What Happend During IrenePosted: September 6, 2011
On Wednesday, when I left New York, Hurricane Irene was something to think about. It was only something to worry about if you listened closely to the news coming out of the television. But I try to avoid news coming out of the television–and so I headed happily up to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. (See previous post.)
On Friday, we drove from Glover, down Route 5, to St. Johnsbury, and then back up 91, stopping along the way to look in antique stores and stores that looked like antique stores. At one of them, I flirted with the idea of buying a beaded mood bracelet. It was not antique, it was something from the 90s, and it was only a dollar. They had a huge display of them, as if all the other glassware and trinkets were loss leaders and what they really were selling was the “health” and “power” and “calm” that these bracelets were to provide. But I have become a person who can’t wear jewelry. I’m too fidgety, too obsessive, too annoyed by the rattle. I wasn’t this person as a teenager–I adored a friendship bracelet that never came off, that someone made for you at summer camp, that was always wet with lake water, rotting slowly until it finally fell off. They were talismans. Eventually, everyone discovered plastic lanyards, but they were too indestructible and stiff to become anything other than what they were, and I hated them.
All this time, we’re thinking of New York–will it be swallowed up by wind and rain? Will our garden survive? Will the wonky tree behind us fall on our house? Will the ocean pour into the subway tunnels, filling them with fish? I imagined a shoal of minnows darting through the downtown side of the West 4th Street station.
Most of the antique stores in Vermont were really just junk stores with a few choice items set out front to lure in queers from New York, maybe old ladies from Boston. Imagine my disappointment when the only items of any perceived value–other than the “genuine” Budweiser motorcycle jacket for $75–was a collection, all 12, of Loony Tunes jelly jars. A steal at only $15. Does anyone really want these things? Nothing was really old, just oldish. I’m not sure why I was disappointed. I knew all this going in, really.
By Sunday morning, when it became clear that the worst of it had missed New York City, after the Facebook and Twitter feeds filled with the kind of snarky, self-centered complaining that New York is both loved and loathed for–by myself and the rest of the world–I drove us out to the Bread & Puppet Theater for the Sunday performance of the Man = Carrot Circus. They had downgraded the warnings; there would be slow rain, but no wind. It didn’t seem so bad. We’d been stuck in the house the day before, we were excited to be out in the world.
After the show, however, the roads began to wash away from underneath us as I drove. A lot of the roads in Vermont are dirt, and as the water began to rise, and rise again, the dirt washed away, leaving the packed gravel, and when that washed away, the ground underneath followed. There were whole sections of road that were simply missing. As if there had never been a road connecting this part to that part, five or ten yards away. We’d turn around, try another route home, and it had gotten worse. Like in a video game, the rain was pouring and the drawbridges were closing, fast.
At the Currier’s, the Glover general store, we called Howie & Stephan, who knew of a higher ground route to where we had gotten ourselves marooned, and promised to come get us. We found our way back to Bread & Puppet, where John Bell served us rum and tonic while we waited. They arrived, and we bounced our way back around Shadow Lake, which was gray and bloated, to their house on the ridge behind Parker Pond.
The drive home to New York took about 11.5 hours, which is five more than it should have. A section of the interstate was closed near Deerfield, Massachusetts, and they were funneling everyone off onto Route 5–the same 5 that we’d taken earlier? It looked like there was traffic ahead, and people were driving across the median of the freeway to get away from it, but I figured it wouldn’t be that bad, right? It took three hours to go six miles. But, eventually, we made it home. The cats were waiting patiently, as if they’d never known we were gone.