Posts Tagged ‘hurricane lamp’

The week started out a little rough here in SoCal. No, there were no major earthquakes. Though there is some tectonic movement almost daily here, I just don’t bother to notice if it’s anything less than a 4.0. Yes, I’ve lived here that long. Anyway, our exciting Monday consisted of losing power in our neighborhood. I know that probably rates as a First World Problem for most people outside the USA, but you’d have thought the world was ending by the behavior of some of our neighbors.

And while very short term outages and brown outs are reasonably uncommon, even at the height of summer when everybody is cranking their ACs, we do have them. So I didn’t think too much of it when the grid went down at about twenty ‘till 5:00 Monday evening. Minorly annoyed because I was in the middle of watching a video on my computer, but not really concerned. It flickered on and off a couple times, then was back on solidly after about five minutes. La Di Da. Went back to my video. Had just finished it when hubby called to say he was on his way home from work. That’s my cue to start dinner.

The chicken was in the oven broiler and the potatoes were in the microwave when the power went out again at 5:54pm. Even though we have a gas stove, the oven is controlled by the electronics as far as temperature and time, so down it went. No microwave, no lights, no working fridge either. No big deal. The electricity’s not usually off that long. I activated the flashlight app on my iPhone so I could find the regular flashlight.

My husband had just pulled up in front of the house when the whole neighborhood went dark. He has an LED mini-light on his key chain and made his way to the front door with that. One thing people don’t seem to really comprehend about Southern California is that, no matter what time of night, it’s lit up like a Christmas tree decorating contest ALL THE TIME. There’s a street light just in front of our house, plus we have a porch light and a bright security light over the garage/driveway. There’s freakin’ light everywhere. And you really notice when it’s gone.

We puttered around awhile waiting for the electricity to come back on and listened to our neighbors on their patios calling all their friends to let them know about this latest bit of earth-shattering news. Being the middle of dinnertime on a weeknight did make it somewhat more annoying than usual, but the voices ranged from nonchalant laughing to paranoid panic so I found it an amusing bit of anthropological study. After about a half hour I pulled up the power company’s website on my phone to check the status. They estimated it would be 9:00pm before power could be restored. Hubby and I debated cooking the entirety of dinner on the stove top, since we could light the burners with matches, but decided it was getting too late even for that. The partially cooked food went into the fridge (now just an ice box) and we went to the local burger joint.

Now, being medieval recreationists, we tend to have candles and lanterns all over the place. When we returned with the food, I retrieved one of the hurricane lamps from the fireplace mantel and set it on the kitchen table.

One of our (very dusty) hurricane lamps in service.

One of our (very dusty) hurricane lamps in service.

My husband and I ate and chatted by lamplight and didn’t really think much about the power being out. Temperatures were mild so we weren’t worried about the food in the fridge or sleeping without a heater. We’ve certainly camped in much less hospitable situations. About 9:00pm I checked the power company’s website again and the repair estimate had been revised to midnight. Shrug. Hubby set his cell phone’s alarm and we went to bed.

Normally I don’t go to bed that early in the evening, but 1) I’d been having a bad couple of days because of body aches and a touch of insomnia and needed to lay down anyway, and 2) what the hell else was there to do? When I woke up a few hours later and couldn’t get back to sleep, I trundled back down stairs and lit up the hurricane lamp again. The new estimate on the power company’s website was 6:00am. Wow. The longest outage prior that I could remember was about seven hours. Of course, at the height of a summer heat wave, which made it even more memorable. Thank the gods for whoever invented battery-operated fans.

So here I am, in the middle of the night, no lights, no TV, no computer, the phone running low on power – what’s a girl to do? Well, this one pulled out her favorite paper and her favorite fountain pen and let the imagination go. I sat there noodling on a couple of short stories as I listened to the sounds outside – nearly constant sirens, dogs barking, the couple down the street having their weekly argument, the boom box car that so loves to cruise through our residential neighborhood at 3:00 in the morning rattling our windows – and really enjoying the experience. There’s something about putting actual pen to actual paper that just can’t be duplicated with electronics. The paper’s texture, the smell of the ink, the scratch-scritch of the nib as the words tumble out under the golden flicker of firelight. It sent me back to the early days of my writing – #2 pencil on notebook paper – when the process seemed so much more visceral and organic.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my iMac with its Scrivener software and its instant research (read: Internet) access – but spending a few hours with pen and paper again really reminded me of why I started writing in the first place. It gives me a connection to the process I just can’t get any other way, and I realized how much I missed it.

The power was out for a total of eighteen hours. One of the longest I’ve ever experienced. And while a number of my neighbors seemed to have had serious issues (judging by the sirens), it wasn’t really a problem for me. My husband recently asked me if I would mind living in a mobile home if it meant we could get out of California. I told him I’d happily live in our tent for that reward (it’s not like it would be really roughing it – see “Playing Dress Up” for an explanation). It would mean less computer and TV and energy saving light bulbs, and more pen and paper and hurricane lamps. But I think I could live with that.


© 2015   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.


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