Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The definitive account of Hurricane Irene (your experiences may vary)

Wow, I've been really bad about writing recently. My bad everyone.
After what seemed like endless buildup, Hurricane Irene finally arrived Friday night, battering the coast of North Carolina before working its way up the East Coast, fizzing out like a Coke left open too long before reaching The Most Important Area In The World where apparently water levels were a foot above normal (oh noes, everybody panic.) Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook got a running account of the storm from me. Those of you who aren’t friends with me on Facebook, your life is worse off for that fact.

In an effort to give the definitive account of Hurricane Irene (your experiences may vary), I’m posting this blog entry to try to convey to you the joy, the fear, the laughter, the loitering (that joke will make sense later) and the full gamut of emotions experienced by myself, The Wife, Co-workers of The Wife (COTW) and Friends of Co-workers of The Wife (FCOTW).

Sparing you the intricate details (because, as I said, this is the definitive account, and those types of accounts always spare you intricate details), The Wife and I were unsure if we were evacuating until around 2  p.m. on Friday. Had the Official Kid of this blog been with us, we’d have skipped town, but he was visiting my parents on a pre-arranged trip. (If you’re a conspiracy theorist, this is where you credit my soon-to-be three-year-old with having either supernatural foresight to get out of town, or supernatural powers to control the weather.) As it was, due to work issues, we decided to live out The Doors “Riders on the Storm” and, ummm, ride out the storm.

Since we were staying, I drove out to the beach to get some pre-storm photos. This was not the brightest thing I’ve ever done, mostly because I did so wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Normally, this is entirely appropriate beach wear. But not when the wind is gusting up to 30 mph and it’s raining. This will not come as a surprise to you, but rain hurts, especially when being blown into you. Nevertheless, I took a few photos, smiled at the other people who were out doing the same thing (presumably vacationers who had their trip ruined) and then headed back to my apartment to prepare.

After getting the essentials in the event of a power outage (flashlights, beer and snacks) we picked up one of the COTW and headed on to the home of the other two COTW where we were going to hunker down. Four of us had been through a hurricane before (with me being the least experienced due to most of the major storms of my youth not giving me a direct hit.) The fifth member of the group was from Oregon and, as best I can tell, thought hurricanes were something that flaunted NCAA rules.  This resulted in great fun for us as she … freaked out is too strong a phrase, so let’s say she was on edge for a good portion of the evening.

Kure Beach Pier around noon.
Power at my apartment went out around 8 p.m. Friday night, but being at a friend’s house, I wasn’t too concerned.  Soon FCOTW came over with their small child, meaning there were a couple of episodes of Thomas The Tank Engine in store for us while the rain and wind picked up outside. It was around this time that our hurricane newbie asked when the hurricane was going to arrive. The hurricane that was bring the rain and wind outside. That hurricane. She wanted to know when it was going to arrive. She also had an interesting way of pronouncing the world "looting" so that is sounded a lot like "loitering." So we told her the chainsaws that people were getting chainsaws to protect against loiterers.

After the young one went to sleep, we turned back to the weather, which was showing the same radar showing the same rain bands coming ashore. Eventually we discovered that the Lingerie Football League had a game on MTV2 that we flipped over to. I can assure you, after diligent research, the idea of Lingerie Football is far better than the implementation of it.

Sometime during the evening, our Hurricane Newbie started asking about this Gayle Force character and what her winds were all about. I think she was joking. Maybe. Who’s to say, really? Any time a gust of wind could be heard outside, someone would say Gayle Force is back. We ran that joke into the ground, threw it under the bus, ran it over, backed over it and ran it over again before getting out of the bus and shooting it. But, at some point during the carnage, the Hurricane Newbie found a Gayle Force on Facebook and sent a friend request. As of this posting, Ms. Force has not replied to the friend request, much to everyone’s disappointment.

It was also during this time that I found my favorite tweet of the night, courtesy of Seth Fried (I don’t know who he is, but you can follow him at @seth_fried on twitter should you so choose). He tweeted, “If your apartment is hit by a dolphin, DO NOT GO OUT TO SEE IF THE DOLPHIN IS OKAY. That's how the hurricane tricks you into coming outside.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Sometime around midnight, we all decided that going to bed was the best option and we awoke to find some limbs down, lots of leaves and pine straw strewn about as though the killer rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail had attacked a tree farm. Still drunk with power (electricity), we checked on the storm, made breakfast and then headed back to our apartment.  We took some pictures around the complex (the parking lot was flooded, but it does that on a hard rain anyway. A tree or two were knocked over, but none hit any of the buildings. A rather large pine tree across the street fell, but again, it didn’t hit anything of importance.

The flooding is normal, the downed tree is not.
We then set out to drive around town and peruse the effects of the storm. Much like our complex, there were a lot of trees down, lots of leaves and limbs down but there didn’t seem to be anything severe, at least in the places we looked. Around this time, The Wife got a call from work, saying the curfew on campus was lifted and she would be needed to help get things ready for the fitness center to open. So she went to work and I sat outside my powerless apartment with 200 pages of a good book left to go. This was around 3ish. Four hours later, I made a sandwich. Two hours (and with the help of a flashlight) I finally finished the book and my Sports Illustrated, leaving me watching X-Files with no lights on, only without the X-Files part and without the Barenaked Ladies.  Around 10ish, The Wife gets home, exhausted from work, and we go to sleep.

