Thursday, April 28, 2011
Finally, a moon for me, I was thinking, as we cruised into the final days before the full moon arrived. It was coming on a Monday, and I was seriously thinking about cheating and writing over the weekend. I can be a rascal like that, you might know. Or not. It's been calm for the last while. Japan's nuclear crisis is old news, and for that reason, generally absent from the American news. Charlie Sheen is doing whatever he does. Besides, the weather over the weekend is threatening to be wet and cloudy, if not cool, and there'll be no lake time at all most likely, which is about the norm this season, what with the good weather coming during the week when I'm working or on the weekend when I'm working out of town. I liked it a lot better during the drought of a very few years ago when it was in the 70s in February, and every weekend was dry. I can be selfish that way.
So Friday evening after checking the weather, I moved the car to the middle of the parking lot. The storms to the far west were headed our way, though probably to be less severe here, but I'm in no mood to pull a tree off my car, and I'm certainly in no financial shape to replace it, and it seemed prudent to let someone else tempt the Fates. Besides, I tempt them enough anyway to the point that we're old and fast friends, but I usually have planned outcomes already in place then. More to the point, the state has suspended the sale of retired police cruisers, and I'd have to spend what little money I have on a civilian something, which would only hurt. I like my scalding fast old fart of a car.
I noodled along through the Saturday morning, moving slowly. Grandpa needs his space and time, you might know. Toward mid-day, I hoofed over to the gym, a Planet Fitness about a mile away, where I spend a few moments tightening up the color and pushing back the psoriasis. Initially, I started there for the treadmills, but the best laid plans of mice and men fall all to hell as often as not, and the looking up to watch the TVs was wrecking havoc with my ancient neck, leading me to stay off the machines. As it's about a mile, the result is about the same, though the walk leaves me with the temptation to stop by the Goat Bar and have a beer with the local riffraff, which would then defeat the purpose of walking in the first place, and also, likely, land me in jail when someone figured something out about the time I needed to leave.
It was a very blustery walk, and I did my usual pausing to check-in on Foursquare as I passed a few places. I also took some photos that would become fodder for my personal blogging. On the way to the gym, I took a picture of a jasmine vine by a church where, yes, I'm the mayor on Foursquare. Until this moment, I was the only person who knew that. I wanted the picture to go with an earlier shot of the vine in full bloom. Now, most of the blooms were on the ground, and I knew the coming rain would likely remove the few blooms left. On the way back from the gym, I paused at the church to sit on the bench by the jasmine and write my brief paragraph or two about the end of the jasmine blooms for this year.
As I sat on the little bench writing my short paragraph on my odd little cell phone, this fellow comes up mowing the grass. He stops the mower, and engages me in conversation. Why me? It's always me who draws the chatty ones. It becomes apparent to me that he's the pastor of the church, and for as interesting as he has been during our brief encounter, I knew where the conversation was likely to head, and I saw no reason to even go there as I have no intentions of attending this or any other church. Finally, I asked him if he was the pastor, and he said yes, asking how I knew. I told him he talked like a minister, and I suspect he did not take that remark all too well. However, he masked his underlying response, mostly, and we continued our chat, one that I really wanted to cut short because I needed to finish my paragraph while it was in my head, and then get on back home before the rain started. A few drops were already making it to the ground, though the virga was holding back much higher in the sky.
He departed around the building, I suppose to continue with his gardening and yard work. I quickly entered the last few sentences of my paragraph that was all but evaporated from my head. When the Muse visits, she does not hang around for me to catch up. She's fickle that way, which is why we love her all the more. I stood to walk up the little hill to the sidewalk, tapping out the final words, when the pastor returned with a fertilizer spreader. He asked if it scared me, leaving me perplexed as to his real question, and I said, honestly, no, but that I never really saw the use for the things when I could use my hands and a bucket equally well. He switched to a bucket, slinging the fertilizer and weed killer about as efficiently as the spreader might have. He was also slinging at me. We will never know if that was to chase me away, something I doubt, or to get the chemical on the grass before the rain. Regardless, I left while the leaving was good.
