Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy Day Four: A Tale of Road Weary Travelers


When you’re safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.
 - Thornton Wilder

Today we tried going home. After lunch we packed the car and headed east to the land of sand, ocean, bay, and home. Sand throughout the island, and ocean and bay water standing in pools of water in streets, parking lots and yards. Empty homes yearning for their owners. I know this from videos and pictures posted online. I have yet to see all this with my own eyes.

We could not get home today.

We tried all possible entry points, bypassing the first road because we knew it was closed. The highway buckled and will be impassable until fixed.

We were turned away from the second thoroughfare. Barriers prevented cars from passing and police turned away everyone except essential personnel. We, apparently, are not essential.

The third road is the one usually taken. It, too, was barricaded and secured by several uniformed guards.

One road left. We had no hope of success, but tried anyway. The road is long, straight and flat. We were far from the island when the distant flashing lights alerted us to the fact we were foolish to try going further.

By this time it was late afternoon. We were not going home and did not want to turn around and drive three hours back to Harrisburg. It was time to get a room for the night.

We visited my mother-in-law at her assisted living facility. I used my computer and the facility’s wifi to surf for a hotel for the night. I called a nearby resort that I drive by all the time. The place had closed for a couple of days because of the storm but was reopening. They had a special post-storm rate. $79 for the night. I made a reservation.

We took my mother-in-law out for an early dinner and then drove to our shelter for the evening.

So here we are, ensconced in a small but very nice hotel room. It is warm, there is a large TV (much larger than ours at home), a large bathroom and comfortable bed.

The main reason we were not allowed on our island today is because the sewer system filled with salt water and is not pumping effectively. If everyone were allowed back the system would break down. Can we sign a pact not to flush!?

A neighbor who never left the island called and brought us up to date on our property. Our backyard, front yard and the entire island are a mess. Mulch and other lightweight yard debris floated and ended up everywhere. Water seeped into our garage and probably our laundry room, which is a couple of steps below the main level of the house. But we will have to wait until we actually see things with our own eyes to assess the damage.

We are weary travelers ready to go home.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy Day Three: A Waiting Game Now

No electricity and dinner by candlelight. 

We lost electricity for a while last night. We were surprised but happy when the lights came back on.

The worst of the storm is over and now the return to normal life begins. We are still in Harrisburg, but hope to return home tomorrow. Governor Christie strongly discouraged anyone from entering his state today. Residents and businesspeople attempting to get on our island were unceremoniously turned away.
The road and parking lot in front of a supermarket and other  stores.
Water inundating the road and front yard of a favorite restaurant. These pictures and others can be found on the following site:  http://imgur.com/a/Q8sOl. 
On our island home the ocean and bay receded. Left behind was mounds of sand, dead fish and other debris. Downed trees, wires, and assorted other stuff litter the streets. I have not actually seen any of this with my own eyes, but pictures posted on the Internet from the few hearty souls remaining on the island throughout the storm bear witness to the damage.

We spent much of today attempting to get information about our home. Our wonderful realtor remained on the island and called us from outside our house, which was still standing and looked dry. We are unsure about electrical and other systems, but are apparently very lucky.

No county in the state of New Jersey was unaffected by the storm. Many areas have been devastated. 2.4 million are without electricity. It will be days and weeks in some areas before service is restored.

But things are slowly getting back to business as usual. I can tell because once again political rhetoric rules the airwaves. I doubt anyone will miss the incessant political propaganda assaulting us from both political parties once the election is finally over.

Storms, elections, and tomorrow is Halloween. There are rumors Governor Christie is going to reschedule the holiday so kids will not be deprived of their yearly sugar high. I do not mind.

