Surviving Hurricane Andrew: 25 yrs ago today

It was one of the scariest nights of my life. The house was shaking. Water pouring in. Trees blowing sideways like they were Lincoln Logs. Huddled under a mattress not knowing how this would end. But as frightening as it was in the wee hours of Monday morning, just a day earlier couldn’t have been more different.

Put on your tie, it’s time for church.

We were new to Miami, having moved there from Stafford, Virginia only a couple weeks prior to this particular Sunday. So what does a church-going family do when they arrive to a new town? They try out churches, of course. We dressed up in our Sunday best, only this time we arrived to a church with no people. We soon found out the church was “closed” because of the approaching hurricane. Closed on a Sunday!? What is this, Chic-Fil-A? What’s going on here? Weird, I thought. But no church? Hot diggity dog!

I know, it’s terrible that I was excited about that.

Sunday afternoon went pretty normal. A few hundred feet from our house on the Coast Guard base in Miami, Florida, my brother and I and our new friend John played tennis. A mild breeze, partly cloudy. A beautiful August Sunday. All the schools were about to begin the new year, including where my brother and I were brand new students, a private institution called Westminster Christian School.

The weather people got it wrong.

The weather people down here must be crazy. I mean, it’s a beautiful day and they keep talking about a huge storm coming. Have they looked outside? There can’t be a hurricane coming, I thought. How bad can it be, I thought. Little did I know they were not wrong, they were not crazy. They were very right about the dangerous weather that was about to hit south Florida.

hurricane-andrew-satellite

Evening came and still all was calm. At home that night was myself, my brother, my mother, and our dog Belle, the wonder dog. My two sisters were about 8 hours north in Tallahassee because one was starting her freshman year of college and the other was on a mini vacation. My dad, a captain in the United States Coast Guard, was called in to head up a search and rescue team, preparing for action once the storm hit, and for the aftermath. They were based in an underground shelter at the Cape Canaveral shuttle center. Check out some of his storm recollection here.


Predictions had the storm making landfall in the middle of the night, so we went to bed not really knowing what to expect at our house.

Boom.

The storm hit somewhere around 2 or 3am and it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. My brother, mother, and I gathered with Belle and were shocked at what we were witnessing. It was pitch black outside, but what we could see were trees flying by our sliding glass doors. Sideways rain and wind blowing so fast. Our screened-in porch, well, we didn’t see that because it was gone. OK, at this point I’m starting to believe the little weather thing they’ve been talking about might be serious. We had the radio on, listening to Bryan Norcross.
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Based on his expert advice for surviving a hurricane like this, we all climbed into the bathtub and tried to hold a mattress over us. Then we moved to the hallway and laid down side by side, three-wide. I was laying with my left side pressed up against the wall, and I kid you not, the entire wall was rumbling, moving side to side, the power of the storm shaking the entire house. We had the mattress above us, also trying desperately to keep hold of Belle, by her collar. She was obviously spooked by the weather, and kept pulling away from us. Eventually we let her go and she found safety under a chest cabinet in one of the bedrooms.

Then we felt wind blowing. Never good when you’re inside a house. And remember, it’s the middle of the night so it’s really hard to see anything. Was the roof coming off? Was the house about to be blown away? I had no idea.

Thankfully things calmed down, the radio advising to stay alert, though, because this was just the eye of the storm. In other words, we were only halfway through.

1992andrew3

Storm damage in the area from Hurricane Andrew

We were ready to hunker down again after a quick assessment of the damage. There was a hole in the roof, a hole in the kitchen wall. Water on the kitchen floor. The porch blown away. Backyard fence missing in action. Then the good news… we weren’t in the eye of the storm, the storm was over! As it turns out the Coast Guard base was just outside the path of the eye, so there was so much damage to homes and buildings basically next door to the base. I became very thankful for government housing, our home being built well enough to withstand this historic hurricane.

The next day we began cleanup around the base and also began wondering about how we would get food and water. Well, remember how my dad was preparing for the worst? The Coast Guardsmen showed up with water buffalo trucks so we could all have clean water to drink. Truckloads of Gatorade. Canned food like tuna and spaghetti o’s.

