Tag Archives: emerald isle nc

We Dodged Florence, but Millions of Others Didn’t: Thoughts and Prayers are Nice, but More is Required

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I spent the better part of the past week at work and at home getting ready for the possible impact of Hurricane Florence. I had two of my personnel and their families who lived in mandatory evacuation zones and did evacuate. Until late Wednesday when Florence took her turn to the southwest we had made reservations in a local hotel since our neighborhood typically floods. The last storm that we had, Hurricane Matthew dropped 15 inches of rain on us in a period of about 10 hours, barely a week and a half after another system had dropped 16 inches of rain on us in a three day period. During those events I fought to keep water out of our home and we lost one of our cars to flood damage and the other had a couple thousand dollars of damage. We could not leave our neighborhood for almost three days because of the depth of the water on the streets in our subdivision.

High winds and water surround a house as Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro N.C., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)

This time we got lucky. Florence, after making a jog to the northwest turned back west and then southwest. For us she was pretty much a nothing-burger, but we live in a place that is incredibly vulnerable should a major storm hit. A category three of four storm would devastate the area. Hampton Roads is in an area of Virginia known as the Tidewater and Tidewater is a polite word for swamp. In fact that applies to most of the East Coast from us down to Florida.

But, since Hampton Roads one of the nation’s major seaports and transportation hubs, as well as the home of the largest naval base in the world the effects would be more than local. Though since I am local it would really suck. So the fact that Florence missed us was not a bad thing for us, but  it was a really bad thing for millions of people in the Carolinas, including many of our friends. I know a number of former shipmates who will quite probably lose their homes. Likewise  There are others who have evacuated and don’t know what they will return to when the go back.

I saw pictures and videos from places near Camp LeJeune where I once lived and realize that the destruction, especially where the the storm surge was massive. I saw an estimate that 750,000 homes could be impacted by the storm surge alone, this doesn’t could the added damage from the flooding rains and the runoff from streams and rivers that empty out into the wetlands and coastal areas that have already be inundated. Likewise the region will be polluted by runoff from hog farms and coal ash.

I have been through hurricanes down there and Florence looks worse than any that I went through, although Floyd in 1999 create massive flooding that isolated many towns in Eastern North Carolina. I do hope that my friends and all others impacted by her are safe and have not incurred too much damage.

After Florence passes we will see the extent of the damage and begin to count the cost in lives lost and disrupted. There will be chances for those of us who are not impacted to try to do something to help. Thoughts and prayers are fine but practical acts of assistance and mercy are much better at times like this.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under News and current events, weather

A Cavity and a Visit to the Dentist: The Miracles of Modern Technology

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Happiness is your dentist telling you it won’t hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill. —Johnny Carson, Yes that is Padre Steve in this Picture

Today was my first visit to the dentist to repair a new cavity in well over a decade. When I found out last week that I had a cavity I was taken by surprise. I was less surprised that a couple of old fillings were deteriorating and needed to be replaced. So I set up an appointment with my colleague and occasional drinking buddy George at our hospital dental clinic.

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Open Wide

Now those people that know me know the trepidation that I approach visits to the dentist. My first dentist in Oak Harbor Washington was a bit of a sadist, something like an old, balding and bespectacled version of Steve Martin’s dentist in Little Shop of Horrors. It was decades before I began to go to the dentist without the feeling of absolute dread and terror, despite the fact that I never had to suffer a dentist like him ever again.

steve-martin-dentist Because I am Your Dentist

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOtMizMQ6oM

 Today I went to get my new cavity fixed and one of the two old fillings replaced. George and his crew were good. It was not an unpleasant experience, despite the fact I would rather be almost anywhere than in the dentist chair. This was really an important event for me because I used to be an Anti-Dentite.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV7m6IIN_tI

 I used to be an Anti-Dentite

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lW6R9kSGV2Q

They worked so well that I didn’t have time to play with the chair controls as is my custom. I tend to want to play with the chair and other equipment if they are not attentive. However I was able to take out my I-Phone, play a few games of Angry Birds as they worked and even take some pictures of the work in progress.

