Still Standing

It’s before sunrise. I’m a little bleary-eyed. Most importantly, I’m still here, after being battered by Hurricane Nate.

The storm bullied its way through during the early morning hours.

Electric power stayed on, as far as I can recall. I went to bed around eleven last night.

Was there any damage? Daylight will tell the story. A foot of rain came down in my area overnight, and there may be some tree limbs down.

I’m grateful we’re still here.  Hope this tropical weather season comes to an end.

The Greater Good

It was the car’s first oil change and checkup. A cold front came through–rare for September. Skies were deceptively blue and beautiful.

Sterile customer waiting rooms typically had libations, pastries, and uncomfortable chairs. It was rare, for me anyway, to strike up conversations, while waiting. Today was different.

Ben, a personable young man, was a rock-climbing instructor. His family was stationed at the nearby, Navy base.

Donna, was an assistant pastor at a local church. Her responsibilities involved church education and outreach.

The thrust of our conversations revealed commonality–we’d all belonged to organizations–church or military, past or present.  Sometimes, bonds formed were greater, than family ties.

Through our collective experiences, we’d learned to get along with others of different backgrounds; because we were part of something greater than ourselves.

“What was it like experiencing a hurricane?” Ben asked.  “It was hectic. Frightening–even.  Evacuations were tense, unpleasant,” I answered.

Gasoline prices spiked the past week, and were still climbing.  Hotels in Northwest Florida were filling with hurricane evacuees.  Bottled water was scarce in local stores.

“Why were hurricanes named after bad people?” Donna asked.  “Ivan, the hurricane, was terrible–like its namesake.”

The name Irma, would forever have bad connotations–just like Katrina.

“If there was ever a hurricane Adolph, we resolved to leave immediately–no questions asked.”

 

 

The Most Wonderful Time Of Year–Not

September is my birth month. It’s also the most active time for tropical weather.

The past few years have been relatively quiet around my little part of the Gulf Coast. Memories of past hurricanes Ivan and Katrina still haunt.

My storm panels wait, at the ready, in case we need to board up and evacuate. I don’t wish ill of anyone, but if nasty storm Irma heads this direction, I’m bugging out.

Ten RV Things That Drove Me Bonkers (Plus 2 More)

This happened thirteen years ago.  Memories are still fresh.  Living permanently in an RV was far different from vacationing in one.  Fleeing a major hurricane, towing one’s home was the highlight.  Witnessing hurricane destruction, upon returning, was the low light.  A list, slightly revised, of RV living annoyances.

——————————————–

  1. The unfortunate mouse and the fan
  2. Awnings, storms, fun with the wind
  3. Propane gas fails–before breakfast, before dawn
  4. Mud daubers, rains, rumbles on the roof
  5. Evil overloads–snap, snap, snap went the breakers
  6. Blinding sunrises, through bedroom windows, in my eyes
  7. Afraid of the dark neighbors, with searchlight night lights
  8. Couldn’t sleep, thin walls knew no secrets
  9. Winter winds, frozen hoses, cold noses–baby it’s cold inside
  10. I felt the earth move–with every step you took
  11. Hurricane repair, contractor neighbors, partied from dusk till dawn
  12. Evacuation gridlock stretched for miles and miles before we slept

Rain, Rain–Hurricane Go Away

Nothing’s worse than a hurricane evacuation.  The worst traffic tie-ups known to mankind.  People have had their cars run out of gas in gridlock.  It’s a gut-wrenching decision.

Some with expensive whole-house generators and storm shutters, view it as a challenge.  Dueling with Mother Nature–nature always wins in a full-bore onslaught.  It’s a high stakes, crap shoot.  When away, hurricane news coverage reinforces the tension of not knowing whether one’s home survived or not.

I’ve been on both sides of the issue.  Once, because of my own ineptitude, and lack of adequate advance planning.  That was during daylight hours.  Everything seems worse at night–when wind howls, rafters crack and pop under the strain.  If there’s a choice, I don’t intend to ride out another hurricane.

