Monday, October 29, 2012

The Weather Gods

photo from wikipedia
For over 24 hours now I’ve been warned to prepare  - or else - for the brunt of a perfect storm that has been forming just off the coast of New Jersey. Perfect in the eyes of Aeolus, maybe, the Greek myth blusterer credited with handing a tightly sealed sack full of winds over to Odysseus. With the winds bagged, the seas stilled, allowing the Greek hero to continue his ten-year journey home to wife and son after the Trojan War.

 If only Aeolus could keep the fury of this week’s “perfect” alignment of hurricane and northeaster under wraps. Mortal meteorologists lack the Greek God’s sacking powers. Instead, today’s forecasters have been relying on “ spaghetti models” (a new term for me - not to be confused with a Spaghetti Westerns) in an effort to anticipate Hurricane Sandy's strength and whereabouts. These models chart intertwined webs of all possible storm scenario.
The spaghetti model for Hurricane Sandy looked a lot like  a Christmas ornament my son made from cooked pasta noodles in nursery school.Based on the twists and turns of the loopy model, Connecticut Governor  Dannel Malloy has called  Hurricane Sandy “the most catastrophic event any of us have seen in our lifetimes” and “the largest threat to human life this state has ever experienced.”
By now, one would have to be a fool not to have evacuated coastal residences, as we wait for the worst of the storm to blow in and out through the night. Governor Malloy is no God of the Winds; he can’t quell the storm.
I hope in the morning we can call him the God of Hyperbole.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm Warnings

photo from ABC

Mother Nature seems to have developed a grudge against my birthday.

Last year, storm Alfred blew in a day or two after my birthday, downing tree limbs and power lines through most of the state. We remained powerless for over a week. Even Halloween had to be cancelled!

Friday, as I turned another year older, I was greeted by continual warnings on TV to prepare for the worst – three days before the worst would materialize. Hurricane Sandy was heading toward New England.

I agree forewarned is forearmed, but I could have done without the melodramatic station promotions repeated after each storm update.  One of the station's ads featured music that reminded me of the haunting theme to The High and the Mighty, an iconic disaster film of the Fifties.  As the tension in the music built, the local meteorologist announced , “We stayed with you during tropical storm Irene.  We’ll stay with you through this one.” Then, this morning, as the hurricane moved half way up the coast, a morning anchor on the Today Show point-blankly told Al Roker, “I’m really scared.” Not my idea of helpful storm reporting.
Yet, I do admit, once again I find myself  at the mercy of Mother Nature and, once again, I am at a loss to know what to wish for.  If I wish  for Sandy to stay away from me, do I inadvertently wish for her to more  greatly impact my  NJ and NY relatives and friends? That’s not what I want.

So what do I want?

I want to be forewarned but not terror- stricken, prepared but not panicked. Reasonable warnings got me  to clear my porch and fill  my gas tank. Thanks to early warnings I’ve got blocks of ice in the freezer and lots of water.

I don’t like storm warnings taking control of my day, but I heed them. If the governor's stark warning directed me to evacuate - I would. But please, just tell me what to do and spare me the melodrama.
Here are some sensible measures to get us all through the storm.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mother Nature At It Again

Charles Richter developed
the scales that
measures earthquake
Last Tuesday night I pedaled away on my exercise bike as I watched a one-day-old broadcast of The Daily Show. Halfway through the show I felt the floor beneath me vibrate. At the same time, the bookcase beside me shook. I heard slight thumping.

Thinking back, I’m stunned by how many thoughts a mind can harbor, at once. As the earth moved that night I thought, in no particular order

a.   What’s the dog doing’? (Because the thumping sounded a little like the repeated rhythm Winnie sometimes pounds out with her hind leg)

b.    Was my furnace acting up – as in red alert acting up?

c.      Why would someone be using a jackhammer in my backyard at 7:15?

During that sweep of thought, I got off the bike. Ventured downstairs to the basement where the furnace sat, silent. Then I headed back upstairs, out onto the porch and yard, where no jack hammerer  appeared.

Still wondering (as in, with great relief, wondering-in-place), the single pulse of the phone in my pocket drew my attention. Turned out to be an alert for a prescription ready at CVS.

I went to the phone’s FACEBOOK newsfeed.

My house just shook…?????

Did we just have an earthquake?

So that’s what that was! Soon a Facebook status linked to a CNN report about a 4.0 temblor that hit around 7:12 p.m. Its epicenter was about 20 miles west of Portland, Maine. That’s just over 150 miles from me and my exercise bike. According to later reports the Maine earthquake shook buildings and rattled dishes, but as far as I know, caused no injuries or serious damage.

My daughter, who lives an hour closer to Maine, didn’t feel a thing. Her friend, who lives 50 miles farther away from Portland than I do, clearly felt the tremors. She was settled into her third floor apartment, I had been pedaling on my second floor, and my daughter had been in her first floor living room. I wonder if our flights made a difference.
Mother Nature let us off easy this time - not like just a year ago when a freak October snowstorm became just heavy enough to turn my lights out – along with most Connecticut households’  -- for almost a week! It even cancelled Halloween.

Tuesday evening's tremor didn't amount to much. Ten to fifteen thousand earthquakes of this intensity occur every year. Why, greater rumbling was felt across the nation, just hours later - during the second televised presidential debate.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Cousin Encounter of Another Kind (The End)

 Bensonhurst housefront - similar to where I grew up
Did I want to drive by the Brooklyn house I grew up in?
You bet I did!

In less than five minutes my cousin drove north (I think) up Bay Ridge Parkway onto 18th Avenue, and then 78th Street, towards the El and New Utrecht High.  

I sensed a familiarity on the street I hadn’t been on for close to forty years.  About two-thirds of the way down, I recognized four wide cement steps that led to a doorway I’d crossed in and out of - daily - as a kid. There'd be no crossing through it today. The four-family house had been left to another cousin, even longer out of touch, who’d sold the property some time ago.

My cousin double-parked for a minute or two. Transfixed by the landmark, I thought of the many  times I had aimed a pink rubber ball at those steps way back when, my young friends positioned on the sidewalk ,readied for a catch. If one nabbed the rebound on the fly, I was out. Otherwise, every bounce earned me a base in our game of stoop ball. Baseball without a bat - or field. Just cement steps and sidewalk.
We drove on. 
Now as I think back, I realize my aunt, cousins, and I played our own game of street ball that day - on a makeshift field of memory.  First base in a Brooklyn bakery, we were just warming up as we  shared photos of the newest born  - my Patrick, their Anthony - on our Smart Phone apps. Approaching second, around Rosanne's kitchen table, I learned of my Uncle's miraculous recovery from a stroke ten years earlier and his tragic battle with cancer, only a year after that. By early evening we rounded third as we dug  deeper into the past at a local ristorante. Over appetizers and entrees, presented like works of art, we compared our own recollections of the stories we had lived and the stories we'd been told. And still we reminisced -  over dessert, espresso and the requisite anisette.

Home run.

By nine I was driven  back to Penn Station and on an Amtrack train headed north to New England. Back in my own bed by midnight.
What a day!  I 'm  grateful my cousin Joe located me through He reopened a window to the past with his brave phone call, and at the same time gave us a future to look towards.
Is there a long-lost cousin you'd like to contact?
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *