Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bob Memories During Irene Weekend.

“Some are born mad. Some remain so.”  - Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
Bad-Ass Hurricane Bob. 1991

 Bee-stung, wind-stung, song-stung.

There is nothing like battening down hatches (physically and metaphysically) to wrap most in the all-for-one and one-for-all sentiment that should occur more frequently - the sense of collective well-being and cause, not the natural/man-made disaster taking place along the east coast of the USA this weekend, of course. As Al Gore implores, the frequency of disasters of natural/man-made varieties will keep coming with more severity as the ice melts, as the sun shines with greater ferocity, frying our collective protective skins, and destinies.

And today, as the hurricane Irene seemingly wanes from a 4 to a 3 to a 2 to tropical storm, the thoughts of Yours Truly, former, decade-long counselor/teacher of children in the state of Maine (at the toppermost) naturally/man-madely turn to memories of Bob.

Bob encroached on the summer of 1991. According to my calculations that is exactly one score ago, and was at the end of our camp's second session. YT was acting as not only an assistant director, but the Arts & Crafts teacher. I created a program for all campers, daily. I taught six periods a day, and kayaked away my stress on the spring-fed lake daily, taking to open roads when possible to enjoy the surrounding area, and Portland, as time allowed. Or as heartstrings tugged.

As I had proved myself many times to be unflappable in the face of kid-related disasters small, x-l, natural, and man-made, I was always called in by camp foundress Nancy Maier to assist and brainstorm (and at times to deliver the most unruly of girls back home before dinner in the camp van - to backroads Maine towns, to Providence, and to Manhattan) in the midsts of challenges.

Discussion took place about what to do about Bob, expected in the next day or so. We planned a move down the road to a closed-for-summer brick elementary school. We expected that this would be an overnight, and we'd all be returning to camp the following day. Everyone was piled into the gym, where everyone was to sleep in their sleeping bags, mats were in short supply. We/they had food, water, games and music to play.

YT and Nancy Maier surveyed the background, technical aspects of the school as some of the power was obviously waning, with lights flickering as the storm approached and heavy rains fell. And heavy branches fell.

Here it should be noted that YT was supposed to have a night off and had been very much looking forward to spending a night in Portland with a friend. Coming from Buffalo, where blizzards deter no one from leaving the house and heading out to what is usual, YT drove off after lunch expecting to make it to Portland despite reports of twelve-foot waves in the city. What does that mean to a woman from Buffalo who knows that three feet of snow can seem, with drifts, and other heady factors, like a mere six inches. So off I drove in my little car, making it about three miles when it became very clear that a hurricane meant lots of falling branches, and trees, with big pieces of debris of Nature flying by the car. The car and I returned to the school parking lot, relieved. I had made an evacuation plan and now I was in the midst of that plan.

Nancy and I decided we should investigate ways to keep the power going (if need be), and I located the fuses and breakers. Lights were half-off, it was like a Filipino brown-out. Nancy grew up in the Shiney Apple with supers, but I, a Middling City renter, was more familiar with these items. I flicked breakers. I looked at fuses. The security system began to wail as its power supply was momentarily cut off when I jolted that breaker. When the alarm sounded we looked at each other with "oh shit" looks as the sounds of several screaming girls could be heard coming from the gym. Finally I figured out how to turn the siren off, or it went off. The power was out and while it was still light I decided to attempt jumping the generator battery with my car. The generator was in a small room near a door so I could reach it with my jumper cables. What YT didn't realize was that the battery needed water - when the school's maintenance man was finally able to make it to the school, he told me so, and then did jump the generator in the same way that I'd tried with his truck. So much for being a powerhouse superhero.

After a semi-sleepless night in the principal's office with Nancy and Mo Ganey, Nancy and I returned to our camp to survey the damage, to see if the kids could return. Funnels had spun off the small lake and cut the top halves of trees off, leaving a clear path of damage. Power lines were down. Toilets could not flush. The campers had to be evacuated from the school before their session was complete - and staff had to move personal belongings for the girls. It was a bit chaotic but nobody was hurt, and there were many disappointed kids (and parents, I'm sure) as that summer ended abruptly.

Hurricanes, in a nutshell, are more than a Neil Young metaphor, more unpredictable than a raging Middling City blizzard, and nothing to sneeze at. In January YT will make a third trip to New Orleans, the first time after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. On my first trip there I photographed a week of Mardi Gras. The second trip I shot a jazz funeral. This trip I plan on shooting what remains of NOLA's charming eccentricities.

I'm not one for fruity drinks (and fruit in general) but may sip a Hurricane there with the hopes of banishing remaining hurricane badness, like a liquid smudge stick.

Smudgy, Liquid Love.