SHELTER

The previous day had been extremely hot and sultry with temperatures over one hundred degrees.  It provided the ingredients for a severe summer electrical storm.  Lightning flashes, thunderclaps shook my whole body.  Heavy rain made the canvas transparent.  I hunkered down and tried not to look up at the heavens.  If this were the end of my life I wasn’t going to face it head on.  There wasn’t much protection from the elements.  Tenting during an electrical storm seemed foolhardy.  Now it was too late.  I had to tough it out till the end.  Thoughts turned to making peace with my maker.  Who did atheists and agnostics cry out to when they faced death?  Because of poor site selection, water seeped into the tent bottom.  The rest of the night was spent sleeping in the back of the car.  Mercifully, the night ended with strange calmness.  The sound of faraway truck traffic lulled me to sleep.

__________________

“T’was in another lifetime, one of toil and blood

When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud

I come in from the wilderness, a creature void of form

“Come in,” She said.  “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”

–Bob Dylan–

Tropical storms brought anxious moments of uncertainty.  Compared to a big storm hundreds of miles across, I felt insignificant.  A house provided shelter, but could not withstand a direct hit.  Making the wrong decision could prove fatal.  Evacuations caused traffic backups for miles.  There were many previous examples from hurricanes Ivan and Katrina.  Houses washed completely away by the storm surge.  People rescued from rooftops in the New Orleans area.  Tropical storms could be predicted up to a point.  What about sudden strengthening? …Sudden turns?  Preparations had to be made.  My decision was to ride it out as long as it didn’t strengthen to a Category 3.  Hurricane Isaac shifted to the West and made landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River.  We experienced heavy storm surge worsened by high tides.  Misery passed to the folks of Louisiana previously hit by Katrina.  Mother Nature showed no mercy.  They were supposed to get up to twenty inches of rainfall.

A Hawaiian tour guide gave the following answers to questions.  “Who’d want to live on, essentially, what was an active volcano?”   He answered the question, with a question, “Where do you live?” The tourist answered, “New York.”  “New York, you have congested streets, high crime, winter storms, high cost of living.” He rattled off a half-dozen things.  “What about the Gulf Coast?”  “He responded,  “You have hurricanes, tornadoes, summer heat and humidity.”  He showed no mercy toward California, “earthquakes, tidal waves, crime, congestion, smog, budget problems, mudslides, and wildfires.”  The point was, there were adverse conditions, everywhere on earth.  What could I put up with?  The thought of residing over molten lava didn’t comfort me.  I hadn’t intentionally done anything to anger Pele.  I’m perfectly happy sheltered right where I am.  Here, I will make my stand, face-to-face!

SOUTHERN LATITUDES

Wasn’t Alabama just another red state full of backward, unsophisticated people?  Most people don’t know it has a beautiful coastline.  It’s a well-kept secret.  Some natives wish it would stay that way.  If you want to confuse your friends, go on vacation to Alabama.  It’ll start tongues wagging and gossip flying.  Vacationers are familiar with Florida; it sounds more sophisticated.  I’ve yet to meet anyone that talked like the cartoon character, “Foghorn Leghorn.”  Neither have I met anyone still carrying a grudge because the south lost the war.  They will quickly point out, the Civil War was about more than slavery.  It was about states rights.  Large numbers of industries moved South because of the favorable labor climate. Over the long haul, maybe the South won the war?  If you wanted to cause a near riot, bring up the subject of labor unions.

As a transplanted Midwesterner I had a lot to learn.  There were many cultural differences.  It was customary to address a person by first name preceded by appropriate title.  …For example, “Mr. Bob,”or “Ms. Mary.” Shopping carts were called “buggies.” A light switch was not “turned off” or “turned on.” Instead it was “cut off” or “cut on.” The phrase, “I might be able to get that for you,” changed to, “I might could get that for you.”  There’s the familiar “y’all,” pronounced “yawl.” A common word I’ve picked up on, is “fixin.”  …Means getting ready to do something.  I’m fixin’ to take my car to Bubba’s Garage for an oil change.  Incidentally, the word “oil” is pronounced with one syllable, like “awl.” The expression, “Well, isn’t that nice?” is a polite insult reserved for special situations–usually northerners with “verbal diarrhea.”  Roughly translated, it meant, “You can go straight to Hell, along with the horse you rode in on!”

