Willie Drye, author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, offers this challenge:
Take an informal survey among the people who live there about whether they pronounce it "New Orleans" or "NAW-lins.
Still no cable. Hence, no posts.
And I'm heading to New Orleans on Wednesday morning for the rest of the week. Not sure on the frequency then, either.
Either way, we'll be back online soon. I promise. Cross my heart.
The 24-hour gaps in postings should lead you to one conclusion: We lost some utilities in Hurricane Jeanne.
There are stories to be told and photos to be posted. We took a wallop from Jeanne, but suffered no signifcant damage.
Stay tuned, kids. I'll update once my stuff comes back online.
I was waiting for someone to trivialize the hurricane season with something as piddly as politics.
Now, someone finally has.
You see, it isn't Kerry vs. Bush. It's God vs. Bush.
I should have known.
Just took a spin around some Central Florida blogs. here are the highlights:
Robert at Interstate 4 Jamming reports:
One of the reporters on WTVT-FOX 13 was doing a live shot in Lake Wales from a shelter location parking lot, and they caught a simply remarkable picture of an extended flash in the background of a transformer(s) blowing/possibly catching fire of in the distance. The electricity here is still on, but it did flicker a time or two after 3:00 AM while I was standing out on the front balcony and saw a couple of transformers toward US 98 blow.
I want to hug each and every electrical appliance here before I turn out the lights tonight, knowing we're only a huff 'n' a puff from this again. Because even though the National Hurricane Center still begs to differ, our local weather studs have yet to see that turn north everyone insists on, meaning we'll get even worse winds / rain than the 'official track' predicts at present.
Watching the histrionics of the local news folks, as they stupidly stand in 100 mph wind, batting futilely at the jet-propelled bits of razor sharp sand as they embed in their corneas and eardrums...all we can do is root for them to fall down. Guy is standing at a 45 degree angle in wind and rain that is moving so fast it appears to be one single element, I'm yelling at the TV, "FALL DOWN!!!"
So here's a quickie drinking game:
- When the stupid newsperson standing in the middle of the hurricane rucks their inadequate windbreaker hood up against the side of their face in a vain attempt to keep horizontal rain from siphoning out their sinus cavities, take one drink.
- When the stupid newsperson standing in the middle of the hurricane gets hit upside the head by a flying piece of debris, sand, small mammal, etc., take two drinks.
- When the stupid newsperson standing in the middle of the hurricane FALLS DOWN, everybody drink!
Well, the fun starts now.
Woke up about 30 minutes ago to the sound of rain and wind pelting the house. Imagine sending your home through a car wash and having 100 gorilla's jumping up and down on the roof. That'd be a good start.
This thing is nowhere near what it's going to be in a couple hours and I'm already pretty concerned.
Trapped in our homes by darkness and wind, my buddy Drew and I are trading bleary eyed missives tonight:
Parents came up to get out of Palm Beach County. Hope you guys are all “Hunkered Down” (Guess you need to drink a beer now). Now sitting here watching idiots reporting from the storm areas. Am I the only person who silently wishes these fools get hit by a fricken coconut? CAN”T SLEEP!!!
Report from brother in West Jupiter: Winds are a lot worse than Frances. Taking on a lot of water from the west side of house. No power for a few hours. Not pretty, but family is doing well.
I’m sitting here barely able to keep my eyes open and yet unable to think about going to sleep.
Brian and I wound up having the “birds and bees” talk in the car on the way over to Clearwater. All because he wanted an explanation of the word “pimp.''
I just got back from buying 21 bags of ice for three coolers, just in case. We’ve taken in the plants. Again. And the lawn furniture. Again. And the frigging basketball hoop. Again.
I’m not sure what normal is around here any longer.
Normal is having my garage full of crap that is supposed to be decorating my pool patio.
Normal is now watching a fricken map of the state of Florida as a Big, Swirling Vortex of Crap move at a snails pace towards my house.
Normal is still not being able to watch a College Football game on Saturday.
Normal is getting upset when you don’t hear the TV say “Hunker Down” before the next commercial break.
Oh yeah…I’m losing it…
* The Ernest Lyons drawbridge from Stuart to Hutchinson Island sprung open in high winds Saturday afternoon, and it probably won't be repaired or blocked off until after Hurricane Jeanne passes.
"Yes, it is a dangerous condition, but there's nothing we can do about it," Martin County Engineering Director Don Donaldson said.
Florida Department of Transportation won't be able to inspect the damage until winds die down, Donaldson said. The drawbridge was reportedly elevated about a foot from the stationery part of the bridge.
County Commissioner Michael DiTerlizzi, who was out with a media crew inspecting the island, drove over the bridge without knowing it was down.
"We didn't realize it was sprung until we went over it," he said. He also reported damage to the causeway itself, which was severely eroded.
Been a while since we did this. Here we go:
"Coffee? Tea? Kevlar?"
In an effort to court every vote, John Kerry pledged that if elected president, he would guarantee domestic partner benefits to Snuggles, the fabric softner bear.
Just saw this story on Yahoo News:
Maverick Irish pop star Sinead O'Connor asked the media to leave her alone on Friday -- by taking out a full-page advert in a national newspaper.
DEMOCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE
You have two cows.
The government taxes you to the point you have tosell both to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow, which was a gift from your government.
BUREAUCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE
You have two cows.
The government takes them both, shoots one, milks the other, pays you for the milk, and then pours the milk down the drain.
You have two cows.
You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an IPO on the 2nd one.
You force the two cows to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when one cow drops dead.
You spin an announcement to the analysts stating you have down sized and are reducing expenses. Your stock goes up.
You have two cows.
You go on strike because you want three cows.
You go to lunch and drink wine.
Life is good.
You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains. Most are at the top of their class at cow school.
You have two cows.
You engineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent quality milk, and run a hundred miles an hour. Unfortunately they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year.
You have two cows but you don't know where they are.
While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman.
You break for lunch.
Life is good.
You have two cows.
You have some vodka.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You have some more vodka.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have.
You have all the cows in Afghanistan, which are two.
You don't milk them because you cannot touch any creature's private parts. Then you kill them and claim a U.S. bomb blew them up while they were in the hospital.
You have two cows.
They go into hiding.
They send radio tapes of their mooing.
You have two bulls.
Employees are regularly maimed and killed attempting to milk them.
You have a black cow and a brown cow.
Everyone votes for the best looking one.
Some of the people who like the brown one best, vote for the black one.
Some people vote for both. Some people vote for neither.
Some people can't figure out how to vote at all.
Finally, a bunch of guys from out-of-state tell you which is the best looking cow.
You have a cow and a bull.
The bull is depressed.
It has spent its life living a lie.
It goes away for two weeks.
