This piece was written Tuesday night at home, where we have no power, Internet or whatever. But power came back on about 1am Wednesday morning, so we’re okay now.
We‘re experiencing what I call The Hurricane Dichotomy. It’s that weird existence following a storm in which one works in a reasonably normal environment with a/c, power, lights and all the conveniences of Modern Living, but then returns each evening to the Dark Ages, in which everything is dark and much more like things were 200 or so years ago. When it got dark outside, it was simply dark — unless someone pulled out a lantern or torch or some other thing that made light. This also meant it was cold in the winter or, in our case now, hot and humid in the summer (until it gets hot and humid in the fall, about three weeks from now).
Much of the city remains without power again tonight, and it’s a rather checkerboarded pattern We’ve set up the generator, which is making its lawnmower noise out back, and run a lot of extension cords throughout the house. This creates a complicated web of things to trip over in the middle of the night, so it’s good practice to empty yourself completely before going to bed. We’ve opted not to hook up power-sucking items like the fridge (which we emptied of potential olfactory hazards before the storm) and air conditioning, It’s basically some lights and a few fans and space left over to charge phones, etc. We’ve also powered the router and all, but there is no signal coming into the modem so we’re kinda SOL for going online at the house. Wireless signals are too far away (at least five blocks or so), so we’re out of communication at night except for any cell phones (half of which aren’t working in New Orleans for now)
The generator sets up a pretty good white noise, once you get used to it. Perhaps there could be a market in hurricane-prone areas for such background sounds, similar to those with the sound of gently breaking waves or the other stuff you can find on relaxation CDs. Down here, the rockabye noises would include generators, popping nail guns on re-roof jobs, Coast Guard helicopters overhead, NOPD sirens, ship horns on the river, streetcar bells and bums asking you for a cigarette. Ah. sweet home New Orleans. Zzzzzzzzzz.
We actually went through this during Tropical Storm Cindy, that thing that hit here about a month before Katrina. TBK and I were able to nest up in a generator-powered room with an a/c unit and we could also run the TV and the PC and some lights and all kinds of things. But back then we were only two. Now we are five in the house, with Milo upstairs and Kristen and Matt downstairs, so things are stretched out a little more.
Last time, all this lasted about a week. This time, it appears Baton Rouge (which caught things worse than us) and New Orleans are apparently off the grid and on our own little Electrical Island. There are some 850,000 of us sitting around in the dark tonight around Louisiana.
I think that’s a good thing from time to time. Sometimes being in the dark makes us see things a lot more clearly.