This week we had something to write about anyway- Halloween, the big snowstorm, which I figured had too much hype to be paid much attention to, and the ensuing blackout. The weather got colder- but that’s normal for late October. The trees may not have been at peak color, but they certainly were still mostly fully leaved- in gold and bronze, some red (we didn’t get the incredible reds we get some years), orange- it was lovely. The trees were thin only at the top and enough so that when wet, the tree trunks and branches showed black against the bright leaves making a spectacular contrast.
Saturday I’d planned to go over to the covenstead for Lyrion’s Samhain celebration, and Sunday I was scheduled to finally go over to Hudson for a psychic party the poor lady won on the Public TV auction, and has had to cancel three times already (last time for Hurricane Irene). In the morning the weather reports were dire enough that both were cancelled. The weather was fine all morning and most of the afternoon. We did put new plastic on the barn windows and bring in the grill, etc. On has to get ready for winter around this time anyway.
Around three I went out to the library to return some books, and the girls went with me. I meant to refill the gas tank, but there were such lines I decided not to, we did stop at the grocery store- it was packed with “pre-disaster” (what we Pennsic veterans think of as “sharks-in-the-lake” mood) shoppers. It is reasonable when a power outage is expected to lay in some bottled water, and we did. While we were in the store, the snow started: big fat heavy wet flakes that were accumulating by the time we got home. Evergreen needles are thin and slippery, and the trees are shaped with branches sloping downward to shed snow, deciduous trees reach upward and have wide leaves that are SUPPOSED to fall off before the snow comes. They are NOT designed to hold their area in an inch of snow.
When we’d finished supper, the power did go out- no surprise there. Obviously the accumulating snow pull branches onto the lines. We got our propane lamps and felt smug. We carved Jack O’lanterns and spoke bad french at each other, and sang, then listened to music on Kat’s MP3 player with speakers. Sadly, with no power we couldn’t roast the pumpkin seeds. Willow went for a traditional creepy grin, and Kat put a Tardis on hers, reflecting her recent Dr. Who fandom.
The next day we decided that we really should pick up some more propane, and maybe I’d gas up. Willow noticed for the first time an auxiliary port (aka cigarette lighter) in the van where we could charge our cell phones, and Kat’s player). That was cool, and convenient. The main one had stopped working a few months ago. Sadly, due to the intrinsic and systemic electrical problems, as soon as we started using it, the back door switch stopped working again. Feh.
We saw a LOT of broken trees and occasional downed lines (and detours) while we were out. Power was out until we got to Milford- and spotty there. Many stores were open- but dark (cash only I guess). Walmart was closed. We hit several stores trying to get the propane. I was somewhat disturbed that some of the salespeople at Home Depot could show us where to find the canned gasses, but didn’t seem to realize that gas cans use the color of the can to let you know what’s in them, and seemed to think if the size and shape was the same, they’d work. Scary. We got some smaller canisters (better than nothing)- the guy at the local hardware store said that they burn slightly differently, but we didn’t get to testing them. (ready for next time) I was aghast at the lines at the gas stations. We saw one fellow illegally cut across traffic and try to pull into a station to be waved away- I guess he didn’t realize that there was a 35 car queue he was trying to cut! Even in Wilton the local station had 25 cars in line.
When we go to cons at hotels I always take gallons of our local water- hotels are SO drying!- and a gallon per person per day is a good estimate. I’d assumed we had some in the cellar, so we only had 4 gallons (which lasted the four of us one day) on hand, and went through it for cooking and tea and drinking. Sadly, the store was out of gallons, and I wasn’t going to spend money for individual bottles, so we were down to our cisterns. Luckily, the power came back Monday evening.
I was more concerned when we lost our phone line- I keep a land line because cell coverage (here on the side of a big hunk of granite) is spotty, and besides, cell phone batteries run down, and we’d have had to go to the library or somewhere like that to charge them. (There was probably a line for that too.) That was only out for about a day. It’s amazing how much more isolated I feel when I have no phone. I sent Jane (my con co-chair) a letter, because the “help line” for the power company told us that it could be 7 days before the power was restored. I understand that some people still are in the dark.
I had my usual frustration with having a gas stove (the auto light doesn’t work any more anyway), but not being able to use the oven because the controls are electric. What’s wrong with the old pilot light and manual control system? Those ovens had thermostats- I want one of those! Everything we ate had to be stove top. I did use the wood-stove oven to roast the pumpkin seeds, but I’ve never gotten good enough at controlling the flues to be able to bake successfully in it. Hows that for an admission? So we did grilled cheese sandwiches with soup (we’ve discovered that the Progresso hearty tomato is actually good), and spaghetti, and mac and cheese, and other comfort foods.
