Today we are rooted in place….

•April 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It’s like holding your breath. Sooner or later you have to let it go.

The high tension wire that was the city of Baltimore appears to have snapped. There’s been rioting and looting and injuries. All playing out in front of the cameras. The world watches. All pass judgement. None more so than those who do not call Baltimore home. And those who are white.

(of course, when young white people riot, we call it “disruptive behavior”….and it’s usually over hugely important things like their favorite hockey team losing….but never mind that for now…)

If allowed to fester long enough, fear can turn into anger. And a peaceful crowd can be turned into a lawless mob if leaders emerge….as they most always do.

Leaders can do good and bad things, of course. All leaders ain’t oratorical geniuses. Sometimes it’s just the guy willing to throw the first bottle that gets to be the head of the snake.

A man with goods looted from a store walks past burning vehicles during clashes in Baltimore, MarylandSo, once again, what was a story about possible police malfeasance is about to become un-done, hijacked by photographs of 16 year old kids in $150 sneakers laughing while they throw stones, stopping only long enough to allow looters balancing cases of Pampers on their heads to cross back into their lines. All of this brought on by a small minority of people who didn’t care about Freddy Gray when he was alive and don’t give a shit about him now that he’s dead. If you look like you’re having fun during a riot, you probably are. And this makes it difficult for outsiders to believe your heart is in it. If you get my drift.

The legitimate problems that led to the protests in Baltimore….namely….issues of race (and class…always class) that plague just about every decent sized city in the country….are lost in the smoldering flames of burning CVS stores and on-the-scene reporters trying to file their stories before being overwhelmed with tear gas…thereby becoming the story. The news is not always what’s on the news.

If your contention is that cops are oppressive, and that you can remedy this by throwing rocks at their heads, you probably need a plan B. If in your old age you want to sit with a grand-child on your knee and tell him or her what you did to further the cause of civil rights in your own neighborhood, here’s hoping you can brag about more than stealing a pair of sneakers from Thom McCan. If you are a Baltimore cop, I hope you’re not the one CNN caught on camera throwing a rock at protesters. Mobs don’t do heroes very well.

The anger is undoubtedly real. When white cops are stopping black males for broken tail-lights and, minutes later, shooting them in the back, multiple times, in full view of camera phones and their own dash-board cameras, something is fucked up. When a cop kills a black man and uses the excuse that he shot him by accident…confusing a service revolver with a taser…something is fucked up. And when a black male is arrested for unknown reasons, and is tossed into the back seat of the car healthy…….and comes 30 minutes mortally wounded…..something is fucked up.

But then again, something has always been fucked up. This isn’t a new thing. The fact that these incidents between black males and the police seem more prevalent these days of course doesn’t mean they are. In the age of smart phones and facebook and twitter, just about everything seems more prevalent. If you look closer, however, you’ll find that the only thing increasing is public awareness. The numbers have been a flat line for a long time.

Sooner or later….these things come out. Like life itself, they find a way.

(Or one can….you know….just look at the make-up of our nation’s prison population….if that’s your thing..)

We are loathe to admit it….but when history teaches us that violence doesn’t solve anything, history is a lying bitch. That doesn’t make it any less repugnant while it’s happening….but it is so.

Only the most deranged Fox-watcher can still pretend that justice is color-blind in this country. Something needs to be done. I have no idea what that something needs to be. There are layers upon layers that need to be peeled back and deciphered. Anything but business-as-usual is progress. To stand still is to sink.

A state of emergency has been declared. The National Guard has been called up. Smoke lingers. Sirens wail. We’ve seen this all before.

But surely we’re better than this. We’re better than back-seat beatings and riot shields and pilfered diapers and thug-mugging for the cameras. On the day that Freddie Gray was laid to rest, his memory was besmirched, largely by the very people who claim him as their own very own. But the true tragedy is that he appears to have died in vain.

Nothing is gained in all this. Absolutely nothing. To stand still is to sink? Today we are rooted in place.

