We’re Still In The Dark

“Electricity is really just organized lightning.” George Carlin

I’m a little perplexed. We’re the last two blocks in the entire neighborhood, maybe the world, without power. A dark spot on a well-lit life, and I do mean that literally.

I used to love standing at my window, draped in darkness, watching the day arrive. Who doesn’t? Then I would flip on the lights, turn on the telly, and fire up the coffee pot. It was a sweet life, and I’m not amused by its absence.

Stealthily, I’ve been driving around town looking for PG&E trucks. I didn’t come across a single one, and I assume this is why no linemen are repairing my access to power. I have my own conspiracy theories, but they’re most likely just that, conspiracies.

Maybe they forgot about us, but I’m sure they won’t forget to charge us exorbitant rates to sit in the cold and the dark for three days and counting. I’m tempted not to pay my bill. It’s not like they can turn off my electricity.

I know it’s hard to tell, but I’m a little testy. 

After several days without power, heat, or internet, Larry and I decided to take matters into our own culpable hands. Because truthfully, we are responsible for the circumstances we find ourselves in, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I did not know our access to power would be thwarted, and I’m embarrassed to admit I failed to wash my hair in a timely manner, and now it’s rather hopeless. I’ll spare you the details because it’s not pretty. Is it too much to ask for a hot shower, blow dryer, and heated floors? 

I didn’t think so, either.

Early this morning, when the source of the fog on my glasses is my own bated breath, Larry clears his throat as if he’s about to make an important announcement. Let me set the scene. We’ve been sitting in the dark, staring silently at each other for the better part of an hour. No coffee.

If we don’t freeze to death, we’ll die of boredom, as you can well imagine, because nature doesn’t give a damn about your comfort and never will.

He says, “Let’s take a drive to the coast, pick up our wine from Galante, and enjoy a nice dinner in Carmel. We’ll stay the night at that little Inn off Ocean Street, pay for late check-out, and head back tomorrow.” 

No need to ask me twice, leaping from the bed as if a seasoned athlete, I say, “I can be ready in ten minutes.” 

After rinsing off the most important body parts in a cold shower, I slip into a soft pair of jeans with a warm sweater. Grabbing my overnight bag out of the closet, I haphazardly fill it with my favorite pajamas, the outfit Larry gave me for Christmas, my purple volume shampoo for grey hair, a blow dryer, and a big ass curling iron. Things that require electricity!

I proceed to the front door with my gear, stomping my foot on the hardwood floor for emphasis as if an impatient child. Larry ignores me.

So I shout, “Honey, I’m ready.”

“Honey, I’m making a reservation, so we don’t have to sleep in the car.”

“Get the one with the fireplace.”

“I did.”

“And the heated floors in the bathroom.”

“I know the one.”

“We’ll have to stop for coffee.”

“I figured as much.”

“At least I’m predictable.”

“As predictable as the weather.”

“So now you’re a weatherman? 

“I call it as I see it.”

“And as we know, the weatherman is always wrong.”

I get the look, I’d describe it as askance, but my foot stops pounding the floor. Concessions.

After loading the car and picking up two hot cups of coffee, we cross the Santa Cruz mountains and drop into Capitola for a look at the storm damage. 

It’s as if a tornado ripped through this county. The first thing you notice is a large chunk of the wharf is missing, and the beach has disappeared. The waves are actually crashing just a few feet from the sidewalk. The small restaurants located along the shore have flooded, and their patios are gone. I mean, completely gone. All the wood from the destroyed structures is scattered along the streets, floating in the water, along with chairs, umbrellas, and patio heaters. It smells dank and moldy, like an antique shop or your grandmother’s house. Wait. I’m a grandmother. 

So this is where all the linemen ended up. 

The thing is, Capitola will never be the same, and that makes me sad. I’m nostalgic, some people call me overly sensitive, but that’s dismissable because they’re probably insane or worse. I realize we live in a chaotic ecosystem where absolutely nothing remains the same. Not the weather, not my age, or even our relationships. Things are always shifting, if life is anything, it’s unpredictable. I suppose that’s what makes it so precious. 

