How to write in a hurricane is a poser. Hurricanes are really bad storms. You will want to avoid one, if at all possible, perhaps by moving to Nevada, where the worst weather-related calamity we face is sitting on vinyl car seats in July wearing shorts.
We pull our heads out of the new hole in the roof we have made and we soldier on. We are even able to go home, put salve on the backside of our thighs, and write a post.
In a hurricane, writing has got to be difficult. In a hurricane, the wind is howling, the windows are rattling, shingles are flying off the roof, branches are cracking off trees and hitting the wall of the room where you’re trying to write and finding it increasingly difficult.
Water may even be creeping up your ankles, making you wonder how you will look with your hair standing straight out around your head, after you’re electrocuted.
This is how I have to write most of the time and I haven’t been near a hurricane since the 1980’s. Back then, I decided I would rather face the wrath of God than bed down with a bunch of strangers in a school auditorium. So I went to stay with a friend on Long Island during a hurricane warning on Long Island.
This is just one example of the kind of uncommon sense I have shown in my lifetime.
Around my house, we do not entertain hurricanes unaware, but we do have other hazards that are highly injurious to writers. I like to write during the morning and early afternoon, sitting on my bed, my laptop on my lap. (Hey! That’s why they call it that!) My window is ajar, a fancy way of saying it’s open, because I live in a place where there are no hurricanes, so the winter weather is really nice.
The tenants in back have the gall to walk through their gate and in response to their slightest movements, the neighbors’ fifteen dogs bark at them. Despite the tenants doing this everyday, at least twenty times a day, the dogs refuse to be lulled into complacency and continue to express their outrage each time.
The tenant’s grandkid, who is accompanied by his grandmother on these outdoor excursions, protests about something each time, for which he will be told “No” and he then joins the dogs in expressing outrage. His grandmother will tell him to “stop that crying,” which he very sensibly ignores, as he has done every day for the last three years, because it is clear to him there are no teeth in her warnings like there are in hurricanes.
Across the street, on the corner, there are two new kids on the block. They add to the general cacophony, which one of them feels obliged to continue for hours by screaming at the top of his lungs, and to which his mother appears to be deaf. Profound deafness is a very sensible response to motherhood.
The neighbor directly across the street has a truck outfitted with an alarm, which warns him, and the rest of us, of approaching birds and pedestrians and cars all day and half the night. It will give out a beep-beep every ten minutes or so, to let us know that there is Incoming.
I’m going to write an anonymous letter to the neighbors with the screaming new kid, threatening all kinds of mayhem if they don’t take charge of this brat and make him stop screaming. I know this is unprecedented; parents are not expected to take charge and discipline anyone. Only total strangers. If you are a total stranger, parents feel free to express their opinion of any number of personal things about you.
I’m not worried they will read this. For people to actually stop and read something would require a crisis similar to a global alien invasion and besides which, my own friends and family rarely read my stuff, so why would a neighbor?
As for noise cessation, short of federal intervention, people sometimes manage to get some peace and quiet. They induced LAX to stop flying jets over houses. LAX settled the whole thing by confiscating the entire neighborhood.
I am going to go live in one of those abandoned houses. Living under departing and arriving jets has got to be more peaceful than this.
Nearer at hand, in mine own house, I hear cursing coming at regular intervals from the back room where someone is experiencing extreme frustration on the computer.
Closer to me, there’s the regular conversation taking place between the dog and one of the occupants of the household; “If you want me to throw it, drop it.” “Give it to me, or I won’t throw it.” “You stupid mutt, I am not going to play tug-of-war with you every time you want me to throw it!”
And so it will go, for several years.
Edit: I wrote this several years ago. The tenants and their grandchild have moved; the fifteen dogs are still there in varying numbers and groupings; the neighbor on the corner with the screaming child has moved; the neighbor across the street with the ever vigilant car alarm is no longer there.
No, but they were all replaced by a houseful of motorcyclists who roared down the street at intervals, beginning at 7am and ending after midnight. They were busted by the SWAT team. Finally, peace and quiet, right?
What planet are YOU from? We now have the twenty or thirty family members who live across the street: The shrewish mom who never speaks but she screams; the yelling children; the ranting and yelling grown son, who feels that it he is legally protected from all interference as long as he’s standing somewhere across the street.
Through it all, I dream of isolation chambers, and tree houses located in the forest, where the loudest things you will hear are the screams of small creatures as they get caught by something bigger and eaten.
And that usually happens at night when I will be asleep, my cheek pillowed on my shotgun, smiling softly.