As Earl churns his way towards the Eastern Seaboard, states from South Carolina to Maine are on high alert, watching for signs of impeding stormy doom. The local newscasters have compared the preparations to those of twenty-five years ago, when Hurricane Gloria roared through.
In September of 1985, I was in the middle of a whirlwind of my own making. Gainfully employed, I was still making financially unsound decisions, racking up huge credit card debts at the ripe age of 19. Granted, I lived in a cheap, run-down apartment and I drove an old car, so my expenses were otherwise low. I also had a sugar daddy, of sorts.
I was involved with a man that I barely knew, but who made a great deal of money as a fisherman. AJ would be out at sea for seven to ten days, and then swoop in, unannounced, to my shabby place and take me out shopping, dancing, drinking, and lots of sex’ing. It wasn’t the healthiest of relationships, and a lot of bad stuff happened in later months between me and AJ, but in September we were still pretty new to each other, and tolerant of the faults.
As Gloria approached, the boats of the harbor moored up, rather than ride the storm out at sea. AJ invited me to ride along on the Grey Lady as she was moved from the offload facility to the protection of the dry dock. It was the first, and only, time I was on one of those huge fishing vessels (think The Deadliest Catch) and I loved every minute of it. AJ got one of the other crew members to loan me their oilskins, those yellow coats and pants, so I would even look the part.
Once AJ’s job on the boat was finished, a bunch of us piled into a car and drove out to Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth. The storm had started to build up by this time; the winds were whipping the waves into a froth, and the sound of water crashing onto rock was deafening. The wind was so strong, we may as well have been paper dolls.
Laughing, we grabbed the corners of our oilskins, one in each hand, and held them out like bat wings. We leaned forward, into the wind, eyes closed, oblivious to the sting of the salty spray. We jumped… and then we flew.
I can’t help but smile now, as interviewed tourists complain of ruined vacation plans and governors declare states of emergency. Hurricanes are dangerous, to be sure. Gloria wreaked havoc when she came through; Earl certainly has potential. But every whirlwind, no matter how dangerous, will also have its thrills. Storms with bright centers, and dangerous wraparounds. I learned that with Gloria. I eventually learned that with AJ, too.