Mr. wOw Survives Irene with a Big Dose of Carole (Lombard)

Carole Lombard

How Turner Classic Movies saved the day

Last Friday, Mr. wOw was all sanguine about the apocalyptic event advertised as Hurricane Irene. He’d been fooled before, about forces of nature that turned out fairly benign. Also, he is of hearty Irish-Italian stock. My goodness, what is a little wind and rain while I drink and whip up a batch of lasagna? (Okay—I don’t drink at home and I don’t cook anymore. But you know what I mean.)

B. and me joked about the TV hysteria. Then, on Saturday morning, early, I noticed that our next door neighbors had kindly taped up our front door—and their own. They also provided sand bags for us! Across the street, others had also taped their windows. The rest of the block was fleeing. For hours, all I heard were the sounds of people loading their cars with children, pets and valuables.

I was a little less sanguine. But not yet nervous. B. awoke later. I mentioned the window-taping, the sand-bags, the exodus. He was pretty cool. “Taping windows doesn’t help much in a hurricane, in fact not at all.” B. knows a lot, so I let that go. Still, I was uneasy. And I didn’t want to be.

I went to the supermarket, which is only yards away, and bought a few things—soups and such. But I wasn’t hoarding for disaster. I was convinced the cataclysm was just going to pass us by. I checked in, via e-mail, with my one Hoboken friend, Mike. He was on his way into Manhattan to celebrate his niece’s birthday or something (Mike loves his family). But, I gasped, in e-mail reply, “Bloomberg is shutting down all transit, how will you get back?” Mike replied coolly that New Jersey transit wasn’t going down until 6 pm. He’d be back by then.

B. was fixed in front of the TV in the living room, watching every dramatic moment of…nothing yet.

I went upstairs to my room and tried to watch The Food Network and read a book. (Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. This is the first of her Amelia Peabody series, which I will acquaint myself with further, as I enjoyed this one quite a bit.)

BUT…I was lured back to my computer. I typed in “storm Hoboken” and found to my shock that our lovely mayor, Dawn Zimmer, was urging everybody to get the hell out of the town that spawned Frank Sinatra. And then I heard, on the street, cop cars passing by, announcing that “all those in ground floor apartments must evacuate—immediately!”

Just as I was absorbing this, my friend Mike e-mailed. He’d heard about Mayor Zimmer’s warnings, and though he referred to her as a “panicky bitch”—he had not voted for her– he was not returning to spend the night in Hoboken. His father was driving him back in, just so Mike could pick up a few things, and then he’d be taken to safer environs, not so close to the water. (He had kindly offered me and B. his fifth floor apartment, in case we were deluged.)

So now Mr. wOw was really not at all sanguine. In fact, he was more I’d-like-some-sangria!

I wafted downstairs, pale, lovely and distressed. Distressed, anyway. “Are you sure about the windows?….Later on, should we put the cats in the bathroom upstairs, so they won’t be blown away?…Do we have candles?….Water! Do we have enough water?!.. should we pick things up off the floor now, in case of first floor flooding…why the hell do you have so much shit on the floor anyway?!”

B. was a brick and assured me we’d likely have some ceiling leaks—as we always do, in a heavy rain—but that he wasn’t expecting to make like Noah. In fact he was so sure, that by 7:00 pm, he was surprised that our fave Chinese place wasn’t open—we couldn’t order in. Now it was raining rather heavily, the wind was—windy—and I exclaimed: “You expected delivery?! Everybody’s been ordered to evacuate!!” B. said: “Oh, well, there’s some left-over chicken.” He ate that. I chewed my lip.

Just as B. predicted, ceiling leaks opened later that night (early Sunday AM, to be precise.) Now, I was electrically awake. The rain was pounding and the wind was howling. I had but one respite—Turner Classic Movies. Lucky me, it wasn’t a 24 hour tribute to westerns. TCM was honoring the divine Carole Lombard. And so, from 6 AM Sunday to 1 AM Monday, I was on board for Miss Lombard, from 1933 to 1942. When I wasn’t wandering up and down through our cozy three-story house checking on the leaks, I was huddled on my couch, in my memorabilia-packed room, gasping over Miss L.’s beauty, charm and talent.

I was even luckier that my all-time favorite Lombard movie aired just as the weather was scariest—“In Name Only.” I’ve seen it a million times, this tale of unhappily married Cary Grant, his materialistic wife (the great Kay Francis, at her most wicked) and Carole, as the spirited artist, who fights the good fight against being drawn into Cary’s life, but…hell, it’s Cary Grant.

