Ask Matt Labash

              With nightfall approaching, Rodrigo Vargas, 25, of Seaside Heights, N.J., ponders treading through floodwaters to check on his second floor apartment a day after superstorm Sandy rolled through the barrier island community, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Sandy, the superstorm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Ask Matt Labash: Hurricane Sandy lifestyle adjustments

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Matt Labash
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      Matt Labash

      Hi, welcome to “Ask Matt Labash.” I’ll be your host, Matt Labash. The idea for this column – if idea isn’t too strong a word – is that it is not a column at all. Rather, it’s a conversation. One in which I do ninety-five percent of the talking. If you did most of the talking, you’d have to watch my eyes go dead and my attention wander until it was my turn to talk again. So trust me, it’s better this way.

      For those unfamiliar with me from my day job at The Weekly Standard, I’ll give you a capsule bio by way of introduction: I have the gift of wisdom. Does that sound arrogant? I’m sorry, that wasn’t my intention. I didn’t choose wisdom. It chose me. If I had my druthers, I’d have chosen another gift, perhaps the untold riches of Lil’ Wayne, whose teeth are made of actual diamonds, or to be the sexiest man alive, like Rachel Maddow. But wisdom is what they gave me, so wisdom is all I have to give back to you.

      This is not, you should know, a mere advice column. If you need advice, I’ll give it. But the only rule here is that there are no rules. You can ask me a question about anything that’s on your mind: current events, pop culture, media, theology, string theory, fishing tips, wicker repair. The only limits we have are those of your imagination. And those of my knowledge base. Which is considerably limited, truth be told. So try not to ask me anything that requires research. Though they tell me I have access to Google on this computer if we need it.

      If all goes according to plan, ours will not be a traditional writer/reader relationship. It’s more complex than that. I might empathize or cajole. I might educate, instruct, or inspire. I might pretend to answer your question while actually reporting you to Social Services, since you’re a dangerous person who should not have contact with children. I might tell you to climb up on my shoulders, that you’re not heavy, you’re my brother. Or I might tell you that you are heavy, and that you should hop down until you lose a few pounds. I might just sidle up behind you, put my big strong man hands on the small of your back, and whisper in your ear the words of the poet, Kenny Rogers: “We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?”

      To which you’ll say something like, “I can’t, I’ve got to go home and wash my hair.”
      To which I’ll say something like, “Shhh. We’ve got tonight babe, why don’t you stay?”
      Wherever this takes us, our journey begins now:

      <i>Matt Labash is a senior writer with The Weekly Standard. His first book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Fly-Fishing-Darth-Vader-Evangelical/dp/1439159971">Fly Fishing with Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys</a> will be published next month by Simon & Schuster.</i>

EDITOR’S NOTE: Have a burning sensation? Consult your doctor. Have a burning question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.

Mr. Labash, Is the recent hurricane the best near-term opportunity I could expect to fake my own death? I have real concerns about the enjoyability of my current life path and wonder if a “reboot,”  as it were, is my best option. I’m a standard Floridian with an upside down mortgage, home zoo, complicated legal issues in other states, and an Escalade with 24″ Dubs. Cordially, Ms. Tified in Miami-Dade

First, let me say that in regards to your being a standard Floridian, you have my sympathies. Though your home zoo sounds intriguing. Do you have pandas? Because Jim Treacher loves pandas. Especially when cooked medium rare. But considering that as of this writing, 74 unfortunate souls have in fact perished due to Hurricane Sandy, I’d have to be a monster or an MSNBC anchor to make the hurricane about something other than what it is about: the loss of life, the destruction of entire cities, and one of the scariest weather events in a decade that is shaping up to be almost nothing but.

But what you’re doing is normal. You’re asking the question most selfless Americans these days ask during times of great national consequence: “how does it affect me?” So that this question is not really about Sandy at all, it’s about you, Ms. Tified, which incidentally, would be an excellent  handle if you decide to make a fresh go of it in Florida’s robust hip-hop community.

Here is an uncomfortable truth. For most of us, it’s really hard not to watch calamity unfold. Even for me personally — when reporting from places like a smoldering post 9/11 Manhattan, or post-Katrina New Orleans, or post-earthquake Haiti  — the cliché rings true: we are never quite so alive as when we’re rubbing elbows with death. All of the sudden, concerns such as why my ice-maker isn’t cranking out enough ice or why my Weed Eater won’t start on the first pull, find their rightful place at the bottom of the Hierarchy of Misfortunes.

The threat of annihilation is something that commands our full attention, that forces us to clock our relation to it. Perhaps this is because it reminds us that we dodged a bullet ourselves, and as Churchill said, “There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.” Was the sense of relief I felt, after spending the better part of a night trenching my yard in a driving rain in order to divert water from my basement during Sandy, diminished or enhanced because places like Union Beach, New Jersey were nearly totaled by the same storm? The ugly answer is probably both. Enhanced, because the same fate didn’t befall me or mine — a fact that despite my preparations, I had literally no control over. Diminished, because watching my drenched, newly homeless, terrified-out-of-their-minds fellow human beings suffering reminds us all that the bubble of security we like to hope we inhabit could be punctured at any moment. And when that moment comes, you often lose more than your material possessions — you lose your entire frame of reference. To think it can’t happen to you is worse than arrogance. It’s foolishness.