Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unplugged



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Day 1-
About 5:50 PM, the power went out. Don’t know why? Hurricane Irene is blowing through this town. The lights have flickered a few times and a few power boxes sparked and popped.
Now the electricity is defiantly off.
Sirens go down Patterson from East to West probably to the hospital. Other than that it is the wind and rain and silence.
Been sitting out in Mansland watching the yard. There is a branch on the cherry tree that has been chewing on by the critters and it seems it will take a hurricane to make it fail. Pop! Another breaker goes off in the distance like a gunshot.
So being easily entertained, I watch the limb ply under the rain and the wind. I will take Mother Nature takes its course. The critter crewe seem to be handling this weather pretty well. The ritual to return to the usual feeding areas to find them empty with an excuse note and a promise of treats tomorrow.
It has been a well-needed rain and wind to clean out the trees. Maybe I won’t have that pizza tonight., but I’m not hungry.
Likely I won’t watch the football schedule tonight. Maybe just strum the guitar by candlelight or sit on the porch feeling the mist and thinking about past times at the beach in such weather.
The branch continues to sway under the weight of soaking while my friends find solstices in yesterday’s remains.
Now that the power is out, good time to think about cutting the holly that is rubbing on the neighbor’s power line. (But that didn’t happen).
30 mph winds eliminate the thought. Maybe if the power is out for a couple of days. Maybe tomorrow?
The weather is supposed to clear tomorrow with heat and humidity. It will be fun to ride around the neighborhood and see what happened. Another siren.
I should go upstairs and see if there are any kind of leak, but if there are what am I going to do about it? I don’t even have any weather gear. My only protection from the rain is a light nylon jacket.
Wonder when everyone is driving today? Where do they “have” to go? Glad to see the critters congregate around. There is plenty of shelter here with bushes, and trees and they can even gather under Mansland.
Do I need the power to come on? Well a pizza for dinner would be nice, but not a necessity.
What about tomorrow?
One day at a time. Another distant explosion. Sleep may come early tonight. No communications with the rest of the world. Only my little island is secure.
Wonder if the mail came? Think I’ll go and check. Another distant explosion. I think our grid is done for the night or the baseball team is having fireworks in the worst I way.
I sit outside on the porch having brought in my wet mail. Seeing some of the branches down, I’ll wait till tomorrow to clean them up. I’m already wet sitting on the damp cushions.
The little birds come join me finding a brief respect from the weather. I have nothing else to offer them for the evening.
There is not major damage I can see, but the wild ones must coop with this unusable weather.
No one is walking his or her dog. No one is pushing baby carriage. On one is jogging. Across the street the wind seems to blow more fiercely.
Perhaps tall fences on both sides silence the pain. Without gutter the rain pours off the roof into giant lakes. Second set of bullets will keep me refreshed and occupied.
All is silent (except for the wind). No activity from any neighbors is observed. I notice across the street a tree that had definitely gone bad had been taken down. Probably good timing.
It will be fun to go around the neighborhood to see what has changed.
It is almost chilly enough to put on a sweatshirt, so I will.
On one side it sounds like the ocean, the other side the mountains in the fall. A small fire truck rolls by and stops just across the intersection.
I hear voices, but can’t make out the messages. Red lights flashing but no sirens.
I’m very proud of my elm out front. While others wind and sing, she stands strong perhaps knowing she harbors the critters crewes children.
Checked the windows upstairs and everything appears to be tight. The fire truck backs up then off it turns and escapes into the darkness.
Imagine the phone lines are busy with no one getting to the internet or television Like the pioneers days, what you see around you is what is happening. A tree frog welcomes the night.
A white SUV drives by with only one resident. What is so important to go out tonight?
The mobile machines sit silently in rows. They don’t care about he weather. And they just await more fossil fuel., like the rows of houses without electricity.
Lighting and rolling thunder take the neighborhood. What is next? Flash lights across the street to many houses trying to cope.
Sleet filled rain drives me inside writing by cell phone light.
Put on sweats then went outside. Can’t resist the environment. The house is ark inside yet everything is where it was and familiar. Another siren, but id doesn’t’ stop here.
8:41. The wind seems have slacken. Maybe it is over?
Think about guitar chords but need to trim my nails again. What is it about my nails that grow so fast?
Where is that light coming from?
The moon reflects the light from the other side of the world. By now the batteries on the computers have died. To every house is dark. Much like the beach. Wind blowing a constant mist in my face.
Very refreshing at night.
One of the rough things is going to the pee pee / poo poo tank in the dark.
Some of you boys have learned to side down, but men (like dogs) are to pee standing up, hoping to hit the mark. Stilt duano or puppy continues in the dark.
Played guitar for a while given it some moistly from the coast. Good for wood, bad for strings. Smell of asphalt in the air.
I’m really enjoying this.
Outside in the damp and blowing the cricket are chirping. The rest is silent. The door blows open but I don’t’ care. There is something special about being in this air. These cars have spotlights that would make a movie sight blush. Neighbors hide inside, but they will be disappointed by the wonder.
I applaud a jogger as she runs by appreciating the effort to try. She waves and continues on her path.
Every now and ten there is a flash of light but only a passing car.

