Flooding devastated Houston after Hurricane Harvey struck in late August. (Jen Richman photo)

Adventures in hurricane hell

Columnist ML Burke took a Caribbean cruise five days after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston

I booked a writing retreat on a Caribbean cruise over a year ago. It was to sail out of Galveston, Texas, on Sept. 10, five days after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. Soon Irma, Jose, Katia and Maria would follow with a vengeance. I waffled on cancelling right up to the day of my flight to Houston, made a guilt-ridden donation to the Red Cross and headed into hurricane hell.

Flying into Houston revealed many areas still flooded because of daily releases of water to keep the reservoirs from bursting. My shuttle to Galveston passed piles of garbage and debris waiting for pick-up on the sides of highways. Galveston, an oversized sandbar with a lot of history, had some flooding but recovered quickly, especially since cruise ships were being diverted from Miami to the Galveston docks.

The next day I tried to get a taxi to the ship but was told it could take two to three hours. The hotel suggested I use Uber or Lyft. After downloading the Uber app, my ride was there in five minutes and the retired cop gave me an informed 45-minute tour of the old Victorian houses on stilts before dropping me at the ship. The cost was only $17 for the clocked time plus a good tip he deserved for the tour. I’m now a fan and can see how of Uber and/or Lyft would help our transit issues here, especially for seniors.

Once aboard, we had two days of rocking and rolling from Irma’s wrath. Twenty-foot swells were sick-making for about half of the 4,000 passengers; thankfully I wasn’t one of them. The rest of the trip was calm except for being in the company of thousands of U.S. southerners. Our writing coordinator, a Texan, wisely suggested we avoid political discussions. I tried, I really did, but they’re just so “goll-danged friendly” that it’s impossible to avoid interacting.

Later, at our first dinner, a charismatic insurance salesman informed me he was carrying an unconcealed weapon, which was legal in Texas. The stunned look on my face prompted him to say “Don’t worry darlin’, in Texas we’re not allowed to drink alcohol when carrying.” Thank goodness for small mercies, thought I.

I asked why he would need his weapon on a cruise ship. He answered, “Ma’am (pronounced ‘may-am’), there are lots of crazy people out there,” whereupon he invited me to his gun club event in Tucson next month. I could shoot most any gun I want, including automatic weapons. Taking his card, I thanked him and said I would have to check my calendar.

Truth be told, my alt-self actually considered it for a moment. I’ve adopted their Southern drawl, watched fake news on Fox and contemplated a weekend of shooting. I kind of liked being called darlin’, sweet lady and ma’am.

After this eight-day soirée into this alternate universe, it was lovely to come home to our relatively benign Canadian politics.

Y’all take care now, y’hear?


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ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.

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