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Hurricane Hangover



It was just luck -- bad for Yogi, good for us -- that led me and Jimmy Chimichanga to Yogi's driveway on a day when he had to work and we didn't.

"Something wrong with the radiator," griped Yogi. "And I gotta replace a hose. Hey, don't be shy. Grab a wrench."

"Which end do you grab?" I inquired sweetly.

"My doctor recommends against it," Jimmy chirped. "At least he says he don't want me taxing my heart. Till he gets paid in full."

Yogi growled a curse word we had never heard before and went back under the hood of his 1978 Dodge Aspen. If it wasn't for the radiator, it was in good condition for its age.

"This car is the Morten Andersen of Dodges," I said.

"Don't know when to quit?" Jimmy asked wickedly.

We looked the problem over. Yogi loves to fish, so the Aspen is plastered with decals championing redfish and Evinrudes. I spotted something new, one of those Christian fish symbols.

"I pried it off an abandoned car out in the East," claimed Yogi. "I didn't know it was holy. I just saw a fish."

"The Sanctified Sac-A-Lait," Jimmy suggested.

"What happened to the Dodge?" I asked.

Yogi answered nothing at first, just pushing and shoving with his wrench, his face going from bright red to white and back again, like a human brake light. Yogi practiced the domestic arts with a sad proficiency. Finally, he stepped back, lit one of those generic cigarettes and tried to smoke past his anxiety attack.

"It was on account of leaving town for Hurricane Ivan. Or trying to."

"You was one of those?" hooted Jimmy Chimichanga. "Man, you're an old-time New Orleanian. You oughta know better."

"Yeah, well, I'm kinda lost without Nash Roberts," Yogi admitted.

"A guy on the radio said he saw Nash at a Chinese restaurant two nights before landfall, and Nash said, 'Pensacola.' He coulda saved everyone four days of TV-watching in four syllables," I said.

"But then, we don't get to see all them broadcasting heroes in their rain slickers," Jimmy pointed out. "Not to mention all them commercials for homeowners' insurance. I love that Weather Channel. They get a buncha high school seniors out there acting all excited and the eye of the storm's still over western Cuba."

"I saw one of them sailing a Frisbee to show how strong the wind was," I chimed in.

"Yeah, well, my old lady sees all this bunk, and she gets scared," Yogi said with some disgust. "Then the politicians get on TV and say if you can afford to, you should leave."

"And if you can't afford to, you should wrap yourself in burlap and start kissing your glutes goodbye," added Jim.

"What finished her was when the Emergency Preparedness guy said they had 50,000 body bags on hand," Yogi continued. "I didn't want to go, but she was hysterical."

"She's just a sparrow married to a hawk," I said.

"Yogi's got more guts than a 2-ton hog," Jimmy agreed.

"Then we got into a big argument, my wife and her sister, 'cuz her sister won't leave, and my wife asks if she don't love her three kids. Know what she says? 'Two of 'em. Oh, and if you leave, can I borrow the VCR?' So I end up with my wife and her widowed aunt. By now, I'm thinking it might be better to get naked, tie myself to the willow tree and just hunker down and wait for Ivan."

"Hunker," snorted Jimmy. "That was the new media word of the year. I wonder what people did during hurricanes before they learned to hunker?"

"I learned a new word, too," I chipped in. "Contraflow. I thought it was something to do with the inner life of a car, like the old Buick Dynaflow."

"Know what drives me crazy about those weather types on TV and the radio?" I went on. "How they say, 'It's 90 -- but it feels like 110.' What does that mean? That's like saying, 'I owe $500, but it feels like $5,000.' It's all subjective."

Yogi had given up trying to finish his story and had gone back to his Aspen. "So what happened?" I asked.

"Well," Yogi resumed. "By Williams Boulevard, me and my wife ain't talking. By LaPlace, me and the aunt ain't talking. And by Gonzales, my wife and the old lady ain't talking. So just when it's getting good, right outside of Baton Rouge, the radiator blows 'cuz it has taken seven hours to get that far. And I have sliced my thumb open and sworn in blood that for the next hurricane my wife will not get to watch TV and the politicians or the weathermen. Whatta they know? They can tell me landfall's gonna be somewhere between Apalachicola and Texas. Hell, why not just say between Spokane and Key West?"

Just then, I heard a mewing sound coming from the kitchen window. "Yogi, I think your wife's calling," I said. "Let her wait. I'm a dollar waiting on a dime," decided Yogi.


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