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Hurricane Memories

August 28, 2017

Houston. Holy moly. Part of me thinks that there is just so much awfulness that is going on in the world, that the awfulness of the flooding in Texas actually doesn’t seem all that bad. But it’s bad. Really really bad. And I’m concerned it’s going to get worse.

This is again, yet another time, when I can thank my lucky stars that I’m able to gripe about food on the internet. Actually, I’m going to put aside my scheduled gripe for a remembrance of the past.

Because I actually lived through a pretty major hurricane. I was in Miami when Hurricane Andrew laid waste to the area. It literally took ten years for the region to rebuild, and for the lost vegetation to grow back in. The storm was loud and pretty scary. But more than anything else, it was the aftermath that was the hardest.

Although we did manage to swing one fantastic meal amid the devastation.

So, let’s be clear. As bad as Andrew may have been, the destruction from this latest storm is even worse. People don’t die in hurricanes. They die after hurricanes. I learned that in hurricane class back in middle school. It’s part of the seventh grade curriculum in Miami, or at least it used to be.

The storms knock out power. So there’s no air conditioning. And everything is wet from the rain. Plus everything is hot, since it’s the end of the summer. Which makes everything humid and sticky. But that quickly leads to everything being mildewed and stinky.

Fresh water doesn’t exist. Sewers overflow, and what’s coming out of your pipes is gross. You really don’t want to shower in it. But if you must, you keep it out of your eyes and mouth, try not to inhale the mist, and make sure any cuts are well covered.

Think about this when you see people trudging through the flood waters. You really, really, don’t want to be standing in flood waters.

After a hurricane, bottled water is life. Even if it’s warm and tastes like the plastic jug. There’s no way to cool anything down, unless you have a generator, and decide to use its precious energy for refrigeration. Which wouldn’t be the worst idea. Because after a major storm, life is probably going to be just like this for weeks.

Weeks.

Since everyone is trying to rebuild at the same time, good luck finding a contractor, or people to do the work. Home owners get desperate. Even smart people decide to trust strangers who should not be trusted. One of my good friends ended up living in a trailer for years because a shady contractor ran off with their rebuilding money.

Years.

My best memory from this experience was from just a couple days after the storm, when the roads were passable, and I was able to make the drive to Coconut Grove. The restaurant where I worked was handing out cash advances, because ATMs weren’t working and banks weren’t open. Even though the power had been out for days, the food in the freezers was just starting to thaw. It was still cold, but it would be spoiled long before the restaurant would reopen.

So in addition to a few hundred bucks, I was hooked up with a case of jumbo shrimp.

There was some warm beer at home. So we took those shrimp and the warm beer, and boiled them using the gas grill. We ate them outside, with our hands. It was a feast. Nothing had really begun to smell bad yet, and it was really lovely.

I can’t remember what else we ate during that time. My hunch is probably a lot of peanut butter sandwiches. But I do remember having little appetite for food. It was hot, sticky, and smelly.

All I wanted to do was lay on my bed and baste in a pool of my own sweat.

My heart goes out to the people of Texas who are going through something exponentially worse. I hope they stay safe, and keep working together during what will invariably be a truly awful experience. But hopefully in the end, the citizens will rebuild, and find their way forward.

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