Posts Tagged ‘flood’

The Four Horses

November 20, 2019

This morning I heard Meghna Chakrabarti interviewing Sylvia Poggioli about the flood in Venice, Italy.

Hearing the WBUR On Point hostess ask NPR’s Italian correspondent about that watery excess, my imagination flowed back to my visit to Venice in 2003.

On that day, sixteen years ago, I stood in a long tourist line to visit the Basilica of San Marco.

On that day, flood waters from the Adriatic Sea were lapping up the stepped entryway into the nave of the cathedral.

My daughter Kim, studying in Italy at that time, snapped some photographs. I assembled three of them here:

SanMarco3

It is plain to see that, yes, there is an ongoing, and worsening problem of flooding in the ancient city of Venice.

Moreover, the evidence is mounting that, yes Virginia, there is in fact a worldwide problem of more frequent coastal flooding, and it is reasonably related to climate change.

My position about climate change is that we should collectively educate ourselves about the impact of human activity on our planetary ecosystem. But human rights—rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness— should not be violated for the sake of imposing restrictive laws to reduce and control carbon emissions.

However all of our overflowing angst about climate change gets spread around, I would like to hone in on a certain detail in the frontal edifice of San Marco church building.

Look closely at this picture of the front of San Marco. You will notice, above the middle arch, four horse statues. 

When I noticed them up there in 2003, I was fascinated with those horses.

SanMarcoHrs

Five years later, as I was writing a novel later entitled Glass Chimera, I included those horses—actually, miniature glass reproductions of them— in part of the story I was cloning together at that time

In chapter 13 of Glass Chimera, we find this scene:

Sunday afternoon, Mick Basker slept until 1:30, then got out of bed, made some coffee, and sat down at his computer to take a look at the chip that he had retrieved from the glass horse’s gonads four nights ago.  He   reached down to open the bottom drawer of his desk.  Then  he noticed a scrap of printed paper, about the size of a small  index card, on the floor nearby. Recognizing it as a slip that  he had found within the figurines’ crate, Mick picked it up to get a closer look. This is what was printed on the little paper:

Congratulazioni! Lei ha comprato uno degli articoli di vetro più belli nel mondo. Quest’edizione a bassa tiratura della “Quadriga Marciana”  ha soffiato degli artigiani specializzati della Società del Vetro Leoni di Venezia, Italia. Gli articoli di vetro sono i riproduzioni squisite delle sculture di bronzo che fa la guardia di sopra del vestibolo occidentale della Basilica di San Marco in Venezia. I cavalli originali sono giungi a Venezia con il ricco bottino di guerra dai Veneziani dopo la conquista di Constantinopoli al termine della IV Crociata nel 1204 A.D. Dopo cinque secoli, nel 1797, Napoleone li fa trasferire a Parigi, ma i cavalli erano ritornati alla Basilica di San Marco nel 1815.

But Mick knew no Italiano, so he set the little paper aside, and   reached down again to the bottom drawer, from which he produced a yellow pharmaceutical container, a pill box.  Inside it was a was a patch of plastic foam  which  concealed a little green circuit board  about the size of thumb.   Carefully, he inserted his chip, looking like a little black crab with metallic legs, into the device, then pushed the assemblage into a USB port on the computer. He typed and moused his way to the chip’s data, and when he found it this is what he saw: 

OAT,  GHN-1:17q22-q24,  DTNBP-1:6p22.3,  IGF-2:3q28.

But he didn’t know what it was.

If you ramble around this world, you will notice that life on our planet is full of mysteries. You just never know when another strange happening might come flooding into your mind, your mailbox, or your city square, or even your own sacred space.

But no matter what strange occurrence crosses your path or your mind, try to make the best of it.

Glass Chimera

Black Swan

August 9, 2014

Forty minutes into this podcast . . .

http://www.peakprosperity.com/podcast/86441/david-stockman-collapse-american-imperium?

David Stockman’s explanation to Chris Martenson about the Ukraine problem suddenly morphed into a dialogue about the present state of our financial markets.

I was so edified by what the former Director of Office of Management and Budget was saying, that I sat down on this Saturday afternoon and wrote a poem about it– pretty unusual subject for a poem, for sure, nevertheless . . . we live in strange times. . .

 

We were out on the market that dark day when

the black swan came

and the dam

broke.

Fast money had driven us to the point

of no return but then we

were sliding on a

torrent.

Someone said the central banks had ruined the

markets, and stabilizing factors

were gone with the

wind.

Two-sided trades had gone the way of the buffalo

because a big animal spirit like that has

no place in the high-freq

flood.

There we were hanging at the end of the long swan’s road

with no ballast in our boat and no bids

to stop us on the way

down,

short sellers driven over the falls by cascading

price plummets and overvalued shares

tumbling in bubblous

froth,

we were lucky to emerge upright after that, after the Fed had

monetized three and half trillion gallons

of rushing flushing

liquid,

and then the dam went bust, banks caving, no saving,

until we tumulted through that broken Wall

and found our little boat

afloat.

Astounded, broke, busted, rudder can’t be trusted,

we drifted to portage on the flooded Main.

T’was there we saw black swan fly

away.

It had long tails, and we saw red sails in the

sunset.