I’m not sure how Freddie Gray feels about this, but I’ve a feeling his first few hours in his new locale have been every bit as painful as his last few hours in the old one.

In a bit..

— Tom Flannery

“we’ve come a long way, baby”…..

•April 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I caught parts of the Bruce Jenner interview on TV last night and I sat there thinking, “we’ve come a long way, baby”.

Granted, a nation that takes a Ted Cruz or a Scott Walker seriously is not exactly a bastion of civil rights, but last night a transgender was given 2 hours in prime time. During that time Jenner was treated with dignity and respect and allowed to tell his story. He was surrounded by his loving family. Interviewer Diane Sawer did not editorialize. There was no post-interview roundtable of talking heads thrown together to sop the bible belt. When it was over Facebook and Twitter lit up with praise. The normal haters did the normal hating, but it seemed so rote….so connect-the-dot like…..lines pulled out of some goober playbook. Irrelevant.

In short, when all was said and done, America said……”good on you Bruce. Be happy.” And then went to bed. My Mom watched, and she told me…..”I just wish he was prettier…” and that was that. The perfect response. My Mom is as cool as it gets.

(People seemed more surprised that he came out as a conservative Republican than they were hearing that he wanted to be a woman. The sound I heard, which I initially thought was thunder, was John Boehner’s head exploding when Jenner said he would gladly discuss his plight with the speaker of the house…..and expect forward movement on LGBT rights. Good luck there Brucie.)

In my lifetime, this nation has gone from Jim Crow, to an African American in the White House. From gays hiding themselves away behind locked doors, to gays proudly marching down the Avenue of the Americas. Even the hint of a gay character on TV was greeted by the bible police as a sign of the apocalypse. Now, we simply don’t give a shit.

In many cases, not giving a shit is a glorious sign of acceptance.

I don’t pretend to understand what it feels like to be born a man and want to be a woman. But that’s the trough we need to navigate. I can’t pretend to know what it feels like to be a black man in the inner city being flagged down by a cop car either. We can never know such things until we can walk in the shoes of others. And all to often, those shoes simply don’t fit.

So what then?

Well….we can listen.

How hard can that be? Well…..pretty damn hard if we fail to filter out all the noise first.

Judge not lest ye be judged. It’s astounding to me how many God-fearing folk forget this little nugget.

What Jenner did was incredibly brave. Any time you raise your head above the parapet you invite rocks to the head.

We should all be allowed to live our lives the way we want to live them…..to love who we want to love….without fear of repression. As long as in doing so we do no harm.

And really, why should I give a shit that Bruce Jenner wants to be a woman?

How is it in any way my business? Live and let live. Another nugget.

But is he a “hero”? We use that word a lot.

That depends on how high your bar is. If winning a gold medal is heroic, then surely so is this.

I don’t think running faster than somebody else makes you heroic, and I don’t think deciding to live your life the way you want to live it is heroic either. Men and women run fast every day. They push through their own lives with dignity every day. Nobody calls them heroes.

Fred Shuttlesworth was a hero. Martin Luther King Jr. Gandhi. Kids who fight cancer are heroes.

Bruce Jenner is simply a good man. A good father. By all accounts a good friend. He should be thought of as nothing more. And nothing less. I’m sure he’d agree.

Our nation has come so far…..and yet we still have incredible distances to travel. Sometimes I wish we would run as fast as Jenner did in 1976 in Montreal….but maybe just knowing that we keep putting one foot in front of the other is enough.

Good on you, Bruce. Thank you.

In a bit..

– Tom Flannery

We have returned….well….one of us has….but never fear….I’ll get him…

•April 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This site has been in hibernation since 2012 but I’ve recently started badgering Stevens about taking it up again. He’s a bit grumpy so it may take me a while but I’ll get him back in here. Scout’s honor.

We even won a “best blogger” award from a local newspaper for what’s contained herein. What is contained herein anyway? Well, everything from a paean to old-fashioned wind-up wrist-watches to an obit for the great Levon Helm.

