Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day at the (flooded) beach

There’s nothing like a mug of hot apple cider after a long day in March. A long 68-degree day in March. It was amazing! I got up at eight this morning, ate some of dad’s icky oatmeal (he must have put less than a teaspoon of brown sugar in) eating only clumps of banana and trying to force the rest down, before getting on the computer in search of a publishing house or magazine to get an informational interview at. I tried calling North Shore and Merrimack Valley, both local magazines, but getting hold of an actual person over-the-phone is impossible. I found the North Shore one, but the editor was in a meeting, and a guy at the front desk told me to e-mail or call, so later I called and left a message. I never got a return call. Maybe tomorrow, I hope.

I spent a few hours over my friend Sara’s house with she and her boyfriend. Her half-goldie black dog (90 lbs), Harry jumped all over us until we decided to go to Salisbury beach. We walked down the beach and found Harry-sized piles of black seaweed and half-buried lobster traps in the sand. Intermingled cans and bottles, gloves, boots and other single-paired shoes were trapped in the weeds. A dead fish, its mouth partially open to reveal sharp tiny teeth, made me stumble as I almost stepped on it barefoot. Sara scanned among the debris and sands for sea glass while I searched for anything interesting; a whole clamshell, some driftwood; more dead fish.

And then I started searching for images with the sight of my camera: a still standing on its own in a circle of weeds, right next to a black rubber boot and bleached yellow tennis shoe. Sara pointed to the long cement garage that has forever drawn the curiosity of my step sister and me into its depths: a five by five portion of its ceiling had been blown clear off. “From the waves,” Sara said. Further along the building I found a calling I was unable to resist: the door was gone. The wood that had been nailed over the entrance for my entire life, had been either destroyed or kicked out, and this was my chance to finally explore it.

Sand on the ground, a light film on everything; a dusty beer bottle on a shelf beside a dusty wooden chair; light blaring down from the no-longer-existent ceiling; the ceiling caved in a bunch of splintered beams; two half-open doors beside a refrigerator with its door thrown wide; closer to the entrance, a small room with double-holed cement blocks jumbled on the floor; in focus a rusty sewing machine on its side, Sara and Adam standing together on the beach out the door in the background.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

flood 2010

Our waiter was Herman Munster from the “The Munsters” . . . at least, he looked like that Frankenstein-guy. He was very tall, at least seven feet, and loud. The hair on his head was sparse, although it was hard to make out from all the way down in our chairs. “What Would You Like To Drink Young Lady?” He boomed. I asked for a pepsi. “Coke OkAY?” Nod. I felt our table wobble as he walked away.

We were sitting in a booth on the restaurant half of Bar--“it used to be a really good restaurant,” dad said—where the tables were arranged in a kind of triangle, on either side tables, but slanting to an end table by the far wall. An unequal triangle—obtuse? In any case, the bench is far enough away that one’s beer gut or thick flesh might lean comfortably against the hard edge of the table. For us, this meant we had two choices: we could either lean all the way back (even cross-legged) with our backs against the high wooden back, or we could sit on the edge of the seat, as close as possible to the table, where it would be possibly to reach our plates and waters.

The bar wasn’t really hopping. Saint Patrick’s Day night, and nothing really happening. I wondered if it was because of the time (nine p.m.) or if it was just because the town is Ipswich. When I think Ipswich I see the Ipswich Savings Bank monogram (?): a blue sky with white Vs flying around the name. Then I think of my step sister’s dancing place (Mariana’s) and of the floods.

The floods were the reason I came home. Living out in Western Mass is a bore after growing up Merrimack-North Shore. Where there is ocean here, there are mountains there; a variety of people here, basically all tree-hugging hippies there; real city-like during the school year, but rolling ghost-town during breaks: summer, winter, middle of March.

Dad left a message on my phone when I refused to answer it at 9:30 in the morning. “Man, you should have taken yesterday off from work and come down here! The floods are amazing and Ipswich river is all backed up, everything’s underwater…” not his exact words, but close. I called work, cancelled, and drove to Rowley.

Just before the bar we parked by the EBSCO building, with its giant mural painted on one long wall. The river was high. Trees were halfway underwater, but it was hard to tell. When we crossed town and stood in front of the footbridge, the damage was more striking: EBSCO, that enormous brick building, was a little underwater; the lights were still on through the windows. “They must be water-protected,” dad said, and we nodded. The water was moving fast like rapids. It went into a short waterfall on a long wall; this fall was only a few feet, when normally it’s a little further. The foot bridge was being pummeled, and for that reason the entrance to it was strung with many caution tapes, to keep us out. On the other side of the bridge, where the water came out, we could see it struggling to move; it was so fierce that I was sure it would have to break eventually.

I imagined the damage it would cause, if it was forced from its hold and pulled downriver. It was probably tumble a little (the bridge is at least 20 feet long) and maybe break apart in a few pieces, but it looks like the water could still hold it up. It would tumble downriver, gashing great holes in the sides of buildings, ripping through windows and flooding more basements. In seconds it would be to the major bridge in the center of town, the one that cars and people go over all the time, the bridge where the water is only a foot or so from completely touching the bottom of the bridge; it would tear it apart. Well, first, it might lean against the bridge, and maybe a piece or two would make it through underneath, but it would clog, and water would keep pushing, and eventually, eventually, that shit would break into pieces, the road would fall in, any cars or people standing on top would surely drown, and it would lead to incredible chaos.

But that didn’t happen. Not yet, anyway. From the news reports on NECN, it appears that the entire town of Billerica is underground. I’m not sure if that’s true.

Only a few weeks ago, the coast of New England was slammed with some seriously damaging winds, hurricane-style, 60-, sometimes up to 70-mile-an-hour winds. I missed it because of school. But it did damage: trees down everywhere, on houses, on top of cars, onto pedestrians walking by! It howled and shook houses and trailers, tore down weaker trees and challenged stronger ones, and I missed it! Now with the flooding. We haven’t had quite this bad flooding since the floods of 2006, when I fell into river-runoff and almost got sucked into the sewer under the road (my step sister rescued me).