Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mars Can Support Life. Like Right Now.

For reals.

Dig it. The universe will always amaze. I suppose I should say something about me. Not much to say. My mom is very sick. I'm working 10 and 12 hour days. Gathering material for my next novel. They form, these books, like planets almost; gathering lose dust from every corner of creation, accreting until something round and significant emerges. Sometimes something bigger runs into them and they go boom or become something better. Sometimes the process takes years. Decades.

I seriously do not have time to be building novels on a planetary scale. Message to Darby: think moons. Asteroids are also nice.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


My brother Aaron sent me this photo taken of the tornado that struck Osage this month - credit unknown, but good Lord, this person had ice for veins.

I'm sure most of you have seen the floods/tornadoes/general calamity on the news. Waterloo, Cedar Falls and of course Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, most of all, all led the national news for nearly a week now. Parts of CR looked like New Orleans after Katrina. It's been the worst anyone has ever seen it and while the water has receeded almost into its banks here, many west side businesses are damaged, totaled, still closed. Two bridges remain closed. Most importantly, many homes have been lost. All week I've been left with this fatigue, this residue of anxiety and if I ever thought I knew what it was to be in the center of impending disaster, I had no clue.

Friday, June 13, 2008


After work today I went around on the bike with my camera to get a sense of downtown after the flood; even though the water remains very very high, the river has fallen nearly 10 feet since yesterday, and the bridges reopened this morning. Some of them; Park and 6th street may be out of commission for a while, and the railroad bridge?

You can see what the force of the water did to the rail itself:

The river broke the bridge in two:

On Tuesday the rumor was that the broken half travelled down river and took out the 11th street bridge as well, but this didn't happen. The east side did nearly flood as a result of the breach the bridge made in the levee wall, which volunteers from all over the city secured with very hard work:

Sandbags also saved the Fairview cemetery, where the flood waters attempted to end run the dikes. That cast iron fence there in the bottom ? It's nearly ten feet off the ground in most places. The water just two days ago exposed only its very tips. If the river had sneaked through here, the east side would have been deluged:

The old boat house across the hill from the cemetery did not survive, though. On Tuesday, it was completely submerged and collapsed:

Tireless efforts by Waterloo citizens filling and deploying sandbags all over the city prevented even more damage than we suffered; no doubt these efforts spared us the difficult circumstances that the people of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City face. You can only pray for them, and wonder why some, and not others.

Tim Russert 1950-2008

For as long as I've been interested in politics and journalism, I've always been interested in Tim Russert. Meet The Press is always a big part of my Sunday, and during every Tuesday night this primary season and for every other I can remember, I was tuned to NBC. I was shocked to learn he had died today. Right now MSNBC is running a sustained eulogy delivered by friends and colleagues of his, all of them commenting on his importance as a public figure, and as a man. I will say of Tim Russert that he proves the American dream: we live in a country divided between high and low brow, red state and blue state, conservative and liberal, rich and poor and here was a working class kid from Buffalo that proved smarts, integrity, persistence and objectivity are all American things.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Flood + Other Calamities Day 2

Today I woke up to more rumors - the water had been turned off, the town evacuated - part of it was, anyway - and a few harsh truths. My mom had to see the doctor this morning because of severe pain and very high blood pressure. I'm in the waiting room running down info on the deterorating situation in town on one hand while at the same time gathering the same kind of sense of what was happening to my mom. There are few perfect storms in life, and this was one. Thank God my mom is out of the woods; unfortunately the woods are part of a much larger general foresty region that the docor says is dense and widespread and we'll know we're out of it when we're out of it. Same with the flood. The river level is receding some, but it rained today and will tonight and tomorrow; a tornado just destroyed a boy scout camp in Sioux City, killing four apparently, and now that same system is headed this way. It seems Biblical, the weather these past few weeks.

I helped for a few hours in the afternoon, sandbagging at the DOT where they turned a garage into the fastest sandbag production line in history. Hundreds of people, a thousand maybe, turned out, including members of the UNI football and basketball teams. I sholved and bagged and threw bags and as many as I did just in that short time, they're still doing it now and will continue to until we're out of those aforementioned dark and uncertain woods. There's a curfew in downtown Waterloo where I am so it's quiet and strange outside. Except for the wind. It's coming up. Naturally.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

And Noah Chose Two Of Everything

So about noon at work today someone says they've closed all the bridges in town because of the flooding river, and if you live on the east side, like me, it's time to go now. And it certainly was, since one of those bridges, the 6th street railroad bridge, failed and collapsed around that same time. My brother left his work a little bit later and picked me up. We along with thousands of others made this long trek around the city to get over to the east side, eventually finding a way through across Conger. The houses on Sans Souci island, always in danger of flooding, were under water up to the second floor windows. So we made it back, stocked up on bottled water - getting the last cases at the Hy-Vee - and prepared for - what? We weren't sure. Rumors flew and fly pretty fast still; they were turning the water off. The lights. The 11th street bridge failed too (it didn't).

So far things are okay, for us, but the river is yet to crest and more rain is coming. We have maybe five feet to give on the dikes down at the river; if the river breaches them our neighborhood along with most of Waterloo will be victim to flood waters that are 26 feet over flood stage. These are the highest in my lifetime, and apparently getting close to the highest ever. It's strange to be packing a bag with a set of clothes, medicines and important things - documents, mementos - in anicipation the dikes will fail and you'll have five minutes - maybe - to get the hell out of Dodge. I hope it doesn't come to that. What frustrates me even more is that my mother is ill, shingles they think, and I've been worried over that for weeks and the entire time I'm thinking: what if she needs to go to the hospital? How do I get to the hospital? What if we have to leave town? Where do we go? Can we even get out? Black Hawk county is already a disaster area; it has been since the tornado that struck Parkersburg. This has already been a difficult spring. Hopefully it's a better summer.