It comes back after a taxpayer-paid sex-change operation.
You now have two cows.
One makes milk; the other doesn't.
You try to sell the transgender cow.
Its lawyer sues you for discrimination.
You lose in court.
You sell the milk-generating cow to pay the damages.
You now have one rich, transgender, non-milk-producing cow. You change your business to beef. PETA pickets your farm.
Jesse Jackson makes a speech in your driveway.
Cruz Bustamante calls for higher farm taxes to help "working cows."
Hillary Clinton calls for the nationalization of 1/7 of your farm "for the children."
Scharwzenager signs a law giving your farm to Mexico.
The L.A. Times quotes five anonymous cows claiming you groped them.
You declare bankruptcy and shut down all operations.
The cow starves to death.
An L.A. Times' analysis shows your business failure is Bush's fault.
Postings might be a tad light today and tomorrow. I'm in the heart of Seminoles country today on a business trip.
I went to FSU for three years (before I wised up and finished at UF), but I haven't been to Tallahassee in about 15 years. Took me a good hour to get my bearings, the town has changed so much.
If Yankee Stadium is the House that Ruth Built, Tallahassee is truly Bobby Bowden Town. It's astonishing the growth of the campus. The amount of construction is beyond comprehension. When I left town, the football stadium looked like a glorified high school field crossed with an erector set. Now the athletic facilities, to borrow a metaphor, look like they're on steroids.
I came out through the gate at Tampa International Airport Wednesday evening to find this James Bond mini-plane waiting for me on the Tarmac. I had to freaking limbo to get to my seat. It took only about 2 minutes for the flight attendant to serve all the beverages for the 25 passengers.
Your rational thought would usually be: since it's a small plane, it'll be easier to get off the aircraft. Nevertheless, it took, I swear, 20 minutes between the wheels came to a stop and the time they opened the cabin door and let us out. Whenever I fly, I'm captivated by the idea that we've perfected air travel for more than 100 years but we've still not found a decent way to get people off a plane in an expeditious manner.
David, a Republican friend of mine in Idaho, sent me this tasty little morsel: The candidates in drag.
As jokes go, I thought it was a fair and balanced.
If I had to choose among the four, though, I think I'd rather go celibate.
The recurring "Your Moment of Britney" series actually pre-dates the Salad bowl. When I worked at FoxSports.com (Motto: A fraction of the news, with all the layoffs.), I found out that a co-worker, Jolie, liked Britney Spears. When I say "liked," I mean from a pop culture circus point of view, not from an artistic and aesthetic vantage point.
I shared the same morbid fascination, so whenever I heard something juicy that seemed to indicate that either a personal meltdown or a professional train wreck was afoot, I'd throw it at her in an e-mail and then we'd pelt each other with instant messages for about an hour or so, or until the wave of jazzy guffaws finally subsided. It was probably as close as I'll ever get to my teenage years.
Once the Salad thing got started, I decided to revive it. Jolie and I continue to pelt each other on occasion with ridiculous bits of information, even though we haven't worked together for about 4 years.
So it was with warm sentiment that I welcomed this missive from her, a copy of a GQ article in the most recent edition, I'm told. "The one with Justin Timberlake on the cover,'' she adds.
It's fairly hilarious - and borderline precognitive, when you consider it was written months before Britney remarried:
Dear Britney Spears,
Sit down honey. We gotta talk. Wanna Diet Mountain Dew and a watermelon Bubblicious? Cheddar Ruffles and a Kool? Sure. Knock yourself out.
What happened Britney? Once, you were the pubescent light of our lives, the lip-synching fire of our loins. Talentwise, we never confused you with Maria Callas, or even Maria Conchita Alonso, but you were sexy, precocious, and ambitious: Madonna meets JonBenet. You made a couple of good songs - we really like I'm a Slave 4 U, we didn't care what anyone said - and you were America's ranking pop princess. Britney versus Christina? Britney versus Christina was like Reagan versus Mondale.
But now we're worried. Your reputation's plunging faster than Courtney Love's blood sugar. Your latest album was a dissappointment. You canceled your summer tour because of a bum knee. Your 55-hour ex-husband squealed to the tabloids about hot Britney sex. While Christina was catwalking Dsquared in Milan, you were catwalking Cinnabons in Santa Monica. And you're doing what you always do when you're feelin' down: You're getting married.
You look sad, honey. We saw photos of you and your mom having a run-in with the paparazzi at a pet shop. You cried and your mascara ran so much you looked like Tammy Fay Baker watching Terms of Endearment. Michael Moore filleted you in Fahrenheit 9/11, showing you saying, "Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes", Good grief, Britney. Thinking like that got Monica Lewinsky a Montecristo between the thighs. You know how bad it's gotten, Britney? Here's who's hotter than you: Hoobastank.
And getting married isn't going to solve anything. We're sure this Kevin Federline is a sweet young man with a bright, bright future, but look at him. Baggy clothes, tilted baseball cap, permanent scowl - the George Clooney of the food court. We won't even mention that K-Fed's already a babydaddy or that he left his babymama for you with another baby on the way. We'll let Jerry Springer sort that baby drama out (Oh, and Kevin, Vanilla Ice called - he wants his sideburn back.) To think we had all freaked out about Fred Durst...
We know what you're thinking. We know you are 22 and you're entitled to make a 22-year-old's mistakes. But when we were 22, our mistakes usually involved drinking Jack Daniel's after pineapple pizza. But this is GQ, we know how to give advice, and less than 75 percent of it is about ties (Halfway down the belt buckle, K-Fed, in case you're wondering.) Here are some tips to get that career of yours back on track.
FOCUS ON MUSIC. Like your idol, Madonna, you've never done so well when you've branched out into other areas. That New York restaurant, NYLA? We ate there. Ducasse meets Denny's. Your movie, Crossroads. The best we can say is that it was no Kangaroo Jack.
REINVENT THYSELF. Now, Madonna knew about this one. No one thinks you should become, say, a singer, but it may not be a bad idea to recast your musical image. Maybe ditch the dance pop for acid rock, country, or crunk. You don't even have to be convincing. Look at Ashless Simpson - she's now a punk rocker. Ashlee Simpson's about as punk-rock as Lynne Cheney's underwear drawer.
MAKEOVER. You knew this one was coming. Britney, we love ya, but sometimes you dress like one of those fine ladies we see on Cops, getting arrested for smoking methamphetamine in the 7-eleven parking lot.
A NEW BOY. We know it's in poor taste, but we can't resist. Here's just a quick rundown of eligible bachelors we think may be good for you: Ben Affleck; Mike Piazza; Ralph Nadar; Nathan Lane; that Senate-candidate guy in Chicago who blew it because of the sex clubs; John Stamos; David Lee Roth; David Gest; and our assistant editor Kevin - his parents have a Mercedes and let him drive it on weekends.
