Farewell October

Hi all,

Craft Brewed Music launches on Monday October 29th.  I mentioned them a while ago but to refresh your memory, CBM is a curated streaming service for adventurous listeners wanting to discover music outside the mainstream….above, below and to either side of the radar.  I’m extremely pleased that my music has been chosen and I’ll be included as one of their artists.  You can hear a free 10-song sampler (CBM Flight) or have total access via subscription (CBM Growler) at $5/per month or $50/per year.  That’s a lot of great and interesting music for very little money.  If you like what you hear, please subscribe.  When you do a dropdown box will appear asking how you heard about CBM… please use my name.  You can find out more at  www.craftbrewedmusic.com.

As we bid October adieu I have to say I’ll not be sorry to see this one pass.

It all began so well.  The last couple of days in September we loaded up the van, strapped on the car top carrier, filled them both to the gills with beach chairs, umbrellas, food, snorkels, kites, liquor, our dog and then a little more for good measure.  We’ve been taking family holidays down on the Gulf of Mexico every year for a couple of decades at least.  St. George Island, just over the causeway from Apalachicola, Florida has been our favourite destination for years now.  We opted for an early autumn vacation this year and splurged for a three week get-away… all our children, their children, daughter and son-in-laws and two dogs.

It’s a 500+ mile trip south from Nashville and once arrived, had a beach-y dinner and drinks, unloaded our things in the home we, rent and settled in for a few great days of sun and surf. About the middle of the week a storm began brewing that gathered and grew into Hurricane Michael.  By the weekend it was predicted to be dangerous and we were evacuated on the Monday afternoon, October the 8th having been there only a week.  Michael was due to make landfall directly at Apalachicola as a category 4 hurricane.  We had a lot of people and two pets to find digs for.  My daughter managed to get three rooms at a La Quinta Inn in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida that took dogs, thinking we’d be back on St. George in a few days.  We threw a few things in our bags, left the rest at the house and headed west for a couple of hours to Ft. Walton where the weather was not going to be as rough.  By the following morning the hurricane had begun swinging to the west and we were in harms way.  After a hasty family meeting we decided to get out of there and head back to Nashville, wait it out there then return and hopefully get another week at the beach.  As we watched Michael pummel the Gulf coast it was clear that we’d made the right decision.  Mexico Beach took the full brunt of the force but there was so much damage to coast and inland as Michael made it’s way north.  Our island spot, with the bay on one side and the Gulf on the other, was completely submerged due to the storm surge.  Clearly we weren’t going to get back on the island anytime soon… no power, no water, roads either washed away or covered in sand.  A sense of limbo came over us as we’d left so much stuff at the rental house in the dash to evacuate.

A couple of days after we got back to Nashville our 13+ year old dog suddenly quit eating and drinking water.  While plagued with arthritis for the last few years, she was always up for a walk, anxious to eat and she’d done well down at the beach for the week we were there.  Now she couldn’t get off her bed without help and it all happened so quickly.  We took her to the vet where they discovered a large mass growing near the spleen, more than likely malignant.  The options were not good especially given her age.  The most difficult decision was also the most humane and we let her go peacefully.  She had a good run and we were lucky to have her as long as we did.  My wife and that dog walked a thousand miles or more together.  In the end I’m glad we were back in Nashville when it happened and not in Florida.  We all dug her a fine resting place right next to our last Labrador, lowered her in with a 21 biscuit salute and laid the sod over.

A few days later the island rental office told us we would be refunded for the two weeks vacation we’d missed.  Also, the water and power had been restored and enough sand and debris had been cleared on the island that we could return to get all the stuff we’d left at the house.  Once again we headed 500 miles south back to Apalachicola.  We started to see hurricane damage just south of Dothan, Alabama.  Roofs ripped off, thousands and thousands of trees snapped like match sticks or completely up-rooted.  The ones left standing were permanently bowed.  Billboards down, trailers blown over, debris everywhere, hundreds of homes with blue plastic tarps where shingles used to be.  Heartbreaking and humbling.  The small towns inland from the Gulf really took a hammering from the 150 m.p.h. winds.

As for St. George Island, parts of it appeared not too bad when we got there but as we approached the house we rent it became clear how much damage had been done.  Much of the island had been under water due to the storm surge and vast amounts of sand had been brought up from the beach and deposited inland.  The road leading to our home had been partially cleared, enough to drive on but the driveway of the house was still thick with sand.  The owners were there assessing the damage when we arrived.  They told us there was four feet of sand under the house when they arrived.  Walls were washed away as well as boardwalks and pretty much everything that was ground level.  The house sustained some roof damage as well but overall was still standing and repairable.  We’d left a kayak and the car top carrier, both tied down under the house and they were nowhere to be found however what we’d left inside the house when we evacuated was all fine including a couple of ukuleles.  We rolled up our sleeves and began gathering our belongings.  We found our car top carrier washed away a half block across the street midst a load of debris, waded in, fished it out of some swampy sludge, hosed it off and though a little battered was none the worse for wear.  I strapped it onto the van and loaded everything up.  Just as we were about to drive away, our son Nick made one last attempt to find his kayak and sure enough did a few houses away.  In the end we limped back to Nashville with everything we’d brought down there.

We feel fortunate.  Our holiday ended up an inconvenience to us but for so many people down in southern Alabama and through the panhandle of Florida… they lost everything.  It will take a long, long time for things to return to normal down there.

We’re missing our dog very much still but are looking ahead to getting a puppy again soon.  It’s been a hell of a few weeks but we’re glad to be on the other side of it all and looking forward to welcoming November.


Nicholas Bennett