Company or Rescuers (6)

6

On 11 January Emma Solomon also called Maya Sorieya, whispered now by many to be ‘the mother of Messiahs’ arrives in the Capital of Haiti. 

She is athletic in build. Olive tan skin, her brown hair is still flowing and while she appears exotic. She travels in on a Spanish passport still having much noble data within the space between her ears that must be passed quietly to underground on this island before most of them are wiped out by devils in the next 72 hours.

Port-Au-Prince is unlike any other place on earth. The singular thing one absorbs right after the electric energy of entering such a densely packed city of over three million souls, is that this city never sleeps. That is because virtually no one is traditionally employed. That is because rarely have so many people been aggregated into simultaneous poverty and total personal freedom.

Ms. Maya carries with her a black baby in a swaddling cloth and a hard copy of the New Social Gospel

The Haitian customs agent turns around to face her and lord; is she so beautiful! With long flowing brown hair and a smile to disarm any man. He catches the baby on her chest like a second later, but that smile catches him off guard for a full minute, because he just doesn’t really look at that in a woman as prominently as before. And with that smile, that little baby her beauty and her tan white skin he doesn’t bother to search anything at customs, waves her along. 

She is a little taller than her curly blonde, spunky travel companion Miss Phoebe Rusche the courier and looks like a warrior. Phoebe is a lover and admirer of Haiti and a talented but wholly unknown writer. She has been offered a job as a masseuse at the hotel Olofsen and plans to stay there for some time writing her latest unpublished book. Ms. Maya has hired the young Phoebe to bring her into Haiti and make an introduction for her at the legendary Hotel Olofsen to a certain Mr. Morse, an Ougan. A master of the ancient spiritual traditions that in Haiti became Voudou. A gifted RaRa jazz musician. A man attacked on all sides these days by the Neo-Maccoutist underworld, bound by unseen threads, lifted by unseen hands. Yet, bound until the world to come and possibly some time after to this white gingerbread hotel on the hills above the city that truly never sleeps.

Ms. Phoebe recounts her impressions:

I flew from Chicago to Miami. Then Miami to Port-au-Prince. At O’Hare Airport I sat next to a couple with a baby boy. The father held his hands and sang while he danced obligingly, a clumsy baby cha-cha, fat round limbs tottering cutely to the beat. The mother eyed me. 

“Are you a missionary?” she asked. 

“No.” 

“You work for an ONG?” 

“No.” 

“Writing a book about voodoo?” 

“No.” She seemed perplexed, what else was there for Blan to do? I saw them again in the Miami terminal, the father holding his son tight.         

                On the plane I sat next to a priest. He wore a cassock and thin wire-rimmed glasses. His face was very kind. He asked me if I liked to sing and I said yes and he wrote down the name and address of his church. Port-au-Prince wheeled below us. It was cloudy, the harbor colored slate. I saw hills carved out of the earth itself, shanties like some metastasizing growth, some blight. 

“No trees,” the priest apologized. He eyed me. I tried to keep my expression neutral. “People say bad things about us. You will decide for yourself.”

              “Good luck,” he said as we stepped onto the tarmac. “I think you will like Haiti. Contact me if you need anything. Come sing in my choir!”

There were only two baggage claim carousels at Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport. I stepped up to the dolly-rental window and attempted to speak in Creole. “‘Luggage’ tanpri?” The woman behind me in line laughed. She was very pretty with curly braids and laugh lines by her eyes and a denim skirt and stylish red leather boots.

                “I’m sorry,” I said.

                “No, it’s wonderful that you are even trying at all,” she said, and introduced herself as Chantelle from Evanston. A Chicago suburb not far from where I live. She was visiting her parents. She and her brother helped me lift my bags off the carousel onto my cart.

                Two bored looking policemen pretended to rifle through our things before hurrying us along. Outside it was humid, the air pregnant, electric. The leaves of the trees were fat and waxy. The sky was yellow. “It looks like it’s about to rain,” said Chantelle.

                Hustlers descended upon us like locusts, offering to help us with our bags, but Chantelle ushered me past them. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” she said. The men’s mouths opened and closed like fish. Their eyes were desperate. I felt like I was underwater.

                The man sent from the Hotel Olofsen to pick me up introduced himself as Monsieur  Marco. He wore a polo shirt and khaki pants.

                “Call me if you need anything,” said Chantelle from Evanston as Marco loaded my bags into the trunk. A man in a dirty Adidas t-shirt came up to our van and put his hand over his stomach, then touched his fingers to his mouth.

                “Mwen grangou,” he said, then seeing my incomprehension, “Blan. Give me money.”

                Marco waved him away, shaking his head in disgust. Emma seems to be unacknowledged and left to herself as we move through the city.

                We drove toward the Olofsen, through streets narrow and winding and hillier than San Francisco. We drove past the Champs de Mars and the National Palace. We drove past restaurants and hair salons and walls with shards of broken glass glinting on top. We drove, narrowly missing small children and intrepid goats, and I marveled at this other world I’d entered.

                That was the first time I saw Port-au-Prince. That was also the last time I saw Port-au-Prince. I wonder if the priest’s church is still there. I wonder if Chantelle and her brother are alive. I wonder if the baby boy died. If so, I hope his father didn’t have to survive.

My companion Emma Solomon, the tres belle, claims to be “a journalist”, but she doesn’t ask that many questions. 

She paid me very well to bring her here from Chicago and into places still unknown, but seems more confident walking around in Haiti than I ever could be in my own skin here or in the states. And then the next morning, the ground opened up and swallowed the nation.

Company of Rescuers (5)

5

Paramedic Victor Cange is weathering an ugly pink beanie. It’s really one of the ugliest hats anyone has ever seen. If it were day time a supervisor would have told him to take it off. He is working Transport Unit 808 out of the Transcare base in Canarsie, Brooklyn. He is fairly slim and wears thick black spectacles. It’s Christmas and he shouldn’t be here, but his seventh day adventist church teaches that Jesus wasn’t really even born on the 25th, not even really born in December. His partner is the tall, serious Jamaican named EMT Mickhi DBrisk. Michkhi is smoking a Newport out the Ambulance window, watching the snow, and thinking about his son Jayden. Specifically about all the expenses the city generates that the job doesn’t ever seem to cover.

“I just need to get out of Transcare,” Victor mutters to Mickhi.

“This shit ain’t ever worth no $10.25 an hour,” Mickhi responds, “We can make more at Starbucks.”

“When is yer Medic upgrade class finishing?” 

“It’s complicated.” That’s Michkhi’s way of saying he doesn’t wanna go into it. He’s in the LaGuardia Associates program for paramedic, it’s stressful, just like everyone says.

Suddenly Michkhi becomes talkative.

“Son, no one has ever heard of my job classification. I am technically not an “ambulance driver” because I do not generally ever drive, being that I have no license to do so, and I am not a “medic” because that would imply I was a Paramedic in our EMS vernacular; and my qualification certainly prolongs life, but does little to diagnose and virtually nothing to treat. You can become State certified to do my job by sitting through a three month class and being over the age of 18. I believe people as young as 16 perform our skill set on Volunteer Ambulances and as young as 14 in developing countries. It’s about eight basic life support skills you need to perform for a medical and traumatic emergency and sixty some odd sets of signs and symptoms it would be good to memorize, but a frighteningly small percentage of my graduating EMS class could recite off less than six months out of the program.”

“What’s yer plot point brother? Didn’t you read the memo, no one’s ever gonna say thank you except God, definitely not the patients, ” Victor Cange says.

“I can’t remember the last time that happened. I was one of ten brothers in my class of 65 at LaGuardia Community College which is viewed as one of the best EMS training centers in NYC. They made this game out a whole lot different than it turned out to be.” 

“Well if you’re white in EMS: you’re crazy, a fuck up, or tryin’ to be a fireman for the FDNY. Then again, if you’re any other ethnicity in EMS you gotta be just a little crazy, a fuck up, or attempting to become a nurse. Because when it comes down to it: we are the hip hop of the Healthcare Industry. We make money by moving lives, not saving lives bro. Ain’t savin’ nobody on the long enough; not even yo self.”

