Letter From the Editor: Keeping Watch

The ritual of an eternal hurricane watch.

I have an obsession with looking ahead. Not in the sense of being a consummate planner—I’m the ultimate procrastinator—but rather imagining “Where will I be in 20 years?’’ Or, when it’s hurricane season, pondering a future closer at hand. As in “What will life be like a week from now?’’

That feeling prevailed in early September as Hurricane Dorian approached Florida. I have lived in this state for 44 years, including a decade along the east coast, and as the outlook grew worse, I wondered if this monster storm could be the one that changed everything, devastating beach cities, causing incredible destruction inland. Instead, we were saved by something called a low-pressure trough, which kept Dorian at bay. Instead of stalling over us, it did so over the Bahamas, inflicting unimaginable destruction there. And Central Florida was spared the big one yet again.

The latest scare made me realize that most of my life has been one big hurricane watch, at least from June through November. And preparation becomes somewhat of a survivalist game: At what point do you make the journey to Costco to stock up? When do you hit the gas station? How full do you really want the freezer to be?

When Dorian’s threat became ominous, I asked the writers whose work you see regularly on these pages to be prepared to write about what they observed and experienced. In the end, of course, there was little drama to report. Their routine became like everyone else’s: finding things to do with the kids at home because schools were closed, bringing outdoor furniture inside, making sure the cat didn’t escape from the house, baking brownie crisps (I need that recipe, Joseph Hayes), enduring the melodramatic meanderings of the Weather Channel.

Michael McLeod, who has a knack for putting these things into colorful perspective, had this observation, while Dorian was still out there, about to become one of the most powerful storms ever:

“If I hadn't been reading the news the only clue I would have had that something out of the ordinary was afoot was when I walked outside at dusk and found myself staring at one of the most beautiful skies I'd ever seen, with a sliver of turquoise on the western horizon and a menagerie of clouds of so many colors it reminded me of those paint-sample panels at the hardware store. They were moving together like a herd of spooked animals, headed in an unfamiliar direction—southeast, toward skies not quite so placid, and skywatchers less fortunate.”

As I write this column, we remain in the heart of storm season, with the National Hurricane Center monitoring three named storms and two other disturbances in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Here’s hoping that none amount to anything serious—and that I don’t start overthinking the future.

On to brighter subjects—like this month’s issue! We’ve got food adventures galore and we’re not talking about clearing the grocery shelves of canned goods. Rather, Dining Critic Joseph Hayes leads us on the third annual exploration of must-try offerings from restaurants, markets, and other food and drink purveyors. From rubs to Reubens, frog legs to food trucks, great breakfasts to bizarre burgers, there’s something for everyone. Elsewhere, entertainer Wayne Brady talks about his journey from Orlando to national stardom; we offer a history lesson on venerable LaBelle Furs; and Frankenstein’s monster, from Halloween Horror Nights, tells all.

Finally, there’s a bit of extra fun in store starting with this issue. To be a part of it, open the app store on your phone and download the Orlando Magazine Insider app. Then, with your device's camera, use the app to scan the pages with the special symbol scattered throughout the issue, plus the cover. And be prepared to unlock goodies like extra content, videos and free subscriptions. Find details on how it works here.

Categories: Column