Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hurricane as Tragedy

Blow wind and crack your cheeks ! rage ! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout

Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d our cocks…

Crack nature’s moulds, all germens spill at once,

That make ingrateful man !,     Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Lear, Act III, Scene II

 

 

Ike has come and gone, but he will not be forgotten for many, many years. It was the Greeks who separated theatre into comedy and tragedy, different sides of the same coin. My father was never fond of Greeks. The man who would chastise you for the slightest negative remark,  racist, sexist or religious, once muttered something under his breath to me  to me as we walked away from a Greek convenience store owner. “What’s wrong with Greeks ?” I asked. “Oh, came his reply, they just kind of think that they started the whole thing.” Came the reply.

 

One of Dad’s favorite restaurants was Gaidos in Galveston. An ancient seafood palace begun by a Greek immigrant who started out selling  trout sandwiches to fishermen at the turn of the last century. I have no idea how Gaidos looks today. I assume that its plate windows are smashed and its roof in tatters, hopefully, unlike its contemporary, the Balinese room which floated away to sea on Friday night, there will be enough left of it to start over. If there is a will to start over.

 

That’s the real question. Why would anyone want to start over ? How many times can you get knocked down ? Can you get up after you have been knocked down this hard ? I guess we will see. My aforementioned father pronounced Galveston dead after Carla struck, 47 years ago this month. He was right in that it was never the same again in many respects, but it had begun a semi-renaissance of types over the last twenty years. The Strand had been redeveloped, new hotels and condominiums were built or were being built, you could almost hear the Phil Harris Orchestra over the ringing of the slot machines, as if Attorney General Will Wilson had never taken that  hatchet to the very symbol of Galvestonian independence. But it was not to be. Ike picked up where General Wilson left off.

 

Almost as hard as going through a hurricane is waiting one out from far away, when you have loved ones in the storm. It has gotten much easier though. Thanks to cell phones, I was never out of touch with my family in Houston. Their voices were calm and their serenity gave me an overly optimistic view of the tragedy right up until I started seeing the pictures of people floating off of their roofs wearing life jackets. There is a lifetime memory. This is not the time, nor the place to vent my feelings about adults who would subject their young children to something like this by ignoring a mandatory evacuation. But I am pretty sure that I will remember this and write about it at some future date. It is child abuse, pure and simple, and the state ought to treat it as such.

 

So with all the lights out, my old hometown of Houston tries to put itself back together again, which it will in short order. In the words of George C. Scott in “Dr. Strangelove”, I’m not saying that their hair didn’t get mussed, but they will bounce back. Galveston may be another story. As the planet warms, the storms seem to me to be getting more frequent and much wilder. What was once an every twenty five year event may soon be an every five year event, with more frequent precautionary  evacuations. I’m not so sure that that is much of a way to live. My guess is that a few of the citizens if the Island will agree with me.  Can’t see the developers of those skyscraper condos that were just finished over on west beach selling out anytime soon. Somewhere in Galveston there is just some tragic flaw, one that makes these tragedies inevitable. There comes a time when even the bravest stop fighting the inevitable.

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