Victor Continues:

“We can’t make you better like a doctor can, we don’t have to slightly pretend to care like a nurse does; we can’t stabilize in a pre-hospital setting via our own training like a PA can; we are EMS; people shoot at us because we look like police in the din of narrow housing project lighting; we might not know what you have but we can keep you alive for at least seven more minutes; and unless you’re missing your head, you’re not legally dead until we get you to a hospital.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” says EMT Mickhi DBrisk. 

On the wall of the Transcare Men’s room at the Brooklyn Base in Canarsie on 800 Bank Street: ‘We scare ‘cause we Care’ is scrawled in sharpie in the men’s room’s second stall. 

“I work for the Wal-Mart of the ambulance corps I’m fond of saying. At $10.25 an hour I have a worse healthcare package and wage than a Starbucks employee. And I don’t get any stock options after six months. We are the city’s, and soon to be country’s largest ambulance provider. I was hired exactly two months ago; most employees quit or transfer after six months when they go to 911; and be nervous about the ones that don’t. Transcare is an enormous business like virtually everything else about Healthcare in America. I spent less than a day of the five day training being reassessed for skill retention; the remaining time went into how to prevent myself (and the company) from being sued, how to tastefully obtain patient insurance information, and how to properly fill out the Patient Care Forms so that that we can legal bind the patient incase their insurance won’t cover the cost of their trip.”

“This shit is business more than its medical profession,” notes Mickhi.

  “Like most Americans, you and I are terribly misinformed when it comes to the dark underbelly of how the Healthcare system functions in this country. It may be illegal for us not to transport a person who can’t or won’t sign, but this company will terminate technicians that transport those that can’t sign “too often”. 

Mickhi tosses his mostly finished boag out into the falling snow. Mickhi is an activist with Adon’s club; on paper at least it’s “Chief-of-Operations’ ‘. Cange talks like an activist, but he isn’t one. Like most of EMS, he likes to explain, likes to complain, but it won’t lead to activism. Mickhi gets that, Sevastra and Adon don’t. Everybody in this job is the walking dead. Broken people that then many saw too much over time.

Victor pauses then resumes his critical stress debriefing, “During patient assessment a transport EMT obtains vitals; while the other ensures the airway, adequate breathing, and circulation. We gather a past medical history, a list of medications, any known allergies, and pick up any paperwork from relatives of the hospital or nursing home that might give us more clues to the patient’s current condition. At some point, generally when they’re loaded onto the ambulance, we ask them to sign a form that most EMT’s describe as a patient confidentiality statement, but it is actually a billing release. It is drilled into us in our retrain days 2 through 5 that we must always obtain a signature. That’s because it costs several hundred dollars for an ambulance ride. People wrongly think that calling 911 is a quick free way to see a doctor. That isn’t a very realistic conception at all.”

“Nope, FDNY shakes um for about 500 too,” says Mickhi.    

“My work for Transcare brings me into the projects, townhouses, homes, and apartments of New Yorkers in all five boroughs. We also bring patients to places like Connecticut, Long Island, and Upstate New York. I always have a different partner because I work irregular shifts generally overnights and weekends. Most shifts will mandate you to work over 12 hours. One makes plans with a cushion when working; you’ll always be late if you have plans after work.”

Mickhi has heard all this before, said a hundred different ways. The paper articulates a lot of these basic points, putting in writing what most already know via word of mouth. 

Says Victor Cange, “My partners fall into two categories of which I am in the second. The first have been here more than six months and have made a profession in EMS transport; that is to say non-911 pick-ups of the morbidly obese, chronically ill, or psychiatrically unstable. They like the job because by the third year it comes close to Starbucks pay and is particularly accommodating to larceny and laziness collectively. Going to 911 would mean working harder, going to another Private company or FDNY might mean working harder and being more tightly scrutinized.” 

Only about one/fifth of Transcare employees in EMS (they also operate a fleet of non-EMS Access-a-Ride Paratransit buses) are in this category. 

Everyone else is out of here in six months, Mickhi and Victor included. 

The remaining group is generally right out of school and looking to quickly accumulate experience before they either go 911 and transfer to a better private, or a hospital or get accepted into the FDNY Academy for EMS. 

“A small subgroup of the second category is just logging the 200 hours they need to go Paramedic. The real difference in partners is those that want to do this career or those that see it as a complicated hustle getting paid to do precious little. It should reassure you slightly to know that most of the people who will be doing this on a 911 level care enough to keep their skills sharp if not care enough to care.”

“I care enough to care,” admits Mickhi DBrisk, “One day when Ayden asks what an e.m.t. is, I’m not going to recount even a single story about my work. There’s something really, really trite and cliché about an EMT or Paramedic rattling off some crazy war story. The only thing more pathetic I feel is when an alcoholic or drug addict does it. You should take it for granted that we see things that are crazy every single shift we work. It’s a big city full of people that are sick and dying.” 

“I find that most of my partners from your second category have a micro/macro view of our work. On the larger macro level we are a vital link in the emergency response chain able to get the sick and wounded to a hospital that in NYC is never more than seven minutes away,” Victor responds.

“Our job at its most basic is to quickly bring the dead and dying to somewhere they can be kept alive,” says Mickhi. 

“On the one on one micro-level we are the people bringing out the sick and dying when they are scared and with the people they love. More than any other link in the Healthcare chain we deal with people at their most vulnerable and it falls on us to earn their trust with our compassion. I keep songs on my cell phone in sixty different languages; people’s faces light up when I play them as we drive to the hospital,” explains Victor.

“One of my partners keeps several copies of the Malcolm X Autobiography for when we transport wounded prisoners to psychiatric wards and infirmaries. Another keeps teddy bears in his jump bag,” laughs Mickhi.

“A lot of people are a little out of it when we move them. Some beg for Jesus to take them or tell terrible stories of tragic lives. A lot of people want to die because this life has been so hard on them. I try to make them feel special, or at least respected. Sometimes I’ll get people over a hundred years old and I’ll try and get them to tell me a story about their life. Sometimes I’ll transport a desperate middle-aged soul still quite totally confused about the purpose of their life.”

“It’s sort of easier to give someone a toy or a book and competently engage in a transport than to have that sort of universal empathy that lets you communicate your sympathy in a way that’s genuine; if it’s forced it is counterproductive and you should stick to the competency and giving of gifts,” says Mickhi.

  “You can’t just nod your head and whisper sweet nothings of compassion; you have to empathize via a real experience to be related back. You have to honestly care, not transCare,” states Victor.

“People are either very scared or very intent upon dying. I’ve seen a person survive a nine-story drop because they were hyped up on PCP and believed in a thing called love,” war stories Michkhi.

  “I’ve seen a partner restore stable vitals to someone with a “Do-Not-Resuscitate-Order” with a bag valve mask and the blasting of gospel music,” war stories Victor. 

“I’ve seen people slip twenty to a bunch of kids when their single mother went to the ER so they could get something to eat,” war stories Michkhi right back.

  “We are absolutely not paid enough to care. We can only engage in this line of work on a long enough time line because of the human good we are able to do. Death and suffering would surely take its toll on our mental health if we did not find outlets to make our works worth more than a skill set,” explains Victor, “that’s why I’m gonna become a doctor one day. 

“I’ll tell you straight up; I would never have gone into East New York if it hadn’t been for this job. I wouldn’t be learning Spanish, I wouldn’t have such a large collection of foreign music; I wouldn’t know my city nearly as well as I’m about to in the next few years. This job is good because it is compatible with my sleeping habits, values, and allows me to flex my empathy,” says Mickhi, lighting another Newport. Victor cringes. 

“You will learn to believe in a thing called love when you a carry a nameless 87 y/o woman in your arms who has no legs, has an external bladder you must also carry called a Foley Catheter that has made her sheets stink of urine; and although quite blind she “sees the light in you” and wants you to pray with her even when you ain’t been to church in a hot minute,” says Victor. Victor went to Church yesterday. He’s rubbing it in with Mickhi as he sometimes does.

