As so often happens when real life gets in the way of my otherwise irrepressible blogging impulse, I’m a little behind. I blame the weather, the Higgs Boson, and Mitt Romney’s hairpiece, in that order.
We’ll start way back on Father’s Day weekend, which was fantastic. What made it such an epic adventure? Four things.
First, we got to see the neighbor’s new place. They’re going to remain neighbors, but they’re building a new place on some land out West, between us and the House in the Woods, about which I’ve written before. On the land they bought stands – well, leans – a very old place that will fall down shortly if Mike doesn’t help it fall down sooner.
There are a few treasures to rescue before that happens, though – such as the license plates on the floor, from 1940, the glass ornaments still hanging over the mantle, and some road signs that clearly predate unleaded gasoline.
The earliest record of this property is something in the 1820s; Mike and Lynn are the second owners, if that tells you something about the place.
From there, we moved on to the House in the Woods, where the second epic thing happened. Among many other very cool things I received for Father’s Day, SOBUMD and the kids bought me a machete. Everyone should have one! It’s long, sharp, and very flexible.
The third epic thing was just being there with a machete out at the House in the Woods. Since the Very Clever Grandparents were in Switzerland, we brought our neighbors with us, and got to show them the wonders of the place. One of those wonders turned out to be a turtle trekking across the lawn in the rain, holding his head up high, presumably so he wouldn’t drown. He was making good time – took him about half an hour.
We also saw one of the West Virginia Bear Spiders, so named because they mostly eat bears. He was in the screen room, reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee. Oddly, he had the room to himself. Mike and the Human Tape Recorder and I climbed the local mountain, to see what we could see – which turned out to be the other side of the mountain, just like the song says. I thought it would be more exciting, tell you the truth.
While we were doing that, the Reigning Queen of Pink became reacquainted with her more aquatic subjects, and a good time was had by all.
And fourth, FOBUMD’s sole request while we were out there was that we mow the lawn. This lead, inexorably as the day leads to the night, to my being perched on the tractor. Now I know for many of my loyal readers, riding a tractor mower power thingy packs all of the emotional charge of taking out the garbage or mucking out the shed. I, on the other hand, have never ridden one of these things in my life. It turns out that you really have to slow down quite a bit to take the beer from your child’s hand when she brings it to you. Aside from that, it makes very good time – there are gears and turbo boosts and all sorts of things I never knew about. When it moves into high gear, I really came close to spilling my drink! Such drama! Such excitement! And of course every time I came near the house, I waved my hat around like Slim Pickens riding the nuke all the way down at the end of Dr. Strangelove. So, nice tractor. Who knew?
The following weekend was reported in near-real time, with SOBUMD going under the knife. I’m glad to say the surgery was an unmitigated success and that in the month since, she’s recovering well and feeling better than she has in a long time. She’s tap dancing and taken up parkour, which really amazes her doctors since she couldn’t do either of those things before the operation.
The next weekend, still unreported, was to follow.
Derecho. It even sounds wretched, dirty, and unpleasant. It was all of those things, plus fast.
You may have heard that there were epic storms here on the East Coast a few weeks ago – this is true. Nearly half a million homes in NoVa were without power, including here at the Big Ugly Man Doll. Winds up to 80 mph, trees down everywhere, mircobursts, 2 fatalities within a few miles of us, a bunch more between here and Ohio.
Our neighbors had one of the old giant oaks cut their house in half; they were in the basement and unharmed, but the house and car are pretty much gone.
Our power was out for 55 hours or so. The storm hit Friday with the biggest lightning display I’ve seen in years, augmented beautifully by the blue-green glow of the transformers blowing. Once we got through Saturday morning and were able to get some reports of the extent of the outage (more than a million people), we realized the power wasn’t coming back in the next few hours, and packed everything critical in the fridge and freezer into coolers. We then drove to the house of the Very Clever Grandparents, who live in in downtown Washington DC, but were of course still in Switzerland. Part of what makes them Very Clever involves living in a house on the same power grid as the White House. The power doesn’t go out down there – at least, it hasn’t in the last 40 years. One of the neighbors told me the lights did blink, once, in 1972. Another thing that makes them very clever is that they nearly emptied their fridge and freezer before they left, which happened to leave an enormous amount of space for our stuff.
Getting back in the car from moving the food over, we noticed a bolt in the right front tire. On to the local Sears! At Sears, at the mall, they had cell service to hit the Internet – for the first time in hours. (SOBUMD was frantic without her security iPhone working.) The mall being the only place with air conditioning for miles around, it was a huge mess. We ate angry cookies and generally sulked at everyone until the tire was fixed, leaving promptly for the cool air conditioned embrace of my folks’ house in DC – which the kids call the House in the Hood.
That night, Number One Son had only one question for me to relay to the VCG in Switzerland: what’s the password to the WiFi? He was hoping to connect my iPad to the Internet – it’s amazing how quickly the Web has become such a part of everyday life that the lack thereof is seen as a “critical” must-fix issue.
Speaking of which, it’ll be interesting to see what shakes out of that storm. The 911 service in most of NoVa went dead – people were asked to bring emergencies (or reports of same) to police/fire stations. Cell coverage was spotty at best, AT&T lost a few towers – and the POTS (plain old telephone system) went down as well. In the absence of Internet, cell, and dial tone, 911 not working seems redundant if no one can call anyway.
We were thinking the power company would have the power back on Sunday. It turned out that Sunday was the day they were hoping to have estimates on when they’d have the power back on. We went home to feed the cats (who were remarkably sanguine about the lack of power) and scrub the fridge – after all, how often do you have the luxury of leaving the doors open for an hour and taking all the food out? When life gives you lemons, put an “organic” sticker on them and sell ’em at a premium. Back to DC for another evening of cool air.
Power was restored Monday morning; I came home, turned the AC back on, fed the cats, then drove to my job. The Army Post I work on looked like it had been shelled; probably 50 trees or more were down, roofs and fences blown off, roads blocked, and no power.
I executed a tactical retreat to my corporate office for a bit, then drove back to DC and collected SOBUMD, the Three Lunatic Children, our clothes, and the first round of food – planning to go back that afternoon for the perishables. We got back to the mostly air conditioned house (it was almost down to 80), and put things away. We turned on computers, unpacked, relaxed for a few minutes.
And the power went out.
It was still out 4 hours later when we were discussing dinner. (“I ain’t cooking.” “Me either.” “Right.”) We tried calling a local, well-established restaurant and got an answering machine. I tried again. Same machine. Right, they’re down. With *still* no Internet data service from the cell towers, the Human Tape Recorder was able to text a request to a friend (whose name we will refer to here as “Laura” to protect the innocent), and thus acquire the phone number for Mike’s American Grill. We retired there with the neighbors, eating and drinking just as though there would be power when we returned.
And there was.
It has stayed on since then, amid plans for generators and tree-repelling roof shingles, through the 4th of July, and through this region’s longest stretch of 100+ degree days in ages. Trust me that those three weekends, back to back to back, while fun – in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” kind of way – were exhausting. Father’s Day weekend I’d replay anytime. The surgery and the derecho, well, sometimes those Choose Your Own Adventure books didn’t have such happy endings, you know? This one did, though – as part of the Great Thawing of the Food during the power outage, the sole remaining turkey in our freezer was defrosted, brined, and smoked when the Very Clever Grandparents returned from Switzerland – we had a quick Thanksgiving dinner smack dab in the middle of July!
The remaining weeks and weekends since all that have been busy, crazy, and hotter than Joan of Arc. But we’re caught up, as much as one can ever really catch up since we’ve captured the Higgs Boson, and we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.