Sunday, May 8 2005
This morning I went to grind my coffee but the coffee grinder didn't work. So I pushed the little button a little harder and then checked to make sure it was plugged in. It was. Then I realized what the problem was: the house was experiencing a power outage. So I decided to take the dogs for drive to the West Hurley Park where I could maybe sneak out some sheets of bluestone. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday Mother's Day morning, perfect for driving around and wasting precious oil.
But when I got to the park, I saw it was chock full of people. There was even a state trooper at the entrance directing traffic. Obviously I wouldn't be getting any bluestone from there today.
So I continued on towards Onteora Lake, my second big source of bluestone pieces. But as I was driving along the top of the half-mile-long dike that marks the eastern edge of the Ashokan Reservoir, I found myself stuck in traffic, believe it or not. In front of me was a long line of cars, some of them state toopers, and the entire chain was moving at about ten miles per hour. I thought at first that maybe they were awestruck by the scene of the sun-drenched mountains rising up out of the choppy wind-churned water, but the crawl continued like this all the way past the scenery to the drabness of Route 28. And at every intersection there were cops with rudely parked cruisers. What was going on, the end of the world? It was natural in my mind to wonder if all this heat on the street had something to do with the power outage. Since 9/11/01, even the most excessive displays of government power haven't come as much of a surprise. Honestly, if I saw the troopers yanking people out of every fifth car and summarily executing them at the crossroads, I wouldn't have bothered to pinch myself to see if I was having a nightmare.
After gathering small triangular pieces of bluestone at Onteora Lake, I went eastward down the hill to Hurley Mountain Road and headed home that way, hoping to avoid whatever was causing congestion near the Ashokan Reservoir. But then I got stuck behind another slow convoy heading south on Hurley Mountain Road. This time, though, I was close enough to its front to see who its leader was. It was a single person on a bicycle. Evidently Hurley was having its annual Mother's Day bike race, somehow I'd managed to get stuck behind it in two totally different parts of the township on two totally different routes that lead to my house.
The slow convoy continued up Dug Hill Road, which, for the half mile southeast of our driveway, is one of the steepest roads in the township. I could think of lots of things I'd rather be doing than being stuck behind a cyclist huffing and puffing all that way up that grade, so I pulled over at the base of the hill and went off on foot with the dogs to collect smooth triangular pieces of bluestone in Englishman's Creek.
The neighbors I call "the Greenhouses" saw me climbing out of my truck and asked what was going on and I told them about the bike race and that it probably didn't have anything to do with the morning power outage. They said that the outage was the reason they'd left their house - unable to boil any water or fry any bacon, they'd gone to town for breakfast.
I spent at least a half hour walking around on the lower slopes of the Hurley Mountain escarpment and then gathering stones in the creek. When I continued driving back up the hill, I found slow bike-led convoy was only just getting past my driveway.
The power outage continued for at least an hour after I made it home. Come to think of it, the bike race might have had something to do with its duration, since all these little traffic jams were probably slowing the arrival of the work crew sent out to restore power.
Left with only the technology of Thomas Jefferson's day, I continued my extended game of bluestone Tetris. One advantage I had over TJ was a steady source of audio entertainment coming from my truck's radio, immune as it is to the whimsy of the fragile Dug Hill Road power grid.
I noticed, by the way, that the neighbors across the street who live in that 70s House had a generator running throughout both this morning's power outage as well as the one that happened later in the afternoon. I could tell when the outage was over partly because their generator fell silent. Evidently they're the sort of people who are unhappy vacationing in pre-industrial America even for a minute.
People within earshot as I work on my outdoor projects would normally overhear some sort of talk radio (either internet archives or the local NPR affiliate). Since I've already heard the entire collection of radio brilliance in the This American Life archive several times over, these days I've been forced to listen to NPR. After the November election I'd found the news mostly depressing, but ever since things started going badly for the Republicans beginning with their Terri Schiavo overreach, I've gone back to enjoying the news once again.
By the end of the day I'd completed the layout of most of the bluestone on the path. There are still a few gaps that I'm going to have to do something about and not all the little triangular pieces really fit the holes they're sitting in. But that's what you get when you're reluctant to cut the bluestone to fit.
The path, looking northward (with Sally). Note that the ditch still needs resurfacing along forty feet of its length.
Ah, how far we've come!
The path, looking southward (Sally is in the foreground and Eleanor is in the background).
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