Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Drink

Funny how two glasses of "vin rouge" at the hotel montana helps a little to take the edge off a stressful day. I tried cleaning my insides with alcohol after cleaning my outsides by scrubbing down with hot hot hot water and plenty of soap.

You see, on the way back from Gonaives today, we fell into "the drink."

The "drink" as I call it, is the lake of water you hit just before entering the city. It's an endless sea of murky, dark, eerie water about thigh high in some points, created by the recent floods that killed more than 1,500 (the numbers rise, depending upon whom you ask). There's a lovely smell to the water, an interesting fragrance of Eau de Rotting Corpse of both human and animal, and Eau de Sewage. Everything nasty is in this water, plus once in a while you see a few cacti fragments in it.

To cross this "drink," you have to hire a guide. You see, you cannot see the road and if you fall off, you fall deep. There's a channel that cuts alongside the road. Along the way you see the stranded carcasses of dead buses, etc. that didn't make it.

We made it there okay, after Ben patched the bullet hole in the driver's side that was still there when C got shot earlier this year. (Don't ask me WHY the staff couldn't have patched it by now). He taped it with electrical tape so the water wouldn't gush through. And there we were, driving very very slowly, water sloshing up to the doors, past the door, up to the headlights... a bit nerve wracking, but we made it okay.

Did our stuff, which I will mention in a later blog when I'm not counting internet hours at a Haitian hotel, and then got back to the "drink" for the return home crossing.

Hired two guides. And we drove off the road.

Years ago, I tipped over in a canoe and got trapped beneath it in a flood for just a few seconds. But those few seconds were enough.

This experience rivaled it. Our trusty Montero tipped and sagged sideways. I felt that gush of panic that we were going to tip over and fall on the side.

And drown in water that many people already drowned in. Not a nice image.

We didn't tip. But we had to get out to try to figure out how to right the vehicle.

We were wearing boots, but it didn't matter. The water seeped in past our boots, up to our knees. The smell was oh so lovely. Standing in water consisting of raw sewage and decaying corpses. Not a nice way to spend an afternoon.

And we waited, helplessly, for SOMEONE with a winch, a rope, something, to help tow us out.

The UN passed by. They made a peace sign. Several trucks passed. They ignored us and gave us the international peace sign. After the fifth truck passed, I gave them MY international sign. Middle finger, screaming at them in English to do something. I think I shocked myself, lol.

So here we are, standing in the water for 45 minutes and who rescues us poor blancs, the whites from America? The Haitians in a dumptruck. They had a rope, it broke the first time, and then they set to it with dermination, wading waist deep into the water to attach it to the Montero, and pulled us free. Poor C, she was standing there so long and she's not supposed to be on her feet that much and here she was, stranded.

Anyway, we got going again, started to cross the lake and in the middle, hit a traffic jam. It's 4 p.m. I'm thinking, "Okay, it's going to get dark in 1.5 hours." We've hit a deep part of the lake and water is pouring in through the bullet hole. It's sloshing around our ankles. A bit nerve wracking, sitting in the middle of this. Finally the traffic jam gets going and we pass....

A UN tank that ran off the road! Stuck.

I gave them the international peace symbol, ha ha ha!!! You must understand part of my frustration...it's not just because they ignored us. We passed a food line in Gonaives where, when we asked, the people had been waiting for SIX hours in the hot sun. At least 500, hungry, desperate people, some of whom had not eaten in 10 days. Since the floods. And we saw a truck of UN guys with guns, just sitting there. Taking photos. Like they took photos of us, stranded in that awful water.

Now I know what it feels like to be a poor haitian, ignored, begging for help, passed by an oblivious world. In a really stinky, awful situation. And who helped us out of the drink? The poor Haitians.

Of course when we hit dry land and I'm singing "Thank you God!" we see that the UN has directed men to pound in these markers to mark the road's edge. They are only doing this AFTER one of their own has driven off the road and gotten stuck. And then we passed these huge container trucks with food, guarded by a convey of armed UN guys. And I thought, NOW you come with the food? These people are ready to riot! Why didn't you mark the road before?

Because as bad as it was for us to go into "the drink," I would hate ten times if one of those container trucks to do it. You see, I returned to my hotel. I showered, scrubbed and got the nasty water off me. But those people are hungry. They're starving. They have no clean water, no food, nothing.

In the end, better for us to have gone into the drink, nasty as it was, then a UN truck loaded with food. If they managed to get there without being hijacked. But that's another story.