Victor continues: “I always feel like I’m bearing witness to the end of the world each Friday I go out. The clamor of the ER, the speeding around on lights and sirens, the murmurs of your dead and dying, and the precious little we’re good for except maintaining your vitals and proving to you we care. Or perhaps each shift we must prove it over and over again to ourselves; because it isn’t the paycheck and benefits that keep us out in that bus; it’s a love we can’t explain for people who we are not obligated to love or empathize for; but have to if we want to keep up this work.”

“There are a lot of sick people in this city; some made sick by circumstance, some by trauma, and many by ignorance about personal health. We will treat them all irrespective of class, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation,” says Mickhi almost paraphrasing the Banshee Operating guide he helped write. 

“But I’m only busting out the pillow if you’re old, or if you’re Haitian,” jokes Victor.

The night is brick as hell. Christmas dinner for Mickhi was a Bodega sandwich and a pack of Newport regulars from Obama Fried Chicken bodega on Rockaway Parkway. He fills the tiny confines of the compartment with carbon monoxide.

“I don’t play games and I don’t take prisoners; I got buck wild debt, I got child support to pay and big dreams,” says Dbrisk. 

“Amen.”

“Just nine more hours of this bullshit to go, then we get up off the plantation.”

“Hey brother, amen,” says Victor Cange.

Company of Rescuers (4)

4

We’re in the garage below Woodhull Hospital. A city block sized iron and concrete monstrosity that erupts out of the ground on the border between Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant. They had designed it originally as a prison. But today it is a city hospital of ill repute. It’s the 21st of December, the KDT says. I punch in our numbers. I type ‘GOD’ in as the third rider. It’s a superstitious thing. It’s old school. The rookies don’t have a god anymore.

My name is Scott Sevastra. I’m 33, that’s allegedly when Jesus did his best work, so they say in the newer parts of the bible. I’m salt and peppered. I’m slightly overweight with silver freckled hair and spectacles. I wear spectacles, not glasses. That’s different. Adon and I both work out of Station 35, Woodhull Hospital on something called vacation relief, which means we hardly ever work the same unit, with the same person twice. Vacation Relief is a fancy way of saying ‘people not showing up to work relief’. If Adon has a friend on the job, that buddy would be me. I used to be a firefighter in Schenectady. He never lets me live that down.

   Adon and I work out of the Woodhull Hospital’s garbage hangers where 35 is based, the so-called ‘Belly of the Beast’. That would make sense maybe if north meant down, and the belly was called Bed Stuy, and the lower intestines and organs were Crown Heights, Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie, Flat Bush, East Flatbush; and the nefarious beast was black people. Who do seem to call the ambulances more than anyone else.

The whole Woodhull complex looks like the death star, all cast iron exterior, towers and flood lights. It looks like a place to die. One would suppose the worst of the beast is called Bedford Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Crown Heights, Flatbush and East New York and we do about 7 jobs in 8 hours. Those BLS units assigned to these neighborhoods. The South Bronx is really busy too, but not Central Brooklyn Busy.

Bedstuy is still a real strong arm shit hole. No matter what color you are. Gentrification can try and fail to change that Bed Stuy “do or die” into Bedstuy full of fucking long ahired hipsters, but the locals still like to pistol whip kids and take their iphone. It’s a bunch of dirty row houses that get no light and the people get no opportunity to do more than collect government money and get into shoot outs over stupid beef, meaningless turf wars over red and blue flags, and of course universal staring problems.

To some this work is like a calling. We were all drawn here for different reasons, some were quite noble, and some were not. Tammany Hall is fifty years dead but being an Irish grandson of a firefighter still opens a few doors. They call it ‘legacy’. It goes in a file, then without being officially recognized other than a checkbox will wind a new EMT in Station 43 Coney Island then over to the Rock in a year to “promote” to fire suppression. There are a myriad of systemic problems around here. But you have to have a fairly analytical mind to see their connectivity.

After the towers fell a wave of civil service activism-romanticism swept the nation and the FDNY were once again working class rock stars. A brief era of patriotism took hold and the ranks of the emergency services were stocked with young men and women who might have gone white collar except for the collective ejaculation of national trauma. The FDNY, the greatest full time-part time job secret the Irish and Italians ever kept were quickly recouping man power and by 2003 the waiting list for the Fire Suppression open competitive exam was nearly 25,000 deep. EMS was the expeditious way to cut that line if you weren’t legacy, hadn’t passed high school, and may or may not have been in the top of your physical class. 

In 1996 Giuliani merged various emergency services to cut the costs of their respective civilian bureaucracies. FDNY was 99% white, catholic and male while EMS was heavily integrated. FDNY with a force of nearly 12,000 fire fighters couldn’t justify keeping that many trucks in the field. EMS was already doing nearly a million calls a year with a force of under 3,000. The merger was toxic to everyone involved and it took another decade for the firemen to even look us in the eyes when we arrived on scene.

I wasn’t here for most of that. I was a paramedic and a volunteer firefighter in the city of Schenectady upstate. I earned a degree in Fire Science and was promoted to Paramedic via my volunteer company. Everywhere but NYC becoming an EMT or a Paramedic is a promotion. In the city of many lights you “promote” into fire fighting. I became an EMT because my uncle was a Paramedic and my Mom was a nurse. I grew up in the glow of emergency lighting. I was built for all this mentally. In the words of technician Adon; “I possess the constitution to take this as far as it needs to go.”

There is absolutely no money in all this freakish ambuland. That’s everyone trying to get out. Right now, both in our second year here; Sebastian and I are making around $16 an hour.  We probably lose AT LEAST 8 brothers and sisters a month to just about any other thing hiring. Attrition continues to thin the ranks. Studies report a disproportionately high rate of divorce, alcoholism, and suicide in EMS comparatively to Fire or Law Enforcement. We are asked and often mandated to work 12 to 16 hours a day in adverse conditions, in some of the most depressed regions of the country with outdated low-bid equipment, little public support, and virtually no encouragement from the city we serve. Morale is so low that the national statistics report that the average span of an EMS career is a little under four years. The department asks us for 25. Run the numbers and that’s why we’re always at 60%, that’s why you can find as much overtime as you can swallow.

Out of the 8 that leave each month, 5 quit, normally within their second year. 2; their number came up on a civil service test; normally PD, Sanit, Correction or Suppression. The last one sustained a line of duty injury; real or concocted to get them off the streets on LODI for a few months to collect AFLAC benefits. We lose members far faster than they can recruit. There is a virtually endless pool of EMTs to draw from, but most worth their salt go work for a Voluntary Hospital and can triple the wage we make. Others just know that the department will bleed you dry chasing a pension and a dream. They have recruiting posters in city shelters if that says anything.

The critical systemic problem is twofold. First because of low pay, hard hours and appallingly low morale we lose our toughest and bravest to the firefighter promotion at a rate of a few hundred every three years. We lose our brighter and more ambitious members to the private sector and the field of nursing. This leaves us with a broken mish mash of skells, burn outs, a few zealots and a high rate of obesity in the ranks. The other side of this is the lowered expectations to close the staffing gaps.  That means on a segment 1-3 priority call you might get a truck load of CFR and long board trained fireman or a waddling glob of minority goo with a gold chain and an untucked shirt.     

“This job is a calling, you either believe that or you’re on your way out,” I say to Sebastian Adon. But Sebastian is staring off again into the night. He’s chasing ghosts from the past again.

“You can’t have an unrequited love affair with a whole people! Not for a whole damn country,” I tell him.

He doesn’t hear me, he’s not the old him. Not the charismatic rebel who started the Banshee Association. In November of 2009, Adon, myself and eight other EMTs started a quasi-clandestine group, a new otriad called the Banshee Association, an EMS fraternal organization grounded in Human rights. We’d put out three issues of our newspaper citywide and made quite a name for ourselves as a ‘Jew-Commy conspiracy to ruin EMS for white people’. The Brothers and the Latinos, who make up way over 3/5 of the force of 14,500 seem to support it though.  There’s really only one newspaper for true blue EMS sedition, and that paper is “the Banshee ”. 

