I didn’t shower or shit for the first two days in Port au Prince. I didn’t shave either. But then I didn’t shave for the entire 12 days. This was due, in part, to a lack of preparedness, but also, the thought of my micro-abrasions confronting a city full of swirling corpse dust voided what small pleasures might be gained from scraping off my face hair.
Showers and toilets were different. Shaving was a matter of hygiene. Skipping showers and poop was calculated hygienic avoidance. I’ll get into this more later, but, essentially, I had developed the opinion that the only thing worse than being crushed to death under a 3rd rate hotel was being crushed to death by a 3rd rate hotel while naked and/or taking a dump.
The day before we made the drive over from Santo Domingo to Haiti, CNN ran a special Anderson Cooper report from Port au Prince that made me believe with near surety that I would not only be murdered by desperate Haitians, but would likely be pulled apart and devoured before my organs had time to fail. For this, Anderson, I thank you.
His two minute footage consisted of a scuffle as a shop in downtown Port au Prince was looted by teenagers. I didn’t check the timecodes or anything like that, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that it was about two minutes. I think I might actually be giving the footage more than its fair credit, personally, but I would guess thatAnderson feels differently. At any rate, the point is that this two minute scuffle was broadcast on an infinite loop all day long while I was prepping to go into Haiti, with Wolf Blitzer introducing it with bizarre hyperboles like, “PORT au PRINCE IN CHAOS!” or “VIOLENCE GRIPS HAITI!” or “IF YOU ARE DRIVING INTO HAITI TOMORROW, YOU WILL BE PULLED APART AND DEVOURED BY DESPERATE HAITIANS!” These sorts of things. Again, I didn’t DVR any of this, but you’ll just have to trust that I watch enough CNN to be able to write their shitty copy for them. Cause I do.
It was in this mindset that my partner and I departed Santo Domingo early in the morning of January 19th and made the long, jostling journey overland and into Haiti. I guess at some point I should probably mention what it is I do and how it is I came to find myself in Haiti a week after the country was smashed by a wrathful earthquake. Since I’m fairly certain that only one person outside my immediate family will ever actually read any of these words I’m banging out right now, I’ll keep this real simple. I am a journalist working in the Japanese media, for one of Japan’s leading newspapers. “It’s not the biggest,” I explain to non-Js, “but it’s the best.” Other journalists often ask me, “Do you write?” and I say, “No.” “Well, do you take pictures?” and I say, “No.” Other journalists get confused by this, so I try to explain it thusly: “You know all the other shit you spend your waking life doing that doesn’t involve typing or taking pictures? THAT’s what I do.” That’s what I do.
And getting back to Anderson Cooper. Being a newspaperman, and especially as one working in the foreign press, I have a natural and simmering disgust for American television news. This already frothy aversion was only exacerbated by my numerous encounters with the CNNers and the FOXes in Haiti; their insipid questions about ‘feelings’, their staged shots, and their special propensity to make their very own correspondents into the HEROES of HAITI. It’s all enough to make a fella retch into his neck. You’ll be hearing more about them.
Needless to say, however, despite Anderson Cooper’s 2 minute expose on Port au Prince’s descent into savagery, I was never pulled apart and devoured by desperate Haitians.