Last month, I flew to Reno for the Soaring Society of America’s biennial convention, and was it ever a change from Houston. Houston was already in an early (and flat)Texas Gulf Coast Spring. Reno not so much: surrounded by mountains etched against the sky in dry clear air, under tangles of lenticular clouds, Reno was winter-brown.
And then it snowed. A lot.
That was a shock to the system for me and all the Southern Californians, Floridians, and attendees from the Southern Hemisphere. Some had a tough drive or a delayed flight getting there. But a good convention was had anyway – with old friends, interesting news, and an exhibit hall full of dream machines. (A non-soaring-pilot friend saw this picture and commented, “I didn’t know gliders are so BIG!”)
And Reno? The sun came out. The snow sublimated, melted, or stuck around in (relatively) harmless and picturesque places.
Travel is a cognate to the nowadays more ominous word travail. The root meaning still works. Travel is challenging even with cars and jets. It’s debilitating, as any airline pilot can tell you. Yet when you travel you meet people and places you wouldn’t at home, and you may see wonders. Or even unexpected reminders of home.
For Houstonians, this yard art is a very relatable commentary on how the most unpleasant imaginable Halloween trick came early with Storm Harvey.
Harvey was really bad, including where I live. I rode out the storm in comfort on the third floor and never even lost Internet, but with the bayou about two miles wide, my car was a goner. The condos on the first floor got anywhere from a few inches to a few feet of water.
All across town houses got flooded that had NEVER flooded before. In some cases these were 40-year-old homes that had never even come close to flooding. People had to rip out wet carpet, sheet rock and insulation, baseboards, wood flooring that looked dryable but turned out to have puddles all under it, appliances, furniture, and books. The result was streets lined with dismal debris piles.
Houston and other municipalities are scraping these up as fast as possible, but there’s so much it taking a long time. Before the garbage trucks come the scavengers. People in old pickup trucks drive around collecting appliances, furniture, and flooring to clean, rehabilitate and sell to those who lost what they had and lack flood insurance.
Friends in Bellaire, a self-contained little city surrounded by Houston, say it was a great day when the city debris removal trucks finally came to their street. It was like a parade, with elephantine garbage trucks and people standing out in their yards waving and smiling.
I’m driving around in a new (used) car – a silver cream puff that I bought from CarMax. It’s a Hyundai Elantra. (Hyundai is approximately pronounced with the first syllable rhyming with June and the second syllable like the English word day. The word means “modernity” in Korean.)
It replaced my previous car – a noble Accord coupe stricken when the bayou across the street overflowed its banks during Hurricane Harvey’s visit to Houston.
Harvey’s intensity was in part due to the climate disruption brought about by humankind’s profligate consumption of energy, so say the scientists. One of the most significant sources of the atmospheric carbon dioxide is our collective use of automobiles.
So with cars as it is with people and ideas, my old car played a role, however small, in engendering its own destruction—and rebirth.