 

Glass half-Full

A Louisiana flood tale

May 18, 2011

Maybe you’ve heard of urban legends; this true story is something like that, except it involves a hurricane and the great state of Louisiana, so it is more appropriately categorized as a “storm legend.”

Louisiana has a long history of them, such as Betsy in 1965, which dropped, in the middle of memorably terrible night,  a large oak tree on our house in Baton Rouge.  I remember waking up in my bed and wondering why there was a large hole in the  floor with some alien object thrusting through it in the darkness, and then my father’s faint calling, through the howl of wind and rain from the other side of that sudden chasm, But that’s, as they say in legend lore, “another story.”

What I’m thinking of now is a Katrina tale, but it relates, you see, to what is happening now down on the mighty muddy Mississipp, which is Louisiana’s–yeah, I say unto thee, heartland America’s– waterway aorta lifeline of trade, culture and jazz, not to mention crabs, shrimp and oil.

When Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast in 2005, the storm’s onshore strike point was about as bad as it could possibly be for the rickety ole city of New Orleans. Counter-clockwise furies of wind and rain had worked up a megasurge of water from Lake Ponchartrain that descended upon the Crescent City like a duck on a june bug, blowing right over the Lake levee as if the Corps of Engineers were just an afterthought in Huey Long’s mind.

A few weeks later, I accompanied my wife and some other nurses down to the storm-stressed area. We drove down there from our home in North Carolina, on a Red Cross expedition to provide some medical services for storm-tossed folks who were  in shelters. I just went along for the ride, and to offer a little help now and then in whatever way seemed appropriate. The expedition also allowed what was to be one of the last visits with my dear mother in Baton Rouge, before she passed to that great River of Life on the other side.

During that two-week tour of duty in Louisiana, Pat and I spent nights at my mother’s house, while spending our days at several Red Cross shelters so that the nurses could provide medical services to those displaced persons whose unfortunate circumstances had landed them there. The Red Cross facilities  were generally  set up in gymnasiums, populated with hundreds of folk and the cots where they slept at night while waiting for an all-clear from FEMA or whomever to return to New Orleans.

One day we worked in Alexandria, a small city in central Louisiana. About nightfall, we left the shelter there, for the hour-and-a-half drive back to Baton Rouge. We had three passengers with us. One was another volunteer nurse. The other two were a mother and her son.

The young mother was a Muslim woman; her boy was quite young, maybe five or six years old, as I recall. She was dressed in hijab. I had begun talking to her earlier in the day, when she explained that she was from Chalmette, a town southeast of New Orleans. Since our evening’s journey would take us to Baton Rouge, and hence toward her home, she decided to hitch a ride with us.

I will not forget driving through that  misty Louisiana darkness, windshield wipers clappin’ time, from Alexandria back to Baton Rouge, that night back in ’05 somewhere between the River and the cane fields and the muddy bayous. The young woman told us of a harrowing encounter  she and her son had had  with Katrina’s furious maelstrom. The storm had flooded her hometown, Chalmette.

So now I’m getting to the storm legend part, or it is for me anyway because that night’s memory is so vivid. She said that the folk down there in St. Bernard parish had figured that the powers-that-be in New Orleans had made a decision to dynamite a certain levee so that  St. Bernhard and Chalmette would catch the worst of the flood instead of N’awlins.

Now, me, I dunno. But this I remember–what she said. And she reinforced her tale of inflicted levee destruction with storm legend hearsay evidence that went all the way back to 1927, when folks  down in St. Bernard say the same damn thing had happened, if you can believe it–that the folks in charge of levees in N’awlins would do such  a thing.

Now me, I dunno.  But I can tell you this. Down on the bayou, levees is serious business. Now I hear tell that they’re doing it again, for the flood of 2011.  Cuttin’ the Mississipp loose through Morganza and ‘tchafalaya, cha, so’s it won’t hit Baton Rouge and N’awlins. But its all above-board now.

‘Specially now that they got the federal guv’ment to sort out all the mud and mess, since Huey Long dun put the hurt on Roosevelt back in the day. And I told him that.

Glass Chimera

The Mississippi River Flood 1927, beginning of a novel

May 11, 2011

‘T’wasn’t  a good situation, there in 1927.
To hear the story from ole Wash (Great-Grampa Beau had said) the captain had ordered the boat to be steered too close to a breach in the levee.  And so, while the pilot spun the wheel in frantic dismay, the Leda Mae gradually got sucked out of the main channel, and then suddenly found herself sliding on a torrent of river water right through a flood-forced levee crevasse.
“She quivered like a bridesmaid in a Yazoo wedding, then slid on down, twirling and rockin’ like a sycamore leaf through a sluice gate, until Ole Miss finally dropped her on Beau Rivage ridge,” ole Wash had said.
It had happened on this very spot seventy-three years ago.
The “ridge,” by Louisiana standards constituted a mere rise of a few feet in several hundred of distance. And this is where William was now sitting,  recalling  the story that had been told to him of the demise of the Leda Mae.  He was eating a pastrami sandwich, while taking a break from his work in the microbiology lab.
But even before that unfortunate incident, William’s great grandfather, Beauregard Theseus, had quite possibly sat in this same spot back in, oh, 1907 or so, as he took a break from running one of the largest cotton plantations this side of New Orleans.

from page 1 of Glass Chimera