I think that the young technicians figured that something must be seriously wrong with me, and they are right. In a sense I am not right, but one of the ways that I cope with going to the dentist, or any other unpleasant experience is to use humor and absurdity to make light of the experience and to keep my mind off of the pain. Thankfully, George who knows me made no complaint. Thank God for modern technology.

Such was the case today. When I showed the picture to friends at my local hang out, Rucker John’s on Emerald Isle, I was told that “you are just not right, and that is why we like you.”

So anyway may your night be good and your teeth free of pain.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Place of Peace: Where My Iraq Meets the Atlantic

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Where Iraq Meets the Atlantic

I have talked about things bring me peace amidst the struggles of life in recent days and in one post I briefly mentioned that while running on the beach in Emerald Isle it was the place where in that moment “Iraq met the Atlantic.”

It has been nearly 5 years since I left Iraq in February of 2008 but there are times that it feels like I have never left and times when I would like to be back there. I have always loved the ocean and the desert. For some reason the vast expanses of barren desert and the untamed ocean draw me to them like nothing else.

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I have struggled with a lot over the past 5 years. However as I mentioned recently it seems that things are coming together in ways that I have never could have fathomed even a few months ago. On Wednesday I needed to take a day off to reflect and gather my thoughts after a particularly cathartic sequence of events. One of the things that I did that day was to rest, but then to run along the beach where I live.

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I mentioned to a couple of people that it was like Iraq met the Atlantic and they didn’t understand, until I showed the pictures. I guess though that the juxtaposition of the Western Desert of Iraq, sometimes known as the Syrian Desert and the Atlantic Ocean would seem strange to most people, unless they have experienced both in their stark beauty.

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I ran about seven and a half miles Wednesday along the beach and it was breathtaking. The deep blue skies and seas met with the desert tan of the sands of the beach. There were few people out that day so the beach was nearly deserted and I was alone with nature and God. It has been many years since I felt that depth of peace in my soul that I felt on Wednesday.

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I really can’t explain it and most people will probably never understand and I have learned that such a lack of understanding is okay. There is a big part of me that is still in the Iraqi desert and will always be there. There in the land of Abraham, amid the barren deserts, the rich valley of the Euphrates river valley, the battered cities and town of war torn Al Anbar Province many of my hopes and dreams still live. When I ran along the beach that day it was like I had returned, but instead of being traumatic it was peaceful.

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I pray for the people of Iraq, especially those in Al Anbar Province and the Iraqi military. I pray that they will know peace and that their country, so long victimized by tyrants, devastated by war and torn by terrorism and civil-religious strife will be a place of blessing.

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As T.E. Lawrence wrote about 85 years ago: “We were fond together because of the sweep of open places, the taste of wide winds, the sunlight, and the hopes in which we worked. The morning freshness of the world-to-be intoxicated us. We were wrought up with ideas inexpressible and vaporous, but to be fought for. We lived many lives in those whirling campaigns, never sparing ourselves: yet when we achieved and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to remake in the likeness of the former world they knew. Youth could win, but had not learned to keep, and was pitiably weak against age. We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace.” 

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Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, iraq,afghanistan, Tour in Iraq

Run Padre Run: Peace after the Storm

Today was a day of recuperation from a long couple of weeks of which yesterday was hard after being victimized by a larceny at work. Today despite carrying the duty pager, has been as close to a day off as I have had in a couple of weeks.

After watching the ball game last night knowing that I was carrying the duty pager today I decided to sleep as late as my body and my dog Molly would let me. Not that she was in the mood to get out either since we were being pounded by tropical storm force winds and heavy rain. She is not a fan of rain.

Since I didn’t have any pages from work I got up about noon, yes noon, I needed it as evidently Molly did too. So have I took her on a walk I decided to take a tip to see how our town had weathered the storm. It was not bad and I took Molly to the beach to check things out. Since things didn’t look bad and the weather reports showed the rain ending I decided to go for a run about 3PM after I had celebrated Eucharist. It turned into a Forrest Gump run.

