One of the more difficult aspects to moving away from South Florida has been leaving my dad behind. No, I didn’t spend a lot of time at his house before I moved — “cat’s in the cradle” and all that maudlin business — but it was good to have him close by, and know that seeing each other was just a matter of making time, not making plane reservations.

He’s still with me, though, all the time. When I walk down the power tool aisle in a hardware store I remember how my mother used to buy him a new saber saw or electric drill every Christmas, which he might use once or twice. While I’ve never managed to acquire a taste for wine, the word “merlot” is now permanently associated with his glass at dinner  (and occasionally, lunch). And every time I sit in a La-Z-Boy and find myself instinctually starting to drift off. it’s Thanksgiving again, with my dad and my brother snoring in the family room, ostensibly watching a football game.

But it’s more than just the silly, every day memories that keep him close to me. When I manage to completely screw something up, it’s my dad’s voice in my head reminding me to figure out what I did wrong, and learn from it. When I do the right thing for someone else instead of the right thing for me, I thank my dad for teaching me that I’m not the center of the universe. And when I tell stories that make people laugh, without them ever noticing they’re being taught something, too, well, I’m carrying on a family tradition. After all, I rarely noticed how much he was teaching me, while he was doing it.

Thanks for everything, Daddy, and happy Fathers Day.

Here are a couple of stories about my father, from the archives.

Slow learner:

But so much of who we become originates with our parents, for good or ill. My mother taught me to use my imagination and be creative, to have a vision, to reach, and to make the best use of what I was given; these are essential parts of my creative nature, and I wouldn’t have any of it without her influence. It was obvious that her goal was to mold me into an artist of some sort. My father, though, shaped who I became without me ever noticing it.

Chief Paduke’s Revenge:

Several years ago my brother and I were talking about practical jokes we had played, stupid pranks and whatnot. My dad was around, and was laughing at the stories he hadn’t heard before, and pointing out the times we hadn’t been nearly as clever as we had thought. Now, my dad has a prankster’s heart, and we were fairly sure he had pulled off some good ones in his day, so we asked him about it. He laughed, and regaled us with the following tale.



Memories of Andrew

by Marc Kevin Hall on 24 August 2012

in Blogging

[I was asked by several people for my memories of Hurricane Andrew's assault on South Florida. I don't have anything to add to this post from August 2011.]

1992 notes on Hurricane Andrew

1992 notes on Hurricane Andrew

I was living with my wife in a Plantation apartment when Hurricane Andrew struck. I believe it was Marie’s first hurricane, and while I had been through several tropical storms during my twenty-two years in South Florida, it might as well have been my first, too.

This comes to mind because I recently discovered a small group of torn-loose steno pages in a dusty manila folder. The day prior to projected landfall I had started scribbling down some notes for some reason. Since this was years before the founding of Hidden City, I can only assume it was for possible use in my ‘zine of the time, Ambergris From Leviathan, but in truth I have no idea. Maybe I was writing myself past the fear. I do that.

It’s a bit premature, I know, but for your possible amusement I’ve transcribed the notes as is. Again, these are from August 23 and 24, 1992.

I guess I should start this before things get too weird.

I first heard about the hurricane on Friday, I guess, on national news (NPR). I didn’t pay much attention to it, because it had been a hellish week at work, and I was too brain-dead to notice much. On Saturday Tucker made a joke about it, and Tanya took Marie “hurricane shopping” with her.

When I got up this morning, there was news on the TV about it heading dead for us, with no chance of petering out. I went to the office to shut down the computers and phones. On the way to the ATM to get cash, I gave a ride to an elderly man I saw walking along.

His name was Sam, and he was heading to church. He had lived through several hurricanes himself, but seemed cautiously confident.

We decided to go to my parents’ house, and dismantled our apartment. I took all our photos and financial records and put them in boxes, along with all my diskettes and copies of AFL. We called the insurance company, and we are covered for $20,700. Marie said she had the REM song “It’s the End of the World, as We Know it” playing in her head.

