While it is somewhat fresh in my memory, I have decided to write about the events of the past week. Most of us will remember this week for a long, long time.
It all started innocently enough. On Friday, October 28, we received a message from Gabe. Gabe is my wife’s former boss and his singing group was putting on a show on Saturday, October 29. He called to say that the show was postponed one week due to the unfavorable weather forecast. Well, unfavorable weather forecasts don’t always materialize.
On Saturday, I ran some errands in the morning, including a trip to Blue Back Square to buy a couple of books to be signed by author Jane Leavy the following morning. The streets of Blue Back were filled with legions of trick-or-treaters. Books in hand, I left for the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) meeting in Hamden, about a half hour southwest of us. As we arrived, several of us noted the deteriorating weather and concluded that not even Ernie Banks would have said “It’s a beautiful day for baseball – Let’s Play Two.” A couple of presenters decided to stay at home (smart move). The meeting proceeded. We took a break about 2:30 and things were not looking good outside. We resumed, but at about 4:30 decided to end the meeting early. By that time, we had received word that Jane Leavy (she is a sportswriter) had cancelled her Sunday morning book signing event. Also, the Trivia Contest will wait for another day.
We made our ways to our respective homes. Merritt Parkway was closed, so it was up Route 10 to I-84. The scene was not pretty as some trees and wires were down. I finally made it to Mountain Road. Mountain Road is one of the prettier roadways in West Hartford. Not this late afternoon. Trees and wires were down and in volumes much higher than further south in the State. I finally made the turn onto my block and, thank heavens the lights were on at my house. However, the house next door to our right was dark as a large limb came off the maple tree out front and took all the wires with it. We sat down, watched the news accounts of the storm, and had a quick supper. I then, it wound up being fortuitous, started a fire in the fireplace.
At 7:30 PM on Saturday October 29, the lights went off. We were plunged into virtual darkness, the only illumination being from the fireplace. I made my way upstairs and found the flashlight we keep in our bedroom. We suddenly became very religious as my wife found every candle holder in the house, located our box of Shabbat candles, and lit up the house as best she could. It wasn’t getting any warmer. We hunted down extra quilts for the bed and tried to get some sleep.
It was a very long night. Any attempt at sleep was interrupted by the sound of falling trees and limbs. By some miracle, nothing came crashing into the house.
Sunday morning, we awoke early. I went out to assess the damage. Out front, there was no lawn, just downed branches and limbs from the oak tree. One limb had missed the picture window in our living room by less than an inch. It was, by far, the heaviest of the limbs that fell. As bad as the front was, the back was worse. At least two very large limbs had come down from the maple tree, and huge limbs had come down from our neighbor to the left’s large old pine tree and fallen onto our yard. What a mess!
It was time to drive out and explore the neighborhood. Or so I thought. First I had to shovel and a foot of snow off the driveway. Then I ventured forth onto the unplowed streets of West Hartford. I tried taking my usual route to Main St. with no luck. I zigzagged my way through downed wires and trees only to find the access road totally blocked by a downed tree. I retraced my steps and was finally able to make my way to Bishops Corner, the main shopping area in our part of town. By some miracle, all the lights were on in Bishops Corner. I quickly made it to the bagel store and, after waiting on a very long line, got a couple of bagels along with hot tea (more me) and hot coffee (for my wife). We tried to get the radio going, but the batteries were week and reception was bad. From what we heard, the Governor warned everyone to prepare for the long haul. It would be a while before we got our power back – For once, One-Term Malloy was telling the truth.
In the early afternoon, I took Nikki and Sammy for a walk. They wanted to see the damage. Nikki is our big dog and best source of security. She is an Australian Shepherd/Collie mix. She is thirteen now, and her hearing isn’t that good. But the important things, she hears. Like the mailman. She also recognizes my mother-in-law’s voice on the answering machine and gives us the message when we get a call from Florida. Sammy is our little dog. He is a Shih Tzu. Of the three of us, Sammy has the best eyesight (Nikki wanted to be a seeing eye dog, but failed the vision exam). We walked our usual route, making our way through the destruction, until the road was totally blocked and we had to retrace our steps. We made it home and agreed that Barksdale Road (pun intended) was in very bad shape.
