Stormy Weather

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While other people’s childhood reminiscences might include building tree houses and tea parties with their genuine Chatty Cathy Doll, mine center more often on hurricanes.  The charming, leafy subdivision I grew up in was a peninsula that stuck out into Galveston Bay and which was smacked by tropical storms pretty regularly.  Every autumn, inevitably, I would be roused in the early morning by my mother who would announce that we had to put all our earthly possessions up as high as possible cause some stupid hurricane was heading our way and flooding was imminent.  Great.

And then, having stuffed our clothes and groceries in the attic and propped the couch up on cinder blocks, would we flee to higher ground?  Oh my, no.  We would sit and wait, “see how things go” and only leave once the bay waters actually invaded the house, which they did six or seven times (I have lost count over the years) before the city finally condemned the charming, leafy subdivision and forced my parents to move to a more sensible location, a move they should have made decades before.  Some of these floods were six and seven feet deep.

When I was six, the eye of Hurricane Carla, an enormous Category 5 storm, passed directly over the little town I grew up in.  The National Guard came to our door and ordered my father to get us out; we drove through water that came half way up the car doors.  And where did we go? Five minutes “inland” to my granny’s house, a house you could walk to the beach from.  Cause that was safe.

And that’s the point, the world I grew up in was astonishingly casual about hurricanes, storms that killed people every fucking year somewhere on the Gulf Coast.  Of course, meteorological predictions were much more primitive and tropical storms rarely travel in a straight path, so hearing one was “coming our way” was a prediction regarded with jaundiced eye.   My granny could do better watching  which way the birds flew.  The grocery store printed hurricane tracking charts on their paper bags.  During Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, the weatherman would interrupt with the latest coordinates and you could mark them on the map to see which way the fucking thing was lurching.  It was like a not very amusing game.  I remember the truism that it’s supposed to be worse to be on the west side of the hurricane, but now I can’t remember why.  Maybe it was unlucky.

But then came Hurricane Andrew and all his little brothers ripping up Florida; and Alicia, which finally forced my family from their home; and, of course, Katrina so now the storms get much more the respect they were due.

And now here comes little Isaac, still only a tropical storm and only predicted to hit land as a Category Two, but coming in with spectacular timing, interrupting the RNC convention (sort of yay) and eyeing the anniversary of Katrina (so very much not yay.)

That’s why as I sit here, halfway across the continent, remembering the weird green color the sky would turn right before a really big storm settled in; the nasty stench of the muck that the storm surge would flood our house with; my mother wading through the den to reposition her favorite recliner, I’ll be honest.  I am so grateful to be out.

Anyway, what this really started out as was a hearty wish of good luck and no hurricanes going out to our dear Jason in New Orleans and Mean Dirty Pirate in whatever truckstop he’s in outside Gulfport.  Keep your tits dry honey.

About mrpeenee

A former bon vivant and terror of a number of New Orleans bars in the mad, gay 1980s, I'm now quietly retired and widowed in San Francisco. I have a crooked nose due to an unfortunate Frisbee accident.

8 responses »

  1. We had the slightly less dramatic storms off the Great Lakes to contend with, but they provided a fair amount of childhood weather drama nonetheless. I hope our Gulfy friends (of the U.S. sort, not the sort I live among) are taking care…

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  2. Just outside of Washington DC, all we ever had were windbags. Fat, white, mildly hateful windbags. Kabuki left but they remain. Here's hoping the hurricane picks up a few of them and drops them in the sea.

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  3. I live in a sturdy victorian house on a hill. This bitch aint going anywhere in less than 130 mile per hour wind so I tend toward your parents mode of hurricane preparedness. A wait and see approach then a mad dash should the storm take a jog to the left or right scenario. It's especially fun when booze and pills are involved. Then up to a week of blissful time without electricity. It's a bit of a mild memory making traumatic vacation.

    The only thing I really hate about big storms is having a lush summer and then having it stripped down to a bleak winter dormancy in a few hours. Years of work, down the drain. Salt water kills everything.

    Thank you for your concern and I'm hoping all will be fine and love your childhood memories of past storms that are very much like my own. I have a feeling this is just the beginning of a busy season.

    *Heads to Ritchey's Discount Liquors for hurricane supplies.

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  4. Like Muscato, I grew up in the Midwest. Nothing quite as dramatic as Katrina — but plenty of drama nonetheless between tornadoes, hellacious downpours, and blizzards. I remember my folks driving us though the tornado damage in a suburb about 15 minutes from our house. It was very odd seeing a plumbing stack supporting a bathtub two stories off the ground and realizing no other surviving part of that house stood as tall.

    Yet, I have friends in California who have yet to see the wisdom of fastening their bookshelves to the wall and doing whatever is appropriate to keep the contents of the bookshelves from raining down during an earthquake!

    In any event, I hope all Mr. P's Gulf Coast readers are doing all that is prudent to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and dry.

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  5. Holy cow. Galveston Bay as in Galveston as in 6000 people died in a hurricane in 1900?!?! And you weren't running for your lives?!?

    I am so thankful that I grew up in the Bronx in the 1950's where the worst things you had to weather were family dynamics and ruler-wielding nuns.

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  6. I think we all harbor a soft spot for where we grew up. And what is not lovely about the sea? Well, unless of course it is swallowing you up, but still.

    I am enjoying your blog, it's smart and funny. I am so glad you did not get washed away. 🙂

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