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December 26, 2014
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Power to the people?

Folk singer Joe Crookston wows the crowd at the Cooperage in Honesdale, PA


Hallelujah! My power finally came back on Monday night! Happy to be alive and have a roof (still) over my head, I’m grateful. But I confess, the Lady Sandy truly tested me. I missed those little things—like electricity, heat and a phone. And TV? It isn’t a necessity (I suppose)… but the Internet? How else can a person stay in touch with the outside world, living as I do on the very fringes of society?

Safe at home a week ago on Monday, the winds began to whip around Green Acres. Shutters flew off their hinges, my garden shed took a hike and references to “The Wizard of Oz” began to fly across my computer screen. Reminding all concerned that this was not a tornado touching down, and that Dorothy and Co. were fictional characters in a film, truth be told, it seemed better to view the outside world as a movie rather than the apocalyptic scenario that seemed to be playing out around us. Outside my little piece of paradise, the gusts reached 85mph and the torrential rains turned to sleet before the lights went out and the forced-air heat sighed, sputtered and died.

“Not to worry” I chirped to the dog, “We’re cool.” I had turned on the bed warmer in anticipation, and the blankets had stored up some warmth, so I settled in to read by the glow of my mother’s antique hurricane oil lamp. Reaching for my old “Hardy Boys” collection, memories of Frank, Joe, Chet and the gang (www.hardyboysonline.net) flooded my feeble brain as I thumbed through a book that had been merely “decorative” for more than 45 years. I settled on “The Mystery of Cabin Island,” written (who knew?) in 1929. The series, penned by multiple “ghostwriters,” was wildly popular for decades and I recall being enthralled by the Hardy Boys adventures as my sister thumbed through Nancy Drew. But last Monday, under the (quickly fading) warmth, I realized that these stories were more than simple and (IMHO) not terribly well-written and I found it difficult to lose myself in the plot. Still I reveled in the memory of youthful ignorance. So a hardy “thank you” to the men (and women) who wrote those books, since they did help lull my (addled) brain into slumber with the comfort of an old shoe.

Waking to howling winds snapped me into reality and the next few days are a blur. I made my way to gal pal Ellany Gable and her studio (www.honeyhillpottery.com) in Callicoon, where she had revved up a generator and hung out a shingle for the downtrodden, powerless folks like me. Normally, Honey Hill is “just down the road a piece” but that day I had to snake my way through the hills and was turned away by more than a few roadblocks, downed trees and power lines sparking on the side of the road. I was beginning to freak out a bit, scanning the horizon and observing the damage, but Dharma (the wonder dog) kept me grounded, and the cozy fire waiting for us soothed my frayed nerves. Communications down, I settled in for the duration, unsuspecting that eight days later... I’d still be in the dark.

By mid-week I was frantically wondering whether my power had been restored, and set off through the war zone (I mean Obernberg) two more times before giving in, thrilled that Callicoon’s power had flickered on, allowing us to immerse ourselves in the news, which (as it turned out) wasn’t a great idea. The images were scary, although they did make me realize how lucky we were to have heat, coffee and a satellite signal high atop Honey Hill. Still, I was cranky and not very good company, so once again, I took off in search of power. Good friends are hard to come by and I thought it sensible to make myself scarce for a night, rather than be tossed out on my ear. So, I made my way back to G.A. to meet up with yet another good friend (thank you J.W.!) and the portable generator that he had scored for me in Liberty, NY.

We huffed and puffed, running miles of extension cords from the genny to lights and (fingers crossed) the magical line connecting me to entertainment and information, but alas, no such luck. Shouting at each other over the roar of the gas-powered engine, we ruefully acknowledged that running water, heat, TV and a phone were (sadly) still out of reach, so I piled under a mountain of blankets (forcing the dog to snuggle) and bid adieu to Jamie, bound and determined to rough it. Teeth chattering, I gulped a few (I mean eleven) sleeping pills and was blissfully unconscious by eight. Rudely awakened by hail hitting the roof, I shivered and rose, peering out the window only to observe (with horror) snow beginning to fall. “Oh Em Gee,” I howled, “Why on earth am I being such a martyr?” Gathering my (now frozen) milk, donuts, oatmeal and toiletries, I warmed up the truck (my only source of heat) and zoomed off in search of adventure.

Firmly ensconced at Honey Hill Pottery again, I rearranged the studio and greeted customers who were out in the cold looking for a bargain. Simply chatting with neighbors lifted my flagging spirits, so I decided to catch the new exhibit “Nature’s Palette” at Domesticities (www.thecuttinggarden.org) in Youngsville, NY. It hadn’t occurred to me that the storm might have delayed the opening. When Dharma and I showed up, proprietor Anne Hart was indeed in residence and artist Susan Pascale’s lovely paintings adorned the walls. Hart assured us that the rescheduled reception would occur this coming weekend (assuming that the impending nor’easter stays away) and I would encourage anyone to check out the art and fabulous vintage collectibles that make me want to redecorate constantly.

Visiting with Anne (as always) was fun, and observing Dharma snag balls of yarn off the shelves seemed to entertain us both, so (thinking cap on) I purchased a pair of cool hurricane lamps, bought a Russian fur hat across the street and smiled. Glancing at my notes, I made a quick call to Jill Padua (www.riverfolkconcerts.vpweb.com) who confirmed that singer/songwriter Joe Crookston (www.joecrookston.com) was still slated to appear at The Cooperage (www.thecooperageproject.org) in Honesdale, PA and I made plans to bask in the glow that is Joe. I’ve basked before, so knew that we were about to experience a folk singer in the truest form. Crookston, who can play the guitar like nobody’s business, writes from the soul, wrapping his rich, beautiful voice around folk tales with gorgeous melodies.

Tunes like “Good Luck John,” “The Nazarene” and “Caitlin at the Window” are new, adding to his repertoire of familiar tracks that are often covered by other artists and are now being included on soundtracks for film. Long ago, I happily joined the ranks of Crookston enthusiasts and enjoyed another opportunity to stomp my feet, sit back and experience Joe Crookston live in concert. I’m still on a high from being at the ultra-cool Cooperage, spending time with Padua, fellow folk singer Mike Jung and the Crookston fans who turned out to experience the power of the musical tour that he leads.

Speaking of power, during my week without it, I confess it was some small comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. The communal support, brotherly love and overall camaraderie that enveloped our community in the wake of the hurricane has been overwhelming in it’s generosity of spirit and ushers in the holidays right on time. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many of us have a lot to be thankful for this year. As we reach out to each other, lending a helping hand, my smile remains firmly in place, knowing that in times of need, I’ll get by with a little help from my friends. That feeling is electric, whether the power is on, or not.