jump to navigation

To the Moon, Alice December 11, 2012

Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, Federal Flood, hurricane, je me souviens, Toulouse Street.
Tags: ,
add a comment

The TWA terminal of gracefully contorted concrete stands ready to load orbital shuttles that will never come. I imagine  Stanley Kubric in transit from L.A. to London stepping out of that building to stretch his legs and standing agog as I do, strains of the Vienna Waltz spinning through the air.

My weather app on the phone tells me I am in Far Rockaway.

There is something equally fantastic in the Jet Blue terminal, an ominous normality while somewhere beneath the view of arriving and departing passengers survivors huddle in tents. My phones’ weather feature says I am in Far Rockaway. 8142818841_a5b7757e8d_b

This does not look like Far Rockaway in the wake of Sandy. It looks like Starbucks and Cinnabon and I ♥ NY t-shirts. There is no Sandy memorial newspaper or magazine. There is no sign that just across the way people are huddled in tents in the freezing cold. They lack the dramatic quality of the huddled Black masses at the convention center, the suggestion of the alien that makes it all OK. God forbid we should see real Americans shivering in the freezing cold like Syrian refugees.

There is no mention of Sandy’s aftermath on the Jet Blue in flight video. Nothing to see here. Move along.

It can’t happen here.

Come On Rise Up November 12, 2012

Posted by The Typist in Bloggers, Federal Flood, hurricane, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, Recovery, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: , , , , ,
1 comment so far

My friend Sam Jasper’s post over at New Orleans Slate Unsolicited Advice to the Northeast in the Aftermath has gone viral in the Northeast. There are now 70 comments and dozens more private emails. Less than 1% of people who actually read a blog post (discounting those who drop in and leave) every leave a comment. You need to go read this wherever you are.

She starts off with a Bruce Springsteen Song Jersey Girl. The Springsteen song I can’t get out of my head is the one the NBC nightly news ran at the end of one of their broadcasts over a montage of the ruins of Sandy, the same song he sang to tens of thousands reduced to sobbing at Jazz Fest 2006: My City of Ruins.

When I could bring myself to watch the news the force fields went up. It is as if you have just had a minor stroke. The brain is empty, the body seems distant and alien, and the television a nightmare half remembered.

I only cried when I heard that song.

Come on, rise up.

You can do it. Your boots are on the pile in front of the house so you will somehow have to manage to lift yourself up by sheer will, above every gospel word Sam has written in her post. Some folks in the affected areas may not fare to badly. The government starting running dump trucks of money into Manhattan after 9-11 to repair utilities and such. Maybe you’ll be lucky, and your utility bill won’t double. Maybe you have stronger elected officials, who won’t stand for a property-and-casualty insurance bill larger than the principle on your mortgage. I hope so.

Come on, rise up.

We felt so abandoned after the Federal Flood a deceased friend adopted the term Sinn Fein, not a reference to modern Irish politics but to the origins of the party but to the translation: Ourselves Alone.

Sinn Fein, baby. But you are not alone. The people of the hurricane coast, who have done all this before in 2005 and again and again before this, stand at your shoulders like the ghosts of every soldier buried in a foreign land. The people of the south are a prayerful people, and right now millions of hands are clasped, a hundred thousand Saints’ candles burning, uncounted joss sticks lit to the Merciful Ones. Trucks are loaded. Checks are written. If you finally figure out what we’ve known down here since Camille in ’69 the mayor of Staten Island has figured out, and you will to, but one way or another help will come. It will come not from the insurance racketeers. It will come unsought from church groups. It will come in trucks from points unknown filled with cleaning supplies. It will come with all I see that remains of the America we were taught, and it will not come from the government. It will come from you neighbors. It will come up from the coast from those who stayed, from those who returned, by the heavenly intervention of the ghosts of the flood.

It will come.

“I pray Lord
with these hands
for the strength Lord
with these hands
for the faith Lord
with these hands

Come on rise up!
Come on rise up!”

Rise up.

The Governing Weather of Summer June 13, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, hurricane, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.