Guess which one was mine and which one was his?

He’s an old-schooler…..that Stevens. A show-and-teller on the back roads with a flip-top note pad and chewed up pencil in his shirt pocket….a pencil that he sharpens by whittling the nub with a pocket-knife. The way US Grant used to in 1864.

The man is a genuine throwback. A demon reporter who once told me that in over 50 years he might have editorialized once. In print that is. Or on TV, where he’s a bit of a local star (thanks to that voice….it drips like honey down the spine of a tree….the old ladies love him). When we meet in person he editorializes the hell out of just about everything I say or do….so it’s not like he doesn’t have opinions. It’s just that in his day newsmen reported the news. They didn’t interject themselves into it.

His idea of “working” is to get in his car and drive aimlessly, preferably on back-roads that lead to places he’s never heard of. Nothing excites him more than finding non-famous people doing things that non-famous people never get famous for doing. I’ve never met a man more repulsed by popular culture. This makes him either endlessly fascinating or an unbearable curmudgeon. I’ll let you decide. But I knew where I fall….even if the line is easy to straddle at times.

Oh, and he’s gotten paid for doing this sort of whistling and wandering in an “office” filled with blue lakes and green grass and exploding fall leaves. Since I was a little kid he’s gotten away with this dodge.

In short, he’s got the greatest job in the history of the world. A job that he’s been officially retired from, by the way, for at least 5 years. I’m not sure how or why he still works full time at the same job he retired from, but I hope I have the same problem when I’m his age. Which won’t be for a looooong time.

My father was a newsman cut from the same cloth as Stevens. They were professional friends. Respected the hell out of each other. When my Dad passed away in 2010 Stevens was the first person to call me. I’ll never forget that.

He knew I was some sort of writer. Plays. Songs. Stuff like that. He appreciated the lineage. He could see what I learned (and what I didn’t learn) from the old man. He coached me some. Imparted wisdom. I pretended not to listen. He pretended not to notice.

I learned that in searching for something you’ve already built up, fully formed, in your head, you’ll frequently miss the ever changing scenery along the way…..which very well might be the story worth telling.

In short, the smaller the story, the more interesting the people. If the story was “big”, it meant everybody else was covering it too. Stevens wanted no part of these.

I kept goading him to take positions in his pieces. Call out the bad guys. He didn’t just pretend not to listen. He really didn’t listen. Because he’s smarter than me, and just about everybody else around here who makes his or her living with words. And he never talks down to his audience. He says….”here it is”….and that’s that. On to the next story. He points his beat up used car with about 1 million miles on it down the next dirt road and searches for the next frighteningly ordinary folk he can find.

So yea, we’re friends even when we don’t agree on anything.

That’s friendship for you.

There is no writer I enjoy reading more.

So never fear. I’ll get him back in here.

He won’t be able to stay away.

He’ll read this and say….”boy….that’s not how you do it!”

And then he’ll show me.

And you.

In a bit…

–Tom Flannery

How can a parent separate the two?

•December 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I just want to get these feelings down….so I can remember them in the years to come. So many things fade with time.

What happened at Newtown was once unspeakable. But no more. Little children. That’s what changes the equation. That’s what drives all this soul-searching now. It’s twisted that it takes the riddled bodies of little children to get to where we’re at. Thirty-two grown bodies at Virginia Tech wasn’t enough 5 years ago.

So here we are.

I’ve only known a few politicians personally, and most of them are in jail. I wish I was kidding but I’m not.

The nature of a politician is, once seated, to stay there. Those who do little or nothing always have the least amount of people mad at them. Keeping a low profile is what gets you elected and re-elected. Speaking out on just about anything is going to piss off at least half your constituents. Better to mumble and equivocate and form “committees” to “look into the problem”. Then attend some fund-raisers.

Some issues are hotter than others, obviously. Like guns.

