Lent in Casablanca: Just…Damn

Having spent my entire life on this sandbar, I’ve been through a bunch of hurricanes and tropical storms.  I’ve driven through floods, and been without power due to trees blowing up transformers. I had an oak tree crush my car once, courtesy of Hurricane Kate. 

My worst year for tropical depression was 2004, where we faced four named storms.  We had “storm fatigue,” a sort of  “holy crap, what NEXT??” stress that affected everyone.  The thing about each of those four storms–and about every hurricane and tropical storm I’ve faced–is that I had warning.  Days of warning.  Here in 2011, we have sometimes a week of warning, with the computer projections and widgetry. 

The earthquake off the Japanese coast–and the resulting tsunamis…just damn. 

Honestly, it’s like reading a bad novel.  “Oh, yeah.  Right.  A 9.1 earthquake? Sure. OHH. Now there are tsunamis smashing boats in California? Riiiiight.  What’s next? A nuclear meltdown?”

Yes. All of the above.

My thoughts and prayers, for what they’re worth, are with them. 

What surprised me was how many Tom-people this affected.  Through the Interwebs, I have friends in Southeast Asia–the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan–so naturally, I was worried for them.  But the tsunami raised the stakes.  Suddenly, friends in Hawaii, Australia, California, Oregon, Washington, and Lord only knows where else were at risk.

Last week, I had the honour (sic) of meeting the legendary Laurie from Vox in actual, hushpuppy-sharing, riding together in the USS Nimitz real-life.  Naturally, when meeting an Interweb friend for the first time, our conversation inevitably turned to the Interweb.  We talked about the online Venn Diagram our friend-circles make, and how many of these relationships are as
“real” or moreso to us than lots of our “real-life” friendships.

Nothing brings that home like a disaster that affects so many parts of the world.  Oddly, the first I heard about the earthquake was via Twitter, from my friend Jay.  Then various celebrities, news sites, and other friends started relaying information.  When I got home, I watched the horrifying stories online (Reuters, CNN, etc).  I was happy every time a friend in Hawaii or Japan updated Facebook or Twitter that they were safe.  I even had a friend from Washington make me promise to “head to high ground” if ever a tsunami threatens my sandbar (I laughed–the highest point in Tom County is 22 feet above sea level 😉 ). 

In the world of “Casablanca,” news travelled slowly.  There were no “social media.” Burger the Norwegian couldn’t Tweet, “ZOMG! @Ugarte just got arrested” from his table at Rick’s.  Rick couldn’t unfollow Ilsa on Facebook after she dumped him in Paris.  Laszlo couldn’t text Ilsa. “Arm cut running from Nazis. Okay. Having drink w/Rick. xoxox V.”

I know that “Casablanca” is a film, that those streets so teeming with exotic life were just Warner Brothers sets.  The vaunted “plane to Lisbon” was a cardboard mock-up, filmed in forced perspective with midget actors playing the ground crew.  It was a Hollywood film.

And yet World War 2 was very real.  The reason they filmed the night scene on a soundstage with that cardboard cutout is because they were unable to do a night shoot at Van Nuys Airport due to security concerns. 

One of the people I follow on Twitter is @bencnn.  His real-life name is Ben Wedeman.  He’s a CNN Reporter who happens to be in Libya.  He’s there, dodging bombs and bullets, and he manages to update Twitter when something happens.  Unreal.

The reason this all ties together for me goes back to World War 2.  My mother’s father served in Europe, mopping up after the Normandy invasion.  He carried bodies, cleared debris, all sorts of pleasant things. 

My grandfather was an amazingly gifted writer.  When he could, he wrote letters home to my grandmother.  She saved these in a scrapbook.  When I visited her once, I was just looking around the basement and stumbled upon these books.  It was so cool, holding these pieces of paper that originated in France back in 1940-something, thinking about what my grandfather would have been like at 26 or 27, and how thrilled my grandmother–a 23 or 24 year-old wife with a baby–would be to receive them.

The horror must have been brutal, waiting for weeks or months between letters.  Today, things are so much more instant.  We can IM or text across oceans, all at lightspeed. 

Seventy years from now, odds are Japan will have recovered from this cataclysm, same as Europe has recovered from the late WW2 horrors my grandfather witnessed.  I wonder if anyone will save the Tweets.  Will a grandchild decades hence bother to open a Word 2080 folder, and read through Facebook status updates his grandmother posted back on 3/11/11?

The earth shifted 10cm on its axis yesterday; I wonder if anyone there will bother to write anything down on paper.

I wonder if I would.


5 Responses to “Lent in Casablanca: Just…Damn”

  1. Well, by the time the tsunami got near me, it was only about 3 feet high, and it was low tide, so that dizzying 22 ft. height might be enough for ya.

    • In ’04, we caught the back end of some storm, and it had the opposite effect: the water blew out of large parts of Tampa Bay. Where the Bay normally lapped against the seawall, there was 300 ft of “beach.” Just glad it wasn’t blowing the other way. I joke that I’m 12 feet above sea level, because I’m on the second floor.

      Glad you and your animules (including Mr LT :P) are safe.

  2. The nuclear plant story freaks me out… an explosion now and white smoke… not confirmed what happened, but it sounds almost exactly like the beginning of Chernobyl.

    I have a bunch of family photos from back to at least 90 years ago. They’re fantastic… but me, I never print photos out… and I never even ‘sit’ for a proper portrait, so there will be no shoe box in the attic with fantastic photos from me… but I suspect people will find ways to scour the interwebs for historical photos by 2080

  3. The entire cataclysm is horrible, but I agree with you: radiation is the gift that keeps on giving. Isn’t the area around Chernobyl still effectively poisoned? Ugh. I just hope their backups’ backups have backups.

    • Only maybe a year or two ago they had to quarantine sheep because they were too radioactive in Northern Sweden (which is quite a wayz from Chernobyl) It had rained in the fall…. so there had been lots of mushrooms – and for some reason shrooms like to hoard radionucleotides – and the sheep had been feasting on the radiactove mushrooms… and voila:glow in the dark mutton… The area immediately around Chernobyl is still unfit for humans, and wildlife is affected in a larger zone around there. I don’t want to know what the cancer rates are. They topped 20 years after the nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but with radiation still decaying away in Chernobyl… I don’t know that it will ever go down again…
      I really hope the Japanese nuclear engineers have something smart up their sleeves to save themselves and the whole north Pacific region.

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