Thirty-six hours after arriving on Martha’s Vineyard in August, 1991, we took a direct hit from Hurricane Bob.
Packing 90 mph winds, it ravaged the island, zapping power for eight days. The storm arrived on a Monday and four friends were due to arrive on Thursday. We told them to come, convinced we’d have power. We didn’t.
The power didn’t return by Thursday, but our friends arrived as scheduled. We were thrown unwittingly into survival mode, forced to make do with what we had. We bathed in the Atlantic Ocean, brewed coffee in the fireplace and went outside when nature called.
This was in the days before I-Phones and computerized grids that allow you to track power companies’ progress – or lack thereof – in your neighborhood. At one point after the hurricane, I was so desperate that I took a paper bag and scrawled “NO POWER” with an arrow pointing down the street and nailed it to a telephone pole, just in case they didn’t know we were still out.
I’m not sure the bag worked, but about a day later we finally got power back. Yippee!
Hostessing without power isn’t easy, but it’s possible. One day, we caught blue crabs at the beach. Using my Grandma Rose’s recipe, I sauteed our catch in olive oil and onions until they turned the sweetest shade of pink, tossed in crushed tomatoes and simmered it over a charcoal fire. I boiled a pot of linguine and voila: dinner was served. We ate over candlelight, told funny stories and drank lots of wine and beer. After dinner, I took the pots and dishes outside and washed them with rain gushing from the gutters.
I was a little more adventurous and carefree in those days. Today, I demand that my son pull our canary yellow Champion generator out of the garage and fire it up the second the lights go out. Though I realize this is a “first world problem,” power outages set me off and make me cranky, particularly when it’s 90 degrees outside.
I knew this last one would be a doozy when my son and I drove around looking for gas after the winds stopped and it took two hours to find an open gas station. We ultimately coasted into an Interstate 95 service station on fumes, following our roundabout route through three towns back home for fear of being blocked by falling trees and wires.
My son had high hopes for a quick return of power, but I’m a veteran and predicted we’d be out for about a week. (Thankfully, it was only five days.) I think it was the number of fallen trees and wires dangling like spaghetti. Truth be told, I’ve never driven under so many toppled trees and wires in my life, but after a few days it became routine. I guess this is what they mean when they talk about Yankee ingenuity (or is it stupidity?)
I was chastened when I attempted to drive down a street on Sunday and one of the huge trees that we’d all been driving under had fallen and was blocking the road. I’m just glad no one was under it when it fell.
On the plus side, I’m happy to say I can still host house guests during an outage. Steve’s sister and brother-in-law stayed with us sans power en route to a family wedding. Though we tried our best to dissuade them, they weren’t deterred by our limited resources and amenities, including no lights in the bathrooms or guest bedroom.
Happily, our generator provided enough power to fuel our well, and fire up the Keurig for morning brew. But it wouldn’t last. Steve snapped the generator’s pull cord Saturday morning, leaving us without the prospect of power.
So we did what anyone else would do: drove to Home Depot and bought a new generator. We hauled it home about an hour before the power came on late Saturday afternoon.
But that’s OK. If I’ve learned one thing after all these years, it’s always have a back-up plan. And if anyone needs to borrow a generator, well, you know where to find me.