Thursday, June 29, 2006

LA unplugged...

Operations were shut down here yesterday at around 2 in the afternoon when, during a mighty heat wave, the power cut out. Much of the Los Feliz/Oaks area was without juice for a solid twelve hours. There are rumors of a "brownout," which is to say a deliberate outage courtesy of the mayor, in order to save some money and possibly to send a powerful message to someone in the hood. Someone like Bill Bratton perhaps? The police commissioner who lives down the street? Who can say... With all that heat it's possible that an overzealous usage of air conditioning simply fried the grid.

Politics aside, an urban blackout is always an enlivening event. A return to a pre-technology state of nature. A blunt unplugging that necessarily invites change: the freezer melts, the email is missed, the oxygen-respirator stops pumping. The quiet is deafening - no air conditioners, no pool motors, no computer fans, no refrigerator hum. Just dogs, coyotes, tinnitus, and the distant churn of traffic. The robe that cloaks our electricity addiction suddenly drops to the floor and catches you off guard. There she stands naked beside us as we walk around absent-mindedly switching switches that pull no power from the wires.

As the warm night settles in, emergency candles are pulled from the back of stuck drawers. There is unbridled peacefulness in the air you would normally miss. And there is also an eroticism, something to do with enduring a restriction of modernity. A brief reminder of the earth's unfazed permanence beneath our fragile civilization. It causes the sprawling city to shrink down to something very local and individual. For now, your existence doesn't have to contend (or compete) with every other human, masses of busy strangers to whom we are linked to by phone, by internet, by electric wires, mega-systems and unconscious voices pressuring us to act in certain ways.

The lights came on at 2AM. There was loud ghostly glockenspiel music echoing through the house. (In the day, I had turned the upstairs radio on and up as a way to signal that the power was back on, not thinking the outage would last so long.) It was such incredible dreamy music I was tempted to lay in bed and listen to it all night long. But then the urgently revived air conditioners and pool motors and computer fans and refrigerator hums shattered the moment. Back to reality.


Blogger Ayman said...

I've got things blazin today. Come on over and debate the topics at hand.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Ayman said...

I always keep things blazin son!

1:25 PM  
Blogger pigatschmo said...

Read "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jumpa Lahiri. One of the short stories is about how a power outage saves a relationship... but then when the power goes back on it ends it... think.

8:43 PM  

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