Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Finally going home

The fella went down last Thursday--to avoid the 10-mile long backup of people trying to get to the island on Wednesday. No electricity. No gas. No drinkable water--but flushable toilets.

I went down on Saturday with my sister and niece, so they could pick up her car. It was a totally gorgeous day. The surf was almost non-existent. We got a mini-tour of the city--mostly just what was around our neighborhood. Then I got the fella to drop us off at the seawall just up from our house so we could let the niece walk down the jetty.

See all those rocks in the background? They're at the bottom of the seawall, which is where we're standing (on the top). They were covered up with sand before the storm. This is one of the few places along the seawall that still had sand, and it's only there for about half the distance between jetties. I'll see if I can get a couple more pictures onto my dad's computer, so I can share them with you. Our visitors just stayed for a little while. Maybe an hour. Then they had to take their rescued, non-damaged car, and go back home. I stayed.

The weather was really nice. It was cool out on the seawall where the breeze was blowing, but it got hot walking back to the house. Still, it was cool enough that I could take a nap after our company left and didn't get overheated at all. We waited a little late to cook supper that night. We were pushing it to get everything cooked on our grill before we lost the light. We dined by candlelight.

Sunday, we moved the refrigerator that belonged to the rent house out, because it was just totally gross. It was the only thing that had to go. Our own refrigerator grew a little bit of gunk, but this one... It dribbled gunky water when we had to tip it to get it out the front door, and made the whole house smell like dead fish. Had to wash it up with Clorox solution. That helped. A lot. We found out that even though our neighborhood only had a few houses with minimal damage, the city had told the power company that there was too much damage to turn the electricity on.

Just one street over, in houses that back up to the houses across the street from us, that is true. (See pictures.) But not in our street. So the fella (and at least one neighbor) called the power company up and told them the correct information. By 4 p.m., we had electricity. We're still boiling the water to wash dishes and drinking the bottled stuff. The gas isn't on, so we don't have hot water. Fortunately, the cold water is closer to lukewarm (though with the cooler weather, it's not as close as it is in August...) so cold showers aren't that cold.

Let's see, what else did I do on my island visit? Oh, we packed up stuff the son will need at college. They transferred the local campus students to the main university campus, and he managed to get into an apartment, so we needed to bring up more clothes, his computer cords and peripherals, and some linens. That went into my car.

Most of the damage on the island was due to the storm surge. The previous two pictures are of the neighborhood right next to ours. The water action took out a lot of brick and stone walls. Wind took out others. If just the top was knocked down, we figure it was wind. If the whole thing was down--water.

The tree lying on its side on the junior college campus is a pecan tree which didn't get knocked over by the wind. It looked fine right after the storm. But the salt water that covered the campus killed the tree, and three weeks later, it just gave up and laid itself over. Looks maybe like the roots died, because not much of them came up when the tree lay down.

I took some pictures of the Strand district downtown, but I had the camera turned sideways, and I can't find a program on Daddy's computer that will turn them right side up and save them, and when I get home later this week, I won't have internet access. I don't think. All of the buildings downtown took on water. All of them have a lot of damaged contents. But I don't think any of the buildings themselves were damaged structurally. They don't look damaged. But I'm sure you know how much that's worth from this non-expert.
This picture here is of the seawall at one of the seawall parks near 45th Street. I think this is the one with the 1900 Hurricane Memorial at the far end (off to the right) that was in so many of the "Live from Galveston" weather reports during Hurricane Ike.
Anyway, down below the park areas, a whole lot of rock and broken concrete and rubble was piled as...protection? Support? Not sure why it was piled up there. But the storm waves picked up a whole lot of it and deposited it on the seawall and street.
You can see three benches in the right foreground. Those are concrete benches. There were quite a few of them at these parks. The benches got floated around and totally rearranged during the storm. Handrails got ripped off the staircases going from the top of the seawall to the beach. Boats floated up onto the freeway. There's one stuck on the walls in the median between the north and southbound sides. Damage everywhere. And yet, lots of places didn't take much damage at all. (Like my house.)
I feel utterly blessed. I don't know why my home and our belongings were spared, but I am so totally grateful. I'm grateful for friends and even acquaintances who have worried and wondered and for all the doors that have opened to take us all in. Even (or maybe especially) the evacuation kennel looking after Dolly the granddog.
I'm going home to stay probably tomorrow. Dolly should be home by Saturday. The boy has his new apartment put together. His class schedule still has two classes at one time, but hopefully he'll get that worked out soon. (His classes meet only one time per week in marathon sessions because they're having to squeeze them in wherever. One class meets at the Methodist church on campus.) The Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Kroger grocery store on the island are all open, as are a few gas stations. We're still boiling water, but life is beginning to come back together. Thank God for all the blessings he's given.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

High and dry

I tried to post another blog the other day, but the electricity blinked out for a few seconds at the parents' house, and I never did get back to it.

