It's Saturday morning, 10:30 a.m., and already things are beeping at me. Between the weather alerts I get on my cell phone from our local ABC affiliate to Weatherbug chirps on my desktop, Hurricane Dennis action is already heating up. (Speaking of heat, it's already 91 degrees here in the Magic City. Yikes!)
Can you tell I'm a weather nut? Did you have any doubt?
My area already is under an inland tropical storm watch and a flash flood watch. I-65 between Mobile and Montgomery already has been relaned for all-northbound traffic to accommodate the refugees.
My heart breaks for those people. They've already been through hell with Hurricane Ivan back in September. I haven't been to the Gulf since summer '04, but I read yesterday that about a third of the condos in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach still are uninhabitable. Another hit, and it could be a VERY long time before the Alabama Gulf Coast fully recovers.
Our Gulf Coast is one of the real treasures of living in this state. The old-world flavor of Mobile ... the unbelievably charming Fairhope on the opposite side of Mobile Bay ... the dazzling white beaches of Pleasure Island. The thought of losing any of it makes this Alabama girl very, very sad -- along with pretty much all of the four million people in this state.
For most Alabamians, the Gulf Coast is a treasure box of sweet memories. I'll never forget a weekend I spent in Fairhope about 10 years ago to attend the wedding of two church friends. The bride was originally from Fairhope, and what a cool place to call home. EVERYTHING in that town of about 10,000 is pretty. Even the trash bins are hidden within clean, white wooden boxes with impatiens planted on top.
Three girlfriends and I made the long trek down after work one Friday night. We'd rented a cottage at a B&B called Villa Whimsy. Before settling in, we stopped at the famous Old Bay Steamer for piña coladas and fresh seafood. We sat along the restaurant's built-in aviary and watched chartreuse and aqua birds hop and flutter.
Later -- very tired and very full -- we found Villa Whimsy and checked into what I can only describe as a Jimmy Buffet fantasy: The walls were covered with bamboo up to about six inches from the ceiling. The rest of the walls and ceiling were painted midnight blue with gold stars. The king-sized bed had ship's rope wrapped around the four posters. The TV sat on what looked like an old ship's chest with Mardi Gras beads spilling out.
We all just looked at each other and smiled.
The next morning, our hosts prepared a delicious breakfast and served it to us on the deck that looked out onto Mobile Bay. The afternoon wedding was at an old church in town, the reception at the bride's home, "Peppermint Cove." (EVERYTHING in Fairhope has a cute name.)
I could give you several more stories ... the week I spent on Dauphin Island on a school trip in 7th grade ... a thunderstorm witnessed two years ago from the deck of a condo in Gulf Shores ... more than one good meal eaten at landmarks such as Hazel's, Coconut Willie's and Live Bait.
I'm reminded of a few lines from a Jimmy Buffett tune, "One Particular Habor":
I know I don't get there often enough
But God knows I surely try
It's a magic kind of medicine
That no doctor could prescribe
I wasn't able to make my annual trek to the Coast this year because of all the moolah I had to shell out for the Big Move.
I just hope there's something waiting for me when I finally return.