Later that afternoon, suffering from cabin fever, we made our way out to find a place for supper. Other than Bishops Corner, everything was closed. We went to an Italian Restaurant and waited 40 minutes. Waiting was no problem. My wife had brought along the Jodi Picoult book she was reading (autographed by the author – no less). And, we were warm. Finally, it was time to go home. Flashlight at the ready, we entered the house, started the fire, lit the candles, and endured our second heatless, lightless, sleepless night.
Monday morning, my wife ventured forth to work and promptly got stuck trying to get out of the driveway. Eventually, she made her way into work and was the first to arrive. I, being retired and having nothing better to do, made my way to Panera Bread. Not only were they serving breakfast, but they also had access to the internet. I saw some people I knew and quickly became friends with people I had never met before. Unfortunately, there was something wrong with my computer and I was unable to access WiFi. Not to worry, the Geek Squad at Best Buy could help me. So I made my way, circuitously, to Corbins Corner only to find that Best Buy did not have power. I was told that the store in Newington was open and off I went. Geek looks at computer, presses two buttons and – Voila! – I was good to go. I also went to the camera department (a trip to Best Buy always includes a visit to the Camera Department).
Since I was in Newington, I decided to head to their library. The Library was closed due to lack of power. Back to West Hartford I went. I made my way to the Main Library in Blue Back Square. It was closed. The search continued. The Bishops Corner branch, and the adjoining Senior Center were open. I found an empty table, took out a book that I was referencing in my most recent research, and began to write about Bill Virdon. For those of you that don’t remember him, he played centerfield for the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates and hit one of the more famous (not the most famous) ground balls in World Series History. Enough about that. After some time, the battery got low on the computer and I went in search of an electric outlet. Searching for an available outlet was to become an art form. So there I was, the next great American baseball writer, on a chair next to an outlet, no table, laptop on my lap, books to the side, writing away about the Yankees of 1974. Things weren’t bad enough – I am now writing about the Steinbrenner Yankees (Virdon was the manager in 1974).
My wife got home, started the fire, and lit the candles. I was off to the Chinese Restaurant to pick up dinner. While waiting for the food, I went back to the Senior Center and found an outlet to charge up my cell phone. At home, we had our Chinese Food by candlelight. The Wonton soup never tasted better. Not long after, we tried to sleep in the cold and the dark.
It was Monday Night – our third night of Darkness.
Tuesday morning, my wife decided to see if they had showers for employees where she works (they do have facilities for guests). Low and behold – they did. She packed up a change of clothes and off she went. For me, it was back to Panera’s. That morning, I sat across from a man who was trying to sell a business idea to a prospective investor. I listened in. Hearing his pitch, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity for some folks in South Florida with whom I have been dealing for the past few months – but that is another story. Tuesday, the main library was open. I made my way down to Blue Back, parked in the garage (free parking – hooray), and ventured forth. The elevator wasn’t working so I walked up. I definitely could use the exercise. I finally found a free table, hooked up the computer and MiFi, got on the internet and was in research heaven – the SABR website. I was in another type of heaven as well. Sitting at the table were a couple of pretty young ladies, one bearing a remarkable resemblance to Julia Roberts, who someday will make their careers in Medicine.
As I prepared to leave, I called my wife and told her to meet me at the library and we would dine in Blue Back. She said to meet her at the Senior Center. So, off to the Senior Center it was. On the way out of the library, I saw one of my former co-workers. She told me that the fitness center at work was allowing employees to shower, even if they weren’t members. Something to think about.