In my heightened state, I appreciated more than ever Miss Lombard’s naturalistic acting, how she elevated every scene, how even her most casual gesture and facial expression conveyed a universe of emotion. Though she gained her fame as an antic comedienne, “In Name Only” is her masterpiece dramatic performance. The last twenty minutes of the movie are intense beyond belief. (If you don’t cry, just remove yourself from the human being category.)

And as always, I was hypnotized by the movie’s final showdown, between Carole and Kay:

“You’d rather see him dead than be with me.”


“You don’t love him. You don’t love anybody except yourself.”

“I gave up love for what I have now. Do you think I’m going to let you or anybody take it from me?”

“All you get from Alec is money. He’ll give you everything.”

“If Alec gave me every cent he had it wouldn’t be enough. But someday his father will be dead…”

I will spare those who haven’t seen the film its final, exquisitely satisfying dénouement (notice how I love these fancy schmancy French words.)

Anyway, by mid-afternoon Sunday, the worst (which for us hadn’t been bad at all) had passed. The house was wet in spots, it was dank, but our windows were intact and the sandbags hadn’t been employed. We had never lost power.

B. wasn’t smug. He hugged me tight. He knew I’d been far more frightened than he’d ever known me to be, or that I’d let on, verbally. (Mr. wOw’s face reveals everything—I’m a terrible liar.)

I just wish I could have hugged Miss Lombard.

89 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I’m glad you are alright – I had this horrible thought that you had fled to Vermont…

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dearest Baby… thank you!

      But  why would I flee to Vermont?  I  was thinking more on fleeing to New Mexico. 


      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Well, someone I know fled to Vermont.  The friend she went to stay with should have fled to New York. Something tells me they were not watching TCM.  I suspect next time they will both flee to New Mexico.

        • avatar Mr. Wow says:

          Dear Baby…

          Vermont was not a not a great flee-to spot.  My friend there is stranded without power and very unhappy. 

  2. avatar J G says:

    Hi Mr. Wow,
    When I saw the footage pertaining to Hoboken, you were the first person that I thought of. Is Mr. Wow safe? Will B. be strong enough for both of them, and lead them to safety? Is Mr. Wow going through his gaudy but lovable Christmas memorabilia, deciding what to take with him as he flee’s his precious city?

    I’m so glad that you are safe and sound. I live on the Connecticut coastline, and while my town had severe damage, we were fortunate as well.

    I can now exhale. Thank you for letting us know you and B. are both safe.


  3. avatar J G says:

    Oh, please WowOWow, install an edit button. Flees, not flee’s. Sigh…

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear  JG..
      Oh, honey…who would notice?  I didn’t.  But I’m an illiterate  high-school drop-out.

  4. avatar TheTexasMom says:

    I was watching those wonderful Lombard movies with you for an entirely different reason.  Houston’s offical high temperature was 109 and I was foolish to be out in it.  So Saturday night I was up and dehydrated wishing for it to rain on me. 

    I kind of got distracted with Hands Across The Table.  Fred McMurray was from from the character of Steven Douglas in My Three Sons.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Texas Mom…

      Excuse me, but how hot was Fred McMurray?!  Fred needs to be re-discovered.  He was not always the dad of “My Three Sons.”

      Re “Hands Across The Table”–could they really have made it a go–being married and poor?

      • avatar TheTexasMom says:

        Mr. Wow – Mr. McMurray’s hotness was exactly why I was distracted.

        • avatar Mr. Wow says:

          Dear TexasMom…

          I mean, really—in his shorts, and barechested?  He had some sexy vibe there, and especially with Lombard. 

  5. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Mr. Wow, you can think anything you like, but you must KNOW that you are loved and cared about. All of us regulars here on one post or another expressed our concern over both you and B’s safety and whereabouts. Bathe in it. Enjoy it. Take it for granted. We care.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Count…

      What I think is I’m going to cry. 

      Thank you.   B. is here, over my shoulder.  He says thanks, too. 


      • avatar Count Snarkula says:

        @Mr. Wow and B.

        You both are so very welcome. The Count works very hard not to show emotions. And NEVER in public. But, since you might feel like a cry, just because I care so much, the Count just might, might, let you know that as he was composing his post, he might have had a little bit of moisture in his eyes. Maybe because of Irene, but since she was about 1500 miles away, maybe not. Maybe because of a truthful happiness that I was able to tell you something from my heart that is a beautiful truth.