Initially I planned on doing about 4-5 miles. When I got to the beach I decided to take a right and head southwest toward the end of the island which is called “the Point.” At the 2 mile point I felt good so I kept going and had to turn into the wind which was blowing at about 30-40 MPH from the north for about a mile. I had forgotten what it was like to run into a wind like that, at times I felt like I was standing still. Things got better when I turned around and rediscovered the advantages of a strong tailwind. Out at the point sand was racing along the beach faster than me blown by the stiff wind and I was glad that I had long running pants on rather than shorts.

Very few people were out today although a few hearty souls were out looking for shells or in some cases had metal detectors out. I got up to the beach entrance where I live and still felt good and wanted to do more even though I knew that if I went straight home it would be a nice 6 mile run. However I could see the Bogue Banks Fishing Pier in the distance. I had always wanted to do the whole beach and since I still felt good I kept running. Last week I had ran the furthest I had in a long time when I did 7.1 miles, out to the Point and then up the beach a bit. I figured that I could do 7 miles and then it was 8 and I went under the pier and kept going about another quarter mile. I thought of going further but since conditions were beginning to deteriorate I decided to turn back. I ran into some more wind on the way back but I finished the run. I wasn’t fast, the combination of wind and occasionally soft sand slowed me down but it was nice, a bit under 2 hours for the 11.2 miles, about 5.6 miles an hour. The was really slow from about the 8th mile I figure I was doing about 6.5 miles an hour before I hit the pier.

Regardless it was a good feeling to finish and know that I am in about good enough shape that I could do a half-marathon again. At 52 years old I don’t need to be fast, but just to know that I can do it gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Tomorrow it will be back to my weekday circuit training when I do lots of push-ups of various types, crunches and abdominal exercises between laps of 1/3 of a mile for an hour or so. It will still be windy and it looks like that the nights are going to be the coldest that we have had since last winter. But at least we are not in the direct path of Sandy. I have been through a good number of hurricanes and tropical storms, all in the summer when the temperatures were warm, I would not want to take one like Sandy especially with a winter storm bearing in as well. Somehow flooding, cold weather and snow combined with power outages does not seem fun.

Today was interesting because usually some song from the 1970s will be going through my head as I run. Last week it was Bob Seeger’s Against the Wind  the day before it was Linda Ronstadt’s You’re no Good, today it was Rod Stewart’s Do you think I’m Sexy. Sometimes it is Abba, Blondie or Doctor Hook. It is not like I plan on my internal I-Pod to play these songs, but it is what it is.

Now it is time to settle in and see what happens in the World Series. I am hoping for the sweep but if the Giants do win I wonder how many South Park seasons I can watch between now and the election.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Stormy Weekend: Hurricane Sandy, a Larceny and a World Series Game

Sandy Hits the Emerald Island Fishing Pier

Today was one of those days… a working weekend that ended up with a storm and being ripped off by someone other than a professional politician or financier.

This morning I went in early to be present during a training session that was mandatory for our junior enlisted personnel. That, though it forced me out of bed earlier than I would normally be on a soggy windy day when travel was not advised the training was good and I got to see a bunch of our sailors as well as leaders who were there as well.

Since the weather was bad I decided to do my PT session in our little hospital gym. Since I was the only person that I saw around I decided to leave my backpack which has accompanied me everywhere since I went to Jordan before I went to Iraq in 2007 and my change of clothes in the locker room since it wouldn’t fit well in my locker. I worked out for an hour and when I returned it was gone. I had to make a police report and on Monday the hospital communications staff will be able to review the security cameras. The sad thing is that being a weekend and in an area not frequented by hospital visitors the criminal was most likely as sailor. In the military where trust is essential for Sailors, Marines, Airmen or Soldiers to steal from one another. It is betrayal of trust and I do hope for his sake that he decides to turn in the pack. It is not so much what was in it, I had my civilian clothes including my Orioles windbreaker, my Orioles Batting Practice hat, an Orioles long sleeve t-shirt, a pair of cargo shorts, a pair of Sperry Topsiders, a notebook and some underwear but nothing else of any value (my wallet, phone and car keys were with me in the gym).  I can replace all the clothes. But I really don’t want to have to go through the trouble of seeing a career destroyed for something so stupid as this. There was not much traffic and whoever did this had to go out the doors with the cameras.  Actually all that I really care about is the pack as it is like a security blanket for me, much more valuable than anything in it. If I found the pack outside my office door on Monday I would not pursue charges. Like I said I have far better things to do with my time. Hopefully it even could be a redemptive encounter.

