The Unbearable Lightness of Giving. (or Karma? Meh.)


Today’s Music: Shawn Colvin – All Fall Down

So this weekend, my girl and I spent a day volunteering for Sandy recovery.
We showed up at a church at 520 Clinton Ave in Brooklyn to lend a hand.

It only looks like a warm cozy environment.

We get there and spend 15 minutes waiting to sign in. We write our names on a piece of tape and stick it to our jackets. (The registration is so that we can be on the mailing list. Glad we weren’t wasting time…)
We go into the pen where we are to wait for the volunteer orientation, and we have a chance to look over the place.
Wow!
Towers of clothes, water, supplies, tools. Boxes of gear needed to clean up affected areas and give necessities to those that need them.
The entire operation was staffed by volunteers, and looked like a drunk walking – the rear foot constantly throwing the body off balance, the front foot catching it just in time, and repeat.

This is the inside of the church.


In fact, what I was most surprised by is how organized they were, and how people actually seemed to be in charge. Past volunteer experiences seemed to be more along the lines of “show up, and if you see something that needs to be done, do it”.
That seems to work well enough, since people that show up do want to help, and anyone that survives the turmoil for an hour or two becomes defacto leader until they move on and someone else takes over.
But it was nice to see an overall plan being implemented.

So after 5 minutes of sitting waiting for orientation, I learned two things:
- While I try to be open minded and not judge people on appearances, it’s very hard with hipsters.
- Especially when said hipster gets me to do something I’m not particularly keen on, and then offers encouragement wrapped around the word “jam” for the next 10 minutes.

Sitting in a chair with about 6 other people, groovy hipster comes over and shouts “Does anyone have cooking experience? We need help in the kitchen”.
Picture a simultaneously scowling and sneering El Guapo raising his hand.
While I cooked for a living for many years, it is not high on my list of fun things to do in a production environment. My girl and I had been hoping to lend a hand at the Rockaway Beach area. We surf there, and really like the neighborhood, so this would be a good “give back” kind of thing.
But this was also volunteering. And if they needed cooks…
So I said sure, gave a quick run down of my experience, and we follow the guy. Who must have seen my expression. Because i was subject to a litany of encouraging phrases along the lines of “It’ll be cool. You can make the cooking your Jam.” “Once you start, you know, you’ll be in your Jam.” “After your Jam is going, it’ll be great”.

Gee, and to think I’m not such a fan of people. Meh.

So my girl and I and one other go down to the kitchen. Sal is doing a bang up job as the chef, cranking out hundreds of meals from a small kitchen, with a 6 burner stove and 2 shelf oven to work with.
This isn’t gruel or slop. This is good food made almost entirely with donated ingredients.
But he’s weeded (ridiculously busy). And that small kitchen is hot.
Sal (after a moment of our recruiter trying to get his attention): EVERYONE WHO ISN’T COOKING SOMETHING RIGHT NOW, GET. OUT.”

Understood. He isn’t being a jerk. He’s trying to get a job done. Having been on both sides of that when cooking, I know where he’s coming from, and fade back into the small auditorium outside the kitchen, now a massive prep kitchen.
And start peeling a literal ton of vegetables.

The highlights:
- Try and donate potatoes larger than a fat thumb. Seriously. Almost more trouble than it’s worth to peel them.
- Try to donate carrots that aren’t flaccid. Also easier to peel.
- Donate peelers. Really. Having thirty isn’t helpful when twenty five of them are junk.
- Don’t slice your finger while opening pumpkins.

It was more embarrassing than painful…

- Listen to the conversations around you. At one point, Phil (a restaurateur from Connecticut) asked Heather (a Sandy regular from Vermont) about composting.
Heather launched into a detailed five minute explanataion of why they weren’t composting, how terrible it was that organic trash had been mixed with non-organic, the difficulties of finding compost pickup in Brooklyn, and how wonderful composting is.
Phil listened, and when Heather wound down, said “Oh, I don’t really care.” and went back to what he was doing.