Our editorials rant along the lines of:

“They say there’s no rest for the wicked, but I haven’t done anything that truly bad in quite some years. These streets will run you ragged. Bleed you dry if you’re inclined to let the reaper take you.

But on a long enough time line everyone is going to die. Oh, Technician Adon sings the blues! Our mission, in so far as our misnamed, disheveled, browbeaten lot; can call the nature of our trade a profession with a mission; is that when you die you may do so in warm bed, surrounded by Jewish doctors, West Indian nurses, attentive and curious, cute, young internists, and of course your family, all around you pouring out that thing called love before your long kiss goodnight. It has been said that on a long enough timeline our kind will lose all ability to feel. That one of our number might stand above a mass of splashed and splattered organs, avulsed intestines scattered across a black tarmac in the glow of streets cast upon our troop; to then light a cigarette, make a stupid fucking joke; and then take a camera phone picture of your son’s dismembered corpse. There are rules against such conduct, but not one in our number would turn away. If your son’s body lay splayed across the freeway, before that thing called god one at least or more would say a silent prayer, reach down their blue gloved hands and wrap a hospital sheet shroud over the body, close his eyes. And perhaps the one of us with the camera phone might say something crude or racist, normally to a cop doing crowd containment, to show our compatriots he or she felt nothing. But when your son or daughter fell, ingloriously in a bloody heap it was us who carried their bodies off that street, it was us who had gang rushed, blaring in that dead of night racing brave to save them. And we’d do anything in our means to bring them back to you for just one moment more.

I don’t want you to try and call us heroes. We just want you to know that we have given everything to our trade, every drop of our sweat, every ounce of our blood drained; to our or third or second marriages, to our child support bills, to our black lungs and swollen livers, before we find pension we’ve poured out upon these streets our humanity for you in the 25 years of servitude to our city of many, many lights. 

We don’t want a Daily News two page Spread on the four through six; and I don’t think you’d buy a calendar of me topless in my PPE out-city, ‘heat resistant’ post-911 fireman pants to raise money for our fallen soldiers. Well maybe of you would. We don’t need their medal ceremonies, their cheap metal bars to pin about our blue collared breasts. I just want you to know we exist, and that we’re coming as fast as we can, and that we’ve sacrificed ourselves completely, become a changed people trying to help, and remember; you called us.”

So read the preamble ramble, the editorial of the Banshee Newspaper, issue 3, the only rank and file controlled EMT-Paramedic Newspaper. A paper cofounded by me, Scott Sevastra and Adon in November the year prior. Along with the Communist Chris Jacobs and the Jamaican gangster Michkai Dbrisk. The paper made the Department mangement fucking crazy.  But, since the Israelis worked him up in Lod Prison. Since his girl Maria left him and he can’t get over his friend’s death. Since he may in fact be “bipolar”, well Adon isn’t talking so tough anymore. Our other Banshee Association leader Mickhi DBrisk, an EMT over at Transcare called me.

“He ain’t got no woman. He ain’t got no homeland. He despises his job and slinging these papers ain’t gonna save him from himself. You better watch his ass,” DBrisk had told Scott Sevastra, “just the slightest thing could set him down an eager road to self-destruction.”

It was Nearly New Year of 2010. We were all a little worried about Technician Adon. The Department has him on a black list for slated termination and so does the State of Israel maybe. He has a bad habit of making new friends in all the wrong places.

Company of Rescuers (3)

3

It’s the 20th of December in the year we understand to be 2009 on the Gregorian. Jeremy Mccgaffey has been dead for about one year. Most of the mourning aloud was long over. But his ghost remains. Those that kill themselves traumatize the living. But all the late nights driving the ambulance around Brooklyn until my soul leaks, I see him again. Looking at me in the mirror, stone faced, he almost whispers something prophetic from the world to come. 

Those fucking pagans from Gerritsen Beach tried to kill me and Maria, Nick and also Angelica on the damn Q train. This hate crime was defeated with fists and knives and the press machine. The FDNY EMS hired him immediately, he cut a whole long civil service list somehow. Then came FDNY in the Bronx at night, then losing his Maria slowly for almost two years. Then recently Maria left him. About two months ago. After a little episode on Block Island that scared her too bad. Vodka, a dive into the stormy sea he followed Jeremey’s ghost way out into the Atlnatic and left her alone in the night on a beach.   

It hasn’t been a very good year. Sebastian’s a Jew at heart. At heart, he starts counting the year from September.  A real shit year all things considered, it isn’t rounding out to be the decade he’d hoped for either. He’d believed in so many things once. Had so much sense of possibility for life. The hope, the feeling of possible change, the want for greater justice. For an imagined freedom fighting life via a “militant nonviolence”. Making bombs that didn’t kill. Things he learned in the Middle East applied to America. Now, it seemed maybe he’d just pass the firefighter promotional exam. Maybe become an FDNY Lt and lead a noble but simple working class life. He’s gone and joined the FDNY boxing team. Maria left him over the many ghosts of his dead friend and comrade Jeremy. Who blew his brains out a year ago or so.

Sebastian Adon has been technically working for the F.D.N.Y. Bureau of EMS since January of 2008. But, just a month into the Academy his best friend, his comrade and old partner Jeremy took a pistol to his foolish head. He got off two rounds. Now that was some zealous work. Two shots to the head and from this world departed the best partner Sebastian ever had. Jeremy and Sebastian used to organize people back in college. They tried to make a little change in the community. They’d together built a revolutionary club of several hundred in nine chapters dedicated to human rights and “real change”. They were a good team. But now Jeremy was dead and Sebastian didn’t believe human beings were all that good anymore after about two years in the South Bronx and Bedford Stuyvesant. And the other places where the sidewalk ended and the schools were too crowded and the American dream was a nightmare. All right alongside such incredible wealth.

Before the F.D.N.Y., Adon used to work on a Tran-scare Transport Unit. About a month after Jeremy died on January 31st of 2008 Adon worked his very last Transcare shift with a Haitian Paramedic named Victor Emile Cange. After dropping out of the FDNY Academy he picked up overtime where he could get it waiting for the next Academy class..  

He’ll retell it to you in a flashback:

“It’s late at night, in the old city, sometime around 4 in the morning, no calls, the transport bus was seated somewhere deep in Canarsie, waiting for orders on the Nextel for work. As Transcare tended to assign per Diem employees random partners, Cange and Adon were total strangers, met that night.  It was a Sunday, Victor Cange tried to never work on Saturday ‘cause it was the Lord’s Day. He was a practicing Adventist now and had recently been educated how the Lord’s Day was actually Saturday, not Sunday. Sebastian always tried to work on Sunday because everyone else had been fooled into thinking it was the lord’s day, and that drove the call volume down.”

“Why’d you go and become an EMT anyways?” Victor Cange asks him with a faux Southern twang that he turns on and off.

“To do the Lord’s work,” Sebastian claims.

“Brother Amen!”

The conversation then turned to God and the Jews, and it was a conversation that had gotten old to Sebastian, as he’d had by now with what seemed like every other black person he’d ever rode with, a talk about God, late at night, on an ambulance, a talk about Jews. Blacks were obsessed with Jews it seemed to Sebastian, couldn’t decide just how anti-Semitic they were as a people, the answer was that blacks were pretty anti-Semitic as a people. Victor wasn’t though. They talk for a while, their palaver leaves an impression on Victor, but to Sebastian it’s the same old song he’s been singing to blacks for years. But he likes them as much as he likes the Soviets, which is to say more than anyone else via projedice.

“The lord’s work is often done by an unwittingly righteous person I’ll have you know,” Sebastian interjects.

“Amen to that. God has a plan, and man is filled with all sorts of arrogance that he can generate one, better to let the lord work through you.”

Black people are just fuckin’ loaded with their stammering opinionated biblical insight, thinks Sebastian. But Sebastian’s lungs are black and his heart too, so some of that knowledge he can relate too. But, Sebastian doesn’t believe in God any more, and has no use for her. 