On a more positive note, some changes can make life surprisingly better, like grandchildren, retirement, and plastic surgery. I’m just kidding! Retirement is far from perfect.

We recently heard Phil’s Crab Shack reopened in Castroville, so after moaning about all the damage in Capitola, we jump on the freeway and head toward the artichoke capital of the world. Their food has always been extraordinary, award-winning actually, especially the clam chowder, but the ambiance has changed. It’s dull, with a cafeteria-style atmosphere, and lacks the old charm when they were located by the harbor. But they have lights, and the soup is hot. 

Pulling into Carmel, we weave our way to the Wayside Inn and dump the car in their parking lot. We have a few hours to kill before check-in, so we decide to do a little window shopping in the rain. I don’t know what caused this twisted turn of events, but Larry ended up with a new coat, a new hat, and almost a new pair of slacks, but they were too tight, and he refuses to go a size up! 

Did I hear you ask, “what did Cheryl get?”

NOTHING, and it gets worse. 

Now that we have all these extra bags to carry, we head back to the Inn and see if we can get into our room. They hand us the coveted key and point us toward a block of rooms on the south side of the Inn. We notice the back parking lot is roped off for some reason, but we don’t give it much thought and continue to unload the car. 

Our first mistake of many, as it turns out.

After carrying all our stuff from the front parking lot, through the lobby, and into our room, we turn on all the lights, because we can. Larry ignites the gas fire, and I stand in the bathroom in my bare feet, smiling like an idiot. It’s heaven, or at least my vision of a nice place to land after a harrowing experience, and a spell of discomfort.

Larry says, “let’s get dressed up (meaning he gets to wear his new coat) and head over to Galante for a little wine tasting before dinner.”

“But I was going to wash my hair.” I wine (get it?). 

“Do it in the morning. I paid for late check-out, we have until one.”

“Okay, I’m going to wear the outfit you gave me for Christmas.”

“Hurry up, Galante closes in an hour.”

If I feel as if I’m always rushing, it’s because I am, and to make matters worse, I married the person responsible for all this chaos.

And I should add my new outfit is adorable, even with subpar hair.

Galante Winery is fabulous, as always. They have the most affable staff, and Janet let us taste just about every varietal on the tasting list and a few extras behind the counter. We bought several bottles of our favorites, but when we went to drop them off at the Inn, something was definitely off.

The electricity.

I’m not kidding. Some guy who looks a lot like Guy Fieri, and appears to be in charge, is observing the crew take down this enormous tree that is leaning precariously toward the block of rooms we just checked into a few hours ago.

Larry extends his hand and says, “ Hi, I’m Larry, we’re staying at the Inn, what’s going on.”

Guy Fieri’s twin reaches for Larry’s hand and says, “I’m Steve, I own the Inn, which room are you in?”

“Room 8.”

“Off the back?”

Larry points and says, “yes, right over there.”

“No one is supposed to be in that block of rooms. The electricity to those rooms has to be off while they’re removing the tree.”

“You’re kidding. We came from the Bay Area because our power has been out for three days.”

I pout, “I was going to wash my hair.”

Steve stares at me, obviously gauging my sanity, or lack thereof. He laughs and says, “I have other hotels. I can move you over if they run into a problem and the electricity has to stay off all night.”

I went into a mild state of shock and ended up parroting his words without thinking, “all night.”

They both look at me as if I’m dull-witted.

Then Larry overshares, telling Steve that we’re going to dinner at the new Italian place up the street, and we should be out for several hours. Steve says he’ll be here until the job is finished, and he’ll have his staff move us to his other hotel if there is a problem.

We try and linger over dinner in the hopes that we don’t have to change rooms. This particular hotel has feather-top beds, the softest sheets I’ve ever slept on, a fireplace, an air tub, and a rain shower. It’s spacious yet cozy. In Sweden, they describe this as hygge, it’s more of a feeling than any one thing, and this place has it. 

I’m thrilled to report that by the time we got back to the Inn, the lights were on, and both the tree and Guy Fieri were gone. 

In the morning, after a deliciously comfortable sleep, Larry makes coffee with the in-room service and brings me a cup in bed. We have the fire going, and the news is on the telly! It’s almost too exciting for words. 

