My doctor's office sent me to a debt collector for a $20 co-pay. I come by there pretty regularly buddy. Feel like you could've just caught me next time at the door?
Heavy rains have led to serious floods in Vermont and parts of New York over the past two days. At least one person has died in the water so far and many others have had to be rescued or are still stranded. The president has declared a state of emergency as bridges and roads have taken serious damage and the state's capital Montpelier is now closed and largely underwater.
"It is more quiet than I’ve ever heard it in Montpelier because there’s no traffic outside," a Facebook friend wrote last night. "There’s no traffic because there are no roads."
I called up Paul Acciavatti (who took these photos) to see what it was like in the midst of the floods on Tuesday morning.
What’s the situation where you are now?
Water came in to Montpelier. It’s at about car height now in the downtown area. Vermont is a mountainous state, so the roads in a lot of towns are all in the valleys. This is what jacked us up with hurricane Irene in 2011. When there’s heavy rain that goes on for a long period of time the low lying areas flood. That’s where a lot of the infrastructure is. Montpelier is basically in a flood plain where two rivers come together. Water is just sitting there. It smells like diesel, so I’m assuming somebody’s oil tank overflowed, or more than one. So they’re saying stay out of the water. I'm basically on an island now. I live on a hill above town. If you’ve ever seen sort of the stock picture of Vermont where you’re looking out at all these steeples and the little brick town, that’s where I’m at. I’m not in any trouble right now, I just can’t go anywhere.
I’m looking at a video of downtown right now, and yeah, wow, the cars are almost covered.
Cars are covered. The city said nobody come in so we can assess the situation and all that. I was just talking to my wife, and what we’re hearing is no businesses closed yesterday, when we knew, and had known for days what was going to happen.
So people weren’t taking it seriously?
Some people were and some people weren’t. There were warnings of flash floods, so it wasn’t a surprise like Irene was when there was a hurricane leftover that just came up and stopped. This one we could see it coming. Here it comes. But businesses didn’t close. There are people at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Barre, that are stuck there still. They can’t get out. Because they didn’t let the workers go home.
The hook of the story here is kind of these continuing disasters that are predictable, and the system not doing shit about the human aspect of it, because god forbid they don’t sell another sixteen piece bucket on a Monday night in Barre, Vermont.
Barre is next to you?
Yeah, the capital city Montpelier is about 7,500 people, and right down the road is a city of about 14,000, working class, former granite carving, you know… Barre and Montpelier are kind of a conjoined town. The money is in Montpelier, Barre is more working class.
It is sort of a metaphor for how we’re treating climate change at large. Business as usual. Kind of putting our heads in the sand, or under water so to speak here, and just pretending nothing is wrong.
And let the people who can take care of themselves take care of themselves, while doing nothing for the folks that have to get to work. It’s not like, oh, ok I’m gonna work from home. Well, that’s not possible for a lot of people.
Covid showed us how that’s all going to go as things get worse with climate emergencies. Did you all get any of the wildfire smoke around there? We had it pretty bad last week a couple days. For the first time that really kind of hammered things home for me (as I wrote the other day). We’ve all lived through storms and flooding, not as bad as this it seems, but I was like, oh, right we’re not going to be able to escape a lot of these disasters.
Vermont is sold as a climate refuge, and in a lot of ways we’re better off. We don’t have the sea level that’s gonna affect Boston, or the increased storms on the Gulf Coast, but we’re sensitive to rain, and with the droughts and the drying out of forests, these fires are gonna keep happening.
Have there been any deaths yet that you’ve heard?
Not in Vermont that I’ve heard, but I saw a headline that someone in New York in the Hudson Valley got swept away.
Sometimes you see floods like these on TV, and sure it looks like it sucks, but I don’t think it drives home how bad it actually can be. It’s much scarier than it might look right?
I don’t want to compare it to Katrina, because that was a much bigger human catastrophe, but it’s a similar thing. You look at the pictures, right? Oh, it’s just still water. People paddling around in boats. This is fine. But there are whatever contaminants that are there in the water now, and then once this water recedes, just like in New Orleans, you’re gonna have problems with mold, whatever toxins are gonna be left behind. Again, the folks that can go to their country home, or lucky people like me who live on a hill, can look out at it. I’m looking out my window now and there’s people on an overlook looking down now, like it’s a curiosity. Disaster tourism. But the people down there, whose lives are gonna be affected, maybe they’re fine now, maybe they weren’t directly impacted by the flood, but they’re gonna have consequences that are gonna hit them in weeks. Maybe long term health conditions.
(Locals have put together a mutual aid and community resources document here if you're in need of it or are looking for ways to help.)
