Friday, August 26, 2011
A Mighty Wind
So when does the lava start flowing?
I’m sitting here in my family’s nearly empty house waiting for Hurricane Irene to show up and raise all kinds of hell and high water.
The storm is supposed to make landfall in North Carolina early Saturday morning and then churn its way up the East Coast and hit our fair city tomorrow night.
The Alpine Theater on Fifth Avenue has removed all the lettering on its marquee, the oil delivery company on the corner has taped up its windows, and my local grocery store was crammed with anxious shoppers stocking up on food and water. (I was one of them.)
I still can’t believe it--a hurricane coming to New York. It’s the kind of thing that I read about happening in other places, not in my hometown. I mean, they're closing the subways--the subways!--and there's talk of mandatory evacuations.
I got a good look at the destructive power of hurricanes when I went to Florida in 1992 to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew for the Pocono Record. It was like an atomic bomb hit the place.
But a hurricane bearing down on New York? C'mon, that’s about as unlikely as an earthquake rocking the city.
Oh, yeah, that’s right, we had one of those, too. Just a few freaking days ago…
I haven’t gotten over that little incident, where I was sitting at my desk Tuesday afternoon and I felt this wave of energy come up from below and roll right through my chair. I tried to ignore it, told myself I was imagining things, but then I heard my co-workers all round me asking “what was that?”
When I went down to the lobby of my office building the people in the upper floors were streaming out of the elevators and going the hell home. It wasn’t easy getting back into the elevator and returning to the sixth floor.
The Hour and the Day
But I figured at least we were done with bizarre occurrences for a while…until I heard about Irene.
Irene hasn’t even gotten here yet and already I’m fed up. We want to sell our parents’ home and all of a sudden all kinds of natural disasters are heading our way. What next? Locusts? Frogs falling from the sky? Maybe Godzilla will swim over from Japan and breathe radioactive halitosis all over Bay Ridge.
I was going to skip church this afternoon because I’m so tired with all the packing and moving and this goddamn leg of mine that refuses to get better. But then I reasoned that when you’re looking down the barrel of a hurricane now is not the time to lose your religion.
The gospel reading at Trinity was “The Parable of the Ten Virgins” from Matthew, which ends with the line “therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
The hymn of the day was “Peace Like A River.”
When I got out of work this evening, a homeless man was sitting outside St. Paul’s Chapel holding a sign that read “No home, no job, have fun.”
“It’s all bullshit,” he shouted at a woman walking down Broadway. “Nothing’s going to happen on Sunday.”
“I like the way you think, brother,” I said, as I dropped a handful of coins into his cup.
“You have fun,” he told me.
I shall do my level best, given the circumstances. One block away some ranting loon with a portable speaker system was haranguing weary commuters about the power of God.
“The earthquake wasn’t enough,” he said through a mouthful of static. “God is real!”
Yes, and, unfortunately, so are you. I probably could have paid the homeless guy to hit this loser with his sign, but that wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do. It would have been fun, though.
So now we’re doing this strange dance of going on with our normal lives while waiting for the catastrophe to smack us upside the head.
I hope the weather people are wrong and that Irene loses power, blows out to sea, becomes nothing but a joke on Twitter and a one-day punch line on late night TV, and that we all have peace like a river.
That’s what I hope. But until then, we have to keep watch…