Until it’s not.

The newscaster says with a hint of elation that a new storm system is arriving within the hour, it comes with heavy rain, and the Salinas River is expected to overflow. This particular river crosses the only highway in or out of the Carmel Valley, and they believe the highway will be closed for several days. If you need to get in or out of the valley, you need to go now or risk being stranded for possibly days. 

Larry jumps up, practically spilling his coffee, and says, “Get packed.”

“Wait, I didn’t wash my hair.”

“You want to be stuck here for three days?”

I look around the room, and as I’m nodding yes, I whisper, “I guess not.”

As Jimmy Kimmel says, power outages are like being grounded by God. You can’t do anything fun.

Within fifteen minutes, we are packed up and on the road. My unused shampoo, blow-dryer, and curling iron are mercilessly crammed back into my bag. When we’re safely on the other side of the Salinas River, we slow down and consider our breakfast options. 

Why would we want to rush home so we can sit in the dark with dirty hair? 

I google the best breakfast joints in Aptos, and we land at the Red Apple. It is a homey little cafe with great food and rather large portions. We linger over breakfast until it is clear they want to turn our table. 

To kill a little time, we weave in and out of the towns along the coast to explore the storm damage. It’s rather depressing. 

The power is still out when we get home, obviously, God is ignoring me. Larry is bike riding with his friends tonight, and he takes off before the car is unloaded. I, of course, did not fail to remind him that he was leaving his wife in a dark house with no heat. This did not phase him in the least, and he rode away waving to his wife, standing in the kitchen window looking forlorn.

Dante comes home from work around 5:00, and we sit down to enjoy a glass of Galante wine with the gas fire on full blast. It’s still cold. 

While I’m peeking out the front window at my daughter’s house, I notice a bunch of moving lights, as if a bunch of fireflies got caught in their house. 

I say, “Dante, come look at this.”

He walks over and says, “let’s go see what the hell is going on.”

We head across the street with our glasses of wine, and we find Julie, her neighbor Tanya, and no less than five kids running around the house with headlamps. Julie and Tanya have the same ridiculous-looking contraptions strapped to their heads. 

Julie says, “we’re having a blackout party!”

I say, “We’re staying, and where the hell did you get all those headlamps?”

In unison, they say, “Amazon.”

Jeff’s future just keeps getting brighter and brighter. 

Our lights came back on sometime in the middle of the night. We’re thrilled to return to our normal routines with a functioning heater and endless cups of coffee. “Nobody ever asks whether the use of modern conveniences, the employment of power, will make us happier, wiser, or better,” says C.E.M. Joad. I say bullshit. If it allows one to wash her hair, blow it dry, and add a little curl, that is sufficient enough reason for creating it. 

Living in the Gap, replacing every single thing in the refrigerator, and enjoying the conveniences of modern society! How about you?

41 Comments

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    1. I really didn’t realize how dependent I was on something as common as electricity until it was taken away and I was forced to improvise. After three days you have to toss just about all the contents in your refrigerator (which is rather expensive), but more importantly, all the people dependent on medical devices that require electricity are especially at risk. I’m thrilled to be back online but now I’m grateful to have access to electricity instead of taking it for granted. Thanks for your comment, hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Your storm experience was so much worse than my kids in Berkeley. My son said the storm parted over the Bay to Berkeley like the Red Sea. You also reminded me of our property in WA state in Robe (a ghost-silver mining town). Our cabin had no electricity, an outhouse and a pump for water. My parents called it the marriage test. They told me and my brother if we could survive for five days with our future spouses we were good. We’re all married.

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    1. At first it was like camping in your home but that lost it’s charm rather quickly. We were literally the last two blocks in the entire neighborhood to get our electricity back on. It felt as if we were being punished by P G & E. Which might be true? That is hysterical, the marriage test, I think your parents were on to something. Can you visualize that as a new reality show? I think you ought to pitch that idea to Hollywood. It would be a total hit. Thanks for adding to such an “electrifying” conversation! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow – that’s definitely worth a wine/whine! I’m sorry about all the storms and destruction. But I love the image of the kids have a grand ole time with headlamps. Bless their flexibility (and imperviousness to when they last washed their hair)!