Day 2-
Woke up to the sounds of the next door neighbor’s leaf blower at 9 am. Must be preparing for the Good Housekeeping. Then there are the lawn movers. Something to do to use fossil fuel.
Bright sunshine and cool breeze. Still no power but days after a hurricane are beautiful. People driving around and walking, children noises and dogs barking. Pick up sticks is the game to play. Neighbors are actually talking to each other over the incident. “How about you….? “ Have to see if the highway branch went down.
Pen and paper still work without power. People probably have cabin fever (even though on most days the stay inside hooked to their electronics) and have to drive somewhere to consume something.
Now what to do with the children who are used to being absorbed by video games and television?
Time to finish my water and take a ride around the neighborhood, then replinst the tummies of those who weathered the wind and rain.
Ride – talk to one of the neighbors who was sweeping her deck. She said she was fine but pointed to the corner lot. The tree in the backyard had split taking out a fence and power lines. Maybe they were the ones who blocked the road?
Weaving around debris and almost being decapitated by a downed line, I see groups of neighbors doing what Richmond residents do the best, clean the leaves to keep up with the appearance of the neighborhood while complaining.
Got a cell phone call from a friend to see if I needed anything. Nice gesture, but I’m good.
The roads are filed with rubberneckers. Guess there is nothing to do until church. Of course won’t know what churches are close because there is no television.
I wonder what those guys thing staring at cameras knowing no one is watching?
Already the sound of generators and chain saws fill the air.
Trash buys will be busy tomorrow it the sticks. Today will be warm so I’ll wait for the heat and break up sticks tomorrow. Besides got to feed the critters. Power trucks are out but they got a lot to do.
Went to the store to reload and it had the audacity to be closed. Luckily everyone sells beer, so I wandered down to a CVS to see what other necessities were being purchased after a hurricane. Coffee filters, cigarettes, tampons and the usual adult beverages.
Perhaps this is a good day for food in paper? On my return I remember the critter crewe, so I gave them p-nut butter sandwiches. Also forgot batteries for the radio. The governor flew over then flew back again. Maybe he forgot his wallet. The other neighbors fill her recycling bin with spent bottles.
Without the steady hiss of air conditioners you can here people talking isnside their houses. Looks like no football tonight. No computer No CDs.
Perhaps a nap or perhaps a drawing? Perhaps some strumming on the guitar. Maybe wait for the beer to kick in to decide. Extra amount of traffic today. It is Sunday but is is a sign of cabin fever. Oh, yeah, the road is closed.
Wondered how many people ordered take out? Perhaps I should sweep up the leaves? Nah, wait till tomorrow when all those yahoos go back to work. I wonder how hot it gets in t hose high-rise buildings without air conditioning?
Maybe they won’t be able to work. Sure can’t work from home.
New dynamic of driving: Get in our car, start the engine, but before rolling, pick up your cell phone, check messages, text, call your BFF, then move forward.
A couple gets into a car parked in front of my house. The wave. I wave back. I have no idea who these people are. They drive off.
Watching a yard monkey eating the elms leaves tips haning upside down by his toes. Must be good stuff. I’m easily entertained.
Bun-bun made it safe. She stops by to say “Hi” then hops off to the backyard buffett.
Talk to the next door neighbor about surviving the wind and rain. I tell her what I saw in my bike ride through the hood She reminds me that she is still teaching yoga? Who asked? Fill a trashcan full of sticks then sit back down to cool off. My gas selling neighbor rides his huge truck by in rainbow sunglasses with a generator in the back. Another truck with a generator, then another. It seems to be tough to be unplugged
Good day to have a chain saw. Bad day to be an insurance agent.
Headphone radio confirms that most of the state is unplugged. Another delivery of what?
So what do you do when you move back to the early 20th century? Candle lite, cooking over an open fire, traveling by foot, talking face-to-face. Entertaining yourself by whatever means are available.
The birds start to settle in for the evening. Why are all the Catholic schools closed? And William and Mary? What is with the Tribe? Oops, the Gryphon’s? Oops, the Tribe…. They don’t seem to know what to call themselves. Yawn.
Big couple walks by again with a baby carriage looking very uninterested. Blond walks down the street staring over. You got to look at something when you walk. The neighbor drives off as I find with ½ p-nut butter on multi-grand bread sandwich. Can you survive on p-nut butter and beer?
Running children followed by a ong parade of baby manufacturers.
Time to clip the nails. Every time you see a light it is a car.
The crickets welcome the silence of he darkness as the birds find their resting spots.
Started to call someone but decided to save the battery. How does ADT work when the power is out?
The rumbling generators and a barking dog are the only sounds in a dead neighborhood.
Much different evening. The lasting writing by the cell phone light. The smell of griddles. Everyone is quiet with the kaleidoscope of lives reflecting across the house form the hi-beams driving by. What do Rednecks do in the dark? Fireworks, again.

