Random AsidesReligion

When the Earth Tries to Kill Us

Hello everyone! God damn, it’s good to see you all again.

It looks like the Chicks have kept things hopping around here, so many of you may not even know that I was on a nature-induced hiatus from blogging. (By the way, for as long as I’ve been fascinated with the English language, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would string together the words “a nature-induced hiatus from blogging” and find it perfectly captures what I mean to say.) Hurricane Ike blew through Houston a little over a week ago, and I have had very few chances at finding a place with electricity, which has severely limited the amount of time I’ve been able to spend online.

So in addition to being way behind on what’s been happening around Skepchick, I just know that there have been all sorts of cool and freaky innovations in the Internet porn industry that I’ve missed out on.

Damn it!

But you can bet I’ll catch up soon enough . . . . On both fronts.

At any rate, I’ve been through half a dozen or so hurricanes in my life now — two of which were real ass-kickers (Alicia and Ike) — and there’s not much I can relate about the experience that’s pleasant. Mostly what a hurricane brings to your neighborhood is a few hours of an atmospheric maelstrom followed by about two weeks of sweaty, miserable clean-up, where frustrations mount, patience wears thin, and fat guys really smell.

If you can’t come to see a strip of peppered beef jerky, an unsealed bottle of tepid water, and a good candle to read by as luxuries, a post-hurricane environment is probably not for you.

The common amenities we take for granted vanish quickly, and whatever playing field the various cultures and classes in the area exist on is indiscriminately leveled. The “deer in the headlights” look is plastered on the faces of the rich and the poor alike, as folks venture out to assess the damage immediately following the storm. And after two weeks of working to get back to normal, the “thousand yard stare” is likewise a shared mask.

Simply put, hurricanes and their aftermath are not fun.

But there are elements in these situations that can inspire, and there are certainly many things to learn.

Now, I would never recommend anyone seek out a storm and travel to where it’s going to hit on purpose. Many uninitiated folks have a strong curiosity to see one for themselves — an attitude that generally changes quickly when the dance really starts — but it’s just not a smart thing to do. Listen to those who’ve been there before, and stay the fuck at home.

However, if you find yourself in the path of one with no option but to stay, understand that what’s coming is a powerful force of nature.

And I don’t mean powerful in the summer afternoon thunderstorm sort of way. I don’t mean powerful in the 45mph gusts at the beach last summer sort of way. I don’t mean powerful in the flooded intersection at rush hour sort of way.

I mean powerful in the I’m nothing but a mote of dust that can be picked up and tossed to another time zone at any given moment sort of way. I mean powerful in a I just shit my pants because I am totally and utterly helpless against this strength sort of way. I mean powerful in the I might as well get wasted so I won’t feel it when a truck falls on me from out of the sky sort of way.

Understand that when Mother Nature tightens her iron fingers around your throat and fucks you in the ass with a barbed wire dildo, that’s just foreplay. She’s just warming up. There are accoutrements in her secret cabinet that you’ve never dreamed of. It’s going to be a long, hard road before you can enjoy a cigarette in the afterglow of an encounter with her.

But you know what? That understanding is very humbling. It’s enough to make a human being realize that he or she is nothing but a small part of something much bigger and stronger. Yes, it is terrifying. But it’s inspiring at the same time.

I feel it in smaller measures when I’m out in the ocean surfing, but a big storm really intensifies it. If we define spirituality as the internal manifestation of awe and wonder peppered with the excitement and thrill of the unknown, it is in a very real sense a spiritual thing.

And when the storm blows through and levels the playing field for the survivors, there is more awe and wonder to be found in the actions and behavior of our fellow man.

Despite the frustrations and tensions and stinky people (okay, I admit it, everyone stinks), a sense of fellowship blossoms in the community with every act of kindness and selflessness, and it speaks directly to the ideals any sane person has ever formulated for his species. The word “stranger” has no meaning, as people of all races and religions band together for tasks menial and monumental. In situations like this, everyone is crippled to some extent, but even the most crippled are willing to give what they have, even if it is merely to provide another human being comfort for just a little while.

And it’s this aspect of a hurricane that may be even more amazing than the power of the storm itself. The storm is external to us. It hits us from the outside, and then moves on. The community, on the other hand, the camaraderie, the sacrifices we make for each other in the wake of it all come from us, and we see the potential for those things to stay and become a more prevalent part of the collective. We realize that, hey, maybe we really can go through life without so much bitterness and disdain toward one another simply because we’re different.

We know we can do it. The teamwork and neighborly cheer in the aftermath of a big storm or other binding disaster is evidence that we’re capable of behaving the way we all believe we should.

Maybe someday that will continue even after the hard times have past.

In the meantime, I am still without electricity at my house, though it’s forecast to be restored in a day or two. But I’m back at work, and that’s good news, if only because I can now play with you all throughout the day again.

And I gotta tell you. It feels good to be back.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. I’ve heard very little about it up here in Boston, at least. There was some hubbub in the lead-up, but nobody’s talking about the aftermath, really. I’ve seen some pictures of Galveston post-Ike, but that’s only because LJ friends sought them out and posted them.

  2. @Joshua:

    Hmm . . . . I had no idea.

    I guess since all evacuations, government agencies, first responders, and community organizations worked so efficiently, there was not enough morbidity to report on. There was not another New Orleans to broadcast to the world, so maybe the media just didn’t bother.

