IntroHi. My name is Josh. For a while, I have been using this blog to exclusively write reviews of board games. I've debated back and forth in my mind for a while whether I wanted to include "site news" posts or not, but thus far have refrained. However, something has happened that has caused me to go ahead and start that section. Bluntly, my house was blown down in a tornado.
Trying to Get HomeSo, what do you do when you find out that your house is flattened? Well, if you are like me, then you are worried about looters. Now, specifically, in the high tech age, my main concern is identity theft. Many of my documents including social security cards, etc, were suddenly relatively easy to steal (in my mind - though after seeing the actual house, I think it would have been a very dedicated looter to get to where I had stored them). So, after calling the insurance adjuster, I was on the phone with Delta attempting to get back home. The person I talked to was awesome. Kudos. He got me and my wife on a flight for the next day, and didn't charge any of the customary rebooking fees which would have normally run me around $700 from the pricings I had seen online. So all that was left was to restlessly lay in bed until our flight the next afternoon.
We arrived in Atlanta with no real problems, but as many of you grizzled travelers know, that is when you have to run all the way across the airport to your next destination. We did so, and then we were presented with something that we should have probably expected - the weather was still horrible. Our flight was cancelled. I won't go into the whole sob story of how frustrated we were for around 5 or more hours in Atlanta trying to get home, but eventually, we were able to get on a flight to Tulsa that landed at 10 PM CST. (Keep in mind, we flew out of Northwest Arkansas, and so we had no car and no luggage. My little joke to my wife was that the airline lost our luggage on purpose just to make sure that we had absolutely nothing; though in actuality, they just hadn't successfully sent any flights to Northwest Arkansas that night.) We went to my parent's house, talked for a few hours, and then headed to Wal-Mart to buy the basics that we would need for the night - a change of clothes, contact solution, deodorant. Then off to bed for some more restless sleep.
Digging Through PilesLet me start this section by telling you - I am a very blessed individual. I have never been more popular than since this tragedy occurred. I have received numerous phone calls, texts, and even a BoardGameGeek forum all in an effort to help me. I have already received several donations on Pay Pal, and many people have offered to help me refill my collection of games that I lose through this. However, this section, specifically, is called digging through piles.
During my digging, I really found several great surprises. My wife was very sad that she had lost many things of sentimental value to her - some very meaningful pictures, some antique furniture that had been in her family for generations, etc. She was still trying to get to Joplin after having to pick up our car from Northwest Arkansas, and so I knew that I really needed to keep an eye out for any of these things that could be saved for her. Lo and behold - many were saved! Randomly throughout the morning, someone would come up to me and show me a picture they had found and, viola! another thing that my wife could be excited about. We were able to save her favorite picture of us as a couple (from when we were still dating), her favorite picture of her Mom, and also an old family picture from when she was a baby. Most were probably water damaged, but the original is intact enough that we should be able to restore them. Another item that I found was an envelope full of money (and my Gen Con money) - like many other people, I keep a supply of "petty cash" on hand at my house shoved in a random sock drawer-type location. I figured that location was lost forever since it was in the back of the house, which was hit the hardest (and this would have been unfortunate, since the insurance only covers up to $100). Lo and behold, I found my money - now I can afford to buy something new at Gen Con! Sweet! I and/or my fellow scavengers also found some of my more valuable baseball cards, autographed baseballs, DVD's, coins, and some other "useful" stuff.
Here's an aside about baseball. I really like baseball; always have. I remember watching it as a kid, and collecting billions of worthless baseball cards (worthless because of the timeframe of them, not the tornado - I got rid of most of those useless ones a long time ago). In 2004, I decided that it would be neat to visit each baseball stadium and watch a live baseball game there (though with the rate they're building new stadiums, I feel I only have to watch the team once); my wife liked the idea so much that she decided that we needed to do this. In case you're curious, we've been to the following since then: Kansas City, St. Louis, Texas, Houston, San Francisco, Oakland, Cincinnati, Minnesota (both the Metrodome and Target Field), Boston, Baltimore, Washington, and (on our very shortlived Miami vacation), the Florida Marlins. I tell you all of this to let you know that I have kept the ticket stubs to each of these games. We were also fortunate enough to get to go to the World Series last year to watch the Texas Rangers play (my wife is a die hard Rangers fan). We had the World Series tickets framed, and the other tickets in a box in our closet that we were going to frame later. I tell you all this to let you know - I found most of this stuff! I know that I found the World Series tickets, and I also found many of the other ticket stubs (though they were a bit damp). That was another exciting find!