Day 3-
Awoken by the trash men. A man caring a computer bag walks down the street singing.
It is funny thinking about being away from Facebook and email.
I am truly unplugged from the world. But as everyone else goes back to work…to tell each other tales I will prepare for the morning ride.
Siren in the distance and two dogs howl across the street echoed in an empty house like the hounds of Baskerville. What will I find this morning?
See how much the city did yesterday? The roads will probably be filled with home repair trucks, and tree removal trucks, and power trucks. Time to ride. Not a city truck in sight, except for one with a guy taking pictures. The woman with him wearing the day-glo vest must be the driver. Only one tree has been cut. This is taking longer than I thought
So my second adventure was to do my usual Sunday route a day later. The fan seemed to have power with everything long pretty normal. More kids on bikes (including skirts on bikes, much appreciated) due to the school being open, but little other traffic.
Turned up Nansmond (my favorite street) to see if any grocery stores were opened.
Wow! Parking lot was full. Locked up and ventured inside the refurnished store. Beautiful wide isles and produce section. Searched for what I needed, seed, p-nuts, blueberries and beer, then stared to the thing checkout lines. Goofy conversation while bagging, but I made it out OK.
Home and headphones to classical after feeding the yard. The critters were hungry and seem to enjoy the meal. Although it is hot I calm down by watching the critter scramble. Cut up some more sticks.
Talk to the neighbor who has cut up her downed tree and happy there was no worst damage.
Pretty girl in red t-shirt runs by and waves. More sirens. Must be 5:00. Won’t save again until I have power. Cold beans for dinner. Yumm! Hot sauce, pepper and salt. One neighbor comes home while another one leaves. Maybe going to a hotel is the answer? Get excited about the sound of big trucks. Smell of a grill for dinner.
A couple walks by but she is not who you married. Watch birds enjoy the seed treat without fear. I seed the trees for the cardinals, blue and gray jays, and robins enjoying their chatter throughout the hood in the evening breeze. Bike boy goes by glowing. I applaud.
Enjoy watching the headlight beams on the darken houses etching a fast motion picture through the patterns of the leaves. Take a deep breathe through the nose (yoga tells you that and listen to jazz that my father probably played. Interesting, traffic seems to be traveling north and south on Westmoreland now? What has changed? Maybe the markers that the road is closed don’t mean anything after the darkness moves in?

