Here I am again, in the box at press level, watching Hurricane Rita cross the Gulf of Mexico. It's now a Category 4 storm, though it peaked as a Category 5 early this morning, with top winds of an astonishing 170 miles per hour.
So, the struggle resumes between fascination and dread - only now I'm watching myself as I watch the storm, trying to catch every swing of the pendulum. I'm also trying, in the interest of decency, to let dread win out.
I know people in the path of the storm this time, which makes it a little easier to keep fascination at bay. My cousin who lives in Houston with her husband and two young children have taken refuge in a motel near Dallas. I'm not sure what my wife's uncle is doing, though he has family elsewhere in Texas. This somehow makes the coming destruction more real - though why it does so is itself a matter for investigation.
Still, to have two record-breaking, Category 5 storms within a month of each other is impressive. (Wow! That's cool!) [No, it's not.] The visible-light sattelite images of Rita are almost beautiful in their symmetry and shimmering white texture. (Oooo!) [It doesn't look quite so gorgeous from underneath.] The storm is very likely to reflood New Orleans, raising further doubts about its long-term viability as a city. (That'll teach 'em!) [Teach whom? Teach them what?]
A critical point came this morning, when I learned that the storm had weakened somewhat. At first, unguarded, I felt a slight disappointment. It somehow made the thing seem less impressive, less glamorous, less history-making. But when I think of the people in the path of the storm, when I appeal to my sense of solidarity with my fellow humans, a Category 3 will be beat a Category 5 any day. [Impressiveness be damned!] (Aww . . .)
And so it goes.