After getting back from the base and taking Molly for a drag through the rain I went to the grocery store, picked up a few things and then to a local restaurant’s bar where I had my usual salad and beer and enjoyed visiting a couple of the regulars and the bar tenders. That was a good thing and took some of the edge off of what I was feeling about the pack.

After that I went down to take a look at Tropical Storm/ Hurricane/ Frankenstorm/ Nor’Easter/ Noricane (I made the last one up) Sandy. I got some great pictures and then went home to watch Game 3 of the World Series, which the Giants lead 2-0 right now going to the 5th inning.

So Molly is passed out, it is raining hard, the ball game is on and I am done and since I have taken the duty pager for tomorrow from one of my other chaplains I will finish for now. I will probably write something about the ballgame later tonight or tomorrow.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Off Season begins on the Island

I drove back to North Carolina today after spending the Labor Day Weekend with Judy in Virginia.  As I drove back on US-17 there was very little traffic which made the trip very peaceful as compared to other times. Shortly after I turned onto NC-58 in Maysville for the last part of the trip to the Island Hermitage, Molly my 11 year old Papillon-Dachshund mix did something that she has taken to doing lately, rolling the window down in the back seat. Shortly after I got my Ford Escape this spring she discovered the trick to pushing the button on the door and getting the window to roll down. With the window down she stuck her head out and for the rest of the trip would enjoy the wind blowing through her brilliant red fur.

After getting home I had to make a quick trip to the local grocery store, a Food Lion, which this time last week was packed with the final surge of pre-Labor Day vacationers. Today, the parking lot was back to normal. The numbers of vacationers has dropped and all of the summer tourist items were being packed away.  It is nice to get some peace around here again.

Tonight, after dinner with Molly, I wrote an article which I am waiting to publish until the Yankees-Rays and Orioles-Jays games are over, and as I explain in that article have ignored the televised Democratic National Convention much as I did the Republican National Convention last week. I prefer not to be bombarded with an endless barrage of political speeches.

After a while Molly decided it was time for her evening walk and since the weather was favorable we walked to the beach. The waning Moon had not yet risen and in the pitch black we walked to the beach, a cool wind blowing into our faces.  The seasonal rental homes are pretty much vacant and the lack of light from them ensured that I could look up and see the vastness of the heavens while listening to the relentless pounding of the phosphorescent surf on the now empty beach. The sight was breathtaking and I uttered a prayer of thanks.

It was peaceful. I like the beginning of the off season here and I think that Molly does too. Tomorrow looks like a good morning to get out early for a run on the beach before I head to work. That will be nice.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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It’s a Dog’s Life

“The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made His greatest gifts the commonest.” ― Martin Luther

“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.”  Dean Koontz, False Memory

When people talk about their dogs like they are nearly human there are some that think them crazy. Of course they are entitled to their opinion but then they haven’t had our dogs.   Judy and I both grew up with dogs and neither of us can imagine not having one to spoil.

Our little dog Molly has a rough life. She is our third dog and has all the benefits negotiated by our first two dogs. She gets a dog biscuit because our first dog, an incredibly stubborn Wire Hair Dachshund that we got on Christmas Eve 1984 in Wiesbaden Germany named Frieda. Now Frieda was the “dog from hell” and tested us every day of her life. She never got it that she was not the top dog and every day it was a different power fight. Eventually she succeed in getting us to pay her to do her business outside and not on the rug. Our second dog, Greta a fat little Red Dachshund that we got in San Antonio when Frieda was four years old also got the same deal even though she was easy to housebreak.

Molly simply takes the “cookie” as we call it as her due.  We talk about “renewing her contract” when we buy dog food and well she has a more toys than some kids. It is funny to see dig through her toy basket for specific toys especially when she drags out toys from her puppyhood.  She is a fearless little creature and absolutely calming. When we went to the beach to watch fireworks on July 4th she was steady as a rock as people set of their own show grade fireworks above our heads and I was trying to control PTSD related flashbacks and a major anxiety attack she seemed to sense it and kept close to me, her calmness helped me calm down that night.

