04 September 2012

Hurricane Adventure: Cooking by Candlelight on the Bayou


Hurricane Vampire Survivor Mousepad












From Denny:  Have you ever noticed that when you go off the grid your mind turns to comedy?  OK, during a hurricane the mind often slides on down toward dark humor.

After all, your brain is geared up to engage with technology and suddenly finds itself in total withdrawal.  And, it's a good thing that humor was created.  It's the best weapon in the human arsenal for survival.

I went off the grid for three days - and hot sweaty nights - during the very long week of Hurricane Isaac.  Over a million homes lost power in Louisiana during the storm.  Our house was fortunate and did not experience flooding or damage during the high humidity and 90 plus temperatures - pure misery.

The power and the air conditioning blissfully came back on late Friday night - and then lost it again on Sunday for half a day in a blistering 95-degree heat before it was restored.  The American energy grid is a sorry patchwork of aging infrastructure.  No matter how much Congress gets yelled at from our house they still sit on their hands, refusing to rebuild a smarter vision across the nation - and bring the technology into this century.

Of course, whatever can go wrong generally does in emergencies.  Right before the storm hit we got a call from my husband's older brother across town.  He was inundated with evacuating relatives stacking up at his house and could not bring home their mentally challenged autistic sister like he had planned.  She is a ward of the state because of the high cost of her seizure meds and round the clock attendants.  Family only takes her home a couple times a month or on holidays for brief weekend visits.

And, thanks to Gov. Bobby Jindal, she also had state folks that called up in the middle of a category one storm and said "they didn't want to be responsible for her during the hurricane."  Hunh?  They've done it for decades, so why stop now?  Worse, why call the siblings at the last minute before the storm hits?  How irresponsible can you get?

Oh, thank you, Congress and the health care industry that her family cannot afford to keep her at home.  (Bitch Complaint #1 this hurricane season)  This is one reason I'm always haranguing Congress and this White House about helping out the middle class with a public option health care plan.  How many times across America is a similar scene like this repeated with vulnerable, aged and physically or mentally challenged loved ones?

My husband and I had to act fast as the storm was bearing down and the roads were closing so he might not be able to get to her.  We were concerned the attendant that was with her would abandon her.  Fortunately, she had enough groceries but when my husband arrived he discovered there was no first aid kit or obvious hurricane supplies like candles and matches.

I told my husband we needed to split up as there was no time to debate or plan any real strategy.  I suggested he go spend time with his sister at her apartment and I would stay at home to watch the place for storm damage and looters.  Yeah, that's right; there is nothing more scary than a Louisiana bleached blonde lying in wait with a huge baseball bat ready to clock a robber.  Also called Cajun Whoop Ass.  :)

Seriously though, his sister is prone to severe epileptic seizures, so strong they can take her life at any moment.  The slightest move off routine or change in location can set off a series of them.  Doctors are amazed she has stayed alive and healthy for so many years.  They thought she would have died years ago.

So, in order to preserve her needs I suggested he go and stay with her while I remained behind.  No, I wasn't scared.  Be practical:  You do what you do when you need to do it.  Keep your life simple.  Come on; you just can't leave a mental five year old - who is also autistic - and can barely speak on their own to fend for themselves during an emergency situation.

He left on Tuesday and I figured he might get back on Friday afternoon, once the storm had passed,  emergency government and energy crews spent a day assessing damage and then road crews were out to clear the roads.  All I had to do was figure out how to ration what food and water we had since I gave away half of the water for him to take to his sister's.

Good thing too as she had no bottled water in case there was a "boil water" advisory.  Fortunately, we both live in the same parish (county) and they possess emergency diesel generators to keep water flowing in spite of the hurricane - unlike all other parishes in the state.



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My next order of business was to figure out what to do when the power went out and I was off the grid entirely.  Sure, I assessed my own situation and scrounged for the necessary items like candles, matches, a plastic tote to fill up water and store it in the bathtub.  Then I got online to enjoy it for as long as I could. :)

Found my trusty manual wind-up short wave radio.  What a bore to listen to local AM talk radio and whining people calling in wondering when they would get power.  You would think folks would understand that energy crews cannot get out on the roads until the local police clear them.  No one can get out there to repair a thing until the winds die down to below 30 mph.  How would you like to be up in bucket precariously perched on the end of a crane during hurricane force winds?  Yeah, me neither.

Hurricane Isaac was an unusually slow-moving storm so the rain and wind just kept coming, preventing crews from getting out there.  It always takes a few days after the storm to clear roads, restore power and cable TV.