It has seemed increasingly that he is to walk his life Alone. In the past year, tragedy in the form of questionable suicide struck. Everything had gotten a little surreal since then. He’d retreated into his work, bringing out the sick and dying. By the time he met Victor Cange, there wasn’t too much going on for him, days he slept, nights he worked, and on free days he was drunk, bad, bad-evil drunk.

“Jesus has a plan for you brother!” Victor Cange had told him more than a couple times.

He doubted it. He deeply missed his dead friend Jeremy. He often wondered what kind of guy lets his best friend off himself without seeing it coming. He’d seen him a week before he did it at Woodhull hospital psychiatric. He wonders what kind of piece of shit he is when that’s the best friend he respectively takes on. He wonders if he’ll ever get the true nerve to kill himself.

Sometimes Sebastian sits on the ledge of the Brooklyn Bridge, all horror show and wonders if he has the nerve to jump. He imagines his body hitting the cold blue black brine and moving on to the sweet hereafter. He doesn’t mind the very late night ambulance work. Seeing all these sick and dying people. He’s already dead himself. His body just has to catch up with his mostly long lost mind. 

COMPANY of RESCUERS (2)

PART ONE

1

On the 10th of December in the year 2009 the snow dropped openly and the sky fell out and then we suddenly had a 7 foot ice coat. To keep warm I invited pugnacious and highly sassy Yelizaveta Kotlyarova to join me at the Wall Street Baths, called Spa 88 in the cavern tombs below the District Financial. The date is the 10th of December in 2009 of the Common Era. The snow still falls heavy on the Isle of Man. 

Below ground, in the underground you can hear the rumble of the trains through the walls; three flights down below street level; is the wood ceilinged restaurant of a Russian Bathhouse Spa 88. It stinks of sweat and also vaguely of after-hours fornication, buried below the streets of the Financial District a long conversation is coming to a close. An emergency medical technician named Sebastian Adon is finishing up a supposedly good yarn to a slightly younger Russian-Ukrainian-Jewish medical student named Yelizaveta Alexandrenova Kotlyarova who has recently become his platonic confidant. 

The aim of such storytelling is that she might let him pour cold water upon her when she gets too hot, let him gaze at her nearly naked body, captivate him with her bright eyes and take in all his ambulance war stories. Of which he has plenty. He’s been writing to her for months. She has full and wavy real blond hair and she smiles with such mischievous knowing that her beauty and bright smile stays with him long after she is gone. But, it’s not romantic, never has been, she simply likes to hear him tell his various yarns. Thus so far he has made no motion to even try to kiss her. They are of course platonic friends. This has been a great success for the last four hours. Everything is fully dilated. They know each from a student group many years ago, when all in this country talked more openly about equality. Sebastian Adon is an avid fan of former and post Soviets. She is the loveliest Ivory he has ever known. Ivory is the clever rendition of the ethnic group Hebrew which is “EE-vree” when said by Israelis, and Yeli and he debate sometimes at length about the linguistic origins of the less flattering word “Jew:.

They remind him of something that is tough and also fearless; loyal to a red line and of course exceedingly beautiful and open minded in the bedroom to just about anything, he inherited his father Avraam’s gift for, curse for? Erotic undertones to everything. Adon has been writing Yelizaveta letters for over two years. He’s not sure why. Attention? It isn’t simply to sleep with her, well of course it is because he’s a man. Although as a man of course he would not turn that prospect down for she is surely very beautiful. He’s a man always highly in need of a confidant, for he’s nearly always in some form of emergency mode. 

It has been a rocky road of activism, repeated arrest, trial and tribulation since he first came back from the State of Israel nearly ten years ago in 2001 shortly after the 9-11 martyr operation. He should have stayed, how he’s Babylonian, and locked in at FDNY. To her, he’s a fiery train wreck of comedy and tragic idealism. She observed him younger early in his student movement days, then briefly at Hunter University, once at yoga and on the Book Face for some time intermittently making snarky chatter. He cannot possibly be cut of normal Amerikanski cloth, he’s weird. He is a curiosity to which she can devote sporadic time. A minor deviation from her studies at Stony Brook.They are now on a winter break and she needs a distraction from her bickering parents. Her Jewish father, a former Soviet dentist, now descending into light madness and her Ukrainian mother; a maid at the Benjamin hotel. A cattle driver toward her being a doctor.

The story this time has been about his moral descent post deportation from the State of Israel, which just occurred a couple weeks before. He had recently attempted to return there to visit a long lost associate by the name of Maya Solomon. 

He was immediately arrested at the airport. 

His two days in Lod Prison were recounted and about Israelis not taking kindly to him working on a Palestinian ambulance for a week; four years prior was much of today’s yarn. The Israelis kind of hold a “whose suicide are you on” type grudge. About them beating him, waterboarding him emotionally, hitting him with strange lights, moral electricity and kicking him repeatedly in the groin bellowing in Russian.

Sebastian Adon ethnically speaking is one quarter Irish; one quarter Russian; one quarter German; and some part Polish Jew; therefore he makes a good little Brooklyn mutt. Or perhaps at best an exceedingly good liberal New Yorker. He drives ambulances for FDNY going on two years in the South Bronx; he sometimes drinks too much liquor and brutalizes a girlfriend sexually; but nothing rapey or ultra-violent. Cuffs, anal, threesomes with whores, foursomes with couples, loads on tits and faces. Family oriented fun like that. The product of a generation raised on porn. He’s got loose and transient morals that he justifies with his ambiguous vocation. He likes the idea of human rights, but isn’t sure if humans know they have any, or sometimes if they deserve them. He likes the idea of communism, but isn’t clear why the communist revolutions were mostly violent autocracies. He has basic values that are in essence good, Yelizaveta agrees, though she is vaguely appalled to hear him speak of his sexacapades’ and depravities, they cheapen him profoundly in her eyes. 

She heard that Maria, his longest running ex left him because he got drunk and swam into the Atlantic last September after a fight. The Russian rumor mill was faster than Book Face. Sebastian has led a small revolutionist club since his return from Israel in 2001 that has caused him considerable trouble; but alas capitalism still rules in the USA, despite his and others best efforts to defeat it. 

“There’s a half black president promising to end the wars, forgive student debt and provide universal free healthcare,” Yelizaveta says, “we weren’t all totally defeated.”

She had at one time organized a chapter of the movement at her all girl school Chapin, but that was in almost another life. 

“Why are you still just an ambulance man again?” she asks him”  

He replies to her:

“An ambulance is a vehicle for transporting sick or injured people, to, from or between places of treatment for an illness or injury, or to heaven or hell. The term ambulance is used to describe a vehicle used to bring medical care to patients outside of the hospital or to transport the patient to hospital for follow-up care and further testing, or bring their souls to other vessels should they be fit enough to live again. The word is most commonly associated with the land-based, emergency motor vehicles that administer emergency care to those with acute illnesses or injuries, hereafter known as emergency ambulances, but in numerous developing and socialist nations community health workers have performed this work on foot and commandeered vehicles when needed. These are usually fitted with flashing warning lights and sirens to facilitate their movement through traffic. It is these emergency ambulances that are most likely to display the Star of Life, which represents the six stages of pre-hospital medical care. Other vehicles used as ambulances include trucks, vans, station wagons, buseshelicoptersfixed-wing aircraftboats, and even hospital ships.”

“So says my Wikipedia,” smirks Emergency Medical Technician Sebastian Adon reading off his half smartphone, a little black android.

“Why do you have to quote your little Wikipedia, like every six conversations”, mutters Yelizaveta Kotlyarova, perhaps the object of his desire, a perky, tough as nails golden blue eyed, blond haired, shut up he thinks, making words rhyme doesn’t make you any kind of poet.

While completing a degree in Political Science at City University Sebastian took a job as an Emergency Medical Technician and this seems to have tempered some of his previous radical fervor, but not by much. 

“I like helping my people,” comes his scripted response.