Britney, we want you to be happy. No one wants to see you train-wreck your career and become the next Liz Taylor (Okay, maybe E! True Hollywood Story and US Weekly wouldn't mind.) We want you to rediscover that joy you had as a schoolgirl in kneesocks, singing Hit me baby one more time and discover there is life after teen pop. After all, look who's on the cover.
P.S. Yes, you can have one more piece of Bubblicious.
It's nice to know that the product you produce for a living can sometime serve a greater good. Even if, you know, it's sort of, I don't know... accidental.
This detail came from a story last weekend written by my friend Valerie about the Tampa Police Department forensic unit. The story compared the unit to popular shows like "CSI," "CSI: New York," "CSI: Miami" and "CSI: Mybigfatass."
Turns out the Baylife section of the Tampa Tribune played a key role in a recent case:
Another senior technician, Constance Leggon, processed the Citgo station at 802 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in July after a man with a knife vaulted over the counter and fatally stabbed the clerk. She collected a copy of a Tampa Tribune section inside the clerk's safety glass as evidence.
Using a chemical called Ninhydrin, Leggon found part of a palm print in the paper above the "Y" in "Baylife." Latent fingerprint specialist Susan Delage matched the print to Gregory Everett McCray, an ex-convict who is charged with the clerk's murder.
PREVIOUS TRAFFIC-RELATED POSTS
My kid can kick your honor student's ass.
Rude gesticulating cat mudflaps.
Half-naked drunken cowboy on horseback with groceries.
Trucks with huge plastic chickens on them.
Check out my expression and the look on my son Brian's face.
What's the source of such divergent appearances?
I had just taught him how to drive the family car.
I have unleashed the beast.
We drove nowhere special - just circles at first in the parking lot of a local school. When I got out and walked to the passenger side, he didn't know what to make of it. After he understood what I was doing, he climbed over the center console and scootched his seat forward. He took off tentatively at first, then way too fast. Then back to gentleness again.
"This is like "Road to Perdition," I told him. "Wanna go rob some banks?"
I taught him "10 o'clock/2 o'clock." I taught him to signal. I taught him how to gently brake (after some brain-rattling stops). I taught him what the lines on the road were. And I told him that it's important to pay attention to the road and that he shouldn't oversteer.
Then I let him drive about 100 yards down a deserted road. After that, I let him drive through a subdivision to where his mother and grandmothers were parked. The fastest we went was about 20 mph. To him, I'm sure, it felt like we were racing at Daytona.
When we pulled up, they did a double-take until they realized it was him behind the wheel. Their looks were priceless.
My little man is growing up.
It's the second time this year Britney has pulled a fast one on her family. On Jan. 3, she got hitched in jeans to childhood chum Jason Alexander in Las Vegas. That marriage, characterized by Spears' camp as "a joke (taken) too far," was annulled 55 hours later.If you ignore the fact that she's been married twice in nine months and give her the benefit of the doubt, she's essentially been married twice during her 22 years. That's one marriage every 11 years. On paper, this isn't so radical.
This five-minute wedding was held at 7:30 p.m. at the home of the tailor who created the bridal party's tuxedos, according to Star magazine's Web site. Star reports Spears wore a strapless white dress by designer Monique Lhuillier, with long veil and tiara, and that she carried a bouquet of pink and white roses.Burgundy? Ewwwwww. How 1983 prom. The "Queer Eye" guys are never around when you need them.
Five bridesmaids and the maid of honor wore burgundy dresses and carried red roses. The groom and his groomsmen wore black tuxes.
Guests dined on chicken fingers, crab cakes, ribs, Waldorf salad, and the newlyweds danced to Journey's City by the Bay. Britney gave Kevin a platinum ring with diamonds, and she got a platinum band.I hope her band is expandable. With a diet like that, Kevin, your blushing bride is gonna pack on the pounds.
T-minus one day to Talk Like A Pirate Day.
Which reminds me - it's time to review the pirate alphabet.
THE PIRATE ALPHABET
A -- The favorite word of Canadian pirates, ey?
B -- B stands for Beer!
C -- Da ting we sails da boat on
D -- Das beer! German pirates
E -- 'e needs a beer
F -- 'f only I had a beer
G -- Gee, I wish I had a beer
H -- H'aightch and everone one of us should have a beer
I -- I wish I had a beer
J -- The guy who sells us beer
K -- Jay's wife, she's a looker!
L -- Da place where bad pirates goes when dey dies!
M -- 'em folks needs beers
N -- 'nother beer
O -- Oh I wish I had a beer
P -- (*long pause*) Self-explanatree!
Q -- A French word meaning 'line for beer'
R -- A pirate's favorite word, Arrrh!
S -- What you fall on when you drink too much beer
T -- Why we beat the British
U -- You should have a beer
V -- Vikings! Svedish pirates
W -- You and you should have a beer
X -- Jay's former wife, she no longer sells us beer
Y -- Why not have a beer
Z -- Ze beer! French pirates
Breaking news: Child star and Michael Jackson tchochke Macaulay Culkin was busted in Oklahoma for suspected possession of pot and pills
Is it me, or is he fast becoming a candidate for the lead in a John Waters bio pic?
I was driving home Thursday night when I got stuck in traffic. Trying to pass the time, I turned on NPR, only to hear a fascinating story about the discovery of a lost Bruce Springsteen recording from his youth.
As the story goes, an Episcopal priest in 1967 recorded a band called the Castiles at a teen club called The Left Foot in Freehold, New Jersey. In the group was the then-17-year-old Springsteen.
Father Fred Coleman's reel-to-reel deck ultimately captured The Boss' first live recording.
To my surprise, I heard at the end of the piece that it was Mark Urycki from station WKSU reporting the story. I met Mark during a seminar he and I attended in July. I liked Mark a lot. He was intelligent, seemed to be a great listener and asked really good questions during our sessions.
I e-mailed him on Friday to ask about the story. I asked how pumped he was about getting to hear the tapes firsthand:
It was pretty cool getting my hands on that old Castiles stuff but a long story in fixing them....
Fred Coleman sent the tapes out to a lab to be burned onto CD and at first just brought us the disc. The left channel of the recordings were completely muddy, which I thought at first was just a problem in recording them. They were taped on a stereo 1/4 track machine so that both sides of the tape would be used. Two tracks in either direction - four total - like a cassette. We don't have anything here that could play that.
But I started to get suspicious that the muddy left channel was a problem in tape head alignment so I asked our production director here to take the tapes to
his home reel-to-reel deck, which could play them. He dubbed them onto a DAT recorder.
