John’s Hurricane Adventures

Boy, am I glad that John made it through the hurricane safe and sound.  Because if he didn’t, XYZ would be dead.  And I wouldn’t have anything to post today (busy time of year at work…).

And it just so happens that today’s XYZ posting is so extraordinary that it’s going on the front page (read: I have nothing else to post today).  So here you go, folks: John’s adventures in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

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SURVIVOR MAN

Since many of us here in Houston were without supplies post Ike I figured that I too should feel how you felt and therefore eat how you, the reader possibly ate. I will therefore go one week without power and without visiting the store. In fact, I will go 2 days without power before I begin, to rot my food. I unplug the fridge Friday night.

Monday: I have power and AC. You don’t. I go to the breaker and kill the power. I am going to be in for a tough 5 days. For breakfast I am in for a hurricane treat. Rice Crispies and beer. The milk theoretically would have already been pretty gross and the beer, well that would go in the cooler and have been saved. At first I am ready to quit and just drink the beer and go back to sleep but after a few spoons I write a wonderous poem.

Continue reading John’s Hurricane Adventures

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The Friday After Ike

A week ago today, Richard and I were dragging lawn furniture and potted plants inside the house, grumbling about the work we were probably doing for nothing.

***

The previous night, I’d gone to Randall’s to stock up on supplies.  The store was as busy as it always is on an early Thursday evening; no more, no less.  The only hint of an impending hurricane was the depleted bread aisle.  Everything else, included bottled water and canned goods, was well-stocked.  People were friendly.  Cashiers were mild-mannered.

Driving to Chase to withdraw some cash, the roads were trafficky with rush hour commuters.  I began to notice that every service station I passed was empty; signs out front proclaimed them devoid of fuel.  Only two gas stations along the entire drive ended up having gas, and those two had lines of cars spiraling out for blocks.  Things seemed to be getting ever more ominous along the way.

At the bank, the normally quiet lobby was filled with a long queue of customers, anxiously fingering their withdrawal slips and eyeing the people in front of them, shooting them looks that said You’d better not get the last $500 at this bank.  Is this what a bank run looks like?  If so, it was surreally quiet and orderly.

After getting some cash out of the ATM, I got back on the road and headed home.  Traffic had picked up noticeably, as people were becoming ever more frantic in their searches for gasoline, cash and bottled water.  I wanted to tell them Just go to Randall’s!  They’re fully stocked!  But people seemed to be working themselves into a frenzy as the night approached.

I rolled the windows down in the car; a grim silence lay over the streets.  Cars moved agonizingly slowly.  No one played music on their stereos or honked their horns.  There wasn’t any talking or laughter to be heard from the parking lots or sidewalks.  People shot furtive glances at one another in gas lines.  Everyone’s expression read the same: Panic.  Fear.  Panic.  Fear.  You would have thought that zombies had just invaded or that a nuclear strike was imminent.  Is this what the end of the world looks like?  If so, it was surreally quiet and orderly.

At home that night, I cooked some salmon with wild rice and green beans.  Made a salad with some homemade vinaigrette.  Opened a bottle of wine.  I was determined to have a nice dinner despite the endless newscasts of impending doom, death and destruction.  Richard and I relaxed on the back porch, enjoying a famously beautiful Texas sunset as we ate and having a wonderful Thursday night.  After all, we had the day off tomorrow…

***

Friday was different.  Not many people dared to leave their house.  Most were glued to the televisions, where the National Hurricane Center had now declared that anyone remaining in Galveston (which was a good 40% of the population) would face certain death.  Around the house, I arranged and prepared things: filled giant tubs with water and stuck them into the freezer to make ice blocks; piled all our batteries in one area, all of our candles and matches in another; made a quick trip to Spec’s to replenish our wine and beer supply; took one last shower; filled the bathtub with water and filled two five-gallon tanks with even more; made sure any and all projectiles were removed from the backyard; went to check on my mother and returned with a nifty hand-cranked radio (yes, I’d forgotten to get a radio).  On the TV, news stations were showing the powerful tides in Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula, how they’d already covered much of the coast and were flooding houses far in advance of the actual storm itself.

Friday evening, I sat down to write a few last articles for Houstonist before we surely lost power.  Afterwards, Richard and I watched What Not To Wear on TLC and flipped back and forth between CNN during commercials.  We snickered at Anderson Cooper in the rain down in some tiny coastal town that he didn’t know how to pronounce.  We finally went to bed around 11pm, the rain having picked up considerably in our part of town by that point.