Day 4-
Tree trucks rumble by and a chickadee is pecking on a tree with great velocity. When there is no power there is still movement. A feather floats down softly landing on the grass blending with the downed leaves. Watching the yard monkeys run through their highway in wild abandon like children.
People should be starting to stink now. A lone woman walks slowly down the sidewalk across the street. Contemplate the yard with its texture, shades, layers of colors. It is a peaceful place.
On the morning ride, one tree cut and moved and one that was on a house completely removed. All the others trees are the same. One half peanut butter sandwich on multi-grain bread with water for lunch. Time to restock the critter crewe and reload. This trip is an adventure avoiding fallen trees and crossing a bridge which still spooks me. Up the hill into a dodge with a car backing in the bank parking lot. Between a row of parked cars and yellow tape showing a new parking lot I weave into the bike lot I noticed yesterday. Decide to double the p-nut purchase since they were such a hit yesterday. Back home safe going into the daily feeding routine to the appreciation of hungry faces. Cut up some more sticks and move a down branch to cut up tomorrow with a handsaw. Afternoon of watching the critter crewe do what they do while hydrating. The bug spray helps. Listen to the NPR reports of food grown in test tubes and wonderful music. A power trucks rolls down the alley.
So I lock up Mansland and go inside for another can of cold beans on the porch. A toe headed boy runs down the sidewalk while a gorls yell up, “Look daddy! Look what I found!”
I look up and the porch light is on. I walked inside and it was true. Electrical power had been resumed. Good thing I checked around along the way because the hot water machine had been hit somewhere and was turned on and cooking water. Three loud booms sound off to the east. I am cautious of the permanent nature of having power again. I wonder of the surge turning on the switch to the grid brings? I never turned anything off, except the computer.
I could go in and watch television or listen to music or work on the computer and catch up on all the content of social media, but I’ve sort of appreciated this time of being unplugged. Might just turn everything off again to enjoy.
To top it off, the ice cream truck is back playing “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes.”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Hurricane Story




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Since I seem to be stranded, but there is really no place to go, I decided to write a hurricane story.

It is 5 o’clock somewhere, even if it is a warm adult beverage (I don’t ask for much), I started looking for photos of hurricanes. I’ve been through many, some bad some not so much, and then I found this drawing.

The illustration was created by Dwayne Carpenter (always give credit to the artist) for a poster the Richmond Times-Dispatch did as a “Thank You” token for working through a hurricane.

I believe it was Isabel, but I could never get girls names straight. The newspaper knew a hurricane was coming and wanted to get prepared. They “asked” for volunteers to work through the night incase there were any problems.

Now newspapers have produced news in bad weather before, but for some reason they wanted to keep their usual schedule, so a team of designers volunteered to bring in sleeping bags and spend the night in their cubicles.

Remember the newspaper’s normal deadline is 10 pm and everything is digital, so it doesn’t take that long to send a newspaper 11 miles to the Hanover printing facility. With that said, we had our team at the ready.

And of course, ALL the supervisors “volunteered” to stay, except two who would relieve us in the morning. I guess it was a feather in your hat if you stayed up all night at work.

My wife wasn’t thrill about sitting at home alone in a hurricane, but she realized work-is-work and I’ve had plenty of overnight stays before, so off I went to work at 7 am.

Getting off the bus, the sky was blue and bright without any sign of bad weather coming.

A usual workday went by, but at the shift change, everyone but a few left. We were in for the evening.
The pages of the next day’s newspaper went quickly due to the newsroom wanted to leave as early as possible. The lights flickered once or twice, but we never lost power.

