Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August 5th: In which the clouds parted, having already shat everything they had in them.

            In the immediate aftermath of a disaster in which no one is hurt (and no one was), the sheer novelty of the situation fills one with an adrenaline that’s almost exciting. It’s only later, when one does not wake up in the comfort of one’s own bed, and is confronted with the permanence of the situation, that it really sinks in.

            I only had my Dark Side of the Moon boxer shorts; hell, even my wallet was still down there! So, first thing I suppose was to go get that replaced. I borrowed Dad’s jogging pants (about thrice my size) and trotted off to the bank to explain my situation.

            Every lawn in the neighbourhood had turned brown. The sidewalks, driveways and roads were coated with a layer of muck and clay about an inch thick, and a big musty cloud of gunk hung in the air. And I wasn’t the only one wandering about in a dazed state of “wtf?”.  Most of the block were out and about, looking for all the world like they'd been hit in the head with a brick. The clean-up hadn't started in earnest yet, but before the end of the week, every lawn and driveway would be filled with garbage and debris.  

            The next thing was to secure a pump and get that basement drained. It wasn’t just the creek water or the rain that got in; at some point the sewers backed up* and the house stank!**
My library. "Northern Frights 4" and
"100 Maths Homework Lessons"
remain discernable.
         I can’t remember how long it took to get all that water out (hey, it’s been a year!). I remember finally working up the courage to go down there and finding it, literally, a shitload worse than I imagined. In my incredible pre-flood naiveté, I had half believed that I’d find everything more or less as I had left it – soggy and muddy and shitty and useless, but more or less recognizable. No sirree!

            It was a dung pile. The bed had been picked up and thrown over there. The television had been picked up and thrown over there. The shelves had been shredded, my desk had been shattered. My library a mountain of goop.

            So. . .I had managed to save my manuscripts, my guitars, my laptop, my stuffed toys, a third of my records and most books with authors whose names started with the letter Z. What’d I lose?

    Well, pretty much whatever else I owned.  The other two thirds of my records. All of my cds, all of my cassettes (of which I still had and used hundreds). The Marantz amplifier. My credit cards. My lesson plans. Most of my clothes.  The library I’d spent my entire life building up. . .

            Put like that, it didn’t mean much. Statistics! It was only when one’s mind wandered to specifics did the heart begin to sink.

The yellow boom-box was property of the cleanup crew. 
            The autographed Essential Ellison? That was gone. My Ryerson ring? That was gone. My pirate boots? Gone. Godzilla 1985 on VHS? My Marx Brothers tie? My Jon Pertwee coffee mugs, my Ian Gillan records – from England???
            Gone. Gone. Gone. Vamoose. Washed away, dissolved. I no longer owned a proper suit, a winter coat, or a single pair of jeans. I didn’t have a bed to rest my head. All those books on my reading list, all those songs I thought I could hear any time, those movies I thought could watch forever, several hundred lesson plans I never thought I’d have to write again, all my band shirts. . .

           I hated to think of it then, and hate to think of it now. But go over that list and all you’ll see is missing is stuff. Things. And the wonderful thing about things are that they are replaceable. Granted, I’m not sure where I’ll secure another copy of Sir John, Eh? or The Heavens are Showing the Glory of Tchort , but, fact is, there was nothing down there I absolutely truly utterly needed. I hated to lose it, but most important thing was still here.
But the Jolly Roger still flew!

            I thought of that while wading through the muck in rubber gloves and Wellingtons. had I been stubborn, and stayed down there while the water was pouring in, or waded back in to gather more stuff,  I might very well have been caught under some of that debris - the flying desks, the floating shelves, the billion little bits swirling around in a current strong enough to toss a television – and been trapped down there. I may very well have lost my most irreplaceable self.
"The Who's Last" was, appropriately enough, the last record to be played on this turn-table. 

            Then I’d have a real reason to invoke Zola.

            To say nothing, that had any of that water gotten into the foundations of the house, it could have compromised the structural integrity of the building: the whole damn thing could have come down! As it was, the upper floors remained habitable, and a year later it's as good as new - rebuilt, almost, from the ground up.

            (Though my place is gone for good. . .)

            So, bad as it was, it could have been a whole lot worse. 

            No, the thing I missed most was privacy. The loss of personal space proved a hundred times worse than any of that crap down there. Until I could secure an apartment***, I had to sleep just off the kitchen, in full view of everyone including the workmen traipsing through in their safety boots.  Not having any place to go or any place to hide, any little enclosed area I could really call my own: that sucked.
Some things are unsinkable. . .
            My main memory of those days is sitting by rubbish heaps in the yard, jet-setting between couches and hotel rooms, and the smell of mud. I got to know some of the neighbours.  I will probably always associate Dostoevsky’s The Gambler with mud. I got another turn-table. I made the best of it.

            I might have been all washed up, but I was nobody’s wet blanket.        

If I could have chosen just one book to survive. . .

*(Turns out it was a rather good thing that it did: had it just been through the window, the insurance company would not have covered it. To my mind, the house would have been just as wrecked, but what do I know?)

**For which reason the insurers never doubted our claim.        

***Which also flooded. That’s another story. 

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