***

I woke up at 4:30am, the wind howling and shrieking outside.  The trees were being battered senseless outside our bedroom window.  The power was already gone.  I cranked our radio up and listened to KUHF as they described the massive fire that had taken Brennan’s and badly injured some of the employees who’d stayed behind to take care of the restaurant.  I found out later that those employees were the famous GM, Carl Walker, the sommelier and his little girl.  My mother called to check on me; conserving batteries on our phone, so we didn’t talk long.  I finally fell back asleep around 5:30am and woke up the next morning at 8am to a changed world.

***

Today, almost a week has passed.  We’re still without power at our house; our water came back on Wednesday night.  Our stove and water heater are both electric, so no hot water or cooking to be done yet.  We received a notice in the mailbox from our HOA, letting us know that because we’re on a strange grid, it could be another four to five weeks before we have power restored.

I was fortunate enough to get a generator from my father, but it can only be run for a short time each evening.  The food that was in our fridge is now sitting in garbage cans out by the curb.  Unfortunately, since Waste Management is running very far behind now and hasn’t picked up any garbage in a week, the entire neighborhood smells like the Fresh Kills landfill in Jersey.

On the positive side, I was finally able to get some gas in the car yesterday.  I found a service station with no lines (!), that accepted something other than cash (!!!) and where the gas was only $3.39 a gallon (!!!!!).  And even though I’ve been at work since Monday morning, at least we have power and internet here.

In even happier news, there was no damage to our house at all.  We had a lot of branches and limbs and some trees down.  And there was a very real threat of flooding, but we managed to contain that early on.  We’ve cleared all the debris and restored order to our house and yard; it looks now as if nothing happened.  In fact, as I was telling a friend yesterday, the majority of Houston is like that: cleaned up, yet eerily quiet.  Only around 45% of the city has power right now.

We’re very fortunate, much more so than the poor people down on the coast or even the folks up north in areas like The Woodlands, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

***

So…how has everyone else fared?

The Weekend In Food: Hurricane Ike Edition II

Sunday

6:00am:  Wide awake since 4:00am, nothing to do but listen to thunderstorms as they rumble through the area, soaking the ground and filling the bayous and streets once again.

6:30am:  Worried about flooding, Richard takes to the streets and starts clearing out storm drains again.  Unlike yesterday, no neighbors out and about this early to help.  He tells me to stay inside, out of the rain.  Sweet husband.

7:00am:  Supposed to be getting on the road right about now, headed to Waco to pick up a generator and supplies from my father.  Not going to happen in this weather.

7:30am:  Call best friend to let her know that road trip has been temporarily rained out.

8:45am:  Rain has subsided enough to finally leave the house.  Kiss Richard goodbye, feeling massively guilty about leaving him behind for the day.  He wants to stay and guard the house, though.  What can you do?  Plus, the dogs won’t be lonely.

8:50am:  Pick up best friend, who’s standing in line with her mother at Randall’s, waiting for the store to open.

9:00am:  Store opens as we’re pulling away.  Line of people stampedes anxiously into the store.

9:15am:  Jessie, the ultimate wandering bohemian soul, has already stuck a CD of Eurotrashy Polish dance music into the dash and is yammering away in Polish to a Czech friend on the phone, telling him to go over and help her mother clear the yard out today.  This will be a fun trip.

10:00am:  Driving towards Hempstead on 290.  The Lowe’s out here has opened up and the parking lot is jammed with cars.  A faint line of people snakes back and forth in front of the hardware store.

10:05am:  I tell Jessie, “I can’t wait to get to Hempstead and stop at McDonald’s, cause I’m really f***ing sick of applesauce.”

10:30am:  Stop at a McDonald’s somewhere near Navasota.  All attempts to eat at other fast food places result in FAIL due to massively long lines.

10:35am:  This is the nicest McDonald’s ever, and I’m not just saying that because I’m starving.  Why is there such a nice, modern, clean McDonald’s out here in BFE?  It has flat-screen televisions and comfy chairs, for God’s sake.  WTF?

10:40am:  After standing in line forever, irretrievably confuse the girl behind the counter when I order a vanilla iced coffee.  “We don’t have none of them.”  Really?  Then why does it say “vanilla iced coffee” right there on that sign?  And on those over there?  “That’s not what it says.”  Okay, I’m sure that I’m the one who’s misreading the signs.  I’m normally not this rude, but I’m way too tired for this crap.  Jessica is snickering loudly behind me.  Manager hears me, comes over, rings up my vanilla iced coffee and gives the poor counter girl a withering glare.

10:50am:  Back in the car with our hot Egg McMuffins and coffees.  Nothing has ever tasted so good in the history of the world.  Feeling incredibly guilty right now as I think of Richard alone in a dark house with only a hand-cranked radio and some dogs for company, and definitely not with any hot food or coffee.

