Pictures from the local paper,
The Commercial Appeal.
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^Just a few blocks from my house...

White Storm*

On Tuesday, July 22, I woke up to the sound of something hitting my air conditioning unit. I sat up and turned on the lights. I heard a whooshing sound from outside as I got up and went to the door. Outside the air was white with water. The sky was white, the air bright with horizontal rain falling toward the east as though it had early word on a new direction for down. The trees were whipping around like tasered protesters. There was a huge limb up against my front step.

The view from my front porch!

The huge winds had broken it loose from my neighbor's tree, but it been slowed as it folded a little tulip tree over my car and had finally been stopped by several small trees up against my porch. I had lucked up. It could have been MUCH worse.

My Car!

I stood there on my porch for a minute, stunned, my mouth open, looking at the white sky, the struggling trees and the damage in my yard. I thought I was protected by the section of house between me and the storm so I could stand and gawk. Back inside I turned on the TV. Cable was out so I started flipping around for a local channel. I got a fuzzy picture of a weather display with a line of storms outlined in colors I had never seen them use before, past the blues and greens and yellows and occasional reds they normally show into crimsons, purples and lots of whites! (!!WHITE!!) and thought to myself, "This can't be good." Foolishly the unfamiliar display seemed more proof of danger than what I had just seen outside my door. Then before I could hear more than "A line of severe thunderstorms…." the electricity went out.

I went back to the porch to watch the spectacle, the dogs following and looking at me as if to say "Why are you having it do this?" (They think I'm God.) The local paper said the storm had straight-line winds that reached 100 mph. Back inside I decided to open the basement door and put my purse next to it in case I had to run down into the dark. As I went back to the porch to watch the show, I noticed that the roof was leaking and the house was already getting hot. I didn't realize, as trees were uprooted and power poles broken all over Memphis, that a natural disaster was in the making and it would be 9 days before my house got cool again.

The winds slowed. The rain slackened. The 30 minute hurricane was over. It didn't last long for an event that threw me and hundreds of thousands of others 100 years back in time. No internet. No computer. No cable TV. No TV at all. No refrigerator. No lights and worst of all…NO AIR CONDITIONING!! Not even a fan. For several days the grocery stores, drugstores and even gas stations were closed and in some areas they were still closed over a week later. Most people had to cook their thawing food on grills. My dogs ate real well for 3 days. They got roasts, hamburger, pork chops, bacon and catfish (which got mixed reviews).

I quickly began to rue the day my ancestors settled in West Tennessee. What possessed those Scott-Irish, German, English pioneers to settle in this hot hellhole. (I'm part Cherokee as well, like most everyone else in Tennessee, but that blood is too thin to help with heat tolerance.) Then my mother goes and marries a Norwegian/Swedish mix. Waaaaa!!!. I'm not supposed to be here!!! I found myself pinning for the fjords as sweat dripped into my eyes, as I looked in the paper at the July temperatures in London (77/63), Dublin (69/51), Oslo,Sweden (76/67), Bergen, Norway (72/56), and knowing, KNOWING that was the climate I was adapted for, not for a heat index of 105°F! Now I realized why Southerners had to have African slaves: Cause those frelling ice people couldn't work in the southern sun.

My neighbor had a generator. It would roar, rough and uneven, loud, straining, missing, day and night, plus put out smelly fumes and carbon monoxide. To avoid the hotbox that was my house I would sit outside in the one corner of my yard that is private and the roar and the unburned hydrocarbon smell would only be about 20' from me. It was like perpetually sitting at the pole position at the Indianapolis 500 when they say "Gentlemen, Start you engines!" At night, windows open, the roaring (and heat) would keep me awake. At first, when I lost electricity, I viewed my neighbor's generator with mild envy. I soon came to view it as a metaphor for the parasitic rich who make their lives more pleasant by making the lives of others more unpleasant.

I sat and dripped and read. I finished Arundhati Roy's War Talk (A+), C. J. Cherryh's The Morgaine Saga (B and an acquired taste B at that.), Janet Evanovich's Hard Eight (D for an illogical fantasy in which a stupid, none too pretty Cinderella is rescued by gorgeous men smitten with her for no good reason. Or even any bad reason.), Jennifer K. Harbury's Searching for Everardo (A- and scary for her description of her marriage to a Guatamalan rebel who was captured by the military and slowly tortured to death) and Arundhati Roy's award-winning The God of Small Things (A for the tragic tale of two-egged twins and their family in communist Kerala in India. No heroes. No real villains. Just human selfishness and betrayal).

As I perspired I considered science fiction stories about cities under climate-controlled domes. I realized that modern humanity exists similarly, not under city-sized domes but in house-sized and car-sized ones where we are protected from most environmental dangers. We have our own little pools, bathtub-shaped. We even have little rain showers on demand. Best of all we have climate control, warm or cool at our whim. But our domes make us dependent, make us weak. Technology is no longer our servant but our captor and many of us, most of us, could not live without it. We are soft. We can be controlled by our technology and without anything so clever as the hi-tech gadgets of Homeland Security. All our fascist rulers have to do is turn off our power. If, during my sojourn in the heat, someone had given me the choice of air conditioning or revolution (aka, the restoration of constitutional democracy with honest voting and vote counting using paper ballots), it would have been hard for me to chose rightly.

So the CIA and the evil Bush administration seek to control their conquest, their new colony Iraq, by controlling power and communication. They turn off the electricity, bomb it, disable it, and will not turn it back on till fall, when they think the falling temperatures will make it redundant. They send covert ops to dismantle the phone system, to steal the phone switchers. They destroy water systems. They believe this will sap people's strength, their will, their ability to resist. The thief is in the house but with it 115°F outside, the Iraqis can only sit and fan their children as their house is looted. They also must struggle to feed their kids and themselves in an Iraq where there is no way to store perishable food and little food to store. Where for many there is no clean water. No way to deal with the terrible heat. No way to call for help if someone is sick, injured, robbed, kidnapped, or raped. Most people only have the energy to suffer while their nation's possessions are stripped from them, their oil, their antiquities, their educational system. The alien invaders have separated them from their technology, leaving them helpless, unable to even communicate farther than the sound of their voices, leaving them easily controlled. So we too could be easily controlled.

If I was rich I would cover my house with solar cells, put up windmills, put in a livable basement, a cistern, all ways to free myself from something I don't control and thus end my vulnerability. If I was young I would try to become physically hard, so I would not tethered to the end of a power line.

We are slaves, chained by technology.

*Named in Memory of Stan Roger's great song, White Squall (intro) which seems to describe what we had. I recommend you get the album From Fresh Water.


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