Tuesday, March 16, 2010

After the Flood

Maybe I shouldn't have offered to be more offensive. On Saturday morning at 11, 2 trees on my street went down in that nor'easter and downed power lines. We didn't get the power back until Monday night at 10. For two and a half days, no electricity, no light, no heat, no hot water.

This was not fun. And if that had been the worst of it, it would have been annoying as hell.

That was not the worst of it. The blackout knocked out our sump pump. So when I got back from Nevada Smith's, the New York bar where I watched Arsenal beat Hull City in Premier League action, I saw that the basement was flooded.

I haven't yet been able to check to see how many of my videotapes -- in plastic bins, never found a place for them from the last time I moved -- are ruined. Or which ones. Probably ones I really wanted to save. But 2 shelves of one of my bookcases were ruined.

A lot of fantastic books got ruined. Nearly all of them are replacable -- eventually. Even if I had the money to buy them all again (and I don't, at least not more than 1 or 2 every pay period), it would take a while for them to come by mail. A lot of them weren't available in the New York Tri-State Area, and had to come from Borders/Amazon.

Some of the books that came by mail came from England. These were some of the books that helped me to understand soccer for the first time. Some of the soccer books I bought were available in New Jersey and New York City bookstores. But they're all ruined. Soaked.

"They're soaked, and I know they are."

"This game's abandoned."

"Bloody hell."

Amazingly, one book that I was sure was a goner was a 1960 world atlas that my mother got from an old family friend. The binding is already nearly shot, but the covers and pages were fine... and still are. The bookcase that one was in wasn't affected.

In the bookcase that was ruined, I lost signed copies -- already signed when I got them, so they weren't personally autographed -- of Jim Bouton's Ball Four and Dan Shaughnessy's Reversing the Curse. I lost Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups and Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders, and Allen Barra's recent books re-examining long-held baseball beliefs. I didn't have those four books for very long, but I loved them. Even when I don't agree with Neyer and Barra, I love that they sometimes make me think of things in a different way.

Actually, I would disagree with Barra frequently: Not only is he a Met fan, but he's from Old Bridge, East Brunswick's arch-rival. The Purple Bastards! (Actually, since he's older than I am, that would be the Blue Bastards, as the school was then known as Madison Central and had different colors.)

But I was thrilled at 2 books that survived, both by baseball players who began in the late 1940s and starred into the 1950s. What I Learned From Jackie Robinson, by his Brooklyn Dodger teammate Carl Erskine, whose nasty curveball led him to win several big games for Dem Bums, including two no-hitters (one against the hated New York Giants) and Game 4 of the 1953 World Series in which he beat the Yankees, striking out 14 batters to set a Series record that lasted for 10 years.

And Baseball Forever, by Ralph Kiner, slugger for the Pittsburgh Pirates and broadcaster for the New York Mets for their entire history from 1962 to the present (and while he's done just one game a week the last few years, he is scheduled to be back this season at age 88).

Erskine's book was the last thing my Grandma gave me before she died. Kiner's book was the last thing I gave her, and naturally, it was one of the books Mom let me take it from her house after the end.

It didn't occur to me to attach special meaning to those books before tonight. I just didn't think of it. I do now.

It resulted in my coming up with a "Yogiism": I told Mom, "It's the sort of thing you don't think about until you think about it."

This whole thing could have been a lot worse. Nobody was killed or injured -- at least, not in my house, not in my neighborhood, and probably not in East Brunswick or even in Middlesex County. But a few people in New Jersey have been killed, and elsewhere up and down the Northeast Corridor from Boston's northern suburbs to the Tidewater region of Virginia. And over a quarter of a million people in the New York Tri-State Area are still without power, 3 days later.

It sure didn't seem like it over the weekend, when I lost a refrigerator full of food and needed to borrow the shower in my sister's condo, and the whole family still needs to borrow it and her washer and dryer. Fortunately, she's letting us, because she was planning on going on vacation this week anyway. But we were damn lucky.

The power came back on last night, so we did not have to "beware the Ides of March." We might not yet get our own hot water and laundry back tomorrow, St. Patrick's Day, but we are lucky.

But then, as that great Englishman of Irish descent, John Lennon, put it, "If you really had the luck of the Irish, you'd wish you were English instead."

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