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Wayback Machine: Hurricane Bob

With Hurricane Sandy currently bearing down on the eastern seaboard, I thought I’d write about my memories of the last hurricane I experienced: Hurricane Bob in 1991.

A little trip in the WABAC Machine:

The summer of 1991 landed between college and graduate school for me. I’d spent June and part of July in New Orleans on a research assistantship at my alma mater, Tulane University, from which I’d graduated in May. Then I came back home to Boston.

Since I was a kid, my parents had been going to Cape Cod for summer vacation. My parents were divorced by this time, so my Mom went down for one week and my Dad for the other week, with my sister Katy and I joining them for both weeks. On this trip, my Dad took the first week. When my Mom arrived on Saturday, August 17 for the second week, I think Hurricane Bob was already on the radar screens.

The catch for me was that my plan was to leave the Cape on Wednesday, August 21, driving up to gather my things and stay with my Dad before driving to grad school at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. But as the week wore on, Bob was looking like a very serious hurricane, and it wasn’t at all clear that I’d be able to leave on time.

The records say that Bob made landfall in Rhode Island around 2 pm EDT on Monday, August 19, and apparently blasted its way across Rhode Island and Massachusetts during the course of the afternoon. The Wikipedia entry on Bob says that, “In Massachusetts, thousands of residents evacuated Cape Cod, leading to an 11 mi backup on the Sagamore Bridge.” We didn’t leave, but stayed in our little cottage.

Halfway out the Cape as we were, the winds were not too bad. I don’t recall thinking we were ever in any real danger, although the power got knocked out pretty early. Our cottage is located near a beach which is one of the few places where you can see the sun set over the water on the east coast, which also meant we were looking towards Boston from the shore. Sometime in the afternoon the winds and rain died down – I think it was more-or-less the (very large) eye of the storm – and I walked down to the beach and saw the very dark clouds drifting northwards in the vicinity of Boston.

We had loaded up on candles, but went to bed early as it was difficult to get much reading (or anything else) done in the pitch dark, even by candlelight.

Tuesday morning we got up. The power was still out, but the storm was over and the sun was out. Walking down to the main road it was easy to see why things hadn’t changed: Dozens of huge tree limbs had fallen on the road, making it impassable to cars. We were stuck there. I don’t remember what we did during the day – I think we’d stocked up on food, and we probably just hung out and read, and walked down to the beach – but it sure didn’t look like I’d be leaving the next morning.

I was wrong: By the next morning, trucks had come through and carted away, or carved up and pushed to the side of the road, every branch on the main road. I think I took my car out and drove around a bit and decided that everything looked safe to drive. So I packed up my car and left.

And sure enough, the drive home was perfectly fine. I was able to make it home, gather up all my things, spend a little time with Dad (I think power was restored around Boston much more quickly), and head off to graduate school exactly as planned. (My various adventures in cross-country driving during college and grad school are a story for another time.)

Mom told me that the power didn’t come on until late in the week, perhaps Friday, and they came home on Saturday, which made for a rather suboptimal vacation for them. I think they went to bed early, got up early, and drove around the Cape looking for things to do that didn’t require electricity.

Apparently this was the first storm during my lifetime to significantly alter the offshore landscape around Chatham Light – the area is significantly different today from when I was a kid. The area there continues to erode and it wouldn’t surprise me if they have to physically move the lighthouse in my lifetime.

I’ve always loved rainstorms, and this was one of the most memorable I’ve experienced. I’ll always remember the view from the beach in the storm’s lull, and my luck at being able to get off the Cape on schedule.

(I hope everyone makes it through Sandy so well!)

Why “The Angels Take Manhattan” Doesn’t Work

“The Angels Take Manhattan” was the “mid-season finisher” of season seven of Doctor Who, and the final episode of the series for the Doctor’s companions Amy and Rory. But despite having the fan-favorite villains the Weeping Angels, I don’t think the episode was successful, either internally or as a send-off for the pair. For two reasons:

  1. The Angels have passed their expiration date as villains, and
  2. The story fails in its emotional resonance.

My spoilery explanations after the cut:

Read on, Macduff! »

Ginger Beer

My friend Rob introduced me to ginger beer back in junior high or high school. I was already a fan of ginger ale, but was won over by the stronger flavor and sharp bite of ginger beer.

A few weeks ago we visited our friends Chad and Camille, and they had some ginger beer in their fridge. They were heading off on vacation a couple of days later, so I helped them polish off their supply. Since then, Debbi has gone to BevMo and picked me up several different brands:

  • Bundaberg is what Chad & Camille had on hand. It’s not as sharp as others, and is sweeter, but it’s still quite good.
  • Cock & Bull is one Debbi picked up just for the name, but it’s probably my favorite, being the sharpest of the three I’ve tried.
  • Fentiman’s is somewhere in the middle, and I didn’t like it as much as the other two.

So I’ve picked up a few 4-packs of the first two and have been enjoying them thoroughly. They’re a bit pricey, and I should probably move on to something a bit less sugar-laden, but I’m enjoying them while I can.