One of the things that she loves to do is come with us down to the Island Hermitage in Emerald Isle North Carolina. Since I am stationed at Camp LeJeune and I am a geographic bachelor this means that I make the trip home to Virginia every couple of weeks. Judy had surgery on her Achilles tendon two weeks ago and this week came down here with me since my apartment is all at the ground level and there are no steps to negotiate.  Of course our little dog Molly made the trip as well.

Molly like the island life.  I live about a quarter mile from the beach in a quiet neighborhood with a lot of woods and wildlife.  Molly has discovered that the local deer like to hang around where I live, she loves the beach, the walks where she can track various animals and of course the 6 foot long bean bag in my living room which she has decided is hers.  Molly is half Dachshund and half Papillon and weighs all of 15 pounds.  However she has decided that the bean bag is hers thank you.

She came down the first time with Judy during the summer and then had a short vacation with me here in October.  When we came down here this week she seemed to anticipate where we were were going, obviously a trip this long means that she is going on vacation.

Yes she is spoiled. She was a rescue that we got when she was about 6 months old.  We don’t know if she was a run away or dump but we came out with a gem. Incredibly smart, sweet and always playful she seems to know that she is cute and funny.  She can be obnoxious and is entirely too entitled but she is a monster of our own making.

She has a sense of fairness about her that is funny. She will divide here time between us almost as if she doesn’t want either of us to feel left out.  She has figured out that Judy hasn’t been well and has poured out extra attention on her while ensuring that I take her out for her walk and make sure that she has her food and water.

Anyway she is entertaining and sweet and always fun.  We are blessed to have the her and hope that if you have a dog that yours brings as much joy to your life as molly does ours.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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After Irene: What happens the Next Time, do we feel Lucky?

Crews working to restore power aboard Camp LeJeune

Irene has left the scene and thankfully for whatever reason, divine intervention or just plain luck Irene lost her groove and didn’t get it back before coming ashore.  There was damage and loss of life but it could have been much worse.  She had weakened and hit New York at low tide had she not weakened and moved fast New Yorkand much of New Englandcould have faced a disaster of epic proportions.  Even still damages are estimated at 7 billion dollars and there were towns which most people in power don’t really give a damn about that were devastated by flooding, storm surge or wind.

In North Carolinawhen I am stationed we took the brunt of the storm.  There was a lot of damage in the communities where she came ashore, the Outer Banks and in low lying inland areas where the building codes are less stringent than on the coast but it could have been much worse.  A big part of the reason is that we have been abnormally dry and so streams and rivers were low and the ground was able to absorb the heavy rain. I have been through worse here and I’m glad that we did not have a repeat of Floyd were the storm was a high category 2 with massive rains inundating a state that had been saturated by two previous hurricanes.

My Island Hermitage is on Emerald Isle and it is better situated than many communities on the Outer Banks.  Despite this I prepared in earnest and thankfully all the damage I had was a bit of wet carpet which happens every time we get a lot of rain.  I’m told that my home inVirginia Beach came through fine although as in every tropical storm or Nor’easter the lakes in my neighborhood overflowed and flooded the streets.  In past tropical storms and Nor’easters we lot power for extended periods of time.   According to my neighbor who was looking after the house there was only a momentary outage.

For us the storm produced some anxiety. As a geographic bachelor and as a part of essential staff at the Naval Hospital I knew that I would be there for the duration. Since Irene was a massive storm I had Judy secure our home and evacuate on Thursday.  We I made the call Irene was expected to hit as a category 3 or strong category 2 storm with both the Island Hermitage and my Old Virginia Home in the crosshairs.  I veer to caution in such situations, it is far better to over prepare and get lucky than to presume upon God or nature depending on your world view.

I rode out Irene in our Naval hospital with our bare bones essential staff, some of their families, patients and families, women in their last weeks of pregnancy and pets of the staff members forced to be on duty.  We did well, my Commanding Officer told the story in this blog post http://navymedicine.navylive.dodlive.mil/archives/501 .  We lost commercial power early on and were on diesel backup generators the duration of the storm.  After the Friday dinner we were reduced to emergency rations which the main courses have an eerie resemblance to MREs and what staff had brought from home.

