Howard Debs Palm Beach Gardens (Geoffrey Philp)
Dorian Before, During, After
“They worry about the silliest things, a little bit of wind”
—patron exiting the Brooklyn Bagel eatery, pre-storm, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Her name is Lauren. She played her part.
More about that later. Humans give everything
names. Wednesday August 28: I’m putting up
the metal garage door center brace—a gaping chasm
if breached therefore it’s fortified like a medieval castle
entry with its massive wooden gates fronted by its portcullis
(a vast iron grille to thwart storming by battering rams)
I’m not yet thinking I might die. I’m thinking of Dorian
columns (bearing the most weight ancient builders
used them at the base of buildings). I’m thinking
that Dorian will be ripped apart by the mountainous
terrain of Hispaniola. Thursday August 29: I’m putting up
the heavy galvanized steel shutters I invested in long ago
to cover all the windows and sliding glass doors. Friday August 30:
I’m bringing in all the furniture from the patio; anything
can be a missile even the small stone birdbath marking the
spot where we buried the container of our cat’s remains when she died
of natural causes many years ago. I’m thinking it’s coming our way.
Saturday August 31: I’m helping put up shutters at
my younger daughter’s place; a first responder with Palm
Beach County Fire Rescue, she’s activated at Emergency
Headquarters as of 7 a.m. the next day. The plan is we’ll head
to her house, it’s newer construction, post-Andrew, up-to-code.
One of her twins, eleven years old, complains it’s dark inside
with all the windows covered. I’m thinking this will be the worst storm
to hit our area in 45 years since we moved to Florida for the
sea and sun of it. I later find out about the Labor Day hurricane
of 1935 and its 185 mile-an-hour winds. Sunday September 1:
I’m clinging to our only hope, waiting for The Turn.
(The Bermuda High came and retreated, leaving a smidgen
of room for the hurricane to skirt the coast, a low-pressure
trough coming down from the Midwest coaxing it along
if it reached us in time). Monday September 2: I’m packing
to leave my home. I’m thinking living generates lots of stuff,
as George Carlin used to joke (“If you didn’t have so much stuff,
you wouldn’t need a house, you could just walk around all the time.”)--
I’m thinking I could lose it all, my stuff. The Hebrew Daily Prayers with
English translations passed down through generations take it or leave it?
The old black and white photo of Grandpa Eddie in front of his
haberdashery on Broadway in Chicago take it or leave it?
The leather-bound Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects by Hume,
1769 edition take it or leave it? Tuesday September 3: I’m reading
the latest Facebook post from my son-in-law, a local high school
history teacher with a passion for storm prediction. He previously
posted about his former student Lauren, now a meteorologist flying
on a hurricane hunter plane to gather data. Dorian is stalled.
We’re all still waiting for The Turn. The delay is maddening with
possible devastating result (meme being circulated online: Dorian
is just like a Florida snowbird. It moves 1 mile an hour, can’t pick a lane
and has no idea when to turn). Finally the 6z models, known as spaghetti
plots show movement to the northwest. Confidence is high that we will see
minimal effects. I call around, the big chain restaurants are closed but
a local diner opened and so instead of eating Sterno-heated instant oatmeal
we went out on the town. The place was packed with weary folks abuzz about
our salvation and the tragedy in the Bahamas 90 miles away. A fellow at
the next table was insisting we send all donations only to Christian-based charities.
I resisted a demurral. Wednesday September 4: I’m thinking I’m over the mileage for
an oil change on the new car; an email arrives from the dealer reading
“With Dorian behind us we’re here for all your automotive needs.”
I’m thinking of Dorian Gray, the novel.
Originally published in Brown Bag, Issue 1
Three things: 1). A number of years ago, in the Michigan Quarterly Review a group of literary luminaries joined the fray in a series of seven articles about writing Holocaust poetry. Alicia Ostriker had this to say, “Writing is what poets do about trauma. We try to come to grips with what threatens to make us crazy, by surrounding it with language.” 2). When my older daughter, now a public school special education resource specialist started her undergraduate career at Florida State in Tallahassee, the parents were treated to a lecture to show the kind of thing the students would be experiencing. The history professor involved propounded a theory which is both profound and difficult involving a meta-analysis approach asserting that all events, devastating hurricanes included, have positive outcomes if viewed in a larger context. The point of view is hard to reconcile. 3). Climate change is an existential threat, yet, as with Dorian Gray, collectively we have given away our future in exchange for the enjoyments of the moment.
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