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No Power

This is a pause from real life which includes the following things I’m cut off from on Day Three Snow Event: Music, internet, and TV. 

It’s quiet without the music which usually plays most of the day, a lot of Spanish, African, and Classical, from the endless iPod playlist. TV is mostly sports talk shows, the hosts constantly repeating speculation about players and teams, their movements and abilities. Once a week Bill Maher, Seinfeld every day, and parts of random shows and movies in the background to prepare food and eat meals in front of.

The internet is constantly checking for emails, which rarely come, checking out local and national news sites, buying stuff on Amazon, wasting time scrolling endlessly through Facebook, often posting rants and diatribes like this, and sharing images and experiences and getting a “like” or two.

The practical solution to no PG&E is running a little 2000 watt generator for a few hours a day to keep the refrigerator relatively cold, the lantern and flip phone charged, and grinding coffee daily.

The rechargeable lantern produces enough light to read by, I try to get dinner served before dark, and the head lamp comes in handy for wandering around the house after dark.

When this first happened a few years ago I had no backup generator or lantern and was anxious and miserable. (Before that in former years I’d head out to the hills to my off-grid hideaway but having sold that I no longer have the option.) Now that I’m prepared it’s a dance of boredom without all my distractions, save one, there’s always a good book to read.

I’m adjusting to the refrigerator routine: today when I took out the cream for my coffee I also poured out a little for the second cup and put it outside on the 31 degree porch for half an hour or so. Yesterday morning I opened the fridge to take out my daily orange, after the jenny was off, and today I’ll try to remember to take it out when preparing breakfast, to consume later. (At lunch I did remember to take out some yogurt and put it on the cold porch for an afternoon snack with muesli and the exotic nut butter called “Nutzo.”

That’s the drill: turn on the jenny for an hour when making breakfast, as I open the fridge multiple times, and then again with lunch and dinner.

Fortunately I have gas heat and the water is working and there’s most likely many suffering more through this snow emergency, which has closed Highway 101 south. The CHP have blocked off the ramp, there’s a long line of cars parked on the exit ramp up to town, and many semi-trucks and other vehicles are parked all over our suddenly bustling town. (Maybe this will be the beginning of the economic breakthrough Garberville needs, but with the power out in town the shopping is minimal.)

I do have a wood stove in case the gas runs out, or the lines are ruptured by an earthquake, but no firewood, having given away my twenty-year-old stash of very seasoned tan oak last year when the insurance company didn’t like it stored in a shed next to the house. (As I agonized about what to do with it, whether to move it forty feet away from the house or give it away, I got a promise from my neighbor that I could take a few handfuls, or more, from his huge stash of multiple cords if I paid him back later.)

A neighbor has just turned on his jenny and it is slightly disturbing my moment of contemplation here. (It was actually mine, I sold it to his neighbor during a summer blackout a few years ago, and now she’s selling it to him for some reason.) In theory I could be listening to music on my iPod earphones but I have never done that before. Or I could find or buy batteries, load them into a boom box, and listen that way.

If the TV and internet have come back on I could run the last extension cord from the one already running through the back door for the fridge, all the way across the kitchen and living room to the home office setup, plug in the computer and internet, and go on line for awhile, or even just run that jenny all morning, all day, and get back to the way it’s spozed to be: me wasting my time, energy, and life staring at a screen.

I suppose I could also plug the TV into the generator power line and suck on that a while but I welcome the break from normal life, this isn’t just a whine or a rant, more like a look inside me, but I better drink down that second cuppa coffee if I really want to see what’s there.

Almost everyone else I know isn’t in this situation, living from meal to meal (omelet breakfast today!) as they have smartphones and so nothing has changed, they still have everything, the whole damn internet! You might say this is a good reason to finally get one, yet I resist. 

My friend wants to help me become a Youtube sensation, he thinks he’s discovered me, with my dancing and stories, and getting that act together could mean increasing my technology to include broadcasting my sensational self live somehow. (Alas I only believe that that could/should happen at night when high and dancing, in the morning I feel embarrassed that I was such an egomaniac to imagine such a thing.)

The first two nights I took the little jenny into the house to sit overnight by the heater and it started right up on the first pull. Last night I just dragged it into a nearby unheated outbuilding as I was tired of lugging the heavy thing down snowy steps, and up another set, then across the house to a bench by the heater. It will probably take a few more pulls to start today, soon, when it’s time for breakfast.

Yesterday we heard that this outage is predicted to go on for three more days, which hopefully actually means two or less as many trees came down weighted with all that wet snow and knocked power lines down I presume. I groaned, I moaned, I thought, “Really? Three more days?” I had been expecting the power to roar back on at any moment and that three-day-advisory, coming from the PG&E robocall actually shocked me, but what ya gonna do? I have enough gas to see me through Tuesday and beyond, and Monday I’ll fill up the empty 2 and ½ gallon container with more “pure gas” just to be safe.(When you have a generator which mostly sits around unused, waiting for an emergency, it is highly advisable to pay extra and get the “pure gas,” which won’t gunk up the works.)

Fortunately I did my laundry the day before the storm so have plenty of clean clothes with which to ride this out. My latest novel isn’t completely enthralling but is still a good distraction. Most of the snow has melted but there’s still some on the shady parts of the deck and in little pockets in the field on down the hill. With this good strong coffee I’m flying high but when it wears off in an hour or so I’ll be twiddling my thumbs for the rest of the day, waiting for normalcy to return.

Oh shit, the power just came back on!!! 12:48pm Saturday!


  1. Barbara Lamar May 17, 2023

    I had a dream last night that you featured in, Paul. Something about a movie script that you wrote. And now I check in to see how you’re doing and here you are talking about being a YouTube sensation. Yes, of course you should. You could interview guests, like you did for the Gulch Mulch. And what a pity that GM is temporarily defunct, but not forever, I hope.

    It’s a little sad to hear you sold your off-grid place. I am sure you had your reasons.

    I was looking through archived issues of GM and saw where you wrote about Lizzie and Wild Horse. Lizzie died in a car crash in 1996. I am pretty sure Wild Horse murdered her, or you might say it was more like (wo)manslaughter, because he disabled the brakes on her truck. He told me he didn’t mean to kill her. The cops would do nothing, because Lizzie had developed a bad reputation for herself in those parts. The upstanding folk of Lockhart would have said she had it coming.

    I spent this past winter in a very old farm house in central Portugal with only a couple of 500 W solar panels and a crappy inverter. The system would not even charge up my cell phone if it was cloudy for a couple of days in a row, which it often was. It was not a matter of choice. I was ripped off by an evil French contractor who was meant to connect my house to the grid. I did have a fireplace, though, and plenty of lenha, which is what they call firewood here.

    Please say you will start publishing YouTube videos. I promise to be a faithful viewer, if you do.

  2. Bruce McEwen May 17, 2023

    Laid back Laytonville ain’t even in it. You write with the detachment from the topical, the focus on the individual as opposed to the general (no disrespect to rank intended, and readily retracted if taken), like Raskolnikov or Belacqua…?!

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