Hurricane Dorian was a wonderful disappointment for Miami. There is no question in my mind the mammoth hurricane would have devastated the island of Miami Beach, which incidentally, is my island home. I will readily admit that I was scared. Had hurricane Dorian graced us with its presence we would have been chewed-up, spit-out and hurled back into the stone age. Today, I’d be a hunter gatherer of Goodwill giveaways, FEMA freebies, Red Cross kindnesses and government cheese. No doubt I’d be flirting with insurance adjusters to get the largest sum possible paid-out and begging roofers to do me first… (Get your minds out of the gutter!) I’m happy to have escaped it all and grateful not to be at the mercy of volunteer relief workers trying to win a seat in heaven by throwing me a bottle of water.
However, there is one embarrassing fact I feel I must confess. I am one of those irresponsible people that you hear about in the news that neither prepare nor evacuate. Frankly, I never do; not even a little. I know it’s shameful and nothing to boast or be proud about. But, as Forrest Gump’s mother said best, “stupid is as stupid does.”
Now… let’s debunk the notion that I might be or consider myself clairvoyant. I had no feeling or intuition about the hurricane coming one way or the other. I’m generally laidback about these matters of emergency and collective destruction. I am Lackadaisical about preparedness which is a quirky word for LAZY. I’d like to think that I am more positive thinking then the next man but NO… again, I’m just lazy. I go through life and operate under the notion that things will work themselves out. Everything will be as it should, the universe doesn’t need me to help, interfere or panic; again, lazy.
I understand that my poor choices will one day come creeping back to haunt me. Undoubtedly, my luck will runout and destiny will pay an unfavorable visit but until then; have you seen my remote? Like all the other close calls and near misses I was planning to ride this one out with only my remote, my wits, my sarcasm and snappy comebacks to save me.
Having said that, I am thankful that Miami escaped another hurricane threat. Dorian is evidence that global warming is a fact. Climate change is underway. Nevertheless, in counting my blessings, I am also grateful, I don’t have countless amounts of free government sandbags to store. Nor, do I have a six month’s supply of water, or an unsettling surplus of batteries that can power a nuclear plant to rival Turkey Point and there was no noshing of hurricane junk food to make me fatter. And, finally, I was not tragically tossed back into primitive times without my TV, cell phone or laptop. No… Dorian did not make me into a caveman. I am no worse for wear.
There was one hurricane in Miami that should have taught me a thing or two of the dangers of not preparing. The nineteen nighty two famous category five Hurricane Andrew now known as one of the top, most costly and destructive hurricanes to ever touch US soil.
For some strange reason it took the world a long time to understand that the power of Hurricane Andrew was not a mere category three like meteorologist had forecasted and maintained for many years but in fact was a category five hurricane. Every person living in Miami at the time knew It had to be more. Scientist and meteorologist have finally admitted their failures and have come-out and admitted it was five. Sheesh… For years we were left thinking maybe we were nuclear bombed by Cuba/The Soviets (a little cold war humor).
Hurricane Andrew had the destructive force of an Atomic bomb. I will never forget, I was still living at home at the time with my parents in Hialeah (a Miami-Dade County Cuban ghetto). We were home riding out the storm, and blithely oblivious to what was about to hit. We had no idea Andrew was even coming at all. You see, Andrew made an unexpected turn and suddenly the shit got real! We were all gravely misinformed by our Latin witchdoctors and fortune tellers at Telemundo. Who knew? They got it all wrong, the size, trajectory and wind strength of the colossal Hurricane Andrew. Therefore, we didn’t pay it much mind. And, surprise he came!
I remember as if it were yesterday, we were looking out (mom, dad and me) through our Masking Tape hurricane proofed living room window at the street during Andrew. We took every precaution, so all the windows of our humble abode were taped in X formation, as if to denote a bullseye, or scream here Hurricane Andrew… X marks the spot! Nevertheless, we were safely sealed tight by the miraculous tape. We stood there quietly, mouth gapped open, jaws dropped, looking at amazement at what seemed to be the opening act of The Wizard of Oz. The wind had lifted and blown garbage cans in the air and down the street, a screaming cat flew by with the neighborhood mangy dog barking right behind it, and all the while, I knew we were all secretly thinking who was going to scrape the tape off the glass when this is all over.
Nevertheless, our heads were transfixed at the scene of such powerful winds that Andrew seem to endlessly punch the block. We stood gazing as the neighborhood was being torn apart. Boy, we felt lucky that our miracle tape was holding the house together. Then surprisingly we began to notice our huge beloved old Ficus tree in the front yard lean from the force of the strong howling winds. The roots popped and came-up from the ground as the poor ole tree hung on for dear life. We all yelled out an, “Aye Dios Mio!” In singsong unison and synchronicity.
I thought about how often I had bragged about that tree. We were the only green people in the entire street. Hell, we were the only green people in the city that had enough ecological sense to pour the concrete around the tree instead of cutting it down all together. Afterall, not only did the tree provide life giving breathable oxygen, but most importantly it provided shade for our three cars and cover from being spotted the other two cars up on cinder blocks from Hialeah City Code Compliance Inspectors.
That poor ole tree never stood a chance against Hurricane Andrew. We thought if it can survive the concrete around its trunk it could survive anything and would outlive us all for that matter. And now here it was fighting for its life and minutes away from departing this cruel, cruel world; off to Ficus heaven. “Maybe, we should have wrapped it in masking-tape,” my mother said. “Too late now mom”, I responded. A tree so well rooted and better made than all three of us put together and our duplex was about to bite the dust literally and (pun intended).
The tree began to give-way under the strength of the howling winds and it was about to fall on my mother’s coveted brand new (to her) grey Chrysler LeBaron. The car would have been considered long in the tooth if it had teeth but in Hialeah it might as well be a Rolls Royce. My mother was the envy of every Cuban housewife in the neighborhood and those she flaunted her car in Sedano’s Grocery Store, which would explain the Santeria dead chickens thrown at our door step every Sunday. I knew it was up to me to save her dear old LeBaron. Afterall, a free chicken every Sunday made for a tasty arroz con pollo.
I had to act quickly seeing no one else offering to save the car I said, “I will go out there and brave those treacherous winds and save your car mama!” My mother exclaimed in desperation, “Nooooo… Please my son, DON’TTTTTT go out there without the keys!” Naturally, I rolled my eyes at her, but it was too late to back-out now. I was already wearing my red cape and blue tights by then. My father yelled-out, “NO SON! you’re going to get your head cut off by flying zinc!” I thought, what a strange thing to say, when has a vitamin ever killed anyone? I later learned that he actually meant metal from a poorly thatched roof that is commonplace In Hialeah. But I had decided to save my mother’s car. So, I did. I was the hero that day, I braved Hurricane Andrew category five violent winds, the blinding sheets of rain, the loud thunder, electrifying lightning, and head-pounding hail, but I was victorious! Seconds before the tree fell, I had moved my mother’s car three feet and averted disaster and saved our free Sunday meal.
After that experience one would think that I wised-up to the dangers of a hurricanes force. Sadly, no, my lack of desire to prepare for the next big one even disappoints me. I know one day I will run out of luck. I suppose since Andrew’s harrowing experience, I am somewhat traumatized of the whole thing and in denial. But you would too if you had witnessed the tragic death of my Ficus Tree. Or, perhaps, the trauma comes from the thought of being decapitated by flying zinc, all for the foolishness of playing the hero to the LeBaron. I risked my life to save my mother’s beloved Chrysler, which was sold to a junkyard for parts six months later.