Thursday, March 14, 2013

Power Failure

The power went out in our neighborhood late this afternoon. Still light enough with the shades up to search for candles and the kerosene lamp that was our main source of light during hurricanes when I was growing up. I don't know how I ended up with the lamp. I think I dug it out of my mother's attic when I got back from Germany and moved into the upstairs of an old house in Galveston's historical district with a friend from Seattle. We had some statues and some big scheffleras that looked good in the lamplight. A grey kitten that attacked our feet when we were sleeping. Bach on a reel to reel tape deck I blew my first paycheck from ANICO on. And a big staircase down to the front porch that had a way of ending halfway down, like something had pushed it in against the wall, so I couldn't get out of the house. I slept in a room off that staircase, and later, after I was married and my son was born and we had spent some time in Arkansas making films, when we moved back to Galveston, we rented that same upstairs apartment and my son slept in that room. The ceiling of his closet fell in one night.

This afternoon, I found the lamp oil right off, but it was almost dark by the time I found the lamp and the glass chimney, and some of the time I was looking with a flashlight, its narrow beam highlighting the TV, some books, the top shelf of a closet, and, finally, the kerosene lamp. I showed my daughter how to fill it, trim the wick, light it and adjust the flame, then how to put the chimney on. The lamp oil burns with a whiter flame than the kerosene did, and it has a different smell, but the light is still soft.

When my wife got home, we went out to dinner. For some reason, during dinner and on the way home tonight, the three of us were exceptionally gay.


Cypher Blueman said...

A lovely piece to wake up to Billy. I had to look up ANICO which for some reason I'd read as ANCIO. Not to be maudlin, but these writings will have special meaning for your kid down the years.

quinn the eskimo said...

Agreed with Cypher, another really nice piece BG. Keeper.

Cypher Blueman said...

I can't quite get at it, but I wonder why I liked the big storms in New York. No school. But more. I liked that three- day blackout in the city in 65. I read the Lord of the Rings by candle light. I'm not sure I would like a blackout today though. I'd miss the chance of seeing Dr, Zhivago on TMC. I like to see him snowed into the Urals, writing poetry and stuff.

gasket said...

I love this story. There's something extremely gratifying about knowing how to survive, whether it's during a power failure or during a bank failure.

Hilarym99 said...

Nice post Billy.

I loved when the power would go out when I was a kid. Just loved it. Something magical about it. The silence maybe, or the different kind of light when there's no flashing screens, only flickering candles.

I have a friend whose family had a generator. They'd plug in their video game system to the plug that got the power. I think they missed something doing that.

A few years back, in college, I was hanging out with an ex, watching TV. We were in that awkward, trying to be friends, but something was still there stage, I think. The power went out. We just sat. It seemed uncomfortable, at least to me, without the TV to focus on. I couldn't stop thinking about what we would have done three months earlier to pass the time.