The next day (still powerless, both in terms of electricity and in ability to render myself invisible), I set out for South Carolina to pick up the little guy, who no doubt will have no memory of the hurricane he didn’t ride out. I got home around 4 p.m. to a porch light on, leading to much rejoicing, especially among Sir Robin’s minstrels, which did not have to be eaten.

So that’s it, the hurricane is over. The Weather Channel’s ratings have plummeted back to slightly above that of a test pattern, life for the southeastern North Carolina coast is back to normal. But the next hurricane fun is just a tropical wave off the African coast away.

Random Note: My brother lives in Maryland and lost power sometime Saturday as a result of the storm. By Sunday he'd contacted his Federal legislators seeking the resolution to the issue. (He says it's because their power has gone out four times in four months, but picked the time it went out due to a hurricane to contact federal officials.) I'm not sure what he expected two Maryland senators and a representative to do. I assume he thought they were trained in electrical engineering or something else related to how power companies work and, as public servants, would come out to his home, diagnose the problem and repair it. The rest of us just said "Hey, power goes out in a hurricane. It happens," and didn't make a federal case out of it. As my brother in Georgia pointed out, the government can't fix anything, what makes him think they could fix his power.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A close-up view of the vast wasteland

Monday night was the finale of “The Bachelorette.” To commemorate such a momentous night in television history, I kept a running diary to forever remember my thoughts. As a gift to you, I’m sharing it here.

8:00 – It’s the final night, we’re here to see Ashley pick  between Ben and J.P., two guys who are so nondescript that despite watching the entire season I couldn’t pick them out of a lineup if my life depended on it.

This is the best picture of Ashley
on the internet.
8:04 – Ashley has her family with her to help her decide among the final two, because if there’s one thing people are good at, it’s giving advice on who to marry based on one day of spending time with those people.  I’m shocked more of these Bachelor/Bachelorette couples have worked out.

8:07 – First up for Ashley is J.P. a construction manager. She says she’s not nervous. She’s also laughing nervously.

8:10 – A toast to Ashley and J.P., who the mom welcomes to the family. I’m willing to bet she gives the exact same toast when Ben comes for his interrogation.

8:11 – Ashley’s sister seems skeptical. Her mom says J.P.’s “ok.” A ringing endorsement if I’ve ever seen one.

8:12 – We have crying for the first time tonight. I’m taking the over at 5.5 separate instances of crying throughout the episode.

8:14 – The sister doesn’t think J.P. is right for her.  This four-minute conversation is more time then I spent talking to my brothers about whether The Wife was right for me. Then again, ABC wasn’t paying for everything. Maybe if they were, I’d have had that conversation. Or at least staged it for the approval of the guys with the money.

8:15 – I’ve vastly underestimated the number of crying episodes. We’re now at the beach with her brother and she’s crying again. We’ve got potential for a record-breaking performance.

8:17 – The Sister tells J.P. she doesn’t see them together, and then we go to commercial.

8:18 – There’s a commercial for a new show called “The Chew” which I wasn’t paying close attention to and thought was called “The Jew.” Seemed like an odd name for a show. Actually, both of those seem like odd names for a show.

8:20 – The Sister is really hung up on the fact that Ashely didn’t immediately say J.P. makes her laugh. I’m starting to think The Sister wants Ashley to be dating Jon Stewart.

8:22 – The Sister is the best thing to happen to this show all season. Now she’s grilling him about not being married already at 34. My future sister-in-law once asked me if I knew what time it was. I didn’t have a watch or phone with me, so it was equally challenging for me to answer questions too.

8:24 – J.P. is upset The Sister doesn’t like him. In an unrelated observation, the music in the background seems straight out of a Richard Marx song.

Not Photoshopped
8:30 – A commercial for the CMA music festival, in which Taylor Swift will be performing. I don’t have a joke, I just like to brag that I had my picture taken with her.

8:34 – Back with Ashley and The Sister. Apparently they’re fighting. I missed a lot of it to take care of The Kid. Whatever happened, Ashley is “devastated.” Now the sister’s crying to her mom after the discussion. Can’t we settle this like adults and change into bikinis and find a vat of jello? (That’s how sisters settle arguments, right?) (The Wife didn’t find that funny.)

8:42 – Ben meets the family. The Sister is adamant that Ashley “be herself” around the guy, which apparently include “dog talk,” which makes me believe the family finds Jeff Foxworthy funny 15 years after the height of his popularity.

8:44 – Ben has his interrogation time with The Sister. So far she seems to approve of him. Ben tells The Sister he’s “in love” with Ashely, which surprises The Sister. She didn’t get the memo that “dog talk” is the universal symbol of love.

8:47 – If The Sister had a vote, it’d be for Ben. If I had a vote, it’d be to change the channel.

