Camp Houston

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Having just returned from what turned out to be a hurricane evacuation, job hunt, and visit with my wife in Boston all rolled into one, I find myself feeling a little thinly-stretched and pulled in many directions at once.

In addition, I have gathered -- first from a commenter who I am pretty sure follows my blog fairly closely, and yesterday, from a friend who I am pretty sure just stops by here from time to time -- that many of you may be almost as confused as I am thinly-stretched these days about my whereabouts and exact situation.

So, while I don't like to discuss my personal situation in great detail here, let me briefly set the record straight. When, after my last trip to the Land of the Puritans, I said, "That is home now, and as a writer, I am eager to get out of my present holding pattern," I meant by that first clause only that, with my wife and my immediate future both residing in Boston, that I do not feel at home anywhere else anymore.

My physical domicile remains in Houston, where I am wrapping up work on a scientific paper even as I conduct a job hunt. Hence the title of this post, which, very fortunately in my case, is not a commentary on what the physical conditions of life here will be like for me after Hurricane Ike. (I do hear a generator running somewhere behind my house, though. How I still have electricity, phone, and cable with the gauntlet of trash trees those wires have to run through is beyond me!)

That said, I have been in limbo and may remain there for some time longer. An average job hunt lasts four months, if I recall correctly. I did not start job hunting in earnest until June, and my job hunt is being made more difficult by three things, any one of which would be bad enough: (1) I am looking for work not on the traditional career path for people with my training. (2) I am not actually in Boston most of the time. And (3) I am having to build a network of job hunting contacts there starting almost from scratch. You could probably add a fourth factor: This is only my second attempt to gain employment outside of government or academia (and the first that includes finding a position to begin with). Job hunting is, in and of itself a skill and it is, with the amount of time it requires, for all practical purposes, a job.

And until I extricate myself from the necessity of doing that job, I will remain extremely busy and, probably, in a holding pattern as far as my editorial writing exploits go. My thanks for your indulgence and my apologies for any confusion!


Regarding Ike, I'll devote just a few words to my initial impressions of Houston a week after the storm. I drove in about 6:30 p.m. yesterday. Damaged trees started showing up as far north as Nacaogdoches. I spotted my first uprooted tree and damaged roofs near Corrigan. Storm damage seemed almost capricious, with perfectly intact trees or structures next to damaged ones. Very few road signs were damaged coming in, although traffic outbound seemed heavy for the hour.

And then -- in a conclusion mirroring the start of our evacuation for Rita -- I ran into a wall of traffic near downtown that made me think there was an accident or an Astros game about to start. I took advantage of the standstill, which was more like an evacuation than normal traffic, to take snapshots of downtown, like this one:

If you click on this shot, you can see the blown-out windows of the JP Morgan Chase tower at right, but overall, things look pretty normal. Notice the reflection of the building second to the left on glass of the one furthest to the left.

My first traffic report disabused me of the notion that this was a normal traffic jam even as it explained the heavy traffic I had just seen outbound. Traffic light outages, it seems, are widespread enough that they are making it hard to exit freeways for miles in the suburbs. This is making trips from downtown that normally take about twenty minutes last more than an hour! I was trapped on U.S. 59 myself for nearly an hour before I exited and took side streets through the Museum District and the Medical Center to get home.

By that time, it was dark, but what I could see looked mostly normal. The Mecom Fountain was running and lit, as this photo I took while stopped by a working traffic signal shows.

Most of the stores I use heading to and from work appeared to be open, too. My area, at least, seems to have held up pretty well, although some people in my neighborhood are running generators, and a friend of mine nearby was, the last time I talked to him a few days ago, still without power. Other than a huge wall of fallen tree branches lining my street (and the Raking from Hell awaiting me this weekend), the neighborhood looks normal. The only damage to the house was that it lost the flimsy roof over its carport.

All I need to do is restock my refrigerator, which I had the sense to empty out before I left, this time!


With all systems "go" here, blogging should return to the normal routine in just a day or so. I was in the air much of the day Sunday and on the road all day yesterday, so I do need to get back up to speed on lots of things. All in all, that's a very good homecoming -- I mean, return to camp -- from a hurricane evacuation.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Glad your home so to speak and back up and running ... I sure do know what it feels like (Erin and Opal here).

Gus Van Horn said...

It is a big relief, but, ignoring airport closures, it was almost enough to make me wonder why I bothered to leave -- until I saw the nice chunk of roof a neighbor lost to a similarly-sized tree that gave it a glancing blow on the way down.

I'm glad I left and I'd do it again.

bothenook said...

i can totally NOT see you living in the land o'kennedy. but then, what the hell do i know! as a curious aside, i'll be in boston thursday. go figure.
hope the job search yields a sweet reason to get up and go to work.
i must say that life is pretty cool when you enjoy the work you are doing. and cleaning up behind a hurricane simply does not sound like fun...

Gus Van Horn said...

My wife is about the ONLY reason I'd do such a thing!

As far as the job search goes, Boston certainly has potential. But getting my foot in the door looks like it will be hard.

Gus Van Horn said...

Oh yeah. Drop me a line in the future if you make it up there again!

Jim May said...

Hi Gus,
If you are still in Houston come the weekend of November 16th, I'll be in town then for a friend's wedding. If you are up for a beer (perhaps a Maudite or Fin du Monde, if we can find it), perhaps we can meet up for a bit.

Other than that, good to hear that you are in good shape. I liked the "boarding up the blog" bit too ;)

Gus Van Horn said...


Sounds good! My favorite bar in Houston has that, bottled.