All carbonated soft drinks are called “Coke.” Sweet tea is the most popular beverage.  You can ask for unsweetened tea, it identifies you as a Yankee, Snow Bird, or health nut.  Grits are served with everything, like potatoes.  Slow roasted pork butt (Boston Butt) is a local favorite.  A local restaurant commercial asks the question, “What will you have with your cheese grits?” I’ve tried them–they’re quite tasty.  Other southern specialities are boiled peanuts and sweet potato, (not pumpkin), pie.  Thanksgiving turkey is prepared with cornbread stuffing.  Common green garden peas are called English peas.  They’re distinguished from black-eyed peas, crowder peas, chick peas, and pink-eyed/purple hulled peas.

After arrival, the first questions asked were: where do you go to church?  What’s your favorite (NCAA) football team?  Football is like a religion.  There is a fanaticism, the likes of which, this “Yankee” had never seen.  If your favorite team isn’t in the SEC, God have mercy on your soul.  You will hear recounted, every defeat your team suffered, in every sport, in every encounter with the SEC in its history.  Be sure to allow some extra time for this.  Another tradition is Mardi Gras.  Most people are unaware the tradition started in Mobile, Alabama, not in New Orleans.  The celebrations start in late January and continue till “Fat Tuesday,” or “Lundi Gras.” Schools and businesses close for “Fat Tuesday.” Mobile Mardi Gras celebrations are more family oriented than those of New Orleans.

All persons, not born south of the Mason-Dixon line, are called “Yankees.”  Distrust goes back to the Post Civil War Reconstruction era.  Later, “Yankees,” discovered the area, bought property and stayed.  All “Yankees,” like me, are initially treated with skepticism.  My first trip was in 1984 for vacation.  The decision based solely on camping guide information.  The white sand beaches, tall pines, turquoise waters were a wonderful surprise.  There was a state park nearby with unspoiled beachfront, a fishing pier, rental cabins, a hotel and conference center.  Northerners are still resented by some.  Property investors and speculators drove up land prices.  Developers lined the beaches with high-rise condos–blocked views of turquoise Gulf waters–created urban sprawl.  The real estate boom and subsequent bust hit hard.  Now economic recovery has a strong pulse and shows signs of life.  There are  reminders–abandoned, overgrown, unsightly tracts of land with streets and utilities.

“Snow Birds” from the northern states and Canada spend winters here.  Vacationers return every summer.  Tourism is the largest source of local revenue.  On busy holiday weekends, local roadways are clogged with traffic.  I use back roads and shortcuts.  I’m not giving away my secrets!  I moved here in ’04, just in advance of Hurricane Ivan.  It was sad to see the horrible devastation.  Nature heals itself, but it sometimes takes years.  Annoyances are fire ants, love bugs, gnats, and no-see-ums.  There are far more good things than bad.  Winters are mild.  There are two major types of weather–cool in the winter and hot in the summer.  Something I like, is having greenery in the winter.  Certain oak and acacia trees keep their leaves in winter.  There are no dazzling displays of fall color.  I miss fall and “Indian Summer.”  Tulips and lilacs won’t grow here.  This is more than made up for by azaleas in spring and crepe myrtles in summer.

When I came here on vacation, it was fun to go to the beach.  Now, I’m here permanently and rarely go. Usually, it’s when someone comes for a visit.  I’ve learned that plants suited for the Miami area don’t do well here.  It does frost on winter mornings.  People here are warm-hearted, genuine, and down to earth.  I’m honored to have been accepted–in spite of being a “Yankee.”  There’s no place I’d rather live.  “Now, I’m fixin’ to go to the mall with your Mama “n” ’em.”  “Are y’all goin’ with y’all?”