Irene, Part One

September 4th, 2011

I’ve been through three hurricanes.  Well, technically, except for the first one, they had stopped being hurricanes by the time their paths crossed mine.

I met the first one in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  The year was 1967 and I was fifteen, a passenger on the S.S. Constitution en route with my family to a year in Europe.  The ship was one year older than me.  We skirted a late summer storm which perhaps presaged that year’s coming turbulence of assassinations, riots, and war.  Of the hundreds of passengers aboard, my father and I, devoted trenchermen both, were almost the only ones to appear in the dining room that night.  Spaghetti carbonara.  Rain, wind, and ceaseless, extravagant motion.  Sleep soon after dinner, because it was the only thing to do.

By the time my very pregnant wife, daughter and I got to that motel in Farmington, Maine, at the end of August, 1991, on our way to Acadia National Park, Hurricane Bob had been downgraded to a tropical storm.  There was too much rain for the windshield wipers to handle, and the wind was whipping the pines around in a most disconcerting manner.  Our daughter was three years old, and the prospect of an unscheduled stay in a motel was exciting to her, whereas prolonged incarceration in her car seat was not, so we had a consensus on stopping at the first place we came to.  I remember the hotel room’s goldenish curtains, the rain that would drench you through whatever clothing you had on the second you stepped out, and the wind’s ceaseless whoosh, somewhere between a rumble and a howl, hours and hours of it.  Anxious tedium.  Once again, early to bed.

Irene, too, was but a mere tropical storm by the time she got to South Burlington.  When I first woke up, I thought the storm had passed us by altogether, because the rain’s drumming on the roof was so muted I didn’t hear it at first.  This seemed disappointing, after all the anticipation.  I was afflicted with a dull and heavy spirit that Sunday, probably because the writing of my second book was going poorly.  That is, I was putting down a lot of words, but something in me must have sensed that they were not the right words.  I couldn’t force myself to do much of anything.  I finished reading Manning Marable’s excellent biography of Malcolm X, and watched several episodes on DVD of Anthony Bourdain being snarky about places I might like to go.  I checked Facebook and email frequently.  The wind gusted but not all that violently, so I was surprised when it blew over the trellis on which I have been growing scarlet runner beans.  It rained heavily, but not nearly as heavily as Bob.  During one slackening, I ventured out and observed that my pepper plants looked discouraged.  The steady runoff from my roof revealed all the places where my gutters are sagging – all too many – gosh I really should do something about that – but I could see across the street.  In my backyard the cedars danced like a ragged chorus line.  The big box elder held onto its rotten limb, despite all expectations.  A couple of years ago it lost a major branch to a weather disturbance otherwise insufficiently remarkable to have a name.  I wanted to go for a walk, but couldn’t.  Mainly, I was bored.  The lights flickered, once.  When I went to bed (not early – Mr. Bourdain kept me up), I looked forward to going to work in Waterbury the next day and trading stories with my coworkers about how anticlimactic the whole thing had been.  I was happy, because the State’s web site carried a notice that office openings would be delayed Monday morning, so I would get to sleep a bit later than usual before going in.

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 4th, 2011 at 6:51 pm and is filed under Current events, Environment, Irene, Places. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Irene, Part One”

  1. Tim Says:

    First in queue for Part Two. For 1967 Wikipedia insists that you have a choice between Arlene, Chloe, Heidi, perhaps Doria … although Beulah would have been perfect, the promised land that year was probably too far south … ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_Atlantic_hurricane_season )

    ps How good was the Carbonara – I would have been resurrected for that.

  2. Seth Steinzor Says:

    I had no basis for comparison, never having tasted the dish before. It was white, greasy and heavy, and even at the time, with the ship heaving up and down and all around it seemed as if whoever had planned that evening’s menu was exercising a rather odd sense of humor.

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