Some Angst, Some Thanks – the Usual

Last week, I had a few really vivid dreams. In one of them, I had a wiener dog. It was awesome. In the other, though, I walked around Boston with my dad. In some ways, it was also awesome. Let me explain…

Today marks five years since his death. This past September began my fourth year in Boston. Sometimes I forget that just about everything in my life has changed since then. Were he to come back for day, he would find my day-to-day completely unrecognizable. And so, in a weird way, I actually kind of enjoyed this dream I had. Its premise was that he didn’t actually die on Nov. 27, 2009, but for some reason had been in a coma since then and recently woke up, a little bit like a bizarre Encino Man sequel starring a middle-aged attorney. He and I strolled Boston, I pointed out various landmarks that figured into my new life and we stopped for beers are several pubs along the way. We talked all about beer and he seemed pretty impressed with my new fermentation-filled life. Even though it technically never happened, it almost felt like closure. Continue reading

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

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

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