Thursday, August 31, 2017


Houston under water
I take the pictures right off the TV screen, not unlike taking pictures for twitter when Anthony Rizzo hits another home run.

Current Events

It is 5:30 in the morning and I'm watching from the balcony as the sprinklers soak the lawn. It is about to rain in Chicago, so this annoys me. We're all a little sick of seeing so much water. It is all there is on television.  

In Houston 30,000 people are homeless. Some of us feel bad because we can't take anyone in, and don't have a boat, can't rescue anyone. 

We cannot stop watching the news. The rescue stories, extractions, captivate and keep on coming. It seems like there will be no end. The rain won't stop and there is no place for the water to go. Houston is flat, concrete, an urban center, not a national park. The water doesn't sink into the ground when it hits the cement. People, like the rain, have no place to go, either. 

Survivors of other hurricanes, Katrina, Sandy, Ivan, Andrew, Patricia, the list goes on, are reliving, retelling their trauma. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a top mental health challenge, will be the topic of therapy sessions in coastal towns across the nation.  

And your therapist just wants to be in Houston, in a boat, paddling around and saving lives. The thought of getting wet isn't scaring her, nor is the hunger or lack of sleep. It is an adventure, a once in a lifetime. After all, she has a home to come back to when the waters settle down. 

There's the story of a mattress king, Mattress Mack, who is opening his store to the new homeless. Mattress Mack cried  real tears during the television interview, told us that these are his people. He doesn't care if they are black or white or where they come from, these are his people. He's in a people business, has sold many a mattress personally, not a guess. He knows regular people who just want a bed to sleep in. Mack modestly explains that he has to do something. His solution will cost him, the damage to the store about $30,000 a day, but he doesn't care. Too bad there aren't more mattress stores.

Somebody interviewed a scientist who firmly opined that the storm is due to climate change. It is an environmental storm, and this will become the new normal. There will be many more furious storms in our future. We don't need a crystal ball.

Another scientist explains that progress, urbanization has exacerbated the problem. We shouldn't have paved paradise, developed every stitch of land. The water has to run off someplace. It will begin in your basement, rise to the bedrooms. Paving paradise has come with a huge price.

My grandfather, who was a farmer, hated the big cottonwood tree in my backyard.  He would come over and observe our feeble efforts at growing tomatoes, mutter under his breath. That cottonwood is a nuisance tree. He'd go on, saying that the fluffy seeds get into everything, bring pests, have to be raked up. He doesn't even realize that the cotton is an allergy trigger, that our eyes hurt every spring, and the neighbors hate us, want us to cut the tree down.

The tree, the largest on the block, had grown so big they feared a lightning storm would split it, thick branches would smash through windows, the roof, probably mine, but maybe theirs. Who knows which way the wind is going to blow?

But razing that tree would cost about $10,000 and FD and I did not have that kind of scratch to throw around.

One day a Commonwealth Edison (our electric provider) representative knocked on the door and offered to cut down the tree on their dime. The tree limbs were growing dangerously close to the electric lines. Sign on the dotted line, he said.


And with the stroke of a pen we are without the big tree, left with an enormous tree trunk. I love it, am content to sit on it with my granddaughter and talk about life, how it is a highway, with occasional  twists and turns. Raindrops.

Hearing the story about Houston's concrete issue, how rain isn't absorbed by impermeable surface area, I remembered the reason the great City of Chicago planted all those cottonwoods long ago. Much of the town was built atop swampland. Cottonwoods, very thirsty trees, soak up water. Deep Tunnel construction built under our streets in the seventies took care of what the trees could not. So we never flooded.

The waters will abate, and people will be relocated. Maybe Houston will be planting trees, but for now, building houses will be the priority. 
A Houston nursing facility


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