Pro-gun politicians will take NRA dollars and live happily ever after, but they don’t want to stand on the stump waving UZIs and ranting about the 2nd amendment (Well, unless they’re from Texas. But Texans are exempt from much of this conversation). They’d look crazy…like a half-demented Charlton Heston marching into Colorado in the wake of Columbine thundering “from my cold dead hands”…..even though he wasn’t the one who just got a bullet in the head. Anti-gun politicians are terrified that even suggesting an assault rifle might not be a good idea will get them tarred and feathered and accused of pissing all over those poor defenseless (and omnipotent) framers of our sacred constitution. NRA lobbyists will mobilize like killer-bees and suddenly some guy named Billy-Bob has a war-chest of millions of dollars and has announced he’s running for Congress because his opponent hates freedom.

Yes sir. Leave them guns alone. The fiscal cliff. Now there’s something we can all agree on eh?

What are “arms” anyway? If I can legally own a Bushmaster .223, why can’t I own a nuclear weapon? Or a tank? Surely they are “arms” too? If “arms” were meant to mean only guns, why wasn’t it written the “right to bear guns”?

We can agree (I haven’t checked with Texas) that “arms” don’t mean “nuclear weapons”. We agree because it’s so silly and obvious. Obviously the first congress of the United States did not have the foresight to consider the splitting of the atom. Nor, I would argue, did they have the foresight, in their day of muskets and minie balls, to imagine something as lethal as the Bushmaster .223….spraying dozens of high velocity rounds into the tiny bodies of 6 and 7 year olds.

When gun control is suggested, the Deliverance-like squealing commences. “They’re coming to take our guns.” Forgetting for a moment that if your mind wandered in that direction while 20 first-graders were still lying where they were slain, you’ve got some serious dents in your humanity….can anybody name the person who is suggesting a repeal of the 2nd amendment? No, you can’t, so you need to turn off Fox News for a while and join the rest of us.

You want to hunt? Go hunting. They make guns for that. Not the Bushmaster .223, but then that would sorta take the fun out of it wouldn’t it? Can you imagine DeNiro in “The Deer Hunter”…..”one clip….deer has to be taken with one clip….two is pussy”.

Some are suggesting that we need to start arming teachers. I’m a product of catholic schools. What the nuns might have done if they had access to automatic weapons is something I don’t wish to dwell on. A paddle in the office to spank a kid would prompt howls and lawsuits, but now we’ve got an assault rifle over by the pencil sharpener? Genius. This nation already has more than a quarter of a billion guns. To suggest that adding more to the mix would somehow decrease gun violence is like arguing that banning contraceptives would decrease population growth. People who suggest teachers should be armed are the type of people you should avoid at parties.

Oh, and “where was God?” You’ve heard that bit I’m sure. God was pissed that he wasn’t allowed in public schools so, just to be a bitch, he allowed this kid to mow down 26 people. Yea, that sure sounds like the kind of God I’m looking for.

I was always taught God was everywhere. Masturbate under the covers? He sees you. To hell you go. But he can’t get through the security system of an elementary school? Or, even worse, he’s so churlish that he chooses not to because the kids are learning science and math and not Adam and Eve? This is the type of argument that loonies make. This is the type of argument that should prompt an immediate background check.

Of course, if you’re one of the 40% of Americans who buy their guns legally at gun shows, a background check is not required. This is not a loophole in gun laws folks. This is political insanity. This is what makes other nations look at us, scratch their collective heads, and say, “wow……those people really are insane.”

On Sunday night my daughter said to me, “Daddy, I’m afraid to go to school tomorrow.”

I didn’t know what to say to her. I was afraid for her to go to school too.

This is what we’ve become. Twenty dead children. Each decimated by multiple high velocity bullets at close range.

The NRA has made no statement, not even the “we’re sorry kids are dead” variety. They’ve taken their facebook page down. Meet the Press invited all 31 pro-gun US Senators to appear on its show Sunday morning. All declined.

Why?

I keep seeing the faces of these kids when I close my eyes. And next to theirs I see the faces of my own children. How can a parent separate the two?

