Monday, August 29, 2011


So Irene's been and gone.  She was poorly named, to my mind.  Irene is someone's great aunt, a stooped, sweet old woman who plays makes bad cookies and plays the organ when the regular organist takes vacation.  Alternatively, she's a California baby boomer lawyer, smoking her medical marijuana after a long day spent prosecuting the deviant.  Perhaps, just perhaps, she's a waitress at a diner in the Rust Belt.

What she's not is a hurricane.  Zorg is a hurricane.  Wizwallop.  Ixminy.  It's possible I have a new career ahead of me as a dubber of hurricanes.  Codswalloper!  Ning.

But nobody asked me, and in any case, Irene has passed, if slightly more violently than we anticipated.  The winds blew for longer, and stronger, than the weather service had guessed, and 80% of the city lost power.  We clung to ours, but nevertheless, Irene's going to cost us: $550 for two days of lost work (and counting) on my end,  $325 for tree branch removal, plus several hours of picking up sticks and hauling branches.

Of course, it could have been worse.  There's a sycamore through the middle of our neighbor's house, bisecting it neatly, like a knife cleaving a cow's heart in middle school science.  You can see the boxes in their attic, festooned with insulation from what used to be their walls.  You can see where the rain came into the house, and the nothing where the chimney used to be.

Even for the neighbors, it could have been worse.  Their house will be condemned, but they have insurance, and all of them are alive, saved, evidently, by their preteen daughter's devotion to the downstairs television set and iCarly.

The incontrovertible truth is that "it," whatever it is could, always, always, be worse.  That's what one of my social media friends was trying to get at, I think, when he complained about the endless hurricane coverage.  Come on, he railed, what about all the people dying in Afghanistan, the Sudan, Syria?

He's right, of course. My irritation at being out hundreds of dollars pales in comparison to losing a home, which pales in comparison to starvation.  There's a long ladder of misfortune, and we can always drop a rung or two.

That's the trouble with being human, though: We name things.  We personalize our hurricanes and we remain, for better or for worse, deeply attentive to the squalls and breezes of our own lives.   We're limited, we humans.  We're small.  Irene can take us, even as we baptize her: an old, bent woman, the spitting, gusting image of ourselves.

No comments: