11 September 2008

'Twas the Night Before Ike...

...and all through the house,
only the Daddy was stirring
and scurrying about.

He tended the tree limbs
and the backyard swing set.
Would the roof blow away?
He worries, he frets...

[ahem]

Well, then....quite enough of that. But seriously, Daddy here, with a rambling report from Houston, Texas, on the evening of September 11th, 2008. We're hunkering down for Hurricane Ike, due to arrive tomorrow, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being rather excited.

Of course, I'm also scared silly. At heart, I'm still Colorado Boy, and this is my first really serious tropical storm. Blizzards, wicked high-country thunderstorms, flash floods, even tropical monsoon rains that last for days -- been there, done that. Loved it, mostly. But I'm having trouble conceptualizing what 120mph winds might do to our house.

I can't help feeling a sense of exhilaration and curiosity. It's sheer folly, of course, but I have a morbid desire to witness Mother Nature's Mr. Hyde for myself. I'm honestly bummed that the storm's going to blow through at night.

I notice that the meteorologists are afflicted by this paradoxical sense of dualism, too. In some parallel dimension, there's another me who's a hardcore weather geek, and I channel him every fall -- which mostly means that I read Jeff Masters religiously in September. Here are two excerpts from the WunderBlog tonight:

This change in oceanic heat should also help allow Ike to intensify tonight. The eddy is not ideally positioned, though, for rapid intensification to occur.

We must assume Ike will intensify to a Category 3 hurricane by landfall, which would likely do $20-$30 billion in damage. Ike's storm surge is going to be affect a huge area and be tremendously destructive.

See? He can't make up his mind either. The heat should "help" the storm to intensify, but it's not ideal for rapid intensification. Aww, poor little Ike. But wait, that's a good thing -- right? Because it's already going to be "tremendously destructive". Tremendous, indeed.

I can't blame him, of course. I'm coming to see this sense of dualism everywhere. I've told many of you that parenthood is the most extreme possible expression of the Dickensinian Maxim: it's the very, very best of times, but it's also the very, very worst of times. And it happens all at the SAME time. That's dualism as I'm defining it here.

Take this 'hurricane preparedness' thing, for instance. I made a quick run to the grocery store tonight for matches, batteries and cucumbers (don't ask). As I suppose the media networks are blaring, the shelves of bread, canned goods and drinking water are completely barren. But ya know what they don't mention on the nightly news? The alcohol aisle has been cleaned out, too. Half the city might float away, but half the city will be so plastered that they'll barely notice.

Ironically, hurricanes provide an excuse for outrageous parties. Maybe it's a doomsday mentality? I can't be sure, but the atmosphere in the neighborhood is euphoric anticipation, and there's more camaraderie than I've ever seen.

More evidence for dualism: Trinhity started school two weeks back, and it terrifies her. She bursts into tears when we tell her she has to go. In the car this morning she told me that "School is boring because they don't have markers. And they don't have many toys. And they play bad music. Daddy, puullleeeeze take me home!" But as I handed off this screaming, frantic child to the ever-patient staff today, she told me through her sobs that I should warn Mommy: "When Mommy picks me up, she'd better make a really loud noise to get my attention because I'm going to be ham chơi [absorbed in my play]."

See? She loves school and hates it, all at the same time. I'd give a Taison example too, but he's teething hard and has a head cold, so I think he's pretty much all-around miserable at the moment.

On top of everything, today is 9/11. I noticed an old friend's twitter-on-facebook tonight, "Jeff is recovering from trying to explain 9/11 to his kids." I thought about trying that trick myself this morning with Trinh, but she was too freaked out about school to pay attention. Probably for the best.

But on the way to the office after watching her forlorn, tear-streaked face be carried away from me to her classroom, I listed to Story Corps on the local granola station. One story stuck with me all day: Frankie DeVito, a young boy who lost his beloved grandfather in the Towers. Give that a listen, but grab a tissue first.

And so I find myself ending the day in one of the places where this whole thing started: The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran
Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow."
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
[ ... ]
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
May you drink deeply of both your sorrows and your joys, and perhaps give voice to an ironic chuckle when you realize that both have rushed headlong to besiege you like....well, like a hurricane.

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