After a Hurricane Comes a…Meh.

We're almost not homeless!

We’re almost not homeless!

I remember this same weekend last year like it was yesterday. I woke up early that Saturday morning with an ungodly hangover and suffered through a bus ride to New Jersey for my 10-year high school reunion. A few girls asked what I thought about the impending storm and I shrugged it off with an “Ehhhhh, Irene wasn’t toooooo bad.” The next day, I checked the MegaBus site compulsively for updates about my scheduled departure since it seemed that every other transit line was canceling trips, even though no rain had fallen yet. I met Lauren at the diner because she happened to be home from New Orleans the same weekend. More hurricane talk, more “I mean, it’ll be fiiiiine?”. She offered some encouraging information about the power of mold bombs immediately after flooding.

Despite secretly wishing for my bus to be canceled (I was hoping for an extra day or two at home), it took off, the last bus to make it out of New Jersey in advance of Sandy. Unbeknownst to me at the time was the fact that, had I not made it to that bus, I would have been stranded for weeks. In the dark, in the cold, with little access to the outside world or any perspective on the carnage up and down my beautiful, beloved Jersey Shore. All the mold bombs in the world couldn’t have helped our charming little bungalow, after the island was off-limits for three weeks.

It seems like this week, every media outlet is offering retrospective stories – about where we are, about what we’ve learned, about what progress there’s been, but mainly about the lack thereof. A majority of our neighborhood’s houses sit vacant and gutted. Whole tracts of land on the Barrier Island where houses once stood have become open space. I hope those cringe-inducing Stronger Than The Storm commercials are played in marketing classes for years to come to highlight glossed-over ineptitude and the woeful decline of jingle writing as an art.

My mom has fought tooth and nail to claw her way through a bureaucratic system whose goal seems to be keeping funding from the people who need it most. A year ago, it warmed your heart to see all the support pouring in as millions of dollars racked up; it seemed implausible that my widowed mother would have to pay out of pocket to fix our only home. In the months that have separated us from the most destructive storm I hope we’ll ever see, she’s gotten a loan and used it to pay for a brand new house, but that’s money that needs to be repaid. The state’s RREM program has yet to disburse any money from what I can tell and they keep moving the goal posts for homeowners who are still waiting a year later. Continue reading

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout My Beeeeest Friend

Mere babes back in 2007.

Mere babes back in 2007.

Hopefully you read that title as being a drawn out, multi-syllabic rendering of “best” and not as pronounced like “beast.”

This week, one of my most favorite people on the face of the earth, Miss Katie Booker, has packed up all her things, left her wildly successful job and will move 3,000 miles across the country back home to California. I am equal parts happy for her and sad for me. This occasion seems like a monumental opportunity to wax poetic publicly about how much I love her and how better my life is by having her in it. I am lucky enough that there are several people I can say this about, but….none of them are moving this week.

I’ll always remember Bid Day 2005 when we all nervously milled around at Theta, trying to meet each other and not say anything stupid. Somehow it turned out that Katie and I were the only two living on South Campus and I became her official chauffeur of the new member ed process. Those 10-minute rides to and from the house forged our friendship for everything that followed: adventures, fun nights out, becoming real adults and dealing with sadness and disappointment. We went from being within spitting distance of each other in our tiny bedroom at the house, to a 30 minute train ride from NJ to NYC, to a 4 hour bus ride from Boston to NYC. We’ve always made it work and don’t let more than a couple months pass between seeing each other. Now it’s a cross-country flight, but I’m happy to have someone to visit in San Francisco.  Continue reading

Thank You, I Love You, I’m Sorry, Goodbye: When Hurricane Sandy Makes You Demolish Your Home

My little house in the snow.

My little house in the snow.

I knew it was coming, knew it had to happen and know that its occurrence is simply the first step in a string of good things to come. Recently, I found myself growing annoyed that it hadn’t happened yet. But once I found out it was scheduled, once it became real, it punched me in the gut and all but knocked the wind out of me.