About three blocks down the street with sporadic rain drops still making it to the ground and wind whipping all around in no consistent direction, I saw a turtle in my left peripheral vision. Three steps later, I stopped, threat of rain be damned, and backed up to investigate the turtle. It was a snapping turtle, and I do mean snapping, some one foot in diameter, very large for the limited habitat available, and I wondered how he had managed to survive so long in an urban environment, deciding soon that he was just too ill-tempered to die. I say “he” because of that attitude. Of course, given my history with women, perhaps another pronoun would be better, for or at least more meaningful to, the turtle. Yes, I do know how to determine the gender of a turtle, but I valued my fingers far more than my need to know.
I poked it with a stick, and it promptly snapped the stick in half. I thought about fetching the minister to help relocate the turtle, actually a terrapin, but I just didn't know enough about the man to return with such a request. Besides, he appeared to be in somewhat of a hurry when I left. With some poking with additional sticks, the terrapin finally headed back into the copse by the street, and promptly buried itself in the mulch. Within fifteen seconds, you would not have known it was there until it removed your toe after the misplaced step. A gust of cooler wind said outflow to me, and I returned to my walk home, leaving the turtle to his own designs, figuring I'd see him squashed in the street very soon, food for crows, but the ensuing days turned up nothing. Let’s hope he's back in his little creek.
Returning home, it remains dry outside, and I check the local weather only to learn that we might have another hour before the storms arrive. They were already leaving Greensboro, my Lily reported and the radar confirmed, and the lights were out there. I scooted down the stairs to run to the grocery store for get some fixings for Marshmallow treats. However, as I walked across the parking lot, I had the feeling that I'd be spending a long time in the car waiting for the rain to subside if I went to the Food Lion, and that left me walking down the street to the Kmart about three blocks away. I fetched the stuff I needed, well, that I wanted, and returned home just as the sky darkened and the rain began. No, I did not buy the umbrella I looked at, but in hindsight, I need to go back. Of course, we both know that umbrellas evaporate, at least on my watch, probably because I tend to call them bumbershoots instead of the regular American name.
Melting a stick of butter doesn't take all that long, not in the microwave, but melting a bag of marshmallows, which my papa called “mushmellons,” takes about forever, especially if you don't burn them, and yes, I made a video to post on YouTube. I keep making and posting videos because I'm not satisfied with my speech patterns, and listening to myself is the only way I know to determine the changes I need to make, short of going to an expensive speech class, and I'm way too grumpy for that. However, most of that minor project is on hold right now as I work on other writing projects, such as this one, which bring greater satisfaction. Besides, I can read the text silently and hear Walter Cronkite but with a more Southern accent. I'm just not ready to sound like Faulkner, though the common renditions of Twain could work for me in another 20 years.
Meanwhile, the TV drones in the background. When we have interesting weather, the 24/7 local news switches to continual weather updates. Of course, it's rare for us to have weather that is so interesting, but it's even more rare for us to have that much regular news, and this means that Aunt Minnie's chickens getting out can see prime time coverage, especially if Earl gets pecked a few times and winds up shooting one and calling it Sunday dinner, which in turn means that Minnie is seen on TV chasing Earl across the field with her broom in one hand, swatting it at Earl, while she slings the chicken in the other. As you might expect, this all pales in comparison to Lester's black bull, Dozer, getting loose. Yes, Lester has a black bull called Dozer, and for Lester, this is not a point of humor, seeing how Lester will tell you that the bull told him his name was Dozer, which probably accounts for all the time the bull actually sleeps.
It's raining like a tropical storm, just off at an angle, not sideways, when the weather man mentions seeing a debris cloud rising just off Sanford, and that goes with the tornado he saw on radar just moments before. I stir the melting marshmallows, and turn my attention more to the TV. The good fellow from Dunn, down toward where Aunt Mary lived with her Model T, the one with fewer than 10,000 miles on it, the one where the owner of the Cadillac dealership offered her any car on his lot in exchange, and she always declined, even unto her delayed and much anticipated demise, that weather man who is probably a relative though he won't admit it when I ask, drew the cone around the expected path of the tornado, and I saw in a flash that I was looking down the barrel of a swirly.
