In my apparently continuing quest to become your, dear reader, number one source of hurricane/ super-typhoon news, I bring you this heart-wrenching photographic evidence of the damage wrought by Ernesto. Please shield your eyes if you are at all timorous of nature.


Ye gads! Where is FEMA now? Who will pick up the frond?

That’s all for now. I hope you will continue to return to this blog for my continuing coverage. And by the way, I definitely did not see this here first. This image was brought to you by Frida and Diego. Everybody say muchas gracias/ muito obrigada!


Ha ha Michiganders

August 30, 2006

Turns out the Great Lakes can make their very own hurricanes! Check it out here. I can’t wait to pull this one out the next time somebody ribs me about living here. Yes-huh you can get hurricanes, and your hurricanes have snow.

Also, not to get boring about all this hurricane hullaballoo, but remember how I said they were covering Ernesto down here as if nothing else was happening in the whole world? It’s worse than that. They’ve been covering a non-hurricane as if it were the only storm threatening human life on this planet. Now that Ernesto has wilted in the spotlight, they’ve started mentioning a couple of other ones. Hurricane John is already a category 4, and although they hope it won’t actually hit Mexico it’s going to be close enough to create hurricane conditions without ever coming ashore. And, saving the best for last, meet Super-Typhoon Ioke. Unlike Er-crappo, this girl’s got mojo and it is likely not going to be pretty for Wake Island.

Back to Northrup Frye. Counting blessings and considering naming one of my future daughters Ioke. Or maybe just Super Typhoon.

Weather Channel moments

August 29, 2006

Ho hum, hatches have been battened down for about 6 hours now and I am pleased to report nothing doing. Ernesto refused to grow up and we are all grateful. Except maybe this guy:

Standing pointlessly on a beach somewhere in the Keys, he totally dissed Ernesto and played the Katrina card all in one sentence, something like “On the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it’s nice to finally see an underachiever come ashore.” Who are you calling an underachiever? Yesterday Ernesto was your best friend. It was big and getting bigger, it was liable to do us grave harm, it was definitely no underachiever. You so cannot have credit for both warning us about Ernesto and then telling us it sucks in the hurricane department. And besides, who is the one who not only stands outside in hurricanes for a living but is currently standing outside in no hurricane for a living? Mr. Cantore, to you I say, when it comes to underachievers, takes one to know one.

Much the same thing could probably be said for neurotics. If so, you might or might not understand the following snippet of dialogue from apartment last night.

Me: Aaargh! These people on the Weather Channel make me so angry! I hate them!

D: You know Liz, if they bother you so much you could stop watching.

Me: How can I stop watching? They are making me so angry!

Does that make any sense? It makes perfect sense to me.

(In case you can’t tell from the title, this post is going to be bit ranty, so if you know me and you want to preserve your image of me as a nice person and avoid realizing that I can be a major meany head, you can sit this one out.)

There was a sick buzz running across the campus of the university where I work this morning. It started with an E and ended with an -rnesto. In case you don’t live in this little viper’s nest we like to call Florida, it looks like we are definitely going to get our first head-on tropical storm of the season and maybe our first hurricane. I put an emphasis on the maybe, because Ernesto is as yet a tropical storm, and one that has not been able to hold his strength or his projected course very well so far. Two days ago he it (no more anthropomorphizing these suckers… hurricanes are “it”‘s) was supposed to head West and hit somewhere in the Gulf. But now they say it is turning east, and you would think someone had just told all the newscasters that they had free Lamborghinis for life. They are ecstatic, frothing at the mouth and trotting out their windbreakers and their clips of overweight people in shorts filling up their oversize cars full of gas. The Weather Channel is the worst offender, busting out with a commemorative graphic for their continuing coverage of “Florida Prepares for Ernesto.” They don’t even try to hide the glee from their eyes. Also, they are already standing on the coastline letting their hair get all windblown as if something is actually happening. Ernesto news has not even made the homepage of the New York Times yet. You wouldn’t know it to talk to anyone or turn on the local news. You would think Ernesto is the only thing happening IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

My foul mood began when my esteemed co-worker DD informed me, over my lunch mind you, that her husband had just called and told her that like there was no food left in Publix and there were like 52 people in front of him in line for gas. Ohmigod, DD exclaimed, this is going to suck like so much! Of course I keep my mouth shut, except for gently reminding her that Ernesto was still a tropical storm, but meanwhile I’m thinking, so, like how much? More than a flat tire but less than cancer? More than scraping snow off your windshield in subzero temperatures but less than an earthquake? More than living in your average South American country but less than living in say Chechnya? Since when did your life’s general and unoriginal suckage matter to me!!! And if our lives are really going to suck, how exactly are you making it better by telling me? It is obvious that DD has already planned on having a life that sucks for the next couple of days, whether that means a busted windshield due to flying branches (okay, pretty bad suckage by the time you deal with the insurance company) or simply a couple of days of cold showers and cold food.