Custer [our cat] has not taken well to the new quarters. My mother has three cats here (all bullies), plus she has taken in two neighborhood cats. As soon as Custer got out of the carrier, she rqan under a cabinet, and refuses to come out. I am very worried about her.

I have been (predictably) thinking about my mortality today. I have done a lot of evil things in my life, which I won’t ever atone for. The last few years I have tried to be a better person, as much as I can be. But maybe this is the end? I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.

The scariest thing about this hurricane is that for all the preparations my father and I have made, we could still be killed by the roof coming off the house. Nothing we can do about it, and it isn’t likely. There are also some windows int he house — facing a well-protected entranceway — which do not have shutters. We could lose one of those window, and get some very scary results. But it should be okay.

I have also had a lot of thoughts for friends in dangerous areas. Millie and Al live in the first evacuation area, but when I called at 10am, I got their machine. I hope they are okay. Also my friend Otto, and Bebbie and Ronnie, who just moved to Kendall.

The saving grace of having to watch all the TV coverage has been Brian Norcross, Channel 4 weatherman. He has taken a no-bullshit attitude, calling people who won’t evacuate “plain stupid.”

It is strange being in my parents’ house. I took a shower in my old bathroom, and we’ll be sleeping in my old room. No hurricane party here, though. We have things to drink, and I brought a bottle of Courvoisier from the apartment (for medicinal purposes, of course), and ‘Rie brought Wild Turkey.


5:00 AM: Woke up when A/C went off. Still just like a real bad thunderstorm. We have finally gotten Custer to come out — okay, she came out on her own, and we left her alone until she had calmed down some — and into my old bedroom. Marie & I slept for a while, but once it really kicked in, I wanted to get up and write this. Bryan Norcross and Channel 4 miraculously stayed on the air, radio and TV both. The National Hurricane Center was hit by a gust of wind at 164 mph, and their radar unit was wiped out completely.

6:40 AM: We should be getting the worst of it in the next couple of hours. Custer is terrified, mewing and panting. (It is starting to get hot and stuffy.) The odd thin is that we discovered that she is afraid of the dark. While the light is on she is scared but okay. When I turn it off, though, she immediately starts to cry.

I made an error earlier. I convinced Custer to come into the bedroom with us, which would have been okay save for one thing: the room faces the entranceway, and has a wall of unprotected windows. I don’t want to risk her staying in that room and sitting on the wondowsill, so I took out her litter box, bowl, and water, and put them in the hall right outside the door. She seems to be doing better now, though.

6:55 AM: The sun is theoretically coming up. It is getting a little lighter outside, and has the gray-violet look of a severe storm. The winds come and go.

Brian is still going. The reports are interesting — rumors of disasters, reporters trapped in cars, talking on cellular phones. Now they say we might get off relatively easy. We shall see.

7:18 AM: Went outside with my father. His carambola tree was wiped out by the neighbors’ black olive, which was overgrown and lost its top. On this street there are a few dead trees strewn about, but it doesn’t look too bad. Then again, it isn’t over yet.

Hurricane Andrew at landfall

Hurricane Andrew at landfall

The notes abruptly end. Of course the storm turned south, leaving Plantation and Fort Lauderdale relatively unharmed while devastating southern Dade County. Our apartment suffered a bit of water damage due to a leaky roof, but was otherwise unscathed.  I can’t say the same for many other friends.

This is probably why I never continued. In my life I observe the events around me, both to keep myself fully in the moment and then to lock down details in case it should prove a good topic for an essay. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work out that way, because it just wasn’t that interesting, or I can’t find a handle on the story, or, sometimes, because my observations seem so small, so petty, in the enormity of the total event.