        Nah. Must be Irene.

        XOXO – The Count

  6. avatar Lila says:

    Mr. Wow, I second and third your other fans here. So glad to hear you and B. weathered the hurricane with no problems and even had TV! There’s nothing so cozy as being home in a storm with everything you need.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Lila…

      Thank you.  I was anticipating the power going  down, so I’d gotten a good flashlight and propped it up, wedged it in above my couch, to be able to read.  But it never came to that.

  7. avatar Jon T says:

    Unlike you Mr. Wow, I only faux-time traveled this weekend. I’m only just now getting into Mad Men and did a weekend long marathon, compliments of Netflix. A nice little show that looks back on what a twenty-something writer imagines the 60’s were like. :-) (But I’m completely hooked!)

  8. avatar Lori Castle says:

    Our power went out 3:30 am Saturday night/Sunday morning and didn’t come back on today. I need a ventilator to breathe so I was grateful that I had relatives that had power that I could go to. I did not want to wind up in the hospital because they had power because of this. I am on Con Eds list of people that have life sustaining machines in their homes and apparently this means nothing because I was not a priority in their eyes to turn my electricity on. I wish I had TCM to take my mind off this stuff!

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      As many of us found out after Ike hit Houston, it sometimes is not a matter of just turning the electricity back on. Sometimes they don’t check “damage reports” and they “flip the switch” and transformers blow after a tree limb on lines cause a short and the lines catch fire. Which is what happened to me and my neighbors. People in the next block had lights 2 days after Ike hit. We had lights 11 days after Ike hit.  None of us should assume we will have lights. Or that we will have lights quickly after the storm passes. When issuing warnings, local officials often neglect to emphasize the impact on those who depend on electricity for not only ventilators but keeping medication refrigerated.  The general rule is if you don’t have a generator you need to be at a facility that has a generator. And you need to go there before not after. As some in North Carolina and New Jersey and Vermont discovered, often it is impossible for someone to get through to move you after the storm has passed.  It may not be a case of your not being a priority but simply your area, or grid as they call them, being a priority. We were  not a priority. We were one block. There were entire grids without power. So they were the priority.  Many in River Oaks, the most exclusive area in Houston, went without power for 14 days. For the same reason. Part of the grid had power. Too many others did not.

      We all assume things about these storms we shouldn’t.  Many on Bolivar Peninsula believed they could “ride out” a Category 2 storm named Ike.  And were killed as their houses collapsed in 25-35 foot storm surges. It was a Category 2 storm. With a Category 4 storm surge in many places.  Most should have remembered Camille. We rarely remember the last storm for some reason. Believing this one is no big deal. Until it turns into a big deal. 

      They said Irene would bring heavy rains as it moved up towards New England. For some reason no one paid attention.

      • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

        Baby Snooks,
        This is the best comment on what happens after a natural disaster I have seen in a long time. We all seem to think that there is a “breaker” for the utility to flip and the power goes back on. Or that no matter how severe the damage, it will be fixed in 24 hours. I don’t negate anyone’s frustration, but it is never that easy. Your advice for those who rely on power for life sustaining equipment is great. Again understanding that no one wants to leave their home; under these kinds of circumstances, it is necessary to do so. I honestly don’t understand people who won’t put life above stuff.

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          After Rita I had lights again that afternoon.  The people across the street? The following week. Same street. Just different grids.  Quite a few people in the North have generators to deal with the loss of electricity from winter storms.  Something more and more people in the South are buying to deal with the summer storms.  But they need to be outside or in a detached building. Not in the basement. Not in the attached garage. Each year people die from the carbon monoxide from the generators they dont realize produce carbon monoxide.  A detached building is best.  Even in the best neighborhoods someone will be tempted to have lights themselves. And “borrow” your generator at 3 am.

          We are entering our “season” finally here along the Gulf Coast. And of course now there is the familiar “something” off the Yucatan moving into the Gulf of Mexico. Which causes pause for thought as they say.

          • avatar sandra b says:

            Isn’t that weird Baby that people don’t know generators produce carbon monoxide? They burn gas just like a car. You wouldn’t leave your car running in the attached garage unless you were committing suicide!