Then comes the real wait, watching the rivers and run-off areas like bayous, storm drains and the like to see if they can handle the flooding issues.  It's been a week since the storm hit town and the crested rivers are just now starting to slowly drain.

It really is a waiting game during and after a hurricane.  First you wait for the hurricane to come blowing in.  Then the power clicks off and darkness comes.  The winds intensify and your house is suffocatingly hot and humid, forcing you to open strategic windows.  The wind is forceful but cooling.  It also blows in a lot of wet which you are constantly mopping up.  It is so worth it just to stay cooler.

What's really strange is just how accustomed we are to technology - like street lamps.  Everything went out and it was total darkness if not for the candles.  Is this really how our forebears used to read at night a century ago?  Hard to believe.

Can I tell you it was the three most peaceful days and nights I've enjoyed in a long time?  For the first time in a long time there was no person or pet demanding my time, projects or the constant "I'm hungry!  I want to eat NOW!"  Suddenly, it occurred to me as to why women go to spas for the entire day.  Hey, I had a Hurricane Sauna over at Isaac's. :)

As usual, I kept busy like I do in every hurricane.  When you can't do what you enjoy - like writing online - you do all the projects you put off until they start to back up a bit.  So, I scheduled my three days to do all that spring cleaning and closet purging that few of us like.  It also annoys my husband.  He's so afraid I'll make a move into his stuff and start organizing him.  Like any of us would dare to do such a thing, right?

There is something so peaceful about those silly projects.  Well, as you can guess I finally ran out of projects.  Then what?  I had no phone or cell coverage either.  So, it was McGyver time, something I enjoy.  I like to experiment but time constraints often prevent it.

This "time" had become so very slow, you know, like slow food.  Hmmm... slow food.  I was missing a hot meal.  I got the bright idea to put the big fat candles on a cookie sheet and into the oven.  Over it on the rack above I placed a large frying pan with its cover.

I waited for a good 25 minutes as it heated and then threw in the chopped bell peppers and spices like smokey paprika, garlic powder, sea salt, cumin and chili powder with the clarified butter.  It slow sizzled a while - another 20 minutes.  Then the scrambled eggs were added, the cover back on and it slow cooked for another 20 minutes.  Wow... an hour to fix breakfast but well worth the wait.  "Next time" note to self:  Use more candles, bitch!

Daylight, day three:  The morning light is always welcome so you can see if there are any downed power lines.  I finally ventured out into the neighborhood to check out the status of what my husband would be encountering when he tried to return home.  What a mess; huge oak limbs were strewn all over the streets.  One big limb found its way onto a neighbor's car, having smashed the front wind shield and roof.  At least no downed power or cable lines in my immediate area so I knew it would not be too long for power restoration.

I returned inside to wait some more, involved in another least favorite project: filing.  And, suddenly, a voice yells at me and presses his face against the window screen, "Denny! You in there!?"

Oh... my... God... Satan's home!  Now, girls, if a man appears at your door after a hurricane wearing a tight pair of jeans and bearing gifts of a huge bag of refreshingly cold ice and a plate full of yummy chocolate chuck cookies, don't open the door to temptation.  You will regret it.  Yeah, I know, resistance is futile...

The annoying but well loved husband returned in a flurry of motion.  He was worried he could not contact me after 40 calls and no answer.  "Listen, Satan," I said, "I thought you were the guy in charge of chaos.  Did you forget to dispatch some of your True Blood Fangers to fix the lines?"

And, yes, my husband loves being called Satan.  He thinks it's macho or something.  What a sick puppy.   Maybe that's why he's always telling me I've earned my wings being married to him.

Anyway, just wanted to thank all of my follower friends at the Pentagon, the CIA, the White House, the FBI and a family in North Carolina for thinking such goodwill thoughts of me during the storm, wondering how I was doing.  I really could hear you sneaking those prayers for me.  That was so sweet and it was certainly much appreciated.  Who knows?  Maybe it was because of all of you that I felt so totally peaceful and relaxed while the storm raged around me.  Cool, huh?  You did a great job!  Keep up the good work.  Look how successful your efforts proved to be.

Uh, oh, Satan's calling... gotta go.  He's whining the cable is not acting right and he might not be able to watch his beloved LSU Tigers.  Ms. Fixit is on the job.  Yes, I still possess my good humor after the storm.

Thanks for checking in with me.  Love you all!  Peace and Joy to you. Big kiss.




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