Our lovely little house at 202 Joseph St. meets its demise Wednesday after sitting uninhabitable all winter and spring, gutted to its studs and stripped bare of all the wonders inside that made it our home. Like I said, I knew this was coming for months, but wasn’t anywhere near prepared to hear the news. I’ve powered through this whole process knowing that the demolition of the house would usher in a new house, a bigger, more storm-proof one with swankier amenities and enough space for everyone to get their own bedroom. A house just like that had been the plan for my parents’ retirement, except they were going to give our current structure a makeover because it was so important to keep the original structure, which my grandfather and great uncle built with their own hands.

I’m trying to think positive thoughts here, but it’s hard. I knew I’d be sad when it was finally time to tear the old girl down – I just didn’t think I’d be this sad. Continue reading

Happy Birthday Dad

Well, times certainly have changed.

Well, times certainly have changed.

 

Today, my dad would have turned 58. Since he’s no longer with us, I wanted to do something to mark the day (pun actually not intended) and yesterday had a stroke of slightly selfish genius. Whenever I would come up to Massachusetts to visit Ryan, Dad would always – without fail – ask if we went to Pizzeria Regina. We never did during the long distance days, but have split pies on several occasions since I moved.

He had probably visited Regina about three times in the preceding 15 years. I’d assume he first encountered the North End’s finest pizza (in my not-so-humble opinion) while visiting Aunt Celeste. He dragged a big group of us there to eat in 2004 during the DNC pretty late at night after a then-14-year-old AJ got us turned away from a 21-plus party. When a satellite opened in Paramus, he drove many miles out of his way to get it. This I don’t really understand, because everyone knows Regina’s just regular pizza outside the North End. You need the original oven to get the good stuff. And, besides, in New Jersey, Reservoir is just as good.

But I digress.

It would have felt wrong to let the day pass without acknowledging it and yet I’m entirely sure how I’ve spent it the past two years in Boston. Maybe I went home? I don’t know. Continue reading

Hurricane Sandy: Still an Enormous Bitch

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My story about the LBI Trailer Park. Clearly, I’m not a photographer.

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But this was a good one. Not sure if it’s still online anywhere. I may just retype it in one day. You should read it.

Hurricane Sandy, aside from being a horrible jerk, has so many knotted, sticky stories in her undercurrent that we’ll have to untangle in the coming months and years. There’s the story about how messed up the flood insurance system is. There’s the story about us damaging our planet so much that it’s turning against us. There’s the substory of that one that our seas are rising and some of our favorite places are in very real danger of extinction.

One of the stories that makes me the saddest is that the iteration of our country that gave us our Shore is gone. If you’re unfamiliar, hearing that hundreds of vacation homes were ruined may not stir many emotions. These don’t all belong to millionaires though.  In most areas of the 127-mile coastline, small unassuming bungalows are passed down through regular families over many decades – like mine. More on that in a second.

In my old life as a reporter, I wrote a story about the only trailer park on Long Beach Island. LBI went through a similar period of destruction and rebuilding after the Ash Wednesday storm of 1962. I’m sure lots of old stock housing was destroyed or knocked down and bigger, more expensive houses replaced little beach shacks. A drive down Long Beach Boulevard can feel like a tour of the 1%’s summer playground, but at the southern end sandcastles give way to sandboxes. Continue reading

Sandy, the 900-mile-wide Chip on my Shoulder

Looks like Sandy threw a pretty wild party. Unfortunately, that bitch didn’t invite us and isn’t planning on helping us clean up.

So, two weeks ago, we had a little weather event here on the East Coast. Maybe you’ve heard of it – Hurricane /Superstorm/ Frankenstorm Sandy? This beast pretty much took over my life, stole my attention span and routinely woke me up in the middle of the night.

My family’s dear, little lagoon-side (and only) home was battened down and evacuated to ride out the worst storm it’s ever faced alone. The day before the mandatory barrier island evac order, Mark taped up the windows, put a few valuables on top of beds and off the floor, and put some towels in the doorways. Last summer, Irene coaxed the rising bay water just two feet from our back door and no one thought we’d be as lucky this time.

But I never thought it would be as bad as it was. Our little house took on more than three feet of water, most likely courtesy of a storm surge rising from the end of the lagoon that normally brings us mallards to feed.

