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9 May 2001, 01:00

It’s windy out tonight. I mean really windy. The kind of wind that makes your dumpster fly across the street, and make strange lawn furniture crash into your garage. I don’t know if its just me, but I just love the feel and the smell of a good spring or summer storm. And I mean those gigantic, momma stomping, trailer home eating, dog crazy storms that breed tornados, where everyone in the midwest heads on down to the basement with their radios, their kids and popcorn to ride the chaos out. Well, a good portion of the population does this. Some of us either hop in the cars to go look for tornados, or hop in the car to go to the bar so the storms can find us.

Hearty breed, the folks that live in tornado alley. We’ve had whole communities reduced to piles of rubble occasionally atopped with the odd toilet. The stalwart stand in the midst a the remnants of their homes, fishing out drenched family photos, poking around to see if any treasured momentos didn’t get blown into the next state, watching their new car sway back and forth as it hangs from the tree where their kid’s tree fort use to be. Amazingly enough, as pets stumble out of the collapsed buildings, little chubby women in rumpled housecoats, curlers, and enormous rubber galoshes pull foreign underwear out of the bushes and sift through broken boards and limbs to salvage a little piece of the life they had not more than two hours ago. Rarely do I see anybody weep in agony or breakdown in the street. I think its because they are just glad to be alive. Its the truth behind the TV news stories showing Farmer Fred, standing stoically, surveying the mudhole that once was his family’s farmhouse, answering the reporter’s question of he is going to do with a squirt of tobacco juice, a squint of his eye, “Well, I guess I’m gonna havta rebuild, ain’t I?”

One of my first memories as a kid, is the sky glowing a yellow orange, casting everything around in blacks and greens. The smell of the storm was unique and for some reason I grew more excited, feeling the rush of adrenaline as the storm sirens started. I was about 4 or 5… And ever since, I love the feeling of impending storms. I have since learned that the odd feeling you get and the anxiousness is real, caused by dropping barometric pressures and the electromagnetic changes in the atmospheres which triggers body chemistry changes. Something I like to call, the “big chiggles” (don’t ask, you really don’t want to know where I got that).

Back in 1991, when we had a bazillion tornados strike in the heart of central Kansas in an afternoon, I hopped in my car and went storm chasing. Brave, lion-hearted, uninsured. I got unsafely close and captured some footage. This was the year of the tornado apparently, because we had a record number touchdowns and every one of them was captured on home video and shown on CNN (including mine). It was a major happening. For days, and weeks afterwards, tornado and storm video was all over the tube. And roofers came in from other states just to handle all the storm damage and the free flowing State Farm money and All State cash. Groovy man.

A couple years later, I guess we were all just too complacent with our two story building and new shingles, so the tornados dropped in again. This time, me, a set of gerbils, and three dogs hid in the bathtub with my checkbook and my Dr. Who videos.

The difference between the two storms – three years of maturity, the realization that I actually own stuff, and the disappointment of knowing I wasn’t immortal…