Harvey is a done deal, more or less. Some people’s lives are still upended and a few others, just ended. I’m unclear on a lot of the details. It seems like it happened a world away and the only effect it had on me was at the checkout line at Safeway when I clicked “No thanks” when asked if I wanted to donate to the relief effort (thoughts and prayers are more economical).
Meanwhile, there is another hurricane that’s bigger than Harvey and barreling toward Florida. This one is called Irma. It’s my understanding that there is an alphabetical progression in a given year when it comes to naming these storms, so chances are slim we’ll have any hurricanes named Yolanda or Zeke. With global warming, that could change of course. We might have to start giving them last names as well. When Zachary Zimbalist smashes into the Gulf Coast, you’ll know it’s been a stormy year.
We don’t have hurricanes in California. We have earthquakes and fires instead. North Korean ICBMs may soon be added to that list shortly, but for now my home state is relatively safe.
So it is with idle and somewhat morbid interest that I pay attention to Irma’s path and where it may make landfall. I’m not exactly hoping for death and destruction and am certainly not wishing for anyone in particular to get killed, but I am content to sit and watch it all unfold. I cannot stop the hurricane nor can I bring myself to hate it. It’s nature. It kills people. That’s what nature does.
It does however give me feelings of nostalgia in an indirect way. In 1969, Hurricane Camille hit Mississippi and moved north as far as Virginia, leaving 259 dead destroying over 5,000 homes. I was just shy of my seventh birthday when it happened so it didn’t appear on my mental radar. It was some years later when I watched an educational film about the hurricane in school.
A Lady Called Camille was made by the US Dept. of Agriculture in 1971 and I saw it the first time in ’73 or ’74. Today I found it on YouTube and gave it another viewing.
The twangy Mississippi people seem as brain damaged as I recall, but now the filmmakers do as well. I could understand the foreboding music when the title appeared in the screen, but why did the word “Camille” have to be rendered in a Malibu Barbie font? Also, there was some sexism in the narration that would probably not fly today. When the hurricane unexpectedly altered course, the explanation was that Camille was “…like any lady, perfectly capable of changing her mind.” Yep, even if hurricane form, bitches be trippin’.
The 27-minute flick ended with those who lost their homes vowing to rebuild and then an American flag filled the screen because of course it did. None of that conjured up any memories from when I saw it in grade school.
What did resonate happened much earlier during the dramatic reenactment of telling residents they needed to evacuate. One person opens the door, beer in hand, and says “Welcome to the hurricane party.” We later are told that the Richelieu apartments, location of the hurricane party, was destroyed in the storm. Everyone died except for one person who floated out a third-floor window on a mattress.
It is a sad, cautionary tale. It also turns out to be complete bullshit. A google search established that. The building did collapse and some people died, but there was no party. The Richelieu was no den of sin, cardinal or otherwise. The folks inside had boarded up the windows and thought they would be safe. They were wrong.
The truth can be a disappointing thing. I remember how cool “Welcome to the hurricane party” sounded to me 40 some odd years ago. I was just a wee pup, but my budding festive nihilism could already appreciate the idea of a hurricane party. Years would pass, however, before I saw it as metaphor and adopted it as a way of life.