2008 was a terrible year. I can group it in with other horrific years. Namely 1950-1951 when I spent months in the hospital with polio. 1968 was terrible and I have talked about my first wife Donna before. 1999 was just very bad, not terrible. I was living alone in Bellingham after leaving my second wife. I do not do well alone and I was really lonely.
I asked a much younger woman out for lunch and a movie. She refused, but did it in a patronizing manner, like I was one of her father’s pervert friends. I asked an older woman out for lunch and a movie. She accepted. I looked forward to the date. A guy named Bruce came in the drug store. With a shaking hand, he waved a bony fist at me and announced that my date was cancelled. I volunteered for a literacy project and I asked a plain, librarian-like out for lunch and a movie. She laughed and said that she liked girls. I gave up.
The apartment in Bellingham was very nice. It had plenty of room for when my daughter visited, every other weekend. I lived for those visits and put up with a teen ager who treated me badly, taking the cue from her mother. She was her mother’s hatchet girl. 1999 was vindicated when I met Victoria in September and married her in December. Most of the next 9 years were deep in the rabbit-hole.
2008 was horrible. You can tell by how I feel six weeks into 2009.
January, 2008, I was riding my bicycle on the seawall when I came upon a truck illegally parked on the wide sidewalk. Rain had just started and I was 6 blocks from 75th Street. I was peddling as fast as I could when I came upon the truck. I moved out onto the parking strip. I took a very wide angle back onto the sidewalk and went down with a thud. I was wearing short pants. My left knee was so badly scraped that I could see the meat. Betadine in the shower and I went to work that morning. Talk about being institutionalized! I was in shock. I sat on a stool and checked the technician’s work. My left pant leg was soaked in blood.
By the time I was “healed”, along came September 13th and a Hurricane the size of the state of Texas came barreling ashore just 2 blocks from our townhome. Dealing with the storm, FEMA, SBA and insurance companies is very difficult, It is a stress that is unmitigating.
Our dead bodies are still under miles long debris piles on the mainland or were swept out to sea. If there are no corpses stretched out in unbecoming positions, then there is no story for the national media. Or so it seems. The story of Galveston and Hurricane Ike lasted about two weeks. It had just started for us down here.
The presidential election took everyone’s attention and Galveston seemed to be left on its own. There was big, blustery talk from George W. Bush and from Texas Governor Rick Perry. But their lofty promises were for the media. FEMA? Well, FEMA is FEMA! Insurance? They grow small print like Kentucky grows tobacco.
Galveston is not New Orleans and Hurricane Ike was not Katrina. Not one inch of Galveston is below sea level. Pumping was not needed. The water subsided rather quickly all by itself. The enormity of the disaster was not noticeable right away in the city. The buildings in the historical district looked to have survived. When you look inside, however, there is black mold and toxic mud. In the neighborhoods, the loss of every single thing you owned in most ranch style homes. The fifteen foot flood surge came mostly from the bay side. The famous Galveston seawall did its job. It held back the bottom seventeen feet of surge from the Gulf of Mexico. Otherwise, I would be homeless.
The storm was enormous, 900 miles across, the size of Texas. We evacuated on Friday morning when we saw that the water from Offat’s Bayou was already up to our driveway which is ten feet above sea level. When I heard the words surge, death, storm and certain all in the same sentence, we headed for the Texas hill country where a relative I share a great grandfather with offered her guest house.
We lived in relative luxury for seventeen days with our anxious eyes on 24/7 storm news.
We were always home at 1:00 PM to see the daily Galveston new conference. When the mayor finally said we could come back, we returned wide eyed on September 25th. We had to drive around debris piles and downed electrical wires. The only dead body was someone’s sheep dog. Our home is one block from the seawall. We feared that it would be too damaged to live in. The first level is garage and storage. We lost a car. The upstairs was as we left it.
The media missed the story of one dead body. The owner of a local deli rode out the storm at home. He waded through waist deep water contaminated with sewage and disease to see his store. He had a small cut on his leg. A flesh-eating bacteria set in. They amputated his leg when antibiotics did not do the job. Then he died.
There was no one else living within blocks for the first week or so that we were back. We were all alone and we carried on with a four plug generator and a couple portable air conditioning units for the sleeping rooms. We had nothing else. The cell phone was our only portal to the world. We ate cold food mostly and heated our nine month old grandson’s bath water on a hot plate. The water was dangerous, not drinkable. We brushed our teeth with Dasani.
Our personal grooming suffered. You just don’t get as clean in a cold shower. Our intestines stopped working properly. The night took on the shadow of dread. Any noise outside terrified our fatigued minds. We imagined modern demons and felt an unreasonable fear of ill-defined danger. We dreamed dreadfully. Fight or flight, but there was no place to fly to. At night, we were pioneers in unexplored regions. The dark breeds terror.
I didn’t like the flies that were breeding in the debris piles. Black, fat, slow-moving flies. Little gnats filled the kitchen. They got in my nose. I found my pleasures in simple things. I usually get up early, before the sunrise. I would take a cup of strong coffee (made using electricity from the generator) and, in my pajamas, I would go down to the neighbor’s at the end of the row and sit on her stairs (to get away from the noise of the generator). What struck me was the out-and-out blackness all around me. It had its own kind of unexpected beauty. There were no house lights, no street lights. No lights at all. I had no choice but to just be there. There was peace and a luxurious calm. The pleasantly hot morning air held the smell of decay, like a garden in decline.
I looked up and found the amazing universe one morning. I had lived in or near a well-lit city for so many decades that I cannot remember ever seeing so many stars. Right away, I found the Big Dipper. It was right where my father told me it would be. Cabin Boy download
I took out my cell phone almost every morning and called my brother in Stowe, Vermont. I liked to tell him about Galveston, that boozy-eyed older woman with too much makeup on her broken face. Her heavily red colored ruby lips curve into a crooked grin. I can hear a sultry whisper, “Don’tcha wanna dance?”
V and I made it. The recovery and repairs to our flooded lowest floor were complete in January. Insurance refused us. “You don’t live down here.” The flooded area was the garage, hallway, a large storage room and 2 small ones.
It is 2009 and I think that I can go on.