So. The word is Very Good about our house. We did not get any water inside, not even in the garage, that we could tell. So my baby sister's car is fine. We can't get it out, but it's fine. See, we only have a key to the front door of this rent house. The front door is a double door that had to be barricaded against getting blown in by a 2x4 bolted down to the door frame. (The bolts are permanently installed.) So we can't get in the front door. And with the power off, we can't open the garage door. We now have a generator (imported from Kansas, because apparently you can't buy a generator in Texas for love nor money), but haven't been able to get across the causeway to do anything about it. One of the trees got a little torn up. There are some shingles missing from the ridgeline. That's about it, for our house. But the island is in such bad shape, there's no point in going down yet. (Besides the fact that they won't let us come.)

The sister on the cruise--the cruise ship docked in New Orleans. They rented cars and drove to Austin to put the kids on a plane so they could go back to work.

Our church had essentially no damage. The only one on the island in that kind of shape, I am told. Friends who rode out the storm on their boat came through okay, though the boat was damaged. Another friend, who lives on the mainland where they said just to hunker down, had two big trees fall on their house and they had to evacuate their house in the middle of the night when the winds were blowing hard. But they're okay and their pets are too.

They are going to start classes for A&M Galveston on the main A&M campus next week. I've got a temporary berth for the boy to stay, until he can find something else, or until they move back to Pelican Island. They're talking about being back on their own campus by the end of October.

I've gone up to stay with the in-laws for a while. I like to see the fella face to face at least once a week. He did go down to check things out yesterday (which is where the house report came from), and Galveston College is in great shape too. The storm broke 5 plate glass windows. Two in a hallway, one in a faculty member's office, and two in classrooms with little besides desks in them. Their buses didn't even get messed up.

It's going to cost a fortune to get everything put back together. Hopefully, not too much in terms of time.

I'm trying to get some writing done, and have actually been doing pretty good at that. Ten plus pages to the good this week.

Y'all take care.

Friday, September 12, 2008

All Weather Channel All the Time

I am sitting in my parents' house in a little town SE of Austin, watching Hurricane Ike on the Weather Channel. I like the Weather Channel, because their reporters are actually on Galveston Island. In fact, they're staying in a hotel not far from my house. So when they do their live reports from the seawall, I can see how high the waves are splashing up, and how high the water is coming over the seawall, and see just how likely it is that my house is underwater.

So far, the waves are just splashing. But the surge hasn't hit yet. If the surge is 25 feet, like they're talking, my house will probably be under water, up to the roof. We're all safely tucked away. I have all our pictures in boxes in the back of my SUV, and I brought the computer with me. But the thought of losing everything else we own gives me a pang. However--they're only things. The son went to visit his girlfriend and took the granddog, who is staying in an evacuation kennel because she can't stay in the dorms.

I'm taking the chance to help out the parents. Took Mama shopping for upholstery fabric to get her living room chairs recovered. They haven't been re-done in 30 years. Now if I can just make sure she remembers which was the perfect fabric we picked out. (I wrote it down, and marked the page in the book. Now need to show my sister and niece, so they can make sure.)

Be praying for the idiots who stayed on the island--about 40% of the population, from what the news is saying. And they're saying this hurricane could be bigger than "The Big One" that hit in 1900 (on my birthday).

My sister is out on a cruise ship which will linger off Cozumel until the port opens again--probably coming back in a day after they were originally scheduled. My other sister's car is in my garage, because the one on the cruise ship drove it down. So if our house goes, the borrowed car will go too. Oh well. So, yeah. Prayers. For people first, then for, well, stuff. I'm safe. The family is safe. What else do we need? Bless you all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pre-Bug-Out Post

Just a quick post here to let y'all know that--while at the moment Hurricane Ike is forecast to land a little north of Matagorda Bay, Ike is big enough that his outside edge will scrape the island pretty hard. Least little bit of turn to the north, and we'll get hit even harder, so I'm packing up the computer and all my totebags with manuscripts, and my two portable hard drives and my CDs of grandbaby pictures, and I'm heading for Austin.

The boy is already gone with the granddog to see his girlfriend in Waco. Need to plug in the head editor's phone number so I can call and let them know I'm not coming in...

Wish us luck. We're driving out tonight. Got to pack.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hurricane Ike

So, now we're waiting to see whether Ike wants to come to Texas. He's tracking our direction, so far. If he comes ashore at Corpus Christi or south, I might not have to leave, depending on how strong a storm he is at that point. If he comes ashore in Texas anywhere north of there, the fella's probably going to make me leave town (again, depending on how big a storm it is--anything Category 3 or up, I'm gone). I'll take the new car and my computer and all my manuscripts, and go stay with the parents. We'll know by Wednesday morning.