With the deadline met, some of the designers continued to work, clearing up all the work normally left over for the next day. About midnight, one of the supervisors told them to stop. Each found a spot to curl up and slept in the ever-increasing warm building.

Standing in one of the floor to ceiling windows, we could see the rain going sideways, but being in such a huge concrete monolith, there was very little sound of the wind.

The phone rang at the traffic desk and I assumed it was the pressroom asking for another page to be resent. To my surprise, I was some girl from the Virginia Pilot. In a panicked voice she said they might be sending up their newspaper, since their printing plant was getting the brunt of the hurricane. She said she would call back and hung up.

To my surprise, it seemed somebody had made arrangements with the Virginia Pilot that if they could not print, they would send us their pages and we would forward them to our presses to print (after our paper of course). Unfortunately this information had never trickled down to the people who would have to take the task, so when she called back, we exchanged information about our FTP sites and began the transfer.
Now this is a fast and well-practiced procedure on normal days, but the power was constantly shifting at the beach. The file format appeared to be PDF, but we had not tested any of the pages beforehand.

Once it was confirmed that all the pages had been received, we began the process to send them to Hanover. Our standard operating procedure for checking the pages is to view each color separation of every page. To our amazement, all the black was separating into full color.

So getting the best minds together, waking up some, we tried several tricks to change the outcome, with little success. The problem was in the settings making the PDF files.

Calling back, we tried to instruct the Pilot’s staff how to correct it at their in. (Now remember this is 2am and they are being blown around pretty good). They tried but could not correct the problem, so we sent all the pages in full color. It was a waste of time and materials due to poor pre-planning.

During our sending the pages, the Pilot called and said they could print, so we didn’t have to worry about it any more.

By now, it was 4 in the morning and everyone retired to their cubicles to rest. The wind continued to blow trash around outside, but little other could be witness except for a heavy rain.

Once I am up past midnight, I have problems going to sleep, so I just caught on some paperwork until dawn. I called my wife, but she didn’t answer the phone.

The morning staff came in all refreshed without any stories of the horror I would find outside. Passing the keys to the shop over, I packed up my little bag and walked out into the beautiful morning.

In a moment I realized there was no public transportation running, so I was going to have to hike it. As I walked up Broad Street, which was usually quiet, I could see very little damage. At VCU, there were a few bricks blown of a 100-year-old building. Turning into the Fan, everything seemed normal until at Strawberry Street there was an old tree down across Park Avenue. Figuring the downed tree was just a fluke I continued my journey.

Once passed the Powhite I turned into my neighborhood. Huge trees crisscrossed the streets wrapped in power lines.

Walking gingerly around and over I began to wonder what I would find when I got home. Would the 60-year-old house still be standing? Would all those trees that were hand planted be uprooted?

The house was still standing and a quick review of the yard seemed fine. One small tree in the back had fallen over and there were sticks all over the yard, but not bad looking at the surrounding neighborhood.
My wife said the whole house was shaking so she went to sleep. Not a bad plan.

Without electricity, I was summoned to go to the grocery store to get ice. So without sleep for 24 hours, I saddled up and rode over and around branches to find the store open for business. Water, ice, bread, and alcohol were in abundance.

The next few days, with the power out, we would walk up to a convenience store that did have power and get a cup of coffee. No television meant ready books in the sunlight or playing guitars or battery powered radios. Neighbors ran extension cords across the street to offer others generator power. Sandwiches and open fire grilled food seemed to get up by for the days of camping. Sleep when it gets dark, wake up when it gets light.

Of course, being the dedicated person I am, I was back at work the next day to hear the complaints from others.
So hurricanes are all how you take them. We need the rain. The lost of creature comforts make us appreciate them more when they return.

That’s the end of my hurricane story.

Remember the outdoor critters have to go through this interrupting their daily survival with unknown terror. Give them a treat tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blue Jay



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A blue jay died in my yard yesterday.

Well, I think so.

I walked up to the house and saw this blue jay standing under a bush a few feet away. I stopped and expected it to fly off, but it didn’t.

As I slowly walked past, I noticed it had its eyes closed.

