Friday, June 1, 2012

First Day of Hurricane Season


A Girl Called Katrina
Welcome to the official first day of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.  That’s what the official word is.  Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Season (what we grew up calling ‘the hurricane season’ before tropical cyclones/hurricanes became politically correct and started alternating male/female/transgender names for the storms) officially starts on 1st June and ends 30th November.  Of course, Mother Nature, being the woman she is refuses to be constrained by the rules imposed by mere mortals.  Tropical Storms (baby Tropical Cyclones) Alberto and Beryl came and went before the season set aside for them began at midnight oh-one today.
Mother Nature is not one with whom to be trifled.  And of course, we all know that it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.  At least that’s what the old margarine commercials used to say.  Then again, is one guilty of a sort of pagan anthropomorphic assignation by attributing the circumstances of the natural world to ‘mother’ anything?
I’m not in the mood for theological squabbling today, so let us just set that thought aside for another time, shall we?
I was born in New Jersey, a place which saw more tropical cyclone activity last year than the area of west central gulf coast Florida I now call home.  Locals say we (Florida we, not New Jersey we) are long overdue for a hurricane.  And yes, I prefer ‘hurricane’ to the more politically correct ‘tropical cyclone’.  I always have.  But then, I think they should still only be named after girls.  Some girls more than others.  Some girls should get two or three storms a year named for them.  Blizzards, too.  If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of ‘the cold shoulder,’ you know exactly what I mean. In fact, if it weren’t for silly things like libel, slander, and defamation of character I would gladly tell you at great length just exactly which  feminine designations, in my experience, should be awarded open ended status.  You could, for example, follow after the Chinese model and designate 2013, for instance, as the year of Irene, hence naming that year’s storms Irene-1, Irene-2, and so on. You might also take into consideration a proposal which replaces the existing Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale with hair color designations.  In this new system a category five on the Saffir-Simpson scale would be instead identified as Irene-1-RED, the fiery nature of the redhead seeming appropriate for the designation.
But, I digress.
As I stated at the onset, I was born in North-Central New Jersey.  I’m not certain of the specific exit number.  Fellow Jerseyites will get that.  The rest of you, well, not so much.
In August of 1964, my parents folded six of the seven children ultimately born into our blended family, into the back of a beat up old station wagon hauling a U-haul trailer and all our worldly possessions and headed for Florida, passing several hundred “South of the Boader” billboards in the process. Number seven would be an idea conceived and produced in the Sunshine State, making his grand entrance into the world on tax day nineteen hundred seventy, having known neither blizzard nor Atlantic Tropical Cyclone, named in alternating gender designations or otherwise.  Ditto Blizzards, whose first name is almost always compound and numeric in nature. “The Great Blizzard of Nineteen Seventy-Seven”, for example.
I began my participation in the Dade County Public School System at Melrose Elementary School, under the tutelage of one Clyde Culpepper, a white-haired bespeckled gentleman who walked with a wooden cane and whose tweed sports coat had very oxfordian leather patches on the elbows.  Melrose is memorable because it at the eastern terminus of the east-west approach to Miami International Airport, and the South Florida/Miami branch of the Coast Guard was adjacent to that runway.  Because of this, on certain days when the wind was just right, all teaching and whatever widely scattered learning that may have been in the process of trying to take place came to an abrupt and screaming halt until inbound and outbound 727’s and Coast Guard turbo propped ‘Clippers’ took off or landed.  My memory of the time is that the clippers were louder than the jets and I’m astounded that my ears still work.
The other cool thing about Melrose was that it was just around the corner and a couple of blocks from the building that housed operations for the ‘hurricane hunter’ aircraft – the flying weather stations whose brave crews sailed directly into the eye of the storm, or belly of the beast if you prefer, to gather the most up to date meteorological data available to forecasters of the day.  Plus, an enterprising sixth grader, not unlike my precocious self, could just walk right in, tell the desk jockey’s he was researching a school report on hurricanes (none of those sissy tropical cyclones with girly man names back then) and walk out with an armful of cool black and white 8X10 glossy photos and hurricane maps, the coolest of which was one of a coconut palm with a single piece of Everglades sawgrass sticking out from both sides of the tree, blown through the resilient, spongy trunk by some previous storm.  I had that photo for years, and it’s probable still somewhere at my Mom’s home in Opa-locka beneath the staggeringly oppressive weight of forty-seven years of memories.
Of course, I eventually did leave the perennially sloshy humidity of south Florida, vowing never to return for more than a disappointingly short visit, the tepid attraction of tropical cyclones notwithstanding.  I managed to hold onto that promise with dogged determination for almost forty years, at which point the tempestuous sirene call of the fury dragged me back on the twelve foot wings of everglades swamp skeeters, with the sticky reminder that not only is it not nice to fool mother nature, but probably the last thing you want to do in life is tell God where you will or will not go.  In the words of Solomon, Son of David, King of Israel:
A serpent may bite when it is not charmed;
The babbler is no different.
The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious,
But the lips of a fool shall swallow him up;
The words of his mouth begin with foolishness,
And the end of his talk is raving madness.
Ecclesiastes 10:11-13  (NKJV)
And here we are – right back where we began.  Friday, 1st June, 2012.  First day of the official Atlantic Tropical Cyclone (A.K.A Hurricane) Season.  Alberto and Beryl have come and gone. Chris will be next, tossed into the mix for no other reason than to confuse the masses.  After all – Chris might be short for Christopher…but it might just as well be short for Christine.  Time will tell.

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