Friday, July 06, 2012
Trees shouldn't ever look like they have compound fractures...LAKE TOLD YOU I'D BE BACK. So it's been hot, and this household was without power for nearly five days and nights. It wasn't the heat that did us in; it was the derecho, a recurring phenomenon that usually strikes in the midwest more than the midatlantic. Thunderstorms that act like hurricanes of thunderstorms. We took pictures you probably don't want to see, so they're not here. I've asked Lake to explain what all this doesn't have to do with Global Warming, and he has promised to find some time in his fully committed schedule to do so. I thank him for that, as well as for filling in like lightning (pun intended) with a post I couldn't key myself but only describe on my iPhone on the porch. Kudos to Brizoni for posting it promptly and flawlessly.
Another big thank you to the tireless soldiers of the Atlantic City Electric Company. Somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 South Jersey residents were shut down by the derecho storms. From the first, the trucks kept going by on their way to trying to fix the catastrophe. Unlike their Con-Ed counterparts in New York, they didn't seize the occasion to threaten a strike. They did everything possible to rescue us from the isolation, darkness, dread, and dry plumbing that accompanied the 98 degree, un-air-conditioned heat. I was never mad at them once. I saw their trucks everywhere in our shut-down town, and I knew it would take longer to hunt down the demons and gremlins that complicated the rural blackouts.
My only victory was convincing my wife to decamp to safer ground. I grew up with heat as bad as this, on exactly this same terrain. She hasn't the constitution for it. Heat punishes her more than it does me, and I feared for her life. I stayed because we presently have no means of conveying all the dogs in one vehicle at one time. The State of New Jersey has just made it illegal at a thousand bucks a pop to transport dogs without "dog safety belts," which in the case of sighthounds can result in hanged dogs. For the same reason that you can't give them leads attached to stakes in the ground. Their explosive acceleration breaks their necks.
So it was me and the dogs and cats and the heat and the darkness. More than that, the stillness. Opening windows doesn't help. There is no breeze when the air is a heavy, oppressive blanket. I had my iPhone and a car to charge it with, a battery-powered radio, and the experience of being a marsh rat native. I laughed off the help offered by my/our friends and my wife's family up north, who were concerned about me. I chuckled when one of the wittier among them observed the irony of being powerless less than three miles from a nuclear power plant whose plume of steam we watch every day. I thought I was prepared for the vigil.
But I wasn't really. When you're truly married, parsimonious, battery-saving texting isn't enough. When the iPhone is no longer hooked to wifi, it gets slow and suddenly there's only one bar, which makes distance somehow a killer. Conversations with my wife broke up. Texting was the only recourse. I drained my entire battery trying to send one picture of my Bengal cat to a friend in Ohio who was trying to kid me into a better mood. Worse, the home that is your chief comfort becomes a gray memory of itself. All its life functions have stopped. It does not tick, hum, illuminate, or warm. Yes, I said warm. Stifling, airless heat is not warmth. It's a kind of arrest. The animals sense it. They hunker down in hushed alarm. They know something is wrong, most of all with you. Because they realize, maybe more than you do, that the physical ability to withstand such conditions is not entirely about experience. They know, they see, they smell that your stamina is not what it needs to be. They can feel your batteries fading too fast.
This isn't resentment or self-pity. It's context. Driving home the fact that I'm getting old. This was nothing like the ordeals of those who man the outposts in Afghanistan or Iraq. They're brave, resolved, and heroic. I was just experiencing a solemn, and too utterly still, confrontation with my own mortality. Despite all the lies you tell yourself about what kind of man you still are, you might not actually be up to this middling ordeal.
What did I do? I listened to SportsTalk radio in Philadelphia. Continuously. All day long, all night long, even when I was nominally sleeping. What can I tell you? Karl Marx was wrong. Religion is not the opiate of the masses. Sports is. While the Mainstream Media and the New Media were relentlessly chewing over the SCOTUS decision on ObamaCare, SportsTalk was even more relentless in chewing over the sorry plight of the Philadelphia Phillies. At times I thought it was such madness that I mulled turning off the radio, but the illusion of connectedness has become our new cultural mania, and I am as afflicted with that as I have always been with all the sins of my age. I did not want to endure the silence of no voice talking at me in the darkness.
So much of what goes on anymore is talking for the sake of talking, listening for the sake of not feeling utterly alone. The truth behind Facebook and Twitter and texting and the vulgar chatter of sitcoms and romcons and reality TV and 24/7 cable news.
Lowpoints. I listened to the ultimate radio whore Michael Smerconish waxing irate about Penn State, even though I know his whole mind would fit in my vest pocket. He's a man of isolated obsessions -- the Mumia case, killing bin Laden (which caused him to endorse Obama over McCain after a career as a Republican functionary and become, since, a leftist apologist in an endlessly disgraceful process of self-justification), and now Penn State. I read on my Kindle, while it lasted, almost half a novel by one Michael Walsh, co-founder apparently of of Breitbart's Big Journalism site, with the result that I have experienced in the past week every conceivable (and I must say repellent) sin against good writing by someone who is supposedly on my side politically. I discovered that the iPod, which I belatedly discovered was fully charged, brought no comfort of any kind; when there was decent FM radio, the real thrill was sharing the experience of listening to music you liked with all those others in the radio audience. It's hollow when it's only you and you know it.
Then the power came back on and I emerged from the prison of semi-solitary confinement. My thoughts.
I love my wife.
I love George, Dave, Marge, Sue, Jay, Mike, Lake, and all the others who cared about what might be going on down in this sorry neck of the woods for the past six or seven days.
Ignore all the political crap being published in any venue this week. It's a vacation/ordeal week (depending on whether you have electric or not), the conservatives will eventually stop bickering about Chief Justice Roberts, who is an asshole, and it's perfectly okay for Romney to keep his powder dry for the time being.
All's well that ends well. The dogs and cats are over their fears, and life resumes.
If we don't defeat Obama in the fall, life as we all used to think we knew it is definitely, absolutely, completely over.
ALL the media suck. Even the part that's supposed to be on our side.
One more thing. Night always HAS pushed up day. It's possible I'll have more thoughts later. Why I'm not as popular as I think I ought to be.