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.
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
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
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
Squall (intro) which seems to describe what we had. I recommend
you get the album From