Tuesday, July 05, 2016


Oh, hi. Don't mind me, I'm just sitting here listening to my soul cry and slowly losing my mind. If I'm truly going insane, I may as well document the process.

As I type this, it's Tuesday night and I'm alone on my couch in total darkness draining what's left of the battery on my trusty laptop. The power is out to my entire neighborhood. Darkness falls across the land and the midnight hour is close at hand.

My plan tonight was to throw some dinner in the oven and catch the season finale of "Pretty Little Liars" with occasional flips to CNN for election returns. I have yet to see any of those returns, but if I had to throw together a theory, I reckon that Donald Trump just swept every state and, in accordance with the prophecies of yore, the world is now ending.

There was talk today that the weather could get ugly tonight. I have an app on my phone that tracks storm chasers across the country, and it went off a couple times with alerts that some of the biggest names in chasing -- you know, those deathwish guys with the armored cars who drive straight into tornados -- were heading our way. Local news, however, seemed to downplay things, saying that the worst weather would be tracking to the south of us.

Well, things went south, alright. In a hurry.

Election results had just started coming in when I looked up and noticed something odd. In my living room, it was still daytime -- but in my kitchen, night had fallen. Last I checked, the rooms of my house usually agree upon matters of day vs. night, so this was an alarming development. As it turns out, what I was seeing from my kitchen window were the dark clouds of the approaching Trumpocalypse.

I switched the TV over to local news, and immediately knew something was up. Whenever you see a local meteorologist with his tie loosened, you know you're in for a fun ride. Sure enough, tornados and hailstones were now suddenly on the evening's calendar of events. Swell.

My cat Bez serves as local meteorologist for my house, and watching her stand up, whimper, and slink down to the basement was the catalyst I needed to get off the couch and batten down the hatches. Two years ago, my house took a direct lightning strike that fried pretty much everything in life that I cared about. Ever since that awful storm, I've become my dad. Give me one distant bolt of lightning and I'm suddenly the overly precautious guy running around unplugging everything I can.

The advantage of being overprotective is that my computer and TVs are now safe, but the bad news is that I've now lost all contact with the outside world. For all I know, a line of tornadoes could be queueing up to dance a conga line over my roof this very second. Without TV or internet, I lose my early warning. Or so I thought.

Ten minutes later, two things of note happened. The first was the hailstorm popping round to say hello. The rain had been providing a relaxing soundtrack to the evening, but suddenly it gave way to BAM POP BA-POI POW POP against my skylights. This was not polite wee baby hail, either. These were golf-ball-sized missiles intent on turning my living room into an easy Par-4. As I watched the hail bounce off my neighbor's car, I've never been more thankful to own a garage in my life.

But I had no time to focus on the hail. I was a little more preoccupied with the other development, which would be the alarms suddenly going off EVERYWHERE. Not only had the warning sirens sprung to life throughout Rock Island, but suddenly my cellphone erupted with a noise so ghastly I nearly jumped out of my pants. Apparently my phone has a courtesy alarm that launches whenever there's a tornado warning. That's great and all, but it's not especially courteous when the alarm is so scary that IT kills you before any tornado has a chance to. There's no reason why this alarm couldn't be something like "Ding dong, excuse me, but there's a tornado." Message received, and politely at that. But nooo, this courtesy alarm was a soul-piercing "EHN! EHN! EHN!" in a tone so shrill it should really be reserved only for those special moments when a supervillain escapes a holding cell.

Mere moments later, my home security system decided to start harmonizing with a "REEEE ROOO! REEE ROOO!" The cats were meowing, the alarms were wailing, and all I wanted to do was run out of the house into the serenity and calm of a F4 tornado that could sweep me as far away from that cacophony as possible. Instead, I gathered the cats and headed to the basement. Five minutes later, the power went out... and that pretty much brings us up to speed.

The storm has since passed, and it appears that the fortifications of Castle Shane held up fairly well. My immediate concern, however, is just how eerily dark and quiet and awful it is in this house with no power. When I lived in apartment-land, losing power was no big deal. You could still hear neighbors milling about and there were signs of life everywhere. When the power goes out HERE, there's nothing to do but commune with your own inner psyche, and it's not a great conversationalist.

My house is naturally quiet, but when you take that silence and then subtract the reliable hums of the air conditioner, refrigerator, air purifier, the dehumidifier in the basement, the cooling fans on my tower computer, and the TV that's usually always on, "quiet" takes on a whole new meaning. Every time a cat moves, I jump a foot off the couch. Otherwise, the only noise I hear right now is the banging of dust molecules against my eardrums... and the occasional murmuring voices of passersby on the street who I presume are here to kill me in the most graphic "Walking Dead" style I can imagine.

Of course, it doesn't help that I'm sitting here staring at the white screen of a laptop. As long as I do this, my eyes don't adjust to the dark, so every time I look up, I'm simply staring at the murky black void that nightmares come from. Time to call this column a day -- or a very black night -- and leave my fate and fragile mental state entirely in the hands of MidAmerican Energy Company. Worst of all, I still have no clue who threw Charlotte DiLaurentis' dead body off the church belltower or if Ezra and Aria have finally rekindled their romance.

Please tell me somebody taped "Pretty Little Liars."

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