“All I can do is be me, whoever that is.” ~ Bob Dylan
“Hurricane” was written by Dylan with Jacques Levy, and is about the imprisonment of fighter Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, an American-Canadian middleweight boxer, wrongfully convicted of murder and released from prison after spending nearly 20 years incarcerated. The song was released on Dylan’s album Desire in January 1976.
Outside of Mainers, few people had ever heard of Kennebunkport, until George Herbert Walker Bush was elected president and all eyes turned to the Bushes’ summer retreat at Walker Point. There it is, way, way behind me. This was as close as I was allowed.
Maine is one of my favorite getaway places. Easily accessible from anywhere in New England, it offers everything – even a desert! Kennebunkport is one of the wealthiest communities in the state of Maine, so it’s a tourist destination for me, not a retirement option. And if you’ve ever been to Maine in the hot, hot summer, you will know that the ocean water stays pretty cold. The average water temperature in Portland in August is 62 degrees – now that’s refreshing!
Having lived in Rhode Island for most of my life, I’m familiar with hurricanes. We’re not the region for earthquakes or tornadoes, even though we’ve experienced both within the past six months. And we don’t get many hurricanes, certainly not like the Carolinas, Florida, or the Bahamas. I grew up hearing about the Hurricane of ’38 (the big one, pictured) and saw the plaque downtown marking the high water level. I’d listen to my parents, my grandparents, and one old landlady tell the stories of being stranded downtown, of watching the surf in Narragansett the days following the hurricane, and the destruction that remained after the storm had churned its way out to sea. There was Hurricane Carol in 1954, Hurricane Esther in 1961 (on my sister’s birthday), and I was around for Gloria in 1985 and Bob in 1991. We’ve had remnants of many hurricanes, but usually by the time the storm found its way up here, in cooler waters, it was much weaker and we received some strong winds and heavy rain.
I’m not belittling what a hurricane is – the horror and destruction of these storms can be enormous and deadly. When you’re a kid or a carefree young adult, your biggest concern is whether you can surf the waves and the internet. As an adult, you think about your homeowner’s policy, the big old tree in the backyard, the freezer full of food. So you take precautions, because a hurricane, unlike a tornado or an earthquake, provides you with advance warning; for us in Rhode Island, we have days to prepare. We have full tanks of gasoline in the cars, cash on hand, ice for the cooler if we need it, jugs of water, food that doesn’t need to be cooked, batteries, flashlights, candles.
The newscasters and meteorologists are almost giddy with anticipation about this approaching storm. Landfall in southeastern New England is estimated for Sunday, and on Thursday it was all they could talk about. We live here. We know. And we’re ready for Irene when she comes to visit.