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The Best Laid Plans; Or, Waiting for Earl

September 3, 2010, 9:10 pm

We were going to go to the beach for Labor Day weekend but have decided not to drive into the hurricane zone after all. Although Shoreline will get the edge of the system, meriting Tropical Storm status unless something changes, our Back To School destination was (is) about twenty five miles to the west of where Earl is destined to pass tomorrow afternoon. Everyone is talking about Bob, a Category 2 hurricane which, 19 years ago, took out power lines and trees from Long Island to Hartford, killed eighteen people and caused almost $3 billion in damage. At last report, although very wide, Earl had been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane. It’s nothing to fool around with, and it will hammer eastern Massachusetts — but, although we are battening down the lawn furniture, we should have less trouble here.

That same 19 years ago, the Radicals were in the last two weeks of a summer-long rental on the North Fork of Long Island, and I was getting ready to start my job at Zenith. Bob passed pretty much over our house, which thrummed as the winds shrieked around it. We would not have made that choice voluntarily, but were living without TV or radio, so it was not until the semi-finals of the softball league were postponed that we understood that there was a whopper coming in. By then it was too late: the highway was bumper to bumper, and it was doubtful we would get off in time anyway. Except for a brief period right before the hurricane struck, when I was crawling around under the house capturing our fluffy gray cat who believed that you should leave the house in dangerous weather, we spent the storm in bed, wrapped up in blankets, mostly believing that we were safe but half expecting the house to levitate.
The sound of the wind, as the storm accelerated towards us, was unforgettable.
The truth is, however, that I loved it, and I half regret getting the B-version of this one. I have few guilty pleasures that I enjoy more than being battened down in a house in a seriously dangerous storm: ice, hail, wind, snow, thunder, lightening — bring it on! I discovered this was when I was sixteen, on Tangier Island, off the coast of Virginia, on a family vacation, and I was hooked for life. The trick is, of course, that you have to be “caught” in it for it to count — you can’t drive right into it, because that would be just dumb.
Hence the canceled trip. If all goes as it is supposed to, we will be waiting on the sidelines for this one, working on our syllabi, blogging and greeting the School New Year.
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