If the sound of shivering could be made into sound, that was what was emanating from my purse as the chorus of little dancing lady puppets huddled together upon hearing the sound of the tropical storm outside. “Will we,” one meek voice ventured, “blow away if you go outside? Is the story of Chicken Little right, that the sky IS falling?” The night was Sunday, the date was 2011 and the place was New England. Hurricane Irene had hit, and while her hit was strong yet under-whelming in the form of damage in our area of New England, others were hit very hard. We were lucky, I learned the next day. Large, ancient trees were down all over the neighborhood, loosened by the extra rain of the summer and the intense winds.
Karagöz was paying those little ladies no mind. Whipping it up in the wind, he was thrilled to be engaged in his usual shrieking-while-twirling activities – the wind and the rain only egged him on. He was hanging out on the porch with M. and our dear friend’s son, also an intrepid mangal-maniac, M2, who were debating the best way to break out the mangal (BBQ) in the midst of all the rain and wind. The various solutions discussed included underneath the porch in a mud-filled area, or under an umbrellla on the porch. In the end, the latter won out, and we were treated to delicious, hand-made spicy sausages along with grilled zuccini and red pepepr.
Hacivad looked on from inside the window, perched on the windowsill between the orchids, he appeared to be meditating in favor of no sparks in the house, reciting the following from his favorite Rumi, over and over “move outside the tangle of fear-thinking. Live in silence. Flow down and down in always widening rings of being.”
I prayed that our neighbors would not be upset that we were grilling on the deck – which I think may be illegal in these parts. Once a shower of sparks started to blow in the wind towards our neighbors’ house, I went inside to join Hacivad and to put the final touches on the dinner table for our hurricane party.
I joked with friends the day before, that it was perhaps cross-cultural differences that had driven our hurricane-preparedness response as a couple. Me, the intrepid Yankee who has lived through several major storms in her life, went straight for the candles, batteries, flashlights, canned food, water and packaged milk. I planned a few days worth of menus that could be kept out of the fridge (aka meat and dairy free) so that they would not spoil. As the grilling was going on outside, the kitchen was set, with great big bowls of handmade pasta pesto and zuccini, smoked paprika and lemon potato salad and sesame-soy buckwheat noodles with cilantro and shredded vegetables along with garlic-sauteed tofu. After seeing that all of my hurricane-proof food was in order, supervised by the pleasant and pleased tut-tutting and cluck-clucking of Kenne and Khadijah, who fully approved of my efforts as the matron of the home, I checked to make sure the basement still had no water coming in. So far, so good, dry as a bone.
M., on the other hand, the self-declared “tough Turk” to my “chicken little” of “the sky is falling fame,” was whooping it up with great gales of laughter along with M2, and of course, unknowingly, Karagöz, who was loving every minute of the joking and laughing, most of which, as far as I understood, contained many references to “the Laz people” or the much-maligned Turks of the Black Sea region who are known to do many a dumb thing…I neglected to point out that grilling on the deck in a hurricane with sparks flying over the the neighbors might be just such a thing…
M.’s approach to hurricane preparedness had been the opposite of mine. M. had sauntered around the supermarket making fun of all the harried hurricane preparers. I tried to pretend that I did not know him as he cried out in mock sotto voce “the world is coming to an end with the Hurricane – quick – buy up all the water! Oh, and the tinned peaches too!” As he amped and vamped down the aisles, generally freaking out all that he came across, and causing them to load even more water and tinned peaches into their overflowing carts, he did pick out a few things, namely, some lovely sparkling water in tiny portions, extra charcoal for the mangal, beer – and cash. “It will not be such a big deal,” he announced, with pride, “don’t worry so much. They sky will not fall, Ms. Chicken Little.”
Later that day, I commiserated with another friend in a cross-cultural marriage, whose African husband took a somewhat laissez-faire attitude to impending Irene. Some days later, a day into living without power, he had asked whether there was enough baby food, to which I can imagine her response! However, upon hearing from another friend, this time a Turkish woman with an American husband, I decided this was a gender dynamic, not a cultural one. This woman had done all of the preparedness work – the American brushing off the potential horrors of the storm. Kenne and Khadijah looked at me with sarcastic, sidelong glances – “are you really surprised that it is the women worrying about this? Hearth and home, m’lady, heart and home.”
A few days later, M. showed me scathing critiques in Milliyet, one of the large Turkish daily newspapers, ranting about the over-reporting and hype around Hurricane Irene and bragging that all of the Turkish stores and lokantas in New York City had remained open. One man was quoted as saying that “the winds were like normal winds in Turkey, no big deal 74 MPH.” M. explained this away with a snort “it’s sort of like a macho Laz person, they think they are the invincible tough Turk, maybe they need a little bit of Chicken Little too.”