N. MIAMI BEACH — Don’t call me Ishmael. Not if you know what’s good for you. Or Ahab either, for that matter, although I have killed many profits. If you must give me a Biblical monicker, you might try Noah, as I sit here in Miami watching the arc of another, more horrific hurricane approach.
Noah is a bibulous name too; the old captain was known to sample the wares of his vineyard. Speaking of yards, my backyard is still a graveyard of trees that were felled head over heels by Frances, whose roving eye had passed fully a hundred miles away. The prospect of facing an even more direct hit from Ivan is devastating; imbibing some low spirits may be a solution to my, er… low spirits. No fine wine required: any port in a storm.
Hurricane Ivan hit Grenada yesterday harder than Ronald Reagan ever did. It came as a Category 5 storm, with winds up to 160 mph! The house of that country’s president, presumably not too shabby a structure, was flattened. A stone fortress built in the 1600s and used as a maximum security prison was toppled, and the suddenly freed criminals took the opportunity to do a little looting. So far, twenty deaths have been discovered in Grenada and nearby Tobago as they piece through the wreckage.
Today’s advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm headed next for Jamaica and Cuba, and its west-northwest progress at 15 mph marks South Florida as a possible target. Monday or so is the tentative appointment; we might need to get back to you on that. And which dimwit named a storm after Ivan the Terrible?
Already an evacuation has been declared for the Florida Keys (all of them — Largo, Biscayne, West, and a bunch that you never heard of), because there is only one two-lane highway linking them with the rest of these United States, and it takes loads of time to move many thousands of families. If you simply must have Bogie-and-Bacall nostalgia, it’s safer to just chain smoke.
This is their third exodus in a month (Charley, Frances, Ivan); how many takes until Charlton Heston got it right? And these folks are going into exile rather than the other way round. How many times can you nudzh people to go through the grudging trudging drudgery of taking the show on the road? Although the Jews have certainly done it often enough. And Willie Nelson, too, for that matter.
For inlanders like myself, it’s not the moving that’s daunting, it’s the not moving. The days of analysis — what can be done? — leading to paralysis — nothing can be done. Pray that you not fall prey. Do the little physical things that are vaguely comforting, the shutters over the windows, the junk food in the pantry. Watch the anchorwoman cut to the weather guy and see the pastel graphics swirling and twirling and whirling: that’s your life they’re talking about.
The illusion of safety in the home has long since been exposed as delusion. How much of a safe harbor can there be amid the crashing arbor? Is my house more fortified than a 17th century fortress? Stripped of coping fictions, all we have left is the thought that the “hurricane wind does His word,” as per Psalm 148. Perhaps there is yet a plan for me to write another day.
So the powerlessness flips around and is converted into new power. If I am liberated from the anxiety of the present I can turn anxiously to the future. This is a time to dream, to hammer out new ambitions, to negotiate for a new lease on life. Give me more time on this world and I promise to make a difference. I will finish that novel; I will spend more time with my children; okay, I’ll try to be nicer to my father.
Most of all, our resolution should be to appreciate our gifts. We live prosperous lives with stronger constitutions in a great land of freedom protected by a strong Constitution. The poorest among us live better than the rich of old, with little machines whisking us miles in mere minutes on land and air, bringing us words and pictures from everywhere, letting us hear the voices of loved ones from across the globe. Machines busily refrigerating our food, cooking our food, cooling our houses, warming our houses, washing our clothes, drying our clothes, all the loco loci of people’s manual labor throughout history. We are free to chase destiny. We don’t need the pursuit of happiness anymore, it’s pursuing us; we just have to avoid escaping it.
Some genius said that bad news comes in threes, a premise so patently absurd and unscientific that we can only hope that Ivan disproves it by sparing Florida his visit. In fact, call us all Noahs; we prefer things in pairs.
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