Shaken, Not Stirred

Humorous Essays and Other Stuff

Gerald Andersen

Gerald Andersen
Califon, New Jersey, United States
January 06
"“When I have one martini, I feel bigger, wiser, taller. When I have a second, I feel superlative. When I have more, there's no holding me.” - William Faulkner "I grow old...I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled." -T.S. Eliot


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NOVEMBER 4, 2012 8:46AM

After Sandy

Rate: 19 Flag
I sat on the bench near UMass-Dorchester on the Boston Harbor Trail and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my face. We haven't seen or felt the sun for two week in New Jersey.

I also soaked up the normalcy of it all: people walking, laughing, biking, chatting; a jogging event was just getting started. Gone were harried faces of neighbors carrying gas cans and asking if we had any news.

Kathie and I left our home in New Jersey  Friday morning and headed north to stay with our daughter in South Boston. We lost our electricity on Monday night at the height of the hurricane and had yet to get it back. 

The storm hit us hard in Califon causing extensive wind damage. Several homes in town were crushed by trees and power lines were down everywhere. Fortunately, no one was injured in town, but a couple was killed in a neighboring community when they were crushed by a falling tree.

All Monday night the wind howled. Heavy gusts sounded like low flying jets as they roared overhead. I was awake most of the night fretting over the huge trees that frame my house. Fortunately, they and we were spared. 

I guess one has to look at the good side, and Califon fared better this time than it did after Irene and Ivan both of which caused extensive flood damage. Apres storm, the river that flows through the town was still tucked safely in its banks. We are forty miles from the coast and did not experience the tidal surge which devastated the New York metro area and the Jersey shore. Wind was the engine of destruction this time and it was sobering to see trees, some as tall as a hundred feet, snapped like twigs.

On Tuesday, we settled into our life without electricity. We are getting used to this after the horrible storms we have had in the last several years, and have evolved a definite protocol. In the lead up to the blow, we had stocked up on canned goods, gassed both of the cars, and secured supplies of batteries, propane, fire wood, and lamp oil.

Unlike most of our neighbors, we don't gave a generator. After this storm, I still don't intend to buy one. Their lives seem to have become centered on acquiring gas to keep them going, driving up to fifty miles away to find a station that is open and then waiting in line to tank up.

We have no heat in the house and the temperature in the kitchen drops to around the mid-fifties in the evening. Our life centers on the living room and bedroom. We have a very efficient old fireplace in the living room built on the Count Rumsford model which throws enough heat to keep the temperature in the upper sixties. We have a goose down comforter on the bed which keeps us warm at night. Kerosene lamps and lanterns provide our lighting. I have grown attached to my head lamp which is great for finding my way around and terrific for reading.

We have been doing our cooking on our gas grill outside. Up until the time we left, we were living out of our freezer. We have learned to keep no more than a week's supply of meat in the freezer part of our refrigerator because that is the outer limit of how long it will stay safely edibile without power. 

We have town water so we have been able to cook and bathe. Thank God, I have been able to make coffee. I put the kettle on the grill and use my French coffee press, so I can at least get my heart started in the morning.

The bathing thing is another issue. Kathie has gone to a neighbor's where they are heating their water with a generator. I have gone with the cold shower approach. It has worked pretty well and and I have managed to get clean the parts that George Carlin in one of his classic routines said we all focus on in the shower.

Our only contact with the outside world has been via our cell phones, neighborhood scuttlebutt, and our battery operated transistor radio. We made the mistake several years ago of getting rid of our "land line" and going with cable phone service. Our phones, therefore, go out when the cable goes. We have been able to charge our cell phones in the car. They are not smart phones, however, so we have no internet or email.

As I have previously mentioned, our house is close to two hundred years old and people have lived there for most of its time without electricity or central heat. We humans have  lived "off the grid" for most of our history and there is something to be said for it.

On Thursday night, we invited another couple over for dinner. I had placed the remainder of our meat supplies in my charcoal smoker and had managed to cook up some very tasty pork tenderloin and barbecued chicken. Potatoes baked on the grill along with peppers and zucchini completed the menu. 

We set the table up in the living room in front of the fire. We talked, laughed, ate and drank in the soft glow of the candles. It was a wonderful evening by any standards.

When we left for Boston the following morning, we had a hard time getting out to the interstate and had to re-route ourselves several time to get around tree blocked roads.
We has smooth sailing all the way to Boston. However, we had to drive almost two hours before we found gas stations without lines.

On Friday night, happy and warm at our daughter's house, we watched the NBC benefit concert for the storm victims It was our first look at the devastation in our home state. It was heartbreaking.