At the Senior Center, my wife did some reading (she is a perpetual reading machine). I continued with my writing. The TV was on, and we got the updates from the Governor and the head of our Power Company Connecticut Light and Power (the initials say it all). After that, it was the Silly News. Does anybody really care about these dumb celebrities? I heard someone mention my name. Wasn’t sure it was me that was being called. It seems there are many people with my name in West Hartford. Anyhow, it was another coworker and another invite to use the facilities at the office. At 8:00 PM, the Senior Center closed and it was off to Harry’s Pizza. We took home leftovers for the dogs – they are helping me write this. We got home, let the animals out – one of the cats decided to spend the night outdoors, and went to bed.
It was Tuesday Night – Our fourth night without power, and it was cold.
Wednesday morning, it was back to Panera’s. The internet was not working well there, so I went to the library/senior center for a couple of hours. It was warmer at midday, so I went home and started cleaning up the yard as best I could. The snow had melted and I filled several bags with leaves and smaller branches. That night, the wife decided to grill some dinner. We are not big into grilling, but she found the charcoal, ventured to the back porch, and got the grill going. The best part of the dinner was the hot tea.
Then, night fell. We sat by the fire. Our cat Elsie (Elsie is part cat, part bowling ball) sat by the fire. Our cat Morty (Morty is part persian, part undetermined) was outside again, guarding the neighbors’ houses. He also discovered it was warmer outside than inside. Smart Cat.
And Wednesday came to a close. We were in our fifth night of darkness, and the power company said we would not have power until Sunday night.
Thursday was pretty much a repeat of Wednesday. However, my wife decided to head to the Senior Center to do some work, after she got home. I joined her after filling a few more bags with debris from the yard. That night was pizza night. We grabbed a couple of slices. And at 8:00 PM we made our way home to sixth night of darkness. We had had it. While at the senior center, I had called our son Marc and told him that we would go out with him to his place in the Poconos for the weekend. Details to be worked out on Friday morning. We also were getting low on matches, so I went out to pick up some. It took me three stops. At my second stop, Walgreens’s, I was told “If you need it, we ain’t got it.” That summed things up quite concisely.
Friday morning – aka The Promised Land
When I got up on Friday morning, there was an electrician’s truck blocking my driveway. Definitely a good sign. It seems that overnight, CL&P had reattached the downed electric wire to my neighbor’s house. I asked the electrician how things were going and he said that crews were in the area checking for safety concerns. He was optimistic that the grid would be turned on “soon.” Once he left, I was off to Panera, hopefully for the last time. I told my new friends the encouraging news. One man had picked up a generator the night before.
My MiFi connection was working well, and I was pouring through old copies of the Sporting News when I saw one of my neighbors. She told me the power was back on. So long – Panera. Forget about escaping. I was going home. Got home, had lunch, and got to work on the yard, cutting things up with my electric circular saw. Not quite as powerful as a chain saw, but not bad either. Friday night, we just rested and made sure the alarms were off.
Saturday, the yardwork continued. My neighbor from across the street offered to help me do the cleanup out back. He has some heavier equipment. He also appreciates my cat’s effort at keeping his home free of pests. Thanks to Morty, our area is free of chipmunks, mice, etc.
Saturday Night we went to the show in Waterbury. On the way down, we saw how lucky we were. Most of West Hartford was still without power, and Friday night had been brutally cold. Saturday night was more of the same. The show, a Halloween Performance called Zombie Jamboree was great. Gabe, my wife’s former boss, had written it for his singing group (sixteen strong). It included great parodies, wonderful acting and singing, and great scenery. And that was only the first half of the show. After the intermission, we were entertained by a guest group “Without Warning (WOW)”. They were a female barbershop quartet. Then the Valley Chordsmen, who put on the show, took off their makeup, donned tuxedos, and sang a few numbers. Afterwards, we went out to eat with sever members of the cast and friends. It was a truly enjoyable evening.
Not sure what the next days will bring, but it has been quite an adventure.