From the Other Side
Aug. 27, 2008
Goostie Go Home!

Stinkin’ hurricanes.

Yeah, I know. Much as I harp on about storms and rain…hurricanes are a different matter.

So we got Gustav sitting out there, and most of the models are showing landfall somewhere around Louisiana. I never trusted Swedes. Far too dashing and good-looking people, and they got lakes four thousand feet deep.

Maybe, do you think, if we all stood along the coast and blew really hard, we could blow it back? You know, they say a butterfly flaps his wings in Nepal and it starts a storm in Australia. Maybe not.

Hate ‘em. Just hate ‘em. I was born in one, and though my fascination with storms and thunder and lightning has been lifelong, hurricanes are like almonds. I love almonds, but a pound of them will kill you because they contain arsenic in very low quantities.

Why is it we live here, again? In the path of all this raging destruction? Same reason folks live along the faults in California I guess: No dadgum sense.

"This is God’s country, Stouff, don’t you know that?" the righteous among us declare. Well, He can have it when those dadblamed storms come barreling down on us.

"But there’s really nowhere you can live that isn’t prone to some kind of disaster," they preach. Yeah, that may be true, but I’ll bet I can find a little nook in the corner of the world that has some mild ones compared to Cat 5 hurricanes. What’s a little blizzard, mudslide or volcanic eruption anyway?

"Besides," the deacons and bishops of this supposed God’s country scoff, "they only come every few years." Yeah, alright. One Andrew was enough for any lifetime, and so far I’ve had a Katrina and a Rita thrown in, and I’m just in my forties.

You worry about hurricanes more when you’ve got elderly parents and on top of that, pets. And you drive a single-cab pickup truck, which really complicates matters. I would have to put Bogie and Daisy in the front seat with me, Patches in the glove compartment and Suzie and my mom would have to follow along behind me with her emergency flashers on to keep other cars away when I start swerving all over the bottlenecked road near Alexandria when all three get into a free-for-all fight.

Hurricanes. What a concept.

The old place has stood through a lot of hurricanes. Hundred-‘n-and-a-half years worth. Me, I ain’t been through but a handful. I remember sleeping in my parents’ bedroom when we’d stay for hurricanes. Dad would watch the TV until the electricity went out. I would awaken and see the blue-white glow from the living room, the wind howling outside. It was creepy. Hurricanes are like the relatives you don’t like: They blast in uninvited, dirty all the dishes, spill coffee on the furniture, break all your knick-knacks and then blow out again without so much as a thank-you or a twenty on the counter to pay for the damages.

What we gotta have hurricanes for, anyway? They don’t serve any useful purpose, like most things in nature. Heck, even worms, fire ants, wasps and pot-bellied pigs serve some purpose in the natural world. Hurricanes don’t contribute anything to society, culture or science, though I guess an argument can be made for some positive ecological impacts such as washing away some of the scum we humans leave lying around.

So here we sit, and Gustav is strengthening up on beer and meatballs. Why do American hurricane-namers name hurricanes Gustav? Is it something like all this nonsense about "dial 1 for Spanish" and bilingual signs over the cantaloupe in Wal-Mart? Aren’t there enough Marys, Harrys, Bills, Tiffanys, Gregs, Charlies, Bens and Sallys out there to name the storms of 2008? Apparently not, because the 2008 list contains Cristobal, Edouard, Omar and Paloma.

I was thinking about that when in the "big Wal-Mart" in Bayou Vista the other day, seething with revulsion at the need to actually enter the joint, but thanks to the exodus of the local mom-and-pops since the blue boxes invaded, we often have no other choice. Anyway, I was looking at the sign reading AVOCADO/AGUACATE and thinking we probably screwed up their language so badly they deserve bilingual signs. On the other hand, people I know that have visited Mexico say they don’t see any signs reading: SITIO PARA TURISTAS/TOURIST TRAP so there you go.

But we were talking about hurricanes. Sorry, I get distracted.

So we’re sitting here trying to get Gustav to go somewhere else other than God’s country, because we’re really too lazy to go stand on the coast and blow really hard, besides, there’s lots of snakes. You ever feel guilty when you’re chanting, "Not here, not here, go somewhere else, don’t come here, not here…" because you’re wishing destruction, flooding and perhaps death on somebody else? It’s really an unsettling realization, but it doesn’t make you go, "Come on, spare Pensacola, please, come this way, here, Gustie-wustie, come on over here…" We Americans may be incredibly generous and industrious after a hurricane makes landfall but it’s every man for himself when they’re coming in.

So for my part, I’m wishing Gustav goes back into the Atlantic and sizzles out somewhere near the Antarctic, harming no person or property, especially ours. "Shoo! Shoo, Gussie-woosey, shoo!"

Meanwhile, I’ve been brushing up on my Swedish. Try this one:

Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder.

That’s my mantra. It means "there is no bad weather, only bad clothing."