Saturday, June 5, 2010
AFTER THE FLOOD: A BOY, A BED, A DUMP & MEMORIES
“What’s the matter with this guy? Oh I guess he’s not used to this place like we are,” said the 14-year-old kid from Giurgiu, Romania. “We’re veterans.”
Well, actually it’s been a long time since he was in Giurgiu. About a dozen years ago, we had to coax him to our car with Romanian “biscuits” – sort of sugared Ritz Crackers with chocolate filling – and give more to the swarms of 3-year-olds who were grabbing our legs and asking that we take them too.
Long time ago. Now, this kid is a straight A student, a resident of Crieve Hall. And a flood victim. He’s also my sidekick on my frequent trips to the dump, well really the East Convenience Center, just off Trinity Lane.
At the risk of alienating my many good friends in East Nashville, this is my favorite locale in that part of the city.
I mean, I like the Titans, but I can’t afford to go to LP Field to see games. And I love Peter and Charlotte Cooper and their baby, Baker, and their cuddly kosher bodyguard, Brad Schmitt. Actually Brad is just staying with them while his house is being rebuilt from the flood damage inflicted on it.
On my Facebook page, I’ve been keeping friends and fans and folks posted on my own long and winding road to recovery from the flood. I mention “long and winding” because I hear that the Walrus’ old buddy, Paul, is charging $250 for a ticket to his show. I wonder how much of that is going to flood victims? I’d love to go see you, Paul. But I think I need to spend the cash on drywall and floors and doors.
Maybe you can hire me to help with the stage setup? Or perhaps I can sing with you. I do a great “Nah-Nah-Nah-Nah” after all. That and my infamous Joe Cocker impersonation made me welcome at most college parties some 37-plus years ago, where “Hey, the Dancing Bear is going up on the stage!” was a call that sometimes preceded my exploits. But enough of that. Call me, Paul. I still talk to John and George frequently. And Ringo may be calling me in a couple of weeks. You remember him? He’s the drummer for that band you had before Wings.
OK, well enough about Paul. I expect it will be a great show. But this is about today not yesterday. And McCartney wasn’t with me at the dump. My son, Joe, the kid from Giurgiu, was. Actually, we go to the so-called Convenience Center at least once a month under normal circumstances. I’m gradually lightening my load from a life spent accumulating. Less junk for the kids to bicker or more likely just toss when I join Murrow, Cronkite, Fred Russell and Harold “The Stranger” Lynch.
But since the flood, of course, the visits have been frequent. As many as three in a day, even though the limit is two (they fudged to let people take care of their needs during this crisis.)
The first day we went to the dump, as I call it affectionately, was the Monday when the flood waters really were rising on the Cumberland. There was so much stuff that was washed up and left for dead by the water that rose in my lower level, swamping my office and the family room and the laundry room. In order to even begin trying to salvage it, we had to dump the stuff that was not going to make it.
That day, we even had to ford some floodwater on Ellington Parkway and for awhile, the interstate was closed, so we had to come back through downtown Nashville. I would look down as we crossed the bridge over the Cumberland, just me and my son Joe, and watch the river flow. Ahh, what’s the matter with me? I’m rambling again.
Anyway, today’s mission was actually done out of frustration. I have been generally complimentary of the work of Metro, promising Karl Dean my vote and all in the wake of the flood. But there now is one thing I need to complain about today. And it could cost Karl the election the next time.
You see, there was a June 1 deadline for putting flood debris up by the road. And there were things that I really couldn’t easily transport, particularly a big, oak bunk bed, desk and dresser combination that was in Joe’s room for a few years when he was smaller.
It was stored in the shed at the back of my yard and the floodwater rose a couple of feet in there – from Seven Mile Creek. That killed the lawnmower and all of my stored paints and implements of destruction.
But the floodwater also destroyed the old bed that I’d hoped I could give to someone sometime. Or perhaps I’d just save it for Joe (more later). Instead it was awash in stinky mud, perhaps courtesy of the Corps of Engineers and Jim Cantore or some combination thereof.
That was not the water that got in my house. The creek only got up about halfway across the backyard. The rainwater came up from beneath the slab, like a spring, the Gurgling Water Massacree I’ve referred to in the past, and washed away the use of half my house.
But the creek did its damage too.
And the hardest thing about the flood, really, has not been what it has done to me. But to my kids. The family room downstairs was where they retreated for video games, pool, television, to improvise on the keyboards and find refuge from the adult world. It’s been their little place in the world ever since they each arrived from Romania. All they had to do was try to keep it straightened up and not leave CDs and DVDs all over the floor.
That room was washed away and then stripped down to slabs and studs again. It was a very real loss for these beautiful children, who came from orphanages long, long ago. They lost their special “place.”
They haven’t complained much as the family makes do with the upper portion of the house for all our needs. By the way, a contractor has begun repairs, so within a few weeks, I’ll be holding a grand reopening of my own refuge – my office – and the kids’ play room. I’ll probably limit the guest list to my family, though. It should be a happy day. I may invite the President of the United States of America. But that is to be explained in anther blog, another night. Or go back and look at my Facebook entries “After the Flood.”
Anyway, today’s trip to the dump was necessitated by the fact the government didn’t live up to its word. I mean, everyone who knows me knows what a believer I am in the promises of government and the purity of our leaders and their promises. So I had no doubt the government would live up to its word to pick up flood debris at street side as long as it was there by June 1.
But we did haul the bunk bed and some monster shelves from the shed and put them on the roadside before June 1. I called Metro Public Works to remind them it was there. They said it would be picked up by June 2 or June 3.
You know where this story is going. It got to be the near the end of the week and, after noticing the Metro trucks had picked up the stuff from the other 40 homes flooded in my neighborhood, I called Public Works again.
“We’ll be there Friday,” I was told. “Maybe.”
Well, they didn’t come Friday and I called again. This time it was going to be perhaps during the weekend or the first of the week.
We tired of looking at the wreckage of the flood and disaster piled up in front of the house. So this morning, we tore this cumbersome stuff apart, piece by piece. And Joe and I made two trips to the dump.
It was then that he made the comment about the “dump virgins” who don’t know how to find the right dumpster and follow directions. I tell you what, I really like the guys who work at the dump. They are almost friends to me. They recognize me and acknowledge my frequent flier status. They always leave me smiling.
But I didn’t smile after we dumped the last piece of the bed and I looked at Joe. He had helped me get it into the big refuse container. The heavy oak dresser slammed into the bottom, a sound resonating off the steel.
“Well, Joe, there goes your old bed,” I said, as he and I looked down at the broken and mud-caked remnant of his childhood.
I didn’t know if he was sad or not. He always said that if I didn’t give the bed to someone, he’d take it for his own kids…. After he becomes a high-earning meteorologist and buys the houses across the street from me and tears them down to build his dream castle. “I’ll come over to eat every day,” he says. “And you can come over to sleep at my house if you want. I’ll have an HD TV in the guest bedroom just for you.”
Of course, now that castle will not contain the oak bunk bed for the weatherman’s kids, my future grandkids.
Just another memory and hope that fell victim to the flood. I don’t know if Joe was sad, but, well, it actually did kind of hurt. I wasn’t thinking about the future, though, but of the past, when I’d stand on tiptoes to kiss the little kid from Giurgiu goodnight.