19th to 21st
Friday, October 1 2010
The power outage was still happening this morning when Gretchen and I woke up. She had some place she needed to be, so she took one of our two cars for a drive back to the 21st Century, leaving me in the 19th. There were still parts of my routine I could do with 19th Century technology, including make myself a French press of coffee. I had to grind the beans with a mortar and pestal and I had to light the gas stove with a lighter, but the results were identical to my 21st Century process. After that, though, I was at a bit of a loss for what to do with myself. I read articles in The New Yorker while rain pelted down outside, and at some point I grabbed an umbrella and went out to marvel at the rivulets near the greenhouse (which was flooded as much as it ever floods).
During a pause in the rain, I went out to the tomato patch and made another heroic harvest of tomatoes. There are still plenty becoming ripe every day, and there are plenty more in the pipeline.
In a power outage, there are three main lifelines back to technological modernity. (There would be a fourth, the landline phone, but all our phones depend on AC power.) The first of these lifelines is radio; I still make heavy use of a portable counterfeit Sony Walkman portable radio, mostly to listen to podcasts broadcast over the FM band from my computer. But during a power outage I listen to the local public radio station or (as happened this morning) the local "Sound of Life" Christian station when I happen to stumble into a particularly cheeseball Christian quasi-alternative rock song. Another lifeline is Gretchen's cellphone (if we know where it is, and usually we don't.) And finally there are the cars, which act as shuttles to the 21st Century. But after Gretchen left, the only remaining car was the Subaru, which had been up on ramps ever since the exhaust system repair. I'd still not repaired fuel filler pipe back in, so with nothing much else to do with myself, I made that into my next power outage project. (After tests with real gasoline, I was now confident that the filler pipe was completely repaired.) Putting the filler pipe back in was much easier than getting it out had been. That's usually the case when dealing with rusty old equipment. After the disaster of the Subaru falling off its jack the other day, I was exceedingly cautious, deploying two parallel support system consisting of stacked four by fours and concrete blocks.
I'm a professional web developer with several overlapping deadlines, so I couldn't spend a whole day dicking around like a hillbilly with a car in my yard. So once I had the Subaru put back together, I drove into Uptown Kingston and did some work at that internet café called Dreamweavers (on the corner of Front and Wall Streets). I was hungry, so in addition to coffee, I ordered what I always order at such places now: a toasted bagel with hummus and tomato. I actually like it better than the equivalent made with cream cheese (vegan or otherwise).
Later this evening Gretchen went out again to see another Woodstock Film Festival movie, leaving me in an increasingly-dark house. I fired up a kerosene lamp and did some writing on my laptop (a definite benefit of eight hour battery life). At some point I heard a chirp from the smoke detectors, and though there was still no power, this indicated that a surge of power had come into the house. Within a few minutes the power came back on and the 21st Century flooded back in. The first thing I did to take advantage of available technology was to roast the tomatoes I'd picked earlier in the oven. It's a gas oven, but, unlike the surface burners, it requires electricity to operate. I used a technique championed by our long-time houseguest Ray. He would slather tomatoes in olive oil and salt and roast them for an hour at 420 degrees (dude!). This process brings out all sorts of delicious flavors otherwise locked away within the tomatoes' flesh.
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