An update from the southernmost storm front

Even with the storm, it is still Southern Decadence Weekend and some 100,000 gay folk are partying in and parading through the Quarter. I have never in my fashion-wary life seen so many pairs of mauve and puce madras shorts. Meanwhile my yard rains avocados.
Jim Gabour
18 September 2011

Seems like only moments ago I was at this computer describing my own personal approach to the advance of yet another disaster, in this case incoming severe tropical weather. I have long adopted a low-stress attitude that I find moves such crises to the emotional, if not physical, background. 

I now apply it more generally to most human tragedies that require waiting and/or advance contemplation.  Flippant maybe, but the system makes life survivable, at least for me. 

This time the manifestation was weather again. Tropical Storm Lee happened so quickly that those of us in its path really didn't have a chance to worry. One day just got a tad windy, and the next thing we knew New Orleans had once again moved to the water-laden fore of Weather Channel headlines and broadcast news media drama. 

Hurricane Irene had already moved along, leaving a broadcast disaster vacuum. The sad irony in that situation had been the media story centering on wild hyperbolic dangers to Manhattan, which survived virtually unscathed while the folks out in the countryside ended up paying the real price.  But programmers just can't seem to let the eastern US seaboard residents completely hog the meteorological peril spotlight, not while the mid-American 18-35 demographic needs to be frightened into watching updates being related on television sets and websites. 

Plus, it was a slow news weekend.  The UK riots had stopped, Pacificearthquakes had dropped to mere shivers, there were no new sexy cosmetic body-part-lifting innovations from Beverly Hills or famine bulletins from Africa, and the mad bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan were temporarily having to restock explodables. So, a storm seemed the only plausible alternative to low-visibility human interest stories - puppy saves child from inflatable pool drowning and the like.  A storm will drive viewers into watching, surely. 

Yes, the weatherman predicting 22" of rain on my house was a bit unsettling at first.  He was right, we had seventeen in the area, and yet it didn't seem to daunt the populace.  I suppose over the centuries we have come to accept an abundance of moisture as our fate down here in monsoon country, and it does not seem as formidable a threat as it might elsewhere in drier climes. 

The North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, just above the city, actually got the worst of it, as the surf topped the seawalls, pounding those picturesque but besieged lakefront towns with some ferocity.  The wind itself was really not much for a tropical storm, with gusts to 65 mph, and the sustained winds were much less, nothing anywhere near as terrible as the K experience of six years ago.  I did close all 27 sets of storm shutters on my house, as there was much flying debris, especially in those intermittent strong bursts. 

And to keep storm residue closest to home from accumulating, I was out in the wind and water the whole weekend constantly clearing up the larger fallen tree branches and shovelling open storm drains.  But mostly I was just doing the basics - performing only the labor necessary to allow me to get in and out of house, and to the fridge for beverages.

Coincidentally, there were also a lot of beer cans and cups flying up and down the streets, forming miniature container-filled whirlwinds between the houses.  Even with the storm, it was still Southern Decadence Weekend and some 100,000 gay folk were partying in and parading through the Quarter, which is only three short blocks away.  I have never in my fashion-wary life seen so many pairs of mauve and puce madras shorts. Very lively though gentle folk, though, and they allow me a great time as voyeur/spectator every year.  The Decadence crowd also decided that the storm's menace was relative, and the danger was substantially reduced by their need to enjoy themselves.  They did not watch news, or worry. 

I was simpatico, though I was not able to attend the massive Sunday drag gathering as I was bundling quite mundane wet tree limbs for trash collection.  I suppose it was the right thing that I be absent, as the fluorescent-tinted gents were parading in the rain, and my dull grey raincoat would have been a downer for everyone involved. 

One other positive note is that it rained avocados in my yard.  All the fruit that I could not reach up in the top of the tree - and that I feared would be completely eaten by the late summer flocks of foraging green parrots - was knocked down by the storm, so I had a dozen or so avocados waiting on the ground most mornings.  Mucho guacamole is still in my immediate future, and having once, as a mysterious collegian, written under the pseudonym "Mr X", am now considering morphing into the new descriptive nom de plume: "Senor Equis de Aguacates Grandes". You are what you eat, truly, and I selfishly acknowledge that being well-fed greatly deflates fear. 

At the very tail end of the weather alert was quiet but steady rain once again, ominous and very dark, with the weather people saying there was more nastiness to come that eve, one more day of wet and wind.  My cistern, needless to say, remained overflowing.  I really didn't need to store any more rainwater. 

But the predicted relapse did not, after all, happen.  Things were very quiet, and led into a gorgeous sunrise and weather almost twenty degrees cooler. 

It wasn't a very restful holiday weekend, but there it goes.  It is simply that time of year again.  A time when, wisely or not, one tries to diminish the horror of possible destruction by acting blithely and occasionally foolishly.  

But just as I thought I was through it, at 2:30am the day after the weather alerts were cancelled, I awoke to a slight tremor in my bed.  I groggily turned on my lights, to discover a significant weight of plaster, water and cracked molding tape on my bed.  Seems the flying branches and wind of the weekend had knocked a roof turbine askew.   The subsequent inpouring and collection of rainwater had softened and cracked my bedroom ceiling.  Which waited patiently for three days, finally bulging overnight into an attic pool, and with the accumulated weight finally broke through the sheetrock. Which now lay in my lap. 

One last small reminder that ignoring these events completely can indeed have its consequences. 

And that diminishing stress by ignoring the tragic parade does not in the end diminish the real life results of such matters. 

However, that is a toll that I am willing to pay.  For a literal peace of mind.

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