Friday, September 28, 2012

THIS AIN'T KANSAS / Bet On Crazy


Two years ago when I was working on 47th street, every morning I checked the weather online. The forecast for the Tri-State area determined my attire for the diamond exchange, especially as the summer and autumn of seesawed during September. Later in the month the AM meteorologists predicted temperature would top off at 75. Rain was forecasted for the afternoon, so I dressed in a lightweight suit. My umbrella was in the office closet.

Morning passed into afternoon without incident. The air grew heavy around 3. I stepped outside the exchange and studied the western sky. I tensed my fingers into a fist. None of the knuckles crackled with age, indicating a falling barometer. The air was thick with humidity. It was 3pm. I figured the storm would arrive at 5.

Closing time.

I had to be at an art opening by 6:30. I returned to my desk and called old customers. It had been a slow day. The telephone rang at 4:30. Manny my boss was calling on his cell. My 80 year-old boss had taken off the day. His hip was bothering him.

"You be careful." His voice was edged with urgency. "There are reports of tornadoes."

"Tornadoes?" I dismissed his weather report as the hysterical reaction to the fear-mongering tactics of the TV news.

"Yes, severe thunderstorms are expected. I can see them from my window." Manny was from Brownsville. Its Old School motto - "Never ran. Never will."

Very little scared Manny. He was worried about his son, Richie Boy. We were holding down the fort in Manny's absence. Richie Boy was listening to a beautiful female client explain how her fiancee gave her the ring in Vietnam. The Ford model had big breasts. Manny's son wasn't going anywhere.

"Just a sec." I exited the store and checked out the western sky.

Dark.

Very dark.

"We're not going anywhere until it's over."

"Good, because the TV is warning people to seek refuge in their cellars."

"Just like THE WIZARD OF OZ." Dorothy and her dog Toto had been sucked into the heavens by a Kansas twister. Their house had landed atop the Wicked Witch. The munchkin EMS had declared her dead on the scene. Manny was a life-long Democrat and I said, "Maybe if we're lucky the exchange will fall on Sarah Palin."

"I'm being serious." Manny sounded like one of the extras from LA tornado scene in THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. "I see a line of dark clouds approaching."

Storm chasers describe this phenomena as the 'bear's cage'.

"We'll stay inside." 47th Street was mired with gloom. Rain was pelting the sidewalk. Pedestrians sought shelter under the alcove of the exchange. Two other friends called with concern. They had never seen a Doppler screen radar with such an angry red line. Richie Boy's had yet to break from the cleavage of the tall model. He was close enough to smell her perfume.

Innocent flirtation.

Richie Boy was always faithful to his wife.

Same as me to mine.

The wind whooshed through the canyon of 47th Street. The storm blew past in five minutes. I called Manny to tell him that we were all right. The old man was relieved by the news. He was heading downstairs to his local bar. I told him to come in late. The model left and Richie Boy said, "Let's close."

It was only 5:15. His father never shut the store before 5:30. My co-worker Ava hit the interior showcase like a Pirate of the Caribbean. We were out of there by 6. I got home to Brooklyn at 6:30. A tree had fallen on my street. My apartment was soaked by rain. I had left the windows open. Many other trees had been toppled by the high winds. An actual tornado had struck my neighborhood. I phoned Manny. He was in the bar.

"You were right. There was a tornado."

"I don't joke about shit like that."

"I know."

"Are you okay?"

"Yes." I was drinking a little wine and eating yellow tomatoes.

"And my son?" Manny was a father of four. Same as me. Only one thing mattered to men like us.

"Fine I last saw."

I'll see you tomorrow."

"Barring wind, sleet, rain or snow."

I was glad to have the work. These were strange times in many more ways than the weather.

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