Thursday, March 11, 2010


I'm rattled by yet another day of multiple aftershocks following Chile's February 27th 8.8 magnitude earthquake. The last one not too long ago was 7.2. I think of my family. I think of my friends. This is after all, my birthplace. It is a small country that seems far away, and yet after the devastating earthquake, temblors, and tremors, the outpouring of concern, of love, of caring, and of compassion displayed by the entire world, and especially by our friends right here in the United States of America, has been incredible.

As we prepare to host another Open Mike Night (a.k.a. Open Mic Night) at The Rathskeller Pub Lounge tonight, I can't help but think about how many of our friends who participate and take the mike week after week, have emailed me, have reached out to me, to make sure my family is OK, but moreover, to just let me know that they care about me--about Chile! I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully reciprocate all the love and attention that they have bestowed upon me. I'm ever so grateful, and ever so much more energized to continue to work hand-in-hand with my husband, Pete, to ensure that The National Hotel provides a place where all our friends and neighbors, can enjoy and share in its rebirth.

And in particular, we take great pride in how much our artistic community contributes to our lives, giving generously and selflessly by sharing the joy that comes from being able to allow one's creative energy to flow. Those who have signed up since the inception of our Thursday night Open Mike Night at The National Hotel, have ranged from technology professionals who have a passion for music and love to share their talent with everyone, to professional writers and artists, who gladly share their talent with all of us. It runs the gamut and that's what makes this so wonderful. Regardless of their "day" job, one thing they have in common is this absolute passion for art, and on Thursday nights, that usually means music.

Check out Skye Van Saun, for instance, who is a regular at our Open Mike Nights, and whose voice and musical choices have brought the place to a standstill--where not even a whisper can be heard. She is just super talented. I recently learned that she will read from her chapbook, Versus Verses, as part of the Carriage House Poetry Series, on Tuesday, March 16th at the Patricia Kuran Arts Center, in Fanwood, NJ. She is so incredibly accomplished, and yet when you meet her, she gladly spends time talking with you; no airs, no "attitude." She's a poet, writer, and editor, who teaches master poetry classes. And she's one of us! She loves Frenchtown, and we're so pleased that she loves spending time at The National Hotel.

You can see a quick webclip of one of her performances at The Rat on youtube thanks to "Banjo Bill":

If I now move from the micro to the macro, I'm happy to share that artists from around the world have contributed to an incredibly successful telethon this past Saturday. Again, artists. They bring out the best in all of us...and for Chile, it means aid that's finally reaching the people most affected. Don Francisco, one of Univision's most famous television personalities, and a Chilean national, hosted the "teleton" and raised over $58 million! That's double what the organizers had hoped to raise. ¡Felicitaciones!


And yet, it's hard to believe that it's been nearly 2 weeks since the earthquake of 8.8 magnitude devastated the poorest and most vulnerable communities in my country of birth, my beautiful, genuine, fertile land of warm and generous people. It took days to locate all my relatives--many were away, because being the end of February in the southern hemisphere, it's summertime--and it's taken even longer to locate friends and friends of friends. It was a relief to know that everyone for whom I searched was safe and sound. But no one walked away unscathed.

As fortunate as they were to have experienced no physical harm, and to have homes that are structurally sound, they all lost personal possessions, many irreplaceable, suffered from loss of electricity, no gas for their cars, and even worse, additional fear from all the looting that took place. The images that came through on our TVs were just impossible to bear. Just look at what CNN reported:

Those who survived without minor losses, are fearful of going out, of being robbed or of having their homes vandalized. The mass looting in the southern central cities affected is just unfathomable; it's still tearing us apart. The feeling of panic, the stress of this trauma, is palpable.
And now there are still more quakes. Some of the roads are impassable still, and even those who want to travel, are finding that difficult. One of my cousins who was stuck almost at the epicenter of this catastrophe, traveling southward to our family compound, described being in the car, fully in park, and yet moving as if on a wild roller-coaster ride. He ended up traveling to Argentina, across the Andes, to be able to get enough gas for a return trip to the capital, Santiago. The images he posted on facebook are just surreal. As are the images that the New York Times has published, and all the other major news networks and papers.
To my beautiful homeland, to my wonderful compatriots, please know that all your North American neighbors are with you in this time of need. The telethon that Don Francisco hosted last Saturday raised double what they expected thanks to the generosity of the global community. And there are more fundraisers coming. If you read this and want to contribute, please make sure that you check the organization's giving history, check the 990s filed with the office of the Attorney General, and make sure they are reputable. Working in the non-profit industry for nearly 20 years, the number of scams that take place during these catastrophes by unscrupulous people, is just incredible. But if you want to give, then please give from your heart, and know that Chile will not forget. A dear friend of mine, Heidy, sent me this link on ways to help Chile, which lists some of the big organizations that are already on the ground providing aid, like the Red Cross and Unicef. For all that our friends and neighbors have already done for this little tiny country of about 16 million people, and for all your good wishes and your prayers, I thank you.

If you know of any other fundraising events to help Chile, please feel free to share them in a comment here. Thank you again.