Wednesday November 2nd, 2011

Sports columns generally generate more heat than light, which is fine: We'll settle for either right now in the Northeast, after a snowstorm left us without heat, light, phone, gas, news, water and peace of mind for five days and counting. I'm not thinking clearly as I sit down to write -- longhand, with a crow's feather, in sheep's blood, on the tanned hide of a dead squirrel. But for some reason the whiteout that led to the blackout has me thinking of the NBA lockout.

For all I know, the NBA lockout has been settled amicably by now, perhaps when Billy Hunter told his new iPhone, "I'm locked out." (Siri: "Here are the closest labor negotiators in your area.") But if it hasn't been settled, and the two sides are still deciding how best to split a multibillion-dollar pie, then the venality of the whole affair is enough to drive me around the bend. Or would be, if driving weren't rendered impossible by the absence of gas and traffic signals, and the ubiquity of downed trees and power lines. Around here, going around the bend could be fatal.

This isn't a complaint. I've heard remarkably little complaining from people in Connecticut who -- in a free country with open borders -- have unaccountably chosen to ride out hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquake, floods, blizzard, two blackouts and the fried-chicken fetishes of various Red Sox pitchers. And all of that just in the last few months. I sympathize with the JetBlue pilot, stranded for eight hours at the airport 15 minutes from my house, who radioed on Saturday night, "Take us anywhere." As in anywhere else.

When the lights went out on Saturday night I was at a Halloween party talking to a neighbor who was dressed in a Sox uniform replete with six-pack of "rally beers," PlayStation handset and bucket of KFC. My neighbor explained that the drive-through window attendant at our local Colonel Sanders purveyor had grown so used to requests for empty buckets to be used in Red Sox-themed Halloween costumes that he had handed one over practically unasked-for.

Well, the lights never came back on at that party -- we're still waiting patiently, by the fondue -- and the days have passed. The first night our family of six slept under a pile of blankets and each other in a 54-degree room as trees fell in the black void beyond our windows. The pines sounded like rifle shots as their trunks snapped. The birches groaned like old men, and clawed at our clapboard on the way down. It was sickening, but everyone was safe, and the circumstances brought our family closer together, if only literally so.

Without cellphone service, or Wi-Fi, or a transistor radio, news became local to say the least. Today's top story: The guy across the street drove over a live power line and fried his tires. His was the only imminent re-tiring I heard of, until the radio in the car, parked in the garage, informed me of Tony LaRussa's retirement.

The few gas stations open in metropolitan Hartford had epic lines patrolled by police. Yesterday I cobbled together three-quarters of a tank decanted from four separate lawn-mower gas canisters, the fumes and spillage from which have rendered me a walking Molotov cocktail. I stayed 300 yards away last night when our neighbors set off an arsenal of fireworks -- we wanted to remember what artificial light looked like in the night sky -- lest I too light up ceremoniously, like the Olympic cauldron.

Afterwards, the family again passed out in a pigpile, the thermostat a reverse auction of decreasing numbers: 53, 52, 51, heading for a grim 50. The numbers coincidentally echo the percent-of-revenue split that NBA players and owners are bickering over in their ongoing labor dispute, about which I could care less, especially as I drove through several devastated towns in which several roads looked like The Road, from the apocalyptic Cormac McCarthy novel.

We were headed to the house of a friend with a generator. She offered to let us borrow a cup of power. I got online and saw all the news I had missed: the NBA was at an impasse, threatening the cancellation of more Timberwolves games. The marriage of one of the league's players to another nitwit had ended after 72 days of holy matrimoney. Matri*mony*.

If a tree falls in the forest -- onto a power line, onto a car -- and nobody hears it, did it make a sound? Apparently not.

We get the news we want, and deserve. Google metrics make sure of it. But as the daylight faded, and I closed the laptop lid, like Dracula pulling down the lid of his own coffin, being "in the dark" didn't feel like a synonym for ignorance anymore. Quite the opposite.

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