They were heroes to all of us.

Hi there, don’t worry about unpacking, your stuff is about to be blown around town. -Andrew

All in all, it was an unique and peculiar way to be welcomed to Miami. And on top of that, school was supposed to start that week! It didn’t. Public school started a couple weeks later, and at Westminster, it took a full 6 weeks to get things back in order. So I guess, as a middle schooler, that can be seen as a silver lining?

-Out of the Wilderness

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All the jobs I’ve had with my brother

The other day I was thinking about how a lot of the jobs I’ve had are thanks to, and were right along side, members of my family. Probably because we’re both guys and only a year and a half apart, it was my brother that I worked with mostly. Going all the way
back to 4th grade, I remember helping him deliver newspapers when we lived in Fort Adams; military housing in Newport, Rhode Island.

Paper or plastic, ma’am?
wdMy first real job, though, was bagging groceries at Winn-Dixie in Miami, Florida… once the area recovered from Hurricane Andrew, that is. Who was bagging there, too? Yep, my bro. The dynamic duo at your service! I have a few memories from this job. The one that stands out most was this lady that came through the line, you had to keep an eye on her, for sure. Even thinking about it now, all the fear I had in the moment rushes back. I think she just had some sort of mental disorder but here’s what she would do: grab something from a nearby shelf (like a candy bar next to the register), throw it on the ground and step on it. At one point, she had a loaf of bread in her hand. Tossed it down, stepped directly in the middle of it. I couldn’t believe it. She did this with a few other things, too. Weird stuff, man.

We gotta wake up at what time????
hardeesFast forward a couple of years and my brother and I were spending the summer in Monticello, Florida. Our dad was starting a new job in New York, so he went up early, before the rest of us moved there from Florida. My mom was spending time in Tallahassee with her parents. So there we were living with my dad’s parents in a house they built off of South Mulberry Street. Well, about a block away was a Hardee’s. We both got jobs making biscuits on the weekend. We only worked a couple days a week, but just knowing we had to wake up at 4am both days was enough to ruin the entire week. But it was pretty awesome to have grandparents that woke up with us, made us breakfast, and drove us the 1 block to get there. And our boss was funny, in a “does he think we’re curing cancer?” kind of way. One time a batch of biscuits came out overcooked. Lost the batch. Boss proceeded to punch the wall. Classic.

You’ve got to scalp ’em Seminoles!
Two years later we were both students at Florida State and he helped me get a job at the Leach Center, where he was already working. We both worked there for the remainder of our college careers. This job reinforced the importance of being on time. They didn’t have much tolerance for being late, I’ll say that! We both made a lot of good friends there, some we are still friends with today. And by the way, if you’re ever trying to use someone else’s ID to sneak in somewhere, at least make sure you kinda sorta possibly look like them! College kids, man, you’d think they’d be a little smarter 😉Leach New Inside

It’s where, now?
Another place we both worked was a summer camp in Lampe, Missouri. It’s called Kanakuk. I know, I know, I just said a few words you may not have heard before. But Lampe is about an hour south of Branson and Kanakuk is pronounced can-uh-cuck. An amazing place for kids to learn sports taught by college athletes and at the same time, grow in your relationship with God. No, I was not a college athlete. Unless you count being intramural champs, baaabbaaayyy! DSC09261My brother and I both count Kanakuk as a big influence on our lives, from the people we met and worked with there, to shaping our outlook on life and faith.

We’ve also worked together on various video projects over the years. One might be a workout video, another a sports highlight reel. Here’s one we made recently of his son, my nephew, playing football.

So I’ll finish by saying that of all the things my brother is great at (sports, public speaking, being a brother, friend, etc), he’s also been a great co-worker. And he’s got an amazing younger brother, too!

