Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tornado, part 2

We went inside and Alex made us a late night snack.  I caught the end of Nightline. A local weather ticker flashed on top of the screen, announcing a severe thunderstorm warning for Cuyahoga and the surrounding counties. All told it was about a 25-mile radius around Cleveland -- a wide swath for storm activity. Rain rattled against the side of our house. Alex and I went out on our front porch to watch the weather as we often do. What began as a steady soak quickly accelerated into a violent downpour. Wind shook the trees on our tree lawn. I realized that the umbrella was up on our back deck. I ran through the house and out back to close it. Rain stung my neck and back as I shut the cranked closed the umbrella. A blinding burst of lightning signaled that it was time to go back in. As I reached for the back door a powerful gust nearly lifted me off the ground. I wrenched open the screen door. It tore from my grasp and slammed against the side of our house. I stammered inside and forced shut the back door. I caught a glimpse of Alex standing in the kitchen wide-eyed. All was noise, like the passing of a locomotive right over top of us. The lights flickered and went off. A tremendous crash sounded outside of the back door. I looked through the blind to see a limb from our centuries-old backyard maple, Broccoli, had snapped and dropped right where I had been standing on the deck. The view through the blind was that of leaves and wetness. Another loud crash, this time in the driveway.

“Should we get in the basement?” Alex yelled.


We ran through the darkness into the basement, smashing heads together when we got there. The freight train had passed. We stood there for a few seconds before I ran up to landing to check the driveway through our side door. Again the view was consumed by leaves and branches and rain. Our cars were mere feet away but we could not see them through the debris.

“Did Broccoli fall?” Alex asked, terrified.

“I think so.”

I pictured the 100-foot tall tree smashed through the top of our house. Defying the storm, I sprinted upstairs. The second floor seemed okay so I went up to the attic. Shining my flashlight back in the eaves, I could see no pieces of Broccoli poking through. Imaging the thing falling at that moment, I doubled back down the stairs. I went into the living room and looked out the front window. Branches and leaves were strewn through the streets, filled with water gushing down. Alex called me to the kitchen window so we could look out over the driveway. We could see the tree limb had torn the gutter off of our neighbor Torry’s house and did some damage to a railing on her back porch.

Alex and I ran next door to check on Torry to make sure she was okay. We were relieved to see her answer the door, though she was quite shocked to see the damage to her house and her car. Now that we were outside, we could see that Alex’s car, a 2010 Chevy Cobalt was totally smashed. Several heavy limbs landed on the roof and hood, breaking all the windows and allowing the rain to leak in. Broccoli was still standing, though the wind had sheared off some of the limbs and caused damage. I tried to call 911 but it came back with a busy signal. I was not sure what 911 could do for us with our cars smashed by a fallen tree, but I needed to report the emergency somewhere. Alex broke down and cried while I stayed on hold with First Energy to report downed lines. Torry comforted her. I was lost in my own chaotic world. It did not help that we were still a little buzzed from the bourbon earlier. After sitting on hold for about an hour, I was able to reach someone at the power company to report the downed lines. By this time, the rain had let up significantly, but there were still eerie bursts of lighting that painted the landscape purple. In the distance, we could see smoke coming out of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, up on Detroit. Silhouetted intermittently by the lighting, fire fighters climbed up onto the roof.

Despite warnings from our neighbors two doors down, Alex and I risked live wires and traversed the short distance back to our house. The next day, we knew, would be to survey the damage and report it to our insurance company. We planned to awake at first light the next morning and take some pictures. Eventually we fell asleep, uneasily dreaming about the rest of Broccoli coming down on top of us.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Bachelor Party

In Winston-Salem, NC for a wedding tomorrow. Much of today spent on the road from sunny Cleve. Then with family for the rest. Not much time left for blogging. Will revisit tomorrow, folks.

Something to chew on: Bachelor party ideas (2 of my best friends are getting married next year).

  • Walking tour of strip clubs in the Flats of Cleveland
  • Bourbon Tour in Kentucky
  • Shiloh
  • Colonial Williamsburg
  • Gettysburg
  • Camping in the Smokies
  • Hiking the Appalachian Trail
  • Celebration, FL

Thursday, November 03, 2011


Alex and I sat at the edge of Edgewater Hill, looking out over our Great Lake, watching a storm roll in. Tendrils of lightning knifed across the sky, behind clouds and clouds of the advancing front. We had been drinking bourbon on our front porch with our friend Kate. She came over in the night to pick vegetables from our community garden. She had pulled her car into the garden, which is against the rules. We yelled at her from our porch, clutching our snifters.
“You can’t park there!”