In the summer we put a countertop on the wood-stove and put summer appliances like shake-makers and the Kombucha jars on it. Being a flat surface everything gets put on it, especially the stuff that has to go into the pantry. It’s much easier to stage them there, and “get to actually putting them away later”, so it was really buried. When we cleared it off, under candles, jars, bags, and other stuff, we discovered a mummified rat. We figure it may have been what we smelled after we put out the rat poison last month. Eucgh! We also cleaned the refrigerator, and did a lot of other incidental cleaning and clearing that we hadn’t had time before when we could get things done on our computers.
Lyndeboro still had no power on Halloween, but we put the lighted pumpkins out and had a jar of candy just in case anyone came. No one does, it’s all about the haul, and safety these days. We’re too remote- too far between houses. The parents take the kids to highly populated areas (apartments are best) so they can get as much as possible as quickly, and in as much light as possible. Because there was no power, the school missed its Halloween party, which has to be a bummer for the kids. I miss seeing the kids in costume, and giving extra to the kids in home-made costumes. Willow brought down the Encyclopedia of the Supernatural and read us various articles from it. John put on his old wizard robe. He can fit in it, but it really doesn’t fit any more. We were planning on making him a new one- a red one like the ones in Terry Prachetts Unseen Academy, but we didn’t find enough red fabric- robes take a lot.
During the blackout we would eat around six, and go to bed around nine (as we haven’t done since the kids were in school). As soon as the power was back we all ran for our computers (you could practically see the pen lines in the air behind us!) to get in touch with our friends again. Willow had been able to get a signal on her smart phone occasionally and did some interim checking for us). I was struck by how used I’ve gotten to having the world’s information available at my fingertips, how often a question would occur to me and I’d start to the computer to look it up. I DO know that not everything is available on the web. Would I have such a ridiculously large library if I didn’t? This week I got a copy of Lost Gold of the Dark Ages: War, Treasure, and the Mystery of the Saxons. (squee! stayed up reading that by candle-light!) Still, that’s what I missed. I was up until midnight checking in on the con stuff I’d missed. So I woke up at 10, when I went to bed at 9, I woke up at 7. I sleep 10 hours a night either way, so it’s just a question of how much daylight I get to use.
(Insert here my usual and annual diatribe about the uselessness of “daylight savings time”.)
I rather figured since the con is in New England that a lot of other people had lost power too, but when I got back to our group I discovered that rather than talking about panels or anything useful, they’d gotten into a discussion about whether calling an fund-raising auction (that we had no intention of having, which was actually mentioned in most of the posts) a “slave auction” was insulting to blacks, and shouldn’t a spiritual conference be above that. Since we had no intention of doing it, what are we supposed to be above- talking about it? I missed it, but I spent 5 hours reading about it after. How ridiculous! As if no other race had to deal with slavery! Talk about embracing the roll of victim!
Going to facebook, I discovered another similar crusade: A Ohio University group started circulating posters showing a person of some ethnicity holding a picture of someone wearing a costume and saying “We’re a culture, not a costume. This is not who I am, and it’s NOT OK.” to make people sensitive to how their costumes could be offensive to people who identified with them. I can see the middle eastern kid objecting to being associated with the costume of a guy with fake dynamite strapped around him and a thawb (robe) and kafiya (scarf). One shouldn’t equate being an Arab with being a suicide bomber/terrorist, but let’s face it, an arab is just foreign, a terrorist is a scary character. The Asian girl objecting to the clearly Gilbert and Sullivan Yum Yum may feel insulted by the way Victorians considered the Japanese “curious and quaint”, but if she’d looked into it she’d be aware that the show was intrinsically mocking the Victorian ignorance and xenophobia and making some pretty weird jokes as well. The Hispanic kid doesn’t want to be associated with the Juan Valdez costume. and the African-American girl didn’t like the white made up as a negro (and looking pretty tacky with someone in a vampire costume). Well guess what? Most Christians don’t want to be associated with Tammy Fae and Jim Bakker, but the the media focuses on things that are interesting and, well, embarrassing. (and she could be a costume idea!)
Of course, as it went around the internet other people made take off posters immediately- they had Bela Lugosi objecting to the vampire in the same picture from the black one. There were lots with petri dishes and pics of costumes of people dressed as microbes (referring to the tag line- “we’re a culture, not a costume”). I liked the one with nothing behind it and the picture of the invisible man from the movie. I liked the one of Igon from the Ghost Busters saying “I’m a Scientist, not a costume, but this is 65% OK.” I liked the Ronald Regan holding a picture of Mitt Romney, and the ones of characters from the anime series Avatar with pictures of the same characters in the Avatar movie. There was hippy, only his said “We’re a Counter- culture”. People are having fun with it.