I ambled about on my gimpy leg the best that I could and had to resort to using my cane to make my rounds as I went about to staff, patients and family members.  Several babies were born on Friday night and Saturday.  It was a good event and thankfully nothing bad occurred.  A lot of people especially those that had never been through a hurricane or had a spouse deployed overseas found it unnerving. But we did our best. We converted the chapel to a TV room for the kids to watch movies since they had little else to do and almost every television were on non-emergency circuits.  We ran an extension cord to an “essential” plug in our section of the building which allowed this to happen and our hospital American Red Cross office supplied us with DVDs as well as coloring books and games for the kids.

As I have written in previous articles the military, particularly the Navy tends to be more of a family than any civilian employer. We are bound together by our shared experiences of deployments, danger and regular moves and family separations.  We pull together in ways that I have never seen in the civilian world.   It is an honor to serve.  I finally left the hospital late this morning since Emerald Isle did not reopen the bridge that links us to the mainland until today.

Since I have come back online I have seen some comments from various critics of Federal disaster assistance or the actions of governors or mayors of states and cities with large numbers of people in the danger zone, about 67 million Americans I think is the number.  The most critical politicians were from the House of Representatives and the biggest mockers when Irene came ashore in a weakened state and did less damage than expected were from the “new” conservative media.  Having been through more hurricanes and major earthquakes than I can count and seen the devastation of these events and the effects on the lives of people I find the comments calloused, mean spirited and simply used this as another way to push a political agenda.

Of course it is easy to be a critic when you have no direct responsibility for the lives of people.  You see those in the executive branch be it at Federal, State of City levels of government  and the agencies are each level are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.  If they know of something that that could devastate their communities and the citizens in them and do too much and disaster doesn’t strike, those that hate government say that they are overreacting and an “intrusion of big government.”  If they don’t react it is held up as a failure of government.  As far as Federal assistance after an event those that say that the Federal government should let people sink or swim and states and municipalities fend for themselves even if the disaster is overwhelming the same is true.  They are always critical simply because they want to dismantle the Federal government. Well most are against it until it is their community is affected, the rare exception being Virginia Representative and House Majority Whip Eric Cantor who told people in his own district to take a hike after they were hit by an earthquake that no one ever anticipated or were prepared.

Close to 70 million people were potentially at risk from a potentially historic hurricane that only weakened at the last minute.  The President, the governors of the affect states and the mayors of major cities did what they were supposed to do.  They did not wait until it was too late as was the case in Louisiana and Hurricane Katrina.  For that they are mocked I the press, especially those that are deemed liberal I haven’t heard any criticism of the actions of Republican Governors of Virginia or New Jersey for doing what the Mayor of New York did.

We got lucky this time but some day we won’t be and if the critics have their way the result will be historic in the bad kind of way, think about the Tsunami in Japan kind of bad.  We got lucky and if we think of ourselves as gamblers we need to remember that eventually the law of averages works against us, just ask the people of New Orleans or more recently Joplin Missouri.  God or nature take your pick only gives us so many chances and it takes only one of these things to make a direct hit and wipe untold numbers of people, their communities and even the assets of major corporations and Fortune 500 companies, but then the people that are against Federal assistance to regular people would jump through their asses to help Corporate America, can you imagine what would have happened in Wall Street went under like they did back in 2008 except this time under real water?

Being prepared and taking precautions is always preferable to loss of life on a major scale.  No government or community can be prepared for all contingencies but it is foolish for them not to do so but they are damned if they do and damned if the don’t in the eyes of their critics do not have the same responsibility.

I do hope that we band together to help those most affected by Irene and other recent disasters.  Prayer is nice but action is even nicer. Thank God there are good people that lay it all out for those in need and do it well working with the government and other charitable organizations and individuals. I think a lot about the efforts of the Southern Baptist disaster response teams as well as the Salvation Army disaster relief and those like them that make such a difference.