You know what I really hate? That my place of employment and education has already closed for tomorrow. What am I going to do to distract myself from the storm that isn’t even going to get here until Wednesday if I don’t have work and class? Oh wait, I know what I am going to do. I am going to go mob Publix in my pajamas and claw another woman’s eyes out over the last can of tuna.
The thing that people most lack in the plural is perspective. Here might be a couple of good times to get really really scared. 1) You wake up and find out that you live in Baghdad or Afghanistan or Beirut. 2) You wake up and find out that you live in New Orleans–not just when Katrina came through, now, a year later, with nothing fixed except what the tourists see. If you live in South Florida and have two extra cents to rub together, you need to chill out and look on the bright side. You did realize that you live Florida, didn’t you? Deal.

Seriously though, I think that in most cases what is driving all these people to clear out the shelves at Publix like it was Andrew’s second coming and line up behind fifty-two other cars for a tank of gas isn’t even fear, or the memory of fear. I think it’s the memory of annoyance. It’s the memory of, for just a few days, having to curtail your lifestyle of consumption and mass media entertainment. We think that if we have a little bit of extra food and enough gas to run our generators that we will be able to avoid spending some quality times with ourselves and avoid acknowledging that there are forces in this world that don’t give a damn about you and your air conditioning.

Ranting aside, I don’t want to go too far with this. Genuine disasters have befallen Florida and will again. But how on earth are we supposed to have the fortitude that it takes to keep body and soul together during a real disaster if we are encouraged to panic over ever litle wind that blows our way? Who does this help? And I do have to have some sympathy for guy who they interviewed at the pump who nearly started crying when he remembered not having any gas after Wilma. I’m serious. He was shaking and referred to Wilma as having happened “two months ago” and seemed genuinely afraid. Goddamn you 24 hour news! We all have PTSD already, don’t go setting us off for no reason, because every time you do it takes less and less to seriously freak us out.

In the meantime, here are some things not to do if you have a friend (um, me!) who lives in South Florida in the event of a possible hurricane. Don’t call or email me to ask if I am worried (unless you live in SF too b/c we have hurricane solidarity). Of course I am worried! I am not a bleeding idiot! On the other hand, there are plenty of other things to worry about too, like the Melville response paper that is still due despite the university pre-closing for a day of thumb twiddling. After the hurricane, even if you do live in SF, don’t try to give me a lecture about how I should have bought more batteries and should start paying for a land line I would use about two days a year and should definitely make sure to deduct all the food that spoils in my fridge from next year’s income taxes. These things make me feel hurricane inadequate and I don’t like that. It makes me mad. I’m breathing and I’m not complaining, so let me handle hurricanes my way, and maybe it doesn’t include trying to turn a profit when I lost a grand total of about $3.57 in food because I keep my refrigerator empty on a regular basis. If I do complain about something, please follow the golden rule and nod your head sympathetically, which is exactly what I will do for you when you complain about something whether or not it is something you could have prevented. All forms of I told you so are extremely angry-making, so please feel smug in silence. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you say anything like “gee, I’m glad I live in ____” or “gee, I would never move to Florida” or “so, when are you moving back to Michigan?” These things make me feel bad too, and they make you look like a big wimp who is denial that, in fact, you are winter weather’s bitch.

Whew, I feel much better now. Was that as good for you as it was for me?

Tomorrow is a school day

August 27, 2006

Today’s agenda:

Finish up Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story.

Write first piece for creative nonfiction, about a song that has defined my life in some way. (And by the way, try not to get too perfectionistic on yourself, because you have a lot of workshops to get through. Just type it up and get it done, okay?)

Read the rest of the stories for the Melville seminar.

Write the response paper for the Melville class– RELAX, it’s only one page.

Read the assigned pages of the Melville biography. Nada más! This is no time for overachieving, the Emmy’s are on.

Poems? That’s what you really want to write, remember? Not that you’ll get any done today. Not to worry, the Emmy’s are on.

Oh and if you get a minute, try to make a dent in Northrup Frye’s The Great Code. You have a presentation on that Thursday.
Plane crash? Sunday school lesson plans? Budget? Grocery shopping? Thank the dear Lord for all this homework. So much better than real life.

We were robbed

August 24, 2006

Okay, I started watching Miami Vice the TV show last night and I must report that there is a prominently featured alligator:


His name is Elvis and he is definitely a badass. He lives in Sonny’s (Don Johnson/ Colin Farrell) boat and he scares Rico (??/ Jamie Foxx) the hardened NY cop half to death. My issue is, why did Elvis get left out of the movie? That is a serious omission. I know I know, pet alligators do tend to detract from the artistic seriousness of any given work of art, but still, what says Miami like a pet freaking alligator?  Imagine the backseat of the Land Rover: hola chica, hola chico, oh by the way, have you met Elvis? Okay, back to the pilot. The first episode of Miami Vice ain’t over ’til Phil Collins sings.

