After spending almost the entire day yesterday watching the amazing human drama unfold across Hurricane Erin ravaged Oklahoma, and getting the girls off to school this morning, I called the sculptor who is the subject of the video documentary I've been working on for a little over a year.
His shop is in the same town that made national news yesterday due to a dramatic helicopter rescue of an elderly couple who saw their pickup being swept away from beneath them in a torrential wave of Oklahoma mud and Erin's tears.
In fact, his shop is mere blocks from where the actual rescue happened.
And what glimpses of his shop I could see from the news choppers video feeds of the flooded downtown made me cringe to think what a mess he would be facing today.
He was fairly upbeat considering the massive cleanup he was facing and cheerfully accepted my offerings of manual muck removing labor and as many "sorry I tracked mud into your place," jokes as I could muster.
So, with my video camera slung on my shoulder, a pair of Playtex living rubber gloves in my back pocket, and a doo-rag wrapped tightly around my noggin, I made my way over to the little town he lives in and the little shop that only yesterday was under 5 feet of water.
The main highway into town wasn't open yet, so I had to navigate through the back streets and negotiate some pretty ominous looking puddles. I parked well south of where the water had collected in a nearby parking lot and made my way over.
A bevy of clean-up workers were already swarming in, out and around the hardware store that sits right next to the sculptor's studio.
At the studio, I found the sculptor and his wife making progress with the mud and water that covered every inch of the floor, and every surface of every object that was underneath the water.
Miraculously, his desktop was safe and dry, with the waterline approaching a fraction of a millimeter below the top of the desk. Computer, bills, invoices, correspondence, post-it notes, photos of family on vacation in the Baltic Sea -- all safe and secure without any inkling of knowledge that they were trace elements of H20 away from being muddied and sullied by the great wave of '07.
I shot some video, mouth hanging wide open and doing my best not to do a human mud bog run while my 2-year old beater sketchers with nary a tread left on their soles navigated the muddy cement floors.
Video safely recorded on tape for all eternity it was time to get muddy.
We discussed the best way to approach the clean-up and decided to get as much mud off the floor and out the door, then shoot it all down with a hose and squeegie the whole mess out.
I went through several shoveling, squeeging, and brushing type apparatuses before decided that I just needed to put my head down, grab a dustpan and do some honest to "Bob the Builder" scraping of the thick mud off the floor and into shovel worthy piles.
It was worthy of a segment on Dirty Jobs, but after a few hours, complete with interruptions by B-roll seeking video crews, an interview by a young and hungry reporter from OETA with the sculptor, sandwich break provided by a concerned M-i-L, a bevy of visitors, lookee-loos, photojournalist, friends and well-wishers.
I departed an hour before kiddie school pickup time, with a promise to return on the morrow with a new set of gettin' muddy duds on and a set to gloves to help move the debris that flooded into town, through the 15' metal rolling door and came to rest at the front wall of his large workspace.
Did I say debris?
Wooden pallets, lumber, doors, shelves, bicycles, a battery-operated Power Wagon Hummer, tools, an entire table saw, pipes, trees, probably a host of dead critters, and on top of the entire pile sits a relatively new looking, completely intact Kenmore refrigerator.
I bet a car or two tried to get in but saw the studio space was too crowded and floated away to find a better place to park itself. In fact, the only thing missing was Miss Belvedere.
I'm considering this whole experience a part of my Okie-fication process. Now I have some red dirt mud under my nails in my hair and surrounding my soul.
These Okie's are tough folk.