I live in Portland, Oregon, which mostly receives electrical power from Portland General Electric. Founded in 1888 the company was eventually owned by Enron Corporation from 1997 until 2006 until Enron went bankrupt.
See? I just used a writing technique known as foreshadowing.
Foreshadowing is a literary device by which an author hints what is to come.
By dropping the name Enron, you are now on notice that this story does not bode well. The portends are decidedly not in our favor. It’s time to omen up.
Yes, I’m being mysterious. I’m trying to leave you in the dark. Just like Portland General. Bazinga!
Being a major metropolitan area, the City of Portland is designed with security and reliability in mind. Power outages simply do not happen unless:
- The wind blows up to one (1) mph
- A squirrel gets hungry
- Water magically falls from the sky
- A drunk person, in a trillion-to-one event, rams their car into a pole
Such simple criteria means the city loses power about every 42 minutes. Who knew that cramming 625,000 people in the same area would make stuff happen? Yes, I live in a city where squirrels are frequently blamed for power outages.
At least Portland is safe. No one, not even a terrorist, could ever fuck with this city unless:
- A tweaked out kid needs to take a whiz in a city resevoir
- The wind blows and a branch falls and an entire power grid goes haywire
- Water magically falls from the sky
Portland has many names. The City of Roses. Bridgetown. Stumpdown. Rip City. Little Beirut. PDX. Cloud City. But, during autumn at least, it could also be known as The City of Leaves. (Leaves are the unpredictable byproduct of shitloads of trees.) And the city has a great strategy for dealing with them. “Clean ’em up your own damn self. You want your storm drains to work? Better get on it. By the way, we’re adding a street fee. You need to pay more taxes for this.”
So it rained on Sunday. We were out running errands. We had to retrace our steps. We drove through St. Johns. Then it started to rain. An hour later we went through the same area. It had already flooded the size of Lake Erie. It wasn’t even a heavy rain.
There had been a few brief gusts of wind. So, yeah, the power was already out. We pulled into a bar just as thunderous lightning spooked everyone in the place. They were amazed. Lightning? Wowwee. Perhaps Portland has exactly the power company it deserves?
We continued on our way and that’s when I noticed it. The traffic signals were are dark. None of them were red. None were yellow. None were green.
You know what that means, right? The entire city went Starman on steroids. Perhaps we can add “Starport City USA” to our lengthy list of nicknames?
[Starman is driving the car, and speeds across a recently turned red light, causing crashes for the other motorists]
Jenny Hayden: Okay? Are you crazy? You almost got us killed! You said you watched me, you said you knew the rules!
Starman: I do know the rules.
Jenny Hayden: Oh, for your information pal, that was a *yellow* light back there!
Starman: I watched you very carefully. Red light stop, green light go, yellow light go very fast.
Apparently the collective wisdom of the hipster lumbersexuals in PDX is this: No street light, go very fast.
That’s weird because the law says an unpowered traffic signal is to be treated as a four-way stop. It’s so weird that no one in Portland knew that. Keep Portland weird.
So we sat at an intersection watching an endless stream of cars whiz by at top speed and we never got a turn. To pass the time we celebrated several birthdays. And I plotted revenge. Now I understand where Joker, Riddler and Penguin are coming from.
This may be my last blog post for a while. I’ve decided to keep my computer turned off when I think Portland General will be unable to keep the grid powered. By my calculations that means I’ll have a 42-minute window of electricity per day.
Lightning hits school teacher
To my mind this poses many questions. What about the profession of the victim warranted prime time placement in the headline? What if the victim had a different profession?
Let’s find out! In case it isn’t clear, all of the following versions are my own.
Lightning hits striking dock worker
Was he “hit” or was it a “strike?” Make up your mind.
Lightning hits baseball player for the cycle
It blew through the bunt sign.
Lightning hits nun treed by bear
I’m not sure which is most important here. The fact that she’s a nun, was in a tree, or was chased by a bear.
Lightning hits homosexual soldier; Westboro Baptist Church celebrates
Sometimes bad people get to be happy. Life isn’t fair.
Lightning hits negatively-charged guru; universe destroyed
I canna change the laws of physics!
Lightning cleaves butcher into top choice
Isn’t that killing two birds with one stone? Win win!
Lightning hits restaurant patron with fork
More perplexing ambiguity!
Lightning hits journalist with film at eleven
We get paid to write headlines.
Lighting storms out in anger
Don’t be that way.
Lightning fries a pound of bacon but pig survives
This joke is in very porcine taste.
Lightning hits stranded motorist on expressway with heavy toll
Exact change required.
Model hit by lightning takes it in the shorts.
They call that fashion?
Lightning hits brain surgeon in the head
I’d call that a lightning lobotomy.
Lightning taps dancer
Life is a strange ballet.
Somewhere in the world is a road that winds its way through an incredible forest. We were passing through and my wife knew of a place where there was a single parking spot by a trail that led into that forest. One moment we were in a beautiful sunny day and the next we were in an ancient world of earthy smells where sunlight couldn’t reach the forest floor, cool air tingled our skin, sounds were strangely muted and we were surrounded by a thousand shades of green.