Fred agreed to part with the tapes and sure enough the left channel was as crisp as the right. It does have some dropouts but overall sounds pretty good for 37 year old tape.
A little bonus was that Fred also had an old reel of Springsteen live at the Akron Civic Theater from 1975, where he actually got to meet with Bruce backstage after not seeing him for years. I've burned both tapes onto CD for him. God, this was a lot of work tracking down clips - like that first studio recording.
I did a longer version here for WKSU that includes a bootleg song from 1996 too.
...25-foot (7.6-meter) waves were already pounding Santa Rosa Island Wednesday around 4 p.m., when the bridges leading to the mainland were closed.
Ivan altered natural forces all along the Gulf Coast Wednesday. Ivan's eye stayed more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) offshore from Tampa Bay, Florida. But as the eye drew abreast of Tampa, it sent a storm surge into the bay that temporarily reversed the flow of the Hillsborough River and caused some flooding in the city.
"It's sure an odd sight seeing the river flow from the bay instead of to the bay," said Alan Snel, a reporter for the Tampa Tribune.
At the Pensacola News Journal building, flood water seeped into the building about four blocks from Pensacola Bay, barely covering parts of the floor. Workers feared a wall of water would cascade in if they opened the doors to leave.Damn.
Ivan's waves — some up to 25 feet — destroyed homes along the Florida coast Wednesday. Twelve-foot waves boomed ashore at Gulf Shores, eroding the beach. A buoy about 300 miles south of Panama City registered one wave of 50 feet high.
In Fort Walton Beach, Fla., a nursing home lost its generator power and reported that six patients desperately needed oxygen. An emergency medical crew drove through the 90 mph winds to deliver portable oxygen tanks.
"You want to see the natural hand of God firsthand but you don't realize how strong it is," said Kevin Harless, 32, who was sightseeing in Panama City Beach, Fla., around the time of the tornadoes.
On Singer Island, schoolteacher Anne Craig started noticing odd behavior in Isaiah - the neighborhood iguana - on Thursday.
Isaiah used to stop by every morning at 9 for breakfast (prepared by Craig) of fresh strawberries, grapes and romaine lettuce. He'd spend a few hours sunning himself beside the pool. More than once, Craig came home in the afternoon to find Isaiah had slipped in the cat door and was lounging on the couch.
On Thursday morning, though, Isaiah didn't stay. And on Friday morning, Craig saw him making a run for the mangroves across the street. "I tried to keep telling him not to go - but he went," she said.
Isaiah's instincts may have told him a storm was coming. But no one knows, yet, whether those instincts directed him to safety. Craig and her husband evacuated on Friday. When they returned, Isaiah was nowhere to be found.
"He never returned. Everybody's been looking for him," she said.
We really did fine except for five days with NO communication, no outside lines and Nextel is a dismal failure. Lots of roofs, etc., but everyone came through it without physical harm. Lost one women in the Special Needs Shelter but she was a Hospice patient - didn't know handling dead bodies was in the fine print on my job description - but the sister was wonderful and said she felt her sister died in a circle of love. We are all beat - 10 straight days of work at a flat-out pace. Believe me everyone's prayers helped.Eliot Kleinberg, author of "Black Cloud: The Great Hurricane of 1928," sent me some photos yesterday that show him on the job, reporting about the damage cause by Frances:
Having been in many of them myself, I have to admit that I'm a sucker for a bad high school yearbook photo.
Planet Dan has some hilarious pics he's gleaned from various annuals. The captions are pretty funny, too.
He writes: "I remember when I got my senior picture taken and I brought my stuffed Hershey's Kiss, I at least wore an outfit to compliment it."
"Maybe she's shy, or just really really ugly."
"A pose that any mother/gay porn director would love. (p.s. he's a Bears fan)"
"It's not going to fit into the standard garage," said Mark Oberle, a spokesman for Navistar, based in Warrenville, Ill., outside Chicago. "We can see it as a vehicle for business people who want to make a distinct impression. For personal use, it's for people who want to make a statement."Ah, but the price will keep me out of the market. The CXT ranges from about $93,000 to $115,000 fully loaded, with such creature comforts as a DVD player and leather upholstery. Not to mention it only gets between 6 and 10 miles per gallon.
Ivan, one of the fiercest storms ever recorded in the region, has killed at least 68 people in seven islands or countries the Caribbean, devastated Grenada and badly battered Negril resort in Jamaica.Okay, you can screw with the beaches and trash some hotels. Pistol whip the trees and froth the ocean for a while.
Monday night, it pounded the heartland of Cuba's famed cigar industry — fields where much of the tobacco is grown to produce the 150 million Cuban cigars worth $240 million a year.
Getting an accurate fix on Ivan's path is difficult, however, because a hurricane as strong as this one isn't always subject to the same meteorological influences as less powerful storms.It wouldn't be the first - or the worst - to hit the area. Here's how Ivan ranks in comparison to other northern Gulf Coast storms:
"When hurricanes get this strong, they can literally rearrange the atmosphere around them," said Stu Ostro, a meteorologist with Weather Channel. "The question is when, where, or if Ivan will begin a gradual northward turn. There will be significant uncertainty in the future track until that happens."
Ostro noted that Ivan is following a pattern similar to other extremely intense hurricanes that struck the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico—it has continued on a westward track longer than usual before making the northward turn that hurricanes inevitably make.
Ivan just became the latest member of the monster hurricane club. As of 5 p.m. today, the thing has a barometric pressure reading of 26.98 inches. That reading is the lowest since Hurricane Gilbert bottomed out at 26.22 in 1988. You just don't see them crack 27.00 too often.Coincidentally, my friend Eliot Kleinberg, author of "Black Cloud: The Great Hurricane of 1928," sends this woeful note:
This means Ivan could scrub the Cayman Islands off the map with sustained winds of 165 mph and gusts of 200 mph or better. And the Caymans won't even be a speed bump for Cuba. All those beautiful old buildings in Havana...
It looks like Ivan is going to swing west of the Keys and make landfall as maybe a 3 somewhere around Cedar Key. Have talked with a couple of public officials in the Keys today, they're relieved but wary.
By a series of convergences, my three favorite sports teams in the world -- Miami Dolphins, Florida Gators, and Florida Marlins -- play on the same day. At the exact same time. And I'll miss all three becasue I will be at work watching a hurricane.We all have our crosses to bear, Eliot.
It's official. Ivan is, without a doubt, One Big Sumbitch.
Andrew's barometric pressure at landfall was 27.13. If it drops below 27.00, it'll be in the company of such monsters as Hurricane Gilbert (26.18, I think), Hurricane Camille (26.89) and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane (26.35).