I think I need a real drink now. The kind that will numb me to sleep.


Monday, September 27, 2004

Report from Haiti

In Haiti. Plane got in this a.m. at 11 a.m. Or was it noon? All screwed up on time, they're an hour behind us and I have no sense of time b/c of the hurricane. Blown off course, you might say.

Tomorrow heading for Gonaives. We're going to try to make it up there. There's a huge mess b/c it rained Saturday and all the flooding that receded has now returned. You have to hire guides to walk you through the road or you might drive into a crater and submerge and get into real trouble. The road, they say, is littered with relief trucks that got stuck.

Bad news... more bodies emerging. Ones that were swept out to sea last week now are returning to the city. It's pretty bad, we are told, and the gangs are still looting relief trucks, preventing real aid from getting to the hungry. Some people haven't eaten in 5 days. It looks like there may be a food crisis lurking on the horizon.

Staying at the Montana. Beautiful hotel, stayed here many times, lots of polished mahogany, unique rooms, and modern conveniences like the internet here. And we're going to a town where they have no food, water, electricity (Catherine said they have one generator running in the whole town, it must look like a beacon at night, a lighthouse amid chaos) and people are going hungry.

As mom used to say, we'll see. This is kinda weird. Going from wiping off my forehead that we survived yet another hurricane, and now being in Haiti where the very same hurricane, when it was a tropical storm, has killed so many and caused so much suffering and misery.

http://www.bonnievanak.com

Sunday, September 26, 2004

My dog is stoned

Tia is looking at me woozily, like, "Oh wow, I see colors, dude." Gave her a doggie prozac last night. No choice. Winds from Hurricane Jeanne were kicking butt at the front door. Each time the wind moaned and howled, Tia lifted her canine voice in a chorus of song. She barked. She howled back. Spooked the heck out of me, esp. since it was me, the dogs and the bird. Frank had to work at the hospital.

Very, very lucky. No real damage, again!!! But for MORE roof shingles. Bit by bit, our roof is peeling apart. BUT we still have power! Hooray!!!! It flicked at 8 p.m. then sputtered and died. And I thought, "Thar she blows." But came back on again.

So I sat through Hurricane Jeanne's 71-mph winds we got here in Deerfield Beach, and I edited COBRA. No time to get to post office yesterday before hurricane hit, and it was closed anyway. During the worst of the winds last night, I'm sitting there, editing a love scene.

ME, typing: "His naked flesh felt torturously hot..."

Hurricane Jeanne outside: OOOOOOOOOOOOO
Tia dog: GRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!! RUFF!!!

ME, typing: "Kenneth curled a rock solid arm around her waist, as if to brace her for what was to come"

Hurricane Jeanne, outside: HOWL, OOOOOOOOO, MOANNNNNNN
Tia dog: RUFF, RUFF, RUFF!!

Me, typing: "So hot, oh, she was fire, burning, needing him"

Hurricane Jeanne, outside: OOOOOOOOOOO
Tia dog: OOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Sigh. FOURTH hurricane to hit Florida in six weeks. THIS IS RIDICULOUS!! My heart goes out to the people of the treasure coast. Still debris from Frances around and they had to suffer a direct hit! Is it over yet? Frank and I boarded the condo yesterday, well, he did it, I held the plywood, and he shuttered the house and I filled up the tub (again!!) and dumped out the icemaker and ...etc., etc., etc.

Tomorrow I leave for Haiti, where this storm killed more than 1,500 people. Haiti is a living hell right now, they say. I'm kinda dreading this trip. I know what I will see there. And that makes today a little more special. To sit here in my solid home, with POWER, with insurance (crappy as it is) and no losses, I feel blessed. Truly, I do. To have missed a direct hit from FOUR hurricanes in six weeks...

Next time, I may not be so lucky.
http://bonnievanak.com

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Post hurricane stress & editing

Got little work on revisions done last night due to post-traumatic hurricane stress problems at home. Frank kept asking, “What’s that smell? It’s coming from beneath the cabinets.” He pulled out the dishwasher and found water! Came from the freezer after it defrosted during Hurricane Frances. He had to chip out all the rotted wood and remove the cabinet bottoms to get at the water to dry it out.

I never even thought of the freezer pan overflowing. So there we are last night. Me on the laptop, trying to get revisions done. Him chipping and pounding at the rotting wood. Like this:

Me, writing: “Mesmerized by the tenderness on his face, she leaned close.”