We are among the lucky ones. 

We are going back home tomorrow because I am working at the election which will be going forward since a site with power to run the machines was found. The utility company is saying that it could be another full week before we get our power back.
A nor'easter is brewing and will probably hit us by mid-week with high winds and potential flooding. 

Here we go again.

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I am so glad you came through so well! I worried.

"We set the table up in the living room in front of the fire. We talked, laughed, ate and drank in the soft glow of the candles. It was a wonderful evening by any standards."

That got to me. This is what life should be about, and for some reason, it takes a storm to bring it back to us. I've read other stories similar, and the people just talk about how fun it was without all of the tech.

Fingers crossed that the next storm leaves you safe, too.
Glad you survived relatively unscathed, here's hoping next weeks storm doesn't get too crazy. Good luck on November 6th. R&R
I'm glad to hear you made it safely and were able to get of "Dodge" at least some time. R
I am so glad your house, your trees, your car, and you, of course, survived this awful mess. The routine you have in place is amazing. I'm going to buy one of those hand crank radios with a USB port. I figure if I only use it once, it will pay for itself many times over.
This is, as they say, a life lesson. Facing disasters like this shows the true character of a person. The big disasters of my life - having a car die a thousand miles from home, having to drive through a hurricane to get to work, a robbery and damn-near-rape by some thugs - have hurt me, but they've also reminded me how strong, ingenious and determined I am. Things I didn't feel when I was miserable, sad-assed and self-pitying.

I'd like to think that, in the aftermath of September 11 and Sandy, New Yorkers would produce less prattling, whining and egotism. It seems to have worked - except for the One Percenters I've encountered, who were insulated from the pain and struggle, who bitch because their iPhones stopped working and there were no dry cleaners for their Armani suits.
Great report from the ground.
You're handling it with bravery and with grace. Good luck next week.
I appreciate your report and finely-tuned cogency.
Others I know throughout the storm-line are okay as well.
The devastation is humbling.
I appreciate your report and finely-tuned cogency.
Others I know throughout the storm-line are okay as well.
The devastation is humbling.

Somewhere in & appreciating that the best things in life are free. So glad you made it out. You probably won't even get these comments till you get your Juice back. Hope YOUR Candidate wins! R
Best wishes on that incoming storm. Hope nobody's left without power because of its force.
Still sending prayers to the east coast
Oh Gerald I'm so sorry for what you and your wife have been through. You have such a good attitude. gla dyou are going back to work the election! I hope other good people will do the same. Peace out.
My son in lower Manhattan just got power yesterday. Glad it's better and hope the upcoming nor'easter fizzles! We get the point. Climate change must be dealt with.

I am glad to read that you and your wife are safe. I hope all goes well for the next storm too.
Tis amazing that so much damage occurred with what was the tail end of a hurricane. Sure, lots of wind, but not much rain. So what happened? What was different this time?
Glad to hear you are okay. Sounds like you were well prepared and used your common sense! Stay safe.
Sending you best wishes and glad you have the mental space to be calm and collected. I have been surprised at how many have died from falling trees, inside or outside. Enjoy your visit, and have a safe return home. You can always make some beef jerky to keep around.
I was happy to see this and glad to read that you escaped major damage, even managing to create what sounds like a feast out of your freezer. I hope there's a mild winter ahead for you.
I'm glad you came out alright, some didn't. I live in Hurricane Ally in North Carolina, and this has been an unusual year. We've hardly been touched. I've been without lights for 2 weeks and stuck in one place for over a week because of fallen trees. But, I love this place and I'm staying around I guess. Good Luck Gerald.
good that u and urs are ok.....
Glad you and family and the home made it safely, you certainly made the most of it by inviting friends over, and you seem well prepared to face the aftermath. Hope you recover amenities soon.
Thank you so much for this update! I was worried about you and am so glad you and your wife - and more or less your whole community - made it through with minimal damage. I think it's fascinating how you write about adapting to not having electricity. It seems like it's becoming a Jersey thing; all of my friends and family members who were without power, seem to have adapted, too. And you are so right about the generator - I even know one person who couldn't fuel their generator after a while and ended up living just like everyone else who didn't have power.

Again, I'm so glad you guys made it through all right, and best of luck as things hopefully get better.
Thank God you are all okay. We are certainly discovering that, as a society, we now live and die without technology. Living off the grid worked when everything was low tech or no-tech but now we have become prisoners. Perhaps it is time to put the smart phones down, treasure those we have, and begin to be families again.

Please stay safe.