Tag Archives: cold

Shooting this vacation movie

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This photo, shot by Timothy H. O'Sullivan (1840-1882), shows Sutler's bomb-proof "Fruit and Oyster House" located in Petersburg, Virginia, during the siege of Petersburg (June 1864-April 1865).

This photo is not of the cabin I rented for vacation. Shot by Timothy H. O’Sullivan (1840-1882), it shows Sutler’s bomb-proof “Fruit and Oyster House,” located in Petersburg, Virginia, during the siege of Petersburg (June 1864 to April 1865).

I got my credit card statement today, and the refund for my vacation cabin rental is on it, so now I can tell the story.

It was a movie-worthy vacation, blue skies, clear waters, scented pines—a movie that if I were pitching it to a Hollywood producer, I’d call Dos Amigos meets Chevy Chase on a bad vacation at the House of the Damned. Or maybe A Cabin in the Woods without the mad scientists.

Okay, so here’s what happened. The dos amigos arrive at the cottage late afternoon on Friday. We unload the car, open the cottage, pick our rooms, stash our stuff, and fill the fridge. By now it’s early evening and we turn on the stove to make a grilled cheese, and…the stove doesn’t work. And we’re cold, so we crank the heat, and…there’s no heat. We call the office and get an out-of-office message that they’ll be back Monday.

That has to be a lie, because it’s vacation season, so we make a ham sandwich and go to bed. The next morning, we drive down to the office and explain. They say they’ll send someone out.

He comes right away. He’s not a maintenance guy, he’s the lawn guy, but the maintenance guys are out of town at family graduations, and the lawn guy’s on standby. We think probably the circuits just got thrown, so he’ll fix that and we’ll be good.

And he does throw the circuit breakers, and he asks me to turn on the stove and see if the indicator light goes on, so I do and it does, and on a note of premature self-congratulations, he departs.

Night falls. We’re cold. The temps are dropping to 40 or so for the second night in a row, and we want some heat and a warm meal. So we turn on the stove, and the indicator light goes on, but in fact the stove does not heat up. And the furnace doesn’t kick in, either. So we make a ham sandwich and decide to go to bed. Except now we can’t brush our teeth, because we also don’t have any water. And the electric lights, when we turn them on, pulse. It’s like living in an emergency freezer.

The next morning we drive down to the office and explain what happened, and the maintenance guys come right out. They determine that the place needs an electrician, so they call him and we depart for a restaurant-cooked breakfast.

We come back early afternoon and he says everything is fixed. So I say, let’s do a check. I turn on the stove, and the indicator light goes on, and then the heat comes up. I turn on the furnace, and it kicks in. I turn the tap on the faucet, and water comes on. I hit the light switch, and the light comes out in a steady stream. All good!

The electrician and the maintenance guys take off. The dos amigos settle down in the rapidly warming living room to read. Just when I thought that the first-heat-of-the-season smell was a little too strong, the smoke detector starts to shriek. I pull the plug and drive down to the office. The maintenance guys come back and clank around on the furnace for a couple more hours. Then they dust off their hands and say it it’s fixed.

And it was. And it was good: stove, furnace, water, lights, all functioning properly. Except I never did get hot water upstairs. But the shower was downstairs, so tragedy was averted.

And today I got the refund. And a story.

 

The day I sang with Pete Seeger

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peteSeeger2A long time ago, when I was an aspiring journalist, the Newspaper Guild, the union for writers and editors, was on strike against the daily newspaper in the town where I lived. A lot of newspaper unions, like unions everywhere, were losing ground in those days. If these editors and reporters lost the strike, they’d lose their jobs, and then if they wanted to keep working on newspapers, they’d have to move somewhere else. Where their future would be just as shaky.

The strike hung on through the winter. The cold often exceeded -20 degrees. Walking a picket line in that kind of weather isn’t just miserable; it can be life threatening. Because many of my friends and acquaintances wanted to be hired into those good jobs, too, we wanted that union to survive. And to help out the strikers, we often walked the picket line that winter to show our support.

The shift changed at 6am, so it was important to be out there when scabs drove through the gates for the morning shift. And one day when I got out there at 6am, standing in wind so cold I thought my teeth would shatter, there was Pete Seeger. He took off his gloves and played his banjo and sang a song. I think it was “This Land Is Your Land,” but I wouldn’t swear to it. We all knew it, and we all sang along.

Pete Seeger died today. When I looked at the photo tribute The New York Times posted, I noted how many times he’s standing on a stage with other people, highlighting and sharing their stories. That’s the way I’ll remember him, too. Standing outside on that freezing road, singing his heart out with a bunch of people who needed his voice.

Feeling the weather, under and otherwise

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I caught a cold. I have all the usual symptoms, plus an earache and dizziness. I’m feeling massively sorry for myself, I’m out of soup, winter’s arrived, it gets dark too early, and the apartment is cold, too. To cheer myself up, I’m reading Dead Lagoon by Michael Dibdin, he of the Aurelio Zen mystery series, fairly recently made into a three-part BBC/Italian TV miniseries. The miniseries was very beautiful to watch but hopelessly confusing. The book–this one anyway–is a lot better. I’m enjoying it. It’s fitting my mood. In Dibdin’s world, Venice is dark, dank, narrow, smelly, dying, corrupt, fascist, and poor. And it doesn’t have any soup, either, except the kind of nasty stuff you’d find in a canal. Yup, perfect.