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8/19/2004

Happytown > Happytown

Facing hurricane Charley

 

Friday afternoon, Aug. 13: Stop at Nick's Discount Beverage on Crystal Lake Road and the line's out the door. Friggin' Charley. Why is it spelled that way anyway? Some dude with a thick accent walks in and says the line reminds him of a Boston blizzard. Came in for a 12-pack of Yuengling, but the line is so long we pick up a six of Corona and a quart of cheap rum for insurance. A hurricane is a terrible thing to waste.

Later Friday afternoon: Do what all sensible people with a Friday afternoon off due to a mandatory evacuation of downtown do: Play poker. Happy to report that we win about $35 on a straight to the jack. Less happy to report that we subsequently lose it all. A question comes up at the table: Would a field sobriety test taken during 100 mph winds hold up in court? Just asking.

Friday evening: Nothing, nothing, nothing, wind, rain, nothing, end of the world, nothing, end of the world from the other direction, darkness. Beer is holding out, neighbor's trees are not.

Saturday: Nice day for a bike ride. Tree in driveway prevents a stylish takeoff. Trees in every road prevent an efficient cardio workout. Lots of cleaning up to do. Opt to nap instead.

Saturday afternoon: The salt-of-the-earth types at 903 Mills Market open their doors under great adversity, giving away ice cream and selling $1 drafts until the kegs run dry. Hurricanes really do bring out the best in people.

Saturday evening: Dark.

Sunday: Hot. Boring. Salt-of-the-earth types at 903 Mills Market secure a beer truck with three taps poking through the side, each dispensing ice-cold Shipyard. Their concern for the neighborhood knows no boundaries. The gathered cheer every time a firetruck or OUC crew motors by.

Sunday evening: Consider reading a book. Too dark.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: Hot, dark, powerless.

We're no strangers to foul stenches here at Happytown™ HQ; you should smell our collective armpit on any given Monday morning. But seeing as a good number of us have spent the weekend in darkened fermentation, alternating between feeling like we ought to be doing something and then realizing that we'd better not (just to be safe), it's pretty clear that this particular Monday morning has produced an eau all its own. The standard musk of bar-pants and ill-advised morning mimosas has effectively given way to something altogether more homeless in nature: Think Fritos, well-vodka-with-warm-mixers and rotting tree waste. Then pinch your nose like we are.

This is why we're bitter, rolling our eyes at the underbrush dug up by Charley's vicious stampede and rolling them into the back of our heads at the Sentinel's notion that nothing brings people together like a natural disaster. Yeah, we're "glad everybody is OK" too, but not so happy™ that everybody has to sit on his or her smelly hands and wait. While some people, maybe two doors over, are blaring every light in their house like it's a KISS show, others of us are scraping pulp from our used tumblers. Oh, yeah, and tell us how much closer you feel to the neighbor whose rotting oak just fell over your Porsche on its way to flattening your Florida room. Then we'll tell you that you are big fat stinky liar. Maybe tomorrow we'll have ice cubes and warm water, and perhaps we'll be a little nicer.

Until then, we'll be sad that the landmark sign for the Parliament House was pretty much taken out by Mr. Charley. Orange Blossom Trail will be a bleaker, straighter place without it.

Hurricanes don't have to be a bummer. A giant oak on your roof, no power for days, spoiled food and lightless intersections all suck, but the key to making hurricanes fun – aside from liquor – is to take note of the media silliness that accompanies any such act of God.

There were the AM radio personalities, who in addition to telling us when the eye of the storm was going to hit, told us not to use our cell phones, a few minutes before asking us to call in to the station to report what was going on. And there were the television networks, whose dire warnings would have had us soiling ourselves had common sense not kicked in. Try listening to that crap in Spanish and tell us every other word doesn't sound like "muerte."

And, of course, there was the stalwart Orlando Sentinel, which was chock-full of silliness in the post-Charley days. The best came in the Aug. 16 paper, on page A2, where the Sentinel ran its obligatory story on Central Floridians going to church in the storm's wake. "Faithful seek light in storm's dark aftermath" was the headline over a story that noted people were in church two days after the storm, on a Sunday no less. In keeping with the paper's policy of a reporter in every other pew, this journalistic opus had one main writer and three contributors. We can almost hear the editor pacing the newsroom Saturday evening, yelling, "Guys, we need a church story! This one is big news, people."

And the award for hurricane opportunist of the week goes to ... Miami Realtor Michelle Vrasic! Clearly concerned about the plight of Orlando citizens in the aftermath of Charley, Vrasic has generously decided to donate 25 percent of her commission on "any transaction begun or completed prior to the end of the year" to the Red Cross, according to a press release Vrasic put out about herself. This selfish bitch – er, we mean selfless angel – has kindly offered to help locate rental property for those made homeless by Charley. No word in the press release on whether she will waive her fees. "It could have just as easily been the Miami area," chirps Vrasic. If you'd like to call Vrasic and express your fondest wishes that next time it is the Miami area and ground zero is her front yard, you can reach her at (305) 899-9305, e-mail her at mvrasic@yahoo.com or check her out on the web at www.waterfrontluxury.us.

SEMI-REGULAR FEATURE
WHO, WHAT, HOW and WHY:
ASK IAN THE I.T. GUY!

Q: Now that the power has been off for a few days, I've begun to wonder if all the gadgetry in our lives is nothing more than a giant electronic pacifier foisted upon society by evil people like George W. Bush so that we pass the time in mindless, obedient silence until we die. Your thoughts?

A: Electronic pacifier? I don't know about you, but I weathered the storm in the secret fortified underground bunker of the Armenian Poker Cartel, where I drank mai tais served by topless Brazilian girls, ate my fill at the complimentary omelet bar and watched the storm unfold over closed-circuit television monitors. If that's a pacifier, then consider me pacified. My point is, the inconveniences that people experience in times like this are technological problems that can be solved. Power outages are the ramifications of the methods we choose to employ of power generation and distribution. If, for instance, you had a refrigerator-sized power plant that ran off fuel cells in your house, or an array of batteries that were charged by solar panels on the roof, you'd have a different perspective on the situation. The centralized organizational system of power distribution will eventually be pre-empted by more robust, decentralized solutions, and when that happens, these kinds of annoying outages will be obsolete. Don't let your temporary inability to microwave your Hot Pockets force you to condemn technology – rather, let it be a spur to the ribs of the horse of innovation that we all ride together into the future.

askian@orlandoweekly.com

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