Sunday, July 10, 2005

Tennessee you later

I slept in my own bed last night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Last weekend, we spent Friday night 'til Sunday afternoon in Grand Isle. We may or may not have gotten out of the Gulf due to a shark. It may or may not have been a dolphin or porpoise. But in light of recent attacks, we felt it better to get out of the cesspool that is the beach at Grand Isle.

Although, the infinitely wise grandmother-in-law said we wouldn't have to worry about sharks coming to Grand Isle because "we have warm water here, and sharks don't like it where it's warm. They go where it's cooler." Yeah. That explains why there are so many sharks in Antarctica instead of Florida.

Spent Monday with my parents while Mark worked. Packed. Watched "Team America." The funny thing about that movie is that it's political to you. It caters to your beliefs. To me, it blasts the war, calling it dumb, and blasts America for being so self-righteous. To Kurt, it exists totally to show movie stars how dumb they are for protesting the war. To Matt, it was a terrific send-up spoof of action films. So, bravo, you comedic geniuses. But, next time, take out the vomit and add more puppet sex. And panthers.

Sex panthers?

Anyway, moving right along...

Went to Tennessee on Tuesday. Stayed in Memphis overnight. Saw Graceland, that paeon to all that is wrong with American pop culture, and went to a mall to play blacklight mini-golf, blacklight bowling, and to get an aqua massage, which is heaven on Earth. This year, they even made the water heated. Oh yeah...pardon me while I revel in that memory for a moment...

Moved on to Nashville Wednesday. Went to the COuntry Music Hall of Fame. LAAAAAME. Went to Nashville Shores Water Park. Didn't have many slides. We got bored of it quickly. Moved on to a mall. Ate a good salad. It had eggplant and feta in it. Need I say more? Went to the Nashville JCC. We had six kids and three adults: me, new guy, and an Israeli guy who was fun. Reminded me of Alex. Just darker complected. And not a stoner. Annnnyyyyywaaaayyy...the J was HUGE. The bathroom/locker room area was divided into under 17 and over 18. We could use the adult locker rooms, but the kids couldn't. As the only female counselor, I felt like royalty, plunging into the hot tub, having total control of the room, and complete and utter privacy.

Decided that my problems with camp this year come from the two girls who were on the trip. Big surprise, it's my Ritalin kids. I'm giving them to Pam on the Western Adventure. Sorry, but I'll be with Ritalin kids all year long...I'll need a major break.

Like the other campers. Have lost all tolerance with these two girls.

And back to the stories.

New guy didn't have a chance for major eff ups this time around. Not enough kids, and too many adults. As well as not enough chances to lead a group around. Almost had fun with him.

On Thursday, we drove three hours to Whitwell, TN. It's in the Appalachains, and it's about as far-removed from society as possible. The guy we spoke with there said some people still don't have running water and use rain barrels to bathe. Some do not have electricity yet. I didn't know areas like this still existed.

So why Whitwell?

Whitwell is home to Whitwell Middle School, subject of the Miramax documentary "Paperclips." It is a town of 1,500. WMS had four black students and one hispanic. All the rest are white Protestants. Most never leave the valley. But they started a project to study the Holocaust. They wanted to collect 6 million paperclips to represent the 6 million exterminated Jews. The project started in 1998. At the end of the first year, they had not collected even 1 million. They projected that it would take 10 years to reach the goal at the current rate.

Then, two German correspondants to the White House heard about the project from a 95-year-old survivor, who found it on the Internet. They got the Washington Post involved, as well as Tom Brokaw. And suddenly, the project took off. Stephen Spielberg sent in 1 million clips. People sent them clips on pieces of paper that simply said "Paper Clip 1: So-and-so." "Paper Clip 2: Such and Such." Each stood for someone they knew or lost. They received outpourings of support from famous people, from regular people, from 6 continents, from survivors, from survivors families, from the families of the dead. They recieved hate mail, including one from a man who signed his letter, "Seig Heil, Tommy." The letter accused the school of teaching the kids propaganda about a made-up phenomenon. Attached to the letter was a straightened out paper clip, and the message was, "This is what I think of your project." Another letter had clips bent into swastikas. They also received a suitcase, which belonged to a victim and was found in a camp, from Germany. It had pieces of paper in it attached to oversized clips. Each was a letter of apology to Anne Frank from German school children.

WMS has saved everything. They have autographed photos from Jim Carrey, from The Shrub, from Henry Winkler, and from Spock. They have support letters and hate mail in binder after binder. They have artwork from visitors. They have everything saved in their tiny library, which, before the project, had one book on the Holocaust that hadn't been checked out in 30 years. Now, they have cases of videos and literature on the subject.