I was trying to think of something respectful and meaningful to write about the third anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. Then I remembered that I wrote something last year that seemed to say what I was trying to express. It seems even more pertinent today, since the mothers and fathers and grandparents of the victims at the World Trade center are reading the names of their lost loved ones. I can't imagine having the strength to do what they are doing today, much less do it before cameras in a public setting.
I don't like to recycle the Salad Bowl, but I think it's okay in this case.
I kissed my son on his peach-fuzz head this morning and sent him to his classroom to learn. There isn't a kiss I give him that doesn't feel like the last. I want to remember his warmth and his soft skin and the tender way he tells me goodbye. The little wave he sneaks to me when he thinks no one is looking. The bravery it takes for an 8-year-old boy to leave the most secure thing he knows and to forge his own day. I never want to forget that and I am afraid I will. Because something could happen. At any time or place. And that would be all I have of him and all I would ever have. The memory of how perfectly beautiful he is. How immensely proud I am to be his father. The sense that he is full of promise and love.
And I know that those memories would never be enough to sustain me if something were to happen while he was at school and I was at work.
I know that now more than ever.
Because of Sept. 11.
Please don't consider me an enabler, (blog heh, heh). Just wanted to share.The thing she sent:
Ivan's barometric pressure reading as of Thursday a.m. is 27.19 inches. Hurricane Andrew's barometric pressure at landfall was 27.13. If it drops below 27.00, it'll be in the company of such monsters as Hurricane Gilbert (26.18, I think), Hurricane Camille (26.89) and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane (26.35).
It's real hard for these things to hold on to this kind of intensity for very long. When they get this strong, they usually start going through eyewall replacement cycles, i.e., a new eyewall starts forming around the existing one, and that has the effect of a noose that chokes the thing down a few notches. And it'll probably lose some strength going over Cuba. But when it gets into the Straits of Florida, I'd say all bets are off. The water there is very, very warm, prime hurricane fuel, and about the only thing that'll hold it back will be eyewall replacement and/or upper level windshear.
God, I'd hate to be on the bullseye for this thing.
You know your obsessions are affecting others when they start to send you unsolicited sombrero photos.
This one was sent by my friend Jill, who works as a PR operative at Busch Gardens. They should give her a raise for her eagle-eye abilities:
I see you and the sombrero have not ceased torturing inanimate objects.
All tourists and recreational vehicles were urged to evacuate the Florida Keys early Thursday because the powerful Hurricane Ivan could hit the island chain by Sunday. Ivan became a Category 5 hurricane overnight with winds up to 160 mph and gusts as high as 215 mph.Buckle up, kids. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
Pete and his beautiful wife Cecile are now driving back from Alaska, trying to beat the winter weather so they can make it back home to Florida.
Pete typically fishes his brains out up at their home on the Kenai Peninsula while Cecile grows any flower she can find. Their homestead is a brilliant tapestry of color amid an already spectacular landscape.
"JOKINGLY, I SENT THIS TO SOME OF MY FRIENDS AND TOLD THEM I HAD TO CHANGE CLOTHES AFTER THE SERVICE, SINCE I COULD NOT MARRY BARBARA AND BO INSIDE THE CHURCH BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT ORTHODOX. I HAD TO MARRY THEM OUT ON THE FRONT STEPS."
Jessica had never heard of the Talking Heads or Elvis Costello. For those sins, we pummelled her with "My Aim Is True" and "Burning Down The House." Oh, and she had to tote the Krispy Kremes.
Suffice to say, she is a changed woman now.
South Beach Nightmare No. 407: An entirely all-carbohydrate diet.
Did someone think we were working in Calcutta? Who needs this much Germ-X?
Ahhhh, the sweet smell of an open drug store during the storm.
Note to Lay's: Love your chips, hate your dip.
Nasty and harmful, these cinnamon roll sheets with drippy icing had no manners and screamed my name whenever I passed their aisle. I did not succumb to their siren song.
Oh, thank heaven. Unfortunately, their banner was irreparably damaged. How will this store go on?!?!?
It was a cruel joke for Apu to put the healthy eats next to the Big Eats.
Anyone wanna eat a Bomb?
The Haagen Dazs took a catostrophic blow from the assault by nervous addicts.
Doughnuts took a hit, too. I bet they were real fresh, too. At least as fresh as the meat torpedoes on the rolling hot dog conveyor.
Back at work, the wind started to pick up.
I think they were expecting a few trees to be blown down.
I'm sure he's a lovely man and tops in his profession, but I have a hard time taking comfort in a hurricane projection delivered by someone who resembles a funeral director.
Perfect day to fly a kite.
I only noticed this stipulation after I had tried to fly the damn thing.
The Vipir 9000 News Kite, ready for its maiden voyage aloft.
It's flying alright...
...almost into the Hillsborough River. (That's me chasing the Vipir 9000 News Kite.)
Well, all came out okay on our end. Came home at about midnight last night. There are neighborhoods around us without power, and the Alafia River is looking for new places to seep into, but we're not in any danger at this point. We never lost power or cable. Lost one shrub. I'll take that kind of damage any time.
Not looking forward to Ivan. He'll mess up next weekend for sure.
Earlier today during a last-minute jaunt to CVS pharmacy for some dry goods before Hurricane Frances hit, I picked up a kite just for a laugh. Spending $1.99 on a 31-inch "Buzz Kite" in the shape of a wasp seemed like a bargain to me where amusement was involved.
So I brought it back to the newsroom and used a marker to adorn it with the name VIPIR 9000 NEWS KITE, in honor of the VIPIR radar system used at our sister TV station. (A photo of it can be viewed to the right in the moblog thumbnail. Click on it to enlarge the photo.)
(An aside: Last night we were so bored that we were joking about VIPIR - pronounced VIE-per, like a snake. We declared that since they were insistent on naming it VIPIR instead of VIPER, that it should be pronounced "vipper." We then commenced to singing, "Theyyyyy called it VIPPER! VIPPER! Quicker than liiiiightninggggggg.'' I know. We were bored.)
Anyway, I hitched up the VIPIR 9000 News Kite and took it to the fourth floor of the News Center here in downtown Tampa. Assisted by Kim, a woman who works in our computer department, I braved the wind and the rain of the eye of the storm and held the plastic device aloft on the fourth floor porch.
It performed wildly in the wind as I let about 20 feet of string out. It also buzzed like an insect because of a "buzz bow" device that vibrated in the wind. It darted and weaved and bobbed.
And then the string broke and it took off in the gust. I had visions of it flying over the railing and into the Hillsborough River.
I chased it, lassoed that puppy back to the string and set out again.
Same result. Boy lets out string, wind takes kite, string breaks from kite, boy chases kite.
All in all, I'd have to say it was a pretty good result. I didn't lose the kite, it flew - albeit temporarily - and I lived to tell the tale.
