One of the first things we noticed when we started looking at houses in Vieques is that most of them are built almost entirely of concrete—including, not incidentally, the one we bought.
They have their pluses and minuses. While it’s true that concrete walls make the simple task of hanging a picture an hour-long ordeal…
…they also cut down considerably on termite damage (unless you get concrete-loving termites, but we’ve already covered that particular horror).
More important, concrete walls help keep your house from falling down during a hurricane.
That’s a big plus.
Most people unfamiliar with Vieques assume that the best houses are on the beach. But because most of the best beaches on the island are located on land that was requisitioned in the 1950s by the U.S. Navy, those same beaches are on protected land today.
Thus, no houses.
Sure, there are a handful of beachfront houses on the island—our friend Steven has one in Bravos de Boston, and the view from his living room is stunning.
But the beaches these houses face are relatively meager by Vieques standards.
And then of course there’s always the possibility that a huge wave will crash into your parlor and completely destroy everything you’ve worked for the past ten years.
That’s why we bought in the hills.
I’ve never been a person who obsesses about weather. Michael, on the other hand, watches the Weather Channel on a daily basis. To him, Doppler radar has the same appeal as a video game to a fourteen year old boy. He simply can’t enough of it.
To be honest, when we bought the house I barely gave a thought to hurricanes. I’m a worrier, to be sure, but my worrying is highly focused and somewhat stylized.
I worry about walking out the door in brown shoes and a black belt, not about acts of God. I’m so busy obsessing about those unsightly dings in the side of my car I forget to change the oil.
You get the picture.
Of all the things I fretted about in the weeks leading up to our purchase of the house in Vieques (the extent to which my skin would suffer from increased daily exposure to a tropical sun, etc.), acts of God didn’t even make the list.
But hurricanes came into much sharper focus the first time I surfed past the Weather Channel and happened to notice a pinwheel-shaped mass hovering almost directly over Puerto Rico.
“Oh my god, is that what a hurricane looks like?” I wailed to Michael, who (naturally) was also watching and could barely form a complete sentence he was so agitated by what was unfolding on his TV screen.
“Is our house in danger?” I asked.
He was clearly scared, and soon I was too. We sat side by side for at least two hours while the Weather Channel ran through its staggeringly boring cycle of weather updates.
By midnight the hurricane had veered north, leaving lots of fallen branches and downed power lines in its wake but no serious damage.
I called Jane the next morning. “We need hurricane shutters.”
“Yes, you do.”
“Who do we call about getting them?”
“Can you hurry?”
She laughed. “I can try.”