Saturday, August 05, 2006

Alabama Rain

August 5

It's brewing up a rainy day here in Lower Alabama, low clouds overhead and the wind a-blowing. Whereas I'm not usually one to jabber about the weather, I would agree that some rain would be welcome, and it's in the forecast. We've been suffering drought conditions since Katrina poured a few buckets our way about a year ago.

The big-ass Weather Bureau, the one with a Hurricane Center, has now downgraded this season. Says it won't be as bad a one as last year. Nowadays when people talk about hurricanes it's with panic in their hearts, not like in the dark ages when I was growing up and they were just an unpredictable part of summer life. We kids loved them. They didn't have names, or even categories, and you never knew when one was coming until it was too late. None of this evacuation stuff. Windows were not boarded up. You just got your candles and flashlights ready and prepared for an adventure.

Supposedly in ought-nine there had been one that flooded Fairhope. I can't imagine how that could happen, but I didn't doubt the stories of little kids hiding up in the treetops until their parent swam to save them. Fairhope is high on a bluff, and, with Katrina last year there was water all the way up the bluff -- but still not reaching the town -- which pulled up the piers and washed away even the concrete Municipal Pier. At the storm's end I walked to the bluff park where the statue of Marietta Johnson stands, and, with half a dozen other citizens, peered over the edge to see the tops of pines peeking out of the flooded area down in the beach park. "Can you imagine this?" one man said, and I knew he was new to the area, because I had imagined such ever since I was a little girl. The end of the hurricane was what we enjoyed, when our parents let us out, and we went exploring the beaches to see what piers had been washed away and what debris and driftwood had been deposited where.

This is not to minimize the seriousness of the recent hurricanes. After Frederick scored a direct hit on this area in 1979, and after so many new houses went up so near the beaches, the equation has been changed. Add a little media-panic, induced by 24-hour news with guys in raincoats flying to stand in the storms and tell us how scared they are, and it's no wonder the fear of hurricanes has become a major new industry. Many of my wonderful new friends moved away because they dared not live through another hurricane, even though some of them suffered more from the horror of driving at a snail's pace to get to safety 200 miles away, in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-65, only to arrive at a cheesy motel that was full, and finally to land somewhere between here and Atlanta and experience more of the hurricane than we did in Fairhope.

I don't relish another hurricane. I join those who hope we don't get hit at all this season. But I am looking forward to a nice rainy day, which today or tomorrow just might be. We need the water, we need the excessive humidity, and we need a slight drop in temperature. And I have no doubt all these things will happen if we can wait long enough.


Benedict S. said...

I grew up across the bay in Mobile and was regaled by stories of the "big blow of twenty-six." I was told -- and still believe --that when the flood waters receded there were alligators in the lobby of the Battle House Hotel.

Of a more personal nature . . .

One of the hurricanes -- before Frederick -- washed out the causeway leading from Baldwin County into Mobile. My wife and kids had driven all the way down from New Jersey to visit, but with the road gone, were forced to spend the night in a motel "cabin" in Fairhope. The wife and kids went to sleep, but I called Prof Taylor on the phone. He came over and he and I stayed awake all night talking about old times.

For those of you who don't know Prof, buy and read Miss Finding's excellent book, Meey Me at the Butterfly Tree. There's a whole chapter on him and a picture that does him justice. The opening sentences of that chapter describe him about as well as he could have been described. "He was tall and gangly, intellectual looking with his dark-rimmed spectacles and outsized Adam's apple. Poor as a church mouse and Bohemian without trying."

Prof and I used to double-date when I was courting my wife. I had introduced him to a grass-widow who worked where I did, and the two of them became quite a thing for at least three months . . . which was, I imagine, about the limit for any woman who wished to remain reasonably sane. He was perhaps not one-of-a-kind but I would be significantly surprised if there were more than two.

The night the hurricane marooned me in Fairhope, when Prof and I talked the night away . . . that was the last time I saw him. "Seeing" him again in your book was worth the price . . . and much, much more. Thanks lady.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Your comment gives me an idea...maybe I'll post something about Prof.

Sounds like a good visit you had in 1979 -- nothing like a big wind outside and a safe haven to have a talk with some substance.

My favorite hurricane story involves my granddaddy, a profane old man with a hilariously jaundiced view of life. He was out at the gulf in a fishing camp with his old buddy Whitfield when the worst hurricane in many a year blew in. They were trapped in this shack, and it got so scary they both thought they'd better prepare to meet their maker. Whitfield say, "John, it's time we started praying," and Granddaddy agreed that it was now or never. The two got down on their knees and closed their eyes and Whitfield began the proceedings.