I’m glad that Irene lost her groove and didn’t get it back, unfortunately lives were lost and millions of people have suffered some kind of loss due to her.

After the Storm

For me it was a long and exhausting event. But it was a great chance for me to have a weekend with some wonderful people, my local Navy and Marine Corps family.  Men and women that give every day and exemplify the best of America.  That makes all the difference.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Irene is almost Here and things are a Little Bit Sporty

Calm before the Storm

Irene is getting close, winds increasing and rain has been pelting us hard since mid-afternoon.  From what I can make out there is some damage already in the area as well as local flooding. e lost main power at the hospital and have been on diesel backup for a couple of hours now.  A tornado warning was just lifted.  Most computers are shut down I have my laptop and mobile hot spot and am shooting this out before I shut it down since I am on battery power.

Prelude: The Dunes

I have been out and about the hospital most of the day after I secured the Island Hermitage the best that I could this morning.  A decent number of our essential personnel and duty personnel with families have them here in empty patient rooms or on cots in offices.  Morale and people’s spirits are pretty good.  I have been in every area that is operating visiting our folks, patients, families and staff.

The Angry Sea

One cool thing is that we converted our gym to the Pet Hotel for our people that have to be here. We have a lot of dogs a couple of cats and a rabbit.  The service members or families have to see after them with a few of our staff assisting with the help of the Army Veterinarian and his techs. The Army is the only serve with Vets and provides them to the rest of us.

We turned our chapel into a movie theater for the kids until we lost main power, hopefully power will be restored by morning.

The rain in our area will probably be in the 7-10 inch range by the time Irene bows out but some places north of us will get in excess of 20 inches.  I went through Floyd in 1999 and he caused major flooding throughout the area.  I expect Irene to do the same.

For those that have never experienced a hurricane they are something.  The incredible calm before the storm and topical weather makes you think you are in paradise, but within hours the sea begins to boil, the rain begins to fall and the winds begin to howl like a demon on steroids.

Lights Out

Irene has lost some of her punch but she is a huge storm.  She should be past us by this time tomorrow on her way north. I do not envy the people in the Northeast who never have been through something like this.  For places like New York this could be really bad. But Glenn Beck says that Irene is a “blessing.” Maybe he should hang out in one for a while.

Pray for all of those impacted by Irene.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Zen and the Science of Mountain Bike Maintenance

“I only ride ’em, I don’t know what makes ’em work.” 

I know little of Zen other than it is a Buddhist meditation practice that does not involve shouting “serenity now.” I also know little of Mountain Bike Maintenance but using the “serenity now” technique I am I am learning the science of Mountain Bike Maintenance.

Now I’m sure that those that know more than me about mountain bikes will say that this is an art. But for me art is either something related to baseball or Navy ships that I hand on my wall, something beautiful that Judy produces or something that I hate and wonder just how the hell the artist got paid for it.  Of course none of these categories fit in the paradigm that I call the science of mountain bike maintenance.

I have ridden and destroyed bicycles for decades though until I moved to Emerald Isle I have had few places that I felt safe to ride the Mongoose E303 that I bought just before I deployed to Iraq.  My attitude with bicycles through most of my life was like Donald Sutherland’s character in the movie Kelly’s Heroes named “Oddball” who said in regard to work being done by his men on his tank “I only ride ’em, I don’t know what makes ’em work.”

I always had a habit of riding my bikes hard and though I learned to do a few rudimentary tasks I really had no clue what made them work. I remember doing an “Evil Knievil” jump over a wide construction ditch with my Schwinn Stingray which came up just short wiping out my bike and leaving me with a broken arm.  Then there was the 10 speed touring bike with dual headlights that my dad brought me back from Japan in 1972. That bike was a heavy duty warhorse that I used in games of bike to bike chicken against other neighborhood kids in Stockton California.  That bike was like the “Deathmobile” in Animal House, it was not aluminum but steel and its tires were heavier duty than most American bikes.  Those were good times, maintenance other than to patch flat tires was not a priority.  That bike got me through Junior High School but I gave it up like a broken down stead when I got my first car, a 1966 Buick LeSabre 400 with a 287 V-8 and 4 barrel carburetor.  I had a bike when I was a student at Cal State Northridge and nearly ran over Joni Erickson Tada as she motored about in her motorized wheelchair and nearly drove into a filming set of Dynasty to get almost up close and personal with Heather Locklear. Both were unintentional but a product of my rather reckless riding.  Once again maintenance was a secondary concern and I drive that 10 speed into the dirt as well.