    Glad things got back to normal enough and we got a post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m telling you Wynne, it was survivable only because the one thing that doesn’t sour without refrigeration is wine! Jesus was on to something there! And yes, the young people seem to have the ability to turn “lemons into lemonade” so to speak. Headlamps? So clever! I love how that banded together and literally road out the storm. I’m more than thrilled to be warm, shampooed, with access to perpetual cups of coffee. I would not have made a good pioneer woman! Thanks for traveling with me through the storm! Hugs, C

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      1. I’d argue that this experience doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not you’d be a good pioneer woman. After all, pioneer women weren’t torn out of the 21st century homes with no notice and just plunked on the trail!

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    1. Hi Susanne, I love how you put that, “an electrically powered life,” that’s perfect. The hardest thing about the whole experience was not having access to our writing community! I missed reading posts and engaging with each other. It was sort of lonely! Glad to be back! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was electrified by the illuminating end to your test of fortitude and the strength you must have projected, especially leaving Ocean St. In Carmel with narry a bag of new couture, and all of it under the continued threat of the near inescapable hue of darkness! And that is just dealing with Larry our scoring you in togs & accessories almost 3-0! 😉 All very, very entertaining. And neighbor? I think you have the start to a pretty good screen play here – dark story line, indeed! Assuming Meryl Streep is available to play you, who are casting for Larry?

    Cheers girl. That made my day!

    CT

    PS, dang shame about Capitola and the ocean front surrounding burgs. Lots of great memories in many of them: the Crows Nest I’m guessing got wacked too, as did the lower level of Shadowbrook 😥😥😥 which of all the great spots in the area these two were the most special. I think I could have bought a SoHo flat in London in the late 80’s with all the money I spent there from the late 1970’s through the early 2000’s.

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    1. This is brilliant Chris, “the illuminating end to your test of fortitude.” It was definitely a test. A test of resilience, a test of ingenuity, and a test of patience. I believe I failed all three. And how in the hell does Larry come walking out of the dark with new “couture”? It’s like the entire universe was spinning off its axis. It was indeed a dark, dark tale and I’m thrilled you found the humor in it all. And to your PS, Crows Nest suffered a lot of damage but the Shadowbrook being located a little higher on the mountain had less damage, mostly from falling trees. All the coastal communities were hit hard. It’s going to take some time for them to recover. I heard the president visited the area today and there is hope he’ll grant extra disaster funds to the community. They’re still dealing with extreme waves and high tides. Thanks for your hysterical commentary on our ordeal. I throughly enjoy your take on things. Hugs, C

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  4. These storms sound scary. I am sorry about the power outage and the inconvenience it has caused you. I am from a country where power outages in the name of “loadshedding” are a norm, and so much of our lives are wasted here waiting for the lights to turn on. I hope things get better for you soon.

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    1. Hi Aaysid, these were truly extreme storms and I don’t think the infrastructure of the Bay Area was prepared to deal with all the extensive damage. Our electricity is pretty consistent historically so this was new to us. I can’t imagine how hard and disruptive it would be to live with electrical insecurity as the norm. Just keeping your food unspoiled is challenging. We’re back to normal now and I’m ever so grateful. Thanks for sharing the circumstances in your country. I had no idea. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It must be tough. I am glad you are safe. Thank you, Cheryl. We have modified our lives around the electricity outages, and we have found alternative power sources as well, so things are not so bad now. 😊