Him: WHAM, BAM!!!

Me, writing: “Badra reached up and for the first time since she had been enslaved, willingly touched a man.”

Him: WHAM BAM, "&#@&*# cabinets!"

Me, writing: “Khepri groaned deeply and pulled away.”

Him: WHAP WHAP, BAM BAM, “Hey Bonnie, will homeowners insurance pay for this?”

Me, closing the laptop, laughing hysterically for five minutes: “Ha ha ha! Ah, no. Our homeowners insurance will cover catastrophic damage, like a cow falling through the roof or the whole house being sucked up into a tornado like Dorothy’s but not the cabinets being replaced. And I think we have a $1.5 million deductible, so forget it.”

Sigh…

http://www.bonnievanak.com

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Crisis mode

Ok, now we ARE going to Gonaives, the place in Haiti where 600 people died. Oh wow, I'm not looking forward to this, but it's my job. I feel like I've been operating in crisis mode for the past month. One hurricane after another here, at home, and then at work the disasters piling up. Talked to our director in Haiti and she told me the people have NO food and NO water. Heard they are mobbing relief trucks as soon as they arrive. I remember the famine in Nicaragua and how everyone mobbed the priest's truck we were with, desperate for food. This will not be an easy trip. They're still pulling the dead out of their houses.

So now I feel a bit panicked to finish revisions before I leave. My editor was gracious enough to give me time, but it doesn't matter. Because I'll be an emotional wreck when I return. I doubt I can change gears so easily to work on romance. I mean, when I visit a town that's had a three story wall of mud slam into it, bodies of dead women and children lying about, people starving and pleading for help, and so much suffering, how can I return and write about how tormented Khepri is because he's so deeply in love with Badra? If I must, I will. I can do it. But I'd rather not test the idea. Not now.

http://bonnievanak.com

Monday, September 20, 2004

Conversations with characters

Reuters saying more than 300 dead in Haiti due to Tropical Storm Jeanne’s flood waters. No trees, nothing to hold the mudslides back. Sigh… more distressing news. Going there Sunday, but not to Gonaives. Haiti’s been slammed this year, between the earlier violence, the floods in May that killed thousands and now this.

Worked on revisions all day yesterday, felt like a hermit so we went to a friend’s house for Dolphin’s game. Felt a little normal again. Sometimes when I get into writing, especially when on deadline, I get totally absorbed into the setting and my characters. I walk outside and blink, wondering where the pyramids are. I can’t stop thinking about my characters. They’re little gremlins following me around. It sounds odd, but they suck me in like quicksand.

Yesterday I had an imaginary conversation with Rashid. He asked me, “So Bonnie, you have me cutting off my abuser’s balls. Don’t you think that’s violent?” I told him, “Of course it is. How better to illustrate the rage you kept hidden as a child and finally let surface?” Then he said, “But people will think I’m a vicious, violent man.” And I answered, “Not really. Your actions were justified. You killed him in a fair fight and then cut off his balls. Very symbolic. They’ll see that vulnerable loneliness in your eyes Badra sees and know how haunted you are. How much you suffered. And I think they’ll cheer because your tormentor certainly deserved it.”

He seemed satisfied. Now must wait and see if my editor is.

http://bonnievanak.com

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Neurotic rants

Okay, I've decided I don't like the new chapter I wrote for COBRA. Then I liked it. Now I don't know. Maybe the one brain cell left after this hurricane business is gasping for air. I should leave it, and move on. You know, like a lost relationship.The chapter, not the brain cell.

Chris, the other writer from work, stopped by to drop off his tape of the Jamaica trips. OMG, it's so sad. He told me how he talked to the family who lost their two kids in Ivan. The mother held the baby in her arms as they tried to escape the rising flood waters. The waters reached past her head and she was grasping onto her husband, the baby still in her arms. The baby drowned, as did another child the husband held. OMG, it's horrible... so horrible.

