It really was an amazing dinner, even without electricity – shrimp over pasta, with a bottle of California rose. We are lucky enough to have gas, so we could actually cook whatever we wanted.
The storm ripped through town a few hours earlier, and it was very very quiet in the house, and the entire neighborhood. No music, no lawnmowers, no power tools. Except the hum of generators.
Living where we are, when the power goes out, you don’t pack up and leave, you pull out your generator, plug in your fridge, and start getting the BBQ ready. And drinking rose while it’s cold.
I am quite traumatized by the fact that we lost a tree – an old bush has been ripped out by the wind and deposited on our sidewalk. Italian seems relieved, as he wanted to get rid of that tree for a while, but facing donkey resistance from yours truly every time he mentioned it. You know like some people wouldn’t throw out a t-shirt until it literally fell apart in their hands? It seems I am that way with trees.
Meanwhile, I am scrolling through the neighborhood Facebook group, as the pictures and posts start coming in, and we start getting an idea of the full extent of the storm.
Cars flipped. Roofs ripped off. Trees down. Power lines down.
I sportcast the posts to my husband – one story more disturbing than the other.
“Omg, this person was walking on the street when it happened with a stroller and her five day old baby, and the stroller became airborn!!! Someone driving by stopped, jumped out of the car, and helped her and the child inside the vehicle!”
“The brewery is… decimated. They are closed until further notice!”. We were planning to have dinner at the brewery. Now we are having shrimp over pasta.
“This person says that they have over a hundred trees down on their property. Her husband is out trying to clear some of them, but he’s completely overwhelmed.”
Italian looks up at me.
“So… I guess I should put on some work clothes, eh?”
I start my car, while he starts loading (multiple) chainsaws in his truck. I feel like we are in Ghostbusters. In which case, I’d probably be Slimer – big teeth, long arms, friendly, but mostly useless.
I look up the address of the neighbor who has a hundred trees down on their property. They are about ten minutes away. I drive ahead with my GPS, while Italian follows in his truck. The first few minutes of driving down our country road make it very clear that the storm was significantly more severe throughout town than it was at our property. Along the fields, multiple trees are uprooted and dropped on the ground, like a giant was pulling carrots, and just leaving them on the side.
I make a turn onto the street that is supposed to lead us to the neighbor’s property, and realize that a power line post is down and in my way. The wires are ripped down the middle. The post partially blocks the way, while the wires are sparkling on the ground – zombie-movie style. I slow down, and wait for Italian’s truck to catch up. He slides down the window, as I look at him questioningly. “Absolutely fucking not!”, he says. We turn both vehicles around, and head further south, hoping to drive around.
Another turn – this is one of the main roads leading into town, with many rural properties on larger forest lots. We make it a couple of miles, driving around a couple of really big branches on the road, before finally arriving at a tree lying across the road. A guy in his late fifties is by the tree. He has a garden saw, which he uses to slowly cut down branches and drag them to the side. He might as well be using a butter knife. I look in my rearview mirror, and catch Italian observing this situation with the expression of a Cheshire cat. We have arrived at his personal Disneyland.
We pull both cars over to the side of the road. Italian gets out, and pulls out the eye and ear protection helmet, the biggest chainsaw, and a canister with gas – slowly, deliberately.
“What would you like for your soundtrack?”, I ask, trying to keep my expression neutral. “I’ve been thinking something along the lines of “Eye of the Tiger”, obviously. Or, “Highway to Hell” could also work?”
As he walks over to the guy with the butter knife, and starts the chainsaw, I clearly remember the scene from Crocodile Dundee. Remember that one?
“That’s not a knife. This is a knife!”
I want my own chainsaw, damn it. But Italian has never allowed me close to one of those. Something about losing limbs. And something about how I cannot be trusted with power tools.
As we are working away at the tree, an Audi SUV pulls up, and a sunglassed chained flip-flopped guy steps out, take one look at us, and the road ahead. He lifts up his glasses and says: “Well… I wish I could be of more help”, then gets back in the car and drives away.
We look at each other and burst out laughing.
You COULD be of more help, flip-flopped guy.
Here, grab a hunk of wood. Pull it to the side/
The comic relief does not end there, as few minutes later, a “real helper” shows up in the form of a twenty-something old guy with long shaggy hair, flip-flops (those “shoes” really do scream “I’m gonna be useless at any sort of physical labour”, don’t they?), and no shirt.
He jumps out of his car, and pulls out a very large chainsaw out of the trunk, and heads straight for the tree Italian is already working on.
“No shirt is a nice touch!”, I observe coolly. He doesn’t seem to hear, as he starts the chainsaw, plunges it into the nearest branch, breaks the chain a few seconds later, struggles to pull the chainsaw out, finally pulls it out, jumps back in the car and drives away screaming “I’ll be back!” in the open window.
And I’m the one who cannot be trusted with a chainsaw? But the intent to help IS there, and I do hope he comes back.
We spend the next two hours driving around, looking for trees that have fallen on roads (there are dozens), then get out of our vehicles, and join whoever is already hacking at the tree.
That particular adventure ends when we finally find a tree that has fallen on the road, but has taken a power line with it, so the branches are tangled up with wires.
“That’s above my paygrade”, Italian shrugs.
I concur. This is not how we die.
Finally, we make it to the neighbors property, where three men are already walking around with various size chainsaws. I leave Italian there, and head home to meet my friend, who is coming to join us for second-dinner and more rose, by the candlelight.
I… had a blast.
And yes, I realize how fucked up that sounds.
But after two years of fighting the invisible virus enemy by “staying at home”, it feels so good to face something tangible and concrete. Like the tree across the road. And have a bunch of chainsaws. And be able to grab a huge branch and move it out of the way – again and again.
I’ve missed this simplicity.