Engine still running, Kate came across the street to our house. She explained that she would use the headlights to pick out the best tomatillos with which to make salsa. We said that we were drinking Seven Roses Single Barrel and suggested Kate have a glass. Later, the three of us sat with our snifters and watched Kate’s car, still idling precariously between the sidewalk and entrance to the garden. Kate admitted to us that she had purchased a life insurance policy from our friend Charlie, who had given up on teaching English to sell life insurance. Alex and I, too, had purchased a life insurance policy from Charles. He was my best man, how could I say no? I recalled signing the papers that very morning, over a Mr. Nomad skillet from Nick’s Diner in Ohio City. Paid for by Charlie himself. Shortly thereafter, biking to work, I nearly collided with a jitney trying to make a quick left. Luckily I escaped unscathed but I could not help yelling “JESUS CHRIST” into the guy’s car as we passed. I almost made Alex a wealthy woman.

Low rumbles of thunder portended an oncoming splash. I ran in and grabbed a flashlight. Kate, Alex and I went across the street to pick produce from streetlight, flashlight and headlight. The occasional strobe of lightning made things interesting. The flashlight I grabbed proved ineffective for it required constant shaking to keep it powered -- a kinetic motion flashlight. I had stolen it from an old roommate, for I would never buy such a contraption. After much shaking of the light, we gathered a sufficient amount of produce.  Kate thanked us for our help and she left, reversing her car back onto the street and leaving Alex and I in the darkness. We decided to take a walk down the street, towards the lake. 

The wind began to pick up and the lightning behind the clouds and clouds put on a great show. I could not get Alex to look though, for she kept trying to take a picture with her phone. We strolled back to our house, bourbon working its way out of our system. We had no idea what was in store.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

On blogging

My first attempt at blogging in over a year did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. After finishing up my piece on getting back to blogging, I in turn spent an hour trying to format the post to conform to other older posts. It seems that since May of 2010, blogging technology has changed. Now blogger has a spiffier, modern dashboard with tracking (so long, sitemeter) and a simpler FCK Editor for posting content. Gone however, is my standard font, Lucida Grande. Plus I ran into a lot of trouble pasting in text from Word or Google docs into the post editor. Despite the template asserting that all text should be white, the post I put up last night appeared in black -- very hard to read against a dark gray background.  Subsequent attempts at posting the same content wrecked the template even further. After about two dozen attempts, I got the post formatted appropriately a little after midnight. It used to be so easy.

I am considering updating NOMENCLATURE’s template to something newer, to facilitate posting. I always liked the old custom template, but seems as though Google has moved beyond this format, and is not offering much support for the old dashboard or Lucida Grande. This makes me sad, but at the same time, I realize that I have spent the last two to three years trying to drop anchor against the on-raging current of progress. My involvement in social media is pretty much non-existent. Though I possess a Twitter and Facebook profile, I rarely make even a ripple on those networks. My favorite social media outlet, blogging, is now an antiquated platform suited for folks stuck in 2006. Am I stuck in 2006?

As technology advances, I find myself becoming a warped, frustrated old man, clutching my clamshell cellular phone, snapping measly 1.4 MP pics and being able to send them absolutely nowhere, tapping out T9 text messages to folks who are expecting FaceTime(TM). As I sit with five people at dinner and look around to find each one separately on their smart phones, I make a snide comment about not embracing the newest form of communication. I do not post my location; I do not network; I am not the mayor of any place. I wear this like a badge of honor. Am I a retro snob? When will clamshell cell phones be considered retro? Is listening to the Counting Crows August and Everything After on a CD Walkman retro?  Are minidiscs back in yet?

I used to be into new stuff, up to day on consumer electronics. In college, I wrote articles for the Daily Kent Stater about how I wanted an iPod for Christmas. I am not proud of that article. It had no staying power. People called me out on it after I wrote it, as they should have. I got the iPod Classic for Christmas that year, but back then it was just called the iPod. It was not yet retro. People would say, “At least you got your iPod,” or “Hey, the article worked, you got an iPod.” This embarrassed me.

Back then, a friend of mine, J.B. Dean, approached me about another article I had written, this one about a Megabus trip to Chicago (“Chicago on a Dollar”... look it up). He took me to task for name dropping the iPod in the article. On the sidebar, there was a photo of me made to look as if it was taken with a Polaroid. Scrawled on the border of the photo, in a script font as if I had written it: “Listening to Jets to Brazil’s Perfecting Lonliness on my iPod.” J.B. did not like the mention of iPod. Rightfully so, for it did not add to article. It was merely a product plug. I shrugged off the critique by saying that my editor was responsible for the artwork. But it sparked a conversation about materialism, about how much that little $300 hard drive that plays music meant to me. How much it means to all of us. J.B. asked if I planned to buy each iteration of the iPod as it emerged all down the line until the bitter end. Shortsightedly, I said that I intended to have enough money to afford the new ones when they came out. He laughed and shook his head, for I had reaffirmed his assertion that society at large feeds into the cyclical machine spitting out new peripherals.