8:48 – Dramatic change in music, attempting to make us believe Ashley doesn’t know what she wants.

8:53 – Now seems like as good a time as any to say that this episode is brought to us by the Fiji Tourism Board as every time we go to or come back from commercial, we’re reminded we’re in Fiji.

8:55 – Ashley and Ben have their final date before he has to decide if he’ll propose or not. And what better date than a helicopter ride in which you need to talk into a microphone attached to headphones to communicate.

8:56  - The chopper took them to a “healing mud bath” where they strip down to a bathing suit and proceed to cover each other in mud. “when you’re lubing each other with mud, it’s really erotic,” says captain obvious.

8:57 – Ashley wishes she could “reach lower” with the mud. I assume she wanted to cover his leg in mud, but my wife’s dirty mind assumed Ashley wanted something else.

9:01 – Ben invites Ashley into his hotel room with the champagne on ice. We’re apparently recreating the “Fantasy Suite” date from the previous episode, only this time Ben’s going to tell her he loves her.

We Suck
9:05 – Nothing’s really happening, so to kill some space, I’ll let you know my Fantasy Teams are doing poorly this year. Some players underperformed, other gambles didn’t pay off and basically my teams suck. Even my team that was, until Monday, in second place, was still 23 games behind the first place team. Fortunately, football season starts soon. (My wife, upon me reading that back to her . . . “my God, what a horrible blog. Who would want to read that?” My wife thinks poorly of you if you’re reading this right now.)

9:10 – Now it’s J.P.’s turn. Ashely waits for him on the beach in her bikini in a way to try to make up for her sister not liking him. He seems ok with it, despite the fact it was a mismatched bikini.

9:11 – J.P. is still hung up on The Sister’s comments about him, and that’s exactly how you’d want to spend the last date with someone who is choosing between the two of you. Grownup relationship talk is boring. Fiji can’t be happy that this is how their promotional dollars* are being spent.

*I don’t know the currency of Fiji. However, now that you’re interested, Google it and find out. Expecting The Spanish Inquisition, an educational blog.

9:15 – Despite having clothes on, J.P. claims to be “totally exposed.” It’s possible he meant metaphorically. Or it’s possible he’s a liar.

9:18 – According to J.P.’s note to Ashley, this is the first chapter of the “greatest love story ever told.” It’s now been confirmed that J.P. is a liar. (For what it’s worth, my wife is on Team J.P. I’m on Team I Can’t Believe People Watch This Crap)

9:32 – I had to take the dog out. While I was gone, both guys bought rings (thanks ABC) and Ashley put on a dress. The Wife said the editing made it appear J.P. might not propose. I wish the dog spent more time outside.

9:40 – Two guys, one rose. It all comes down to this. And by “all” I mean a manufactured situation in which arbitrary rules are in place. Ben’s the first one here. And Ashley doesn’t look like she’s going to pick him. Life must be hard when you have two guys willing to propose to you on the same day. Poor Ashley.

9:43 – Ben proposes.
9:43 – Ashley declines. Ben “I didn’t see this one coming.” All that’s missing is Chris Harrison coming out to say “Ben, I’m sorry. Take a minute, and say your good-byes.”

Here's to you, Ben
9:45 – Ben “You can’t leave something like this on good terms.” But you can drown your sorrows at the local Fiji bar just up the road.

9:47 – As punishment, Ben must walk seven miles on a dirt road to a small boat that I assume will take him back to the United States. Even better, he has to ride by Ashley standing on the beach waiting for J.P. to show up. I wonder what the guy driving the boat says to Ben. “Sorry man, but thanks for giving me 20 seconds on television.”

Do people who go on this show not realize how it works. Ashley hates that she had to send Ben away. Perhaps she should have seen if Ben and J.P. were open to the idea of an open, swinging relationship. She didn’t explore all the possible options and could have avoided the whole ‘breaking up with Ben on national tv and humiliating him" thing she went through.

9:54 – J.P.’s airplane door said no exit, so even if Ashely wanted to pick him, he’s trapped in the airplane. Well played, ABC, well played indeed.

9:56 – The Sister won’t be happy about this. Can we get a show where Ashley, J.P. and The Sister all live in a one-bedroom apartment?

9:57 – J.P.’s speech is quite underwhelming. He’s working up to maybe thinking about possibly proposing.

9:58 – Ashley: “Today is why I went through all the good times and all the bad times.” She was really looking forward to breaking up with Ben.

And a proposal and acceptance. Given the track record of proposals on the Bachelorette, take the under on the length of the marriage.

9:59 – “I can’t fight this feeling any longer” is playing as men everywhere continue to fight the urge to start destroying their televisions.

10:00 – It’s over, it’s all over. Well, except for the hour-long “After The Final Rose” show where see what happened. I’m not keeping a running diary of this, but I'll add a closing paragraph to update you on what you missed. (Short answer – nothing. Long answer – see below.)

 Here's the long answer... nothing really happened. I was bored out of my mind and wish I had the hour of my life back. On the plus side, I think I banked some goodwill with football season approaching.