Took me about a minute to stop laughing.

In the end, it really was a productive day. While it wasn’t my first choice of how to spend it, it was a useful necessary task. The people that will be getting the food will be very happy they did.
But next time, I think I’ll try to get in the group that’s clearing debris by the beach.

Oh, and the only sad part? After all that, I still didn’t win the lottery Saturday night.

Karma?
Meh.

(But in all seriousness, the organizers and volunteers all seemed to be working, and it was for a good cause for people that still do need the help.)

About these ads

97 responses to “The Unbearable Lightness of Giving. (or Karma? Meh.)

  1. Keep up these good deeds, and that lottery ticket will soon be yours. Or at least it better be.

    And I’m with you–peeling small potatoes is definitely not the ‘Jam.’

    Like

  2. Nice post, Guap and good on you for lending a hand…or thumb…whatever the case may be.

    Like

  3. 30 peelers and 25 are lousy … oh how true! Interestingly, I started thinking about that as soon as you mentioned peeling. Nonetheless, thumbs up to both of you for volunteering! Great post!!!!

    Like

  4. You’re good peeps, El G. Good to know about donating things like cooking utensils, etc. It’s all practical info that’s helpful to know. I hope karma pays you a long visit soon.

    Like

    • Thanks Madame.
      I was surprised though that the Occupy Sandy people managed to stock a kitchen with all the tools needed to crank out all that food.
      Regardless of politics or philosophical bent, they really are doing good work as far as this goes.

      Like

  5. I knew I’d always love you and Mrs. El G. That’s forever, by the way.

    Like

  6. I gave you the lottery numbers, remember?

    What you did was good Jam (I actually snickered as I typed that), and, find out if Phil is married. He sounds like my kind of guy.

    Like

  7. A gripping life

    Okay, so it wasn’t an adrenaline rush, more of a blood letting, but still. I think you did real good, you and the mrs. – definitely worth some brownie points in the form of winning tickets.

    Like

    • Thanks Grippy.
      Now that you mention it, they did also cook food for the volunteers (pasta in a garlic tomato sauce with…wait for it…carrots.)
      Sadly, I think I ate my brownie points in brownies.
      But they were tasty!

      Like

  8. Good for you for helping out, and know it was no small potatoes. (Couldn’t resist). God bless the hipsters; they mean well.

    Like

  9. I sincerely hope that, after receiving such a heinous injury, you will sue.

    Like

    • You didn’t see this crowd, Calahan. I’m pretty sure they had even less money than me!
      Besides, in a court case, it would definitely come out that it was my fault…

      Like

      • I’ll testify on your behalf, Guap. Listen to this, “Your honor, I saw the whole thing. El Guapo was put in harm’s way with the callousness that only comes from sociopaths. I didn’t come forward earlier because, honestly, I was afraid. These people, they’re,… they’re crazy!”
        See?

        Like

  10. You are so awesome Guap, thanks for doing a good deed, even under the direction of a hipster.

    Though now I can’t get that song “Jam on it” out of my head. I am strangely transported back to my roller-skating rink days…

    I had a fun time listening to it again- every time they sang “jam on it, jam on it…” I replaced it with “Guap O La, Guap O La…” (Yeah, I know. I really need to get out more often.)

    I love that karma poster. That’s the coolest one that I’ve seen to date.

    Like

  11. Good for you for volunteering. Sorry about your finger. Stupid pumpkins.

    Like

  12. Note to self: stock up on quality potato peelers… sounds like you did good, well done.

    Like

  13. I volunteer on a weekly basis and man does it suck. Good for you for doing the right thing and helping out when and where you could. Every little bit helps! You’ll have awesome karma for it. Too bad it was mentally and physically painful!

