At Large

Fay Raises Fears

Preparing to get hit by the latest big one.

By 8.19.08

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There is already an association between the name Fay and the simian monster King Kong. Here in South Florida, with tropical-storm-slash-potential-hurricane Fay fast approaching, we hope that the damsel did not learn too much from her former captor. The last thing we need is her case of Stockholm Syndrome damaging our home stock.

We are veterans here of innumerable huddled dinners in dimmed demesnes, scavenging strips of dried deli; we hope for the breast but prepare for the wurst. Our hatches are battened a thousand, the lawn furniture has been hitched to avoid hiking, and a swig of hooch is stashed in the hutch. In a way this is a liberating time: how often does a wife encourage her husband to shutter up?

Hurricane season officially got underway back in June but hitherto has hardly been underfoot. Life has been docile in the domicile. Whatsoever collections of moisture took the A-to-E appellations have dribbled off into dampened anonymity. Settling dangerously into complacency, we invited tourists to come to our place on the sea. We were in our element, so we thought, until the elements turned on us with a vengeance. Now we must pay attention to a tension.

They herald their arrivals, do these storms, by churning their way across the placid expanse of ocean, sighting on us, bearing down ever so deliberately, mocking our pretensions, our hollow bluster, our forlorn fortresses. We are in that intermediate phase as I write, the long holding of breath, the languid menace, building then impending and finally looming. Nowhere to hide, no weapons to resist, we merely shrink into a wincing crouch where hope is the lonely residue of surety.

This is the weather equivalent of the timed prognosis for the incurable. "If you were given a year to live," a lady asked me the other day, "would you spend it being good or being bad?" Either way is a strategy of sorts, but more likely I would spend it dumbstruck and chapfallen. This is certainly what happens to us pathetic hurricane-fodder homebound victims-waiting-to-happen. "Go ahead, hit me, give me your best shot," Robert De Niro, as Jake LaMotta, challenges his brother in Raging Bull. Like all of us, he says it to a man but a part of his ego is saying it to God. Sure enough, life got the better of Jake. He is still hanging in there at age 87, but not without spending time in jail, being grilled by the FBI and Congress about thrown fights and losing his son in a plane crash. The hurricane serves as the ultimate reminder that we do not really control our own destinies and that we really cannot take Fate's best shot; we have to bargain it down a little.

One of the fascinating subtexts of this experience is watching the meteorological analysts experience a sort of Bridge Over the River Kwai transformation where they adopt a linguistic pattern that seems to cheer on the storm. "Yes, the last hour has seen some nice growth... really picking up strength as it passes Bermuda... some very impressive convection in this area... looking pretty good for hitting Category 1 by midnight... if the land mass in Cuba doesn't slow it down too much... the warm water is perfect for building it..." By the time the guy gets done passing this along, I am expecting him to pull out a banjo and serenade Fay as a real classy lady.

As far as I am concerned, these femme fatales are not the most attractive companions. The male hurricanes do a lot of huffing and puffing in the offing, but on shore they party politely if a tad noisily, like naval officers on furlough. It is the feminist types like Katrina, Rita and Wilma a few years back who are angrily demanding reparations for perceived slights in bygone times. Fay is a lovely name, its lone syllable a sufficient syllabus for the harmless blonde ditz who captured the heart of King Kong. What do you say, girl, how about if I spend my remaining time being good... could I interest you in doing the same?

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About the Author

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator.