Sometime since June’s derecho storm my hand-cranked weather radio shit the bed, or at least developed a malfunction in its most reliable power source, the alkaline batteries. I swapped out two or three sets with no results, but after a few sputters discovered that enough hand cranking would make it utter a staticky version of the Brahms Requiem that was playing on the FM stereo in the next room.
It had to be that, right? Not “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage“?
For those who are not poised to pay much attention to East Coast USian weather news, we have been hearing since last Thursday give or take that we are going to get the crap kicked out of us. I suppose there are people in coastal areas who need a stern reality check — let’s not forget the here-I-stand citizens who ended up perched on rooftops in the wake of Katrina — but I am rapidly nearing the end of my patience with the ALL CAPS weather bulletins telling us about the devastating and historic and unprecedented, etc. After a certain point these meteorological bulls overshoot their mark and begin to induce existential despair.
Me? Oh, well, I didn’t mean me. Not scared.
Maybe a little. My polter-neighbors, after five years of waffling, foot-dragging, and generally cramming their hands over their ears while chanting la la la, finally agreed a few weeks back to take down the Oak of Damocles which lurks uncomfortably close to the west elevation of my domicile. Well, what happened was, I finally got my busted leg to where I could clean up the yard for the first time since the derecho itself, and found suspended in the hemlocks a branch tall enough to graze the ceiling if I’d taken it inside. I braced my lumbars, used the branch for a staff a la Gandalf, and strode up to the door of the dimwits’ house.
“We need to talk about this,” I said to Mrs. Dimwit, who was in a surgical boot and glared up at me with the perpetual walled and weaselly expression with which she confronts the world. “Are you planning to get that tree down before this winter?”
“I don’t know, honey, Stan takes care of all that,” she said, trying to be June Cleaver and managing possibly Mrs. Sawney Bean. She hobbled over to her eighty-something husband, a skinny but unbowed creature boasting an entire library of artificial joints, and yelled in his face: “She needs to talk to you about the tree!!!“
“It’s a matter of saving up the money,” explained the geezer, who has been living under the shadow of this Leaning Tower of increasingly exfoliated lumber for the last five years.
I ended by offering them a thousand dollars to help with the costs, printing five tree service home-pages off the Net and passing on a brochure about a Habitat for Humanity program that will allocate funds to pay professionals, if you qualify. The brochure and the offer of money were the kickers. Staunch Republicans given to bitching about taxes and erecting the Stars and Stripes on their lawn at random intervals, they bristled at the notion they might be expected to take assistance in order to do what was needed.
A tree service was apparently engaged. But first the geezer insisted on prying up a treated-wood ramp over the root system on his own time, to save the, what would you guess, maybe fifty bucks the tree people would charge to have a couple of burly Salvadorans rip the shit out of the thing in under an hour.
Meanwhile, his indefatigable wife, nobbled by her surgical boot, nonetheless found time to limp out and resume her habit of leaving nastygrams about the local parking zone under the wipers of cars at my curb thank you very much, including a loaner parked for five minutes by one of the local civic league board members, who was affixing NO DUMPING signs to the neighborhood storm sewers. Of course, I got the irate response.
“You want the old bat with the dead tree,” I said.
He’s been fucking with that ramp for two weeks. And here comes Sandy.
I just have to hope that if it falls, it falls while the wind direction is favorable. Trick or treat.