Monday, April 28, 2003

Stelliferous blog.



By this morning, I’d acquired post-nasal drip. I think this came to me ultimately by way of Lilly, who had it not long ago, and then Ann, who was drippy yesterday. Mild, but annoying. Even Ann didn’t get too worked up about, and she cries about a lot of things.



Rockford was a pleasant day trip. More on that in a few days, but I’m on an astronomy kick at the moment, and I won’t interrupt it. The flow of the blog is taking me skyward, at least for the moment.



Yesterday’s blog was about planetariums, which sometimes are substitutes for the nighttime sky. As for the real nighttime sky, it’s an unfortunate side effect of an urban and suburban life in our electrified age that the vault of stars gets washed out. Not completely, at least where I live, since there are a fair gathering of stars some nights of the western suburbs — one reason I don’t always mind taking out the garbage on Thursday nights. But those occasional times under the full panoply of stars let me know what I’m really missing even under clear suburban skies.



“You have to be far away from the city to see it, far up in the Hill Country at least,” I remember hearing at narrator at San Antonio College’s planetarium say more than once, when discussing the luminous, but faint Milky Way. Out in West Texas would be more like it, since plenty of people with sky-washing lights live in the Hill Country. But one time the darkness of country came to San Antonio, and that’s my first memory of seeing the Milky Way.



In the fall of 1977, a blackout struck the city of San Antonio. It was on a Sunday afternoon, and into the evening. A blackout in the classic sense: all the city’s power out, suddenly and without warning. Of course, it attracted nothing like the national attention of the infamous New York City blackout of the summer of ’77, since New York is New York, and the San Antonio blackout lasted only a few hours with a minimum amount (none that I recall) of colorful looting.



I was out that afternoon with a girl I knew, Belinda. I had gone with her to some church function (her church) that involved meeting at one of the church buildings for something-or-other involving watching a short religious movie and then meeting again at a member’s house for another something-or-other involving eating.



As we were filing out of the church building, the lights went out. “Hey, who turned out the lights?” was the general reaction — it seemed like someone had been eager to switch them off, and couldn’t wait for us to all get out of the room. Driving to the next member’s house, we notice some odd things. I don’t remember if Belinda or I tried the car radio and couldn’t get anything but static — that might have made me wonder if World War III was getting under way. But I do remember coming to a major intersection and realizing that the traffic lights were off. I was driving, having been licensed to do so only a few months earlier, and this provided an antsy moment. Of course, you’re supposed to treat it like a four-way stop, and I knew that, but that matter is a little tricky when 16 lanes of traffic — four from each direction, plus turning lanes — try to treat the intersection like a four-way stop.



But we make it unscratched. The sun was about to set then. At our destination, we found out for sure it was a blackout (at least, no one had any electricity). It was decided that staying put was the thing to do for the time being, so we went ahead with the event, whatever it was, by candlelight. Later, Belinda and I decided to take our chances driving home, and by this time it was dark. Very dark.



The house was in a cul-de-sac, and mature trees lined the street, so a lot of the sky was blocked. But through the middle of the trees, I looked up and saw the Milky Way overhead. I probably didn’t marvel at it as long as I should have, but the memory did stick. Soon the lights were back on, but for a moment, the Milky Way had come to the city.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Lara said...

I noticed your posting regarding the San Antonio blackout of 1977. I was at a church function as well. It was a going away reception for a much-loved choir director. I can recall the lighting candles along the halls of the First Baptist Church on McCullough, here in San Antonio. I was only about 10 years old at the time and I can still remember being careful not to get my tea-length skirt caught in one of the flames of the tens of votive candles along the hall and in the breezeway. I served cake and punch in the beautiful, amber light of the candles that night. It is a memory Ireturn to when I see candles during the fall.

July 13, 2007 at 11:14 PM  

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