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  5. I was expecting you to have no power in the hotel when you got there, so I was almost right. I’m surprised that your husband has never installed a petrol-driven generator in your home for such eventualities. They seem to be the norm in many parts of the USA, and he is a well-organised man, as we know. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t believe you thought the electricity would be a problem at our escape hotel! That totally surprised me but I was grateful for a warm night nonetheless. We lose our electricity up at the lake quite often and we have a petrol-driven generator ready to go up there but now I think we need one in the Bay Area, especially if these super storms become the norm. Our infrastructure in the Bay Area is not prepared to withstand such powerful wind and rain. That might be our next project! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was thinking the same as Pete. We don’t even have electricity blackouts but have a small gas stove with canisters at the ready and hurricane lamps hidden away in our loft just in case! Can’t live without tea/coffee. Still looking for a battery powered hairdryer though 😁. Happy to hear things are beach to normal for you and at least you got a great post from it all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Fraggle, you and Pete have such similar perspectives, very dark! We do have a gas stove so we can heat water and make instant coffee, fry up some eggs, and bacon but that’s only fun the first night. By day three the charm had definitely worn off. Every time I opened the refrigerator we’d be assaulted by a horrible smell. After four days we had to dump just about everything. My daughter used a cooler with ice to keep milk and basics cold for the kids meals. Larry and I had the luxury of leaving and finding a safe haven out of town. Or so we thought! I don’t think I’ll take our access to electricity for granted any time soon! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Claudette, all I can say, it’s lucky I was born in the 21st century. I do not think I would have made a good pioneer woman, living in a mud hut, without electricity or the right to vote! And can I take a moment to praise the baseball cap. A godsend. Hugs, C

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    1. LA, I am thrilled to have been the impetus for your mirth! The only response to such a calamity of errors has to be laughter, or we’d be left in the dark, crying over our dirty hair. Thanks for finding the humor with me, that was my hope, and God willing, may we always be as predictable as the weather. Keeps our men on their toes. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The good news is we survived! I read somewhere, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger? Bahaha. All I can say is invest in baseball caps and knit beanies. Thanks for engaging with me Dorothy, I missed so many posts without the ability to charge my computer, it was lonely. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  7. So sorry about the loss of power. I totally understand your frustration. I would have reacted the same way. Can’t start my day without coffee, shower and washing my hair. But as always reading about your experience was so much more interesting. Love the Cheryl spin!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jan, sorry about the delayed response, this one ended up in my spam folder! I blame the power outage! I have to say it has been absolutely divine to get up every morning and engage in our normal routines, including hot showers, coffee, and clean hair. I will not take the power for granted again. It’s interesting how a few days of deprivation can give you a whole new appreciation for our most basic modern conveniences. Thanks for entering the darkness with me. Hugs, C

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  8. Delighted your power is back on Cheryl and you despite the drawbacks it sounds like a great getaway even if your hair had to wait until you got home. It is amazing how reliant we are on our modern devices when the power goes out and I definitely don’t want to go back to the ‘Good Ole Days’ before they had electricity.. which in some parts of Ireland was not until the 1930s. We have only had to have the camping stove out a few times here but next time pop in for a coffee ♥♥

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    1. I can’t tell you how pleased the entire neighborhood was to find their televisions blaring, lights illuminating the house, and heaters kicking on in the middle of the night. And just like that, Campbell was back in business. I’ve been walking through the house for several days now, thanking my modern appliances, and praising the thermostat. I can’t believe parts of Ireland didn’t have electricity until the 1930s! And I might just take you up on the cup of coffee next time. Wouldn’t that be delightful! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I like that, keep in mind there is a season for everything, even darkness! That might have been a helpful form of thought during the storm. A much more positive approach then my wailing and moaning! Thanks Crystal, hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Pooja, Larry is always on the go because he gets bored easily, and likes to juggle a lot of activities simultaneously! I like a calm, sedate, quiet atmosphere. I have no idea how the two of us ever got together! But I tell you what, I’m ordering a couple of those headlamps for next time, so I can come dressed appropriately for the blackout party! Thanks for joining me in the dark. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol I can understand because of my family is like Larry and I’m more like you! I need a calm atmosphere. Yes, those headlamps seem so convenient for something like this haha!

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  9. It must have been wonderful to wash your hair, Cheryl. What a mess. And I’m so sorry for the damage and the hassle, but I’m glad life is returning to normal. I remember being out of power for two weeks, years ago, after an east coast hurricane. The power company had run out of replacement poles and had ordered some from Canada. I could just picture those Canadians cutting down the trees as we waited in the dark. I hope your storms are over and 2023 is utterly boring weatherwise.

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  10. You two are hysterical! Everything becomes a story in your life, lol. At least you had a quick getaway in Carmel. Then, at least you finally got to wash your hair. LOL. Stay warm! ❤ 🙂

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