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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On the Virtues of Living without Electric Power after Hurricane Irene

Day 4 post-touchdown of Hurricane Irene and my part of town still has no electric power.  I hear a lot of grousing from my neighbors in the 'hood.  "All those workers CL&P [CT Light & Power] brought in and they can't get the power back on?"  "Who do they think they are, putting the power back on in the projects before they give it back in OUR neighborhood?" [Editor's note: Now that Bob has been going to what he calls A Tan Church for the past 5 weeks, Zion First Black Baptist Church of Middletown, that neighbor's comment, somebody who lives on Bretton Road, is offensive to Bob  He told The Editors, in a candid interview this morning, that "the projects" the neighbor was referring to are the low-income, mostly African-American housing projects, across from Snow School on Wadsworth Street in Middletown.]

It dawned on me this morning, walking in total darkness to the bathroom before getting up for the day at 5 a.m., that I was beginning, after only four days living at night in darkness, to appreciate more how it is to be blind in our culture.  There are advantages to being unable to see.  For example, you have to pay more careful attention to where you're walking and how fast.  So my wife has been leaving a chair in front of the basement door, to discourage Russell, the Cool Cat from jumping up with paws outstretched, sharpened claws bared, into the wood molding around three sides of the wooden door to our basement.  She hopes to make the house more saleable by minimizing scratches in the door frame.  I lack the night-time vision of Russell, and his graceful coordination, so this morning I bumped into the chair with my right knee.  I came a within a hair-breadth of tearing the ligament in my right ACL, which would have ended my dancin' career at the Mezzo Grille. Some of you, dear readers, can't wait until my dancin' days are over; for all of you, alas, I tore no ligament and my legs still function.

Last night, after I got home from doing a final check of my email at the McDonalds on Washington Street, I used a tiny Husky brand LED light to negotiate the darkness.  As I walked from Susie's Prius in the darkened driveway to the deck stairs I pulsed the Husky for less than a second to illuminate the stairs, and then the proper orientation of the key to the lock in the outside door into the back hallway, and then to the whereabouts of those candles Susie left out to provide light in the dark house.

Later I used the Husky to pulse on and off when I went upstairs to get a book in my office in Jamie's room. This maneuver gave me the chills because it made the stairway look like a set in a David Lynch psychological horror movie, like "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me," "The Lost Highway," or, scarier yet, "Blue Velvet." The Husky pulsed on and off, just like the strobe lights in the Flea Circus in the Lower East Side of New York City to which our Uncle Arthur used to take us in the 50's.

When it was still hot and humid on Sunday, the loss of all electric power also forced us to turn off, or have turned off, as if by the Hand of God, our central air-conditioning system.  For the most part, I do not like central air.  Too cold.  Susie, who loves A/C, is in an important sense "addicted" to A/C,  and has no choice in the matter.

The Act of God which created the seed of Irene and girded her awesome loins as she transitioned, androgynous-like, from mere Tropical Storm to fully mature Hurricane, also guided Irene into whatever sub-station was required by God to turn out the lights and A/C in our little slice of Heaven, Chimney Hill.  Those of you, of whom there are some, who think my use of language like "Act of God" to describe these events suggests I have walked off an important ledge of sanity, into a muddled sea of religiosity, might want to consider this fact.  The concept of Act of God is enshrined in the SECULAR legal system as a defense to the non-performance of contractual obligations.  ["But Your Honor, my client could not finish the house for Mr. and Mrs. Dutcher in Bartlett Hollow by August  31, 2011 because an Act of God, Hurricane Irene, intervened and prevented the builder's sub-contractors from completing the landscaping, which the contract required be completed by August 31, 2011, no exceptions, time is of the essence....."]

So, our lives were going along smoothly, with plenty of power, electric power, until God intervened with an Act of God, Hurricane Irene, and took away the power.  Except we still retained the power to re-learn how to enjoy our lives, fully, authentically, even in the darkness, in the dead of night, the hot and humid time of year, the time of late summer when God or Mother Nature or King Neptune stirs the face of the deep so much that perfect 12-12 (12-foot, 12-second-period), perfect right-breaking surf breaks rise from the deep and come alive off Point Judith in Narragansett and Ruggles off the Cliff Walk in Newport.

Hurricanes like Irene may be God's or Mother Nature's way of reminding Americans how privileged we are compared to most of the rest of the world. And the loss of life, the property damage, the inconvenience from this one hurricane are small in comparison with the damage we inflict on societies against whom we launch military attacks, whether justified or not.

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