Mystery Paperbacks

Wrapping up my set of items I came back with from my east coast trips, there are these (click for larger images):

I decided only to take my Mom’s paperback mysteries; I don’t really have space for the hardcovers. Who knows when or if we’ll get around to reading these, but if I ever get the urge to read some Agatha Christie or Ngaio Marsh, then I’m all set.

Brick Doorstops

More swag from my trips back east this summer: For most of my life we’ve had a couple of bricks we used as doorstops, which lived inside nicely crocheted (?) sleeves. (Update: A friend says in the comments that it’s needlepoint.) I guess I’ve only taken cursory notice of these in the past, but during my August trip I decided I quite liked them, and Mom said I could take them back with me.

She said that the sleeves were actually crafted by her mother, which means they’re at least 35 years old, maybe older. The bottoms are rather worn, but otherwise they’re in pretty good shape, if a bit dusty. The sleeves don’t open so we’d have to taken them apart in order to really clean them or replace the bottoms, so I doubt we’ll do that anytime soon. But they don’t really need it, as they’re now keeping doors open in our upstairs, which is carpeted, so they won’t be sliding around much.

Here they are, first one with a frog motif (click for larger images):

And one with a mouse motif:

I’m kind of curious as to what the bricks inside look like, as I know many older bricks have stamps on them (who made them, what year, etc.). But not curious enough to open them up to see. Well, not for a few decades, anyway.

Royal Copenhagen Faience Mugs

The next set of items I brought back from my east coast trips are ten small faience mugs, manufactured by Royal Copenhagen. As far as I can tell, the company has released a new mug by a different designer each year starting in 1967, and I came back with 10 of the 12 mugs from the years 1967 to 1978.

I have no idea what we’ll use these for, since they are quite small (and we don’t really drink straight espresso). Here’s the 1967 mug with my hand to give an idea of its size:

Despite that, I really liked the designs – especially the later ones – and decided to take them. I think my sister thought I was a bit odd for getting attached to them.

The 1967 one seems not to be in good shape – you can see some discoloration in the picture above – and 1972 (below) shows a similar problem. But all of these have just been sitting in a simple built-in china cabinet for decades, so I’m not surprised they’re not pristine.

Here are the other nine (click for larger images):



As you can see, I’m missing 1970 and 1974. I wonder whether Mom didn’t buy those, or if they got broken or misplaced somewhere along the way. Honestly I never paid much attention to her china cabinet (I’m sure when I was a kid she told me to stay away from it), so I don’t know. Mom doesn’t seem to know either.

Here’s what’s stamped on the bottom of them:

It looks like the earlier mugs, at least, were limited editions. The later ones I can’t tell.

I imagine we’ll find some nice way to display them at some point. And maybe I’ll try to fill in the two years I’m missing at some point. (I poked around and they don’t seem to be very expensive.) I guess if I got really ambitious I could “collect ’em all” (they’re still making them) and get a case to display them. But I don’t really need something else to collect. 🙂

Crystal Glasses

My trips back east this summer have yielded a little material return: I came back with a few neat things from Mom’s house which I wanted to document.

The first thing I shipped back was a set of Waterford crystal wine glasses. I was really worried about getting these shipped intact to California, but I gotta say that FedEx did a great job of individually wrapping them in bubble wrap, then laying them in a box of wadded brown paper, and they made it (via ground shipping!) without a scratch.

I haven’t been able to identify the pattern (though I haven’t tried that hard – it’s not like it will change my enjoyment of them), but they sure look nice. They have a nice heft to them, too.

APE 2012

Saturday I headed up to San Francisco for this year’s Alternative Press Expo. This is my third year going, and I was a little disappointed this year compared to the last two years.

As a lead-in, take a look at Travis Hanson’s review of the show from an artist’s perspective. It was enlightening for me to read: APE not being a show where you’re likely to make a lot of money for a vendor (maybe not even break even if you’re flying in), the wide variety of skill levels and artists who aren’t sure whether they’re doing this as a hobby or a career.

As an attendee, I mainly go to discover new graphic novels to read. Consequently there are a few vendors who don’t interest me but I imagine would interest others (a few who sell art supplies, a few who are basically retailing independent/alternative comics and graphic novels, and the “multimedia” ones who are selling dolls or crafts or statues or whatever). But there are a large number of artists who seem to be only selling prints, or published sketchbooks, or posters. I guess a bunch of these artists probably work in animation or graphic design and like to do fantasy art on the side, and want to make a little money off it, or get their name out there, or network, or whatever, but I mostly admire these artists’ work as I walk past and figure that if they decide to get into the graphic storytelling business then I might be interested, but putting out a few (to my mind) random items doesn’t really pique my interest. I’d rather you had a story to tell!

Now, my feeling is that APE is supposed to be highly inclusive of all sorts of artists, but the ones who are just selling prints or portfolios are I suspect the ones who are treating their art as more of a hobby than a career.