-Out of the Wilderness

 

 

The year 1997: putting the O in pOpular

The year was 1997. I was a pale, skinny, timid high schooler walking the halls as a senior at Leon High School in Tallahassee, Florida. This city was different than what I was used to. Students drove big trucks with big Mickey Thompson tires.mickeythompson
In Miami, where I spent most of high school, the smaller the tires, the better.
Hooptie1Both were absurdly extreme. And possibly extremely absurd. But as a teen in Tallahassee, a must-have car accessory whether you rolled on mud tires or more efficient, less noisy stock tires was the O.
oakley sticker

It was practically your parking permit at Leon. Having mud tires and this sticker earned you triple bonus points and a spot on the football team.

20 years later I don’t see any Mickey Thompson tires, maybe because Nashville isn’t as “southern” as Tallahassee. I will see the O every once in a while, and it takes me right back to my days at Leon High School and that pair of Oakley’s I lost in Georgia when I left them on a rented van after me and my family went to Callaway Gardens for a holiday weekend full of lights and laughter… and tears.

-Out of the Wilderness

 

The 3 dancers in Omi’s “Cheerleader” video

A while back I posted info on the lead dancer/actress in Omi’s “Cheerleader” video. She’s Sheila Marie, and she can move! But there are a couple of dancers who join her on the Florida beach. I won’t even call them “the other dancers” because they’re so good!

“All these other girls are tempting…”

Yeah, these 2 dancers are cute, and they sure can dance! But who are they? Scroll down to find out! dancers1The one in the yellow skirt is Ja’Naye Thurston. As I looked into it more, I got a lesson on how talented she is: she’s a dancer for the Miami Heat basketball team, coaches dance, models, and appears in music videos and television programs. Oh, and I thought this was pretty cool: it wasn’t too long ago that she was a cashier at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant, and a sales associate at Macy’s (both according to her LinkedIn page). Not to mention she has a LinkedIn page! She makes having a LinkedIn page look cool. In fact, it’s endearing because it’s such a regular person thing to do. It just goes to show that hard work, a boatload of talent, and I guess being on LinkedIn, might just get you where you want to be!

Ja'Naye Thurston

Ja’Naye Thurston

The dancer with the bikini top is Yaritza Medina (pictured below on the right).
dancer3aShe’s appeared in quite a few music videos, programs on Univision and Telemundo, a couple of reality TV shows, and evidently knows Spanish really well; most of what I found about her was in Spanish, whether it was her Facebook fan page, or her Twitter and Instagram feed. So just like Ja’Naye, she’s got a lot going on, too, including acting, modeling, and choreographing.
dancers4There you have it! These three girls are working hard and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in music videos, on TV, and perhaps even movies if they choose to pursue that.

-Out of the Wilderness

The Reawakening: Part 11

It’s not see you later, it’s goodbye.

You know how when you are leaving your friends from high school, or college, or moving to a new town, some friends say, “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later”? I don’t feel that way at all about the job I was laid off of just a few months ago. The friends I made there? Yes, I will miss them and I know I’ll see some of them around town or in future work.

But I’ve got this comfortable feeling of rest and relief, maybe it’s called peace, about leaving that particular job in the past. It’s a part of my history that I’ll remember with a smile. Lots of good things can be directly related to it:
the first girl I ever loved
great downtown parking
amazing live music performances
an introduction to Roy D. Mercer
helping to produce nationally televised shows
great friendships
trips to places like Las Vegas, the gulf coast, Miami, Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York, and many more

The people that told me how fast time goes after you get laid off were not wrong. Hard to believe it’s already been over 5 months. But I haven’t missed the job for a second! I’ve had a great summer that I will look back on and thank CMT for making it happen. Soon I will have another job or two, I’ll be back in the “real world” of making paychecks and scraping by, but for a few months, I lived how I imagine my dogs feel every day. Wake up, have some fun, bark at things, eat, sleep.

-Out of the Wilderness

The woman in Omi’s “Cheerleader” music video…and other fun facts about the video

Undoubtedly the hit of the summer, right? But who’s this woman below? Scroll down to find out! sheila video

She’s cute, she can dance, and this is not the first music video she’s appeared in. But who is she? You’re about to find out!

sheila tattoo3

from her IMDB page

Her name is Sheila Leason but she goes by Sheila Marie (Marie is her middle name).

