After a bike ride, we went to see if the Mexican fast food place was open and were not surprised that it was not due to having, like every business and residence near it for miles on miles, no power. Having found ourselves all off from school / work, Jim drove down the local state road onto the interstate and thence to another local state road. Every signal light except for one at a major intersection was out. Everything was closed aside from some grocery stores whose dim lights said they were powered by generators.
We saw billboards on their sides, trees at every angle and occasional bits of buildings on the ground.
There was a line at the one open gas station reaching into the road way, with many people wielding gas cans so they could fuel their generators. A few stores in one area had lights on and then everything was dark.
We drove further and everything was dark so we drove back north to stop at the one lit-up McDonald's. Charlie had been smiling the entire time and kept it up throughout the adventure which involved dropping me off to stand in a line along with about 100 other people at the McDonald's, Charlie and Jim coming in to wait for a bit and Charlie gaining the attention of all when he said loudly 'Gong Gong PoPo Rocco!', us responding cheerily, Jim and Charlie back in the car circling the parking lot 4 times and Home Depot once and then hanging in the parked car listening to a somber Phil Schaap on the Art Blakely birthday broadcast. I remained in the slow-moving line, appreciating the politeness and patience of everyone in it and the very busy workers and the people who seemed to be in McDonald's only to charge electronics and use the WiFi.
Everyone in the line had the same story: No power. People were walking out with shopping bags full of McDonald's.
(Proof that McDonald's will be the last bastion of civilization when the apocalypse really comes?)
(Well, maybe, at least in New Jersey.)
We live smack in the middle of the zone that news outlets report as having no electricity. Why we have ours, as do residents of some part of our street but not others, is clearly an indication that we lead a charmed existence and I continue to plug in Charlie's iPad every moment he's not using it.
Finding ourselves in endless lines waiting for non-essential but in our view essential items is the stuff of our life (and has been for years with Charlie) so, unlike most of the people around me, I saw no reason to wonder why I was standing in such a line. The long wait was just one of those things we do.
Even more, living through a 'natural disaster,' while certainly not routine, has a bit of a familiar feel living as we do ever in the knowledge that Charlie could have 'the big one,' an extreme behavior storm touching down at any moment of the day and night.
He was cheery when I finally walked to the car with some extra hamburgers and a free French fry the young female worker had given us for no particular reason and ate it all up. He looked out the windows as Jim drove and went to his room, showered, wanted a second walk.
I used sometimes to call just after 5pm 'the witching hour' and it remains such. The need for that habitual burrito set in and Charlie was in its grip. We looked up every Mexican restaurant in the northern half of New Jersey and called them and got no answer. We gently noted how lucky we were to have lights on and Internet, all the more as Jim and I read about houses burnt to the ground and the wreck of the beach island that (until Charlie became such a great ocean swimmer that we could not keep up with him) we spent many summer days at -- Jim showed me image after image of boats in a pile, the ocean in the streets, beach houses flung from their foundations atop other beach houses.
Charlie stood, sat in his brown chair, stood and listened to us saying very gently that things were 'closed' and you could tell from his face he was trying to gut it out and he sat in his chair and burst into tears with the effort and stood up. I intervened and his requests, which were about his obsessive anxiety, petered out -- obviously understandable! his school is closed on Wednesday and I anticipate it will be all week; the so to speak good thing is, Jim's and my schools / places of employment are shut down too. They're pumping out water from the subway tunnels and the mayor of Jersey City, 75 percent of whose residents have no power, has said that non-essential vehicles are not allowed and I don't know if he would buy our story that getting Charlie Vietnamese food means it is essential for us to be on Jersey City roadways!
Charlie went to his room and came down and, while I put his blanket in the dryer, we all went for a walk. It was dark at that point and the street where all the houses are dark except for those from which dim light and the burr of generators were apparent was uncanny to be on, as was it to pass the darkened house of Nemesis Dog whose majestic pine tree's trunk had snapped so its fulsome branches were bundled on the ground.
We got home and Charlie ate rice, shrimp and apples with a chaser of crackers and listened to iPad music for a long time while sitting on his bed. He looked uneasy while intermittently smiling. Jim went to check on him and then came down with the blue blanket which I rinsed out and stuck in the dryer and returned, hot and dry, to a happy boy who gradually settled down to sleep.
I can charge the iPad in the car but not the dryer!
Yes, we live a charmed life.