Must continue with revisions. Romance is better than sad stories of drowning children. This book DOES have a happy ending. Even my neurotic I HATE IT I LOVE IT I HATE IT ramblings will not change that.
http://bonnievanak.com

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Writing

Looks like we are out of the CONE OF DOOM for Jeanne. Hooray. I'm turning off all weather related media and concentrating on revisions for THE COBRA & THE CONCUBINE. Researching camel racing. Bedouin coffee ceremonies. Stuff you wouldn't find in the tropics. Had a few moments of panic last night when the computer ate a whole chapter of revisions. That ungodly scream heard up to New York was me. Fortunately, the floppy disk worked on the dinosaur of a laptop I still have. Sometimes the old computers are better than the new technology. Trying to get revisions done before I leave for Haiti next Sunday. Liking the changes I'm seeing. Khepri, my hero, is shown drastically different in his role as a Khamsin warrior than later when he becomes duke. What a change. Great conflict. He's torn up about leaving the only family he's ever really known, the culture and traditions that are not of his blood, but his upbringing. But in the end, he leaves gladly, not looking back after the only woman he's ever wanted rejects him. Sniff, sniff. I felt so sorry for him and went "awwww" when I read that last sentence. That's a good sign, when I feel that little jerk of emotion while reading.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

What the *&#&*@#&????!!!

Okay, where did THAT come from? We dodged Ivan, and now Jeanne is out there? AGAIN, we are in the Official Cone of Doom on the weather blips. The Death Star is circling near us again and forecasters are droning, "It may come to Florida. Too soon to tell. Have a nice day." There's one computer model having it buzzsaw right up our coast? HUH? Oh joy!

So worried about Mobile and other areas slammed by Ivan. Nasty storm. Nasty. All these hurricanes hanging around us. I'm beginning to feel like Typhoid Mary. Hurricane Bonnie. Oh wait. I was a hurricane this year. A tropical storm. Little pissant thing that barely puffed. Uh huh.

Frank still has to retrieve the plywood from the condo. I think we're both still so tired we don't want to think about hurricane stuff anymore. I sold my shingle on eBay for nearly $18. Shocker. Maybe after this hurricane season is finally over, I'll have other bits and pieces of the house for sale on eBay, lol. Going to Haiti in another week. Looking to have revisions done on the new book by then. Writing about my Egyptian heroine and cute, hunky hero is far more fun than watching the Weather Channel. Or trying to figure out how much the Larry, Curly and Mo homeowners insurance company is going to jack up my insurance rates. Or thinking about what I need should another storm hit us. I mean, do I really have enough deodorant to last through hurricane season? Important consideration. Must check this out.

http://www.bonnievanak.com

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

What day is it?

Came into work today and asked my boss, "What day is it?" Still dazed on the time and day. And we didn't even suffer much damage, not like those in St. Lucie and Martin. Last night I told Frank no more watching the weather channel. Can't handle it. Instead we hit the hot tub. 104 degrees. I watched my skin prune and it felt good.

Still upset about Jamaica. Our team is trying to get down there today. At least the Jamaica office (I hear) can get into Portland Cottage and distribute food. Haiti trip is back on. Going in two weeks. Haiti, which used to be the worst place to go, is now the best. Go figure. Grenada is a mess. Flattened. 80 percent of the homes gone. People sleeping in their cars. Ivan heading for the Gulf Coast. Worried about friends there. A 25 foot storm surge? After seeing what the storm surge did to Jamaica, I get a sick feeling in my stomach. All I can do is pray.

Some things are back to normal. Saw another dumptruck picking up hurricane debris from area. Felled trees are gone from Publix parking lot. And evil-mouthed parrot still in the spare room today told me, "F**k you" Never thought it would be a relief to be cussed at by the bird. I think he knows I threatened to tie him to tree branch during the hurricane if he continued to be nasty to me. I was only kidding. Was I?

http://bonnievanak.com

Monday, September 13, 2004

Heartbreaking news from Jamaica

Ivan is missing us and heading directly for the Florida panhandle. I’m grateful we're not getting it, worried about people in the panhandle.

And poor Jamaica… Prayers worked, as Ivan didn't buzzsaw through the island as everyone feared. But 16 died, including some in a community where we did a lot of work. Maybe more are dead. How many times have I been to Portland Cottage? Too many to count. They are at sea level and didn’t evacuate. At least three children dead. Why, why, why? Why didn’t their parents leave before it was too late? Maybe they were worried about losing what they had. But what’s the point in protecting your valuables if you lose your life or your children? I mean, losing your house and all you own is devastating. But losing your child? Watching them get sucked down by the black water, oh dear God. Crying out for their mommies who were trying so hard to hold on. Then crying no more.