Yesterday was the first day of the semester at the university where I work and now, finally, where I am a student. A year ago I spent the better part of most days wondering if this was what I really wanted or even a good thing to do, and now I am just doing it and worrying about the consequences after graduation. In my unguarded moments, I am incredibly excited. I was excited picking out my classes (shall I choose the Jewish American Novel or 19th Century British Travel Writing, oh my?) and I’ve been excited walking through the shelves of overpriced textbooks trying to get a glimpse of what my selected semester holds. Still, over the weekend I realized I was a little nervous. I think I’ve done a good job of tempering my expectations, of myself and the school I am attending, but I knew deep down I still had some biggies. Once upon a time in January, I was excited to start the library degree too, and pretty rapidly robbed of any illusions I might have had about getting some intellectual challenge back into my life. It’s school alright, but not the kind I was used to. I’m enjoying working in a library and I’m enjoying the worlds of library blogs and open source software, but I have never been more excited to be halfway done with a degree. It’s my ticket to interviews for jobs that I think I would really like to have. It is not my passion. When I’m being honest, though, this subject matter of this second degree probably is my passion and something I want to be way more than average at. So, much remains to be seen, and as I got ready to attend my first class my main goal was just not to think about it too much and let it unfold as it would.

After finishing up work for the day, I sat down in a corner of the library to pass my last moments of free time reading Donald Antrim’s new book, a memoir, The Afterlife. (Really really good, by the way.) This was a particularly fitting, as the first class I was waiting to attend was the Creative Nonfiction Workshop. I lost track of time and soon found myself walking at a brisk if sweaty pace toward the Arts & Humanities building. I located the room my schedule told me was correct and joined the crowd of waiting students in the hallway outside. All the doors were locked and no professors were on the scene. This gave me time to survey my new peers.

If my sense of optimism about the degree path I was starting down in those first few moments had been charted on something like a heart monitor,  the tape would show a series of peaks and valleys in the kind of rapid succession that might frighten a medical professional. Peak: everyone looked just like me! Clean and dressed with some attention to matching colors but generally a bit disheveled! Well, except for that woman in the tailored suit with the perfect manicure who I later found out was Italian, but that’s okay, she’s Italian. Valley: this guy who looks like he’s pushing 30 is talking about a kegger. Major peak: no one is talking loudly about their manuscript pending at Prestigious Journal Du Jour. Major valley: The Scary Twins! The Scary Twins are in my class!

A word about the scary twins. I started working at the library here just about a year ago, and I had not been there very long before I met the Scary Twins. By “met” I mean “saw,” on a regular if not daily basis. The Scary Twins go everywhere together. They remind you of the twins from The Shining except all grown up and dark haired. They don’t smile, they don’t talk. Their clothes don’t match exactly, but if one is wearing a skirt the other is wearing a skirt. If one is wearing capris and flip flops ditto for the other. They walk side by side through the stacks. One of the comforts of working and attending a large university must be that when you see such people you can remind yourself that there is a high probability you will never see them again, and even if you see them, you will probably never have to speak to them. For a brief valley moment, I entertained the possibility those assumptions were to prove wrong and wrong. This wasn’t scary really, but it did little to bolster my hope that I had finally picked a program that attracted normalish people, unlike the library program.
Peak: the Scary Twins are in class on the other side of the hall!  Parallel universes preserved. My young but assertive looking professor arrived, unlocked the door, and a few hallway dwellers wandered in. Peak: not too many! Valley: of the eight students or so that sat down, four of them were engaged in the kind of insider banter that subtly excludes newbies. I can deal. Next semester that will be me. The real problem is what they are talking about. I’ll try to render it in dramatic form. (Warning: this might be a bit boring for non-English majors.)

Student 1: Oh gosh, do you remember who the father of deconstruction is?

(Sidebar: to a graduate student of any literary variety, this question should sound something like, do you remember who invented the theory of relativity? This is a basic. This is something my teacher felt the need to cover in my junior year of high school.)

Student 2: <slaps forehead> Aaargh. No. And I just did that in Prinicples and Problems.

Me: <keeping mouth shut, not even tempted to open it, someone else will soon enough>

Student 3: I think he was French.

Student 1: Really?

Student 4: Yeah. And I think he wrote science fiction.

Student 2: Yeeaaaah. Oh what was his name?

Me: <in head: if they say L. Ron Hubbard I really will intervene.>

Student 1: Does anybody know?

Me: <in head: Derridaderridaderridaderridaderridaderridaderridaderridaderridaderrida>

Class: Nope. Sorry. <head shake>

Student 1: <looks straight at Me> Do you know?

Me: Derrida? <slightest hint of a question mark, deep sense of relief>

Students 1, 2, 3, and 4: Oh yeah!

Luckily, this valley wasn’t far from a peak, many peaks actually, including a good syllabus and a few funny stories from the prof. By the end of the class I was, very uncynically, excited and sanguine enough to remember that I shouldn’t judge the strength of a whole department on a few of its students, especially its MFA students. MFA students are like the voice majors of the English department, as ditzy as they come, and what’s a French deconstructionist give or take? I don’t even like deconstruction. And while I’m at it, I should remind myself that I just shouldn’t judge full stop. We’re all dumb in some places and smart in others, so I should just get down to the writing and the listening and let the rest just happen.