Here in New Orleans the solstice is truly Midsummer. As early as May the governing weather of summer is upon us with all the weight of the planets, guiding our choices toward the shade and the restful, but we are a contrary folk and while I might have enough sense to work in the yard before glare of midday, still I stood on the corner of Frenchman and Royal last Saturday night and watched the Young Fellaz Brass Band drive another band from the opposite corner by pure power of sound and danced until I was as sleekly wet as a seal. My wife, who would normally not approve, didn’t care a bit that I had completely unbuttoned my rayon shirt and bared my chest. The atmosphere was a palpable thing on my body, running in rivulets down to my shuffling feet and into the street, the only movement in the air our bodies and the sounds that drove us into this senseless frenzy when a more temperate people would be still.

Not yet Midsummer’s Night and we have months ahead of red weather. We will drink more beer than modern American medicine thinks good for us (and outlive them to prove them asses), tending the fires in our grills beneath richly speckled Creole sausages, dousing the fatty flames with a spurt from a shaken bottle. We will drive out the evil vapors of last night’s cocktails by starting the weed whacker much too early for some of the neighbors, who may curse us but will then rise up themselves and get to the yard work before the sun boils the mercury in the window thermometer. Come the Fourth of July we will stand in the mosquito thick, coffee-hot dark breeze of the levee to cool ourselves and to better view the fireworks. August will weigh down upon us like the responsibility of empire on Caesar’ shoulders and we will still stand on the blistering cement of the French Market for Satchmo Fest if we are to late to claim a bit of shade.

We are, in a word, accustomed to where we live. I spent almost 10 years in Fargo, North Dakota and small-town Northwest Minnesota. My first year in the small down of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota I had a long sunken driveway and a cranky, (very) used Monkey Ward snow blower. When the plows came around the corner my drive was the first break in the curb for 100 feet and they would dump an immense amount of slushy avalanche snow that would freeze into a wall two feet high in the driveway I just cleared. By the end of that year, I was lifting snow over my head at the mouth of the driveway (keeping in mind how snow settles and compacts). And I stuck, as they say up there. There were compensating virtues to the place, and humans are adaptable enough to range from the edge of the Arctic ice to the vast Sahara and Gobi deserts.

Last night we went to dinner at someone’s house, and as we sat around after sipping a beer and admiring the massive bank of windows along one wall of their house we inevitably got onto storm shutters. We’re well into June and while the start of hurricane season is mostly ceremonial, a time for the weathermen to read the auguries to everyone congregated around the television, to recite the names of this year’s storms, and the signs are not good the augurs tell us. The Atlantic is exceedingly warm, our host reminded us and El Niño is taking the year off. Our host recited the official forecast: 14 to 23 Named Storms including 8 to 14 Hurricanes of which 3 to 7 could be Major Hurricanes.

Even as we went off into the common topic of evacuation stories and stay-versus-leave, his wife wasn’t interested in hearing the numbers. “I’m not borrowing trouble,” she told him, and I agree. Long range weather forecasting is as much art as science, a series of assumptions fed into the historical statistics and computer models that are themselves a mix of past performance and assumptions, mixed with the current sea temps along the Intertropical Convergence Zone (and if you live down there, you know it by that name and not, say, as The Horse L attitudes). Like gambling at the stockbroker’s or the track, it is as much about initial assumptions as it is past performance and if you’re wrong, you tear up the ticket on you way to get a beer.

This morning I go back to confirm the numbers and read the names for this year’s storms and I find a map of the South Atlantic with a big orange circle, the message below it in telegraphic CAPITALS telling us of a disturbance spinning toward the Cape Verde Islands. A medium chance, it tell us, of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours. It’s begun.

I know the general trends well enough to understand that a storm in June isn’t much to worry about, just as we know the storms of late September and October will spin up the East Coast, just as we know Katrina was that once in a generation storm we were all raised to expect. Still we can’t resist looking, re-familiarizing ourselves with the cryptic jargon of the forecasters, wondering when the first disturbance will enter the GOM*, when that The Clash song will start hammering in our heads. For all their research and supercomputers and a lifetime of art the forecaster’s can’t tell us what we’ll be doing in August or September, but I can. Come August, we will go to Satchmo Fest and send my daughter off to college and get my son ready for his sophomore year of high school. I will thank Ogoun that it has not rained and the grass is brown, will break a cigarette and sprinkle some tobacco onto the soil as I daily water the plants in thanks for one less task in the dank afternoon, will retreat into the shade of the fan-cooled porch when I am done, will submit myself to the governing weather of summer as before a jealous and merciful god because it’s what the chosen people do as the price of the land of milk and honey.

*Gulf of Mexico