Song for Sandy

This is a post by guest blogger Ellen Bulger, who is located on the East Coast and preparing for Hurricane Sandy’s arrival. Stay safe, all of you who are in the line of God’s wrath the upcoming storms.

God must be punishing Connecticut. About twenty years ago, I was traveling down south, down in Georgia or somewhere and this guy, noticing I was not a local, told me I was in God’s Country. And I wanted to say, “Yeah? Well I’m from Martha Stewart Country and she could kick his ass!”

Surely God must be punishing us. What worse Yankee than a Connecticut Yankee? Seriously, we’re awash in lawyers and bankers and big pharma and insurance companies and stock brokers. By any reading of any holy book, that’s a lot more sinning than all the queers and atheists and evolutionary biologists in the world could get up to, no matter how hard they tried! But I don’t think Pat Robertson has called us out yet. Yet. Man, I could almost see how God would want to slap down Fairfield County. They don’t even have good pizza. But then again, we got broke folks here too.

Sandy’s a big storm and even if she is only a Cat 1. She’ll likely take her time over us and grind on down like a great big power sander. Nubbins. We have a lot of trees. The power will go out. The roads will be blocked. It will take a long time for things to be up and running. I dug out my camping gear. Going to be such a kick to dig a pit toilet in the woods. Hmm, I should Google suggestions on how to do that while I still have intrawebs.

This storm doesn’t look like this will be a false alarm. I can tell. My usually unflappable ex is very worried about his boat. I think the authorities were watching him and when he broke a sweat, that’s when they gave the signal to start evacuating all the low-lying residences.

Whatever happens will be INTERESTING. I would rather read about it than live it. I’m a sucker for books about storms and shorelines: Erik Larson’s “Isaac’s Storm” (The man can write!) “Against the Tide; The Battle for America’s Beaches” by Cornelia Dean, “The Perfect Storm” by Sebastian Junger (book good, movie BAD!), “Hell Under God’s Orders” a compilation of articles and essays by residents of St. Croix USVA who survived Hugo and the racist response that followed (Very much a foreshadowing of gov’t response to Katrina in N.O.). “Gray Seas Under” is a little known page-turner by Farley Mowat about a salvage tug out of Nova Scotia. High seas salvage is an interesting line of work, crazy daredevil repo-man stuff. “Trawler” by the always awesome Redmond O’Hanlon finds him living a Most-Dangerous-Catch experience aboard a fishing boat in the middle of a North Atlantic midwinter hurricane.

All well and good until you live it. My only visit to New Orleans was about a month after Katrina. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever seen: a sea of blue tarps, miles of abandoned mud-crusted cars under the highway, metal structures twisted like pretzels, office buildings smashed, a major city hospital sitting EMPTY, and those houses, those houses with the big Xs spraypainted on them, numbers indicating how many recovered, how many alive, how many dead. You cry. Unless you are a robot, you cry.

I’ve never been one to take storms lightly, but standing in the wreckage drove home how a big storm can kill a major city. You think about bad planning, bad education and fear and betrayal. I took a class on hurricanes a year later. When we watched a video that showed a car sloshing around in the waves in front of a motel, I saw the brake lights go on and realized someone was in the car, I got the shakes. Death, not by a gun or a bomb or a war, but by the curb at a roadside motel, the most mundane of locations.

After a certain point, hurricanes are just scary as hell.

For anyone out there who doesn’t take hurricanes seriously, my prescription for you is a chapter of “Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938” by R.A. Scotti, taken nightly. Never mind the 800-some deaths, the two-story frontrunner waves hitting the shore, the coastal flooding. The real lesson is what followed: the inland flooding along rivers, the fires, the entire forests of downed trees. That storm paralyzed a region for months. It pretty much killed what was left of manufacturing in the northeast. And now? With the economy in such bad shape? With higher population and more structures along the shore? If a big enough storm takes down enough trees, how long do you reckon before things are functional again, before roads are opened and power is restored? Anyone who feels confident about this must have never heard of Katrina.

Ah well, every 500-mile-wide dark cloud has a silver lining. Bad storms make good books. Perhaps I will write one while I wait for the power to come back on. I must have some paper and a pencil around here somewhere.

In the meantime I am going to have a hot shower and a cold beer, then some warm soup and a dish of ice cream, as I sit in my nice clean pajamas, warm and dry. It might be awhile until I can enjoy these things again. Got to savor them.

I’d like to dedicate this one to that churning hunk of wind n’ water out over the Atlantic, coming our way like a bullet:

Song for Sandy
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