We slept through the worst of the rains. Six inches fell in six hours. The rain gauge told the story next morning, clear as day. But deep into the night and into the soil the water sank. It seeped onto the floor of our basement. It filled window wells and gathered in huge pools illuminated by flashes of lightning in the distance. We stood in our soaking pajamas and bailed out the window wells, which filled as fast as we bailed. Then we were naked in the rain, still bailing. The wet clothes were holding us back. "So this is what tragedy feels like," I said to myself. We quit bailing, went back inside and toweled ourselves off. Then we realized the sump pumps had stopped. That meant water in the basement, for sure.
It was worse than we expected. Not ankle deep or dangerous. But bad. The water ran down the floor drains, moving so fast it made flickering trickles and small sounds as it traveled. It went on like this for hours. We called the waterproofing company. "Not today. Not tomorrow," they answered.
It would be days before they arrived. Long after our rugs were soaked and mildew filled the basement atmosphere. We were on our own. It wasn't pretty and it didn't smell good. So we rolled up the rugs and hit them with fans. Piled family junk up like sandbags and watched floor tiles lift and float as if to mock our efforts at containing the deluge.
Then it all stopped. The waterproofing guys showed up apologetically and fixed everything that did not work. Even drilled holes in the wall to provide drainage for the window wells. All was good. But then the cleanup began.
It took weeks to put things back in order when it had taken only hours to move things desperately out of the way.
And then I noticed the line of boxes with dark brown rings around the bottoms. The record collection had taken a watery hit. '
There was only loose sentiment tied to those boxes. But still they bore inspection. Sure enough; album covers were stuck together. That classic album art would never look the same. The shiny slick surface of Steely Dan's "Aja" was torn loose across the bottom during separation. Big artists and obscure alike took a hit. Bruce Springsteen. Southside Johnny. Aaagh: The Beatles White Album and even Abbey Road, given to me years ago during the 1960s. They were damaged too.
Fortunately the records still played. All it took to clean up the vinyl was a wipe with a cloth to remove the mold and they sounded good as new.
But actually, those records had not been played much before the flood. New music had taken over my playlist, filled up my iPod and slipped into my car stereo. Indie bands sounded fresh and new. And they carried less emotional baggage than those albums from youth. No memories of old girlfriends were lurking in the 3GB of music my daughter burned for me as MP3s. Those new artists taught me to look at life a little differently too. Gave me hope for the new generation coming along. Some were indulgent joys. Vampire Weekend. The Hush Sound. Kate Nash. Lily Allen. Modest Mouse. Beck. Even Bob Dylan's newer music sounded better to me than hearing the old albums played over and over.
With one exception. Dylan's New Morning album grabbed hold of me and would not let go. It is his most underrated work.
Those songs. So lyrical and wise. Sign On a Window. The Man in Me. New Morning. Day of the Locust. Songs seldom heard on the radio, recorded in that apocryphal year of 1970, that year between decades and eras, when the Fab Four themselves shirked their legacy and John Lennon sang "I don't believe in Beatles" while George Harrison sang "All Things Must Pass."
All should serve as warnings that the greatest so-called disasters; even the breakup of the Beatles or the mid-life cold soaking of their epic albums in an overnight flood, cannot be taken so seriously that life just doesn't go on, because it does, just like a record turning, moving toward its end.