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

Well….maybe that’s true.

But in Newtown it was a person with guns. Purchased legally. In a civilized nation. The kind of guns that are made for killing. The kind of guns that turned a first grade classroom into something that looked very much like a war.

If these guns weren’t available, how many of these children would still be alive this Christmas?

Can you answer that for me?

–Tom Flannery

This mess ain’t cleaned up. It’s just been swept under the rug for a few years.

•November 7, 2012 • 1 Comment

Well, the issue was never really in doubt even though the popular vote was a dead heat. Not sure that’s a good thing, but that’s the American electoral process for you. At one point after the race was called Romney actually had 300 more popular votes across the nation. With this type of system in place, only the most deluded among us can say that every vote “counts”. Every vote does not count. The very definition of a wasted vote is the guy pulling the Obama lever in, say, Utah or Arizona. That vote meant nothing to the big picture. Granted, it may have said to the world that Utah and Arizona are not completely filled with angry white people saying “screw all of you, I just want lower taxes and less brown people”…but still. We’re talking nuts and bolts here. Some votes simply do not matter.

Alas, this time at least sanity won out. Electing Mitt Romney and his pack of right-wing neanderthals could have set this nation back 50 years. In case you didn’t notice, it wasn’t just democrats in this country celebrating last night. It was the rest of the world. The way we conduct ourselves matters in lots of other places too.

I said before the election that there was no way a guy polling at 0% among blacks and 20% among Hispanics could possibly be elected president of a diverse nation. But what really put Obama over the top was the overwhelming support given to him by women. A huge 10 point margin (men, still the dumbest of creatures, went the other way….Romney 55-45). Romney himself never said anything about “legitimate rape” or “getting pregnant after being raped is god’s will”, but men in his party sure did. Over and over again. And Romney continued to support these men….silence seeming more and more like acquiescence as time went on. Or, at the very least, moral cowardice.

To put it bluntly, Romney never showed enough balls to take on the lunatic fringe of his party, and it cost him the election. A moderate republican who ran on the economy alone….and didn’t spend time jerking off about abortion or god’s views on rape (and didn’t choose a serial liar like Ryan as his co-chair)….would have won this election. Easily. If you can’t beat a sitting President when unemployment is near 10%, you are either a colossal dolt, or you’re being sidetracked by Limbaugh and his hate crusade. I don’t think Mitt Romney is a fool….even though he campaigned like one. I think he made a deal with the devil, and figured once he got in he could slowly talk the crazies down. As Governor of Massachusetts Romney took many sensible positions (on healthcare most notably), nearly all of which he disavowed when he started getting yelled at by Limbaugh and Hannity. Not exactly political courage. And if a guy gets all wobbly in the knees when talk show hosts screech at him, how the hell is he gonna act in a real crisis? He gonna call Roger Ailes and ask him to poll the Fox newsroom? Summon the angel Moroni for a sit-down? Does the guy have no stones at all?

Positions are so entrenched these days. It’s no longer enough to just throw red-meat to your own party. We already know that serious pro-life people are gonna vote republican and serious health-care advocates are gonna vote democratic. There needs to be some sort of meeting in the middle. So when Romney got nailed on tape writing off half the country as indolent moochers, some of his base get snared in that net. When some fool goes off half-cocked about “legitimate rape” and Romney just grins, a lot of women who were planning on voting for him say, “what the hell?” If the guy had just stood up there and said….”wow, 10% unemployment”….over and over again….he’d have won. But the noise machine got to him. So he pandered. God. Guns. War. Uteruses. Throw in some subtle racism, and an unwillingness to even entertain answering questions like “you’re gonna cut taxes and raise defense spending….while at the same time shrinking the deficit? Can we have…er….you know……some specifics?”….and what’s left is the Barry Goldwater of the 2010s. Romney and John Kerry can spend the rest of their days wind-surfing and horse-jumping. That’s how quick you die in politics.