    Like

  14. It always feels good when you do good for others!

    Like

  15. free penny press

    Oh you wonderful, caring man ( and your lady)!! It’s people like you that help lift the burdens of many in times of disasters!!!
    Well done EG, well done :-)

    Like

  16. It is wonderful that you did this.

    Like

  17. From a person who benefited from the labor and time of countless volunteers after Katrina, thank you. <3

    Like

  18. Awwwwww.you and your girl are awesome…you did a wonderful thing…even with all the bleeding and Phil delivered a wonderful punchline…just for you…..I hope your little envelope came in the mail…..it will be your “reward”…you have to share it with your partner in crime :)

    Like

  19. Guap, I think this is my favorite post of yours of all time. So funny! And this?:

    “Especially when said hipster gets me to do something I’m not particularly keen on, and then offers encouragement wrapped around the word “jam” for the next 10 minutes”

    Not even kidding, my husband and I were just talking yesterday about how hipsters are always saying things are “the jam” an how it’s the most annoying thing ever.

    Like

  20. whiteladyinthehood

    You and your girl are awesome.

    Like

  21. Whenever I peel potatoes, I suddenly remember that I hate them. Yes, you can be half Irish and hate potatoes. Also, I tend to get reckless when peeling them so I occasionally find potato peels on the ceiling.

    You and TMGITU are definitely the jammy jam for helping!

    P.S. What’s a hipster? Someone really needs to explain this to me…

    Like

    • I actually enjoy peeling decent sized potatoes, L&L. And the mess factor is only part of the reason.
      hehehe

      Hipsters can generally be spotted by their skinny, odd colored jeans, usually dire need of haircuts and ray ban frames. They are known for trying to be ironic, and will often be wearing t shirts with retro stuff on them, like pixilated Atari logos, or Morton Salt, or bad bands no one ever heard of.

      They can often be identified by their cups of “what the hell are you drinking?!?” coffee, and niche cigarettes (like American Spirit).
      And they were into stuff before it was cool.

      Like

  22. You know, I’ve always donated money because someone who worked for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees once told me that some rich guy donated 3,000 sleeping bags to refugees of an earthquake. Trouble was, they couldn’t get the sleeping bags near the refugees because they didn’t have the logistics.

    Potato peelers would be easier to transport.

    Guap, you are a good guy, and your girl is a good girl. I’m sending you good karma so that you can win second prize in the lottery.

    XX

    Like

    • Thank you Elyse.
      Without sounding too holiday spiritish, knowing you and others like you in the sphere is the best karma there is.
      (I’ll take the lottery winnings too though!)

      Like

  23. Haha! I hope you put your jam on those brownie points you ate. You and your girl are the best!! And I think karma has already begun to pay your good deed back because you also got to learn all about composting! :)

    Like

  24. I’ve heard the California centers (after fires) are really organized too. And I feel you on it being nice when you’re in an organized place! I volunteered all through high school and there were definitely places I preferred because of their organization.

    Like

  25. That is so great that you pitched in! I am sure you felt great afterward. Volunteering is like that!

    Like

  26. It was really nice of you to volunteer. I hope someone donated some band-aids.

    Like

  27. I’m hoping to do some volunteering this coming Saturday in NJ — I hope I don’t end up peeling a million tiny potatoes! You’re a good guy for pitching in even if it wasn’t something fun. Laughing at your jam! Jammonit was my favorite song once, can you believe it? ::ducks!::

    Like

  28. You’re such a good guy :D. Lovely post. Gatter people and have a fun time listening to their conversations, right?

    Like

    • Mostly I was glad they were all there to accomplish something, NBI.
      I’ve been in situations where they just want to talk about how noble they are and how sad everything is.
      That’s not so helpful…

      Like

  29. I think this kind of post is my favorite — a little spotlight into your ordinary day, life, or adventure (not that there’s anything ordinary about jumping from a plane….). Thanks for sharing! Really gives a good sense of what things are like in that area, for people far away….

    Like

  30. Awesome post…
    xx
    Sooz

    Like

  31. I have also volunteered a few times after a crisis. It makes you feel so good! Unfortunately they usually do have you doing something you’re very good at, but that you don’t like doing anymore. It happens to me all the time! Maybe next time you can clean debris from Rockaway Beach!