“Your people?” she replies.

“Everybody or anybody who needs some help.”

Sebastian is just under six feet tall. After they get dressed and meet in the banya lobby where she tries to pay and makes sure not to let her. He’s wearing a blue FDNY job shirt he’s gotten personally emblazoned with the Israeli flag, an irony under the circumstances of recent events. The Irish had been putting on such patches for years, however the window for other ethnicities was about to be cut short once the West Indians began wearing their flags into battle so to speak. He has bags under his eyes because he works life’s night shift. He wants her in every way a man can desire a woman but has never told her thus so far in the two years he’s known her. After Maria left he intensified the courtship. That is largely because he at first was fooled into loving another, lesser woman, second because he’s a coward when it comes to his actual emotions and did little to pursue the more likely reaction to his affections; which was surely bewilderment and rejection. So he just kept the letters about big ideas, not passions.

“I like collectively written documents. And you’re just being a snob because your Oberlin teachers always tell you never to use it. It’s a fucking great definition of an ambulance if you ask me.”

Yeli likes things with scientific references. She likes looking up anything that seems suspect, which when it comes to Adon, is a lot.

“I like some of your collectively written documents. But you go on and on sometimes and need to get to the point,” she says.

“Sometimes your art is overdone, overdrawn, you make the boobs big and gross and subtract from your bold uniqueness, in my opinion,” she smiles.

Yelizaveta likes things with references. But she is fully an artist at her core, in her heart and soul. She likes looking up almost anything that seems suspect, which when it comes to Adon, is a lot. She knows he keeps things from her to preserve a somewhat sanctimonious appearance of some kind of bohemian revolutionary ambulance hero.

Just fifteen minutes before they’d both been lying near naked in a Russian Banya called Spa 88. He was putting the story on her about something crazy that had just gone down on what was supposed to be his first vacation in three years. After some other story about a threesome with Maria, his ex. Which didn’t ever really happen, it was just something that turned him on to say in front of her. In reality, he had gotten into a fight with her in September on Block Island and followed Jeremy McCaffey’s ghost out to sea for several hours. The local police found him several hours later walking naked down the road with and carrying an enormous rock.

He has a very subjective reality compared to the rest of us, she thinks.She knows he keeps things from her to preserve a sanctimonious appearance of a bohemian revolutionary ambulance hero.

 “I think you need to go back to school and get more real medical training,” she says, “you’re a glorified cab driver with an oxygen tank. You’re not living up to your expectations of yourself.”

“I’ll forgive your lack of appreciation. We’re god’s avenging angels with sirens I’ll have you know.” When Adon feels cornered he typically drops into even more grandiose rhetoric. 

“Sebastian. You are a terrific story teller, but let’s not forget where we stand in life’s chain of command shall we. I am a student and you are a truck driver with a stethoscope, if we wish to be more than that there is such a long road ahead. ”

He wishes she was less coy; less belittling of his profession and what was left of his idealism. He guesses it isn’t truly love, not when sentiments of rough degrading sex run across the conscience. But if it was simply her in the back of an ambulance type love, she’d have seen right through it, likely been appalled. He believes in impossible, supposedly un-doable things. Kids himself into thinking he’s the man for the job. But she’s not impressed by all or any of that. 

Sebastian Adon, is of course in the twilight of his young adult life. He has been driving an ambulance for three years thinking someone would call him a hero at some point, hoping, believing that there was gonna be a chance to save some lives.

“I’ve saved eight lives,” he informs her as he sometimes has before. It’s a justification for why he hasn’t quit the job yet.

“Well don’t let anybody take that from you,” she retorts.

“I want to reiterate that the reason we civil servants feel so entitled is that the rest of you are unwilling to work the conditions we are and face the raw unadulterated bullshit the people of this city are quite willing to put us through. We guard you while you sleep and you pay us like pizza men. I think this job has taken more from us than we were able to give to our city. And when the city is gone I assure you it is because we have abandoned hope in it.”

“You’re so preachy and poetic, I kinda hate, sort of love it,” she utters as she rubs her fingers together, “That, Tovarish is the world’s very smallest violin playing just for you.”

Adon is the kind of man who at this very juncture can still be motivated by even the world’s smallest violin. At least to him life then has a theme song.  

COMPANY of RESCUERS (1)

Prelude

I ask you now friend, in whose reality do you live? We all dedicate our actions to the future. But, what is it that we claim to do with our little lives as that future narrows? Have we all lost our faith in outer generations or a glorious world to come? Of course, all lives are both great and also quite little, but it was a matter of sure and soulful pretension; crossed of course a bit with the “sollidaritous” desire to teach a nation of certain newly freed slaves to fish. Allegorically speaking. The fishing and the slaves. More to the sharp of the point, we were training quietly amidst the dust and rubble of the fourth detachment of a growing underground medical battalion, to aid a coming “Great Revolt”. A guerrilla army of young rescue workers and student teachers preparing to accomplish the basic yet audacious task of combating meaningless death and diseases of poverty pandemic on the island of Hispaniola.

The effects of 210 plus years of chattel servitude, rancorous massacre, ceaseless uprisings and put-drownings; varying quarantines, Blan occupations, re-occupations by proxy and an induced poverty inflicted upon these people, mostly from the outside.  In short, we are the latest reinforcements penetrating a long besieged slave revolt. These long abused stalwarts, there are believed to be eight million poor unfortunate souls on the Haitian side of the line, but the number is truly anyone’s guess; no realistic census has been taken since the last coup against President Aristede in 2004. Which was ten years ago. The date now is presently 4 June, 2014. Thus 210 years and six months since the declared success of the initial bloody rising.

I will tell you now where power comes from. It comes from any grouping of people that can devise a just means to secure one’s Maslow hierarchy of needs and elevate then a given population toward their droits de moun, human rights. The power is not in any violence or coercion and fear but in the bravery of provisioning hope. Ah, yes indomitable hope! Hope for the “rights of man” are an issue of freedom. Freedom is well and good but what is freedom inside of total misery and deprivation. What say I on due process when I must mix dirt with my flour to watch my family starve at a decreased pace! Or, watch my fallow fields yield nothing as my children die not long after birth. Or, when my parents perish in a brown and vivacious filth of their own vomit shit and piss from contaminated water. What are our rights when we cannot read and we cannot flee and we cannot work and there are no schools and we die by the age of mid fifty. 

Thankless, faceless and fully unknown negs. Masses huddling amid the hottest of hot heat, and ash and dust. Statistics the UN tallies on we slaves. Power comes from control of the means of development! To those who run the schools, the clinics or the farms the means to secure basic things so that hope is alive again and then once fed clothed houses secure I can wonder about my so-called “rights”.

The trouble with the utilization of stranger volunteers in any operation of stress and seriousness is tri-part for vast complication. Since there is no material compensation it is hard to prevent adventurism and privateering. Since they are all mostly strangers it is hard to enforce the chain of command flat as it may be. And since they are often multidisciplinary; a linguist, a paramedic, a marine, a fire commissioner, a spook and an inner city transport e.m.t. they are all mostly unfamiliar with the dynamic of free association based two tiered consensus utilized by the People’s Army. The third part of the problem beyond privateering and command control is loyalty. Sebastian and Adelina are lovers, but the love is mostly gone. They have been living together for the last nine months in the exile of Massachusetts so despite it, or her total lack of interest not one shit given not a shit of a shit on the subject of politics or dialectics, she does truly love him and he loves  her as well and therefore she controls him. Abstaining from the politics of the coming operation she can dispassionately suggest the common sense approach.  

This approach is hardly common here if you wonder about the chicken and the egg you are working with often with a sea of self-proclaimed experts that expertise on shells or eggs or how they crack. Or chickens and how to raise them. Or which comes first. But all the local Haitians on the street are not concerned with theories like this. They are concerned with survival for themselves and their families. Once everyone has survived peaceably for some time then maybe there would be time for speaking of the perfect egg, the just economy or the chicken the functional state. If that’s what chickens and eggs are really about. And all these experts, these NGO technocrats speaking English or Portuguese,  Spanish or French they don’t trust governments and see nothing in the economy to so easily carry them off. For there is nothing; they devise ways to raise chickens from broken eggs from sick diseased chickens. Then they blame the Haitians in languages they don’t speak. But they are still just fighting to survive. 

