I’m Melting!

Finished my Cheerios this morning and noticed the house was a little chilly. I thought, nobody is going to mind if I boost the thermostat a bit, given what we’ve been through. Went over to turn it up, but guess what? I had forgotten to turn it up when I got up this morning. It was 64 and I only found it “a little chilly.” Just shows what you can get used to.

We were sitting around Sue’s table in the dark last night weighing the relative merits of buying a generator, buying a kerosene heater, or getting a hotel room one night this weekend as we finished our third day without electricity. I didn’t like any of the choices. My choice would have been to move into a hotel room and stay there, and damn the expenses. But as I bit my tongue, the light went on in the refrigerator behind Sue and I heard the fridge burp into action. I pointed at the fridge and made noises. I couldn’t think of the word “electricity,” or “light,” or “hurray.” We were back in business.

I ran upstairs to see what had turned on. The electric thermostat now read 46. Joey called the neighbors, who had disappeared with everyone else around here, and let them know power was flowing. I called my mom. There were 16 messages on our phone. We didn’t have phone service during the outage, and weren’t able to retrieve them. And I also discovered a message on my cell from my University of Louisville colleague Christina Weaver. She was inviting us to come stay at her place, which warmed me up even more than the realization we were going to have hot water again. Yay Christina!

Other good news. I didn’t tell you, but I had to take Tula back to the vet yesterday. I was very worried about the amount of vomiting she was doing. And yesterday morning she added diarrhea to her problems. On Tuesday, the vet had warned she may have some kind of obstruction, but tried her on stomach meds before doing something more expensive. Yeterday’s vomiting and diarrhea told me this this wasn’t just a bad tummy. This time, the vet x-rayed and kept her for the day. When I picked her up later in the evening, he showed me her films.

X-rays are such beautiful things. I love the bright white of bone, the architecture of Tula’s pelvis. The shadowy things can be as scary as ghosts if you try to figure out what you’re seeing without some help. But Dr. Turns showed me her gas-filled secum and tummy, and then the long ribbon of who-knows-what making its way through her colon. This is the source of her troubles. But since it is in the colon, it should come out soon. We’re to feed her in small servings at intervals, which makes her cry. She is hungry. Since this vomiting started she dropped from 49 to 46 pounds. And she’s also on new medicine to help the object make its way through her system. We had an episode like this once when she was a puppy: Vomiting and lots of gas that lasted two days. Finally, she vomited up four of my socks. We’re lucky she’s alive.

This morning, no vomiting, no diarrhea, but no object either. But I’m more optimistic now. Sixty-seven degrees will do that to you.

Ice Cube Diaries

That's Joey behind the cameras during dinner last night in Sue's apartment.

That's Joey behind the cameras during dinner last night in Sue's apartment.

Last night Joey, Joey’s mom, Sue, and I packed our bags with towels and soap and hopped in the car for a trip to the Family Y. All day long we’d searched for ways to stay warm. After a shocking encounter with our hardwood floors to get Tula (The Wonder Poodle) out the door in the morning, I put her in the car and headed to Panera. Now Tula isn’t a little yippy dog. She’s almost 50 pounds of pure canine athleticism. This dog runs like a pony, and while she has deep suspicions about lawn ornaments, Christmas decorations, and anything that resembles a vacuum cleaner, she is this amazing, smart animal with keen interest in real estate. (Seriously, drive her into a new neighborhood and she runs around in the car making sure she sees everything.) But Tula hasn’t been feeling well, and on the way to Panera she threw up in the car. So my first stop was Home Depot, where I bought the smallest package of paper towels I could find (12 rolls) and some carpet cleaner, and cleaned up the splatter. Unlike most dogs I’ve had, Tula is disgusted by her own vomit. She cowered in the corner, as far as she could get from the mess, until I was done.

I hadn’t been on the road since Tuesday, when it was merely winter.  Now, all the trees bowed at my passing. OK, they bowed whether I passed or not. The whole city slumped beneath the ice that came Wednesday when the season changed to crystal. I woke that morning to a glimmering world, and heard the trees cracking like sniper fire up and down the street. By 9 the rain had turned to snow and the wind picked up, making the trees crackle like someone wadding up heavy-gauge cellophane. At 11:26 a.m. the power went out.  We haven’t had power since. At first, people were buoyant. It was a holiday. Families with kids and dogs walked down the middle of the street, dragging sleds to the closest hill. Folks with shovels helped dig out neighbors’ cars, and a pair of entrepreneurs shoveled driveways wherever people would pay them. But this morning, the neighborhood is all-but abandoned. When Tula and I walk outside, we can hear the generators on the ridge above us, where the homes were also without power in Hurricane Ike, meaning they were prepared for this event. But on our street, few tire treads mark the fresh snow in driveway after driveway.

Sue — my mother-in-law — has a thermometer in her apartment that gives the heat indoors and out. Last night her apartment was below 50. Our part of the house is colder yet. It was 28 outside. Joey dug out our huge stash of votive candles the night before, and last night I lit even more of them as we prepared to eat leftovers in Sue’s kitchen. Sue closed the kitchen door and the temperature actually crept above 50 in the heat of our candles. But while I could stand the house in long johns, a shirt, and fleece on our first night without power, by last night I had added a second fleece. Yesterday morning Joey put all of our food out on the deck. In the afternoon I opened the fridge and realized I could climb in there to warm up.

So last night was our second night without power and we all wanted a shower. Louisville Ys are letting people like us use their showers  so we headed for the Y out on Millbrook. Walking up to the to the Y I was nervous they’d send us away. Maybe it was a mistake. This was to be my mother-in-law’s first Y shower. She was worried. Oddly, she was concerned about what people would think when they saw how many layers of long underwear she had on. (It <i>was </i>amazing.) But no one looked. Hardly anyone was there. There were private showers, so she didn’t have to undergo any unusual indignities. I hesitate to give her age, but suffice it to say she remembers the end of World War II quite vividly. There was a dry sauna right beside the showers, which I couldn’t resist. I put my moisturizer on in there, figuring it would soak in better or something. I don’t really like saunas, but it was wonderful being too damn hot, hot to the very core.

“That was a peak experience,” Sue said after her shower, as she pulled on her half-dozen layers of clothing. All three of us were giddy as we walked to the car, now impervious to the cold. At home Joey and I climbed into bed in our long underwear. The foam  mattress was actually hard until warmed by our body heat. Thank god we had some body heat.

Now I’m at Starbucks. One of the baristas just jumped and shouted. She just heard her power is back on. A few minutes later she came back into the Starbucks to say a half dozen stores down the street just lost power. Another electric refugee sitting next to me with her two toddlers dressed in pink told me she saw six Georgia Power trucks heading north on U.S. 42. The power company says we now have more homes without power than occurred during Ike in September. Yesterday, Ike was winning, 600,000 powerless homes to 500,000. More snow is on its way.

I listen to the people calling to each other, all these voices accented to my Northern ear and wonder, who ever called these Southern accents? Right now, I feel like I’m back in Cleveland.