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It all started right before Christmas.
I guess the holidays are stressful for most people anyway, but I always feel that the warmth of being with people you care about, far outweighs the stress. The few months leading up to Christmas were about as stressful as every previous year – each day goes by and you think, “Okay, I still have plenty of time to make that homemade picture frame for so-and-so,” and “When will I have time to drive 40 minutes to the nearest substandard mall, where I can buy a lot of cheesy, substandard gifts that will either be re-gifted or thrown out within the year.” Well, I wound up using www.2bizzy2shop.com (joke- do not look for this website) for all of my gift needs. That always works.
So it’s the day Bob and I are supposed to depart for South Carolina. We know that it’s snowing, and it actually looked worse than they predicted. But we set off anyway. We were determined to have our Christmas on time. It took us 3 hours to get to the airport that’s 1.5 hours away. Along the way, we witnessed numerous vehicles in ditches and spin-outs. Because we left well in advance, (being the savvy travelers that we are) we arrived well in time for our flight. But – there was a problem. It seemed that our flight was slightly delayed and we would probably miss our connecting flight in Cincinnati. Now, we knew from watching the Weather Channel for a week straight, that Cincinnati would be one of the harder hit cities during this storm. But being young and stupid, we said, “We’ll take the flight anyway, and if we miss the connection, we’ll have Delta put us on another flight.”
We got to Cincinnati in enough time to actually catch our connection. But the gate person told us to “TAKE YOUR SEAT PLEASE AND WE’LL ANNOUNCE WHEN WE’RE BOARDING THIS FLIGHT!”
Okay, we sheepishly took our seats. About 9 minutes later, the little ticker board above the counter flipped ominously over to read, “DEPARTED.” That was our flight. How could it be departed when we were told it hadn’t even boarded?!!!
Long story short – OOOPS…..their bad.
Mind you, it’s snowing like Ohio has never seen and they are canceling flights as quickly and casually as clipping your nails. We’re on a 2 mile-long line now. We get up to the counter and we get reassigned to another flight. It’s in another part of the terminal, but we don’t mind. We wait there with the other thousands of people who were as stupid as us. One by one, the boards above every gate flick conspiratorially to “CANCELLED.” Each time, you could hear the entire terminal moan, “Awhhhhhhh!” Now, every time this happened, which was too many to count, we’d have to get back on a line longer than the Great Wall of China, to get re-booked on a soon-to-be cancelled flight. Fast-forward to TWO DAYS LATER, when we actually got on a plane and arrived to our destination on Christmas eve, 9pm or so. That was the first time I actually slept in an airport. It was … fun. Thus, my joke about “airport hair” at the Tin Angel show on the 29th of January. Incidentally, I spent about $300 over the course of those three days in the airport. Most of it was for water.
Christmas was less relaxed than usual – everyone was kind of too mortified about our experience to feel like celebrating. But we loved seeing our peeps. Then, about a day before we were to leave to go home, I fell terribly ill. I hadn’t been sick with anything in about 4 years. All of a sudden my throat was a nuclear reactor and every time I swallowed, radiation fried my poor esophagus.
So we flew back home (relatively uneventfully) and having had no time to be sick, I “recovered” in a day.
January arrived. Bob was going to have to leave for a trade show in L.A. for a week, and there was much preparatory work to be done. Nobody knows this, but a big chunk of my life is dedicated to my fiance’s pro audio equipment company. I won’t go into any details right now, as to my role there. So I worked like hell up until the 17th, when he flew out. Once again, the weather was amazingly bad, (freezing cold, snow etc.)
But his flight went without a hitch.
While he was away, I was going to rehearse myself for my upcoming show on the 29th. There was a lot of programming and patch tweaking to be done and I hadn’t picked up my guitar in a shamefully long time. I should explain here, that we are temporarily living in an older double-wide trailer, situated 1500 feet from our house-in-progress, until we can move into the real deal. This trailer is fully equipped with vents in the floor which lead DIRECTLY to the outside. I’m talkin’, you lift the grate and you can touch the frozen ground under the trailer.
SO – all of a sudden, we get hit with the worst cold snap in recent history. Minus twelve degrees Fahrenheit on one night, minus twenty-four degrees the next….
Twice in one week, the pipes froze. No water. Twice, the fuel line froze. No heat.
Luckily, we have a very nice friend/landlord who was readily available to help solve the problems. But the cold never ceased, so I basically had to run all of the taps nonstop and keep the wood stove fired (which meant constant trips to the main house for wood.)