Eliot Kleinberg, author of "Black Cloud: The Great Hurricane of 1928," a book about the Okeechobee that devastated Florida, writes about enduring Hurricane Frances in Boca Raton:
Well, gang, the worst is over and we got through with minimal problems. I'm afraid the same can't be said for our neighbors north of here. I will be driving up to the "Treasure Coast" early Monday to see for myself and report for the paper. I'm afraid it's going to be pretty bad.
I reminded our kids that our good fortune was at the expense of others and we need to keep those people in our thoughts.
When the hurricane came through, I was at the National Hurricane Center near Miami, where I had been reporting for about 2-1/2 days. I drove home today through several blinding squalls. The storm took two full days to get through the area and wind and rain covered about 400 miles. Our area has already had a foot of rain since Friday morning.
In Boca Raton, a lot of trees were uprooted, many of them in concentrated spots (I'm guessing mini-tornadoes or straight-line winds). Only one tree was uprooted on our street: the one where the boy who'd been shot by the neighbor fell dead. Creepy.
In our house, the gardenia broke off at the lower trunk and a lot of limbs came down but that was about it. Deb says the boys were troupers and the power never went out; she was even able Saturday night to take a hot bath and dry her hair. Ah, the pleasures we take for granted.
My sister Eileen, who had gone through Andrew and moved up here to Boca, was understandably unnerved by the prospect of another profound storm, but we all got through OK.
My dad down in Miami had one branch fall off one tree and land inches from his central air conditioner. But it severed the freon pipe and they have no air. Talk about bad luck. Hey: could have been worse.
My cousin Norman in Nassau reports Frances sat on them for 36 hours but apparently no serious damage.
Still no word from my buddy Keith Nelson who stayed with his wife in his home in Sebastian, just north of the prime landfall area. Hope he's OK. Other than them, everyone we know who was in the path of the storm is apparently unhurt and that's all that matters.
Of course hanging over all of us is that another hurricane, this one already more powerful, is heading in our general direction and could threaten us by early next week. We're leaving the shutters up.
Several things I know from last night's Hurricane Frances experience at Camp Lejune... ER, Camp Tribune:
1. Sleeping on the floor sucks in so many ways, I've lost count.
2. There are three tools available in The Television Reporter's Official On-Air Hurricane Verbal Illustration Manual:
A. If there are no people in your vicinity, immediately wave your arm behind you in a sweepign gesticulation and say "(insert name of town) is virtually a ghost town"
B. The word "literally" should be applied, literally. As in, "That roof [SHOT OF ROOF PEELING OFF A MOBILE HOME] is literally peeling off that mobile home.''
C. Everything that remains stationary can be described as being in a state of "hunkered down." (Although this is redundant - since no one ever "hunkers up" - use the phrase anyway.
All is well in the hood for now. Just did a “Drive By” and only minor damage to report. All damage is the result of people not doing what they were supposed to do. Basketball Hoops were the biggie. Steve and Jory’s hoop is shattered laying on the ground. Around the block, someone else left theirs out resulting on their vehicle being hit by it when it slammed down. Other than that, only a few trees have been knocked down…mostly newly planted (New house next to the model).
Wind continues to gust and there is a lot of small debris lowing around. Rain hasn’t really been that bad yet. Cimino is not opened as a shelter yet and have not heard about it preparing to despite it being fully ready.
Will keep you updated as the day goes on… assuming we maintain power. If we lose power, I will turn on my cell phone and attempt to make contact. Generators are ready and beer is cold... Best we can ask for.
Finally, what I would call "wrath of God rain" has hit downtown. Came in at about 2 a.m. We all turned around and where there was no rain 5 minutes before, sheets and sheets were coming down.
And then 10 minutes later, it was just a soggy memory. Big whoop.
There looks to be an armada of tree trimming trucks parked in a lot next to the Hillsborough River, right across the street from the Wachovia building. They all followed in a conga line through downtown, before the drivers parked, got out and walked with their bags a couple blocks to the Hyatt Hotel downtown. There must be 50 to 75 trucks parked across from us.
Time for bed. Tomorrow is going to be a long day.
I'm spending the night on an inflatable mattress on the floor at work. We're all watching the TV as Frances moseys onshore, taking her sweet damn time.
My colleague Kim says, "Frances is driving like someone from Florida. Slow and aimless."
Just drove from southern Valrico to downtown Tampa. Winds were pretty slight. There was an eerie-yet-beautiful sunset visible through the clouds. But there was lots of traffic, especially in Brandon.
One note: while driving on the Crosstown Expressway tonight (Motto: "We're Not Sinking At The Moment") the glow from the neon facades of the strip clubs on State Road 60 stood out prominantly in juxtaposition to the dark, rainy night sky.
Nice to know that in the face of destruction, pursuit of pootie still goes on.
I've been antsy the past couple hours. There's only so much Internet crap you can read. Went outside to look at the clouds and only came in when I got chased inside by rain. Watched some bad cable movie. Then couldn't stand to watch any longer. Got so bad, I started to sit down to read the 9/11 Commission's report.
Then the phone rang. It was work. They want me to come in at 8:30 tonight, stay overnight in the newsroom and stay all day Sunday to do rewrite. I wasn't supposed to go in until early Sunday, but because they're now expecting 60 mph winds at midnight in our area, we're being asked to come in early.
I have two reactions:
1. Thankfreakinggod. I'm going crazy waiting to cover the story.
2. Ohfreakingno. My family will be here all alone going through the storm tonight and tomorrow.
Talk about being conflicted.
I'll post when I can, although my photo capacity is pretty much limited to the moblog postings, since I don't have the capacity to upload from work.
Just chatted on AIM with my friend Sherry, who is an editor at the paper in Fort Pierce. She's working from home while she cares for her mother. A reporter and photographer are also holed up with her there.
I asked her what the gusts were up to now:
Sherlee: about 80 mph. now no power i'm on battery laptop
Jbh34997: Are you at home?
Sherlee: im at home. generator is on at st. lucie west. whole city has no power.
Jbh34997: Port St. Lucie or Fort Pierce?
Sherlee: psl. i lost power at about 1 today pm
Sherlee: no power at my mom's. derek went over and got her while he and alison the photog went out for pix. i told them they were nuts
Jbh34997: Where are they predicting landfall?
Sherlee: now they're saying between sebastian and fort pierce about 2 a.m. sunday
Jbh34997: Has the storm surge hit yet?
Sherlee: we have had several squallls. i'm on a lake so i'm waiting for it to come into my living room. worst is yet to come they say. wind is bad rain is not so far
Jbh34997: Have you heard how bad the Indian River Lagoon is? How high are the tides?
