew all the good jam bands. Turns out I was wrong. I had never heard of Railroad Earth before, but as there was nothing else I wanted to see in the same time slot, I went over to check them out. It turns out they’re a pretty darn good band from New Jersey. I would classify them as lightly hippie flavored country-rock jam band. Kind of like Pure Prarie League meets Yonder Mountain String Band meets The Allman Brothers, but without the southern accent. This was a happy surprise. I love discovering new bands/music. I’m going to find some albums by this crew, and see if I can find them playing a longer set at a smaller festival somewhere in the future. Good stuff.

Mavis Staples – I would go see Mavis Staples perform 50 more times, and enjoy it every time. She and Athena had a soul connection going on, and I was getting it too. Hot damn can she sing with feeling. This was yet another case of a 70+ performer showing the younger acts how to take-us-to-the-river. Yes! This set made me feel GOOD. Classic soul, funky gospel, and an amazing version of The Weight with guests Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller. She sang her classic “I’ll Take You There,” and boy did she ever. I wish I was still there. Catch her while you can kids, cause she ain’t getting any younger, and her sets are getting shorter. But she can still bring it, and she is the most friendly person as well. An absolute Bonnaroo highlight for me, and my favorite mass sing-along artist of the whole festival [a possible tie with the Buffalo Springfield set]. This was a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

Junip – Well now, this was funny. I went to see Junip based on the strength of just one song that I had randomly picked up on a free sampler at a record store somewhere. Musically, they were nothing at all like I thought they were based on the song I heard. This could either be very bad, or very good, and in this case it was the latter… once I got over wondering if I had gone to the wrong show and found an entirely different band. I was thinking they would be rootsy acoustic, but instead they are indie rock with a strong electronic element. Also, they’re from Sweden. I admit to being mildy distracted by the perkily bosomed topless woman who came and stood in front of me halfway through the set, so another Junip show, perhaps with a bit more pre-show background listening will be in order before I can decide how much I really like or don’t like their music. It appeared that I wasn’t the only one with a quizzical look on my face, so I’m guessing some other folks were feeling the same.

Galactic – These guys always put on a good show, and this one was no exception. It seemed like there was some kind of New Orleans theme going on at Bonnaroo, what with Galactic and Dr. John, and the Meters etc. all hanging about. Galactic is a good fit for Bonnaroo. They play jazz, funk, and rock, and they dig long instrumental jams. Plus they have a horn section. This was not the best Galactic show I have seen [ok, I’ve only seen them once before, and yes, it was better], but it was far from the worst, and most everyone seemed to be having a good time. On the plus side, this show featured former Living Color front man Corey Glover on vocals for most of the set, and it’s clear that he’s lost absolutely nothing since his “Cult of Personality” days. The more I think about this show, the more I like it, but liking it retrospectively is not the same as liking it in the moment, and for whatever the reason, I tuned out part of this show. There was though, a particular drum solo coolness moment, that I cannot begin to describe. That part had Athena and I talking for awhile after the show, but I’m not sure a drum solo should be the main thing you talk about after the show. Final verdict, very good, but missing that intangible something to make it great. I would definitely go see Galactic again.

Robert Plant and The Band of Joy – Athena and I somehow ended up in the front row of a Led Zeppelin concert at sunset on a farm in Tennessee! Well, ok, not Led Zeppelin, but let me be clear, this was one of my favorite sets by any band all festival long. An absolute highlight, and one I’ll remember for a long time. First of all, some people just exude Rock Star. Many musicians try to exude Rock Star, and many others think that they exude Rock Star, but only a very limited number of people actually exude Rock Star while just walking down the street or buying groceries, or standing in a room. This level of charisma and sheer force of presence is probably possessed by only a small elite of musicians, world leaders, and religious figures. I imagine that natural born Rock Star is a genetic selection rather than a learned trait, and I’m pretty sure that Robert Plant is one of these rare people. From the very instant he stepped on stage, he was rock superhero incarnate. His hair, his clothes, his swagger, the way he stood, the way he walked, the way he tilted the microphone stand. This dude has lost NOTHING over time. It was awesome. Robert Plant backed by a Nashville based super group of Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Darrell Scott, and Byron House. I couldn’t ask for anything better. This was musical bliss. Buddy Miller shreds like nobody’s business on the guitar, Patty Griffin is very much a match for Plant in both the vocal power and nuance department, and it turns out that Robert Plant can still do the patented Led Zeppelin era wail and moan. Darrell Scott played 4 different instruments, and Byron House is always rock solid on the bass. I’m pretty sure they had been on tour for a few months before this gig, and they were firing on all cylinders at this show. I haven’t heard the studio album this group produced, but I’m willing to bet that this live show would blow it away. As I noted with Mumford and Sons, is there such a thing as a British Americana genre? This excellent reimagining of the Led Zeppelin canon, and the other songs that fit in naturally with that ouvre, makes me think that there is actually something to that idea. Irregardless, when a band is having this much fun, the audience does too. Great stuff. Great show!

Former Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant brought down the house on Sunday afternoon!

Merlefest Superjam featuring Dr. John w/Dan Auerbach and Friends – I was almost too tired to care anymore at this point. It sounded great, but I couldn’t bring myself to push up towards the front. I did manage a couple of photos of Dr. John where I could actually see his face, but I wasn’t nearly as close as I wanted. Supposedly Dr. John has a new album coming out with these guys, and if that’s true, it should be fabulous. The good doctor really looked like he was having a great time, but he also looked really tired. We only stayed for part of this show, then went over to lay around in front of the main stage and wait for Widespread Panic to begin.

Gris-gris master Dr. John let the good times roll on Sunday. Scary good.

Widespread Panic – Athena and I were completely exhausted by this point. Widespread was the closing show for the whole festival on Sunday night. All the other stages had been shut down. This was 80,000 blissed out, tired people on the big lawn jumping up and down for 2½ hours of nearly unbroken rock-n-roll jam band goodness. I have never seen more glow sticks circles balloon thingamabobs etc than I saw at this show. There were literal explosions of glow sticks going off for 2 hours. There was also a constant stream of candle powered paper lanterns being released from somewhere and floating off into the night in a beautiful/peaceful sky parade that seemed contrary to all the noise on the ground. As much as I enjoy Widespread Panic, this was a little too long for Athena and I. We must be getting old. By the end we just wanted to get back to our tent and go to sleep for 4 days.

And so, at the last note, we filtered out into the night with our 80,000 friends. Super satiated. Super satisfied. Super psyched to have experienced Bonnaroo for the first time. What a great 4 days of music. What fun people watching. What a good event.

My favorite shows: Ben Solee, Bela Fleck & The (Original) Flecktones, Abigail Washburn, Del McCoury Band w/The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Loretta Lynn, Buffalo Springfield, Mavis Staples, and Robert Plant & The Band of Joy.

Bonnaroo 2011!

We’ll be back.

 
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