He ejaculates tornadoes for breakfast; he taught Obama to surf
by Michael Pinchera
As Emmy-award-winner and professional storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski shared the chaos and excitement of Hurricane Harvey’s Aug. 25 landfall on the Texas coast through his Periscope stream, memes were born.
The first meme saw Jeff immortalized as a super-powerful, all-knowing and benevolent god among men. Any exaggerated, smartass comment of strength that previously could be attributed to martial artist and mullet-headed ranger Chuck Norris was now an achievement of Jeff. (“Jeff pardoned the hurricane.”) All weekend long, no Periscope comment stream was spared the undying adoration of Jeff.. .it didn’t matter if the video was of rising flood waters narrated by a septuagenarian on a bicycle who was risking his life to share the tragic scenes in Houston or that of a Baltimore #cashmeoutside clone smoking a poorly rolled blunt and verbally assaulting her viewers. Jeff was everywhere. And Jeff is great, and I obviously spent too much time watching his stream as the disaster unfolded, but in those wet, sometimes horizontal, sometimes vertical transmissions I found meaning through an unexpected star.
With the hurricane’s eye wall getting closer, Jeff, along with some of his TwisterChasers.com crew found cover at Island Car Wash (2019 Highway 35 N, Rockport, Texas), a self-serve car wash (or “worsh” after the word escapes from Jeff’s Oklahoma-accented maw, all praise be onto Jeff) complete with a small, ancillary, tropical-blue out-building.
Camera facing forward through the car’s windshield, the square structure known as “ole blue” and then “blue shed” occupied the left side of the screen as rain and debris shuttled back and forth like white noise. #blueshed was born on Twitter at 7:17 p.m. via Logan Johnson — a hashtag that certainly first saw light moments earlier in the overly aroused Periscope commentary.
(“Everything is disintegrating!”). As the office buildings and strip mall businesses around Jeff met a twisted, violent end at 145 mph, #blueshed remained standing
Boom! “Holy shit, you see that fucking roof come apart, man?” Platoon’s Bunny would have asked in a psychotically excited tone if he was watching. The panic — or maybe it was determination — exploded from Jeff’s voice, actions and camera work as Harvey turned structures into debris, live for 50k+ viewers… death of sorts (“Everything is disintegrating!”). As the office buildings and strip mall businesses around Jeff met a twisted, violent end at 145 mph, #blueshed remained standing and — as soon as the calm eye emerged overhead — the chasers took off to find a safer location to ride out the second half of the storm. No longer just a hashtag, the channel’s meme No. 2 was born.
“But what of #blueshed?” viewers of questionable breeding asked once they realized no one was hurt from this ‘lil bit of Harvey’s wrath. Late into the night, viewers awaited the notification that Jeff was live again, peace be upon him. Ding! Click on the new stream and his live viewer numbers quickly ramp up…14…72…260…9k…34k.
Now at a Wal-Mart, Jeff helped a truck driver by ascertaining the safest wall on which to park for optimal shielding from winds and debris. The feed flickered. A lone cat is noted, but not aided. People plead for #blueshed resolution.
@TheRealBlueShed and @BlueShedHarvey appear on Twitter, as do numerous other social media manifestations, complete with the expected commentary of an inanimate object that faced a Big Bad Wolf death and was already missing its best friend (Jeff, duh). Then before the backside of the storm’s apparently gorgeous eye fully receded, Jeff’s feed went out. And he’s gone.
Tweets, comments on Reddit and other Periscope discussions all yearn for a brief post-hurricane video or status update from Jeff. Silence. Naturally, it is assumed that he perished… surely that stack of pallets next to the Wal-Mart that he identified as possible missiles was his end. Or maybe the air conditioning units became unhinged from the building’s roof and trapped him in his crushed rental car (I don’t know if he had a rental car… but some rando said so) the phone mere inches from his almost-severed arm. Or maybe the trucker raped and killed him. These were all options in the uncertain minds viewers as their emotions also found release in the form of #blueshed appeals. All concern for #blueshed was inherently concern for Jeff, concern for the populations and livelihoods of southeast Texas, concern for our continued entertainment. It was here that #blueshed became the unliving embodiment of Jeff. An indestructible force, an omnipotent, bland, modern American totem.
At one point late Friday, Jeff identified Hurricane Harvey as perhaps the first natural disaster broadcast live on such newfangled internet communication platforms, always on… the true-true unfiltered and beamed into countless eyeballs worldwide from untold numbers of angles and vantage points (and from variable qualities of phone cameras). As everyone (yeah, everyone) eagerly waited to learn if Jeff survived, I noted to my wife that Jeff must realize in this new age of constant communication and immersive realism, he does have the responsibility to confirm his safety with viewers when it’s in doubt. He takes on that responsibility when he offers himself up as a character in viewers’ distance-less extended families. Sure, it’s a pain in the ass when you’re trying to stay alive, but it is an added responsibility nonetheless.
He made it. Of course, he did — he’s Jeff
Eight hours later a tweet from @severechase declared Jeff alive but could offer no info of #blueshed. Jeff followed shortly thereafter with a new Jeff Periscope (oh, thank Jeff!). He made it. Of course, he did — he’s Jeff. He ejaculates tornadoes for breakfast; he taught Obama to surf… or so goes the legend of Jeff. Thoughts moved onto #blueshed. With Jeff was safe and sound (barring an encounter with one of the area’s tornados, flash floods, rougue sheriffs or mounds of floating fire ants), it was his storytelling responsibility to share the fate of #blueshed.
In lieu of facts, rumors spread, along with photos that some worried were doctored, purporting to show that #blueshed survived. Saturday at 9:53 a.m., “extreme meteorologist” Reed Timmer broadcast live from the car worsh, revealing in the background incontrovertible proof of life — #blueshed standing strong surrounded by a temporary junkyard.
#blueshed became more than just another example of ridiculous bullshit to distract viewers watching a real place and the real lives of people destroyed by the power of nature; #blueshed is a projection of hope.
Of course, this being America, you can now buy representations of hope through an assortment of #blueshed merch, including #blueshed t-shirts to show your friends and family that your will is unwavering and cannot be crushed. And more ‘Merica: There’s a dubious GoFundMe to allegedly aid the owners of #blueshed and the car worsh (three people have donated a total of $55 so far).
Whether the chatty internet denizens realized it or not, #blueshed became more than just another example of ridiculous bullshit to distract viewers watching a real place and the real lives of people destroyed by the power of nature; #blueshed is a projection of hope. The trials of the Little Engine that Could are nothing compared to the strength of #blueshed. “A smile in the storm,” some said. Others landed on the natural progression, the everlasting legacy: “#blueshed is life.”
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Michael Pinchera is a writer and editor of fringe, business and travel-related matters; explorer of non-Cartesian realities.
Check him out at What Meme Worry