You are currently browsing the daily archive for October 15, 2009.

55 years ago today, Hurricane Hazel roared ashore right around Topsail Beach, North Carolina, where I have spent at least part of the month of August since I was 8 years old.  A Category 4 hurricane, coinciding with the highest lunar tide of the year, it caused an 18-foot storm surge.  You can read that as BAD.  Legend has it that the house next door to “our” beach house, which is oceanfront, was picked up off its pilings, and dropped by the sound, 4 blocks away, completely intact.  They just had to pick it up and put it back on its stilts.  They say that there are no cemetaries on the island anymore because when Hazel came, all the bodies in the cemetary in Surf City were washed above ground, creating a gruesome clean-up process, and making it difficult in some cases to tell fresh corpses from better-seasoned corpses.  Ew.

Hazel’s unusual pattern had her pass through Durham as a Category 3 hurricane, which I don’t believe has happened since (and hadn’t happened before).  My father told me tales of watching from his office window as huge old trees just flew across West Campus.  I wonder if he walked to work that day?

Here’s an image of the storm’s aftermath – a shame about that lovely car …

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On a much more pleasant note, today is my favorite author’s birthday!  He’s dead, or else I’d send him a card.  Yes, it’s P.G. Wodehouse, early 20th century British author best known for his humorous books featuring Jeeves and Bertie Wooster.  How did a small-town North Carolina girl fall into a passionate literary love affair with an aged English author and suspected German collaborator known as “Plum”?  Well, it all started on a bright December day on Markham Avenue.  I just happened to use my friend Tom Beckett’s bathroom and there was this book.  As one does when one can during private moments, I read a few pages, and found it hysterical.  When I emerged, I asked Tom about it. “Oh, that’s James’ bathroom book,” he replied.  His roommate always had a book that was solely and exclusively read in the bathroom.  Don’t think about the germs, okay?

Well, I was captivated, but, being me, came back to Colorado and promptly forgot about it, until the following March, when I became very, very, very ill – and my boyfriend broke up with me.  Nice, huh?  Anyway, I needed some serious cheering up, so I dragged myself to the toy store and bought myself a teddy bear, and to the bookstore and bought the book “Life With Jeeves”, a compilation of three Jeeves novels.  I was too sick to go to school or to work, so I just stayed in the clawfoot tub of my exceptionally funky apartment and laughed myself well.

After that, it was a game for me to try to find Wodehouse’s books, as he was not exactly well-known in my generation, and Amazon.com didn’t exist yet.  I found around 40 of them to purchase, and more in the library, and I know there are still some out there that I haven’t read – I’ll find them someday.  They are, to this day, like comfort food for me.  When I get really down, or really sick, I start re-reading them, and must have re-read all of them ten times. 

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(Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/littlestuffedbull.)

Wodehouse died at the age of 93 on Valentine’s Day after finally becoming a knight of the realm.  I hate it when my favorite authors die.  It means they will never write anything new for me to read. 

For more contemporary folks, you may be interested to know that the BBC produced a few television versions of some of Wodehouse’s Bertie and Jeeves stories, with the part of Bertie Wooster being played by none other than the actor who currently portrays Dr. House.  Quite a grand canyon between those two roles.

Today is also the birthday of Isabella Bird, one of the world’s foremost early female travellers and a personal inspiration for me, as she just went, on her own, and explored.  I love her attitude.

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As a final parting thought, today is National Grouch Day.  Indulge your negativity if you want to – I’m afraid I am negative enough off and on right now without needing a special day for it.

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