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After the winds: In the dark with Jane Austen

December 2, 2011 | 11:30 am

Power
I have been without light and heat and hot tap water for 36 hours now -– and it feels like 36 years.

I’m trying to be philosophical and regard this as a kind of time-travel, that I’m living like Jane Austen, or the Bronte Sisters.

I’ve learned how hard it is to do any fine work by candlelight. Embroidery? My hands would wind up looking like I’d been doing some heavy petting with a porcupine. Reading? What was that word again? Does the book's hero contemplate having an abscess, or an abbess? More props to Abe Lincoln if he was able to get through the Bible and Shakespeare by the fitful light of a fireplace. That explains why his eyes look so worn out in all the photographs.

A flashlight provides passable light, but it’s so confined that you have to move either the book or the flashlight as you read. And it’s no substitute for the beautiful bright glow of a compact fluorescent bulb. In sweeping up windstorm debris, I got a splinter in my thumb, and every night-time light source is too dim for me to excavate it.  

There is of course no radio, no TV, no Internet. No wonder well brought-up young ladies were taught to sing and play the piano: someone had to provide the entertainment of an evening.

Without a refrigerator and freezer, you can’t take for granted that your food is so easily maintained in edible condition. Cooking in such poor light is a nauseating thought. Maybe that’s why the big meal of the day was so often at midday, in the daylight, when you could see what you were cooking and eating, because Lord knows what condition it was in.

Hot water is suddenly so precious, so hard to come by, the immense luxury of having a whole tub of it to bathe in unimaginable; even a half-gallon of it for a sponge-down takes a long time to heat on the gas range.

I don’t think Abraham van Helsing or Buffy the Vampire Slayer ever welcomed the daylight as much as I have.

To Misses Austen and Bronte, I doff my mobcap to you. Like the 19th century equivalent of Ginger Rogers, doing everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels, you did surpassing well.

As for Prospero’s "dark backward and abysm of time" -– he can have it.

By force of habit, I’m still walking around flicking on light switches as if they meant something. One of these days, again, they won’t. All I can do is to tell my fellow Californians that this is a dress rehearsal for the human islands the earthquake will create, when we find ourselves on our own.

These 36 hours and counting also make me admire all those Occupy L.A. people who did have warm beds and lighted rooms somewhere, and left them behind for as long as two months, to make their 99% points.

Still, they would have left a stronger odor of sanctity in their wake, rather than the whiff of the landfill, if they had departed City Hall lawn taking with them all of their trash and goods, rather than leave it for the city to clean up at civic expense.

Or the LAPD could simply have waited 24 hours, and the howling wind that’s scouring through L.A. would have effected the Occupy evacuation all by itself.

RELATED:

Singing the SoCal stormy weather day blues

Unusual weather system produces destructive winds

After the wind, a tidy Pasadena neighborhood pulls together

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Fallen power poles block Live Oak Avenue in Irwindale as crew scramble to fix the situation and put the power back on. Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times

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