Sherlee: derek and alison were at marina today. tides weren't too high, was just really choppy. that was around noon
Jbh34997: More importantly, what's the cat situation?
Sherlee: one's on the bed one's under. but the black one isn't attacking my mom, which is good. but mom's claustrophobic and the shutters on all the windows is making her more nuts than usual
Sherlee: and derek and alison are camping out with me so there's four of us with no electricity and nothing to do
Jbh34997: I say you push mom and the black cat outside for amusement purposes. See how both of them react. I bet it would be real similar.
Sherlee: yeah i'm about to push one of them out the door. guess which one
Jbh34997: Well, knowing that mom doesn't have an automatic water bowl at her disposal, I'm putting my money on her.
Sherlee: uh huh. i'm trying to get some benadryl in her to make her sleepy
Jbh34997: Two words: NyQuil Smoothie.
Sherlee: yep. i wish
Jbh34997: Well, take care of yourself. Hope your power isn't out too long. I'm sure the highly tuned PSL city crews will have things back in order in no time.
Sherlee: i hope. i hafta work outta psl tomorrow
Jbh34997: Not if there isn't electricity you won't.
Sherlee: yeah we'll see. or if st. lucie west isn't there anymore
Jbh34997: Sad to think that the Big K store might be hit. What would PSL do for commerce?
Sherlee: uh huh
Jbh34997: As long as it doesn't wipe out the pizza and barbecue shops, you guys will survive.
I've cleaned the outside of the house. I've had lunch. I've watched innumerable hours of television reporters getting pelted with rain and wind. I've watched my son and his best friend turn a lizard into jewelry in between lulls in the storm.
I, however, have no lizard, so to amuse myself, I Googled the name Frances in it's image search engine.
The results were predictably, um, well... see for yourself in the photos below.
Who knew there were so many dogs, freaks and nuns named Frances?!?!?
We just had gusts to about 20 knots here in Bloomingdale. I did the stereotypical, Oh-shit-I-forgot-to-bring-stuff-in run to the side of the house in a torrential downpour to move some plants and a hose inside. I'm sitting here soaked now.
The odd part is that it's now sunny outside. I always forget that the rain we get is intermittent for the most part. The disconcerting thing is that you can have horizontal rain and trees bent over almost in half and then 5 minutes later it will look like a travel brochure outside.
Woke up this morning to news that Frances had slowed to a near-halt. She's not just being a slowpoke. She's got that kind of deliberate purpose you use when you're drunk and crawling on your hands and knees trying to find the toilet in the dark after too much Cuervo. Or so I've been told.
She also seems to have downshifted over the Abaco Islands into something less fierce than what she was just yesterday. I'm sorry the Bahamas had to take it in the puss for us on the mainland, but hey, when you live out in the Atlantic, you take your chances.
That's not to say she'll be a walk in the park. With expected landfall in Vero Beach or Fort Pierce, there are some people over there who might find a very different landscape tomorrow by the time it's over. It may only get back to Category 3 by the time it jumps the Gulf Stream, but that's nothing to sneeze at.
On Friday when the course was in question and the strength was an unknown quantity, we tended to clump around the person whose computer had the latest information.
In this photo, we're huddled around Kurt's desk. Kurt is the closest think to a nihilist in our group. He enjoyed torquing everyone up by sending out gang messages that said stuff like, "I AM BECOME DEATH,'' and "DOOM IS AT HAND.''
That Kurt is one funny guy.
Willie Drye, author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, drops a line to the Salad Bowl.
Man, this is making me sick reading about what's going to happen down there. It looks like this one is going to go right through where Jane and I used to live, and I keep thinking about everything that became so familiar to us during the time we were there, which was most of the '90s.. And I hate to think of all that getting blasted to bits and I wonder what will be left.
I think everyone I know down there has enough sense to go to a safe place before the worst of this thing gets there, and I know that my saying I hope everyone comes through it OK isn't going to make a damn bit of difference to this monster when it starts popping roofs off like bottle caps. But I'll say it anyway, I hope everyone comes through this OK, keep me posted as long as conditions allow.
I updated the Radio.Blog jukebox to include a few more storm-related tunes. I had planned to take the ones down that I posed for Hurricane Charley, but they, um, sort of became relevant again.
My favorites are "Only Happy When It Rains" by Garbage, and "Kentucky Rain" by Elvis.
Be sure you listen to Ron White's comedy routine about hurricanes. Pretty funny stuff.
The path of Hurricane Frances keeps creeping further south toward Valrico and Tampa. The latest projections gave me the shivers:
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated 14.6 million Floridians live in the storm warning area.
Sorry to say things grew more ominous overnight. The most likely path of the storm shifted to Jupiter, which is only about 40 miles from Boca Raton "as the crow flies.'Quite alright, Eliot. Quite alright.
With hurricane force winds extending some 80 miles, that means Boca can expect sustained winds of 80+ mph for several hours. That's if it goes to Jupiter. But the projected path has already wobbled all over the place, so all bets are off. The hurricane watch goes from the Keys almost to Georgia, so even the forecasters can't say for sure.
But things are looking better for the Miami Kleinbergs, which is as it should be. They've had their hurricane.
I am very worried about my cousins in Nassau. Their two-story department store is just a few blocks from the harbor.
A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for this area for the immediate coast and mobile homes, and of course neither affects us. Schools have been closed for today and Friday. For the boys, it's a bit of an adventure, but I'm sure it's been sinking in as they hear the shaky voices of the weathermen on TV and see everyone boarding up. Robbie's been getting one e-mail after another from friends who said their families are leaving town.
This storm is almost as powerful as Andrew. This region hasn't had a direct hit from any kind of hurricane in 25 years and hasn't seen a major hurricane since 1949. I don't have to tell you what has happened to population and property values here since.
Last night I worked till about 11 p.m. When I got home, Deb and the boys had already moved everything, including patio furniture, from the yard and outside patio. My boss said she didn't want to see me before 2 p.m. today, and I went to bed past midnight, planning to sleep in a bit before starting on the storm shutters.
Of course I woke up at 4:50 a.m.
I'm afraid sleep has been elusive this week. Two nights ago I awoke at 2 a.m. and stared at the ceiling in the dark for more than an hour, going over in my mind what needed to be done around the house, what my neighborhood might look like after the storm, and where the heck the damn thing is going to go.
We've all been on an emotional roller coaster ride really since last weekend, with one forecast update taking the storm away from us and the next hours later aiming it right back toward us. As you can imagine this is pretty exhausting, and of course now is when I really should be getting a lot of rest, since we're not even at the hard part yet. This is the pre-pre-game.
Landfall is now expected to be Saturday morning, but "tropical storm force winds" -- 39 mph sustained - should arrive Friday afternoon.
