By SCOTT GRABER
It is Saturday, and Susan and I are back in Port Royal. It’s been more than a month since Hurricane Dorian came boiling up the Atlantic seaboard sending millions Americans into a plywood-buying panic over the (possible) loss of their homes and their savings and presenting them with the prospect of spending a week in a dank, smoke infused, ‘contractor’s rate’ motel.
We were in Massachusetts in the midst of our vacation when the Weather Channel began its coverage and deployed Jim Cantore to Florida.
We packed our bags but as we were passing through the petrochemical moonscape in Rahway, N.J., we heard our own Henry McMaster order an evacuation of Beaufort County. After a coffee and bagel-fueled discussion at the James R. Hoffa Service Area, we decided to return to Massachusetts.
“We’re going to need sandbags,” I shouted into the glass and metal rectangle that is called an IPhone by my technologically savvy friends.
“Yes, Scott, we’ve made arrangements at Taylor’s Landscaping and will buy a half yard of sand. I’ve already got the bags,” replied my friend Dean Moss.
“I want you to make a wall of sandbags around the back deck. That’s where it always floods,” I yelled into the IPhone.
“I’m looking at your deck as we speak and see what you mean,” David Taub replied.
“Stack the bags three deep in front of each door,” I screamed thinking my voice was competing with the sound of tropical force winds.
“Yes, Scott, we’ve already done that. You do know this isn’t my first rodeo — I helped you during Matthew and Irma,” David replied.
“After the rain starts turn on the sump pump, the plug is to the left of the back door. And you have to open-up the metal lid that covers the outlet,” I said.
“You may be surprised to know that I have outdoor electrical outlets of my own. And I have long experience opening the little metal covers,” David said.
The problem with Dorian was that it was mostly stationary, sometimes going as fast as one-mile-an hour. I also knew (from a recent hike) that one walks at a speed of 3 miles an hour. So I began to think about my walking the distance from West Palm Beach to Port Royal.
I would want to follow he beach if I could; stopping for an hour or so at The Alligator Farm in St. Augustine. Then a few minutes, perhaps an hour, for an IPA at the White Horse Tavern just across the street from Castillo San Marcos.
Then I wondered if I could swim across the St. John’s River to Cumberland Island. I would probably have to borrow or steal a boat. In any case I began to believe I was looking an ETA in the first part of October. Meanwhile I was back on the phone with my neighbors,
“Now, Kit, you’re going to find towels in the bathroom. But don’t use the monogrammed guest towels.”
“Stuff them under the doors of Susan’s studio. And while you’re at it, could you clear the furniture from the upstairs porch?”
I want to say — here and now — that we have a cohort of friends who are an essential component of our lives. It was David Taub, Dean Moss, Louis and Kit Bruce, Julie Peters and Joe Morrall (and his friends) who took on the “defense” of my small, fragile law office on Carteret Street and our home in Port Royal.
Pre-arrival hurricane anxiety is hard-wired to our imagination. We all have this large, internal jumbotron that plays a continuous loop showing the total destruction of the one thing that we have acquired with most of our life juice — I speak of our homes. So it’s OK to be anxious and slightly irrational while waiting for this creature — “This thing has got to be bigger than Rhode Island.” — to make its slow, meandering journey up the Atlantic coast.
God knows (S.C. Governor) Henry McMaster, (Beaufort Mayor) Billy Keyserling and the Town of Port Royal kept everyone informed. But the take home message for me centered on friends and friendship.
It’s when a storm arrives that we learn the depth of friendships.
These aren’t boozy hugs exchanged after a long, wine-infused dinner party. This is asking 60 and 70 year old people to take a shovel and fill bags with sand.
It’s asking these same Medicare-eligible, Motrin-gulping oldsters to stack those 50-pound bags around one’s office.
I’ve got to believe there is something in Beaufort’s groundwater that makes people — people with their own anxiety — care about their neighbors.