Wednesday, September 27, 2017

After The Storm

Many years ago, eighteen to be precise, my wife and I found ourselves going to the movies one night. We left the dogs on the boat in the marina after a very long walk, and picked up a cab at the gates for the drive round the waterfront to the more upscale side of town where we found a shopping mall with a theater. I forget the title of the movie but it was some Hollywood production, in English with Spanish subtitles as they rarely seem to dub movies in Mexico. Halfway through the film the projector stopped, the lights came up and we had an obligatory intermission when people could buy candy and catch up on missing plot lines. It was rather charming.
 Leaving San Diego October 1998, Baha Ha Ha VI Rally. Gemini 105 catamaran hull #529

After the movie ended we stretched and got up out of armchairs and waded through a  sea of wrappers and popcorn containers to the exits and then we realized once again we were back in Mexico, more precisely Acapulco and we had thousands of miles yet to travel before we reach Key West. Damn! For a moment there we had been transported back to the US in the dark, back to he familiar, the easy and the known. And it wasn't that we weren't enjoying the journey necessarily, we just wanted a break from the daily grind of living in a foreign culture.
Panama Canal, Miraflores Lake, Emma and Debs wishing they were ashore August 1999

These days I feel like that a lot of the time. I wish I could wake up and walk away from this culture of torn up trees and quirky electricity and boil water orders and so forth. You can't make the argument that any of this is fun, but like choosing to go sailing with your family, choosing to live in the hurricane belt with your family is up to you. And even so there are good bits to being caught up in a Category Four storm,
At anchor in the wild and lonely Pacific Coast islands of Panama, of our favorite cruising grounds. 1999

To get to live through a major hurricane is an event in one's life that some people crave. They want bragging rights which I find odd. I knew before Irma showed up that despite leveling an entire Third World island that lacked building codes like ours (and ours could be a lot stricter!) only one person among 1800 died on Barbuda. The chances of my dying seemed remote, especially to someone who defies death every day by commuting by motorcycle. The thing is, the adrenaline rush passes, the survival of the event transforms into the survival of the drudgery that follows, and it is a drudge to survive after the storm has gone.
Now it is endless clean up, removing debris, filing paperwork, talking to adjusters, waiting for electricity, flushing toilets by hand and so forth. And just like in a Acapulco that warm tropical night two decades ago I would like to be transported away, even if for just a little while to a place where the grass is green and tree have leaves and no one is surprised to see running tap water or menus outside open restaurants. This is the part about the storm that people elsewhere don't understand. You don't die in hurricanes you just get fed up and bored and angry. You just want the damned electric lights to work and keep working. This is how for the past two weeks we entered and left our street. Had we needed an ambulance or fire truck it would have been curtains. As it was we all drove through our neighbor's yard to get in and out:
Just room enough for a sedan or a pick up truck thanks to the efforts of my neighbor Jose who propped the wires up on cross beams of his invention, no thanks to Keys Energy for their lack of help:
I am sure you are tired of hearing about the daily drudgery but my world has shrunk. For a week I was happy to forget the name of the President, Governor Rick Scott did outstanding work organizing relief and being a presence to remind everyone help for us was important to him and I am grateful. This storm has changed me. I am not willing to assume that there will be no more hurricanes. I know there will be more and this circus will be repeated. I cannot take for granted water or electricity or phone service after the abysmal collapse of everything civilized following Irma. My expectations are low. We have electricity now but tomorrow who knows? I came across friend steam cleaning his garage of mud with an electric appliance. I turned to my wife and said: "They til have electricity" as though it could have been in doubt. I keep doubting.
A group of Latter Day Saints came by a friend's wrecked house and put order inside and out in a couple of hours. She couldn't believe it. One woman said she flew to Miami from San Francisco the day before and there she was with her family of all ages tearing it up. It was a hell of thing and saved Kathy a bunch of grief and despair. Better change our stereotypes of the Mormons I guess. There is kindness in the midst of wreckage.
After it all goes into the history books I will be left with a vaguely unsatisfactory feeling that even when I know what to expect I still fail to measure up to my own standards. Hurricanes  get you like that, you never what exactly they will end up doing even if you yourself know the sequence of emotions that go through your mind after the storms have blown away. And still I'd rather be two hundred miles away in a green and pleasant land they used to call Florida - the flowery state.