Weathering the storm

By Tom Cardella
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 11 | Posted Nov. 7, 2012

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I grew up in a house where my otherwise courageous father was scared as hell of storms. We lived around Fifth and Jackson streets, not some place that was particularly vulnerable to storms, but that didn’t matter to Dad. During any amount of rainfall, he would remove the plugs from the electrical outlets for every appliance. We didn’t have to worry about a power outage because my father mandated that we shut off all of the lights. And there we would sit through every storm — in the dark by the light of a lone glowing candle while Dad regaled us with tales of destruction. You can imagine growing up in an environment where a thunderstorm was treated like the apocalypse. Even now as an adult, I didn’t handle Hurricane Sandy very well.

My wife and son had to emotionally strap me down and surround me with a case of water, a flashlight and some Uncle Jerry’s Pretzels before I would calm down. I suspect that they also dumped a tranquilizer into my cranberry juice.

My dad’s sister, my sole surviving aunt, laughed when I told her how panicky I was every time weatherman Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz turned his mournful eyes on me and kept repeating the words “super storm.” She confessed storms also were treated as equal opportunity major catastrophes in the home where she and my father grew up on Darien Street. Her parents fervently believed Darien Street was a major target for destructive storms, despite historical weather patterns to the contrary.

If my folks had been alive last week when the hurricane struck, they no doubt would have been huddled in the basement of his home (a concrete bunker that he had single-handedly built to ward off nuclear destruction for the Cardella family), surrounded by photos of all of the popes and U. S. presidents, mountains of canned goods and gallons of bottled water. He might have been scared, but he also believed in being prepared. Unfortunately, I am scared and never prepared.

Fear is contagious. It was no surprise that my mother also was intensely afraid of even a rumble of thunder, let alone a full-blown hurricane. In September 1989, when warnings were issued about Hurricane Hugo threatening to impact Philly, my wife and I were enjoying a weekend in New York. I insisted we hurry back home ahead of the hurricane to be with Mom. As you can imagine, it was not a popular idea with my spouse, even more so in retrospect when Hugo had minimal effect on South Philly where Mom lived across from St. Monica Church. Mom was fine. We weren’t. And so went another storm. I still have not learned my lesson.

It’s not as if we were unfortunately trapped in New Orleans during Katrina (although I remarked at the time, lucky we hadn’t been there). For the better part of four days we watched coverage of Hurricane Sandy. Initially we watched as our local meteorologists tracked the storm on brightly colored maps. We began taking bets on the accuracy of the European model versus the American model and then suddenly the two models agreed and the storm hit. It was the first time in a while America and Europe agreed on anything.

I kept waiting for the lights to go out, nervously holding my small flashlight that would not have made a dent in the darkness. Reports kept mounting of power outages and I kept watching the lights in our home steadfastly stay on. Wait, was that a flicker in the kitchen or did I blink too many times?

The local stations now had switched to awful scenes of devastation at the seashore. I feared for little Denise Nakano of NBC, who was storm battered on the beach, a mere prop to tell us how badly the storm was affecting the Shore. What was Susan Barnett, a CBS co-anchor, doing huddled in someone’s kitchen down the Shore broadcasting by candlelight? Was I noticing a pattern here where the male anchors were seated comfortably in the studio while their female counterparts were sent out into the dark night to cover the storm? What next, Kathy Orr or Sheena Parveen with wet clothes clinging to them — at this point, my wife read my mind as only wives can do, and slapped me out of my reverie. I kept looking out of my front and back doors for damage, but nary a leaf or a trash can was out of place.

No sooner was the storm over when the TV stations moved on to their aftermath coverage. Focus shifted back to the worst hit areas to see the same bleary-eyed reporters in baseball caps and rain gear standing in a couple of feet of water or on sand-filled streets, or President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with their arms around one another. I figured I must now be hallucinating.

I timidly stepped out of our home Tuesday morning to survey the damage. A tree down here, a telephone wire there. Moyamensing Avenue had been blocked off temporarily. But we really had survived intact. That’s when I followed a good old South Philly custom — I walked 10 blocks to get a loaf of freshly baked bread.

Contact the South Philly Review at editor@southphillyreview.com.

