Retroblog: The Eye of Bob

Meditation on Disaster...Tanks for the Memories...Bob Visits the Big Pineapple while The Gorbster Vacations in Crimea...Fear and Loathing Eleven Feet Above Mean High Tide...Get out, Now!...Life During Wartime...Lake Flo & The Dark Night of Middletown...A Great Lurch Forward...A Thoroughgoing Dampness w/ Candlelight Illuminations...

"What does Bob want?"
-Special Agent Dale Cooper

Dottie from across the street cornered me as I got out of the car. I'd seen her husband along the road by the beach, looking anxiously at the water, which I thought was sort of odd behavior this near to midnight. "What are you doing?" She said.

Just coming back from Drowning by Numbers at the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport, actually, but I wasn't sure that's what she was asking. "Uh...the usual. Working." She glanced down toward the ocean, two blocks away.

"What about Bob?" she whispered.
Bob. Oh. Yeah.


"My mom woke me up and said, "Tanks!"
-Exchange student, Boston Globe

One of the comfortable rituals of New England autumn is that peculiar obsession called hurricane tracking. During months with a 't' in them, local tv stations team up with convenience stores to distribute cardstock maps of the eastern US marked off with longitude and latitude. Then every evening on the news, as we progress through August and the alphabet, we dutifully plot the cartesian coordinates of the latest depression, or tropical storm, as it rumbles around the Carribbean. Only on rare occasions do we notice with growing alarm a particularly long track which, if extrapolated, would intersect with our living room. Few actually survive the long march up the coast, and very few are promoted up the Beaufort scale to the exalted title of 'hurricane.' True hurricanes that reach New England are infrequent, and those that do real damage are rare, rare enough that people called them by their years ('38) before they came to be named (Carol, Gloria). But when the talk gets around to hurricanes, it's always the stories of 1938 that come out...

Our family's dacha in Island Park, Rhode Island, withstood the hurricane of '38 without a scratch. Well, okay, it was flooded, so my mom's story goes, when the Sakonnet River, which breaks into a wide beach a hundred yards down, came surging up the street. But then, as any veteran Tracker will tell you…often repeatedly…1938 was the worst possible conditions for a hurricane: landfall directly up Narragansett Bay coinciding with local high tide, which meant that the storm surge gave it that little extra push right over the top, flooding the Park, which rises a scant eleven feet above the kelp line on the beach. Many of the cottages down at the water were either totally destroyed or pushed around like toys. My grandparents used to say that the house across the street was carried three blocks back to the playground. So no one was totally sanguine when the news reports of Bob's location began to populate a curve meandering toward us. But no one started really worrying until Sunday night.


Editorial note: Before there were blogs — or even, actually, teh Interwebz — I was doing what people in those days called 'gonzo journalism,' cranking out quick, on-the-spot reports of events with a strong narrative flavor. This post, and the ones that will follow over the next day, are as they were written 20 years ago. There are probably factual errors and things I would change, but then, that wouldn't be gonzo journalism...