And make no mistake. Republicans, after they realize Canada has universal healthcare, thus making it a morally unacceptable place to live, will stay put and blame Romney. Not for being too extreme. But for not being extreme enough. And waiting in the wings is Paul Ryan….a guy who makes Barry Goldwater look like George Clooney. So if democrats want to do a little gloating, I suggest they do it fast. And then remain vigilant. Because this mess ain’t cleaned up. It’s just been swept under the rug for a few years.

–Tom Flannery

Soon it will be over

•November 6, 2012 • 1 Comment

Just got back from voting. It’s one of them blue-sky days that makes you squint. And the leaves are hanging on for dear life, despite Sandy. The views are still pretty. The air is crisp and clean. It’s all good.

My polling location is smack in the middle of a low-income housing project, which made the incredibly cheerful Paul Ryan supporters stalking all the entrances seem all the more…..well….odd. Half of them were passing out stickers (“no thanks Ladies, I’m one of them anti-rape weirdos”) while the other half seemed to be acting as spotters, making sure the people who actually lived a few feet away didn’t interfere….the way poor folks are liable to do….especially in an election year.

I walked in….and I was the only voter there. I was confronted with what looked like the American Idol panel, although nowhere near as good-looking. If they were volunteering, they need to work on their collective body language. I tried to lighten the mood a bit (“jeez, where is everybody?”) but all I got in return was stone. My demeanor must scream “beware! socialist!” I grabbed my ballot, filled it out, and shoved it in the machine….all in about 20 seconds. I’ve never been in a gulag….but I now think I know what the people in gulag’s look like.

As I was walking out…..one of the Ryan supporters said “thanks for voting today” and instinctively I said “good luck”. I was damn near charmed to tell you the truth. I hope he didn’t take my reply to be smart-ass, ’cause I was being sincere. The guy was probably married to one of the women with the stickers, and for that alone I felt like offering to buy him a drink.

It all made me wonder if there are actually people out there so wishy-washy that they could be swayed by somebody thrusting a sticker or a button into their hands 10 feet from the voting booth. I already know the answer to this is yes. This is the frightening part of democracy.

We’re supposed to know who wins by tonight. But we probably won’t. Florida and Ohio have a way of making the rest of the country wait. The fact that the election itself is largely in the hands of a relatively small segment of Ohioans and Floridians makes me wonder if the way we choose our President doesn’t need a bit of tweaking. Not sure why we don’t do the “guy with the most votes” wins thing. Seems fairly….well….fair to me. But no….we’ve got this electoral college thing, which even members of the electoral college don’t understand. Large swaths of the country are simply written off as a result. Romney winning California is as likely as Obama winning Texas, and this is one of the reasons a current red-blue state map looks like something General Grant may have poured over in 1863. It’s also, I believe, one of the reasons that more Americans vote on Dancing With the Stars than for the President of the United States. An Obama supporter in Texas? Shit, I’d stay in bed too. My brother lives in Houston, where his Obama yard sign lasts about 2 hours before it’s set on-fire.

Pennsylvania is one of them so-called “swing states”. So we’re all important now. Pundits are predicting Obama will carry the day here….but any state that elects Rick Santorum to anything is powder-blue to say the least. Obama sent Clinton and Romney sent Rudy….just yesterday. So there are some frayed nerves for sure.

But I’m glad it’s just about over. One more attack ad and I might’ve done an Elvis to my TV set. All of them mention the word “war”. “War on Coal”. “War on Women”. “War on Religion”. Nobody talks about….you know….war itself. As in the one we’re still fighting in Afghanistan that Obama promised to get us out of, and the one that we’ll likely be fighting in Iran…the one Ronmey has promised to get us into.

Seems to me that fighting 2 wars with borrowed money is what got us into the economic mess to begin with. Republicans talking about “cutting spending” sound as deluded as Democrats who talk about “civil liberties”. If Obama is so anti-business, why are corporate profits up 8% on his watch? This is socialism? And if Republicans are the ones so willing to pee on the constitution, why is Obama the ones obliterating “enemies” with drones….in sorta secret? Without due process, obviously.