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Most people don’t think about it. They put it where it is most convenient which is usually an attached garage and forget and close the garage door without realizing the carbon monoxide will start leaking into the house. But even a covered porch can be dangerous I’m told since the carbon monoxide will go up and then possibly leak in through cracks in the side of the house. Candlelight is much safer. Although some forget to blow the candles out when they go to bed and the dog or the car knocks over the table where the candle is and it falls on drapes which then catch fire. Again, people don’t think about it.  Even the oil lamps can prove deadly if left unattended. Better light but, well, candles are, well, more romantic. I like romantic after a storm. But I’m a little nuts.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Lori…

      I am so glad you  had nearby relatives! 

      I was very lucky.  And even if I hadn’t been, I had B. with me.  We’d have been unlucky together.

      How are you now? 

      • avatar Lori says:

        Thank you Mr. Wow! I am fine. It was just frustrating but like you said I was glad to have nearby relatives. I can’t afford a generator unfortunately. I am glad you had B with you to make you feel safer!!

  9. avatar rick gould says:

    Am spending 2 weeks in Upper Michigan where it has been nothing but late summer/early fall sunshine.

    Mom and I, when not overdosing on HGTV and Law and Order, have watched some pretty diverse movies.

    Didn’t catch the delightful Carole Lombard (we could use her natural beauty and class today!), but we watched some pretty campy crowdpleasers: “The Towering Inferno,” surprisingly tense special effects 35+ years later, despite absurdities as OJ Simpson as the kindly firefighter who rescues a kitty; “The Blackboard Jungle” had me rooting for the school punks over the speechifying ninny teachers; and “Zardoz,” a futuristic “drama” with Sean Connery sporting a mankini, hipboots and rounds of bullets draped over his hairy chest (did Bob Mackie create his costume?); and “Torch Song,” with Joan Crawford playing an aging, tough, controlling star…the blackface number with her ripping off her wig at the end is right up there with “Valley of the Dolls”! 

    Glad you survived Irene with your usual flair, Mr. W!  

    • avatar Count Snarkula says:

      @Rick – Upper Michigan, campy movies, the weather, and time with YOUR MOM ! ! !

      Jealousy is such an inadequate word to describe what I feel right now.

      Incredible Happiness for you and your Mom, however, are two words that describe it perfectly.

      XOXO – The Count

      • avatar rick gould says:

        Count-Thanks! I am trying to enjoy every moment before hunkering down to grad school this fall.

        And Baby-Sean looked pretty fine in a pre-overbuff Rambo/Terminator way. His getup kept me thinking he would burst into a few bars of “If I Could Turn Back Time”! 

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Sean Connery. In a mankini. Heaven.

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear Baby…

        It wasn’t very attractive, actually.  Sean was…not young anymore.

        We do better to remember Mr. Connery in his swim trunks in “Thunderball.”

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          I actually have found him sexier as he has grown older. Like a fine wine as they say. Bods get boring. And not too many bods have that voice. Does something to me.

          • avatar Count Snarkula says:

            Dear Baby:

            I have kept “the bod”. Not the huge bodybuilder bod, a more appropriate, lean muscle mass body in keeping with my age. And I have been told that I have “the voice”. Now that I am 50, do you think that I have a shot at a serious, monogamous relationship? I don’t want to go back to when I was a Bodybuilder who just took what I wanted and left broken hearts in my wake. I want to give. Like I did in the last one. But with one that will appreciate it. Too much?

            I value your opinion, as I know you will be (kindly) blunt and honest with me.

            That means so much these days.

            Mr. Wow, would love for you to jump in here with your opinion if you are so inclined.

            XOXO – Your Count

          • avatar Count Snarkula says:

            And the opinions of any and all commentators also. Pile on. Love you all.


            The Count

          • avatar Lila says:

            Count, I will tell you that my Great-Aunt was one of three general’s daughters who were expected to marry fine West Point grads and do their part to make their husbands into generals, too. All three did. But this G.A. was cursed with a philanderer. Even her own family impressed upon her the career disaster that a divorce would be for HIM. Never mind HER. With no way home and no way out, she stuck it out for decades until finally, she was a 70-something widow and on her own for the first time in her life. She wasn’t “looking,” but soon found a steady boyfriend and they adored each other. Although she never again married, that choice was hers. Her remaining years were her happiest ever. Way to finish with a bang!

            So YES, I think — of course you can find a monogamous partner. Just don’t look too hard — don’t forc