Perhaps it was asleep, so I moved softly.

On the way back, it still stood still as I passed giving it enough space if panicked, but there was no fear, only stillness.

I looked around and the rest of the yard seemed normal. The usual feeding frenzy of small brown and grey creatures followed by squawking blue and red and brown variety of feathered friends.

Perhaps it was sick. Perhaps it was the Grackles. Perhaps it had been injured with all the activity in the yard. Perhaps it was just old age.

I had put out enough food and water for all to share and consume, but this one bird was on my mind. From previous experience I knew there was nothing I could do.

The day went on, but I wonder about this big blue bird that had decided to rest in Puppywoods.
I try to create an environment for all the critters to be well fed and feel safe.

I watched at the others continued in their activities. They gave the Jay space but went on with their own affairs.

Recently, a preacher friend of mine talked about giving funeral services of strangers. Trying to describe the final resting of someone you don’t know, hit a chord.

These guys who I talk to everyday as if they could understand me come and go through the yard with wild abandon like children running through a park with no supervision. They take from the abundance without a single “Thank You” but learn to return the next day at the same time.

And yet here was a beautiful blue bird, standing proudly in its last moments of life. It had decided this was a good spot to end the journey.

I locked up Mansland and proceeded slowly to the house when I noticed the blue jay had lain down. Completely still on the ground with no indications of injuries, I seemed calm.

I stopped for a moment to take in what may be its last breath, and then decided to move inside and let its body rest through the night. Tomorrow I will make it a bed under Puppywoods.

The next morning I was awoken by the squawks of blue jays. The yard was awake.

Knowing my duty, I went outside to find the body was gone.

Perhaps it had been sleeping and flew off. Perhaps the night creatures had done the funeral arrangements.
Not a feather or any sigh or struggle existed. Instead the critters embarked on their daily ventures.

Now most people are saying, “ It’s just a bird.”

These are my friends who I talk to everyday. They are my company. They are my entertainment. They are the Puppywood’s family.

So today, there was an extra treat of sunflower seeds and a family of five blue jays arrived singing sweet songs.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Going Home Alone

Going Home Alone the Geezers

Intro:

E / A / E / A / E / A / E

E B

V-1

I say I’m not lonely, but I’m living alone

A B E

When a raven beauty asked if she could borrow my phone

E B

Engulfed by foreboding eyes, her unforgiving smile

A B E

Another round of drinks I say, I’m staying for a while.

A F# E

Chorus 1

She drinks away my money, machine gun shots

A F# E

Long stares into each other, is this all you got

E B

I reach into memory, to order up a round

A B E

Wanting to believe this time was something I had found.

E B

V-2

I’m glad for the encounter, a companion for a night

A B E

She acts as if its meant to be, so the feelings alright

E B

I act like I’m 30, she knows that I’m not

A B E

Together we sit drinking, no questions, times forgot

A F# E

Chorus 2

She drinks all my money, shot after shot

A F# E

Long stares into yesterday, this is all I’ve got

E B

Another memory, another round

A B E

Reality comes true, this is all I’ve found

E B E

V-3

Last call comes way to early, beer toast say goodbye

A B E

Stories bring tears in rainfall, but its too late to cry

E B

A touch of a hand so warm and soft, but on ones left at home

A B E

A kiss good night, what could have been, we left alone

A F# E

Chorus 3

My phones disconnected, I can’t pay the rent

A F# E

But for the feeling tonight, the moneys well spent

E B

Our faces stare as if we knew, there could have been a way

A B E

To start again, another time, another lonely day

E B

V-4

I’m going home alone tonight, the writings on the wall

A B E

She didn’t really matter, it was just another call

E B

To a time when time was what it was, but quickly slipped away

A B E

The sun comes up to wake the dream, another lonely day

A F# E

Chorus 4

She drinks away my money, I give it a shot

A F# E

I say I’m not lonely, but this is all I’ve got

E B

Darkness creeps around the look we shared, as it begins to fade

A B E

The time was brief, but it was right, there’s nothing left to say.