"A Lesson For Board Gamers"After digging through every part of the house, the last place to clear out was my board game closet. I expected everything to be trashed - I mean, a pile of cardboard pieces with paper instructions among no roof and enough rain to cause significant flooding? No chance. However, as it turned out, the closet I used to store my board games seems to be the sturdiest room in our entire house! Sure, I had lots of games that didn't make it - card games were triple their normal size, a game or two fell apart on me as I picked it up, and any game that wasn't in the closet at the time of the tornado was utterly obliterated (poor Lords of Vegas - I should have taken a picture of it, because it was impressively destroyed; no two parts were really in the same place). How the shelves were setup in my game closet seemed to prevent most of the water from hitting the games, though. At least, the games that were off the ground. So, here are some lessons for board gamers: 1) pick up your games - poor Lords of Vegas didn't have a chance; 2) not just in the closet, but actually on the shelves; Punct was another one that by the end of the day was just squish; my new copy of At the Gates of Loyang was in the floor too (in the shrink!) and it got pretty soaked 3) choose a very sturdy location in the house to store your games. I recommend a place that is very central, has no windows, etc, etc. Basically, record a weather interruption where they tell you where to hide - that's where you want to put your board games. Especially, because then in a tornado, you have entertainment! (Though I hope none of you ever go through one.)
Things I Learned TodayFirst of all - I have too much stuff. I plan on not replacing a lot of it. Yeah, I'll probably keep buying games at a rate that is drastically unhealthy for anything but keeping the FLGS (friendly local game store) in business and allowing me to have new games to review on the site), but I will probably try to stop buying so much of everything else. At least until I forget this lesson. I'm thinking about framing one of these pictures to help remind me. Seriously.
Second, there are a lot of things that happen in natural disasters that you would never think of. Here's one of the things I'm trying to figure out - how do I get my lot cleared? I will probably choose not to rebuild, and so I will be the owner of a very cluttered small plot of land in Joplin. It has a basement. How do I get that filled so that I'm not liable for somone falling into it and getting hurt? I don't honestly know that, but since there are lots of other people in the same predicament, I'm hoping someone else can help with that.
Also, here are some other things that you don't really think of. How recently have you had your tetanus shot? I don't really know, and neither do most people that I talk to, and we're all digging through piles of board with rusty nails in them from almost a century ago. Fortunately, Walgreen's was giving out free tetanus shots. That's pretty cool, and I'm glad they were doing something you wouldn't have thought of. Next, people get hurt and need blood. You should give blood to your local blood bank if you are able to keep it stocked - you don't know when someone will need it. Third (or so), it can be really hard to find places when you don't have any street signs or landmarks. I've lived at my house for almost 4 years, driving up and down the same roads through that entire time, and I still had to pay really close attention so that I would know where I was and not pass my house! There were also lots of insurance people, and concerned volunteers that were trying to find certain houses, which is very hard to do when there are no street signs and no addresses on houses. Finally, if you are digging through piles of rubble, wear sunscreen! As it turns out, I get a nasty sunburn when working in my house when it doesn't have a roof anymore.
The other next thing that I have to do is figure out where to live. In a city of 40,000 to start with, when 30% of the city is destroyed, finding rental property within an hour is going to be challenging if not impossible. Do you remember where I said earlier that I am blessed? I lost track of how many people offered to let me stay at their homes. I took one of them up on it! However, as I do not want to overstay my welcome, I will need to figure out a more long-term solution soon.
If You Would Like To HelpIf you would like to donate to me (which is actually not in any way why I wrote this), then feel free to use the PayPal link on the right of the blog in the "Support the Site" section. If you would like to help the greater need, then I have posted some idea on the Board Game Geek forum that I mentioned earlier that you can see here. Here's the short summary copied from over there:
If you want to give money to help the city of Joplin, the Red Cross seems to be a very good option - they seem to have stations setup across the city, they are running blood drives, giving out food and water, helping provide clothes, etc. Please try to make sure it is tagged for Joplin.
If you are interested in sending other things: used toys, extra board games (possibly those games that aren't geeky enough for you), clothes, shoes, etc, etc, or have some aversion to the Red Cross, my understanding is that College Heights Christian Church is serving as a dropoff point that is working with the United Way. You can check out http://www.chcchurch.org/the-storm for more info. Their address is:
College Heights Christian Church
4311 E. Newman Road
Joplin, MO 64801
(I would recommend marking the packages as "donations for tornado victims" or something similar so they know what is going on)
And their phone number (may be hard to get ahold of someone, I don't know) is 417.624.6915
Finally, if you are somewhat near Joplin, there may be a dropoff point near you (to where you don't have to pay for shipping). Check out http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=117118671706061