Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricanes and all that

Since my earliest memories, hurricanes have thrilled me. I confess that I root for them ... having a rooting interest in hurricanes has no actual effect on their progress. As with everything else,the Internet makes a mini-obsession like this so much easier. I look at the National Hurricane Center constantly whenever there's a biggie on the way.

Perhaps the obsession has to do with the darkness of water, and how hurricanes enforce the dominance of the oceans upon our precarious perch here on land. Perhaps it is the great howling of wind and the prospect of being ripped away from mother earth and thrown about helpless. Most likely it is simply quivering before the power of nature, of being done to no matter our pretensions to power and control.

Just imagine the unnerving thrill of the howling winds, the bottomless pit of your stomach as you realize that you are without recourse, the dark realization of return ... return to the depths of the ocean, return to nature's wrath.

I wake up in the middle of the night when there is a hurricane and turn on the television to watch whatever they proffer for us.

Gustav was a sloppy affair once it made U.S. landfall ... even managed to make dubya look good, at least for those who don't pay attention, and so far from disturbing the 'publican convention, it made them seem human and under-exposed their tawdry mendacities notwithstanding that liberals always underestimate how transparent they are.

And let's not forget poor Haiti, thrashed thrice in rapid succession when it has nothing left to give. Of course, one should not forget that its lack of forest cover ... and hence particular vulnerability to flooding ... is the direct result of the first anticolonial revolution in the Americas which, no matter its justification, ended up exiling or slaughtering all the whites and denuding the entire Haitian part of the island of trees. But I digress.

Now Ike, that was a hurricane. The photos from space were staggering ... it plain filled the Gulf like a big pudding in a crystal blue glass. It kept threatening to gather its skirts and regain its status as a cat 4, but never made past a high 2. And the vaunted storm surge peaked some miles down the coast from Galveston. But still, what a thriller.

One never roots for death in these things, but I cannot deny that I root for hurricanes to hit the self-righteous. And is there a place more contemptuous of the future, more bound into its own self-righteousness and more oblivious to the nightmare it represents for the species than Houston? Or leastwise a place that is in the path of a hurricane?

They got away easy this time. A bunch of damage, all of which will spur a little economic revival as construction jobs and insurance money flow about. Galveston will be ugly for a while, but why the hell do people think they should be living there anyway (sez the finger-crosser living just to the right of the San Andreas fault)? Regardless, the unspeakable truth of this hurricane is that the entire Gulf and Atlantic coasts will become uninhabitable as global warming progresses because vaster and more powerful storms will drive economic activity away ... perhaps to California, gawd help us. I speculate that in a hundred years, those coasts will be inhabited by poverty stricken subsistence fishermen living in stilted houses that are washed away every few years.

There was an exciting piece in the New York Times about the eye of the storm which passed directly over Galveston. How many times have I fantasized about being in the eye of a hurricane. Fortunately for my longevity, I prefer fantasy to chasing the bloody things. And that is how it will have to remain.

Photos by arod ... the top of street art in the Mission, the bottom of Christmas lights. These speak hurricane to me, albeit in a rather secular fashion ... or perhaps I just mean dry.


Anonymous said...

As a humble gay Houstonian, I say that you should be ashamed of your self! I lived on the west coast for ten years and your "scene" is quite overrated. That said, can't wait to come back! I will miss the people of the south. You are an idiot.

Arod in San Francisco said...

Not sure why I'm an idiot ... although I call myself an idiot all the time. Dude, I live on the San Andreas fault, so check the tongue in my cheek.