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Hurricanes (Odd Socks #4)
Gorgeous formations to weather nerds, destructive forces of nature to others, memories of surviving one in Cuba, and other stuff
Welcome to Odd Socks Issue #4!
In these newsletter issues, I write about stuff that interests me, puts a smile on my face, or could use some clarity amidst the noise. Each issue has two original articles and four bonus sections. I hope you enjoy reading it!
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It’s the season for these marvelous weather wonders, a humbling time reminding us how small and inconsequential we are in Mother Nature’s eyes. And, in recent years, how shifting climate change is birthing ever bigger and angrier storms.
In 1963, when I was 10, my father received Navy orders to transfer to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There we live in naval base housing for the next two years. Wonderful memories of my 10-year-old self living in a tropical island world are still clear these decades later. Lucky to be that age during an era when parents let kids wander to play with friends guided by two simple rules: “Be safe and be home by dinner.”
Not all there was idyllic, since in the middle of the Caribbean Sea there were hurricanes that would visit uninvited now and then. We lived through two such storms, but most notably Hurricane Flora. For decades following, she claimed the top spot as the deadliest recorded Atlantic hurricane re: destruction and deaths.
The first hurricane we experienced was a light side swipe. Still, since we lived in officer’s quarters (much nicer, but not hurricane proof), evacuations ensued and we spent the night in the school gymnasium. Good times for a kid playing games with others, loving the camping-out vibe, eating MREs (meals ready to eat), etc. While I had fun in the shelter, I imagine my parents used different words while worrying about the house and our things.
On October 4, 1963, the monster Cat 4 Hurricane Flora came ashore, the eye’s landfall close to the base. For that one, my mom, older brother, and I went to sheltered housing at my dad’s senior Chief’s home, a reinforced, hurricane-proof house. Dad, as with the earlier hurricane, had to work at the Radio-TV facility he managed as the base’s Public Relations officer reporting to the base Admiral.
I remember having fun playing at the Chief’s house, since he had kids my age. The storm raged outside while we played games and laughed. I expect the two moms there probably drank a bit to calm their nerves, but the house was solid and this wasn’t its first hurricane.
The memorable moment for me, etched in my memory as though I’m still there, was when the eye of the hurricane moved in over us. The violent rains and winds suddenly ceased, as though the gods flipped a switch, turning on the stark silence amid the chaos. Happy for a chance for some quiet, the moms pushed us antsy kids outside to run off some energy, even if only for 20 minutes.
As we played outside, the time came to go back inside. I stood transfixed, eyes on the hills in the distance. I watched as the wall of anger moved slowly down the slope, ravaging vegetation and ripping up trees. That slowly moving line of contrast between a serene blue sky and the violent, dark storm as the eye wall moved toward us was surreal. Mom and the others were admiring it as well, but soon one of the Moms yelled, “Back inside everyone, NOW!”
In a few hours, Hurricane Flora moved on from the base, returning sunshine and blue skies. The base survived without serious damage and no fatalities. Flora caused destruction and loss of life in small towns on islands and especially mainland Cuba where (see map above) she danced around a bit before leaving.
From those experiences way back, I still cringe when read or hear of people deciding to shelter in (or worse, hold a hurricane party). I’ve sheltered in homes living in Texas a few times when hurricanes crossed the state. By the time the storms reached us, they were just power-killing rain storms without destructive high winds. We’ve built extensively since we could in harm’s way of such storms, so why are we surprised when massive destruction happens as nature does her thing?
The Unwanted Hitchhiker
I don’t remember when I stopped the car to give a lift to the nondescript owner of that thumb. Stuck out in the classic, patient fashion, a silent language for “I need a ride.”
No sign, thus no clue where this hitchhiker wanted to go. That’s usually a red flag to avoid a rider. No destination in mind can mean trouble, and potential calamity avoided with a little more pressure on the gas pedal and eyes fixed ahead.
“Need a lift?” I said, while my inner security guard frantically waved a red flag in my cerebellum, hoping to twitch my ankle muscle to floor it. Wordlessly, with practiced effort, he opened the door, unslung his backpack, got in, and dropped the pack between his feet.
“Where you headed?” I said. He slunk into a comfy position, shrugged and stared ahead, then pointed down the road.
So I slammed the shifter in gear, tires screeching, as I pulled back on the highway and headed down the road.
That was long ago. With time, memory’s faded on when/where. Not that his company’s been uncomfortable, but would’ve been better if he’d long ago asked me to pull over and jumped out. Call him middle-age spread, beer belly, gutbucket, paunch, or whatever name assuages guilt. Once you let him “hitch” a ride, you’ve got a passenger for life.
No blame to my hitchhiker. Like vampires who can’t come in unless invited (or so goes the legend), I invited my spare tire in. The language of cookies, scones, tiramisu, and countless others silently translates to “hope onboard.” Always near/at the top of my to-do list, dropping my “hitch-belly” off at the next intersection is a work in progress. That’ll have to wait, of course, since this pumpkin scone with toasted pepitas on top needs a lift. Sigh.
If you love books and enjoy learning their history, how they're made, what part is called what odd Latin name, etc., then Keith Houston’s The Book is a must read/buy.
A hefty book at 400+ pages (5.75" x 8.5"), it lives up to its cover’s promising subtitle: “A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time.” I thought I knew a lot about books via decades of reader avidity and years as an online bookseller. Yet, The Book taught me history and technical bits I didn’t know, such as names of parts and features likely useful only for, say, a pub trivia quiz. Still, I recommend The Book as an entertaining and educational read for book lovers.
Since my new venture into Apple Music, I’ve tried to find new artists in the genres I like (mostly rock music but also new age and ambient). The adage about an old dog/new tricks is apt here, since I struggled to find much to like among new rock artists.
I did, however, discover Mammoth WVH. If you’re of a similar formative age during the classic rock eras, then you may agree there’s not much new that’s equal or better to our seasoned ears.
Wolfgang Van Halen fronts the group, and yes, he’s the brilliant, multi-instrument talented only son of Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli. Clearly genius music genes pass down. In the band’s early days and initial recordings, Wolfgang played every instrument and did all the vocals. If that’s not a merit badge of rock musician excellence, I don’t know what is. Later, to support touring and new albums, he added excellent musicians to fill out the band, while he plays lead guitar and sings the main vocals.
Anyway, they play hard-to-soft crusted original rock with well-written lyrics (IMHO). If you want a current rock artist to add your playlists of classic rock music, can’t go wrong with Mammoth WVH. Click the image below to watch a YouTube video for a taste.
Odd Socks is a free, alternate-Wednesdays newsletter written by Gary Varner. Please consider subscribing for fresh, emailed new releases. Check out past issues and single articles at https://www.garyvarner.com. Note that product links are affiliates, but don’t affect your purchase price if you click/buy (doing so helps support this site, so thanks if you do).