In Florida they come by if you are in a low lying area or mobile home and if you don't leave, they take the names of your next of kin. And in Jamaica, the shelters were half empty. No one left. WHY?? Would those children be alive today if they had left? Such a waste of life!!!

I remember my trips to Portland Cottage. Interviewing people before they got their homes and how proud they were after of their community. The center we built. The playground. The library. Oh God, the library… I was so surprised and happy to see it! They had books and tapes and a DVD player for educational videos so children could come in and watch and learn. Everything so neatly catalogued and shelved on these homemade wooden shelves. There was even a video of Egypt and I joked with the volunteer librarian about renting it. Now it’s all gone gone gone.

Even our president got choked up as he started to describe the body of a little girl whose arms were stretched out as if… he stopped there. I could finish for him. As if she were trying to hold on and couldn’t. Oh God, I’m getting sick thinking about the people and the children who were swept away, and everything destroyed. I want to cry. I want to run home, pull the sheet over my head and just weep and weep and weep. I hate hurricanes. I hate hurricanes. I put a shingle from my roof on ebay as a joke to cheer myself up after Frances. I had to laugh because the stress, anxiety and the new threat from Ivan were all like storm surge washing over me. Three hurricanes in a row. And now I can’t laugh. All I can do is think about those poor children in Jamaica who never had a chance. I’m glad I’m not going to Jamaica this week to write about the wreckage. I don’t think I could take going through Portland Cottage, seeing the people weeping, the wrecked buildings and the lives destroyed.

http://www.bonnievanak.com

Friday, September 10, 2004

The shelter song

Thinking of the people evacuated from the Keys. Can’t get this song out of my head: They’re coming to take me away, ha ha hee hee hoo hoo to the hurricane shelter where life is not beautiful anytime and I’ll be so unhappy to see those sweaty, hot people AGAIN in the dark and gloom and they’re coming to take me away, hahahaaahaahahhaaaa!!!

The Official Cone of DOOM keeps shifting as to where Ivan will hit. Now they say it won’t affect us but for high winds and rain like Frances last weekend because Ivan is another huge storm. Oh joy. I’m getting burnt out from hurricane coverage. Can’t think about Jamaica or what will happen there. Or the poor. Or the homeless. Just pray for the best. Think tonight I will rent a Monty Python movie. The Holy Grail. See the Killer Rabbit. The Black Knight. Yeah Ivan, it’s just a flesh wound. I’ll bite your kneecaps off!
http://bonnievanak.com

Spam

Too tired last night to shop for hurricane food. DH and I went out to a real restaurant last night, had rum runners and then came home and watched a movie. Went to bed at 9:30. Thinking about getting some canned Spam if power goes out again. The real stuff. Used to love it. Fried, cold out of the can, it was good stuff. Have tons of cyber spam. I wish these people would get a life. Don’t they realize I have better things to do and besides, I do NOT have the male parts they insist I need to enlarge? I do not care to stiffen or elongate or impress women with or smash into a wall a male part I DO NOT HAVE!

Looks now like Ivan may hit the west coast of Florida. Too hard to tell. I don’t like the computer models sending it right at Florida. But tomorrow is Saturday, I think (one thing about hurricanes, they screw up your sense of time). We need to do something fun. Ride the bikes in a public park. Splash each other in the hot tub. Rake up a big pile of hurricane debris and jump into it like autumn leaves. Ouch!

Thursday, September 09, 2004

GO AWAY IVAN! SHOO! SHOO!

Am beginning to feel more normal. Sleeping at last. But Ivan is a definite threat. We are in the Official Cone of Doom on the tracking maps. Hey we haven’t had a hurricane in how long? ONE WHOLE WEEK??! Ivan has cleared his schedule to visit Florida. What is this? Who put out the Welcome Mat? Someone tell Ivan to take a hike. Go somewhere else. The North Pole would be nice. Hey, they never have hurricanes. Yeah, Ivan, go snarl around Santa Claus. Beat up the old guy with the big belly. He’s got Rudolph’s red nose, which doesn’t need to run on a generator.

I have to run to WalMart to restock batteries. And food. What kind of food is best for noshing while a Category Five hurricane blows away your house? Already they are evacuating the Keys of tourists. Our office in Jamaica, will it survive? What will Ivan’s 160 mph winds do to all the poor people living in wooden shacks? Listened to an official yesterday from Grenada tell us at the office how the island was “destroyed.” She said they had no water, food for one more day, and 80 percent of the homes were flattened. Now Ivan is heading for Jamaica. And if Ivan buzzsaws through our area? How are we supposed to help the Caribbean if we have hurricane damage as well?