Ironically, that iPod was stolen months later from a coffee shop in Kent, while I was out of work and flat broke. Being a recent college grad then, a new one would not be in the cards for quite a while. Once I found that elusive well paying job as a corporate news release editor, one of my first major purchases was of a new iPod. It looked roughly the same but had more bells and whistles, a slimmer profile and much more memory. I still have the thing to this day but do not listen to it much anymore. I have not upgraded to the iPod touch or the iPhone. “My phone still works,” I say to my wife when she asks if will buy an iPhone. I hold out my scuffed and tarnished cell phone as if it is a battle scar, an unsightly thing but something I am stubbornly proud of. One day the phone will cease to be practical. It will either break or the wireless company will stop supporting it. At what point do I stop waiting for the other shoe to drop?

This is why I have decided to update NOMENCLATURE’s template. Google is phasing out support for this model. If this blog breaks, I am out of luck. I need to be more proactive and engaged towards technological progress. Will I rush out tomorrow for a smartphone? Not likely, but I will think about it some more.

Stay tuned for a new to this blog, coming in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Oh hi, blog

Oh hi, blog. I didn’t know you were still up here, on the World Wide Web. I see not much has changed with you since I left. I believe it. Me? No, I’m not living in Ohio City anymore. Yeah, I moved on up to the Detroit Shoreway, City of Cleveland. Now I am a married man and a proud homeowner. Have I kept writing, away from blogger, perhaps on some newfangled platform? Alas, no; not really. I have not been writing much of anything. Last November, I pulled away from blog month in favor of National Novel Writing Month. While my output overall was much higher than during the blog months of years past, I felt the quality to be lacking. To be honest, I have not even read the book I wrote almost a year ago. My good friend and writing companion Charles Parsons pushed for me to join up with him for another novel month this year, but I’ve opted to revisit you, blog, once more. As I explained to him, I felt that the quality of work I put on here is on average much better than the novel I wrote last year. Plus I like the instant gratification. Maybe as this month goes on I will ‘debut’ some juicy excerpts from the novel, The Path Between Mom’s and Dad’s.

I know it sounds ridiculous, rekindling a blog that has sat dormant for almost two years.

“Isn’t blogging dead?” Ted said to me a while ago, though at the time we were not discussing you, blog, but a theoretical blog I would write that would serve as a way for the company that I work for to make money and for me to receive restaurant gift certificates in return. Alas, my corporate blog, MultiVieux, which planned to analyze the fad of flash mobs for marketing purposes, never came to fruition. Probably for the best. Along those lines, blog, do you think another good blogging idea would be to examine different advertisements on NHL hockey boards? Do you prefer the traditional, static banners, or the new digital ones? I’m a traditionalist myself; I find something and I stick with it. So old fashioned banners for me. My all time favorite hockey board advertisement? Foodland banner, Civic Arena, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1990-1991. Stanley Cup year. But I digress here.

My wife and special lady friend Alexandra started a vegetarian cooking blog over the summer, Cooking Through Moosewood. This meant that we ate a lot of meals stuffed with random vegetables. Despite a modest following, Alex lost interest in the blog and floated the idea of deleting it entirely. I told her not to do it. For even if she never planned on updating it again, the blog could still stand up over time as a monument to an unfinished masterpiece. Maybe she would get the urge, as I have here, to begin posting again. But then I would have to eat more vegetarian dishes. Don’t get me wrong, I like vegetables, but sometimes a pork chop is good now and again.

So, blog, you may be wondering what the plan is for this month. Me too. I would like for the two of us to catch up. It can’t be done in one post. It might not even be possible over this whole month. But I’d like to think we can help each other out. I need to get back to writing and you need new content. It is pretty much win/win. I can do my best to put up a framework, a plan, a plot, a map, for the next month. If I am getting back to blogging, I might as well start with a bulleted list:
  • Post apocalyptic Cleveland stories. I have at least three that need to be fleshed out. This would be a great place to put them. And yes, I am still obsessed with postmodern dystopia.
  • Permaculture. Did I mention that my wife and I started a community garden? It’s a step in the right direction, but I would like to use this space as a sounding board for larger ideas.
  • DIY Computer Repair. The wireless card on my laptop is not working very well. I’m going to try to fix it this month. It could be a problem.
  • Homeownership. I own a house now. There are some stories there – particularly a nasty run-in with a tornado last August. Stay tuned for local news footage.
  • Marriage. There may be some references to married life, or even to the wedding itself, since it has been that long, blog. I’m afraid, though, that any story about marriage will devolve into anecdotes about our cats.
  • Cats. Our cats. Sarge and Dakota. They suck. But we love them.
  • Cleveland. Our home. The backdrop for this whole thing.
Well blog, it’s been real so far. We’ve come a long way since 2005. It’s almost hard to believe. I’m not ready to give up and I’m glad you’ve stayed with me. I am looking forward to another solid NaBloPoMo.

Let’s do this.