I am ready to spend an evening handing mini pieces of joy to costumed children. It will be fun seeing the kids, exhausted parents in tow, dashing around the neighborhood. After a couple of hours working the handout gig, I will wrap myself in a blanket, grab a hot drink and several pieces of decadence, a.k.a. chocolate, and relax. Maybe I will invite a couple of neighbors, weary from post-storm clean up, to join me. Life as usual. How wonderful.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Day Two: An Endless Day



The ignorance of blissful sleep!
The advantage of sleeping is that a lot of time passes and you do not know it. Tracking a storm predicted to pass directly in front of/around but hopefully not through our house makes for a very, very long day.

We evacuated to my sister’s in Harrisburg, PA, another city in Sandy’s path. So here we sit, eyes glued to the TV for as long as we have electricity.

I try to keep busy and not stare at the TV, watching the ocean relentlessly pounding the shoreline. This morning my sister and I went to a zumba class. Her gym was open until noon. We then stopped at Rite-Aid and picked up a few things before heading home. In the hour and a half from the time we left until we arrived home again, the rain worsened and the wind picked up.
Our island covered with water this morning.
As I write, the storm is 100 miles SE of Atlantic City, wickedly close to our home. A neighbor who refused to leave is our local contact. At 10:30 a.m. our block remained intact, but there were ominous signs of worse things to come. The bay and ocean waters merged and the entire area was covered with water, including our street, our small front yard and driveway. Somebody’s old TV, left outside on a porch or sidewalk, rested in our driveway.
A main street in Atlantic City this morning.
It is amazing how large an area Sandy impacts. From the Carolinas to New England and west through Pennsylvania and Ohio there are evacuations, disaster proclamations, and the likelihood of devastation, power outages and destruction. Political campaigns, the stock market, schools and everyday life for millions is disrupted.

The two worst storms over the past century striking our shore town occurred in 1932 and1962. Sandy is supposed to be worse than either previous storm.

My storm sentiments are similar to my feelings about the elections. I have heard too many speeches, TV commentators, debates, ads, articles and polls. Let’s vote, get it over with and move on.

And so it is with Sandy. Let’s get it over with and carry on.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sandy Day One: On the Road Again


There are good things and bad things about living at the shore. Life is good when the weather cooperates. Life can be a bit more challenging when disaster threatens. Nor’easter Sandy is slowly, relentlessly making its way straight for our southern Jersey shore. Predictions are the storm will break records and cause enormous destruction. We are right in its path.

Under mandatory evacuation orders, we are on the road heading west. The problem is: where do we go? We have friends and family graciously offering us shelter. Looking at the map of the storm’s track, however, we would have to travel a long way to avoid it. So we are driving away from the shore but not necessarily away from the storm.

We will keep in close touch with our neighbor across the street, a city employee, who is staying and will watch our house.

Saturday morning looked like our street hosted a block party. Neighbors commiserated with each other, discussing unpleasant scenarios and hoping for the best. Everyone was out moving stuff into his or her garage and house and packing cars, preparing for departure. One neighbor cut down branches of a large tree, hoping to prevent branches from falling on electric wires or onto his house.

We could have stayed, but that might prove foolish. If anything happened to one of us and we needed medical assistance, we would be on our own. We undoubtedly will lose electricity – we often do when it rains – but what worries us is the sea and bay water flooding the streets, meeting at our house, and unceremoniously inundating our home.

Our house, according to local lore, has never flooded. But there is always a first time. I have bizarre visions of the two of us – 60+ years old – scampering onto the roof, waiting for rescue. Realistically I do not think there is any way we could make it onto our roof. It seems pretty funny, but it would definitely not be fun if we actually had to attempt the feat.

We evacuated over a year ago during Irene. We were very lucky and avoided damage. This time forecasts are dire.

Fortunately and luckily and I cannot believe we actually did this, this past weekend we spent time cleaning our garage, throwing stuff away, putting away the kids’ summer toys, beach chairs and other paraphernalia. I even swept the garage floor. Then just a couple of days later we were filling the garage with our outside paraphernalia – table, chairs, potted plants, bird feeder, and other miscellaneous outdoor stuff.

