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Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Fool in the Storm

Fortunately, I find myself oftentimes not far away from the beach. Fitfully, I was born a mere 90 minutes drive from the sea. Today I woke up in my hometown of Dothan and I thought to go down to some of the stores that my company’s merchandise is held. I had not much of a complaint. Accept when I saw the grey clouds outside my window. It was not the best day to pick to go to the beach. But work is work. I would hit 3 Walgreen’s stores, coercing managers to allow me to reorder those indispensable Florida T-shirts with neon dolphins and bowing palm trees on them.

After these 3 stores and making two large orders, I was winding down that Panama City Beach Front Road. Usually, I would find a more remote spot, and spread a blanket out and either read or write or just lay there under the sun with the sounds of the ocean nearby…so nice and so ideal. But there was no sun today. Only huge dark clouds and rain pelting the white sands. But even in these dire circumstances, the beach parades its own beauty. I actually like the beach in the rain. For once a spectacular beach can be yours alone. And for once the magnificence of the ocean is felt, undiluted in grandeur without the fracas of blaring radios and whirling volleyballs. It’s just you and the entirety of the ocean and the sky and the rain and what threatening awe it poses if you observe reverently. This very day, I didn’t feel like getting wet, (I didn’t bring my shorts) I was driving down the strip, when I noticed two dark streaks stabbing down into the ocean. They were funnel clouds. I got excited. And everything inside me called for me to stop the car. So I pulled over in the parking lot of this pizza joint. And got out, observing the two water spouts dancing and spinning across the ocean. As I was watching, trying to take it all in. Some customers in the pizza joint came out watching the same dark-clouded ballerinas of storm and sea. I didn’t know if there was anything to feel danger about. Fear was nearly absent inside. Just a sense of curiosity, of awe, of excitement rose inside.

Just then, this large mullet haired man peeps out of the door of this pizza joint.
He reminded me of Dog the Bounty Hair, had the same type of look except dark hair, the same swarthy eyes and big bouncer, tough guy look…with a black sleeveless shirt and irrefutable cheesiness. He comes glancing about, exclaims to the group he’s with, his family, “It’s comin’ this way! We gotta get away from these glass windows. Let’s, everyone, load up the hummer and get outa here!” I looked over at his huge, bright shiny yellow hummer over to the side. His hurried exclamation supported my view that people who drive hummers pretend to be tough on the outside, while inside they’re just big wieners. However, I wasn’t yet sure to make sense of the waterspouts. They weren’t tornadoes. I had glanced around to see what how other people would react, and this is what I saw. And still I felt that they were being paranoid.

However, one guy ran out across the road to the beach to get a closer look. And this is what I really wanted to do. So I followed this person who looked like a punk kid with combat boots and a bandana. But in the trail of white sand between these two beach houses, I saw that this punk was a girl. She was hurrying back towards the pizza joint mentioning that she’s going to get her camera. I ran to the beach and stood there entranced by the entire scene.

The two funnel clouds where getting closer to land. The dark, ominous cloud that sat ontop of both of them was drifting in shore. Then the two did something unexpected. They merged into one waterspout. All the while you can see it turning, turning closer and closer. I took out my phone and snapped 3 different pictures. I have them on me. I just don’t have the phone plug to transfer them to a computer or I would post them in this note.

All the while, while holding my phone up I felt the wind getting a little heavier. There was that element inside me, where I was waiting for the smallest dab of discomfort and then I would take off sprinting across the sands. I trust my intuition wholeheartedly and call it foolish, but I didn’t feel that warning tug. I felt that this waterspout was something to take in purely and wholly and not go panicking away from. I imagined myself being hurled a few yards in the air. But deep down knew that this wasn’t going to happen. The waterspout quickly changed into less of a narrow twister and more of a twirling gust. I could see the crests of the waves around this swirl being spun around like a miniature maelstrom. Looking back at one photo I have, it looks like the torso and the arms of sea god pummeling his angry way to shore. Instead of coming directly for me, what seemed to be the case when I first stepped onto the beach, this Poseidon, turned his spinning path to my left, but he was still hoping to make shore. He was slowly winding down, which is what I believed would happen. Maybe a hundred yards or so down the beach, the sea-god had hit the beach spraying a tight shower all around as he continued to journey past a hotel and across the road. As far as I know, nothing was damaged. I walked back to my car still amazed. And then I stopped in a restaurant not far to eat and I showed some of the waitresses my photos. They live there and they said they’ve never seen anything like it.

4 Comments:

Blogger thepriesthood said...

wow, great story. reminds me of a time when i was riding to school early one morning with Dad and big sis, and over the bay we could see 5 water spouts dancing up and down like retracting fingers playing a piano or something. it was brilliant, a silvery grey shimmer. but we weren't nearly as close as you...

8:43 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

That's really neat. Though, I can't imagine seeing five of these waterspouts. It was terrific (in the fear inducing sense) just seeing two of them.

3:41 PM  
Blogger jrtowell said...

oh man, I can picture you jumping into one of those spouts and riding the wind just for the story. Also, in my imagination you are wearing an Alabama t-shirt, knee high moccasins and a viking helmet.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

Thanks. That's the greatest compliment anyone's ever given me. And don't forget the loin cloth.

10:34 PM  

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