powerless

Well, my power did go out, and it stayed out.

Which meant no Internet access. Which meant… I had to go outside in the storm. I’m so Internet dependent — all the phone numbers I needed to be able set up interviews were hopelessly inaccessible in my gmail and so I braved the rain and wind to find a cafe with free wireless. I knew the wind was horribly gusty, but I didn’t realize the damage it had caused until I got in the car. A portable toilet that had been set up on the sidewalk down the hill from us (the owners of the house were doing some construction, so it was there for the workers to use) had toppled and blown into the middle of the street. There were branches down in the road, on cars, on the sidewalk. And unfortunately, it was trash day on our street. Trash and trash cans were strewn everywhere. People had put their Christmas trees out to be picked up too, and pine trees of all shapes and sizes had rolled into yards and driveways and, well, all over.

The rain was heavy and the traffic lights were out, but I made my way to a nearby neighborhood, to a favorite cafe where I used to go to work on my thesis. I managed to find a parking spot not far from the cafe but in just jogging a short distance the rain soaked through my jeans. I bought a coffee and settled in to use their free wireless … only to discover they no longer had free wireless. Sigh.

So I picked up and fought the wind and rain getting to the Starbucks down the block. I had to wade through a couple of inches of water to get into the store: its glass doors were blowing open and the mini-flood was beginning to creep into the seating area. I bought another coffee and discovered that the Starbucks didn’t have free wireless anymore either ($9.99 for a day pass!). After a few minutes of trying random networks, I managed to get onto the wireless network of a nearby bar. It kept booting me off, but I was able to get the information I needed to make my calls, and so I grabbed my computer and ran back through the driving rain outside to the car. Uck.

At home, the power was still off and it was starting to get cold, since though we have gas heat our thermostat is electric. And Howie needed a walk. After my first experience out, I knew better what to wear. I put on a rain jacket under a long wool coat (better leg protection!) We marched against powerful gusts to get to the park, jumping over branches, downed trees, Christmas trees. The wind at the last corner before the park was frightening and loud; it roared down a wider street, swirling bits of fallen leaves and slamming into whatever was in its path. Glass had blown out of some windows in an apartment building there, and ahead, the gusts had pushed out most of the boards from a backyard fence. They rattled on the sidewalk, nails pointing upward.

At the entrance to the park, two huge trees had fallen, and I kept my eyes on the eucalyptus trees that line one side of the open space, worried that something else might come down. The wind screamed and roared through their branches. The parks trash cans had blown over, and their lids were strewn across the dog park. I picked one up to wedge it against a bench so it wouldn’t fly further away, and it weighed more than I expected. The wind had been tossing the lid like it was paper, I had to drag it to move it.

In the afternoon I bought ice to keep our food from going bad and then stayed in, wrapped in a blanket. I set up a drying rack to hang my wet towels, clothes and coats from. Eventually, the wind died down, and the rain tapered off. People emerged from their houses to pick up trash and right their trash bins. Our power stayed off until dinnertime.

I met a friend for a movie later and as we drove through the city we saw tree branches littering the roads and stoplights still out at many intersections.

There weren’t very many people at the movies.

It turns out that hundreds of thousands of people lost their power in the Bay Area. The wind reached 70 mph on the Golden Gate Bridge. Downed trees and flooding have done a lot of damage. But this morning when I took the dog out, my street had been cleaned of trash and all of the Christmas trees had been piled nicely on street corners. The portapoddy is lying on its side back on the sidewalk where it once stood. There’s still debris from trees and bushes in a thick coating on the sidewalks, including a riot of red berries.

At my neighborhood park overlooking the city, I watched the sun stretch through thin clouds over the bay. To the west, the sky was gray. We’re supposed to get more rain, but for now it’s calm.

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