We spent two hours reading these letters. Or trying to, as many were in foreign languages. I had to pull the kids away from it to move on to the boxcar.

The boxcar is a railroad car that was used during WW2 to transport people to the camps. It had to be disinfected before it could be brought to America. The floors of such cars were covered in lime, and as people died or went to the bathroom, the lime was used to cover the odors. Immediately following the war, the car was used to transport grain. Then, it was retired, and was used in "Enemy at the Gates." Its sibling cars were destroyed during filming. It was also in bad shape and needed to be restored. (See above thoughts on my take on "Team America" to get an idea of how I felt upon hearing that.) It was rescued by the diplomats (the Schroeders), purceased for $6,000, and reached America September 9, 2001. It was en route to WMS on September 11, 2001. There's bitter irony in that. It made it to WMS a few days later.

The car was placed on the WMS campus. The whole town turned out in committee form to prepare the area. Tracks were laid down. The car was restored and braced to hold the weight of its new cargo. A rock garden and regular garden were set all around it. A monument containing 11 million paper clips (one for each victim, no matter what the reason of the Holocaust.) 18 butterflies, symbolizing freedom, children, new life, and, of course, chai, were painted (later mosaics, because the paint wore off) or sculpted around the car. And, another 11 million clips were placed, with the suitcase of apology letters, inside the car. In all, over 32 million clips have been collected.

To walk up to the car, to hold those letters, to sift through the paper clips, and to stand inside the car are all very sobering experiences. We signed a guestbook. We met the man behind the project. We stood in silence and reflected. We dragged the kids away. We cried during the documentary. The juxtaposition of a memorial to something so horrible in a setting so beautiful.....

We brought 9 people. Half chai. Even though the project is over, we are sending in two paper clips each. Chai. They told us that at least two boxes a week still roll in. The extras are added to the car anyway. We will each put our clips in. One for each of us for our visit, one each for a person we want to honor.

The most beautiful thing of all:

One child, and what does THIS say for Orleans Parish Public Schools, did not know what the Holocaust was. She had NEVER heard of it. We had to teach her about it. When it was time to move to the boxcar, I had to drag the kids away from the books. And the last child, the one I had to coax the most, was the one who had never heard of what she was reading about. I think our jobs were done. I almost cry just thinking about it.

We were supposed to go to the Jack Daniels Distillery, but since we were so far away, we didn't make it in time for a tour. So we went to Grand Old Golf and Games. We did two rounds of mini-golf apiece. It was hard-core. We had to jump the balls across rivers and stuff. Then we played in the arcade, where I found...get X-FILES PINBALL MACHINE! I played it. And did well. And took pictures of it. We had a pizza party, played poker (for chips and giggles only), and went to bed at 3. We got up at 5, loaded the bus, and were on the road by 6. I was asleep before 7.

Got home, showered, dressed, drove to Thibodaux. Went to a wedding. Found out someone we always thougth was gay is actually gay and has a boyfriend. Had to prevent to groom from beating him up after he gave the bride a lapdance. Mark had to escort him out early. Bride's brother threatened him. Bride and Groom got in a fight at the reception. No alcohol was served. But the groomsmen all had bottles of beer. The guests whore shorts, stretch pants, slippers, you name it. We were so overdressed. The reception was in the NSU ballroom. Bride works there and got a great deal on it. Spent the night in Mark's old apartment, now Phil's apartment. Went to La Casa for lunch with the in-laws, then to C and M Music in Houma for a sale so Phil could buy stuff. Walked out with Mark's Christmas present to me. Yup...a Guitar. It was on sale as a package deal: amp, guitar, gig bag, picks, strap,'s an off brand, but it's pretty and will be something great to learn on. Come on, December!! Hung out at the apartment like old times, went to dinner with Amanda and Mike at Ground Pat'i (damn, but Thibodaux is booming!!!!) and got a Blizzard at DQ. Drove home, unloaded car, picked up daiquiris, went to the A5 palace. Came home, slept in my own bed. Nothing sweeter than that.


DevS said...

That things about the Orleans Parish Public Schools is awful! That is just unbelievable!

anne said...

I feel so bad for the bride. That was terrible. If I know the lap dancer please email me and let me know who.

Also...some sharks like warm water, some like cold. Depends on the species. But there aren't any in Antarctica.

Amy said...


Such is a south Louisiana wedding. Didn't expect that? Neither did I.