Can’t think about it. Not now. Instead I’ll focus on something else. Did put my roof shingle for sale on eBay. One bid for .99 cents. Don’t think I’ll get enough money to fix the roof, but it’s worth a laugh. Hey after Ivan, might have my whole house for sale on eBay. What’s left of it.

Trying to work on the second vampire book. Hard to concentrate. I love Jason’s character, need to flesh out Darcy. She’s a tough little thing. Very protective of her family. Jason is a vamp who runs wild. A real loner. Sexy. I was going to do a synopsis last night, but I was too scattered. I think the hurricane blew away my brain cells. Maybe I’ll post a MISSING alert or a BOLO for them. Have you seen these brain cells? They used to belong to a romance author but were blown away by hurricane. May be in Tampa Bay by now. If seen, please return to owner. She urgently needs them so she can color coordinate her socks.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Bye bye Frances, hello Ivan? Nooooooo!!!

In denial. No, we will not get hit by Ivan. Cannot think about it. The Emergency OHCRAPWE'REGOINGTOBEHITBYAHURRICANEMUSTACT LIKE RESPONSIBLE ADULTANDNOT SCREAMIN PANIC mode is off and suddenly totally exhaustion has set in. No sleep for three days. Now Ivan lingers on the horizon, like a grinning threat. Oh dear. I feel like Rocky who climbed to the top of the stairs, crowing in victory, only to be brought down with a sucker punch. Whap!

Trip to Haiti cancelled. Fine. I can't function. I am numb, and we only have missing roof tiles. And a nasty leak in the sunroom. Others have NO power. Much worse damage. DH took me out to dinner tonight (hey look no food in the fridge, let's eat out, ok!) I had a few drinks. Saw a news article that people are selling wind from hurricane frances on ebay. I mean, HOW do you know it's the real thing? We have roof shingles that blew off. Think I might autograph one and put it for sale on ebay. What the heck. Maybe I'll start our Fix the Roof fund. If we get any bids. Or put aside the ten cents or so to buy more doggie prozac for the rest of hurricane season. I think we're going to need it.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Hurricane Frances aftermath

Thank You God FOR ELECTRICAL POWER!!! Ahhhh, air conditioning!!!! It finally came back on about an hour ago. We've been without power going on three days now. The first thing Dh and I did was rush to the fridge and freezer and do a major cleaning. Still no phone or cable, but I don't care. We were so lucky. No major damage from the storm, just some shingles and tree branches. A huge tree slammed down in the parking lot of the condo we own, but no one was hurt and no structural damage. But the trees! All down one of our streets these huge, huge branches crashed down on the sidewalk. 4.5 million people without power as of last night. This storm CREEPED across our area. Agonizingly slow. I called it "the hurricane with a walker." We had five people staying at our house. Our friends from West Palm stayed last night as well because there was a 24-hour curfew in the city and as Julie put it, "I don't feel like being arrested. I wouldn't look good in those orange jumpsuits."

We had a lot of laughs, because what else are you going to do? Last night we're eating the last of the hamburgers and Dh had rooted through the drawer and found the plotke (spelled wrong?) It's a Polish tradition. Communion bread that has been blessed by the priest but not consecrated. You pass it around before a meal during Easter and say the blessing. So I joked, "Here we are down to the last of our hurricane supplies. Noshing on communion bread and dog biscuits."

After the power failed Saturday morning and DH was at the hospital, as Frances' feeder bands are slamming us, DH calls and tells us to get the gas grill out of the garage. So while there was a lull, we dragged it out and to the backyard. I have a photo of Jay and Ian and Julian grilling chicken while my FIL is watching. Cooking outside during a hurricane, during a lull. Then Saturday night we sat in the living room by the light of a propane lantern and talked. Just talked. It was kind of nice, like camping out in the living room on the Berber. We went to bed and the fun started. The nasty nasty squalls began pounding us. We must have had winds up to 80-90mph to knock down those trees. It was so hot inside my bedroom, like a tomb. The dogs were doing okay, though. I listened to the wind roar and scream through the trees and just prayed the trees wouldn't come crashing down on our house, or anyone elses' houses. We have five wonderful trees and they held!