    Like

  32. There is nothing like helping out,
    getting stuck in and adding positive
    vibes so well done El Guapo :) :)

    Those Pumpkins need a health warning…

    Androgoth

    Like

  33. Great post, Guap! You have such a good heart. Thank goodness for people like you!

    Like

  34. Congrats for helping out and thanks from way out here in the Wild West.

    Rock Rock, Rocky Away Beach! Can’t help thinking about Joey Ramone at this point.
    Never surfed (so much for growing up 5 miles from the beach in LA).
    How’s Jones Beach looking? That was our ‘party place’ and people watching destination when I lived in the City.
    Brighton Beach was a 30 minute bike ride though… and I would pick up Mrs. Stahl’s Knishes on the way home.
    What really pained me was seeing the Seaside Heights pier decimated :(
    Had a cottage there with an ex BF back inthe -shudder- ’80′s.
    1980′s dammit, not 1880′s. Look good for my age eh? Am portrayed in the new Lincoln film.. Ah the good old days of candle light, outhouses and sleeping secret service men.

    Hope you survived with no damage to your home, family or friends.
    You are a Karma Magnet now.
    Go forth and reap your rewards!
    p.s. maybe Bourdain will cook for you.

    Like

    • You look good for any age, Miss B.
      My neighborhood got off easy, but even now, several weeks later, whole swaths of the city are a mess. (Not even all of lower manhattan is back up yet)

      Like

      • Isn’t is funny? haha strange not haha laughter funny:
        The several times we New Yorkers were warned about incoming hurricanes, shops boarded up from the Battery to the Bronx… and nothing. Hard rain, winds, day off from work; after some of us dumb-asses actually rose the D train into work….
        This time the big one hit. Once again my thanks to you and the lovely Miss Guapo for your help. Wish I were still there to lend a hand. Am truly bummed to hear that places in lower Manhattan are still suffering.
        Always knew you were a cool cat, but you’ve grown many centimeters in my eyes for your volunteer work.
        Happy Indigenous Genocide Day and may you have left-overs enough to make a coconut pie with the damned turkey..
        xo and… LOBOTOMY!.

        Like

  35. Good man, Guap.
    Our school connected with a school in Far Rockaway and collected winter gear and school supplies in two days to send up to the lids and teachers, but it just isn’t the same as being there and feeling like you are actively doing something.

    Like

  36. That’s so cool that you volunteered! You rock.

    Like

  37. It’s too bad you weren’t making jam, or listening to Eddie Vedder. Jam is your jam! Pearl is your jam!

    BTW, your code word is “Traveling”. It will make sense later.

    Like

  38. Good going, chap. I like how you jam.

    Like

  39. I sent you an award go to check my blog if you accept it…. no pressure :)

    Like

  40. Good on you for helping out! You’re a first rate guy.

    Like

  41. First of all Guap, it’s cool that you guys helped out. You’re a mensch and your girl is…well, the female version of that. I’m glad to hear that the effort was not a clusterf*** (I had some friends who went to help with Katrina, and said that the effort was so bungled as to make the scene nearly unworkable).

    And you cook? No wonder all the guys want to be you and the women want to be with you–you’re a Renaissance Man.

    Like

  42. Things are not always what they seem! I believe this is true! Maybe there will be a much better present greater than winning the lottery is coming to you! You will have the world and everything!! :D Keep it up with the good karmas!

    Like

  43. Never heard “weeded” used in that context. I thought it meant, well, you know. Now you’re needed in SanFran for their horrible rains, come on out. I’m in SoCal with the huge surf, tho, you might wanna come here instead.

    Like

  44. Pingback: A Defense of 80s Music, by Running On Sober | Guapola

  45. Pingback: An 80′s Music Defense | Running On Sober

Ahem *best Ricky Ricardo voice* Babble-OOOoooo!!!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s