Oh, and it's my birthday today, but we didn't do anything. I think I'm going to hold out for dinner at Gaido's after Ike passes. Probably won't get it, but I might get lucky. We'll see.

Got 3 whole pages written today. It has been a really hard grind. But at least I got Something. Maybe tomorrow will be better. And maybe I can still get stuff written, even if I have to bug out. It's really hard to write at Mom & Dad's though, because Mama wants me to talk to her, and keeps forgetting if I tell her I need to work. (sigh)

And we have an extra car here. My sister in Idaho brought her family down to go on a cruise, and they borrowed the other sister's car to drive over from Austin, and it's now parked in our back yard. Four cars. Three drivers. If Ike does come, we don't have enough people to get all the cars out of Dodge. (Sigh again.) We're just hoping the storm surge is 17 feet or less. The seawall is 17 feet high, so it can handle that much surge. More, and we're probably flooded.

Think south.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Writer's Block, or The Lazies, or...?

Actually, I'm pretty sure it's not writer's block. I don't get that very much. I do, however, suffer tremendously from The Lazies, and from The Stupids. (The Lazies are pretty much self-explanatory. The Stupids--that's where your characters are stupid, the dialogue is stupid, the narrative is Stupid, the Plot is STupid, and EVERYTHING IS JUST STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!) (Have you ever noticed how stupid-sounding the word "stupid" is? Especially when you say it three times fast?)

There is also another category of "not writing," however. It's the "I don't know exactly where the story needs to go next, and I need to not-think about it," category.

Yeah. I know. That doesn't sound real...professional. It sounds all Procrastination-y, and Making-Excuses-ish. But...

I have found that sometimes I need to back off and let the swamp--er, the subconscious--(okay, yeah, the swamp. My subconscious is a swamp, okay?) have the story for a while and chew on it. (My swamp has alligators. They chew things.) Sometimes, I need to consciously not-think about a story, let the swamp have its way with it, and then when I go back, the story is there and ready to go, and if I try to force it when it needs to go to the swamp and ferment a while, it's worse than if I ignore the story and don't think about it and don't write it. If I let it go a day or two, then I get farther when I come back than if I sat at the desk and Made myself write. Makes no sense, but there it is.

And yet... maybe I AM just being lazy, and avoiding the work. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. Do I need to be castigating myself for laziness, or am I actually accomplishing something, even if it might not look like it?

This is where I've been the last day or two. I got a whole 2.5 pages written yesterday. That's it. Wrote nothing at all on Monday. Today, I didn't even go sit down at the desk--except to put on my socks. Because I'm not really sure where the story needs to go next. Do I need to write a time passage-transition scene? Do I need some other scene? The book is too dang long already. I need to have a villain scene in here somewhere soon--some kind of adventure/danger-type scene. But I have no idea what it ought to be, or whether it ought to be the real villain or the red-herring villain. Or maybe the real villain manipulating the red-herring villain. Or the RH villain doing something, and the real villain gloating. Or something completely out of left field. This is one of the things that my swamp does really well--come up with ideas for this sort of thing, so I kind of think this isn't just the Lazies--though they probably do play in here a little...

I have discovered some things my hero needs to realize, and one thing my heroine needs to learn, so that's been good. It's just time to figure out some specifics, and now that the swamp has had time to chomp on things a bit, I may need to do some free-writing to figure out what exactly needs to happen next. Maybe the writing will come faster.

Since Gustav turned out to be a non-event here--no evacuation order for the island or anything--I went swimming with the guys Sunday. It was fun. Didn't even have big waves. It was the kind of ocean swimming I love best. The older son came down for a visit, and the two boys went out to try to ride the skim board on Saturday. We have scraped knees--sand will really take the hide off you--and sore ankles. There were some pretty spectacular falls. I laughed. We sent the older son home to Dallas Sunday a.m., though, just in case Gustav decided to skim along the coast. He did help clear out the garage so the new car could fit in. But as it turned out, we didn't even get any rain. (pout) We're still low on rainfall for the year.

We did get some big shells. I found my biggest clump of rose-colored barnacles yet. Big as my fist. I was out walking with Dolly the granddog--let her off the leash so she could run fast--and had fun trying to hang onto my shells and get her back on the leash. She did come back and hold still for me to do it--but she played "can't catch me" at least once, first.

My internet is out at home. I have to take the computer in somewhere to get it fixed. Grr. And I'm not even sure where to take it. Haven't been happy with the 2 places we've taken the boy's computer so far. Best Buy may be next on the list.

And I have to go to the dentist tomorrow morning. Had a dumb filling come out. Maybe I'll have time to take the computer somewhere after that. May as well "waste" the whole morning. Maybe I can get LOTS written on Friday. I can only try. Maybe by then, I'll know what I need to be writing...