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Drowning with land in sight (Wave on wave)

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
This photo, taken by the author in 2016, is a strip of white, sandy beach just east of Destin, Florida - in the path of Hurricane Michael.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Two years ago I was on a family vacation in Destin, Florida, a popular destination for hundreds of thousands of folks across the South and Midwest.

At the time I decided to do a story on the popular, sky blue “30A” stickers and merchandise that have become so popular over recent years, in a story I wrote headlined: “LIFE SHINES: A little bit about that ‘30A’ sticker and that popular brand.”

And in July 2011, more than a year after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill that tainted beaches and marshes and coastline all along the American Gulf Coast, I wrote a story datelined Destin, Florida headlined “Florida’s Gulf beaches appear clean but what lies below the surface?

At the time, beachgoers appeared unconcerned about oil contamination or environmental catastrophe. They were splashing in the emerald waters and eating seafood caught in those very waters.

And here we are, seven years later, and an unprecedented hurricane – MICHAEL – is aiming for  the beautiful Emerald Coast, with Panama City in the bullseye.

The Associated Press wrote on Wednesday: “Supercharged overnight, Hurricane Michael closed in Wednesday on the Florida Panhandle with potentially catastrophic winds of 145 mph, the most powerful storm on record ever to menace the stretch of fishing towns, military bases and spring-break beaches.

With more than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast warned to evacuate, the hurricane’s leading edge began lashing the white-sand shoreline with tropical storm-force winds, rain and rising seas before daybreak, hours before Michael’s center was expected to blow ashore.”

The story concludes with: “(R)ainfall could reach up to a foot (30 centimeters), and the life-threatening storm surge could swell to 14 feet (4 meters).

The storm appeared to be so powerful that it is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves over Georgia early Thursday. Forecasters said it will unleash damaging wind and rain all the way into the Carolinas, still recovering from Hurricane Florence’s epic flooding.

“We are in new territory,” National Hurricane Center Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen wrote on Facebook. “The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle.”


In 1998 I was working as a reporter at a small newspaper in south Alabama, an hour or so from the busy beaches at Destin and Fort Walton Beach. I would head down there on the weekends and hang out, particularly around the Gulf Breeze (near Pensacola) area at night, gathering with locals interested in catching a glimpse of one of the UFOs that were being seen along the coast at that time. The area attracts high weirdness, for sure!

And while I have experienced Gulf Coast hurricanes in the past (I moved to Oklahoma from Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita), this one strikes me as different – far faster-acting and vicious in its destructive capacity. 

The book I am currently writing, synchromystically speaking, The Stilwell Enigma, highlights the life-altering impact the Great Storm of 1900 had on Galveston, Texas and the prediction railroad promoter Arthur Stilwell was given by the "spirit world" a few years before the storm hit. The highest winds recorded in that storm (where upwards of 16,000 people were killed) were 145 mph! And here we are. Oh, and the spirits told Stilwell not to build his railroad to Galveston. Instead, he decided to build it to what became his namesake town of Port Arthur, Texas - hometown of the late, great Janis Joplin, among many others.

That same summer of ’98 – 20 years ago, now – a fascinating film was released titled The Truman Show, a film directed by sync-tastic Peter Weir (Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Mosquito Coast, two films I have analyzed here at Dust Devil Dreams), who directed a remarkable 1977 film in native Australia titled The Last Wave (which I recently watched0 where an attorney named David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) who defends a group of Aboriginal Australians accused of a murder in Sydney.

But as he gets deeper into this case, Burton is plagued by apocalyptic dreams, all while intense, “freak rainstorms” beset the Sydney area, seeming boding of a coming, climate-related catastrophe. (Environmental concerns are a major issue in the Ethan Hawke film First Reformed).

The end of the film involves Burton going to a secret, sacred, Aboriginal site below the city’s surface, where he learns the horrific truth about a tsunami-like “wave” that will wipe away the coast and most - if not all - of the humans.

And so here we are, in 2018, and the very site where Weir’s The Truman Show was filmed is facing 14-foot storm surges from MICHAEL.

The Award Winning film, I should note, stars Jim Carrey (who has been in the news of late, artistically criticizing Trump and the GOP) as Truman Burbank who is the “unsuspecting star” of a reality program called The Truman Show, where he lives in an artificial world called Seahaven Island. A place that is actually on a Hollywood soundstage and a place Truman cannot leave, thanks to the creator of the show “Christof” (Ed Harris).