I only know the extent of the damage because last Friday, 12 whole days after Sandy absolutely ravaged the Jersey Shore, my mom and AJ were bused over to our island from the mainland and given an hour to collect our most important belongings. This trip only included primary residents of the island, i.e. people with no other home to speak of. (Most dwellings on this strip of sand are summer homes and it’s pretty lonely in the off-season. I don’t know how I survived three long winters, but sometimes, when the clatter outside my Boston apartment get so loud I can hear conversations and car horns from three blocks away, I really miss it.) Continue reading

When You Become a Sad Kid, You Will Develop a Highly Inappropriate Sense of Humor

This picture will all make sense when you get toward the bottom, I promise. Also, it’s just hilarious. Can you imagine Mitt Romney trying to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day? Nope, neither can I. Vote Democrat.

I stay sane by finding comedy in everyday life. If I didn’t, I would be hugely bored all the time and that’s not really how you want to go through life. This strategy usually results in me cracking inappropriate jokes, saying all the wrong things and frequently alienating people. I don’t make a lot of friends easily this way, but, hey, at least I’m not bored. My father’s sudden, tragic death has only heightened this quirk. I’ve noticed, though, that fellow Sad Kids have developed this freakish trait as well.

Recently, I came across this McSweeney’s post, Six Pieces of Highly Autobiographical Bereavement Advice and nearly lost it trying not to laugh at my desk on my lunch break. Now, someone not accustomed to loss – say, someone who sadly had to bury their great-grandmother when they were 7 and then never dealt with death again – would read this and probably think to themselves rationally, “Oh dear me, this is not funny. No, no, this is horrible. What is wrong with this monstrous person laughing at the death of her mother like this?” I read this  and was like “OH MY GOD THIS IS SOME FUNNY SHIT.” I shared it with my brother, who agreed.  Continue reading

When Your Childhood Home Is Sold, You Will Feel Sad

I had a big post planned about how traumatizing the sale of our house is. It’s been stressing me out for weeks; I blame the recent discovery of several grays on it. However, I couldn’t find any quality digital photos of dear old 65 Wellington. This confirms what I’ve suspected for a while: our real home now is down the Shore. We’re beach people and that’s just where we feel best. Still, our North Jersey home was a wonderful place to grow up and I’ll miss it a lot.

One of my character flaws has quite a bit to do with several of my quirks. I tend to anthropomorphize everything. This causes me to still maintain a teddy bear at the age of 27. I worry that I’d upset him if I stopped sleeping with him. This is probably why I spent some time last weekend sifting through a Rubbermaid container of Barbies. I probably felt bad throwing them out after I outgrew them, so they went to Toy Purgatory in our attic for 18 years. For this reason, I’ve always thought of our house as the sixth member of our family. It’s seen us through 25 years of Christmases, birthdays, first days of school, play dates, graduation parties and even fights. I worry that after we move out on Tuesday it will feel just as sad as we  do. I genuinely believe it’s going to miss us. Continue reading

Sea Glass and Other Metaphors

Some of my personal collection

In 1998, my eighth-grade classmates deemed me “Most Creative” in our yearbook superlatives. To a 13-year-old, this held little meaning. I had never really thought about it until this summer when I took a creative thinking class as an elective in my graduate Integrated Marketing Communication program.

While a few assignments brought me back to my sorority crafting days (which my little will tell you were not very successful), I learned a great deal about the creative side of marketing and where I might fit in within the industry. Continue reading

Bachelor’s Degree in Life?

Mom, dad and me at my very favorite spot in college over graduation weekend. Fortunately, I no longer look like I recently devoured an entire person.

A couple summers ago, I needed a beach book for a week of staycation and was shamelessly drawn to the Tiffany blue cover of Commencement. It followed four friends through their years at Smith and the four years after they graduated. The title actually referred to the end of that second time period as each realized those first awkward four years of adulthood were the real-life education that college didn’t provide. May 13, 2011 marks that second commencement for me and I have undoubtedly very much changed since this day in 2007. Continue reading