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Friday, September 1, 2017

How Harvey Could Not Split the Party

I guess that it should come to no ones surprise that as the hurricane named Harvey loomed ever closer to the Texas coastline, and as my family who live in/around Houston began to prepare for the potential onslaught that may come by stockpiling water, dry goods, and all of the fixin's for french toast, that in the back of my mind my little lizard brain all full of lessons hard won and learned during countless years and endless sessions began to whisper one quiet, recurring thought.

Don't split the party.

My father moved us to Houston in the summer of 1986.  Like many folks before him, he was lured to Houston by a job.  He was, and to my mind still is, a furrier.  Neiman-Marcus had need of his skills, and in a business dying off as a middle-class luxury he followed the money and took us all with him.  I was 16, my sister 14 and my brother was 5 when we left Philadelphia and headed south into the unknown.

They are all still there, my family.  In the mid-90's I moved back home, to Philly, but that is another story.  Suffice it to say that it was me, initially, who split the party.

My siblings are grown now, and they all have their own families, their own jobs, lives, and homes around the Houston area.  My folks settled finally in Richmond, TX., a small suburb-town a few miles southwest of the Houston metroplex (an atrocious yet appropriate word) near the Brazos River.  My sister lives a mile or so from them, my brother in a northern suburb about 45 minutes away.  They split the party as well, but my move was the greatest in terms of physical distance.  We are a close family, as families these days go. We have our moments, but we are a true party.

My father, ever the Fighter/Cleric, a combat medic in Vietnam before wife and kids and furrier were ever born.  My mother a cleric as well, though not clinging so tightly to her faith as to her family.  My sister, like my father, a Fighter.  Not the sharpest sword in the sheath but tenacious, and when confronted, outright deadly.  Her Con and Str are high.  She can dual wield, and her reaction time gives her many pluses to init.  My brother the quiet Cavalier.  No specialist, but a bright and shining generalist, ever ready to help with a hand.  Loyal and trustworthy, a better friend likely none have ever had.

Me?  Always the Magic-user/Thief...but maybe you already knew that.

Together we had managed to overcome many foes, monsters, traps, dungeons...rarely gold at the end of any adventure, but always the company.  Always the family.

As I watched from the couch last weekend, the rain and wind battering first Corpus, and then moving up the coastline until at last the full-force of this horrible weather event struck at the heart of Houston, I had never before felt so helpless.  My parents, sibling, and my surviving grandparents were all huddled in their homes, often sheltering in place as tornado warnings began to appear.  My sister sending regular updates from her house as her family sat in the bathroom near the tub.  The news on the TV getting worse and worse, and the real issue, that each of my comrades was stuck in place.  As I sat glued to the TV, I reached for my Dagger and my Wand, but neither would be of any use from where I sat, 1000 plus miles from the hurricane.

The party had been split.

Enough drama.  You know what happened.  Either you are/were there and you're dealing with the aftermath or you watched TV and saw the images of folks needing rescue by boat or by helicopter, looked on as the city prepared shelters for the newly homeless.

My family, all of them, were incredibly lucky.  While those around them lost hearth and home, the wisdom of my father kept them all safe.  He had always made one rule about buying or renting a home in Houston.  My dad knew that we were close to sea level, and near the coast, and he insisted that my siblings live on the highest ground they could find.  Often not good at listening, his kids knew this time he was right, and so my brother and sister purchased homes on hills in a land were there were few.

They were lucky, but it was a close call.  Water was inches from each of their doors.  Many neighbors, even on adjacent streets quickly became flood victims.  I feel awful for everyone affected by this terrible storm.  It was never far from my thoughts that I should be there with them, that if I was nearby I would have somehow been able to help if something terrible had come for them.  It was never clearer to me that the D&D party is nothing more than the fictional representation of a family.  The not-so-real trials and tribulations, the adventures we share at the gaming table are all metaphor for the real world, and if we are lucky then the comrades who sit at the gaming table with us, these folks are our family members.

Even with distance between them, my father had managed not to split the party.

To those of you affected by this storm, I say Don't Split the Party! Cling tightly to those who you care for and who care for you, and together help those around you.  Be generous with what you have, care for your neighbors (your extended party, as so many of my parents' neighbors were with them) and even with strangers in need.  This is not, nor shall it ever be, a country divided by color, creed, or politics...and no storm, no matter how large or devastating, will sunder what we as a nation have wrought.

For the folks like me, with friends and family caught up in the aftermath of Harvey, I understand how you feel and know that you have not abandoned your party.  They know that you would be there to help if you were able.  Your comrades know that you are now, and ever will be, a member of the party.

Stay strong Houston.  You've got this.


  1. Terrific allegory, Howard. I continue to pray that the bonds you mentioned in party/family/community remain strong and/or grow stronger in the areas most affected by the hurricane. I'm glad your family is safe.

    1. thanks Mike. appreciate your i hope my friends in FLA remain safe. Crazy weather season.