"Lord," he said shakily, "We're in big trouble here and need your help. I'm Billy Whitfield and this is my friend John Graham --"

"Goddam it, Whitfield!" Granddaddy shouted. "You told him who we are! Now we're in for it for sure!"

His cover blown, he got up off his knees, and even though he and Whitfield did survive the storm, he never forgave the man for revealing his identity to the Almighty when he felt sure a little discretion might have helped his cause.

Benedict S. said...

Now that's a funny story.

Minor correction. My talk with Prof took place before 1979, another hurricane, not Frederick.

John (America) said...

About Mel Gibson,what happened to the commandent'Judge not.'I personally liked him in Braveheart and The Patriote,to each his own is my motto.

Gibson has a drinking problem like so many, and whether or not one
agrees with his statements while drunk, this endless attack on him is
out of control and wrong.

Hint: The truth can be both refreshing and powerful. More people
should use it more often instead of kowtowing to who they think may be
offended if they get a little too truthful.

The irony here is "religious" people more often than not are
responsible for most of the grief, hate and killing going on in the
world right now and sadly it always has been that way.

jon said...

Well, there is one good ting about the humidity . I believe it to be why casual loose mode of attire is so accepted. If you are to remaine out of the AC formore than 5 or 10 minutes, you begin to melt or sweat out. I sweat profusely and if doing any work at all like mowing the grass or taking the garbage out, I am soaked to the core in a few minutes. Removing it, I can wring it out as if dunked in the pool. I don't mind that, it is the discomfort of the wet clingy clothes. Light open weave cotton is best and much better if it fits loosely. Somewhere way back when the locals accepted a mode of dres that is unlike other places tat I have lived. I like it. "Semi-formal" can be shorts and loose fitting shirt. Open shoes are equally accepted. I think the humidity is the reason. Wear more cotton.

jon said...

Sorry folks, I forgot to edit my typing and grammar in the above comment.

Bert Bananas said...

I was transfixed by the term "Lower Alabama." Hee hee!

In my head there is much hilarity as I consider Lower Alabama and play with all its remifications...

Finding Fair Hope said...

Lower Alabama? Down here we usually abbreviate it and say we live in L.A.

jon said...

For those unfamiliar with our Alabama, which includes some Alabamians, there are quite distinct differences of weather patterns and historical significance according to topographical locale. The extreme north is akin to Appalachia, the central Black Belt portion is what most non-residents think of as typically southern, which by the way is only partly the way it really is now days. Down here in south Alabama the weather, the terrain, and many historic customs are unique, though similar to that of Florida's panhandle, souhtern Mississippi and even southern Louisana. Louisiana, though, has much stronger influences of French, creole, and cajun ethnicitys. To titter at a colloquialism like "L.A." is a desired effect, but often non locals, Jay Leno for example, assume it to mean low-class Alabamians. Use of the term L.A. is meant to create an atmosphere of playful misrepresentation and keep a listener's attention. I think it is not meant to imitate Los Angeles (who'd want to do that anyway). It is only meant to generate a "hmmm". Other inner visions when hearing the term(s) are probably due to ignorance.

Benedict S. said...

"Alabama" gets mentioned in the north, primarily as a pejorative epithet. I have heard the politics of Pennsylvania described as "Piitsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between."

Even the term LA, proudly brandished by the "Lower Alabamians," is not sufficient to isolate the LAians. Mobile is also in LA but, when I grew up there, it was a Catholic town. There were as many Catholic schools as public, and nearly as many Catholic churches as Protestant. The Catholics of Mobile -- at least the older generation of them -- had a unique accent, more Brooklyn than southern. "Purse" was pronounced with the same vowel sound but without any sign of an "r."

People tell me that my accent has never sounded "southern," and I always explain it by reminding them that Mobile is a seaport, lending to my childhood a different sort of romance than the one it had. (All childhood is romantic, or so it seems to a septuagenarian.)

The point is that attempts to characterize people by the places they were born is not so easy. Those place have within themselves differences as great as the differences between the far north of this country and "lower Alabama." And within those micro-enclaves of territorial difference there are the differences of individuals -- often, from the same household, as dissimilar as cats and dogs.

Yesterday I was different, but today I'm the same.

Finding Fair Hope said...

I'd say let 'em laugh. Like folks I know who live in Seattle and tell the world it's just too rainy to bear, we have a little secret about the quality of life in this particular L.A., and I have a fair hope that we'll have the last laugh.