Sunday, February 28, 2010


You don’t miss your water, William Bell observed in his 1961 debut single for Stax, ‘til your well runs dry. If he’d been here in the Hudson Valley the past several days, he might have put it slightly differently. You don’t miss your Internet connection until so much snow has fallen that huge tree branches begin to snap under their weight, pulling power cords down with them, plunging the whole region into chaos, and cruelly thwarting those who’d intended to make a new entry in their Web journals every weekday of the year. Damn you, nature!

Lacking electricity yesterday, I had to compose the day’s little essay by hand, and how old-fashioned and weird it felt! I kept reaching down for my little electric space heater, which just snickered at me. Downstairs it was heading toward noon, at which Claire traditionally enjoys a sandwich and soup while watching on TV one of those programs on which members of the American underclass shriek at each other for being unfaithful or shiftless-and-no-account, and the host, who apparently used to be one of the big guys in charge of keeping guests of The Jerry Springer Show from tearing each other limb from limb, browbeats them for being rotten parents and so on. Noontime just isn’t the same without it. What a feeling of helplessness.

We walked the greyhound on the road leading down to the recycling center. It was incredibly bleak, but the camaraderie in the air reminded me of when power was finally restored to Lower Nob Hill in San Francisco a couple of nights after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Everybody on the street seemed to be trying to dig his or her car out, and was cheerful and gregarious in spite of his exertions, marveling at the storm’s ferocity, shaking his head at the fantastic unreliability of our local utility company, Central Hudson — whose secret motto I have long believed to be You’re just the customer. Fuck you.

Once home, bored to death and shivering, I could think of nothing more diverting than to try to make myself useful, and dug out a narrow path for between the garage and the street, a distance of maybe 25 yards. It was grueling, but when I finally reached Wolcott Avenue, what a rare sense of accomplishment! Too bad, that a state of emergency had been declared in Beacon, and only emergency vehicles were allowed on the road.

I’d phoned the ever-generous, ever-gracious Names (that is, Naomi and James) just to find out if their neck of the woods was blacked out too. Not only was it not, but they kindly offered the use of their downstairs apartment, which they commonly rent out to tourists until our power could be restored. We loaded our laptops and contact lens solution and a change of clothes, attached the greyhound’s leash, and headed through the snow to Brett Street. On several occasions, groaning beneath the weight of our suitcase and my own laptop, I found myself thigh-high in snow, and I have long legs. On Center Street, we had to pick our way through a thicket of downed power lines. It took as long to trudge up to the converted gymnasium that Names call home as it might have to drive down to New York City. They gave us a nice dinner and invited us to watch a DVD with them, but the day’s exertions had made me weary, and we were in bed by 10.

This morning began with deliberations about to how to spend the day. Having failed to get on line at Names’, we thought we’d go to the nearest Panera and take advantage of their free Wi-Fi while having lunch. For that, of course, we’d need the car, so I trudged home, blissfully unburdened by suitcase or laptop, while Claire walked her greyhound. I unlocked the front door, flicked the light switch, and, as the lights came on, felt for a moment — a very fleeting one — that I might have judged Central Hudson too harshly.

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