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Comments 1 - 11 of 11
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1. James said... on Nov 9, 2012 at 12:42PM

“I got the job! Allow me to start my Op-ed series with a relevant albeit very unpopular analogy.

Fearing a massive storm is like fearing the current "fiscal cliff". There are some real and difficult challenges to work through, but at the end of the process we can step out of our house, survey the (temporary) damage, and then go enjoy our freshly-baked bread. Yes, I say on January 1st let's allow the massive cuts to defense and entitlements, let the tax cuts lapse, and endure a slight recession. It's the only way to keep Boehner & McConnel (& Obama?) from kicking the deficit/debt can down the road again.”

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2. Tom Cardella said... on Nov 9, 2012 at 02:33PM

“James, we are in agreement again (assuming that a reasonable deal can not be cut beforehand). The only probelm with playing chicken (Krugman of the NYT) also recommends that the President be willing to test this strategy is that there are still enough crazies in the House who still would not negotiate. If that happens, the effects would be more than a "slight" recession, as you know.”

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3. Sport said... on Nov 9, 2012 at 10:44PM

“Speaking of weathering storms and body parts, how about that General Petraeous? I'm like, why resign? A biographer West Point grad who admires him is going to compromise national security? Prominent people mustn't have affairs? Hello. How about those other adulters: Martin Luther King, William Clinton, Teddy Kennedy, John Kennedy?”

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4. Tom Cardella said... on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:17PM

“Since Petraeous made the affair public and could not be blackmailed, I agree, at least based on the sketchy information we have at the moment.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Nov 10, 2012 at 09:42AM

“Dressed in rainslickers hanging onto a pole on the boardwalk, Generally a female, this has long been a TV staple. Not having much of boardwalk in Daytona, they just lean alot.”

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6. Sport said... on Nov 12, 2012 at 08:18PM

“is that you Noon, babbling on as Anonymous #5 now?”

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7. Tom Cardella said... on Nov 13, 2012 at 03:40PM

“I have changed my mind on whether Petraeus had to resign. CIA regulations require an employee to disclose an affair and submit one of two letters--either resignation or a notarized letter from the spouse indicating approval of the affiar. This is not simple puritanism, but a protection against blackmail. What I find most astonishing about the Petraeus affair is not the affair itself but the fact that Petraeus reportedly thought he could remain in the job if the CIA did not make it public. Not only would that have compromised Petraeus ability to discipline an underling guilty of an affair but it also would have left him open to blackmail. It shows that Petraeus judgment has been seriously compromised by the affiar. He had to resign.”

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8. Sport said... on Nov 13, 2012 at 07:17PM

“Well now there's a detail that hasn't shown itself where I've been looking: the "fact" that Petraeus reportedly thought he could remain director if his affair was not made public. Source?”

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9. Tom Cardella said... on Nov 13, 2012 at 11:31PM

“Sport--My source is today's WASHINGTON POST on-line article by Sari Horowitz, Kimberly Kindy and Scott Wilson, which indicates that two long time aides to the General said that he had hoped he could remain in office and the affair would not be made public.”

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10. Sport said... on Nov 14, 2012 at 12:38PM

“Ah, OK. Thanks for the citation. I'd have to agree now that the man had to resign. At least he did so, once he was caught and once his boss "recommended" it, quickly and without attitude. I hope, but doubt, he will contribute to the congressional inquiry into Libya. I can still admire the man, unlike those former philanderers with attitude: Elliot Spitzer and Paul Wolfewitz.”

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11. Carol said... on Nov 29, 2012 at 03:11PM

“Tom - Just read your column in today's Review regarding South Philadelphia. Really enjoyed it. I, too, wish that our area had bookstores in place of the many nail and tanning salons. Seems to me that the Starbucks on Broad Street serves as a good meeting place for people to congregate over coffee. A nice Barnes & Noble would serve our area well in the same respect. Prospective developers must maintain the notion that the residents of South Phila. do not read and therefore, do not need a bookstore. This issue has been annoying me for a long time. I desperately hoped that the K-mart on Oregon Ave. would be replaced with a bookstore. (As you may have already guessed, I am an avid reader and frequent visitor of the local libraries.) If you ever want to rally the masses regarding a bookstore, keep me in mind. Thanks again for an enlightening column.”


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