Angels for August 30, 2019

Hi, kids!

Welcome to this abbreviated edition of Angels & Assholes – an irreverent look at the winners and losers who, in my jaundiced view, influence our lives here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.

I hope you’ll use this as a brief diversion as we sweaty denizens of the Northern Tropics actively prep for what may, or may not, be Hurricane Dorian.

Trust me.  There will be ample time to rail against the civic assholery that runs rampant here in the Halifax area after the storm – so, this week, I wanted to recognize the everyday Angels that make Volusia County such a special place to live, work and play.

I’m talking about you. . .

Look, we live in weird times.  I get it.

We divide ourselves over petty politics, neighborhood squabbles, social media spats and goofy ideological differences, which, if we ever took a minute to step away and examine logically, would appear so ghastly ridiculous they would redden the cheeks of even the most zealous gadfly.

Add the fact that what passes for our local political ‘powers that be’ have done everything in their power to cause a rift between our government and those of us who pay the bills – and you realize we can be a fractured mess at times. . .

I admit, these screeds that I pound out each week don’t exactly unite the masses – but, hey, some hyper-critical asshole has to point out the faults and foibles of those who are actually in the arena and make fun of how the strongman stumbled, right?

But when the chips are down – and we face a clear and present threat – that’s when it’s time to put our trifling differences aside and come together as a community, you know, that obscure civic concept we’re always crowing about?

Gathering close as neighbors, family and friends – supporting each other and the efforts of our first responders and public officials who are working hard to protect our lives and property.

As I write this, the National Weather Service has placed the grim bullseye of a very dangerous hurricane directly over Central Florida – and while there are a lot of variables still at play – no matter how many times we do this macabre dance, it’s always unsettling being collectively threatened by one of the most awesome forces in Mother Nature’s arsenal.

Damn.  Not again.

Whether or not we are directly impacted by Dorian – these anxious times provide a good opportunity to plan, prepare, refresh disaster supplies and assist those with special needs do the same.

Look, I realize the effects of the over-hyped storms that have paid us a visit over the past decade have been largely limited to a damnable nuisance – but sobering scenes from Michael’s complete devastation in the panhandle, to the wholesale destruction wrought by Andrew in South Florida, give even the most seasoned native cause for pause. . .

For most of my adult life, whenever a storm approached, I hunkered down in a fortified Emergency Operations Center conducting or commanding response and recovery operations.

It became “my thing.”    

I was fascinated by the art and science of “managing” threats to the community – working and training collaboratively with other disciplines to formulate plans and operational protocols when things were calm – so we could respond effectively during the chaos of the storm.

Like most things that interest me, I took it to the nth degree and earned the Professional Emergency Manager designation from the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association – a combination of documented practical experience and advanced training that included coursework at FEMA’s National Emergency Management Training Center near the beautiful Catoctin Mountains in  Emmitsburg, Maryland.

The process taught me a lot – mostly that hope is not an effective strategy – and that modern weather forecasting products have bought us the benefit of precious time in advance of an extreme tropical weather event.

Time to develop personal preparedness plans, protect our homes and businesses, become self-sustaining for a few days when the trappings of modern life are disrupted, and, if necessary, to safely evacuate our loved ones from harm’s way.

Unlike wildfires, tornadoes or severe thunderstorms, generally speaking, hurricanes typically announce their intentions with sufficient advance notice for us to get our shit together, which, for many fun-loving Floridian’s, means laying in enough beer, ice and booze so the party isn’t interrupted when the wind begins to freshen. . .

Look, I joke about my legendary propensity for recreational drinking (mostly true) – so we had our “Hurricane Party” on Wednesday – now, it’s all about monitoring and preparing for what could be a very dangerous system early next week.

(Don’t worry, I’m sure we can find time for a few wee drams of fine sippin’ whiskey in the buildup.  After all, we’re not savages, right?  Not yet anyway – that lycanthropic transformation comes when the A/C dies. . .)

The slow, often erratic movement of these storms has been described as being “stalked by a turtle” – but anyone who has experienced the catastrophic effects of a major hurricane will never forget it.

Like it or not, our seaside lifestyle makes us vulnerable – and the greed-crazed tendency of speculative developers to build on top of barrier islands and destroy natural buffers in the name of “progress” doesn’t help.

I don’t know about you, but regardless of impact, in the aftermath of these events I’m always left with the queasy feeling that building our homes literally on the sandy edge of a very large and unforgiving ocean might not be the best idea we ever had. . .

Keep your chin up, kids.

Trust your better instincts and listen closely to the professionals – remember, “things” can be replaced – lives cannot.

I know, the mere thought of being without power (i.e. precious air conditioning) in the oppressive heat and humidity of early September is enough to break even the strongest spirit – but we’re all in this together.

Or at least we should be.

Earlier today, I watched a short video on a local news channel of two residents struggling in vain to fill sandbags ostensibly to protect their homes from floodwaters.

They couldn’t quite hold the bag open and manipulate the heavy shovel at the same time.

Rather than work cooperatively and help each other complete the chore; they stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a frustrating, almost comedic struggle between sack and spade.

A sad metaphor for our modern lives, I guess. . .

As we face a collective threat, now is the time to be a Guardian Angel to those who need you most – sharing, caring, putting our differences aside so no one weathers the storm alone.

Make do.  Make room.  Let someone know you’re there for them.

Please take care of yourselves and each other.

Check on elderly or infirm neighbors and help anyway you can.

Be someone’s lifeline – if only to chat for a few minutes and help alleviate their fear – and always remember to include your “fur babies” in preparedness and evacuation plans.

Let’s hope this time next week we’re all counting our blessings.

Good luck and God bless, friends.

I think this is what community is all about. . .




4 thoughts on “Angels for August 30, 2019

  1. You sure brought back some memories, both good and bad. The good ones include working with Jim Ryan and Chip Kent and the rest of their gang at the EOC. We must have bumped elbows a few times trying to get the last cup of coffee there. I don’t hunker down as good as I used to, but I’m staying put with this one, too.


  2. Great post today, thanks Mark! And thanks for reminding us what “community” is — and always should be — about. Thinking of you and my friends and family in Ormond Beach / Greater Daytona Beach area as the big storm approaches. I have every confidence that folks like you will have each other’s back. Hold fast! Cheers and best wishes from Durango, Colorado.


  3. Great message! Folks who can should use the nervous energy created by being “stalked by a turtle” to help family, friends, neighbors and strangers in need — there’s nothing like uncontrollable Mother Nature to bring us all together.


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