My wife and I are currently spending our eighth winter on Longboat Key, which is on Florida’s west coast near Sarasota. Most of my mornings start on Whitney Beach across from where we stay. When the beach is bird-rich, a big morning can start soon after you set foot on the sand. This was what it was like one day last winter.
The first bird I see is a great blue heron swooping very low across the sand toward a gray and salmon colored horizon. The heron lands near a person who is looking for shells. The blue seems to be waiting for throwaways, apparently having mistaken the shell collector for a fisherman. Realizing no meal is forthcoming, the hungry heron quickly leaves.
Continuing our voyage on the Adriatic Sea, next was the alluring peninsula of Split on the Dalmatian coast. Split is the second largest city in Croatia. The history of Split must include the Emperor Diocletian. He took power in 284 AD and stepped down in 305 AD. Emperor Diocletian built a large walled palace in the Roman style with an aqueduct, which is still in use. The town today is a paradise for tourists. Split joined Croatia when the Yugoslavian state broke up in 1991. The beautiful port of Split was built along the easily defended and finest harbor in the Adriatic.
When our cruise ship arrived in Malta, there were no signs of Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet or the Maltese Falcon. Malta is a limestone-walled city, sitting proudly in the southern Mediterranean. It is Malta’s location, not its size that dictates its importance. You might have trouble locating Malta on a map, but its history is written in large letters.
Valletta, the capital of Malta, was built by the Order of the Knights of St. John. It has two deep channels that accommodate large vessels. The history of Malta dates back 7,000 years. Malta was conquered by the Arabs, Normans, Germans, French and Spaniards. It was also an important Crusader outpost.
The famous quotation from the movie Network—“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,”—has now been transformed by three storms (Sandy, Athena, and a “storm” of criticism) into the question, “We’re boiling mad but are we going to take it forevermore?”
The boiling point of water is 212 degrees F., which leads me to a second question: What is the boiling point of more than a million New Yorkers who live on four pieces of land completely surrounded by water—namely, the islands of Long Island (including Brooklyn and Queens), Staten Island, Manhattan, and the City of Long Beach, when they have had no electricity for two weeks (although it seems like millennia)?
I still remember watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as a small child. One year, I asked my mother why the parade closed with Santa Claus—after all, Santa Claus was not part of Thanksgiving! The mixing of holidays seemed almost criminal to me.
My mother gently explained that Thanksgiving was the start of the holiday season, the countdown to Christmas and Hanukkah. I didn’t realize it then, but that “countdown” comes with a kind of implied menace: get everybody great presents before your holiday of choice rolls around…or else (and if you celebrate Hanukkah start your engines, because you have about five minutes.) For better and for worse, I’ve never had a huge number of people to buy for this time of year, but even I feel the pressure.
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln
This is one of my favorite quotes that I often repeat. During my experiences, I have met individuals who have gained power and used it to make a positive difference, help others, and make themselves true leaders. I have also encountered those who let the power go to their heads and used it in a bad manner. Therefore, I consider this statement from Lincoln to be truly sage advice that I often refer to, and with a movie about the 16th President now showing in movie theaters, it is also timely.
Our cruise ship, the Grand Princess, resumed the voyage to Valletta, Malta, two days at sea away. My brothers-in-law and I found a hot tub and met the most interesting British people who joined us in the tub.
One gentleman was from the British Isle of Guernsey. He said that his island was captured by the Nazis during World War II. The residents of the island therefore experienced a period of no food and cruel Nazi rule. The people were forced to eat all their famous Guernsey cows. Guernsey is closer to France than it is to England. The people from Guernsey still have not forgiven Winston Churchill and the English for letting them suffer during the war.
Something has to be done about the Long Island Power Authority! We are paying some of the highest power rates in the U.S. while LIPA risks our lives, limbs and homes with poor management and antiquated equipment!
Information has recently come to my attention that the catastrophic power outage we have suffered this week is due in a great part to disorganized executives and management at LIPA, and a poorly maintained infrastructure. It is a fact that many of the poles and much of the power equipment on Long Island hasn’t been replaced since the 1920s. The 1920s!
I went to the supermarket the day before the storm and stocked up on peanut butter, chocolate-hazelnut spread, fruit cups, and a few other non-perishable foods. For reasons that I now fail to understand, but must have made sense at the time, I also bought hummus, milk and yogurt. Maybe I was convinced we weren’t going to lose power for very long, or maybe I was just in denial, but needless to say, I did not get to eat many of my beloved dairy products.
I didn’t think to go to the gas station beforehand and fill up the tank, which was foolish. However, in my defense I’m normally too lazy to go to the gas station and put it off in the hopes my husband will give in and do it first, so that’s par for the course.
As the warm water fell upon my head, I can say that it felt like the most blissful moment of my life. After my home, like most on Long Island, lost power on Monday, I was left without heat or electricity, and most importantly the ability to wash my hair. Without electricity, my hair dryer would not operate, and I did not want to have a damp head in a house in which the temperature was getting close to dipping below forty degrees.
Fortunately, after two days of living like Daniel Boone, my aunt and uncle were gracious enough to invite both my parents and me to stay with them in the Bronx. They had heard of the devastation in Massapequa and were frantically trying to get in touch with us. However, not only did the landline phones go down, we were having difficulty getting a cell phone signal. So my uncle’s phone calls went unanswered for several days, until a signal became available and we were able to get the many voicemail messages that had been left.
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