What’s Illuminated When The Lights Go Out

It’s either day 6 or 7. I can’t remember. After a while, the days without routine and electricity blend together into a foggy-headed smoothie that tastes like the middle of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” sounds. We’re all walking around with grim heavy-metal faces, but all feel confused and awkward, like maybe we accidentally ate some Percocet dusted catnip.

This morning, I waited two hours in line for gas, but by the time it was my turn, they’d run out. I drove home, ate 7 mini snickers, downed three cups of instant coffee and headed out to try again. I waited another 1.5 hours at a different gas station, where I was finally able to fill up.

There’s also still a tree down in my neighbor’s lawn, and the telephone pole in front of my house continues to lean perilously. Somewhere around half of the households on my block have fled, but those who remain have begun to show signs of self-reliance. My neighbor got his chainsaw and cut up the beastly tree himself. He’s also grilling sausages right now. I want to do my part, but couldn’t find any panty-hosed ladies from the mid 1990’s to lace up their LA Gear sneakers and power my block by riding exercise bikes like they’re in an AC/DC video. We all have our talents, and mine happen not to lie in power tools, or anything else that’s particularly useful in an emergency.

So we’re cooking over an open flame, sleeping in front of the fire, cleaning the children with rags, clearing debris with our bare hands, and slaughtering the fattest lambs for wool and sustenance. Sorry, I have a tendency to get a little Jamestown-y lately. I hope our power comes back soon. We’re being told November 9th, but I fear a pack of plague ridden zombie rats the size of Clydesdales might ravage us before then.

What I’ve noticed is that my kids haven’t complained at all about the power outage, they’ve simply sought out more social interaction to compensate. Everyone in my town has remained not only civil and friendly, but also helpful, giving, and genuinely concerned about those who are truly suffering (the situation in Staten Island is heart breaking). It’s brought me out of my own head. Maybe that’s where the Kashmir fog comes from: for those of us experiencing what are, by comparison, only minor inconveniences, a corner of the matrix has been lifted, and we’re peeking with lazy, screen-damaged eyes at the foreign reality of our existence. This is just a glimpse, or small sampling, of what life was like before computers, shoe-laces, dentists, sharp knives, and REI superstores. People were completely occupied with the day-to-day tasks of staying alive and keeping their family safe.

It occurs to me that the more we all pay other people, or otherwise outsource, our “real” work, so we can conduct our businesses, write our blogs, defend our clients, eat our mini-snickers, bleach our hair, and so on, the more depressed we become. Humans need to stay busy doing things that make them feel important, needed, strong, and productive. It’s crucial that we stay in touch with the basic realities of living.

I also learned the shocking fact that LA Gear is still in the shoe business. I might just buy the wife a pair.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here http://bit.ly/1exfm34. Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

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