Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wusses of the (music) world

Blender magazine came out with a list of the 25 biggest wimps in music history. (Warning: Link includes a bit of R-rated language.)

We bring this to you today because of the Carolina angle. Somebody you know (and many of you love) sits at the top of the list -- our own James Taylor.

I wrote about JT back when I was the Observer's music writer, saying I was starting to enjoy him as I got older. I don't leap to change the station when he comes on anymore.

But I can't argue much with this.

Add comments, make impassioned defenses, and nominate other weenies below. (How did Seals and Crofts not make the list?)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Home from Lebanon

In case y'all missed it, the Charlotte family I wrote about last week made it home from Lebanon. The story is here. (My colleague Tim Funk, who works in our Washington bureau, hustled to Pennsylvania on Saturday to interview Julia Blevins-Mercabi and her family.)

A few bits that didn't make it into the story:

-- Julia and her family wanted to thank the Marines who helped them in Lebanon and flew them on a helicopter to Cyprus. The family had several frustrating days trying to get out of Lebanon, but the Marines were helpful and generous.

-- The plane home had a three-hour layover in Ireland. It was late, and most of the airport was closed, but Julia and several others went looking for pay phones. But all the phones took euros, and -- having just come from Lebanon -- nobody had euros. So Julia couldn't call home.

-- Julia and her husband, Mazen, had to leave most of their luggage behind -- all they took was diapers, wipes and milk for their 15-month-old daughter, Mona-Kate.

Lots of us wonder what we'd take along if we had to grab a bag and go. When you have a child, there's not much doubt.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Update on family in Lebanon

In today's paper I wrote about a Charlotte family that was visiting Lebanon and got caught in the fighting there. (The story is here.) Julia Blevins-Mercabi; her husband, Mazen; and their daughter, Mona-Kate, have been trying to get out of the country.

This morning at 11:30 (about 6:30 p.m. Lebanon time) I got an e-mail from Julia Blevins-Mercabi. I'm just going to reprint it here. Add comments below.

OK -- today was pure HELL! At 1:30 AM the Embassy called us and told us to report to the Northern Beruit port at 11:00AM because we were going to take a ship to Cyprus. We took a taxi to Beirut and went to the assigned area as scheduled. It was chaos. People were told to show up and their names were not on the list so they were turned away after waiting hours in the heat.

Our names were on the list so we went to a holding area where we went through a security check, a processing station, and we were assigned a bus which would take us to the ship. At 3:00 PM our bus arrived. We boarded the bus and a representative from the embassy said "Sorry. You all are not going to Cyprus today. We had some medical emergencies and we had to take them to the ship. We will drive you back to the highway and you will have to find your way home. But tomorrow you can go to Cyprus by helicopter". The ship had not even left yet! If there were medical emergencies why didn't they use the helicopters for those people? People were livid. Some had traveled 3 hours on dangerous roads just to get to Beirut and paid jacked-up taxi cab fares -- only to hear "Sorry, come back tomorrow" like it was nothing to get there.

Everyone was on an emotional rollercoaster. First hope and relief that they were going home and then pain, anger, frustration. Do you know what it is like to get dropped off on the highway in and out of Beirut? That is like getting dropped off on I-85 with everyone speeding and being told to fend for yourself. I mean, how were they going to do that? People had babies, luggage, and no cell phones. Did they expect everyone to hitchhike or walk? The people on the bus started screaming at the embassy staff. Eventually the embassy staff took us to a hotel next to the embassy. They promised us that tomorrow they will take us on a helicopter to Cyprus at 8:00 AM. They told us to report to the embassy at 6:00 AM. Everyone started screaming at the embassy staff and they gave us all promissary notes that we will be the first to go tomorrow.

At the hotel we waited an hour and they still did not have room for us, so we came back to Tripoli. Now tomorrow I have to go through the whole thing again. Can you even imagine what that is like? So tomorrow we will trek back to Beruit at 4:30 AM and hope that luck is on our side.

I do, however, want to say how fantastic the Marines were. They were so kind. They brought us water and food, had a shaded area for us to sit, and helped people load their luggage onto the buses.

Now I am going to call my mom because more than anything I worry about the emotional toll this whole ordeal has had on her. Then I will go to bed because I have a big day ahead.

Hopefully I will see you all soon!