Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Kathleen Update

Race To The Cape Where the Oak Tree Should Stand.

Gulfport to Biloxi Yacht Race, Mississippi. 6/10/07
Kathleen Johnson

A thirty nine year tradition in these parts. Nine entries last year and thirteen this year. Despite the storm - progress. Although the finish port is not the same - this yacht club was close enough to Biloxi to be the "Cape".

It has been many a year since I was out racing - I am still a fish out of water in this game. I was a young teenager, in Western Australia, just out of high school when I started racing at home. Thought I knew it all then. Even a couple of rescues by the river police didn't daunt my
enthusiasm. At that time I was also racing Olympic kayaks and was in tip top shape. And here I am at 56 racing again - as a Volitourist.

As a region, the Gulf Coast is coming back from Katrina. I find myself not talking about the hardships down here - probably because I do not want to hear it again as it was painful enough the first, second, and third time. To relieve the pain they relay their hardship to recovery
over and over. And we listen trying to formulate a unique plan to their unique situation – not a socialized solution in a one size fits alls FEMA platform.

It's not all yacht clubs and limousines either (yes there was a limousine outside the yacht club picking up a patron from the race who didn't want to motor back the few miles to Gulfport). On the trip back from Biloxi to Gulfport on 90 - it's not hard to see the devastation as it's all gone excepting a couple of new Waffle Houses. They themselves are an enigma between the new grand land based casino at each end of the highway between Biloxi and Gulfport - both
business entities serve entirely two sets of demographics.

For me - it is an afternoon to escape from the misery I see and hear everyday in this recovery. It's not about recovery - but deferred maintenance on poverty. A far cry from the lifestyle out on the high seas on a sunny summer afternoon going from yacht club to yacht club.

This is not the chocolate city of New Orleans - not even close. In fact - I do not see any of my clients here sipping wine on the leeward side of the yacht club in the shade. What a shame that is - I miss their wonderful down to earth sense of humor and good manners. This is a far
different world than the world I work in every day - and that other world is just around the corner from here over the hill back a few miles from the sea. There they are just as proud, just as strong, just as determined to recover. It is just a different world with a different set
of tools to recover with. Not a lot of money - just resilience.

For an afternoon - the locals here on the beach relive their recent past as it was, as it will be again with hard work and perseverance. The new palms and newly planted oaks on 90 stand testament to optimism.

There will be recovery Gulf wide. Like in the classic novel, "Animal Farm", some will be more equal in the process than others. We still have far to go in this quest for equity. No one is planting new oak trees or palm trees in the Middletown of Waveland, Ms - even the local Martin Luther King Park has yet to acquire either. But the locals only talk about shortfalls in hushed whispers amongst themselves or are in denial that it is an issue at all - that way the problem will go away and all will be well in the world. Still there is a space where the Oak tree should stand.

Picture Slide Show

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