Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Big Blackout

Blackouts. I remember them well. Um ... that didn't make a lot of sense. But you know what I mean.

What I do remember is waking up the next morning after blacking out and being depressed, scared, guilty and full of self-loathing. Because I couldn't remember what happened during my blackouts, but they usually involved a lot of ugly, vicious fighting.

It was those horrible blackouts that caused me to start experimenting with my Cleanse System in July of 2003. Meaning, ten years ago I was still only a month into my first long (6-month) cleanse.

I was also waiting to go on my U.S. book tour for my first novel. Naturally - vanity thy name is first-time author - I wanted to look and feel my best so on August 14th, 2003, I had booked a little trip to the dentist to have him fill a chip in my top left incisor.

When I got to the dentist's office, I walked into the room and the dental assistant was waiting for me. I noticed right away she had a TERRIBLE cold. She was also pregnant, so she wasn't taking anything for it and was extremely symptomatic. Cough, cough, sneeze, blow. She's take off her latex gloves to mop things up, but she'd handle them as she did so, and then put them back on again. So those gloves were full of happy, healthy little rhinoviruses.

"I'm not going to catch your cold, am I?" I asked, finally. We were still waiting for the dentist to show up. "Because I've got a book tour to go on in four days."

"No, you'll be fine, I'm sure." Smile. Grin. Cough.

Yeah, right.

I was in the dentist chair still waiting for him to arrive, when all of a sudden, all the power in the room - and the rest of the building - went off. A peek out the window told us that the power had gone off in the rest of the city, too.

In fact, as we know now, on August 14th, 2003 - an anniversary that just passed yesterday - the power went out all over the eastern seaboard. The assistant and I traded horror stories about terrorist attacks - this was, after all, less than two years away from 9/11.

Anyway, the dentist eventually came in - and the emergency generator came on. He fixed the chip in my tooth with old Sniffle-head coughing and hacking away with her smeary, sloppy latex gloves all over my mouth.

Oh, please don't let me get a cold. Oh, please don't let me get a cold ... 

My procedure was just finishing up when I heard the reassuring tones of my husband's voice out in the waiting area. He had somehow managed to wedge open an emergency exit in my dentist's building and come up the stairs to rescue me. I had - naturally - worn new book tour shoes just to break them in. A hop on the subway would've been fine. A five-mile trek home because there were no subways? Or cabs. Or anything else? Not so good.

Out on the street, we still didn't know what was up. But we got in the car and made our way home. Past people directing traffic on their own. Past cops who were glad to receive water bottles from kids on the street. Past absolute traffic mayhem on an otherwise perfect sunny afternoon. The fifteen-minute drive took more than two hours.

When we got home, we waited for the power to come back on. We waited and waited. (We waited for almost three days!) And in that time, yes, I developed the worst cold I'd had in years. In fact, I woke up the very next morning coughing and sneezing.

One of my home remedies for dealing with colds was to drink a couple of big glasses of white wine, bundle myself up, scarf and all, and tuck into bed to sweat it out for a couple hours.  I even still do that, except when I'm on a cleanse. Of course, ten years ago, I was just one month into my first cleanse so I couldn't drink wine and bundle myself up. Nor could I drink wine on the street with everyone else ...

That's what I remember being one of the hardest challenges of that blackout - and of the whole first cleanse, actually - walking down the street late at night, as the people in all the other buildings sat on their stoops by candlelight, stringing guitars, singing folk songs, laughing, talking - and drinking a lot of booze. Man, it was a great excuse to party.

And, God, I wanted to party, too. :(

I remember we went to the little ice cream shop down the street and the owners were handing out free ice cream to whoever wanted it - because it wasn't going to last without the power. We got a big dish of strawberry and took a table in the restaurant on the corner where other people were eating whatever they could scavenge at the outdoor tables. I remember sitting there sharing that dish of ice cream. It was so quiet and dark - no traffic or streetlights - just the hum of voices and laughter, the only light coming from flickering candles and the headlights of the odd car slowly driving by.

That ice cream was yummy. But man, I still could've used a drink. I really felt I 'missed' a lot of the drama of that event because I couldn't get drunk. But ... at least I didn't have a hangover during the worst blackout in recent history. Hangovers without hot showers and hot greasy food suck. ;)

Anyway, I went on my book tour a day late because of the cold - and I was still quite sick. Oh - did I happen to mention all this was happening while the SARS epidemic was going on? Toronto was very hard hit during that horrific time. The World Health Organization had even put us on a travel advisory, warning people to stay away.

I remember boarding the plane for the first stop on the tour - in Minneapolis - and seeing all the signs warning that people who were coughing or had fevers would not be allowed to travel. Nobody flagged me on those flights, but more than a few people I met on the tour were a little ... ahem ... concerned about my cold symptoms. Because they knew I was from Toronto and back then, everyone knew about SARS. I kept having to reassure people: "Ith's nod THARS, I promith. Idth jusd a code!"

Everyone was really nice to me, anyway. :) I met some amazing people.

By the way, the big Blackout of 2003 wasn't the only time I could've used a drink on that first long cleanse. I wanted one - at least one! - quite a few times on that book tour, too. But it was cranberry and soda for me. In fact, there would be no drinking for me for another five whole months ...

In the years since that big blackout, they've upgraded the grid in the northeast in the hopes of preventing another disaster. I sort of look at cleansing the same way. It upgraded my grid. Because honestly, life is much better without blackouts.