Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Power to the people

Last night the power went off in our neighborhood. It was dusk and we could still see a little bit, even better after I pulled up the shades. I lit the few candles I could find in the apartment, two tiny votives and my Red Sox prayer candle. Found the flashlight.
Out on the landing, the rest of the building was talking about the power outage. Neighbor #2 was in a flannel nightgown, numbers #3 and #4 in sweats and flip flops. Landlord came over to disable an alarm that was beeping every couple of seconds. Miss K. needed a battery for her alarm clock so I went out to see what I could see, armed with my keys, some cash and my mag light. I was of course, also wearing flip flops. And no belt.
At the corner store, which is rarely open, the woman showed me the battery selection. A couple of packs of double As in a locked case next to old, dusty packets of condoms and razor blades. No, thank you. Further down the street, people were hanging out in front of dark restaurants. Kids ran in and out of stores, and everything felt slow, and quiet and nice. Walgreen's had batteries and power. The pizza place and chinese restaurant had candles and I could hear people talking inside while the waitstaff smoked cigarettes out front. In the Donut shop, (they had electricity) I bought a hot chocolate. They had one of those hot cocoa machines. I haven't seen one of those in years.
Back at home, I trained the mag light on my book and read in the dark on the couch. When the power came back on, I let out a cheer. Miss K. and I reset all the clocks and settled back into our normal evening routines (sleep for her, too much caffeine, television, reading and thinking for me).
While sitting in the dark, I couldn't help but think of my last power outage, back in January. I was on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, and every night the power would cut out around nine or ten at night, or earlier. Out would come the candles and flashlights. we would sit on the dark porch of the restaurant or bar we were in and talk, drink beer, look at the stars. Life went on. People walked down the streets and hung out laundry. they talked with their friends, listened to battery powered Radios, flirted in the park near the market with the girls basketball teams who were in town for the national championships. Street dogs would still sneak into our rooms.


Blogger april said...

i love urban blackouts!!! san francisco is the site of my most favorite of those. one evening on my commute home (up the hill from the mission, which had power and lots of it, as ever) i reached the apex of the hill and found noe valley dark and quiet. it was FABULOUS. everyone sat out on their front stoops and just...looked around. chilled out. enjoyed the outdoors and the dark peopleshow. sigh. those were the times.
i imagine the richmond would be similarly fabulous when unplugged. how fun. we should all unplug more often, i say.

10:11 AM  

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