  3. Make sense, I s’pose. Still, I remember Andrew being quite heavily covered even though, while extremely damaging in terms of property, the death toll wasn’t on the scale of Katrina.

  4. Metaphorical sphincter lacerations aside, glad you’re OK Sam!

    On a more important note…, how’d the golf courses hold up???

  5. Glad you hear you’re pulling through. We got remnants of the storm here in Ohio, and some people lost electricity for days – but I know it’s nothing compared to what you and those around you went through.

    As for the media, I think if they didn’t have politics to get all worked up over, they’d give the situation a lot more attention. Very inconsiderate of Ike to strike at such an inopportune time in election season.

  6. Hey! Welcome back! So happy to see your sweet ass back in play at Skepchick!

    Ok, seriously… glad you’re alive and healthy and less smelly than a week ago. We really did miss and worry about you.

    Next time, get the hell out of town, would you?

  7. Always glad to see when cool people make it through the rough patches. Hope you at least got an awesome story or two out of the storm. I know I did.

  8. Glad you’re good,

    It’s odd that two, out of three, of my favorite, male, skeptical, bloggers live in Texas.

    The other Texan is in Galveston (cue Glen Campbell song here…) and he’s recovering as well.

    Good news all around.

    Keep postin’,


  9. @JRice:
    Wait, there not reporting on the aftermath?! The French news is reporting on the aftermath for christsakes! Admittedly this involves a lot of pointing out what an incompetent jackass the President is, but still. How am I getting better coverage than someone than someone in Boston?

  10. I gotta tell you, Sam. I almost never read your posts here on Skepchick. They’re just so damn long. Maybe I’m out of the ordinary here, but thats just the way I’m wired. Today, I read your first five paragraphs (given, a couple of those are only a few words long), and still had no idea what it was you were going to be talking about, so I moved on to the next post in my reader. Nothing personal.

  11. @Zambiglione: I live in Texas and am seeing very little coverage. We are basically being told that things were bad. A few people died and now recovery is underway.

  12. @Plittle:

    No worries. I almost never read your comments either. Nothing personal.


    Well, aside from the destruction on Galveston Island, I’m guessing there is just very little that non-local media outlets find newsworthy. The recovery efforts have had minor glitches, but for the most part have run very smoothly. The first responders performed well. Local government agencies performed and are performing well. The various assistance-based orgs like Red Cross and Salvation Army performed and are performing well. Even FEMA has been on top of its game. It’s just not headline worthy unless there is incompetence, misery, and suffering.

    Plus, as a couple folks have pointed out, there are other pressing news stories to keep the media occupied. The presidential race. The crashing economy. Ted Nugent protecting Paul Mcartney from terrorists. You know, the important stuff.

    Truth be told, I’m kinda glad the media is not around. Folks don’t need any bad spin in a hurricane recovery. It helps no one.

  13. Folks, you’re better off at the BBC news, the UK Independent, the Guardian Unlimited or some of the other foreign news outlet when it comes to reporting of things that the US doesn’t want covered. Their coverage is far better and more honest.

  14. Boy do I feel your pain! I live in New Orleans and I’ve only just now, just right NOW, been reconnected to the internet, and this is from Gustav!

    (Are you not all honored that Skepchick is the first site I visited after weeks without internet? :))

  15. Sam Ogden: I gotta tell ya, the image of Ted Nugent protecting Paul McCartney from terrorists has to be the most intriguing that I have ever had since visiting (albeit infrequently) this blog.

  16. @Sam Ogden:
    I think Ted is a big fan of the Beatles (covered a song on ‘State of Shock’, I think) … But I think that given his views on hunting, if he’s gonna do it, he should be required to use a bow and arrow.

  17. @Rystefn: I know! He’s probably so much better than the terrorists with guns that he should level the playing field a bit by having to use a bow … But the arrows can have explosive tips.

  18. @TheSkepticalMale:

    Yeah, I knew he covered at least one Harrison tune. I was trying to recall if there were more. I guess he liked the guitar work.

    Oh, and as Rystefn said, he is a big bow hunter. I’ve even seen him shoot live, and he’s very accurate with it.

  19. @TheSkepticalMale:

    Now that would be something.

    No, I saw him perform quite a while ago, and he used to have a point in the show where he would hang a guitar on stage, and fire a flaming arrow at it. The shot always purposely would fly safely backstage and a stage hand would simultaneously ignite the guitar with I assume a filament switch or something. Well, at this particular show, the arrow flew safely away, but the switch didn’t ignite the guitar, and the audience boo-ed. So Ted, got another arrow, and pegged the guitar dead center, and then kicked the shit out of the guitar (and probably the stagehand afterward).

    The arrow didn’t stick into the guitar or anything like that, as I assume live-pointed arrows are illegal in such settings, but he nailed it.

  20. @Sam Ogden: And they arrested Jim Morrison on-stage for doing what? Go figure … Saw the Nuge in ’85, performing in loin-cloth, of course … By the way, I think we are violating some law of nature by discussing Ted Nugent on a blog called “skepchick.”

  21. @TheSkepticalMale:

    I saw that ’85 loin cloth tour show as well. I’m not a huge Nugent fan, but he was forever popping up at festival shows with other bands that I did want to see.

    And you may be right. Perhaps we should change the subject.

  22. Seeing as you’ve been bereft of internet porn, might I introduce you to my two lady friends and the cup full of soft serve they so enthusiastically enjoy?

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