Wednesday evening is trick or treat in our town. At least I have not yet stocked up. We get mobs of kids. I do not buy candy early because we would be tempted to eat it. My sister solved that problem by buying candy she does not like. But then what do you with the leftover candy?

We parked one car on an upper floor of a parking garage on our island, hoping for the best.

Our evacuation vehicle contains the following:
·      A cooler full of freezer and refrigerator food.
·      A couple of bags of fresh vegetables.
·      Two small suitcases, one for each of us with enough clothes for four or five days.
·      Coats, raincoats, umbrella and boots.
·      Hub’s essential work supplies. Working from home has its advantages. He can continue working wherever we are, although he already canceled a Tuesday business trip. No one in the Northeast will be flying anywhere.
·      My computer and a couple of books and magazines.
·      Several folders of records, including bills, insurance and house papers. I did not take any of these things last year, but since learned it is advisable to have information available when – and if – it is necessary to contact these companies.

We are trying to condition ourselves to the possibility of property loss. We just hope we have a place to live when returning home. If there is damage, the worst problem may be contacting insurance companies and getting everything fixed. With thousands (maybe millions) of others in the same situation it may take days, weeks and months to receive compensation and complete repairs.

 But I am getting ahead of things.  We are supposed to celebrate Thanksgiving at our house this year, and I am still planning on it.

One additional, unrelated note:

My son ran in the Javelin Jundred 100 Mile Endurance Run in Arizona Saturday. I know, it sounds crazy, and yes, he is. But he came in fourth, completing the race in under 17 hours. Congratulations Jason!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Looking Back and Why Are We Still Fighting For Women’s Rights?

March for Women's Suffrage October 23, 1915, New York City


“Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.” Grover Cleveland, 1905


On October 23, 1915, between 25,000 and 40,000 women, men and children marched up New York City's Fifth Avenue in support of women’s suffrage. The New York Times reported the parade included, “men and women of all ages, from veterans in their seventies to babies pushed along in go-carts.” The march was an effort to get New York voters to approve a state constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote in the state. An additional 8,000 people marched in Philadelphia.

The march was not an isolated event. Women leaders, led by Carrie Chapman Catt, organized the city and the state and created a well-organized, methodical campaign to win the right to vote. They formed the Women’s Suffrage party of Greater New York to further their cause. 

The first time the women's suffrage question was on the ballot the women lost. Two years later, however, New York State voters approved women’s right to vote (1917).

The October 1915 New York City march was one episode in a long line of events. By the time the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920 the fight for women’s right to vote had lasted 70 years.

A variety of different activities were organized in an attempt to garner attention, publicity and eventually votes for women’s suffrage. There was a Night of the Interurban Council Fires where throughout New York City's five boroughs there were bonfires, fireworks, balloons, speeches and music. There were neighborhood parades and torch light rallies. The party sponsored street festivals and dances and a night at Carnegie Hall featuring opera stars.

Congress approved the 19th Amendment in 1919. It then went to the states for ratification. Tennessee was the last state to vote. The amendment passed the legislature by just one vote. The story goes that a man by the name of Harry Burn was going to vote against women’s suffrage – until his mother sent him a telegram urging him to vote for the amendment. He did.

On August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified, guaranteeing women the right to vote. It sounds so simple. But the battle was long, uphill and courageously fought. I think about this part of our history because it reminds me of the harsh reality women face as individuals who (I believe) would have voted against women’s suffrage are in the forefront of an assault on women’s rights today.

“Our country might have been better off if it was still men voting…” Janis Lane, (a woman) Central Mississippi tea party candidate in response to a question on whether too many politicians are telling women what to do with their bodies. (officialssay.tumblr.com)

"When women got the right to vote is when it all went downhill. Because that's when votes started being cast with emotion, and, maternal instincts that government ought to reflect."
Rush Limbaugh, 

"I think that one of the greatest mistakes America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote. We should have never turned that over to women..." Jesse Lee Peterson, conservative preacher and regular on the Sean Hannity show