Then nature added another element to my stress. An impending storm, with predictions of 16 or more inches of snow, (actual tally was somewhere around 18”.) Now, my friend/landlord called me and said, “Be prepared, because you’ll probably lose power, considerin’ where you are….) That’s not an actual quote, but I don’t think he’ll sue me. See, the thing is, we’re in deep country. Okay, it’s not Montana deep country but it might as well be. On a snowy day, which is seemingly every day, you can step outside into pristine white and if a possum farts a mile away, you’ll hear it. Our electric is REA,(Rural Electrification Association.) It was a co-op that began in the 40’s I believe, to bring power to the folks in the country, as cheaply as possible. But there are some occasional drawbacks – like – if you lose power, you might be waiting longer than your neighboring city folks for your juice to be restored.
Another important aside – Our house, (1500 feet away) is fitted with a radiant floor heating system that relies heavily on electricity for the boiler to run. In such severe, sub-zero temperatures, (or snow – such as the case may be) you’d better be tightening your sphincter, if you pardon the phrase.
Long story short – I call Bob, I tell him of impending storm – he says, “you must take our industrial UPC, (which weighs a lot more than Tbone, my cat) and wire it directly to the boiler, by-passing the circuit breaker on the electric panel, so that if we lose power, the UPC will take over and give us an additional 3 hours of heating.” “After which,” he instructs me, “ if the power does not come back on, you’ll have to drain the entire system….blah blah.” He goes on to instruct me on the workings of the manifolds and where to drain what and when. Let me tell you, I was SO ready to sign off on the whole country farm thing. Bob installed the whole radiant heating system and pretty much knows more about it now, than anyone in a 500 mile radius, so when he tried to give me a crash course in ten minutes…
So after I cried for 50 minutes, I poured myself a glass of wine at Bob’s suggestion, and hunkered down for a completely sleepless night. I had to literally set the alarm for every two hours, to make sure I could catch it if the power went out. It was truly one of my more memorable nights.
Bob got back home one day before we had to leave to go to South Jersey for rehearsals. Because of the constant house and trailer sitting duties, I wasn’t able to practice as much as I’d hoped before rehearsals. We arrived too late on a Wednesday to be able to start rehearsing, so we set up the following day to begin. We were going to have bass, guitar, full kit drums and percussion and keyboards with loops. So we all were going to need to do a lot of work.
We started full in on Thursday morning. Then, early that afternoon, we got a call from our friend, who had been watching the house in the severe cold. He said that our basement was filling with water. It turns out that some water froze in the manifold right where a brass fitting was attached. It expanded and blew the nut right off the manifold. This was all diagnosed after the fact of course. Now, in sub-zero temperatures and water filling in the basement, there was a risk of having the water reach our electrical box, which is mounted closer to the floor than most people’s because of our pint-sized basement. Everything was falling apart. Our friend couldn’t diagnose, let alone fix the problem and we were 6 hours away.
Bob and I agonized over the situation for a while and finally, I told him that he simply had to drive back and deal with it. We would have to do the show without him.
He agreed reluctantly and a few hours later, he was packed into the rental van and on his way back to East Poospatuck. Then Hanny, Bon and I just sat around a table and re-formulated a strategy to rehearse without any drums. This meant that there were songs we wouldn’t be able to do and it left my set a bit too short. So I added a few more that could be done as a trio.
During this whole time, I’d been battling a persistent cough, left over from that wretched cold. I was so afraid that it would kick in while onstage. It didn’t. That was the only good thing that happened. We started our set and Bon’s amplifier started crackling and dropping out. There’s nothing like going through all of “Mercy Street” when the time is being kept by the guitarist and the guitarist is making no sound. It was the first song of the night and I labored through that damn thing like I was trying to give birth to a cactus plant. The second show was infinitely better. It usually happens that way. But everyone (all of you) was so forgiving and gracious and lovely. I got to see a bunch of old friends and meet some great new ones.
So I’m back home now and nothing cataclysmic has happened since then. I’m so grateful for uneventful days. I have no excuse for taking so long to get this up on the website other than not having substantial enough chunks of time for writing. I’ve had 10 minutes here, 15 there, and my concentration has really needed more. Finally, on this Saturday, I forced the issue. Thanks for reading my story. May you never install radiant floor heating unless your neighbor works for “This Old House.”
Addendum: In the next update, I’ll talk more about the songs on the new CD and other life issues. ‘Til then, take care everyone.
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