Monday, August 29, 2011


Here I am again, further exploring the nuances of the McAlister's Deli menu.  (The chicken tortilla soup is spicier than I remember.)  Day three without electricity, and estimates of when it will be restored range from Wednesday to Friday.  We aren't in danger of becoming anything like those poor folks in Pahokee and Belle Glade and other parts of south Florida that went several months without power after Hurricane Wilma back in 2005, much less anything like Katrina wrought six years ago today.  Still, one does learn how much one relies upon electricity when it's gone.

I'm still baffled as to why we lost the juice as soon as we did.  It went out about 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.  At that point Irene was nothing more than a dreary Saturday; real wind (tropical storm force, no more, and minimal at that) didn't kick in for several hours.  I know from a friend in Williamsburg that their power stayed on much longer, and similarly from a friend who was in Raleigh that day.  Is there something special about Richmond that can't tolerate even mildly bad weather?  Too many trees, perhaps?

Kvetching aside, this has been a fairly targeted loss.  We still have running water, and no evident threat of it being fouled in any way.  This is good, but of course that water is getting steadily colder as the reservoir in the hot water heater is depleted.  Yesterday's shower still had hot water enough to get the hair washed; today's was more like not-cold water.  Tomorrow, I fear for my scalp.  Jokes and double entendres aside, I really don't like cold showers.

Aside from one tree down in the back yard, no damage.  The house wasn't hit.  This is a blessing of course.  A house on another block in this neighborhood was not so lucky.  We could be much worse off, and I'm extremely grateful that we are all fine, pets included (although poor Miss Piggy doesn't enjoy the heat at her age).  Even if I don't quite understand why Richmond was so damaged by what here was a storm of minimal tropical storm force (and yes, I'm sure that's my bias from having lived in Florida for so long), I'm glad to be relatively unscathed.

And yet being without electricity is a noticeable loss.  That I'm writing up this entry at McAlister's Deli points to the inconvenience.  Dishes pile up, awaiting either the restoration of the dishwasher or someone getting desperate enough to wash by hand.  Fortunately we got the laundry done before the storm, but that will pile up too.  Of course, since most businesses in the area seem to have power back, we can always hit a laundromat if we get desperate.  (Now that's a subject for speculation; businesses were up and running very quickly--and not on generators--and not just "essential" businesses--while houses languish.)  And of course, most inconvenient and least consequential of all; we are bereft of our favorite electronic distractions.

I should excuse my wife from the above comment.  Living in Virginia and working for an office in Florida requires electronic connections and electric power.  Her ability to work is severely impinged by this circumstance, and it grates on her to be cut off from so much of her work.  I, on the other hand, am between semesters at the moment, so I really can't claim any more than inconvenience.  I can haul myself off to the seminary library and do what I need to do, which right now is write program notes for the Palm Beach Symphony.  Since I need a few library resources to do that, it's all just as well to be forced out of the house.  (And yes, I can divert myself with my favored distractions every couple of hours or so--email, Facebook, my sim baseball team, etc.)

Still, when at the house, it's hard not to notice I can't just flip on the MacBook and start surfing around or playing solitaire without draining the battery.  Our Netflix subscription is languishing, and I haven't quite finished off all the Christopher Eccleston Doctor Who episodes yet.  Nor can I access and follow the Rays from long distance.

But even in the loss of trivial things there is some grace, if one pays attention.  Driven back to books (when the light allows), I am blessed, particularly because my hands were fortunate to pick a collection of sermons by Frederick Buechner off the shelves first.  Even if those sermons remind me how woefully inadequate I will always be in writing sermons, at least I've been driven back to a reminder of just how right words can be when applied to the Word skillfully and under grace.  I've also made a start at Buechner's Bebb quartet; we'll see how that goes.

Otherwise, I'm simply forced to go slow.  There is a grace in that too, though not always easy to recognize as grace.  There is also the grace of shared trouble; I've spoken to more people I don't know since Irene than we had in our weeks here before Irene, if only to commiserate over the lack of electricity.  Still, that's something.  If I got to know them I'd no doubt find something to loathe, or at least get ticked off by--their politics, quite possibly, or their religious beliefs or who knows what--but we now share the aggravation of being power-less, and for the most part the burden becomes a little easier to bear.

So we'll see how long this lasts.  Probably not another post until the power is back.  In the meantime, time to go home and read some Buechner.

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