Friday, August 16, 2013

The Black Out of 2003

I'm reminded that yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the big northeast blackout.  Yes, I was in it -- sort of.  At that time in my life I spent most weekends in the Catskillls and had arrived in the afternoon  as usual. My friend's house was between Saugerites and Woodstock. Weekends were usually very relaxed. We went to a cafe in town for an early dinner and were told by a waiter who was listening to a kitchen radio that New York City had a blackout. The  so-called "rolling black out" had not reached upstate to Albany where the radio station was. The restaurant had electricity, air conditioning and light. We were glad to be where we were. 

Not long after we got back to the house, however, the electricity went out.  Dusk was falling. We sat for a couple hours on the back porch watching night fall. It was hot in NYC but comfortable there. The house did not have air conditioning and didn't need it.  We assumed the lights would be back on soon or at least by morning. Of course we couldn't turn on the TV to get news and didn't care enough to think about the car radio -- which, in reality, would not have had a signal either.  We knew we were in an interim in our lives -- two older people who had spent time together 25 years ago and had come back together once more.  We were comfortable and easy together and old enough and sensible enough not to be particularly vexed by the outage.  We made a point of not opening the refrigerator and did not take showers because the water heater would be off.  Otherwise we were not greatly inconvenienced.

Little did I know that my friend, Maggie, would, in the following week, relate graphically her ordeal in the city.  She was on the subway, going from her midtown job to her apartment in Inwood at the north end of Manhattan. The train stopped just after the Lincoln Center stop. Eventually trainmen lead the passengers out of the train and down the tunnel until they could exit. But how was she to get 110 blocks north?  She began walking up Broadway, hoping to get a bus.  But as any New Yorker knows, buses become impossibly packed the moment there is a public transportation problem. She managed to squeeze onto something eventually and get to about 115th street. She still had 25 blocks to go.  I think I would have started walking and decided to take my chances going through some if-fy sections while watching for a taxi. Although, of course, taxis with any space at all were not to be had. I really can't remember how she traversed her final blocks, I know it was around midnight before she got there. 

When there are big  public traumas like that, everyone has a story. Except it seemed I had no story at all.  I did not exactly "miss" the great  power outage but it seems I was in the right place at the right time.  I've been doing a lot of pondering because that lovely period of my life ended a couple of years later (sad but not entirely a bad thing for many reasons). The man died this spring and has been on my mind for the last few months. It's not a matter of closure (that selfish new age-y concept). It's a matter of being glad for the times we had that were good and knowing that all the other, much larger parts of our lives, were the meat and that was gravy -- homey metaphor, a finer, more literary one does not come to mind.

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