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on the road - 7 09 2004 - 16:20 - katatonik

Taifun fun

It sounds as if a shy, but persistent siren practiced her skills, occasionally accompanied by more confident howling ghosts. Rain is being thrown at the windows. Rain whips the windows, hard, over and over. Trees join in, whip, whap. 871 schools in Hiroshima prefecture are closed down for today. All public transport has stopped. The big department stores closed down and sent people home (how they got there, and if, remains a mystery). A 81-years old woman fell down near her house in Kure, no serious injuries. A 57-years old man fell down outside somewhere in the north of Hiroshima, also no serious injuries. Why do these people go outside, H. asks. (This morning her father asked on the phone, why do all these people want to go home?)

TV shows Taifuns as a series of circles that usually move down from Okinawa in the South across Kyushu and then, in a gracious curve, across the Northern part of Honshu. That’s where the centre is now: in the Japanese sea, north of Hiroshima. Hiroshima is inside the red-filled circle that shows the core Taifun area. Wind at 55 km/h. Air pressure 945 Hectopascal, as if I knew what that meant, or involved, apart from keeping us inside and the sirens and howling ghosts outside.

A butterflyish creature was just smashed against the window, but the wind quickly took it away again. Or was it a leaf? Electricity wires outside are waving at me. Electricity stopped ten minutes ago.

H. keeps looking at the other houses around hers, ours, for things that might have fallen down or might fall down soon. We place bets on how long this or that roof might last. The siren is getting better at her job, and the howling ghosts congratulate with what they can do best (howling, that is). A. explains to three-year old N. what an electricity outage means – what we cannot do now. We cannot, for instance, cool down room temperature, as fans and air-condition don’t work. It’s getting quite hot in here, while outside there’s plenty of cool air being whirled around. This is bizarre.

The house is stable, and so are we. A. and N. are colouring stuff, while H. checks on the electricity, and I am watching the battery of my notebook draining away. J. left his Porsche inside, and himself, too. TV asked people politely to not step outside their houses. A small car goes down the road. Half an hour ago I saw a worker from the building site across the road quietly walking, very quietly. Now, at 14:38, we are at the high point of the Taifun. A woman walks down the road, in raincoat, with a helmet on her head.

I slept for a while, dreaming about beautiful women in lingerie, smoking speed, and having witty conversation. (The usual dreams in Japan, no need to worry.) I read a few pages of Zadie Smith’s „Autograph Man“.

Around half past five, wind weakened, and rain stopped. There was still no power, but the windows could be opened, and heat inside reduced. H. kept calling the power company, but the line was busy, and would remain so for hours. We decided that there was not much else to do except to stay in, and get drunk. A. and I walked down to the convenience store to procure alcohol, provided that it was open.

The convenience store was also out of power, but open. Employees worked with flashlights. The bar-code-reader worked with batteries. One woman read the bar codes in, the other typed the price into a battery-powered calculator. They were working carefully, and slowly.

People walked down the aisles, with flashlights, or through darkness. We found our drinks behind fridge doors whose glass panes had gone cloudy. The floor was covered with paper, to suck up all the water that came from freezers and fridges.

In the neighbourhood, there was hardly any damage done. Some TV antennas had stumbled, others fallen. Plastic sheets had been blown away, this or that piece of scrap metal that someone had used to repair this or that at their house had broken free.

Inside the house, A. and H. started looking for flashlights, as it began to get dark. One here, one there. We examined N’s toys, as to whether some of them would blink, flash, give light, and still work with batteries. We took in two solar-powered toy light-towers from the balcony who had sucked up enough sunlight to at least allow safe passage down the stairs inside the house. H. did not want candles lit. They’d make the ceiling go black, she said. Oh, but there was still that egg in the bathroom, one of N’s toys. It gave light. Oh, it had been switched on for ages, reported A. The batteries were dead.

All the time, N. was ecstatic. She danced around, baked cakes in an imaginary oven, giggled, remained amazed about whose face now she could see, and now she couldn’t, what with the flashlights, and darkness. Not a bone of fear in her body, not before, through the wind and rain, not now, with beginning darkness.

H. and I went out, with our flashlights. There were only a few blocks without electricity. A car from the power company drove around, with a high-pitched woman’s voice announcing through a megaphone that they regretted the inconvenience and asked customers to be patient for a little while longer. Thank you. The streets were blocked, too many cars. The sound of police horns, ambulances, and fire cars came from here, or from there. Inside the convenience store, they had put up candles. Candlelight emergency booze shopping. I thought of places I could go and read, under street-lights, in restaurants, and such. Only a few houses around ours showed signs of impromptu lighting, candles or battery-driven. An elderly woman worked on some bizarre lighting device on her balcony. Where had all the other people gone? Left their homes as soon as the wind had died down?

We knew nothing. How many people were injured, or died, what sort of emergencies kept police and fire departments busy. We knew nothing. We drank a few beers, we joked around, told stories about previous power outages. I experimented with my mobile phone as a reading light, and failed. We laughed.

Around 7:30 pm, electricity came back. The Simpsons were on on TV, we kept drinking beers, and such. A. prepared impromptu Vietnamese food, with bamboo sprouts he had hunted down on a trip through several power-impaired supermarkets in the neighbourhood.

Now the others have gone to sleep. Outside, cicadas (semi) have replaced sirens and ghosts. In Hiroshima, this Taifun is officially over.

Often enough I think that it's no wonder that I can be myself only here, at your place.

gHack (Sep 7, 08:07 pm) #

no wonder, and yet wonderful.

katatonik (Sep 8, 02:38 am) #

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