Man Trump is so good. Not like that you know what I mean. He's an evil piece of shit and maybe our worst living person who I hope ____ but he is nonetheless so good. Read this bit from a speech he gave the other day in Las Vegas. (Speaking of future climate disasters I suppose.)
“And remember, Florida’s easier than other places. You have the ocean and you have the sun. There’s something about that that works. But, you have the sun, too, but you don’t have the ocean. I can tell. You definitely don’t have the ocean. Maybe someday you’ll have the ocean, you never know."
“Someday. Hopefully it’s a long time away, right? Hopefully."
It's poetry. Take out the commas and that sounds a lot like something I might have written actually.
Or maybe Hemingway.
"Maybe someday you'll have the ocean."
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing him against me.
"Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?"
Maybe I'm just reading pathos into it because it also sounds like something Michelle might say to me after she divorces me. "Maybe someday you'll have the ocean."
That is honestly all I do want. I have never really cared much about money or becoming wealthy or famous or anything like that I just want to someday at long last live by the ocean.
That and lose twenty pounds I guess. Everything else is mostly like whatever.
Here's some other accidental poetry I saw shared the other day by The Nation. Back in 1991 around the time of the first Gulf War they asked an array of intellectuals and writers and so on to explain what patriotism meant to them. Most gave lengthy answers but here was Mike Davis' response.
And here's something else I just saw shared related to patriotism or the lack thereof rather that I wanted you to read as well. It's from Julius Lester's book Look Out, Whitey! Black Power's Gon' Get Your Mama!
That's from 1968. Does anything feel different about the country we live in today?
From the Willamette Week:
The Multnomah County Health Department will begin distributing tin foil and straws this month to fentanyl smokers at sites across Portland, WW has learned.
The “smoking supplies,” which also include glass pipes for smoking meth and crack as well as “snorting kits,” are part of a national effort to minimize the health consequences of drug use. Smoking is considered by many health experts a safer way of consuming hard drugs than injection, and government officials are now seeking to encourage users who haven’t already switched to do so—and to make it safer for those who already have.
I love it when I get free drug paraphernalia and next thing I’m using drugs I wasn’t already going to use due to the free drug paraphernalia.
I wish I had a dog's brain too sometimes like a lot of these politicians. It's gotta be so freeing.
Thank you to everyone who came out to my book release party the other night. It was a genuinely delightful time and it's not often I say anything was genuinely delightful so you know I mean it. It was very nice to meet a bunch of you and have what I can only assume were very normal conversations.
If you missed them here's a piece Rax wrote for Hell World about Lana Del Rey:
One Josh wrote about walking his dog during the early days of Covid:
Ane here's me and Mattie talking about their new book:
Here's a photo of us all having a laugh and – I can't strees this enough – me not doing anything weird.
Check out this lovely review from PantherCityBooks. I love it when a reader gets it.
“Whenever someone dies you want to touch someone that you know to orient yourself as still alive.”
I never considered whether despair could be a literary genre, but if I had to put this book onto a little shelf in the bookstore and label it, despair is the word I'd choose.
A Creature Wanting Form by Luke O'Neil is a book of short stories for people who think too often about the end of the world. The characters, often nameless and insubstantial, confront crisis after crisis, calamities that are sometimes personal and sometimes political. While the stories here are often disconnected and fragmentary, they share a backdrop of social malaise: climate change, police violence, and America's rotten inhumane health care system serve as an omnipresent background canvas.
One story that I can't get out of my head follows a man whose job is to lower a flag to half-mast outside his workplace every time there's a mass shooting in the news. But the shootings come so relentlessly that he keeps lowering the flag, again and again, until he has to start digging a hole around the flag pole so the flag doesn't touch the ground – and he keeps on digging and lowering until "the planet itself was spinning on this flag pole's axis."
While the stories are bleak, they are often darkly comic. Let me tell you, it is disconcerting and uncomfortable to find yourself laughing when reading about gun violence, as I did. But what can you do in the face of overwhelming tragedy day after day, hour after hour? Like you can only feel terrible for so many minutes every day. Sometimes it is better to laugh than feel bad.
And that seems to be the point of this collection, if it has one – that the world seems awful and maybe nothing matters but it is better to keep going because maybe something does.
Holy shit this new Militarie Gun record is great. Did I already share it I forget? Fuck it here you go anyway.
That's all for today. I'll be back in a few days talking with the Freelance Solidarity Project about their New-to-Freelancing Resources Guide among other things. Also I think Max should have the next advice column ready soon. Stay tuned. Support Hell World if you can!