Yesterday morning DH finally came home, exhausted and weary. We sat around all day, waiting and waiting. Listened to the radio. WRMF from West Palm did the best job because they were doing reports on which cities had boil water alerts and they were taking questions. We clustered around the radio like they did during the Depression years, trying to get information. Part of I-95 had collapsed into a sinkhole on teh northbound side, so it sounded like it was too dangerous to drive yet, especially with a curfew. But FIL went home. He had no power as well, and had to navigate around a huge tree that had fallen in the road. My 86-year-old FIL driving around a tree. That made me very nervous. Around 5 p.m. we grilled out the hamburgers that were still frozen and then took the dogs for a walk around the obstacle course that was the sidewalk. Our neighbors were so nice. Two doors down, they had power, never lost it and she brought over bags of ice and some uno cards and asked if we needed anything. Really, the best part about hurricanes is you get to know your neighbors. We were standing about talking and heard this awful screeching sound. A falcon had swooped down on a mourning dove in someone's driveway and WHAP! Dead dove. Then it took off. I've never seen falcons around our neighborhood before. We live in a very urban area. Reminded me of my first book, THE FALCON & DOVE, with a very twisted ending. Falcon gets dove.

Then this a.m. our friends packed up and left. They called when they got home. NO damage! Yeah! Prayers worked! AND they had their power! Go figure. They're in a hard hit area where their neighbors had structural damage and their house was fine and they had power. So I spent this morning helping DH remove the plywood from our condo (our tenant was very grateful she could finally open windows) and just lying around, sweating. It is very very humid out. So the a/c kicked in and we were very grateful because it's now raining again (leftovers from hurricane Frances). I am beginning to feel a little normal now. We might try to find a restaurant that is open. The ATMS in south Florida are all out of cash, most gas stations have no gas, many businesses still aren't open, but maybe we can find a restaurant. I was supposed to go to Haiti tomorrow, but we cancelled.

The reason why? Hurricane Ivan is heading for Haiti. And maybe Florida next. Oy. I hope not. I hope not. Please, Florida needs a break right now. So there is my hurricane story. We survived Frances.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Report from the storm

Well, Frances is here. Like an unwanted house guest, she's tossing her head around and being obnoxious, but thankfully, the winds have died down to 105 mph. Lots of gusts, but not much else. Yet. Power went off, working off the laptop. Friends who evacuated from West Palm are here as is my FIL. Dh is at the hospital, working hard as the power keeps going on and off. He'll stay there through the night. The biggest problem with this storm is its size. Size of texas. They say it will take five hours for the eyewall to pass over us. FIVE hours! sheesh! we have our hurricane supplies, candles, flashlights, etc. Ironically, FIL's house still has power and he's over closer to the ocean. Maybe he paid his bill? lol!

Worst part of the hurricane is waiting, waiting waiting. This storm was supposed to hit Friday and it's Saturday and now not supposed to be over with until mid Sunday. Yikes. Some Labor Day weekend. Tuesday I am supposed to fly out to Haiti. Don't know if that is still on as I'm sure the airlines will be backed up for a long time. And now it looks like Tropical Storm Ivan is out there, and could hit Haiti by the end of next week. Sigh... I love the tropics.

The dogs are pretty quiet, which is good, but Tia keeps bugging my friends' sons as they are playing checkers. She's watching. Tiger is lying down, seeming mellow right now. My neighbors have a generator. I can hear it running. I hate them, lol.

Did find out that the shutters we have, the ones with the ridges, are supposeably the best. That makes me feel better. Friend came over Thursday to help put them up as DH was still working. We had a glass of wine and said, "To the crystal! May it survive the hurricane."

What can you do but laugh and try to make the best of it? At least the storm is not as windy as it once was, and for that, I can take power outages and being hot inside the shuttered house. It just makes you more grateful for electricity.

Oh, in the midst of all this, I forgot the news. I sold another book! Cobra and the Concubine is supposed to be out in May of next year. I really like this story. It's Khepri and Badra's story and is pretty sensual. Takes place partly in England and partly in Egypt. More later. The dog wants to play. MUST KEEP DOG AMUSE. HEY I'M WRITING IN ALL CAPS. I CAN'T SHUT THIS ALL CAPS OFF. I'M WRITING IN THE DARK. HEY THIS IS COOL I LOOK LIKE I'M SHOUTING TO BE IMPORTANT, LIKE THE REPORTERS STANDING ON THE BEACH SCREAMING AS THE WIND TOSSES THEM BACK AND FORTH. HA HA!

