Henri and Agnes and Uncle Walter

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Nothing to see here. Just half a foot of rain in a few hours on already saturated ground.....remnants of a hurricane that made landfall in the Northeast. Flooding everywhere. Cars floating. Roads washed away. Boulders cascading down mountains. Impromptu geysers created from overwhelmed storm drains. An entire valley holding silent vigils, praying over their churning sump pumps. It was bad. It could always have been worse. It also took most of us by surprise, since local forecasts got it staggeringly wrong.....calling for less than half of what we eventually received. It was a long, dark night. Just when you thought it was over......another torrent arrived. I'm not sure when I finally drifted off......but I know it was to the sound of a deluge doing its best to find a way inside. I kept checking the weather app. Hour after hour it kept saying "rain...100%". It can't rain forever, can it?

I stood outside this morning, in more rain, and every 3rd vehicle that passed my house was a plumbing / electrician truck. And then I saw the Channel 16 mobile., trolling for the best damage-porn. That vehicle is never a good sign in these parts. It's the Black Mariah of 21st century NEPA.

Parts of our area that never took water know what it feels like now. Water can ruin your day, Bubba. It's as relentless as a stalker.

***

I was 6 years old when Hurricane Agnes devastated the Wyoming Valley. My only memory of those days is my father covering the story for the Scranton Times. I know he was traveling back and forth. There were some late nights. Dinner without him. Those types of memories. As a result of Agnes, our parent's generation has what Hunter Thompson called "The Fear". It scarred this place.....sometimes literally. You can still find the high water marks down on the square, and they seem absurd.....like something out of a cheesy Hollywood disaster movie. No WAY the water got that high. But it's not hard to find the footage in the days of YouTube. It was Katrina before Katrina. The Valley looked like the victim of a war time aerial bombardment. Even the President of the United States had to sober up and fly in and see if for himself.

Since then, our area can't watch the slow progress of a gulf coast hurricane threatening to take a left turn without a fluttering heartbeat. And when what were fast moving storms load up for that left hook, they suddenly, inexplicably stop to hover over NEPA, like they're searching intensely for for a missing contact lens or something. And all the while it pisses all over us.

Memory is everything here. We can't escape the past no matter how hard to try to push it away. The mines and the river and the blood of ghosts who shares our last names.....all of them watch over this place with a sort of ragged reverence. It's hard to tell in the midst of our numerous nervous breakdowns, but we're actually made from pretty hearty stock....so Henri has already fucked off into the rear-view mirror. Agnes is still the queen. And if she couldn't take us out, no pansy sounding French poseur is gonna.

***

And so that's the way it is.....as Uncle Walter used to say. There's much about those days I miss. There was less meanness. The troll was the guy shit-talking you from his bar stool, and you always had the option of walking over and punching him in the nose. Nothing really lingered. You dealt with what needed to be dealt with, and you did it immediately....and you moved on. You weren't anonymous. The world was smaller. Day to day interactions were more pleasant. And when the storms came nobody felt like they were on their own island. Cronkite told the world about Agnes. Henri? He spread through Mark Zuckerberg’s algorithms. I can’t imagine why we so often pine for the past….can you?

And so much for all that. On Saturday night, Donald Trump gave one of his woe is me grievance monologues to a crowd of red-meat-eaters in Alabama. At one point he gently suggested that they get vaccinated. They booed him. For a brief moment, the man who created the monster saw it turn on him. It was one of the most surreal things I've ever seen. It was the Fonzie jumping the shark moment for the MAGAs. As they booed, he panicked and backtracked immediately by saying "But you do have your freedoms. You have to keep, you have to maintain that. You have to maintain that..." and the booing stopped and they started cheering their right to die and take others with them and Trump exhaled and sneered.....and I'm pretty sure that's when Henri decided to drop a jillion gallons of water on our heads.

Maybe he was just trying to help.

In a bit..

--tf