Deb has decided she and the boys will stay in the house regardless. She's tough and resourceful and as usual has a complete handle on the situation. I really won the lottery.
I of course will be at the paper. Only if the track shifts more toward a direct hit on Boca would I ride it out at home and try to get to work later.
Also I am on the first wave of people to rush to the center of destruction, even if it's a long way from Boca.
Perhaps this afternoon will give a clearer picture of where the storm is coming. As I said before, this storm is not going to stay out at sea, and just wishing it away from us just means it will smash someone else, so this is a no-win for everyone.
Sorry to be so long-winded (pun) but it's good to vent.
Hurricane Frances continues to rumble toward the Florida peninsula. People are hearing words like, "140 mph" and "mandatory evacuation" and "worse than Charley" and not really taking it well.
I went to buy a generator last night, just to have one. Sold out. And we're not even along the east coast. A worker at Costco told me that they got 15 in yesterday and they were gone in a blink. "One family bought three at one time for them and their family.''
My mom calls me yesterday morning to tell me about a new Web site someone at her work, Hurricane Alley. I look at it and get chills seeing these possible models of forecast paths:
This wind model also does not soothe me.
On Wednesday, the usual pre-storm e-mail pattern began, with me e-mailing friends in the path and friends around the country e-mailing me. They send well-wishes. I assure them we'll all be fine. I am not so sure.
I sent a note to my friend Eliot Kleinberg, author of "Black Cloud: The Great Hurricane of 1928," a book about the Okeechobee that devastated Florida.
Eliot is a reporter for The Palm Beach Post. I asked him how things were around the newsroom. He writes:
We're all pretty tense.
Most likely landfall is now looking like the Vero Beach area. If that happens Boca Raton, about 90 miles south, would get minimal hurricane force winds. Miami, about 150 miles south, would get almost almost nothing. But this damn storm has been all over the place on the forecasts so things could change quickly. The "cone of probability" is still anywhere from Miami to South Carolina.
I'm juggling hurricane coverage (I'm the lead reporter on hurricanes) and starting to prepare at home. Will probably starting bringing stuff in tonite and plan on putting up the shutters Thursday morning.
Even if it completely misses us, it just means the misery would be transferred to someone else. I have buddies all up the coast so I will not come out of this unscathed no matter what happens.
Please grab your editors by the shoulders and tell them that if the storm comes in as a Cat. 5 it could come straight across, level Brandon and slam downtown. You wouldn't get the surge you would have from a Charley, coming from the south, but could be a messy wind situation. Don't make the same mistake Orlando did. They were standing around the Orlando Sentinel newsroom watching Charley on TV when someone finally said, "Gee, it could come here!" By then winds were already 80 mph on International drive.
So I'm reading the paper over the weekend and I see this ad:
Wow. Legal, safe, easy to use... and fun?!?!?! And it has a buccaneer on the outside?
I mean, how perfect could it be? The Bucs fire cannons on their end zone pirate ship when they score or when they get inside the 20. I could do the same thing!
"I've gotta get me one of these,'' I told my wife. She rolled her eyes, knowing all resistance was futile.
So the other day at lunchtime, I asked Rommie if he wanted to go cannon shopping.
We hopped into the O-Mobile and headed to the middle of town.
"What a coincidence,'' he said. "I'm fun. I'm legal. I'm safe. And I'm easy to use.''
I declined to remind him that, unlike the cannon, he would not be that impressive of a launching mechanism for pyrotechnics.
We roll up on this place off Armenia. It's in a strip mall with a nail salon and a massage parlor. God knows what we're going to find, I'm thinking. I don't even know if we're in the right place.
Then I see a telltale indicator:
As Tony Bruno would say, "Beeyootiful, man.''
We walk inside and, sure enough, it's a fireworks store. But then we see a table in the back:
Is there anything more beautiful than a table full of cannons?
Don't answer that.
Anyway, we come to find out from Ralph, the store owner, that there are three sizes, small, medium and large. Small looks like a cigarette lighter, so I know I don't want that. Medium size is okay, but large is better.
But large is $139. That's the right size, but the wrong price tag.
"What's the difference between them?" Rommie asks.
"The bigger the cannon,'' Ralph says, "the bigger the ball of flame.''
Rommie's eyes opened to the size of dinner plates.
"Ball of flame,'' Rommie said in a low, satisfied monotone.
(Disclaimer: There is no reason that this photo shows the cannon aimed where it was. No inference to balls, flames or Rommie should be made by its inclusion. This photo is merely to display the dimensions of the cannon, nothing more. Stop reading into this, dammit!)
We reasoned that if you're going to pay $109 for a medium-size cannon, why not go $30 more and get what you want.
"I smell an impulse buy,'' I told Rommie.
So I asked Ralph how it worked.
You put 2 ounces of water in the rear chamber. Then you squeeze part of a tube of calcium carbide into a second chamber. Screw lids on both chambers and then hit an ignition switch and, boom.
So I bought one on the spot.
"Might not want to bring that into the office,'' Rommie said. "People might start to speculate that you're compensating for something.''
Later that night, I took it home and showed it to my wife. She just grinned and speculated that I might be the reason for a revision in the homeowner's association rules and regulations against explosive devices.
"Truth be told, I was going to surprise you with one,'' she said.
Did I marry well, or what?
I showed my son the next morning before school. He opened the box, asked what it was and then smiled when I told him.
"I love you, Dad,'' he said with a laugh.
They say that tornadoes are the "finger of god."
My friends, I'm here to tell you that Hurricane Frances could be all four tires of God's blinged-out Hummer.
Three days from landfall and that huge beeyach is already a Category 4. God knows what she'll become once she takes a huge, deep toke on the Gulf Stream and the warm, shallow waters of the Bahama shoal. Imagine a pre-TrimSpa Anna Nicole Smith loaded up on Percodan and Jack Daniels and waving a gun while shopping for crystal at the Baccarat store.
My prediction: She's going to make Charley look like a walk in the park.
Still, I have to say it's a beautiful storm. If you can divorce your emotions from the fact that it will ruin lives - not to mention end them prematurely - it's a spectacularly beautiful creature. No doubt about it.
But I'm having a little trouble absorbing that beauty when I see the forecast track:
Just a little jog to the west/southwest and I'd have an unwelcome weekend guest.
But I have to say I'm noticing a similarity between the infrared version of the storm and a certain logo:
My Muse was back at it in the workplace the other day. Give him a windbreaker and a cellphone and suddenly he transforms into... PHIL MORGAN, MAN OF ACTION!
With his trusty communications sidekick Das Boots Randolph on his hip, he springs to attention when getting a call.
Who could it be? Why, it's the White House!
"Why yes, Mr. President. I will make the world safe for democracy. Right after I finish my tuna melt."