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Frances due to hit us

Well, we've run out of luck. It's definitely heading toward the Florida coast, it looks like we'll get hurricane force winds at the very least. Unless a last minute wobble sends it more north, we'll get slammed. I'm trying to keep a calm head, even though everyone down here is freaking out. Lines at the gas station around the corner from my house stretch out for a couple of blocks. Grocery stores are jammed. I have most of my stuff, but the house isn't shuttered yet. The bathtub leaks, so can't store water there. Have to find a way to seal it.

Preparing for a hurricane is emotionally draining and exhausting. Everyday life goes on hold. Yet the dog suddenly has a nasty eye infection. Poor Tiger is in pain. I have to rush him to the pet eye doctor this afternoon when I need to be home shuttering the house. Hopefully, Dh can make it home earlier to help. No, wait, he just called. He'll be home later and then he's going to the hospital and will stay there tomorrow all through the storm. He has to stay at the hospital during the storm in case the power goes out. He's an electrician. If something happens and the generators fail, he has to crank them up somehow. It's a hospital and peoples' lives depend on him. I would like him home, but my needs aren't as important.

I will have company ... friends staying with us and my FIL. And two terrified dogs and cranky parrot. Guess we will bring parrot in from patio. Hopefully parrot will not screech out during the worst of the hurricane, "WE ARE ALL DOOMED!" LOL!

Here's my checklist...have to run now.

Put up shutters

Bring in large trash bags from garage

Take dog to vet at 2:40 p.m.

Need extra flashlight

Bring in stuff from outside such as coconuts, patio furniture, etc.

Bring in plastic tarp (no wait, it’s under the bed)

Use thin piece of rubber to try to seal bathtub!

buy ice!

cook spaghetti and meatballs, freeze for instant meal

Take down hanging planters

Where is the water cut off? Ask Frank

Secure hot tub lid

Reading lamp in top drawer – use for reading

Charge cell

Have FIL bring over ham radio

Put duct tape over door lock to seal it from grit and dirt

Put back up disks and photos of what house looks like now, as opposed to post hurricane, in waterproof container and seal with duct tape

Have everyone staying with me know what to do if roof blows (bathroom and mattress against door deal, but how will we fit five people and two dogs into a 5x5 bathroom?)

Make large batch of rum runners

Pray


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Frances going to "clobber" us

Update: Frances is still headed in our direction. Hurricane watch expected later tonight. Forecasters say, “We’re going to get clobbered.” Oh joy! Went to Winn Dixie for lunch. Beat the frenzied crowd. I got water, batteries, and many essentials, such as wine, comfort foods and lots of deodorant. Found my waterproof container, into which I shall dump everything important such as insurance papers, photos and the wine. Most of my neighbors are already shuttering their houses. I think my neighbors who like to mow the grass before a hurricane are going to leave. Yikes. We’re not even in an evacuation zone.

Had an emergency meeting at work. They’re giving us Friday off to prepare, which is very nice. List of emergency phone numbers. Friends are calling, emailing, panicking, asking for help with power tools. Poor DH is going nuts trying to board up our condo and prepare all else. I’m still heading out to Haiti Tuesday, unless we get clobbered. Even if the power goes out, I’ll probably still go. Hey, at least they’ll have a/c. What an irony. Going to one of the poorest countries in the world and they’ll have a/c and look in better shape than poor, beleaguered Florida. Go figure.

Hurricane Frances

Ok, no reason to panic. Just because Hurricane Frances is wider than the whole state of Florida and is packing winds up to 150 mph and is heading our way, why panic? No need to become frazzled. Just relax, amble to the grocery for last minute preparations, get home and then panic.

The house already looks like a hurricane swept through it. Clothes needing to be sorted, stuff that’s unpacked still lying about. I have to finish unpacking everything so I can a) wait for the hurricane to blow us to kingdom come, wherever that is (Yeehaw Junction?) b) Pack for my Haiti trip next week.

And now I find out DH has to work during the hurricane. Wonderful. I’ll be all alone if this hits us. With two terrified dogs and a cranky parrot. I have visions of said parrot warbling, “Hey the roof is going. Aflack!”

I realize how little I’ve done for hurricane season. I don’t have a waterproof container. All this time I’ve been feeling smug about our fireproof safe. Uh-huh. Little good it will do in a flood. I must get a waterproof container. I must get more food. I must start thinking about moving back to New Jersey.