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Thursday, January 9,2014

A song of ice and snow

Lingering thoughts on the winter storm that froze much of mid-Michigan

by City Pulse Staff
Last week we asked you to share your stories on the year-end power outage caused by Winter Storm Gemini. We had an abundance of submissions and nowhere near enough space to run them all. Here are a few more takes on being powerless.

Robert Rose, 56, Genesee Drive, Lansing
Day 1:
Remember that part of “Doctor Zhivago” where the Reds have won and it┤s winter and there’s no power or heat? It was that kind of day, except there’s no soundtrack or Julie Christie sitting next to me — just a cat on my lap and a snoring dog next to me.

Day 3: I give up and take up my friend Tim’s offer of refuge at his home, which has heat, power and food. And beer. Our friend Sarah, also with no power, invites us to her family’s Christmas dinner. Yum.

Day 4: Warm and safe, I spend the day with my grandkids, open Christmas gifts. Still no power at home. It’s starting to wear on me.

Day 5: I walk by the broken power pole and shake my fist at it and curse under my breath “Damn you broken pole, damn you ice.” I think this whole situation is wearing on me. I sit in my car, my heart sinking. I decide I to write a novel:

“Ice still grips the capital city, I sit in my car, one of three locations I haunt these cold days, going from house to house crying, ‘Hey friend can you spare a beer?’ The doors slam against my nose. A blotch of frozen snot on the door is the only thing I leave.”

And then … power! I rush into the house, crank up the heat, turned on every light, shout like George Bailey from “It’s A Wonderful Life” … “Hey, you old furnace! Hey, bathroom light! Hey fridge!” My family, friends and neighbors were so supportive through this disaster, and for that I will always be grateful. And to celebrate the end of the ordeal, I’m going to grab a beer and play my electric guitar.

Carin Cryderman, 37, University Drive, East Lansing
The street across from me had power, including my neighbors with the waving blowup lighted Santa. It was maddening: Every time I looked across the street, he seemed to be waving in mockery.

My three girls bundled together in my bed beneath two down comforters as I wrapped presents in between hot baths to stay warm … and warm my glass of red wine. My fresh ground cup of coffee Christmas morning was traded for the best cup of bad coffee I’ve had, at Denny┤s, where we joined the masses and ran into friends. We laughed as we ordered Moons over My Hammy, none of us seeming to mind the hour-plus wait.

Acquiring and maintaining a charged cell phone felt like an Olympic event. Jumping on Facebook fostered community and camaraderie as friends and neighbors offered food, lodging and showers.

Texts and phone calls from family, friends, and coworkers asking if I needed anything. Nodding smiles in the candle and camping aisles.

Friends delivered candles, a camping stove and fancy cans of soup. A cup of hot chocolate or tea became an event and felt like a luxury. Without the use of washer, dryer, stove and oven, I felt permission to sit and do nothing. Books were removed from their shelves and read as electronics began to lose their power — kind of a cool metaphor.

Ann Graham Nichols, 51, Forest Street, East Lansing
“Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you.” -David Foster Wallace, “Infinite Jest” There was an ice storm here, a cruel and lovely visitor wearing white and diamonds. It left my father without power.

My brother’s family was basically camping in their own house. We still had power, so my father slept on our couch.

Every available hotel and motel space was snapped up within a day of the icefall. I see pictures on Facebook of families with small children crammed into one room, families on hotel beds with their dogs and cats and caged birds and iguanas and (in one case) a fighting fish in a bowl.

A friend and her husband have a hotel room but they weren’t allowed to bring pets. She is worried about their three cats, left alone in a frigid, dark house. I tell her they are undoubtedly fine, but I know it would be like “Sophie’s Choice” for me, leaving our dogs and cats behind.

I kept thinking about all of the people who had no money for a hotel room or to buy restaurant food. They were never going to have a pile of presents and a rib roast anyway, but now they were living in a gym or a church with a blanket, a pillow and a toothbrush. I would like to believe that a natural disaster is a great leveler, but it seems likelier that people are surviving in much more comfortable ways than those without.

Still, because I am human, I chafe at the disruption. My dad is sleeping in the living room so I had to meditate someplace else. My planned dinner for nine might turn into a picnic for 14. Or 17, or however many people I invite because we have power and they don’t. I can’t seem to stop inviting people; it’s the right thing to do, and I want them all to be warm and safe and fed.

It may be chaos. We might run out of food. We might invite them all and lose power ourselves. But the night before Christmas as I went to bed, my father thanked me (again) for putting him up. My head was spinning with plans, plots and subplots.

“You’re welcome,” I said. “But I’m sure it isn’t as comfortable as being at home.”

“It’s good not to be alone” he said, from under the pile of blankets.

A teachable moment in the midst of this particular, treacherous unfairness.

How did you keep warm?

Our Facebook friends say:

Kate Katje: Hot burning hatred of the ice gods.

Vikki Burt: Whiskey works wonders!

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