Friday, December 31, 2004

Walls of Water 

Watching the news coverage on the tsunami in Indonesia reminded me of something. Especially the videotape of all that water rolling over the beach and into the interior. Namely that this is the image that goes through your head when you're waiting for a hurricane to roll ashore. Except in the case of what happened in Indonesia, you, dear hurricane watcher, are not caught off-guard by the moment but rather subjected to the possibilities of such natural powers over a period of days.

Listening to the weather people on your television deliver continuous warnings on the destructive power of storm surges and so forth. Sixteen to eighteen foot storm surges which are, as I recall, some record setting storm surges pushed ashore by powerful hurricanes in the past. I have no idea how great the storm surge (or tsunami) was in South Asia but that isn't the point at this point. The point is that what those people experienced in South Asia is the terrible actuality of the nightmare that bangs around in the skull of anyone who has ever waited out a hurricane(s) possibilities at two or three feet above sea level. Which is about how many feet above sea level I was living at when I had my own deep dark thoughts banging around in my skull in this regard. On a number of occasions as a matter of fact.

Anyone who reads here, who currently lives, or has lived, in South Florida for any period of time, will most likely understand what I'm getting at here. And has no boubt entertained such humbling possibilities.

When hurricane Andrew swept its way toward South Florida in August 1992 I had all these kinds of scary thoughts banging around in my skull because, as the weather people will tell you, its the water stupid! Its the water - the storm surge - that kills thousands of people.

What you think about - the images that go through your head - as you sit in your hurricane shuttered sweatbox - is basically what you see in those videos coming from Indonesia today.

Although Andrew roared ashore north of where I lived I nevertheless planned carefully what I would do should the worst come to pass waterwise. The first moronic notion that comes to mind in such last minute planning situations is the idea that you will be able to float on something. So you look around your yard and home and take note of things that will float. Like boats. But in the event you can't drag a boat into your living room you examine air mattresses and sofa cushions and the fat labrador retriever snoring in the corner of the living room for potential bouyancy properties. At least you do if you're me.

Then of course you figure out where exactly 16 or 18 feet is located at. Because who the fuck really knows. Do you really know where 16 or 18 feet is? I didn't think so. You will need to know these things so you can scamper quickly onto your roof and leap like a human gecko into the fronds of a twenty five foot palm tree should the waters rise beyond the towering heights of your fiberglass carport roof. Which I did. Figure out where 16-18 feet was that is. I had it all figured out.

Next you check the weather station for the latest updates. Then, because you are afterall, at least if you are me, which your aren't, but nevermind...if you are as I say, a fabulous action figure, you pretend that you will escape to the nearest high rise hotel should the waters rise above your ten inch tall porch stoop. There you will introduce yourself to the lovely young maiden at the front desk and be escorted straightaway to a moderatly priced suite thirty feet above the tragic drowning action. Oh yes. Where you will be warm and dry and treated to a complimentary bottle of Chateau St. Michele and a half dozen freshly steamed stone crab claws and a half eaten Toblerone bar that was never rotated out of the minibar - oh goddamnit - where's the fuckin' phone - get me the food and beverage director son-of-a-bitch immediately!!!!. Oh sure.

And then you snap out of it and sit your ass down in your sweaty home hurricane shelter and prepare to die on your sofa like the ultimately helpless and stupid and unseaworthy creature that you are. At some point you come to the awful realization that the last face you might see before you are swept away and deposited in a mangrove tangle or discovered floating naked somewhere in the ocean west of the Marquesas Keys is the jabbering mug of one of those morons on the weather channel. Yee gads, what a way to go. So you turn off the TV. Which drives you nuts after about three minutes. So you turn it back on.

Now you have fully resolved yourself to your fate. Sort of. You put on a life jacket if you have one. Which naturally you don't. So you clutch on to your favorite philodendron plant and wait and hope for the best. What else can ya do?

And thats what I was reminded of when watching that water wash over those towns in South East Asia. Those imaginings which seem silly to me today because the worst case scenario outlined above - and the silly imaginings I have cartooned for you above - were never realized in any manner whatsoever in my case. But what happened in Indonesia is exactly what I imagined might happen to me all those years ago at three feet above sea level. But on a much smaller scale geographically and populationally. At least it went through my head. I'm not kidding either.

Which isn't the case in Indonesia. And they never saw it coming. And none of it is silly at all. And the gravity of what happened there gives me pause even now when it comes to mentioning my own seemingly silly recounting of my own imagingings of such things all those years ago at three feet above sea level. But I guess that's the kind of generous luck of the draw and hedge against despair that life affords us. What else can ya do?

What really bothers me while watching the coverage of what has happened in Indonesia - especially with respect to a good deal of the quivering lower lip commentary coming from some of the dippity-doo wowsers in the television media - is the realization that these very same media dolts never shed a single tear or a single lower lip quiver while they hooted and cheered and made squeally sounds as the United States of America rained explosives on thousands of innocent people in places like Iraq. "Liberating" little kids and mothers and fathers and on and on and on from their arms and legs and heads and dreams. Where were the sad theatrical refrains from the showroom dummies at CNN and MSNBC and you know who then?

Tsunami's and earthquakes are natural disasters. The earth is a scary living thing. When people get in the way - when nature gets really crazy and people are killed - it's very sad and that is the case. But it isn't a malignant intentional act. Unless God is a jabbering lunatic who hates his children.

But when we as a nation actively plan and execute and unleash a tsunami of airborn hellfire on a population of innocent people in a carefully targeted location - well - that malignant monstrous intentional action is given a parade and big thumbs up from the very same quivering lower lips that are currently grieveing at me, one photograph at a time, from the cozy confines of some TV studio sound set, as I write this. Its creepy. Downright creepy and scary. It makes me want to grab my philodendron plant and hold on and hope for the best. And I live well above sea level these days.

Bernard Weiner
The Hell That Is South Asia
The Asia quake/tsunami disaster hit too close to home: My wife had been in southern Thailand, at the beaches, only a week before the disaster struck; I had been in Southeast Asia a week before that. - [continue reading... The Hell That Is South Asia]

Damon Poeter:
Sports talk has its time, but this isn’t it - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

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