I live on the top floor of an eleven story high rise, which is quite high for these parts, though I recognize it's quite short for the larger metropolitan areas. A tornado hitting the building would be something I would date from, especially if I were in the building at the time. I patted myself on the back for parking away from trees, and I stepped to the bedroom to put on some pants. I wasn't planning to evacuate because I didn't quite know where to go that's much safer, but I figured I'd need to avoid the charges of indecent exposure while I was there. More to the point, if I wound up in Oz, I'd likely need pants. With pants firmly cinched about my waist, I closed the doors to the bedrooms to reduce the likelihood that a pressure shift might be enough to pop open a window and suck out everything, and then returned to my melting marshmallows, which were about ready.
As you know, I'm making marshmallow treats, but what you don't know is that I'm going to use Fiber One cereal, the stuff that looks like dried worms, but that is also, they say, so danged healthy for us. I dumped in the worms along with some walnuts, stirred the concoction, dumped it all in an iron frying pan, smooshed it around, and left it to cool and harden, wondering if it would be a threat to my teeth the way Mama's Treats always were, hoping it would not be so hard, because I need to establish a relationship with a dentist before I pop out any molars.
Grabbing another beer from the fridge, I stepped to the window to see what's happening because you really can't hear all that much from eleven stories up, and I see that it's raining sideways, literally, and the wind is making the windows chirp. I cannot see the ground. My possibly related weatherman is saying something about a tornado on the ground, and I had to concur. The problem is that our tornadoes are often rain wrapped. We do not get the distant views of the thing. When we know it's there, it's too late to do much more than make sure you're good with your maker.
With a little more information from my relative the weatherman, and juxtaposing that with what I'm seeing out my window, I decide that I'm looking at inflow that is approaching hurricane speeds if it's not there already. I also realize that I'm within about a mile of the tornado, which has already covered some 40 miles. If it jogs west by a touch, I'm toast. Usually, I'd be reaching for the afghan at about this point, but this time, I just stand there watching the rain and wind pass by as the world fades to horizontal shades of gray.
What you probably don't know about me is that I'm often susceptible to the influence of free-floating and nonspecific angst. Usually, I don't know the source until after the fact, and more often than not, I spend the time leading to the discovery personalizing the unknown problem, making it mine, wondering what I've done. This time, the source was clear. Lives were changing as my reality faded in and out of the horizontal rain just inches from my face, and those failing lives were not so far away that I couldn't walk there most days. Although it was unlikely that the tornado was an EF-5, also known as the Finger of God, I knew it didn't take all that much wind to make a terrible mess for a lot of people. This instance was no exception, and I stood there, empty can in hand, watching the wind and rain subside as my relative the weatherman described the unfolding and unseen story.
The storm passed. The rain ended. The wind calmed. The sky cleared. Quiet ensued, and then the sirens went off. They continued for a long time. Some two dozen people were killed in the outbreak, including a group of children huddled in a closet when a tree fell on them. All told, the state experienced two and a half years worth of tornadoes during one afternoon. This would go down with Fran as a natural disaster, just different in form, response, and recovery.
It is not reasonable to rank disasters, natural or otherwise, but we do, and just a month earlier, Japan was experiencing a disaster the likes of which few cultures ever see. They still are, and they shall continue for a long time, though its saturation of American news has ended. Here a month later, we're knee deep in our own disaster, though we count our dead in tens, not tens of thousands. The loss of infrastructure here is nothing in comparison to Japan, and we certainly don't have to be concerned with nuclear radiation leaking on South Saunders Street or in Sanford or in Bath. Nonetheless, tragedy is tragedy, especially when it's up close and personal. Just ask the woman who put those children in the inner closet to keep them safe. However, heartbreak is not to be ranked, only endured, leaving me to wonder, if not fear, what the next month will hold. Well, more likely I'll just hold my breath as by then we should have seen the Rapture as predicted by Harold Camping for the 21st of May. Oh thrill.