The Quarantine, as we call it, is 210 years old. It began the day the revolution was declared victorious with the separation of the tricolor into the red and blue bi-color ripped by JJ Dessalines. The revolution which had begun by the Jacobins in France whose ideas spread to the blood soaked paradise of St. Domingue purged the entire island of foreign rulers, resulted in a loss of life of an estimated 500, 400 inhabitants and 60,000 soldiers from France, Spain and Greater Britain. It began in 1791 and culminated in the only victorious slave uprising in 1804. Shortly after the quarantine and civil war between blacks and mulattos began; JJ Dessalines signed a purge order of all whites of the island which remained. And by 1805 there were less than 300 alive in greater Hispaniola, mostly female, Polish or medically trained. White physicians and Polish conscripts had also fought for newly freed Haiti. The quarantine was not about race or racial antagonism. Whites Negs and Mulats fought on both sides of the great revolt. The issue for Napoleon and other leaders of European powers was that of newly freed slaves. With weapons and armies, cannons and turf proclaiming rights of man that had been defeated in the cradle of the uprising, France. The issue was still that in the Americas in Europe, Africa, Asia and most of humanity remained a type of slave and this revolt might spread rapidly. 

To the other islands of the Wild West Indies; to all of Latin America; to the USA and reverberating out back to Europe and the serfs of Russia and China. In fact the defeat of the Haitian revolution was one of the greatest foreign policy objectives shared by nearly every power. And since the armies of Spain, France and England had not been able to re-impose the hated regime of chattel servitude the new policy was containment. 

They had by 1802 captured, tortured and killed the only man Toussaint L’Ouverture who had the moral authority and military genius to secure a multiracial Hispaniola as a rebel base. He was the father of the revolution. The great powers stirred racial tensions inside and locked Haiti off from the world. And by 1806 JJ Dessalines had been assassinated and rebel Generals Petion a Mulatto in the south was at war with Christophe in the north and these exhausted former slaves were freed to a country mostly burned to the ground in 13 years of violence. Most of the people functionally illiterate content to retreat to tiny plots allotted to them and world their own land staying away from the intrigues and civil conflict between Cap Haitian and Emperor Christophe and President Alexander Petion in Port-au-Prince. And the outside world whispered sedition and tightened the quarantine. The revolt which could not be suppressed had to be buried. Economically this was a success. Haiti no longer had her sugar infrastructure or the means to export anything. So Alexander Petion in a historic meeting with Simon de Bolivar in Jamel, the southern port city, agreed to export the revolution. In exchange for Haitian guns and fighters Bolivar agreed to liberate Latin America and free all the slaves there. By 1820 both colonialism and slavery in Latin America were finished. But newly freed slaves and revolutions do not always quickly make chickens eggs or democrats and by the time Bolivar was dead there were new oligarchies laying claim to all of the newly freed turf. By 1822 Haiti was unified under Haitian President Boyer who, surrounded by French war ships, signed the indemnity. These freed slaves would pay back France. 21 billion USD between then and 1947. To end the quarantine the economic blockade Haiti would impoverish herself further. And there would be coups. 22 coups until 1915 when the US occupied Haiti with troops until 1934. Imposing a new slavery. Building roads and new plantation infrastructure. And an army which a man named Francois Duvalier would use to come to total power in 1957. And he and his son Jean Claude would rule until 1986 with vile secret police, the Maccoutes supported by US money and of course the CIA support for the killing of communists. And a revolt from the peasants and church brought to power a priest. The liberation theologian Aristede. Toppled in 1991 after serving 9 months. And then more bloodshed and coup and more us occupation. And then came a quake which killed 300,000 perhaps. Or 220,000 or 100,000; no one actually knows. As rounded numbers suggest. But, it leveled the capital and the technocrats descended and missionaries. And now four years since the quake a pop singer and Duvalierist is president. A UN occupation is in its tenth year and there are still over 10,800 small, medium and international ONG talking about chickens and eggs and such. The quarantine never really ended. And now 98 percent of the trees are gone. Life expectancy is 56. Half the population cannot read. And a cholera epidemic introduced by the UN troops has killed 9,000 and crippled over 600,000. And yet still people speak of building back better with the Sai Ah Industrial park mega sweat shop or the tourist build up in Ile-a-Vache or new plans to link Haiti into the globalized economy, via a mighty chain of sweatshops.

But the typical Haitian wonders about the power which goes on for two hours a day for the world cup. Or the water supply. Or how to afford two meals a day. It is not so much that one must believe in this narrative but one must listen for a narrative. Or the quarantine succeeds. It succeeds by painting these newly freed slaves as savage primates unable to have a country. Haiti instead of being a triumph of will for human rights and freedom is used then as a cautionary tale. For the long suffering Haitian people do not always get their news, except by radio. And since most cannot read French there are only irregular reports in Haitian Creole about the success or failure of this revolt they began. That it spread to Russia, China, and Cuba and then to Algeria, Congo, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Iran and dozens of others plantations. For those with the ability to read history and current events it seems to be spreading like fire into the Middle East.

This revolt is an apolitical desire to enjoy the human rights codified by the UN in 1945. It isn’t about government or economic organization. After the abolitionist battles and legal end of slavery there are still 37 million slaves worldwide. The great powers and their oligarchies propagated race hatred and then utilized the quarantine of the Soviet Union as blackest proof this socialist modal was unsound. But there remain bastions. And again it is not about politics or the economy but about justice. About not spending a half-life fighting only to survive like an animal. 

       We have broken the physical quarantine with ease because our passports are blue and we have 15 USD and a base of operations in this dusty old fort. But perhaps we will have to spend the rest of our lives breaking the secondary quarantine. The false consciousness. The separation of fakeness and real imposed by the oligarchy telling us who is white and who is black. Man and woman. Haitian and foreigner. Capitalist and communist. It is a matter of knowing that all of these divisions are lies. Separating us from our human rights. Rights such as healthcare, education, food, water, living wages, unions, the right to speak or write our opinion without being put in a bag by masked men. Raped. Cut into pieces. And dumped by the roadside at night. 

Sebastian and Adelina, joined shortly after by the Marine Peter Saint Reed newly re-trained as an EMT, but of course always a marine. And Barbara Jean Louis Danton a Haitian American Paramedic and Eric Addman a firefighter-paramedic from the Seattle area. And the aging but always smiling, clandestine character Mr. Smith. Or the Dr. Nina Yoh. None shared a simple identity or united world view. If such labels were too imposed about nationality all were card carrying Americans. And it was this exploitation of privilege that we hoped to use to win. The oligarchy of any country relies on division. And therefore our greatest strength is not our nationality or privilege but that we are forcing an opening. Haitian leadership in Haiti. A simple objective; teach more forty Haitians to save lives. But we have a narrative though not agreed to by all of this ad hoc unit; it forms the underpinning. If there is to be change here and abroad we must control our own means to human development. As a means to human rights. 

Covered in dust and baked by heat and surrounded by endless miles of corrugated shanty dwellings and walled compounds no will pay much attention to us. The revolution began by murdering the oppressor. For 21.0 plus years that fight has been fought to a stalemate. And the resulting rights have been transient and largely un-won.

So we are switching the tactic in accordance with orders from rebel leadership here and abroad. We are internationalists. We are willing to travel country to country to go where needed to the most remote jungle or mountain. The oppression is real. The violence is real. The slavery is still real. Our oppressor will still stick a gun in our face and drag us away in a sac and torture us over rights. The way we win is to make our oppressors irrelevant. For they wish to read us some Machiavelli or Hobbes and tell us as we are but violent little monkeys. That without them we’d eat each other. I will say that when men and women can fish; can educate, heal and keep roads open and trash free then we will not need them. We will not pay them taxes. We will not let them use our money or hard earned money to buy guns and kill people just like us over their ideas on chickens and eggs.

        We are not alone on this island with this idea. My place in the chain of command is that of a staff sergeant. The day we got here we were but five more reinforcements. We have broken the first level of the quarantine by penetrating the siege. And now with but a few devices carried in supported by the local arm of the resistance we train forty more souls how to prolong a life. The insurgency began with weapons and ideas. I will not survive this war to see Zion. But that is not my role. Nor Adelina or Pete Reed or Eric Admen or Jean Louis or Barabera Danton. You give a slave a gun and say freedom and you will wash the blood of an entire generation onto the sea and streets. You give a slave training to heal and save and the blow to the oppressors on the mountain is fully sustained. We are but an army of newly freed slaves who have chosen to build the world we wish to see, rather than again set on fire a world already burning.

    Within the confines of a dusty but patriotic fort barely held together by cinder blocks rebar pillions and chipped paint; partially overrun by cats a small internationalist unit composed of but five volunteers who will garrison the outpost beginning 3 June, Gregorian Year 2014. Behind a mammoth red iron door is the concrete skeleton of a school called “Ecole Shalom des Frères”, which means a ‘school of the brothers of peace’ being intermittently erected, year by year and brick by brick. And in the adjacent courtyard is a two story maze of chalk board dimly lit classrooms, a small mess hall and some ten second floor rooms worth bunks to accommodate the inbound reinforcements.

There is a water tower that supplies clean chlorinated water to the locals at 5 goudes a liter. There is a parade ground field covered now completely in debris an impassible dumping ground occupying half the forts enclosure. There is a field kitchen and a wrangle of mangy creatures that when bled or squeezed make what passes as food. Or, eggs. There is a small partially compensated staff of locals. There are two former restaveks, one 12 and one 22. They accomplish various tasks of carpentry banditry plumbing an electric work. Three female cooks live in town. One is old women is young and the third of medium age. There is a transporter named Colbert; a former tap tap driver on staff along with several other useful quasi useful or only vaguely advantageous adjunct personnel with vague if not wholly nepotistic function. And the ground commander gong on his business card as a “country director” is one Mr. Avinadav DeBuitléirs educated at the University of Stony Brook in Long Island. He affiliates himself with the diaspora aspirations of various movements in Brooklyn. But, he directs little outside the walls of this miserable fort; and even here he often prefers delegation.

Avinadav was directly supported by a Petit Blan named Laura Levi. But since she was on some business in Ethiopia she had been replaced by a temperamental wench, a Quebecois from Montreal named ‘miss lady Catherine’. Her last name was completely unpronounceable except by the haughtiest of Francophone so we said Lady or ‘Madam Catherine’, or ‘Catherine Q’ because there was universal contempt for her amongst the volunteers. She has too well assimilated into the habit of barking orders at the Brown people. And that is, as we say “what it was”.  

On 3rd June two members of our unit crossed the rocky road called a National Highway from Santo Domingo to the City of Port-Au-Prince on the Capital Cruiser armored bus service which showed the movie Fast and the Furious part 5, at least five times. At first, it was quite loud but by the third run it was silent as no one on the bus spoke anything besides Spanish, French or Haitian Creole, and the initial plot points of the rock and Vin Diesel the most famous of Mulat action heroes had been grasped. And now it was all tits jiggling and exploding cars. And the road fell apart right after the Jimani checkpoint crossing. They served us a ham sandwich and a bottle of cold water. Sebastian Adon could see the color slowly leave Adelina Blazhennaya’s pretty and petite face as the border was crossed. He could see and via the omnibus rattling feel the road become not road. The structures of the countryside become not structures. The lush foliage becomes ugly barrens. And as the color of his partner’s face fades Sebastian also wonders how she will react to what is to come. Jostling jolts hit the bus and traffic slows to a trickle pace as the driver forms a one lane convoy behind mack trucks built in East Asia to shuttle merchanting goods from Dominican Republic into Haiti. Sneakers and such. Also cocaine or even people sealed a large valise. 

In the mind of Sebastian Adon whose hair was brown and heart was neg. He imagines this infiltration as a patriotic duty for there was some Haitian blood in him for once we took an oath. The trappings of normal human development crumble each kilometer the bus rumbles into Haiti and the endless dust. A cloud of whirling particulates swallowing the charmless and desolate environs. At the border, there was nothing to buy except Pringles. In addition, soda of every kind. The customs agent asked Adon in Creole what his business in Haiti was; “tourism”.

Adelina Blazhennaya and Sebastian both crossed the border in black boots and blue uniform pants and black shirts and therefore the customs agent knew that tourism wasn’t really what they were doing in Haiti. But, no one cared. The Brazilians, Chileans, Argentinians, and a poperee of other lesser nations were running the functions of the disbanded military. The Americans were subsidizing the state. The Cubans were running the hospitals and several thousand ONGs perhaps as many as 10,800 were the only economy besides transshipment, allegedly of bulk packaged cocaine. No real cares are given in a meaningful way. Much less an under compensated customs agent. They both had blue American passports. Crisp and newly issued. Who cared what their intention was if they had such blue passports and fifteen USD a piece. The two enormous satchel valise roller bags went completely unexamined. As did their two green voodoo tactical rucksacks. Who ever cared?

The omnibus continued two hours west down the national highway. There was corrugated tin shack after shack. Contrasting anything to D.R. is an exercise in futility. One can simply see that this is the same island and anthropologically speaking that is where it ends. Without a lengthy discourse on history colonialism and superficialities of cultural antagonism well honestly it’s night and day except they both like cock fighting. Three months ago the president of the Dominican Republic signed an executive order denationalizing over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent. 

They have the tenor of slightly overfed happy slaves, notes Blazhennaya. Not the Haitians. Neither happy nor well fed. At each juncture she slowed down as she grew more pale seeing the descent into some land before time some utter desolation. Naked children drooling covered in flies. Tents and shanties. Everywhere unfinished construction sites and partially erected edifices. And the cloud of dust hovered over the endless misery.

      When they finally reached Port-Au-Prince it was just before tusk and Avinadav DeBuitléir accompanied by Marco Balan the light skinned apparatchik and Colbert the driver loaded them in and shuttled them both away to Croix des Bouquets down the unlit impasses to 808 Rue Double Barrel They were given a choice of three rooms all very dusty and Spartan. Settled a little before midnight. Adelina Blazhennaya sat on their twin bed in a room with no window coverings, just a window space with sheet nailed to cover it. And then she cried heavily but silently voer what a hell she has followed her partner into. Not at the overwhelming poverty; the blight scorched earth of the quarantine. Not for fallen friends and those surely to fall. The quiet tears of Adelina Blazhennaya were for herself. To protect the man she loves and is so devoted she will lose everything and everyone she has ever known. This was a dying place. A ruined pocked and parched Island at or near the bottom of the mountain. Horror has exhausted tears, thinks she. She cries because what hope do they have for humanity in general to win. Their enemies are hunting them. She is so far from Chelyabinsk Tank City. She cries and Sebastian holds her. Darkness seeps in. They take their place in the trenches joining the reality, the tragic ranks of newly freed slaves. 

It was one thing to follow a man into hell, it was another thing altogether to fight your way from that hell to the heights of Mt. Olympus if not higher! No part of the stated American dream included any of this.

But before there ever was a “Haitian Emergency Group”. Before there was a resistance pushing back the enemy. Before, a fighting movement was winning on the ground in Haiti, in what was left of Syria and also in the streets of the United American States. There was a mighty quake which took the lives of somewhere between 100,000 to 316,000 men, women and children, which struck the country of Haiti on the morning of 12 January, 2010.

Round large disparate numbers which revealed a great unknowing and uncaring. For when the oligarchy cannot crush, kill or discredit a thing. They quarantine it.

It was a spirit of solidarity that brought us out from Brooklyn to stand beside our Haitian brothers and sisters in their darkest hour. It was the Haitian defiance of empires and the world system itself that made us stay in Hispaniola and continue the battle for freedom beside them.