In truth, there’s not much difference between the two parties…except on social issues. And these “wedge” issues (abortion, homophobia, flag pins on the lapel, who loves god more etc..) mean about as much to most of us, day-to-day, as what color shoes the President decides to wear. I’m way more concerned with my job than the lesbians across the street.

Soon it will be over.

I hope we make the right choice. But even if we don’t, we’ll survive. A nation that overcomes Nixon is pretty resilient. In 1960 a non-white couldn’t get served at a Southern lunch counter, and a Catholic becoming President was un-thinkable. Now we’re bickering over the African-American and the Mormon for our highest national office. That’s some non-partisan progress, no?

–Tom Flannery

Sandy, this pier lights our carnival life forever

•November 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The storm brought me back here. Stevens has gone through more of them than I have. “Agnes” is forever a dirty word in this valley. Sandy could have been just as bad, but she spared us for the most part. Just as (again, with a few violent exceptions) our area was spared last year. Two bullets dodged in two years. I’m feeling uneasy. How long will our luck hold out?

And is it even fair to say we got “lucky” when other portions of the east were demolished? My Dad used to take us to Long Beach Island as kids. You could get a cottage a block away from the beach for $150 a week. Those were the days. I love LBI. Years later I brought my own family there. We could only stay three nights because a hotel room for one night was double what my Dad paid for a cottage for an entire week. Ah…the free markets and all that you know. But still, after they pried the credit card from my clenched fingers and swiped it, it was like stepping back in time. The hotel we were at was maybe a dozen blocks from Liberty Ave, where we used to stay. I walked down there. The houses are all houses now, not what used to be called “cottages”. And as such they looked a bit more….er….grand. No more outdoor shower stalls in the back. But still. The dunes. The uphill walk on the hot sand and then….the crashing waves. The kites in the air. The ice cream trucks with their ringing bells. The squeals of delighted kids. The whistles of the life guards. The relentless patrols of those Orwellian teens checking for beach badges. It was the same place. I was there the summer JAWS came out. I saw it in a movie theater near Bay Village. I vowed to never go back in the water. But like most, I did. But I don’t go out nearly as far.

On our recent trip back I spent a lot of time in the LBI museum (I had the place pretty much to myself. The only other name in the guestbook that day was a guy from….guess? Scranton). Much of it was taken up with pictures from a long ago storm that devastated the island. The pictures were ghastly. Much like the ones we’ve been seeing on the news the past few days. You couldn’t imagine the place could recover. But I was standing there. It had.

Can it do so again? The hotel I stayed in with my family? I saw a picture of it a few days ago. It looks like somebody drove through it with a bulldozer. It’s gone.

The way these things work is so tricky. Just a few days after the storm, and most of the cameras and reporters have packed up and left. Their job is important but limited. They can’t stand in front of the same wrecked houses and issue the same reports day after day. So they move on to the next story. When they leave, those of us not affected tend to forget those who are. We’re not being callous, but when I stop and think about it, to a resident of LBI who lost everything, and with no insurance, not much chance of getting any of it back again, we must seem a little frigid. At least. So I text a $10 donation to the Red Cross….maybe more to ease my own mind than anything else. The gesture seems so…small. So trivial. I don’t even have to get off the damn couch.

I read in a New Jersey paper that it’s going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars just to shovel the sand off the roads.

I wish we could all do more to help when help is needed. I wish the world moved at a pace that allowed for more reflection….and less immediate thoughtless reaction. Some days it seems a victory to simply close the garage door behind you. You can finally exhale. Or scream.

I want to go back to LBI. I want to take my kids. Or maybe it will be them taking me (picking up the tab too….can’t imagine what the free markets will have done with hotels by then). I want to see pictures on the museum wall of what Sandy did in 2012. And I want to stare again in wonder at the resiliency of the human spirit.

–Tom Flannery

 
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