“I think we’re in The Hobbit trilogy,” I muttered wisely.
I’m not saying these are good photographs. They do nothing to communicate the totality of what it was like to be in that truly unique environment. But they’re all I’ve got so I’m still going to share.
A protagonist: The turkey. “Gobble Gobble.”
A story: They’re out to kill him.
And it’s a musical. With a song from the movie “Grease.”
Today’s reblog is courtesy of Sid @SidMILB from the My Mother In Law is Still Sitting Between Us… blog. Check out her blog for what could be, quite possibly, the best Thanksgiving song lyrics ever written. It is called Gobble Gobble.
Speaking of the movie Grease… (This is where I put my special twist on the reblog.)
I was out of town with my church group to spend the weekend at a Shakespearean festival. I was 13 or 14 years old. My parents had given me some spending money that was supposed to last for the whole trip.
We brought our sleeping bags and camped in the town’s Episcopal church. In that church was a simple record player. The kind with a swinging arm and a needle and a built-in crappy speaker.
While out exploring town one day with a friend, I came across it totally by chance. The 2-disc Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for the movie Grease. The price was exactly the amount of money I had in my pocket.
You know what happened next. I bought that sucker, took it back to the church, and listened to it all weekend long. I didn’t know it at the time but I was already well-advanced on the path to supergeek.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Sid!
“I got a little cooked, but I’m all right!”
With those words today, Tom B. Taker let the world know he was still alive and well.
Wait. Scratch that. Well, one out of two ain’t bad. 🙂
And, to be quite honest, I think Luke Skywalker was the first to utter those words. But I feel confident that whatever Taker said was just as impressive.
No, your humble host wasn’t caught in an earthquake. Nor was it a tsunami, either, although those are both serious weather phenomenon to be sure.
No, the circumstances that affected Taker were far more mundane. You see, there was a bit of cloudy weather. And then came the raindrops. Then the wind kicked up and the rain fell a little harder.
There was a flash of white light.
“Holy mother of God,” the cry went out. “It’s lightning! Batten down the hatches!”
He sprinted across the house to power down the computer but it was too late. The power had already gone out. There would be no ordinary shut down of the computer this time.
You see, in his neck of the woods, a bit of rain, a skosh of wind and a lightning bolt or two is all that is required to knock out the power grid. Repeatedly. For hours.
Yes, this really is the year 2011, the most advanced year we’ve had to date, and astronauts drink Tang, too.
Ah, the weather. For all of humankind’s magnificence, we are still very much at the mercy of things like the weather.
Personally I could care less about the weather. I hardly ever check the weather reports. The weather will be what it will be, right? I tend to be fatalistic about it. And no news or media outlet warned me there might be a lightning storm today. I used the Mother Nature notification system instead. That’s also know as “looking out the window.”
When the power came back up long enough, I did briefly turn to the Weather Channel out of curiosity. They were glad to tell me that the temperature in my town was 54 degrees. Gee, thanks. That’s useful information. I’m sure my outside thermometer outside the kitchen window couldn’t have told me that.
Who thought the Weather Channel would be a good idea, anyway? Weather is to be tucked away on a corner of the newspaper or given a few minutes on the news broadcast. It is not “entertainment” or very useful information in and of itself.
“Hey, let’s invent a television network that no one will ever watch for more than five minutes at a time.” Great business model.
That might be why the Weather Channel decided to add a little excitement by showing movies. Yep. Movies. The Perfect Storm is a no brainer. And so is Twister. Those movies promeninetly feature weather phenomenon.
But what else is there? Just how many movie plots have been driven by the weather?
Singing in the Rain? Ha!
How about March of the Penguins? I thought that was more about penguins than the weather. And the weather is sort of monotonous. “Today’s forecast is snow and cold.”
Well, how about Misery starring Kathy Bates and James Caan. Didn’t she win an Oscar for that performance? Sure, but what’s the weather angle? Oh, wait. The Caan character crashed his car because of the weather. That’s a perfect tie in!
Not content to just run someone else’s movies, though, The Weather Channel decided to make their own content. Yeah, everybody knows that’s the only real way to have a seat at The Big Table.
Thus, When Weather Changed History was born. This informative television series answers the big questions like: “If it wasn’t for the weather did you know the Hindenberg would have crashed somewhere else?”
“Next up, how huge chunks of ice may affect your evening commute. More about that and other stories in three minutes after these messages by Dunkin Donuts, Burger King and Toyota.”
What other events from history make their list? Hurricane Katrina. Okay, that one is legit.
Oops. I have to cut this post short. I just looked out the window and the ground is still wet. We might be loosing power and I don’t want this post to be lost to humanity.
The weather today did change history when it turned off the power to my house. Unfortunately we’ll never know the “could have been” of that alternate unaltered historical timeline. We’ll never really know what might have been irrevocably lost.