On the RUN from Mother Nature

Noam Chomsky, the American linguist, philosopher and former MIT professor, told me on a drive around Atlanta, where I spent two-and-a-half days on the run from Hurricane Matthew, that he doesn’t think Donald Trump is a fascist but he would be a dangerous leader. To be fair, Chomsky shared his thoughts on the Republican presidential candidate with lots of people, not just me. He spoke Oct. 9 on a radio broadcast.

I had a lot of time to listen to radio programming last week because I spent almost 20 hours in the car trying to escape the storm and then return to Fernandina Beach. During the lengthy stop-and-go drive (first to Savannah and, later, to Atlanta), I also had time for a good look around. Based on the large number of Trump campaign signs spotted along hundreds of miles of roadway, I don’t think Chomsky’s views on Trump are particularly popular in Georgia. From Thursday to Sunday, I don’t recall seeing a single sign for Hillary Clinton.

Over the weekend, I added tourist to my status as an evacuee and saw a saucer-shaped spaceship, complete with a green passenger over the door at the Junkman’s Daughter, an alternative shop in Atlanta’s Little Five Points neighborhood, where incense, ponchos, wigs, signs, skulls and apparel alternatively covered with marijuana leaves and phrases not suitable for polite reading, were on sale, along with scary and sexy Halloween costumes. Trump wigs (definitely scary) were priced at $26. On Yelp, reviewer Daniel B. described the shopping experience this way: “If you like to wear spikes, this is the place to shop.”

The Junkman’s Daughter is the perfect set-up for margaritas and El Bandido Mex Mex Grill, a fiercely orange building where Rossy, one of the managers, mixed a perfect cocktail that did not disappoint. The chicken, steak and shrimp fajita was nicely sauced with a side of mole and I wondered why more people weren’t dining alongside me.

Perhaps it was the lack of football. One of three TVs over the bar offered continuous coverage of Trump’s lewd comments about sexually assaulting women, made years ago when he was on Access Hollywood. A soccer game and a tennis match played on the other two screens. For 75 minutes, there was no mention of Hurricane Matthew.

That changed at the hotel, Staybridge Suites in Buckhead, where I booked the last room. Guests were largely hurricane evacuees from Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, and we talked in the lobby, elevator and at the breakfast buffet about the horrendous traffic delays and news from home about flooding and storm damage. On city roadways, the Georgia Department of Transportation advised evacuees to check with local officials before returning home. That was good advice.

I had planned to take I-75 south to I-16 east in Georgia, despite a 10-hour drive Thursday along this route from Savannah to Atlanta, but on Sunday GDOT officials said the 165-mile route from Macon to Savannah remained closed to traffic due to storm debris. As I wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry, I visited Centennial Olympic Park and the Atlanta BeltLine, a former rail line that has been paved into a walking and cycling trail. There is a skate park, public art and several restaurants along the way.

The Krog Street Tunnel also welcomes taggers, who have covered the concrete walls and columns. Angel, 18, a roofer from Los Angeles with a can of green spray paint in his hands, told me that he tags on weekends.

While I toured Atlanta, the dogs rode out the storm at Pet Paradise at the Jacksonville International Airport. The kennel lost power for a “short while,” said workers, and fans were going in the lobby late Sunday when I picked up Ricky and Bella. Barricades and sandbags were piled in the parking lot. At the house, there were large tree branches and leaves in the yard, but the roof was intact and nothing inside was wet. Even the sausages in the refrigerator seemed OK (don’t worry, I threw them away).

While running from Hurricane Matthew was a test of patience, like most people in Nassau County, I sidestepped disaster. For now, Noam Chomsky would agree.


Maguire is an Amelia Island-based journalist and Folio Weekly contributor.