people get ready…

…there’s a weather media blitz a comin’. The strong start to hurricane season is getting everyone’s panties in a wad, so in honor of that I thought I’d share the hurricane preparation guide I wrote for Houstonist back in 2007. Didn’t know I used to write a fake advice column, did you? You did? Oh. Then why didn’t you read it? Bastard.

(To see the original version, click here.)

Print this up and tape it to the inside of your bathroom cabinet in case of emergency.

– If you are faced with an imminent flood, tornado, hurricane or other natural disaster, the first thing you must do is pick a fight with your spouse or roommate. At some point during the weather event you’ll probably be without power – meaning no TV or internet – so you’ll need something to occupy your time.

– If you manage not to lose your electricity (or have a generator because you’re a militia member), make sure you watch the Weather Channel. When Hurricane Rita was swirling our direction, the Weather Channel didn’t change the tone of its music to reflect the utter scariness of the storm. Nothing like bringing in all the plants and lawn furniture and pausing, arms full, next to the television to see the massive red and yellow satellite image of a storm that is bigger than Texas spinning ominously in the Gulf to the sounds of light jazz.

– If you have a canoe or other form of water transport, take your kids out for some fun in the flood. It’ll be like a mini-vacation. Have plenty of antibiotics on hand for the inevitable full-body rash or intestinal disorder that’s sure to follow.

If your car floats down the freeway, sideways, take a picture to send out with your next holiday card. Inside the card write something breezy such as, “Oh well, it was dirty anyway.” Impress friends and family with your ability to overcome any obstacle with a cheery disposition. Do this before your insurance agent tells you that “acts of God” are not covered in your policy.

– If your phone is working and someone from out of town calls to check up on you during some particularly heavy rainfall, ask them if they know when you’ll be getting more of “the wet stuff.” Actually, only refer to the bucketfuls of rain being dumped on the city as “the wet stuff” for the entire weather event. If things with your spouse/roommate aren’t bad yet, these words said over and over in a singsong lilt will be sure to finish the job.

– If you hear the sound of a train outside, that’s probably a tornado. Unless you live next to railroad tracks, in which case you need to determine if it’s a train or a tornado so you can prepare appropriately. If it’s dark outside and raining so hard you can’t see past your own ghostly reflection in the window, go stand on the tracks. You’ll be able to feel the vibration of a coming train through your shoes. If no train is coming, run back to the house and seek shelter in the safest interior room, excluding any room that features your spouse/roommate. That would just be awkward.

– If you’re considering evacuating town when the authorities tell you to do so, stand on one end of your living room and run as fast as you can across the room. When you reach the other side, ram your head into the wall. Hopefully that will knock some sense into you, and you’ll keep the car in the garage.

– If you don’t have the necessary hunker-down supplies on hand, go to Spec’s. When Hurricane Rita was just hours from landing and most businesses had closed their doors and nailed large planks of plywood over their windows, Spec’s on Smith Street was open for business. If the storm has a fortunate name like “Rita,” you can go thematic. We could wait for years before Hurricane Red Stripe arrives, however, so in the interim here’s your generic shopping list: booze, crunchy snacks, fruit, deck of cards, candles, bottled water, cured meat, crusty bread and chocolate. These items will see you through anything. Plus they’ll still be useful when the skies have cleared, unlike all those batteries you bought.

[The photo features James standing in our driveway after Hurricane Ike in 2008. Our house is to the right and the garage is buried behind all of that tree debris. That house, which we no longer live in, was surrounded by huge old pecan trees that had never been trimmed and, thus, had a shitload of limbs ready to drop on our noggins. Luckily, nothing came inside the house. But it was a bitch clearing out the driveway. Our very elderly neighbor – who has a heart condition – came down with his saw and helped us out. The guys across the street had to cook up all of their frozen meat – we ended up being without power for a week – so a group of us had potluck each night. Ended up, between three or four houses we had plenty of meat, wine, veggies and candlelight. If I sound nostalgic, I am. It was in some ways very freeing being without power for that long. The nights were quiet and unseasonably cool for September. Then the fucking generators started and it was like living next to an airplane. But it was fun while it lasted.]

Dilettante back in business

After a long hiatus, I received a question for Ask a Dilettante, which currently lives on my other blog. The question came from a guy I went to high school with who recently found me on facebook. Most of the people I went to high school with who have checked out my blog(s) have pretty much cut off contact shortly thereafter, so it was nice to have someone participate instead.

If you get a wild hair, submit a question. I’ll answer anything.

Ask a Dilettante: Bathroom Encounter

A few weeks ago I was in the bathroom, when one of my coworkers entered, went into the stall next to mine, and took a seat. The following is what I heard.

– 10 seconds of silence
– “God damn, I hate my life!”
– 5 seconds of silence
– “Hey! Hey! Hey!”
– 1 minute of silence
– “Piece of shit.”
– 30 seconds of silence
– “Damn, I hate my life.”

Then he left.

I was not sure what to make of this encounter.

The following Friday, a group of us went out for a beer after work. One of my other coworkers who has an advanced degree in Psychology mentioned that he believes this gentleman to be borderline schizophrenic. It is important to note that he said this unprompted by me. Things began to make sense when I heard that.

Have you ever had an experience like this (not necessarily while in the bathroom)?
— Tracy, College Station

Before I get to the bathroom encounter, I want to say a little something about your coworker the psychology major. What I’m about to say is based solely on empirical data, so take it as you will. Your coworker is nuts. Every single person I’ve ever met who studied psychology in college, whether working in that field or not after graduation, is fucking crazy. I don’t know if they pick that as a field of study because they’re trying to fix themselves or if they like knowing that they’re not alone in crazy town or if they’re in complete and total denial and think that they are not only not crazy but are in fact so not crazy that they can help others be not crazy. Regardless of the reason, you can take to the bank that your coworker has bodies in the basement, is secretly in love with a parent or has to say the pledge of allegiance before bed each night while naked and hopping on one foot. Something.

On to your question. No, I have not had the sort of bathroom experience you’ve described, though I kind of wish I had. Going to the WC is a fairly mundane experience (assuming you’re healthy), so it’s nice to have a little something to jazz it up. I used to know an old lady who had joke toilet paper in her guest bathroom. The paper had jokes printed on it, it wasn’t a joke like “ha ha, this is fake TP. You have to use your hand.” Because that’s not funny. And neither were the printed jokes, but I appreciated the effort. And the expense. This was, like, two or three decades ago. Do you know how expensive that stuff must have been? As if that weren’t enough, the toilet paper was hanging on a holder that had a little radio built into it. So you could also listen to music while you were sitting there not laughing at the jokes on the toilet paper. Very, uh, thoughtful?

As for whether or not I’ve had encounters like this outside of a bathroom – I was a bartender for a decade. So, yes.

Regarding your coworker, maybe he just needs a pick-me-up to make his life a little brighter. Might I suggest a roll of Loo Laughs? Of course they’re offered by a British company. Scroll down and you’ll see other printed TP options, including Sudoku and crossword. I’m thinking that if you’re sitting there long enough to fill in a crossword, perhaps you might want to look into that.

[Ask a Dilettante invites your questions. Send all queries to crystal at cryjack dot com, and you will receive a response within a week. Ish.]