She’s also in the Nicki Minaj video “Only” as pictured here:Sheila NM3 Sheila NM4 Sheila NM5 Sheila NM6 Sheila NM7

She also played a part in the Elvis Crespo featuring Pitbull video “Sopa De Caracol.” If you want to see that, click here.

Since “Cheerleader” came out, she’s been in the Ray J featuring Lil Wayne video for “Brown Sugar.” Check it out here, she’s mostly in the last half of the video.

She’s been featured in Kay Jewelers stores, the link to those pics is here.

You should follow her on Twitter! Her handle is @Ms_SheilaMarie_

Her cousin is Associate Pastor Johnny Olivardia from Impact Church in Miami, Florida.

Taylor Swift goes wild in “Look What You Made Me Do”… check out how wild by clicking here!]

Some other fun facts about the song and the 2015 music video:

1. It was shot at Haulover Beach in Miami, Florida. Part of the beach is “clothing optional”…yes, that means there are naked people walking around so don’t look for Google images of the beach, or at least don’t say I didn’t warn you.

2. The dancers learned the choreography in just a few hours, according to this video.

3. The song was originally released in 2012 and was a hit in Jamaica and Hawaii. There’s a music video for that version (sans Sheila Marie), here:

4. “Cheerleader” started gaining traction in the U.S. when Simon Cowell (famous producer and former judge on American Idol) did a deadpan performance of the song, which you can see here.

5. The version we are hearing on the radio is the remix done by German DJ/producer Felix Jaehn, and if you haven’t seen the video yet, you might as well take a few minutes and check it out. 

6. The car looks to be a classic 1975 Chevy Caprice, as seen below. I learned from Johnny Diaz who reports for the Sun Sentinel that these restored and tailored cars are called donks. Thanks for the info Mr. Diaz! Read his article here.

caprice 75chev65874-17. Behind the scenes of the video:

8. You might be asking, “But who are the other two dancers in the video? Come on!” Well, I’ve got the answer, check it out on this more recent post.

9. It’s being called the song of the summer by lots of critics. Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon continues to say that, too, but also called this song a possible song of the summer. History will tell! Here’s a clip from the Tonight show of Jimmy doing a pretty hilarious rendition of the song as Donald Trump:

-Out of the Wilderness

The Case of the Missing Retainer

I was a junior in high school living in New York City. We had just moved there from Miami, Florida, where we had been for 3 years. Our stay in New York wasn’t for long, only 6 months because my dad retired from the Coast Guard. We couldn’t continue living on the military base (Governor’s Island) so we packed up and moved to Tallahassee, Florida. I wasn’t sad about the move because during the 6 months I was able to do make some memories: snow skiing, sitting in the audience for a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman, playing flag football, learning how to type fast, trying out for the school basketball team, and whitewater rafting with my dad. But one thing I wasn’t able to do was get my braces taken off. I was in 9th grade when I got them. Why? Well, let’s just say the theme song for my teeth was Fleetwood Mac’s…

Some people had buck teeth. I had a buck tooth. And none of my other teeth pointed the right way either. I got braces in Miami, kept them in New York, and it was my senior year at Leon High School (go Lions) in Tallahassee when they were finally removed. “Phew! Just in time for my senior pictures!” But it was in New York that the unsolved case of the missing retainer happened.

One night, a lot like any other, I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. I dutifully inserted the retainer which I was supposed to wear while I slept. However, when I woke up the next morning, it was gone. Ruh roh Raggy. I checked everywhere. The bathroom trash. My bed sheets. Under the bed. Beside the bed. Under the pillow? Nope. Days went by and the retainer was still missing in action. When it came time to move, I thought, “OK, now that retainer will turn up!” It didn’t. To this very day, I can’t explain what happened that night. The only chance of reopening this cold case is to find the retainer in the box of my stuff in my parent’s attic. And honestly, I hope it’s not there. That would be gross. Can you imagine the smell? Of course, I’m curious how much a vintage 1996 retainer would go for on eBay.

The moral of the story is that sometimes things just go away and you have to be alright with that. It could be a retainer or it could be a person you love. In the end your teeth might still be a little crooked and so might be the path you take, but you should still smile, and smell the roses along the way.

-Out of the Wilderness