Thursday, September 22, 2005

Weekend Assignment #78 -- Things To Take

By The Way... AOL, meet the blogosphere. Blogosphere, AOL.

Thus begins the blog of John Scalzi, author of these Weekend Assignments. He's a darn nosey fellow and delights in asking questions. Like a lemming, I jump off the cliff each week, squeaking out my replies.

John would like you to click on the link below, get your own copy of this week's assignment and leave a link to your answer in his comments. Do it. The cramps will subside after you're through. And so it goes...

Rita is plodding implacably toward Texas, and folks there in its path are doing what they can to get out of its way. The evacuation is massive -- more than a million people -- and the logistics of such an undertaking help provide us this week's Weekend Assignment:

Weekend Assignment #78: You are preparing to evacuate your house due to an upcoming threat. You have already packed up all your essential items, people and pets. You have room for three non-essential items. What are they?

Remember, you already have your essentials: food, medicines, water, clothes, and all the people (including the furry ones) who live with you. "Non-essentials" are things you don't need but would like to have, and can include momentos, books, jewelry, objects of sentimental value, and so on and so forth.

Extra Credit: Have you ever been evacuated?

Dear John,

Is it Thursday already? Cthulu forbid! Where in all that's four dimensional has the time gone? I'm getting old, boy, and you can bet I've come by these gray hairs honestly. But, the forgetfulness... Oy, Vader!

No sooner has the last of Ophelia blown away but what her big little sister Rita has to make her erratic way through the Gulf. And like many toddlers, she started heading one way but got diverted by the cat heading off in a different, albeit similar, direction. My inlaws and outlaws and step-thises and thatses in Louisiana have only just begun to get their head's wrapped around the notion that their world will never be the same and now comes this strumpet to strum on their tuffets and blow away any vestige of security they might have had. I suspect Dante's seventh ring is looking mighty tempting to many folks right about now. Evacuating a million and a half people without closing or changing over the inbound lanes of the Interstate highways. Sheer stupidity on the Governor's part.

Back in a former life, it was my job to deal with crisis of both minor and major scale. Emergency response planning is a thankless task, but a strangely appropriate one for the likes of me with an overactive imagination and more nightmares than any three other alcoholics can muster. I was one of the princes of the 'worst case scenario.' But that's what's necessary for a successful, executable plan. And also what is wrong with the crony-ridden Federal system of a castrated FEMA ensconsced within the Department of Homeland Security. Oops! Sorry about that aside...

To answer this week's question, based on my personal and professional experience, I'd take along all irreplaceable photographs, movies, videos and personal CD's and DVD's and family paintings; all irreplaceable or difficult to replace documents not already in a safe deposit box, and the hard drive to the main computer (I consider these one item); and, a special memento, one that reminds me of the home we are leaving – in the present case, my wife's bell buoy wind chime.

I can't put a number to all of the times I have heard a victim of a house or apartment fire lament the loss of the famly photographs, the loss of home movies or videos of family and friends. But I have also consoled folks who have lost literally everything – homes burned flat to the ground, homes where the largest piece of debris left after the tornado has finished with them is no more than a pack of cigarettes in size. And those folks, almost every man, woman and child, miss having a special keepsake of the place, be it a bell, or a piece of stained glass from the window in the front door, or the painting of Great Aunt Nellie that hung over the fireplace. It literally tears your heart out to hear the pain in their voices as they recount in a hoarse whisper what the thing meant to them. And sometimes, it isn't the thing but the place, the view that is gone forever, the feeling or sense of peace and rightness with the world torn away and never to be recovered that weighs most heavily on their minds. It's a wretched thing to watch as a man worries at the edge of what he is missing and can not recover again, be it peace, a sense of self or place, or just an old boot scraper that lived behind the kitchen door for thirty years.

Before you ask again, no, I've never had to evacuate my family and myself to flee before foul weather or ravening hordes. But I have fled forest fires alone, in the mountains, when one mistake would mean my life. It's an uneasy feeling, I assure you.

As you noted in a different entry this morning, it is highly likely that energy costs will once again begin rising rapidly to heretofore unseen levels in this country. That means all expendable goods like food as well as durable trade goods will increase in price as transportation and production costs rise. Salaries are flat or decreasing, no thanks to the present administration and Congress. Cynics like me have been saying for years that this economy, this country's economic base, is so eroded that it is only a shell, a house of cards. It's crumbling around us even as we struggle on and it gives me no pleasure to have been right that an economy founded upon consumer debt will founder and collapse as that debt increases without an increase in the means or reducing the debt. In plain terms, “you can't rob Peter to pay Paul.” And that's what we've been doing since the early sixties. Some would say, since 1936! But giving tax breaks to the wealthiest 1% of this country's population is certainly not the way to solve the problems of an imminent collapse. Food for thought.

Here's hoping this finds you all fit as a fiddle and ready to take on the problems that present themselves. Little did I know my mother was actually cursing me when she toasted my thirteenth birthday with, “may you live in interesting times.”


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