As many of you already know, San Diego experience a massive black-out yesterday (September 8, 2011). I was at work when the power went out around 3:40 in the afternoon and went home soon after we discovered that the outage was county-wide. It took me two hours to get home because traffic was out of control on every freeway in San Diego. It normally takes me twenty minutes. Cell phone reception was intermittent, but mostly unavailable and I was not able to hear anything on the radio because my 1960 Ford Falcon does not have one, which let me also add that driving an old car on a hot day in stagnant traffic is not the best place to be. No radio, no air conditioning, and a small hole in the radiator made for a frustrating ride. That, and the assholes that kept passing traffic by driving on the shoulder as if they are special. I try not to think violent thoughts ever, but there is not much that infuriates me as much as when people take shortcuts in traffic situations with complete disregard for everyone’s safety and the time they have waited patiently in traffic. I could go on all day about this, but I won’t. I decided to pull over for a bit in a shady area to allow me and my car to cool down before finally heading home.
PREPAREDNESS: I take some pride in being prepared for anything that may come. Growing up in California, with earthquakes being a regular occurrence, I have learned that the power can go out at any moment and one must have the proper equipment to get by. In my kitchen I have two bags of candles, lighters, flashlights, and a plan for what areas in my home will need candles as well as their placement. I figured all this out shortly after I moved in to my house and did some test runs on nights when it wasn’t an emergency. It took me all of ten minutes to gather my equipment because I always keep it in the same place in order to accustom myself to finding it in case I ever had to look for it in the dark. I never move it and make sure to replace any items that need it, like lighters and batteries for flashlights. I also keep extra batteries for flashlights and radios in the same location where I keep my lighters and flashlights.
FAILURES: After I put all the necessary equipment on my dining table, my roommate and I evaluated our food situation. It was bad. We only had some frozen chicken and buffalo meat, bread, one beer, a variety of snacks, and some fruits and vegetables. Always have non-perishable food in the pantry. I looked for my small battery-operated radio that I keep for emergencies before remembering that I had taken it to work a long time ago and never brought it home. Big mistake! Always have a radio available! It helps keep the sanity and provides information and updates during emergency situations (such as blackouts!). So, instead of sitting around looking at each other, my roommate and I went for a ride in the Falcon. The farmers market was still open in Linda Vista and we stopped by to walk around for a bit. It was still very warm and I was craving ice cream. Eureka! There was a self-powered ice cream vendor at the market with a long line, but I was willing to wait. I looked at the prices: Three dollars for ice cream and I only had two dollars in my wallet! Always have cash available for emergencies. There were a few other markets open and they only accepted cash. Those lines were very long and almost comical. In reality, my roommate and I did not have it so bad. We had enough food for at least two days, we had candles, and fuel in our cars.
I had complete confidence that the power would be restored by the next day, so I decided to make the best of our evening to avoid boredom. I invited some friends over and told them to bring over their perishable food items and beer so that we could have a barbecue. In situations like this, it is great to have close friends near you and it doesn’t hurt if they are musicians. My newly wed former roommates came over with some food, beer, and an emergency radio. We lit the candles, cracked open some drinks, and broke into an impromptu acoustic jam session.
We started the evening with some blues, then played a few original songs, and finally ended the session with “Badfish” by Sublime. My roommate is a drummer, his brother is a guitarist/singer, my old roommate is a guitarist, and I am a guitarist/singer as well. It was easy to forget that the power was out because we kept busy with music, cooking, listening to the news, and having a good conversation. There was enough candle light to move around safely and find what you were looking for. The entire city was black with only hospitals, hotels, and a few other buildings having emergency generators providing electricity. It was very quiet, calm, and peaceful outside. I have always appreciated the luxury of electricity, coming from an electronics engineering background, but I often forget how wonderful it is to let it go and enjoy the surroundings provided by nature. There was plenty of moonlight to walk around outside and the stars have never looked brighter.
Everyone in San Diego experienced something wonderful last night. Life goes on without electricity and, well, it’s not so bad. I am not suggesting that we don’t need it, but it is nice to have an evening where we are free from distractions; an evening of conversation and interaction. This is how many places in the world carry on and we rarely have the chance to experience moments like this. Neighbors left the house and walked around talking to other neighbors, several people had barbecues, and those who craved quiet and solitude had their moment as well. There was no fear or frustration in my household. Everyone that came over practices mindful living, if not Buddhism entirely. With that, comes detachment, and the practice of detachment allowed us to enjoy ourselves without the distraction of what we are accustomed to doing on any given evening. Nobody was disappointed about missing a television show, a game, or doing anything else that requires electricity. Last night we lived in the moment and it was GLORIOUS.