This is being written last Monday night.
Several hours after the storms of earlier in the day passed, the sun shining, the birds singing, and all apparently right with the world, the electricity went out. Because there is no cellular telephone service in my part of the county, this necessitated a drive much of the way to Athens to register a report with the power company. The power company’s outage report line is the first entry in my cellular phonebook.
Having driven far enough to submit my request for a power innage, I drove the rest of the way to town, though my evening assignment, at the Athens City Building, wasn’t for nearly three hours. So I made a few pictures that seemed to show that the closure of the U.S. 33 West ramp from East State Street was having little if any effect on commuters. Then I wandered around uptown.
I remembered I needed a new set of Aquila Nylgut strings for my baritone ukulele, so I stopped in at Blue Eagle and got some, and Frank and I discussed how it is always the first wound string that breaks and how this always happens not when the instrument is being played but when it is resting in its case. This is a mystery.
Walking down Court Street I ran into my friend Brad McCartney, and we shot the pleasant late afternoon breeze for a few minutes. Continuing south on the newly nearly deserted street, I saw a young woman sitting cross-legged near Scripps Hall, surrounded by oodles of broken branches. She had headphones and a notebook computer, so maybe she hadn’t noticed that something, wind I’d guess, had wrought havoc all around her.
There was a little time before I needed to go photograph the area’s talented young people and the lovely banners they had designed and were going to present at the City Council meeting, and I, a bit peckish, thought I’d go to Donkey Coffee and purchase something healthful and nutritious to eat. I got a tasty blueberry muffin instead.
Photographing the children went nicely and I headed home. American Electric Power having left my request unfulfilled, I wondered how I might spend the rest of the evening, which would normally have involved letting the television suck my brain out through my eyeholes.
The evening was (and as I write this, is) cool, with a bit of wind passing through the open windows, so there was no panic, as there is when the power disappears in the dead of winter or in the 100-degree summer – both of which I have experienced. But there was no fire to build, no need to think of a reason to drive to town for a few hours in some place air-conditioned.
Instead, I remembered that just a few days ago I had pushed the battery-charge button on one of a couple shortwave radios I have around here, this one a decade-old C. Crane CC Radio SW. It has a big speaker and a pleasant sound, though it’s not the sort of radio you get to dig faint signals out of the mud. It is just right for such an evening as this. So I brought it to the living room, extended its built-in antenna, and fired it up.
Shortwave radio is like Forest Gump’s mama’s box of chocolates, and that’s part of its appeal. Poking around the dial I find some Ohio shortwave amateurs putting on a bit of a panel show, passing the mic metaphorically from one to another. Because they are shortwave amateurs, all they talk about is their shortwave equipment.
The power is out all over the neighborhood, so there is not a single static scratch, no 60-Hz whine of interference. And the ionosphere seems stable, no fading in and out of signals.
Heading up the dial, I find a station in accented but easily understood English. I have to listen for a while before I learn that I am listening to Radio Romania International. That broadcast ends, so I retune and find a cranky man and a cranky woman who are discussing how awful things are and how the only thing you can count on is gold.
Moving along, I find an impassioned man with a deep Southern accent. He, too, is discussing how awful things are – and how they soon will be especially awful for those who put their trust in gold or other things of this world.
There is a broadcast from somewhere – from the accents I’d guess the Caribbean or Africa – that features a man and woman talking spiritedly and sweetly about English idioms.
Now I’m listening to the Argentine national shortwave service, which had a talk program in English though they’ve switched to Argentine music. It’s nice enough, but it is time to explore a little more.
Ah! CHU Canada, the northern equivalent of the U.S. WWV time station, informs me that my watch, set Saturday, is still spot on.
Here’s one that’s clearly Arab, but I can’t really tell much more than that. Music is being played, and it is evocative of elaborate dance. It sounds ancient and wonderful.
And here’s a familiar signal, Radio Havana Cuba discussing May Day and how it’s the 56th anniversary of Radio Havana Cuba and how Raul Castro today detailed the wickedness of the U.S. – another Obama foreign-policy triumph.
It’s been a satisfying evening, among the most satisfying I remember. Here I am, by the light of a little LED flashlight and the screen of the ancient iPad on which I’m writing this, happy as a cartoon bear with a new roll of Charmin.
I do hope the power comes back. Just not tonight. Tomorrow, maybe. Or the next day.
(Note: Just as I set this to email itself eventually to the Athens NEWS, minutes after I was done writing, the power came back on. And it really was a little disappointing.)
Editor’s note: Dennis E. Powell’s column appears on Mondays. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.