Which brings me to my main point which is that it seemed like there were a lot more of that kind of artist at APE this year than in the last 2 years, and fewer artists who were selling graphic novels. Fewer people who had stories they were telling.

(Aside: Trav, whose post I linked to above, does both. I’ve bought a few of his prints – which really stand out above most other artists – and I pledged to his most recent Kickstarter for the next volume of his fantasy series The Bean.)

There seemed like fewer webcomics artists present this year, and they’ve been a big source of material I’ve bought the last two years. And a few ones who were there didn’t seem to have any new volumes compared to last year. Which is fair enough, but it did mean I didn’t buy anything from them. (I did see the booth for The Adventures of the 19XX, but since I also pledged to his Kickstarter, I didn’t buy anything from him.)

So I spent about 3 hours walking around, and a little more taking a break and looking through some of what I did buy. Here’s what I did pick up:

  • A couple of books from Top Shelf: Wizzywig by Ed Piskor, and Any Empire by Nate Powell. My friend BC, whom I ran into (along with our friends Trish and Jared) strongly recommended I buy Wizzywig, so I picked it up and thumbed through other stuff at the Top Shelf booth.
  • The Martian Confederacy volumes 1 and 2, by Jason McNamera and Paige Braddock. I’m not sure why I didn’t buy this before, as I like science fiction and I’ve enjoyed Braddock’s Jane’s World series.
  • The first volume of The Dreamer, by Lora Innes, a webcomic that I think is in my “to catch up on” folder, about a woman in the present day who has vivid dreams of being in the Revolutionary War. I had a short discussion with the artist about this folder, and ended up recommending that she try NetNewsWire as an RSS reader now that Safari on the Mac no longer supports RSS reading (as I wrote at some length here).
  • The Legend of Bold Riley, by Leia Weathington and a host of artists, about (it seems) a lesbian princess adventurer.

Not a really big haul, which makes me think that perhaps I should take a year off from APE next year and come back in 2014 when there will have been more turnover. I dunno. On the other hand webcomics creators don’t seem to show up every year, so who will I miss next year if I don’t attend? Balanced against that is the time spent on the trip up to San Francisco, which knocks out most of the day.

I had a pretty good time, but I suspect that first year will be the high-water mark for me in finding a whole bunch of new material to read.

All Together Now

I’m back from another trip east on family business. Like the last two I’m very glad to be home. This trip was only a week, though, and my sister Katy and her boyfriend came up for part of it, too, which made it an easier trip in many ways. This is the first time in a number of years that my whole family has been in the area at once.

I took the red-eye flight Tuesday night last week and was my usual zombie self for much of the day, although I did catch a short nap in the morning. I didn’t have anything I needed to do when I hit the ground, which was a nice change.

Our main goals for this trip were to make sure Mom had everything out of her house that she needed (or really wanted), and to sell her car, and we got both of those done. We got a lot of other stuff done as well, and feel like we can see light at the end of the tunnel. The question is when either of us will have time to go back to finish things off.

Meeting Katy’s boyfriend Andrew was neat too – he’s a lot of fun. His daughter’s a freshman in college in the area so we were able to meet her as well. A cheerful and funny guy.

After the two of them left on Sunday, I drove down to visit Debbi’s family again. Her sister Dianne was celebrating her birthday, so I joined them for dinner and pie for that. And we watched a bunch of football. Always fun to see them. This was the biggest chunk of downtime I had during the trip, although unlike my last trip not every night was spent sifting through Mom’s papers to find new things I needed to handle, so it was a little less hectic.

The weather during my visit went from warm and sunny to cold and drizzly during the course of the week. I enjoyed the rain and wished we’d gotten a little more. It turns out I missed a genuine thunderstorm back home the night before I left, which makes me sad.

The trip was a lot harder once Katy and Andrew left, as I continued cleaning the house, and spent a bunch of time with Mom making phone calls to change addresses and cancel things like her car insurance. This was additionally complicated by Monday being Columbus Day, which meant many things (especially government agencies) were closed. I didn’t get as many calls mode as I’d hoped to, but I think I got the important ones done.

I did eat a lot of good food while there, as Dad and I went out to eat most nights. Haven’t weighed myself yet since I got back, but I lost weight on each of my two previous trips, I think because I didn’t snack much. I had lunch with Mom several times, too. She’s still very happy in her new apartment, which helps make a lot of this easier. I can’t imagine what it would be like if she wasn’t happy there.

By Wednesday I was truly ready to come home. Of course now I worry about the things I didn’t get to while I was there, but that list is slowly getting smaller.

I did read two novels on this trip – almost entirely on the plane trips. The flights themselves were fine, and flying out of San Jose rather than San Francisco is definitely the way to go. Certainly it makes for more reliable departure and arrival times, as SFO often gets fogged in.

Debbi picked me up at the airport and we had a quick dinner and I did the basics of unpacking before we fell into bed.

Hopefully this will be the last trip back for a while, as the cross-country plane flights are getting to be a drag (and they’re pricy, too!).