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Storm of the new century...


I was waking up every few minutes, and the storms only seemed to intensify with each rise from sleep. At the last of it that I remember, I could see large flashes of lightning in my bedroom, some of it bursting above my head from the window behind my headboard, some of it from the window just to the right from the foot of my bed.

Cosa was next to me, curled unto herself, right by the edge and close to falling off. I stroked her a little before falling back to sleep. She's scared of thunder, like most cats, and I always feel bad when I leave her alone in the day and it storms badly.

The next day, at work, things got really bad fairly early. By about 3 p.m., it was pitch black outside. We'd seen news reports all afternoon about the storms as they approached. You can always tell when something of signifigance is happening in the world when people in the newsroom start gathering around the mounted TV sets, watching, motionless as news unfolds.

This time, we were watching the storms on different channels, seeing each iteration of Doppler Rader predict that the storms were heading up IH-35, the main highway going through Austin. It's where my duplex sits, right off the access road. It's very close to where my newspaper is located, and spitting distance from the University of Texas.

At one point, when it was clear that tornadoes were touching down, there was talk of an evacuation. It's happened before. They talk to us on the alarm P.A. system, then scoot us all downstairs to the packaging floor, which I assume is built of sturdier stuff than the newsroom with its huge windows.

This time, our managing editor told us that we were not required to evacuate. We could stay and cover the news. It was our choice. Presumably, we could just duck under our sturdy desks if things got bad. Almost all of us stayed.

By Sung Park, American-Statesman.

Cell phone service went out. Some phone lines were jammed. Our lights and electricity would flicker, then return at full power. Some reporters went out to look for damage and rising floodwaters.

Some of the same businesses I covered as having flood damage two or years ago, the last time we had bad floods, were swamped with water again, a lot of them in a nice area of shops and bars along Lamar and 10th Street.

At the end of the day, after staying late because we really weren't allowed to leave, I got completely soaked just walking to my car in the parking lot. I drove home in a long line of traffic, even though the place I live now is only five minutes from the newsroom. It took me almost a half hour to get home. On my way, I noticed whole blocks and businesses without electricity. It was spooky, quiet despite the traffic. All the streetlights and bustle of South Congress were missing. Everything was dark and empty.

At home, as I should have guessed, the electricity was completely gone. I got some things together and stayed at a friend's for a while. When I came back later that night, the lights were still out. I began packing my things, expecting to spend the night elsewhere.

I grabbed some clothes, my bathroom stuff, made sure Cosa was fed, and checked each room to make sure I wasn't missing anything. I walked into the office and noticed that the monitor was on. "Please check connection," it read, since the computer probably wasn't on to give it a signal.

"Huh," I thought. I went over and turned off the monitor. Something in my head, a neuron eager to fire, waited patiently, then shot itself. "Oh. Electricity." I walked over to the light switch in that room, finding my way only by the candles I'd lit in the living room. The light went on, illuminating the room.

"Huh," I thought again.

I walked to the living room, past the candles, and walked out through my front door. Across the street, a neighbor's outside light was on. "Lights," I thought, my brain still on cruise control.

Inside, I tried another light. It turned on. Then everything flickered and died. I was in the dark again.

It went like that for a while, until the electricity came on for good around 12:30. But everything still felt dark and scary, like the whole city was put on hold.

The next morning, driving alone, I saw a car along the road up to its windows in water. It had a lonely "For Sale" sign in the window.

There are so many more scary things in the world right now than storm clouds and even tornadoes. But it was almost a relief to feel afraid of something natural, something primal and elemental, something that has neither motivation nor hatred behind its strength.



I bought it yesterday, and can't stop listening to it. I really like Suzanne Vega, and if you dig her even a little bit, you should hear her new album. That's assuming you haven't already heard her last album, Nine Objects of Desire, which was this lovely collection of songs about lust.

If you only know her from "Luka," you're really missing out. Her new CD is about loss of love, stemming from her own divorce, and it's gorgeous and sad, and just amazing. It's called Songs in Red and Gray. "Widow's Walk" and "Soap and Water" in particular are just fantastic songs. Go check them out, please, as a personal favor to me. You won't be sorry.

I saw her in concert here about a year or two ago at a very small, intimate Austin theater. Through a strange fluke, I got to sit really close to the stage and it was just her and a guitarist, playing songs at the audience's request. It was hard not to notice that all her new songs were sadder, more introspective pieces. Someone in the audience kept asking her to play "Honeymoon Suite," a song from Nine Objects. She finally had to tell the audience that she had just gone through a messy divorce. Everyone kind of shut up after that, but she was nice enough to play "World Before Columbus," which I'd always assumed was about her husband. It turns out, luckily for us in the audience, that it's about her daughter.



By the time you read this, it's very likely my latest Smallville recap will be posted on MightyBigTV. It took me longer than usual to write because things are getting really busy with the move (I move Dec. 1 to my house!) and because this was one of the longest one I've ever written: About 8,500 words.

Hope you like it. I spent the better portion of the weekend stressing out over it.



Remind me next time to tell you about the ass cancer. Not mine, of course. But just ass cancer in general. It's funny, if you don't mind people talking about ass cancer in front of you.



Move status (for the big Dec. 1 move):

Walls: Unpainted. They need to be white again, and I haven't gotten the right paint yet.

Boxes packed: Two. Almost entirely books. I've packed maybe 1/8th of the books I own here.

Utilities called: Um... None, yet. But soon! I promise

Change of address cards filled: Ditto. Tomorrow, I swear!

Refrigerators bought: One, thank you. I did get that done.

Nagging stresses in head about move: 1,223, but that's about four less than from before I bought the fridge.


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