My Life in Hurricanes

If you need a suitcase to make your escape, you're not getting it here.

At the risk of jinxing the course and force of the impending hurricane, I must say that it’s hard not to be a little skeptical about all the hype.  In pre-Irene New York City, you’d think Armageddon was upon us. The subways have shut down. Stores and restaurants have now taped and boarded up their windows, and posted signs saying they’ll be closed for the next two days. Prior to closing, the supermarkets had lines out the front door and wouldn’t let anyone in until another person came out.  There is nary a flashlight, battery or can of food to be found. Evacuations are underway in all five boroughs. We have been told to fill our bathtubs, for some reason, and pack a “to go” bag.  We have stocked up on wine, junk food (anything ingested during a state of emergency doesn’t count) and non-perishables.  (Jan’s favorite category of food, it should be noted.) Friends who don’t want to ride out the storm alone are coming over for what I hope will be a successful taco night.

We’ve had hysteria like this before – albeit, not quite as intense – and it’s turned out to be much ado about nothing. In other cases, like one of the 27 blizzards of this winter, we’ve had no hysteria and gotten weather-screwed. In these parts, death by hurricane strikes me as pretty rare. So is all this really necessary, or are we just panicking for nothing? With actual work to do but no motivation, I thought it would be a good time to look back at the defining hurricanes of my life. I hope this trip down insignificant memory lane provides all you hurricane fearin’ folks out there with a port in the storm.

Hurricane David, September 1979:   Just a few days into second grade, our school district closes due to the impending hurricane. I assume that if school is closed, something really bad must be about to happen and find myself too nervous to eat my Apple Jacks. It rains heavily for about 10 minutes then clears up. Jan takes us to the Woodbridge Mall, where she buys us tiny, fuzzy Paddington Bear figurines. Ever the proper English bear, Paddington is sporting a duffel raincoat and removable rain hat.

Hurricane Gloria, September 1985: Once again, school is closed due to threat of hurricane. I am thrilled, but concerned. Not only is it Jan’s birthday, but, more importantly, I am scheduled to attend a Sting concert at Radio City with my friend Jennifer K. and her dad. Jan and Lew tell me the concert will definitely be cancelled. I maintain that Sting would never let that happen. Anxiously, I watch heavy rain fall for about 10 minutes outside my bedroom window. The winds fail to damage even one wysteria vine on the uber-80s wallpaper Jan chose against my will. The weather clears instantly and Jennifer’s dad says he is willing to drive into the city for the concert. After I suit up in my black Guess jeans and white pumps, Lew deposits me at Jennifer’s house, where Jennifer and her mother are fighting about the amount of make-up she has on. Mrs. Jennifer asks me if I too think Jennifer looks like a drag queen. I do think Jennifer looks like a drag queen, but am already too close to full middle school ostracization that I can’t possibly risk offending Jennifer.

Hurricane Chef Cho, October 1992: Hurricane Chef Cho is actually a Category 3 cocktail, which I make the very bad mistake of drinking out of a scorpion bowl at this Cambridge, MA chinese food establishment. Let’s just say I’m surprised FEMA wasn’t called in.

Hurricane Floyd, September 1999: I am in the city now, and have been battling very bad panic attacks. Because of this, the world has a surreal feel to it. Mass transit is shut down and I refuse to walk 80+ blocks to work at the weekly newspaper where I have a mediocre column.  This hurricane actually causes some severe damage and chaos in central New Jersey. When the National Guard is called in and water has to be boiled, I am fairly confident the end of the world is upon us. For weeks after Floyd, there are horrible stories in the papers about small children dying from contaminated water they drink at sad county fairs and the like.

Hurricane Katrina, August 2005: Katrina comes nowhere near Philadelphia, but its breadth is felt everywhere. I am mortified that a disaster of this scale could take place in the U.S., and haunted for weeks by images of pets who have been abandonned. I make the first of my now regular donations to the ASPCA.

Hurricane Earl, August/September 2010: Nothing happens, except that the Dixie Chicks’ Goodbye Earl starts to torture me.

Hurricane Irene, August 2011:  Keith and I partake of the noon-ish meal at Viand, along with Kiki and Chris. Kiki and I head to Q Nails for a pre-storm mani/pedi. Keith and I return home to await our guests, and our fate.

My Life in Hurricanes