Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I Never Said I Was A Pioneer
Given a choice, I'll always gravitate towards comfortable living. Sure, I'll go camping, or happily spend several hours working outdoors. If push came to shove, I think I could do without central air conditioning, if I've got a cold drink and a fan to keep the circulation going. But if you want to find my Achilles heel, strip my 98-year old home of its electricity, crank the heat up into the upper 90s, and disconnect me from the world for a few days.
Friday afternoon, a storm hit our town, knocking down trees, felling power lines, and setting the tornado sirens to full-volume wail. Many OSOME contributors lost their electricity. A live wire was knocked loose on my street, and I was 100 percent unprepared -- my kitchen sink was still filled with dirty dishes from Thursday's OSOME meal, and the washing machine was halted mid-cycle, while loaded with cloth napkins and sheets and towels from the house guests I had earlier in the week. Although I'm the daughter of an airplane pilot who lived by the meteorologist's word, I'd missed the last three days of weather forecasts, and, when Elvis Redux blew in, I was in my car on Union Ave. trying to run errands. I came home, assessed the situation, and initially decided to keep the windows closed and the refrigerator full, with hopes that I'd get back onto the grid within a few hours.
By Saturday afternoon, I decided to open the 4 windows that aren't painted shut and eat the OSOME leftovers I'd set aside for my mama, who was due in on a plane later that night. I downed a half-pint of Marshall's zingy borscht, sampled a bowl of Tara's radish salsa, and finished the last few spoonfuls of aioli I'd whipped up two days earlier. Tara came by and picked up the steaks, milk, butter, cheese and Gulf Coast shrimp that were defrosting in my fridge. I crammed my Downing Hollow CSA -- bag and all -- into an ice-filled cooler, and everything else went into the garbage. I ran to the airport, and then Cassius, my mama and I settled into Red Roof Inn for the night.
Sunday, we optimistically checked out of the motel room and went to Cafe 1912 for brunch. At 7PM we went to a movie, then came home to a hot house and tried to go to sleep, because I had Sewing School to teach at Grace-St. Luke's this week.
After camp on Monday, we downed ice coffees and sandwiches from Cafe Republic. Drove home holding our collective breath, then let out disappointed sighs when we realized it was still hot, hot, hot, and decamped to Scott and Kerri's for a brief respite. Another storm blew through, and I raced home to open the windows and get the cool air inside.
Today, with Justin in tow, I went into Fino's Italian Grocery for an Aquisto sandwich on a baguette. Came home and it was still hot. I know I'm not the only Memphian dealing with this -- there were nearly 200,000 of us at first count -- but geez, the monotony of it is stressing me out. As I've been saying, If I wanted to deal with the impending threat of natural disasters,coupled with the ineptitude of an ineffectual bureaucracy, I'd have moved to New Orleans eons ago.
Somehow, I weathered (pun intended) 14 days without power in 2003, when a progressive derecho called Hurricane Elvis took a similar route through town. That time around, I made do by grilling with friends, lingering at the ice machines strategically located across the bridge in West Memphis, Ark., and drinking like a fish.
This time is different.
Five days without power, and, as certain friends can attest, I've been reduced to a sniveling mess. Although the Memphis Light, Gas & Water trucks zip by every few hours now, the power lines are still dangling across my sidewalk, and my refrigerator is still bare, its freezer door hanging forlornly open so that the fresh box of baking soda can do its work. What was once a magical cold cabinet chock full of beer, cheese, and other tasty treats is now a sterile. empty box. Sure, my pantry is heavily laden, but who -- other than Justin -- wants to cook in stifling temps?
I am trying to count my blessings.
In the grand scheme of things, I got off lightly: I have a kitchen that was uncrushed by tree limbs. I was fortunate that I had food to jettison, and food I was able to save, even though Tara's power went out a day after mine. I have friends who have offered shelter, and friends who have shared their food. I had to junk most of last week's CSA, but I was able to save a few beets and green onions, which I'll add to a salad as soon as I can make a meal at home without sweating.
When MLGW powers me back up, I'll simply turn on the washing machine, and take a few grocery expeditions to replenish the fridge shelves. I'm grateful that I don't have to yoke up a team of oxen and traverse a mountain range to do so, or make like the characters in Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," and trek through the aftermath of WWIII. To paraphrase Scarlett O'Hara, "As God is my witness, I'll never take electricity for granted again."
And, please note: If you're planning to come to this week's OSOME dinner, it will be held at Lorette and Alex Greene's house, which is in the U of M area. Call me for the address. It's gonna be a great night -- Lorette plans to set up dinner tables in the fields out back, where her team of urbagrarians have been planting tomatoes, lettuces, squashes, and herbs. Next week, we should be back in my backyard.