Nineteen years later I remember the building fear all too well. But I also remember the relief when we were spared the brunt of the storm, and the tremendous guilt I felt over that relief when the extent of the impact became known. Since Andrew I have taken storms seriously, very seriously. Right now my pantry has a good stock of canned tuna and saltines, and I know my evacuation plans and routes by heart.

I also spent a lot of time with my ex-employer’s emergency operations center, working on business continuity plans and disaster preparedness. Sure, a lot of that focus was on helping the company survive a disaster, but even when management’s focus was elsewhere, I devoted my energy to doing what I could to provide systems and services to help the afflicted employees and their families, when a storm struck. It was the right thing to do, of course, but it also helped me atone in a small way for my relief at avoiding Andrew’s wrath.


by Marc Kevin Hall on 6 March 2012

in Blogging

Perhaps I should let you know that I haven’t frozen to death. In fact, it’s been an extraordinarily mild winter, according to locals. A few have accused me of ruining Maryland’s weather, but that’s silly. It would take me far more than six months to do that.

Rough season for lawn flamingos

But there has been snow, and a few nights below 30° F, leading the cats to overcome their initial distrust of those big iron things under the windows. Me, though, I tend to keep the windows open in my upstairs office.

Two-Face cuddles the radiator

Normally I would be inclined to complain about the relative lack of cold and snow, but that would be ill-mannered of me. This may be my new home, but that doesn’t mean I have to start slagging it right off the bat. Any time I feel the urge to whine, I just go and read the South Florida Daily Blog for reminders of the reasons why I left.

I have thick soles

Oh, as an aside: There have been quite a few people lately beginning to follow Hidden City on Facebook. Given the rarity of recent posts, this perplexed me, until I discovered that there’s a TV show by the same name on the Travel Channel. If you are one of the people who started following my writing under the mistaken impression I’m Marcus Sakey, I’ll completely understand if you leave. But hey, since you’re already here, why not take a look around?


24 December 2011

I was up late again, sitting at the computer trying to get some writing done until long after midnight. I was having a little trouble with my focus. The ideas just weren’t coming to me, probably because of the day. Even though I’m well into middle age and not at all religious, I was working [...]

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Holiday Spirit

22 December 2011

It was the end of December, and something was missing. I wasn’t the only one who’d felt the absence. Several friends had mentioned the lack of that special December-y something in the air. I’d initially chalked it up to the lousy economy, but even the people I knew who still had money noticed it. The [...]

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A Different World

17 December 2011

Moving from South Florida to the DC/Maryland/Virginia area involves a bit of culture shock. Following are a few of the areas where I’ve had to adjust. These are just my initial impressions, so salt them as heavily as you’d like. Geography When you break it down, nothing is straightforward here, least of all the roads. Everything [...]

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An apology, an offer, and a bowl of cranberries

23 November 2011

“You should never apologize for your failure to post on a regular basis,” I am told. Yes, but… well, I’m told a lot of shit I don’t believe, generally by people who are paid to fill conversational dead air with their alleged wisdom. So, sorry for the unconscionable gap in updates. There are reasons (of [...]

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Window of opportunity

11 September 2011

In May of 1998 I made my first trip to NYC, in the company of my friend, Diana. It was a very short trip, just a couple of days, so there wasn’t time to see much more than a couple of landmarks. I fought my acrophobia enough to go to the observation deck of the Empire State [...]

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Public Parting

18 August 2011

I knew I’d face various unanticipated difficulties in moving out of state after decades living in South Florida. However, I didn’t foresee this: Some very kind people and good friends have arranged a public going-away party for me on this Saturday, August 20th. To be honest, I’m a bit uncomfortable writing about it. Inviting people [...]

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Found Notes on Hurricane Andrew

17 August 2011

I was living with my wife in a Plantation apartment when Hurricane Andrew struck. I believe it was Marie’s first hurricane, and while I had been through several tropical storms during my twenty-two years in South Florida, it might as well have been my first, too. This comes to mind because I recently discovered a [...]

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