In Fall 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast of the United States. Houses were destroyed, families were displaced, and lives were in ruin. This is the grim backdrop for our story today, dear reader: a ludicrous tale involving leftover vodka, torrential rain, violent winds, a dead squirrel, a furious dog, and corpse disposal – all of it true. But keep in mind as I tell you this unusual story that the hurricane serving as our story’s setting was no laughing matter.
As the hurricane began to hit New Jersey, I was home with my parents. I had joined the band Ours only months earlier, and a few days after the hurricane, we were to hole up at a studio in Hudson, New York to begin recording what eventually became the record “Ballet the Boxer I.” But prior to recording, all of us were in our separate locations waiting out the storm. As the rain came down in sheets, I took to drinking. At the time, I wasn’t much of a drinker at all, but being 21, there was a large bottle of Burnett’s Orange Flavored Vodka under my bed leftover from a small gathering with friends. Burnett’s Orange is disgusting, and if you know that particular brand of flavored vodkas, you know exactly what I mean. It tastes like when you take liquid cough medicine as a child and the label tells you that it’s berry-flavored, but it tastes like cleaning fluid. But, seeing as this was the only alcohol in the house, I was adding it into glasses of some sort of tropical juice mixture. Before I knew it, I was good and loose.
When the wind picked up, the large double gates to the back yard were beginning to show signs of blowing open. Not wanting this to happen, I was sent outside to find some sort of solution. In my inebriation, I threw on a pair of slip-on dress shoes and went out into the storm. Why dress shoes? I was drunk; there was certainly more appropriate footwear, but I was thrust into action and two sheets to the wind. I went outside and moved one of the two large pieces of wooden lawn furniture that my late grandfather built to one side of the gate, and the other piece on the opposite side. This bookended the gate and kept it in place, not too shabby for a drunken buffoon.
The hurricane continued to rage, and for the most part my family was largely unaffected. Apart from the wind causing all kinds of havoc in the back yard, our house was safe from damage and flooding. Oscar, our rambunctious English Bull Terrier, was let outside to do whatever bathroom business he needed to do. Shortly after he was let out, I heard screaming downstairs that the dog had gotten a hold of something. We’d only had the dog a year or so, but I knew the screaming meant he had caught an animal. He wasn’t a mean dog, but the breed is known for varmint hunting, and so Oscar was only doing his job. I once again put on the aforementioned slip-on dress shoes – once you’ve got a good thing going, you know the deal – and headed outside to see what all the fuss was about.
Oscar had somehow managed to find and catch a squirrel in one of the more violent storms of our lifetime. I don’t know where the poor thing was, or why it was on the ground at night during a hurricane, but Oscar got a hold of it. Our beefy dog gripped the unfortunate creature with his alligator-like jaws, swinging it hither and thither. My mother was screaming to get the squirrel away from him, and so my father and I sprang into action. My father, who only a year prior suffered a stroke, grabbed the squirrel with his good arm while I held the dog. The wild wind whipped up and the rain stung as it made contact with our skin. My dad tried to pull the squirrel away from the dog in hopes of saving the little fellow’s life, but succeeded only in pulling the hair off the creature’s tail.
Finally, I managed to pry the dog’s mouth open – all the while laughing hysterically – and wrested the squirrel from his jaws. I remind you once again that I was quite drunk. There was a lot of action, and before I knew it I had swiftly disposed of the squirrel’s corpse over the fence into a neighbor’s yard. On prior occasions where Oscar caught an animal, I had gotten a grocery store bag and put the departed creature into it before putting it in the trash; but for some reason this time my instinct was to ditch the corpse quickly. Once the bare-tailed squirrel corpse was out of the way, I turned back to Oscar, who was in a frenzy. We had stopped him mid-kill, and he was furious. We were frightened because we’d never seen this otherwise silly dog so vicious, so I ushered the family inside and left Oscar out in the rain for a minute or so to cool down. He eventually came in, we cleaned the mud and blood off him and ourselves, and the night ended without further incident.
And so, that’s the story of how at 21 I got drunk during a hurricane and disposed of a squirrel corpse into a neighbor’s back yard. It doesn’t portray me in the best light, but I’m not going to win anyone over by hiding who I am. It’s in our vulnerability that integrity lies, not in our projections of ourselves and what we want people to believe we are.