There are a lot of important things said in The Truman Show, one of which is the nature of reality. And just as we don't know if a life-ending "wave" hits the Australian coast at the end of The Last Wave, as predicted by the aboriginal shamen, it isn't clear where Truman goes after he finds "the exit" from his invasive, televised world, where he has no more freedom than a lab rat in a cage. 

So, the "MICHAEL" sync comes up for me in relation to The Truman Show with the TV presenter Mike Michaelson (Harry Shearer) who notes at one point in the film that Truman Burbank - who has lived in artificial "Seahaven Island" for all of his life, is the first human being to be legally adopted by a corporation!

MICHAELSON: "Christof, let me ask you, why do you think that Truman has never come close to discovering the true nature of his world until now?"

CHRISTOF: "We accept the reality of the world with which we're presented. It's as simple as that."

So, in that simple summer of ’98 I would drive to Seaside and wander around, looking for any sign of spots featured in the film. I found a few. And I found a town that was oddly artificial in its own right. Pretty. Charming. But "fakey." I see why Weir chose Seaside as the spot to film The Truman Show. It makes perfect sense and seems to have gone over the heads of the locals. 

Interestingly, this past June, the page featured a story headlined: “20 Years After ‘The Truman Show,’ Locals Share Memories of The Movie.

The film took five months to make there in Seaside in the early months of 1997. 

On Sept. 28, 2018, Christopher Knowles, over at The Secret Sun, featured a sync post titled “The Last Wave,” incidentally enough. Humanity, he writes, cannot begin to fathom the true enormity and vastness of "The Deep." Or of the immense landmasses that we "huddle" upon. To truly contemplate or attempt to understand any of it, he writes, "would drive the staunchest rationalist to a raving, drooling Lovecraftian madness."

Knowles warns us that “Stepmother Nature” doesn’t much care about what happens to those of us inhabiting the surface: “Make no mistake: the most masterful "Masters of the Universe" won't even amount to fruit flies on a rhino's ass if --all the gods in Heaven forbid-- this planet of ours decides to wake up from its unnaturally long slumber and do its morning calisthenics. And it has a habit of doing so at weird intervals. It doesn't exactly keep a regular sleep schedule.

Like Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Michael is a superstorm that is going to end up in the record books. It's as if it just snuck up on everyone.

But I guess I sensed something on October 2nd, the day I rewatched Donnie Darko, because the events at the beginning of the film take place on Oct. 2, 1988, exactly 30 years earlier. 

Immediately before the jet engine falls on Donnie's bedroom shortly after midnight on Oct. 2nd, Donnie's dad, Eddie Darko (Kansas City native Holmes Osborne) is watching a repeat of the presidential debate between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. Yes, note the name "Michael," again. 

I felt compelled to make extra notes about this scene, for some reason. Was it included for political purposes by filmmaker Richard Kelly? And the bit about "Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega." The highlighting of "Panama" seemed to be emphasized, just as weather forecasters are saying Panama City, Florida is ground zero for when MICHAEL makes landfall.

In fact, a few days ago the name "Michael" was a 1996 album by Michael Roe, the leader of the decent, Christian alternative rock band The 77's. (1977 was the year The Last Wave was released, as I noted earlier) The album I was looking at was the cleverly-titled Michael Roe The Boat Ashore

But it was Roe's album with The 77's - Drowning With Land In Sight - released in 1994, that I really remember (as I have listened to very little Christian music of any sort since the mid-1990's), an album that inexplicably kicks off with a cover of "Nobody's Fault But Mine," written by Blind Willie Johnson (who has appeared in not one but two recent Dust Devil Dreams posts - "Pale blue dot" and "Blind man's zoo (Let's roll!)") and done almost exactly the way Led Zeppelin covered the blues classic back in 1976. 

Drowning With Land In Sight is a great album. It rocks and is raw, with songs like "Film at 11," "Dave's Blues," "Sounds O' Autumn," "The Jig is Up" and others. The album was hatched in 1993, the same year I had my intense dream about the flooding of the Mississippi River - which came true that summer. 

Oh, and Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was the Ground," featured on the "Golden Record," is aboard Voyager 2 spacecraft ("To the stars"), which is scheduled to enter interstellar space any day now. Blind Willie Johnson died in relative obscurity in September 1945 after living out in the elements after his Beaumont, Texas house burned down (just down the road from sync-tastic Port Arthur) and no hospital would take him because of his blindness.

Blind Willie knew the score. Truman in The Truman Show figured things out at the end and said "fuck it!" And for humanity, the reality of this latest storm and the crazy weather of late is another wake-up call from the planet - although we won't be making our appointment this time. 

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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