The next time that I used a bicycle was when I was deployed to Würzburg Germany to support the Bosnia operation.  I had the use of a used 18 speed road bike which I would ride down the big hill from my apartment to the city center on almost every decent day for weather. I also took it on longer rides around the countryside.  But that was pretty much the last time that I rode a bike until this year. I bought the Mongoose in 2006 as I was recovering from an IT Band injury while overtraining for the Marine Corps Marathon having just completed the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half-Marathon.  Back then I was even more stupid than I am now and would run 12-20 miles 4-5 times a week.  It was great for the endorphin rush but hell on my legs.  Unfortunately there were no interesting places to ride in Virginia Beach unless I wanted to pack my bike on my car to get to the Oceanfront or a rural area.  I hate being bored and feeling like a target for any typical Hampton Roads driver.

So finally I get stationed at Camp LeJeune and bring down my nearly new bike, 5 years old but no wear and tear.  I got it tuned up and then started to ride around the roads and trails near the Island Hermitage which is rapidly becoming the Island Heritage of the Church of Baseball.  I have permission of my land lady to paint outfield walls in the living room to match the baseball décor.  Since I plan to keep it as a place of refuge for Judy and I whenever I am stationed back in Virginia Beach I should not have to paint over it for a while.  But I digress….

I finally have a place where I enjoy riding again even a couple of places to go off road and actually use the bike as it was intended to be used.  I also discovered that hard riding also requires maintenance and that maintenance on a mountain bike is a lot more intensive than the bikes that I rode in times past. It is also a lot more expensive to have done by a bike store so I am learning the science of mountain bike maintenance.  The first thing I had happen was a flat rear tire which occurred about a mile into a ride. I had to walk the bike back because I did not have a hand pump and when I tried to fill it at a gas station the tire blew.  The next chance I got I went and purchased a heavy duty inner tube as well as a Trinitarian Allen Wrench, a hand pump to keep with the bike and lights since I tend to ride near dusk in order to get pictures of sunsets and wildlife.

I discovered something. I had to remove the brake pads to change the rear tire. It wasn’t enough to have to take the damned chain off but I had to take the brakes off to get the tire off. That brought me some measure of discontent but I persevered I got the tire off.  I also got some tire levers to help me with getting the very heavy tire off the rim. Back in my previous life when I rode bikes changing a tire was a snap, the tires were thin and came off without difficulty.  Well if you haven’t ridden one a the walls of a mountain bike’s tires are fricking thick and harder than hell to get off the bike, I even broke one of the damned levers trying to get the tire off. But I was successful despite a number of “serenity now” moments. I replaced the inner tube and put the tire back on the bike. I adjusted the chain and put the brake pads on. I thought that I had cracked the code. Sure I was covered in grease and sweaty but I had done it, or so I thought.  I had no idea that the damned tension on the brakes had to be reset.

So I went to the internet for a “Google how too” session. The sites that I found were no help and I had to travel to Virginia the next day so I said the hell with it. When I returned this week I stopped by the bike shop and asked for a demo of how to fix the damned thing so I could get back on the road.  The man at the shop demonstrated on a bike and I locked the information into my brain housing unit.  I ended up having to leave work early today because I have not slept more than three hours in the past three days. After crashing at home I got up, had dinner and decided to do the brake adjustment which went surprisingly well. I then took the bike out for a ride in the evening, got a couple of nice pictures and came home to watch baseball and relax. Hopefully I will sleep well tonight. I noticed that on nights where I got a ride in that I slept better so hopefully that continues.  I will need to do some more adjustments on the bike to get it where I want but I think I am beginning to crack the code on the science of mountain bike maintenance.  So long as it does not rain tomorrow evening I will do the adjustments and take another ride.

So until tomorrow, have a nice night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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