11:30am:  Cracking up as we pass through Marlin, remembering the time that Jessie (with whom I went to college) and I tried to drive to College Station from Waco and her POS old Saab broke down in Marlin, about 1/8th of the way there.  We determined it was her radiator and hiked to a nearby pond (which was really just a tank for the cattle in the field to drink from) to get water for it.  Pond water.  For her radiator.  Needless to say, that also resulted in FAIL, and we had to hitchhike back to Marlin where we waited in a Dairy Queen with $0.15 between us for some friends to come and get us.

12:15pm:  Finally in Waco!  It is an absolutely gorgeous day here.

12:20pm:  Pull up in front of my old dorm and greet my dad.  Very, very happy to see him.

12:30pm:  Load up car with generator, gas cans, battery-powered TV and radio, food, drinks and FUDGE!  Hooray!!!  Daddy is AWESOME.

1:00pm:  Go to campus Starbucks to get a cup of coffee and catch up with dad before going home.  So incredible to be in a place with A/C, lights and televisions!  Side note: the Starbucks on campus shares space with a Chili’s, which — because it’s on the campus of the world’s largest Baptist university — does not serve alcohol.  Funny to think of Chili’s without margaritas.

1:30pm:  Daddy has to get back on the road to Dallas and we have to charge up our cell phones.  Call an old friend who’s in law school up here to see if we can use his place as a charging station.

1:40pm:  Get to Rett’s loft and plug in all our electronics, cell phones, camera batteries, computers, etc.  Time for brief hugs before we run out to Best Buy to buy a car charger for my cell phone.

2:00pm:  Driving through campus on our way back to Rett’s.  Baylor has changed so much since I graduated that it’s almost unrecognizable now.  Trying to be nostalgic, but simply find ourselves lost in all the new buildings and sad that our old university has been seemingly swallowed up.

2:15pm:  Back at Rett’s, he’s ordered us a pizza and we’re checking our email and calling our offices.  Munching on pepperoni pizza in a nice, air conditioned loft with the Saints game on TV; life would be good if we didn’t have to go back to Houston.

2:30pm:  Richard calls to see if we’re on the road home yet; feel even guiltier than before that I’m eating pizza while he’s sitting at home, alone.  He hears the football game on in the background and I can tell that he’s just miserable.  Jessie and I leave immediately.

3:15pm:  Stop in Hearne to get some gas for the car and the gas cans.  Line for Exxon is backed up for blocks, even this far north!  I fill the tank and gas cans while Jessie gets some Cokes inside.

3:30pm:  Back on the road, Jessie pulls out two Diet Dr Peppers and some jalapeno chips.  “The spiciness of the jalapeno chips really complements the Diet Dr Pepper and sort of enhances the sweetness,” she says idly.  She’s not joking.

5:00pm:  Been driving for ages.  Traffic is bad, as everyone is trying to come back to Houston.  Getting closer now…

5:30pm:  Finally arrive home after dropping Jessie off.  Richard is ecstatic to see me and to see the food.  We unload the car, which takes a good half hour.

6:00pm:  Inside our darkening house, trying to put all the food in easily accessible places.  It’s like a buffet of non-perishable food items.  We feel rich, extravagant, kingly, with our endless selection of granola bars and tuna pouches.

6:30pm:  Richard is trying to get the generator started before the night comes.  He’s a lovely person, you know, but not very mechanically inclined.

6:45pm:  I start the generator myself and revel in the stench of gasoline and motor oil covering my hands and feet as the lights flicker on inside our house.  I feel as if I should sprout a chest hair or two.

7:00pm:  We have an operational refrigerator!!!

8:00pm:  Jessie comes over to visit.  “I couldn’t remember where you lived” — typical, even though she’s been here a million times — “but then I just thought, I should go wherever there’s a huge generator and that’s probably where you are!”  Yep.

9:00pm:  Drinking wine and slightly cold beer, eating beef jerky and Quaker’s Chewy Granola Bars, watching the battery-powered TV and seeing some of our first images of post-Ike destruction.  Craziness.

10:00pm:  Finally turn the generator off and trek upstairs to bed.  Richard and I both have to go to work tomorrow morning, unlike any of our other friends, and we’ll have a long week ahead of us…

You, Too, Can Have Hot Food!

No, I don’t have power.  Or water.  But I am back at work today, as expected.  Also as expected, everyone here is wearing a suit and tie, acting as if nothing at all happened over the weekend.  I rebelled at this lack of concern for employees by wearing jeans, flip flops and a peasant shirt I got at a thrift store.  Take that, corporate America.  A-holes.

Anyway.  More about the weekend soon enough, but for now here is a list — courtesy of the Chronicle — of restaurants that are open today if you want a hot meal:

http://blogs.chron.com/closings/openings/

Enjoy!

P.S.  Let us not talk about Brennan’s yet.  It is too sad.  😦