I got an e-mail from Ray: “Repita lo que dijo así que estoy seguro te he oído correctamente. Que condujo un coche de alquiler durante 4 horas en un área inundada el día después de un huracán a comer una hamburguesa en un restaurante famoso? Has invitado a una chica para que lo acompañe y se excusó? Chica inteligente. ¿Tú? No tanto. Ha tomado imágenes de los caminos inundados y un árbol caído. ¿Yo tengo razón? Estas son mis preguntas. 1) ¿Por qué sigue vivo? 2) ¿Por qué no sigue indicio de la chica y se quede en casa? 3) ¿Cómo se puede ser tan increíblemente estúpida? Yo sólo debería matarte ahora y salvar a todos la agonía. ¡Oh Dios mío! ¡Increíble!”
My 57th birthday was yesterday as I type this. I made plans to drive to Kinston, NC, where there are two restaurants owned by Vivian Howard and her husband. I’ve made big noise about eating a Butter Bean burger at Vivian’s, “The Boiler Room”. I invited el gatito lindo to come along. El gatito lindo is smarter than me. She apologized for bailing on me, “Lo siento rescatados en usted.” She got to experience my escapade through the lens of my Facebook post. Now, by itself, traveling with un lindo gatito to a restaurant owned by a celebrity chef isn’t a horrid idea, kind of. But, there is more.
La vida se ha abordado el pequeño gatito algunos golpes al cuerpo que son milagrosa por esta razón: ella sobrevivió. Aún así, lindo gatito duele de esos golpes. Esto significa que lindo gatito es un poco salvaje y sospechoso de los hombres. Incluso una oferta de alimentos no puede superar la preocupación de que la celebración de la comida le hará daño.
The week before I planned this road trip Hurricane Matthew was ambling its way up the Eastern Seaboard. It stopped in South Beach, Florida for a bit after blowing down large portions of Cuba and Haiti. On Friday and Saturday it was strolling up the Carolina Coast and making things very bad. By Sunday it had weakened to a post-tropical storm and gone back east into the ocean. Disasters are not over once the sun comes out. Hurricanes cause downed trees, wind-blown debris, downed power lines and flooding.
I stayed in Saturday and listened to news reports of the Hurricane. From the comfort of my home in Richmond, VA it sounded like the Carolinas had taken a hard hit. Kinston, NC was on the western edge of the worst damage. Still, I remember the Loma Prieta earthquake and the news reporting in the early hours of the aftermath. The orgasmic hyperventilation of the press was a sight to see. They wanted epic, Hollywood disaster stories and they got one apartment building that caught fire in San Francisco. Oh, and the Cypress Freeway, which kept them coming for weeks. Most of the rest of the damage wasn’t visual and so didn’t make the news.
My takeaway from living through the Loma Prieta quake is that there is a tomorrow. Sure, all these disasters bring death and destruction. Rome is there, different, but there. This doesn’t help me decide not to drive into places the day after a hurricane. I figure I’ll see damage but not wholesale destruction. I saw flooding and one downed tree. My purpose was to make it to the restaurant I’d planned on eating at. I had a mission and it wasn’t pictures of damage.
I left on Sunday morning right about when I should be sitting down for Sunday School. I missed, “Is Jesus Really God?” That’s one of those questions we decide on early and there isn’t much that can be said to sway someone. It’s not a question I want to get into in this post. The drive down was pleasant enough. I passed a half-dozen power company service trucks on the way and wasn’t too worried when there were temporary signs saying 1-95S was closed at exit 101 because of flooding.
Once over the NC line and at about exit 136 or so Google Maps alarmed and said there was a faster route that got me to Kinston in spite of the closed Interstate. Ok. So . . . detour. I had a pleasant half-hour on a county road that ended in a flooded road. Well . . . I hunted a bit more to find a non-flooded road and found a downed tree. Most people would get the hint from God and go home. Not I.
I figured out that I could find NC state highway 264, drive east a while, then turn south once I was past the part of Lenoir County that was flooded by the Nuese River. Did that, and crossed over the Nuese, passing a park where a kiddie-train’s tracks were under water. It was a short drive past the SS Nuese II and a right turn to the alley where the restaurant entrance was. I had arrived. I was nearly alone. Very few cars were on the streets. There were no pedestrians. The power was out. All the stores were closed. Sensible, since yesterday Kinston was hit by Hurricane Matthew. I was hungry.
No Butter Bean burger for me this trip. The nearest McDonald’s was an hour east on Highway 70. New plan? Shop at an Outlet Mall near the McDonald’s. El Gatito Lindo was silent. I was becoming a ghost to her. El pequeño gatito lindo es inteligente. Ella disfrutaría de este cómodo en casa con una taza de té de manzanilla envuelto en una túnica fleese seranaded por españoles telenovelas idioma de su madre. The Outlet Mall was still in the area where Matthew had done its worst. The power was out and the mall was closed. Shopping? Not.
The drive home was uneventful. Like with my experience during the Loma Prieta quake it was the hours after as I drove home that were more frightening than being there/driving down. What was scary was listening to WTKK on the way back and the reports of flooding and damage. Someone important was saying that the event wasn’t over. There was still a lot of water upstream that hadn’t emptied into the Atlantic. That water would flood downstream areas for the next week. My soundscape as I drove home was of all the damage I didn’t see. My anxiety increased as I realized I was lucky things were not worse for me.
I wanted a story out of a long day on the road with el gatito lindo. I know the story I wanted. It isn’t the story I got.