I guess the final comment is the one (with I think a welfare mother with baby) that says “This is OK because it is a JOKE”. The point the activists (and the people talking about “slave auctions” were making is that just because it was a joke doesn’t make it OK, jokes can hurt feelings. I see both sides. One doesn’t want to make someone feel badly about his or her culture, considering how much the European/American culture has done that to cultures they’ve invaded, it’s a very wrong thing. I suppose the jokes are how the mainstream expresses its discomfort with that atrocity. But that doesn’t make the jokes the disease, but the symptom of healing. We should be clear what’s OK and what’s not. Hurting someone is not OK, especially if it’s on purpose. Telling another culture that they aren’t OK because they aren’t like us is wrong. It can be cured with information and respect. Hurting someone by accident should be something people can forgive, and instruct them how to be more careful. At the same time, there is a reality that someone who’s been badly hurt is hyper sensitive. A person who is hyper sensitive has to recognize that they have healing to do, and work on that. We can give them some support in their healing process, but I see no need to reinforce Victimhood. It should not be rewarded or it can become a way of life.
We are working to become “color blind” culturally. This does NOT mean that we will meld all cultures into one. We want to preserve and appreciate all the varied cultures out there. Cultural costumes are more respectful than not- they indicate that someone admires the dress of the other culture and sometimes other aspects of it. For goodness sakes, are we to say that no one can eat ethnic food? I don’t THINK so! The people who think that every representation of their culture is intrinsically insulting need to rethink their attitudes. It could be, but more often it isn’t, and it’s really insulting to make the basic assumption that everything a stranger does and says is disrespectful. I’ll grant that when you’ve been hit a dozen times, you’re likely to develop a flinch response. But that programmed response, no matter how natural, does not mean that the people around you are likely to hit you, only that you expect it. The problem is with you, not them. You need healing, they don’t need to be told to hit less. It really is very similar to what the people who are complaining about- they don’t want to be judged as a group to be like some small unflattering sample of the group, but that’s what they are doing to everyone else. It’s very annoying. But, the “culture not costume campaign” was designed to get a discussion going, and since it has, I guess it’s successful.
We did decorate little sugar sculls for Halloween, and when the power was back, made some scull shaped cupcakes which Willow also decorated, although Kat was the one who stood there with the beater making the boiled icing. Now I will get to making the Pan de Meurto of which I am so fond. Kat prefers Soul Cakes. We were about to start some when the power went out. Time to start the yeast!
Willow also made herself a Day of the Dead head-dress with roses, and the girls were going to picnic in a graveyard. While the snow is melting fast, I’m afraid it’s still too wet. We’ve got about 4″ left where we didn’t shovel the car out. (When we went to measure it on Sunday around noon it was at about 15 inches- but I think it had already slumped some.) So instead they are heading off to surprise Avi and her kids. They just got home and they did get some pics, in time for me to share them.
Now I’ve got to get back to working on the schedule for the con (it is IMPOSSIBLE to tell which classes are going to need the bigger rooms- I wish I were a better dowser, maybe that would help!) and make dinner. Tonight we’re going to have the personal meatloaves with cheese filling- like lava cakes, but lava meat loaf.
Sadly, I am discovering little sticky notes with titles of classes all over the house (Willow found one in her room today) this could be bad- I could miss-place a class, and it wouldn’t get in the schedule.
Oh, the garage called- Willow’s car has been pronounced dead. Since there’s so much rust on the body it wouldn’t pass the next inspection, it’s not worth what it would cost to fix the radiator. Now we’re back to the poor person’s dilemma- Willow doesn’t trust any car she can afford to pay for.
Obviously we didn’t watch much this week. I did see the 1967 Witches with Joan Fontaine- I was rather impressed with it. The witches were all so normal looking. (Oddly, we have seen no versions of the “Culture not costume” with a modern witch objecting to Glinda or Margret Hamilton. That’s strange because usually they are pretty prickly about it.) Kat re-watched Rose Red, and John watched Nightmare before Christmas (appropriate considering the weather!). We gave him a hard time because when seeing the first of the snow he said that it looked like Halloween was going to belong to the yuki-onna (“snow women”) this year, and we told him he shouldn’t have invoked their spirits. The yuki-onna are Japanese spirits who inhabit mountaintops and lure people out to die in the snow.
I was reading my new Saxon Gold book, and my Magic, Religion and Witchcraft text book, and more of the Falco books, but really didn’t read that much because of spending my time on the con and dealing with the blackout. I predict I’ll read and watch less next week too.
Until then, wishing you a great week!
and some Halloween quotes:
Clothes make a statement. Costumes tell a story. ~Mason Cooley
Once in a young lifetime one should be allowed to have as much sweetness as one can possibly want and hold. ~Judith Olney
Ghosts, like ladies, never speak till spoke to. ~Richard Harris Barham
Where there is no imagination there is no horror. ~Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.
Proof of our society’s decline is that Halloween has become a broad daylight event for many. ~Robert Kirby
Those seemingly interminable dark walks between houses, long before street-lit safety became an issue, were more adrenalizing than the mountains of candy filling the sack. Sadly Halloween, with our good-natured attempts to protect the little ones, from the increasingly dangerous traffic and increasingly sick adults, has become an utter bore. ~Lauren Springer