The Observatory

The Truth Shall Set You Laughing

Jeremiah Horrigan

Jeremiah Horrigan
New Paltz, New York, USA
February 04
Working Copy
Former Knight of the Altar, St. Martin's parish in South Buffalo, NY. Old enough to remember ducking-and-covering from the nukes that Sister Jeanne assured us were coming our way, defending Santa Claus until age 10, hating playing sports, wanting to fly, escaping to Westchester County for three years, re-escaping to Buffalo for most of high school, escaping to Fordham U long enough to drop out, escaping school, getting political, getting arrested, getting tried, convicted and released for crimes against the draft. Husband to Patty, father to Grady and Annie. Housepainter, cab driver, idiot, then newspaper reporter in Poughkeepsie, years of freelancing (Sports Illustrated, New York Times, Negligent Mother Magazine) and shameful indulgence, followed finally by 18 more years of reporting, column-writing, some awards, discoveries large and small along the way, including these: Sister Jeanne was full of beans, writing is good for the soul and I'm the luckiest man alive.


Jeremiah Horrigan's Links
AUGUST 27, 2011 7:58PM

Hard news about a hard rain; a re-post with backstory

Rate: 3 Flag

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  What follows is a re-post of an AP-style news story told from an unusual perspective. I offer it as someone who has long practiced just-the-facts-ma’am journalism and who will probably be doing so again on Sunday, when Hurricane Irene is expected to make a slow, rainswept and unwelcome appearance in my neck of the woods, which is known as New Paltz, NY.  

I offer this story in the full knowledge that a hurricane is no laughing matter. But laughing matters are sometimes exactly what’s needed in the face of oncoming disaster. I re-discovered today that once you've finally cleaned the gutters of their burgeoning maple trees, battened down the barbeque grill and wrenched the umbrella from its station in the middle of the deck, there's very little else you can do, except wonder why you didn't stock up on D-size bateries and toilet paper on Tuesday, when you had the chance.


So, without further adieu and before the power craps out, I’ll shut up and file:

NEW PALTZ -- Trillions of tons of water poured down from the skies on parts of the drought-stricken eastern seaboard last night, nourishing untold numbers of trees and tomato plants, providing relief to millions of grateful tree frogs and disrupting, if only for a few hours, the spread of a colorful fungus that leaves a rusty splotch of color on very old rocks. 

The downpour turned dry stream beds into raging cataracts, startling deer and foxes who had been sleeping in the beds. Schools of polywogs, long worried that their springtime transition to tadpolehood would be cut short, rejoiced. Water bugs were seen huddling in rotting logs and suddenly muddy embankments, patiently waiting for the streams to settle long enough for the dancing to begin.  

Some streambeds complained that the waters had arrived too suddenly, stripping their beds of millions of tons of loose gravel and sand. The resulting run on their banks would take millennia to repair, they said. Possums and other bankers said the streams' complaints were accurate as far as they went, but, as one ground hog put it, "a raging stream is no stranger to hyperbole, especially after a good dousing."

Several mountain ranges, whose exposed faces are particularly susceptible to erosion, declined discernible comment. A colony of colorful funguses attached to those faces indicated they'll issue a press release on the controversy within the next several centuries.

Several calls to reach birds and their representatives went unanswered.  

The rainfall was greeted with cheers by mountain reservoirs that had grown desperate for the only relief they understood. One reservoir, which asked not to be identified because of it had not been authorized to speak, said that several of its fellow reservoirs had been considering joining a 12-step program for the overly anxious "so that they could live their lives in peace, without always worrying about spillage."

The rainfall received high approval ratings among younger flora and fauna, many of whom described the rain as "refreshing" and "a great change of pace."

Several forest fires, however, complained the rainfall's unannounced appearance had forced the cancellation of several long-planned firestorms. Not surprisingly, the rainfall's polling numbers among such older, flame-favoring interest groups hovered in the low 20s. 

In other parts of the forest, some senior trees blamed the rainfall for an outbreak of limb breakage. More seriously, falling limbs crushed an uncountable number of saplings.

Authorities reported that the trees and their surviving offspring had received grief counseling from cadres of concerned and sympathetic squirrels, many of whom had seen their own homes destroyed in the downpour.

Sources familiar with the daily struggle of life in the forest said that death was an accepted commonplace that plants, animals and geologic formations understood innately. Said one veteran squirrel/counselor "We get it. What's good for a tree frog isn't always good for a tree," noting that while few trees were killed in the downpour, "quite a few" tree frogs had been reported missing and were presumed squashed.

"It's all a question of scale, isn't it?" the squirrel said. "The sheer power of what goes on out here in the field, it makes you realize you have to sometimes set back on your haunches and look for the big picture and not get too wrapped in the details of your own little nest."


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I love it. On Friday I was talking to my brother in Arlington Va--who unlike family on the Jersey Shore--is not in the direct path; and he was on his way to go hoard water and bread. . .just because he wanted to fit in. You're right JH. We need to bring forth everything we got when trouble hits and imagination is one of the most powerful tools in the kit. Right next to laughter.
Hee! Our squirrels are continuously aggrieved about one thing or another and I've often wished I could dictate their loudly chattered conversations. I do hope all the tree frogs in your story are accounted for, that the missing were just swamp drunk and sleeping it off -- as they often are; you know what they say about frogs -- and will show up for work on Monday, or not, because you know what they say about frogs. Anyhow...
Interesting metaphor for the animals. It's true they are like people a couple hundred years ago, taking the storm without warning, mostly unable to realize the magnitude of what's hitting them.

It's good we had so much warning, even if a little toilet paper or some batteries didn't get bought. The news played up the deadliness of the storm, citing the handful of deaths. The real story, IMO, was the paltry number of deaths. Had there been no notice and prep, and had people not been warned about what the dangers were, I suspect we'd have seen many more. The real story was how undeadly this storm was, and not because it was, as others have said, some kind of anticlimax to an overhyped event.
Guys: This is my first crack at a computer -- we're still w/o power in Paltz. I'm at work and lining up interviews with the local flora & fauna. Thanks for chiming in -- I'll respond more attentively to your thoughtful coments soon as I can. J
Roger: We had the best & worst of both worlds over the weekend. The best moments came when I could just sit back and appreciate the enormity of what had descended on us and feeling a part of it all. Not feeling helpless but feeling in proper proportion to the storm. Not a victim. Just there. The worst moments came in the form of niggling questions and fearful anticipation. As if I and my loved ones were all that mattered in this world. To tell the truth, without power in the house, we got a small taste of the way people lived not so long ago; not only without home entertainment centers, but without light after sunset. So we had a candlelit vening and an early bed. And it was fine.

Bell: Leave it to you to see the humor in the piece, grab it and take it another step. A swamp drunk frog? You're killing me here. Reading you makes me wish I could claim a single Southern bone for my body, since the South is where the great humorists all hail from or currently reside, yourself included. I hail from South Buffalo, but I know that doesn't count.

Kent: I agree with your assessment. I met a woman on Sunday after the rain had cleared. She told me she was glad officials (and by extension, the news media) had tried to scare people into taking action, i.e., evacuating folks in low-lying areas. She said he mother "Who never listens to anyone" had shocked her family by agreeing to leave her beachfront home. Of course, I'm never one to blame the news media for the usual crimes we get accused of. Unusual crimes maybe. But overhyping a storm the size of California? Nope.
Best of luck to you and your neighbors, Jeremiah. Hoping your homes are dry.
This is a wonderful tale (one that AP would surely have put on the national wire!)