In Slumtown, PA — Erie-town’s forgotten stretch just west of the cemetery — one expects just a few surprises. Random gun shots; transient renters, and their assorted disputes; street-cleaners and snow plows, all on seasonal schedule (but, flash floods clogging the corner sewer where the raccoon family nests its fourth generation)…….On this sweltering evening, however, a more rare event: all electrical power suddenly out, around 6:10pm EST – and, this time, no instant recovery.

Temps all day above 90 degrees, this resident is fortunate to have a rehearsal to attend way outside the perifery of this power failure. Before leaving the house, I crack a window upstairs and then wonder if the security alarm will even register with that window sensor active. The wall unit tells me all sensors are set –  but, with… that window wide open. Sigh. This means that the sensor on the upstairs window is not functioning.

All the way to rehearsal, I ream Protection 1 Home Security over the phone about this unsettling reality. Reaching Millcreek, I enter McDowell Intermediate, discovering that several orchestra members have lost their power at the same time as I, which means that the outage has extended from West 8th all the way to West 26th North to South and God knows how far west to east. Good God.

Right around 9pm, just after signing the three copies of the world premiere piece intended to be given away as door prizes at Friday night’s concert, power goes out at McDowell Intermediate. Auxiliary immediately kicks on, but only in the hallways and lobby areas; the stage is dark.

We wait, on break, trying to deny the encroaching heat. About twenty minutes in, the conductor calls it and sends us home. Somebody says 20,000 people in Erie city are without power during the entire three hour period.

Driving home past red flares and deep darkness, I am relieved to thank a Millcreek traffic cop with a lit wand getting us safely across Sterrettania. But, the major juncture of Zuck Road and West 38th is a disaster. Two cops, on site – but, sitting in their squad cars, writing up the accident that has likely just occurred between a Neon and a grey pick up. Sixteen lanes of fast traffic, tearing around the two curves in the pitch black, and no idea who would be willing to slow down. I squeak through, unscathed.

Most of West 38th is out until just past Rack n’ Roll at Schaper Avenue. My G6 makes it through several intersections, then….another stretch of traffic lights, all out.

Slumtown, per my next door stalwart, Steve, having regained power right about when Millcreek lost theirs, I speculate….Hmm……and, pull in my drive – to spend fifteen minutes on the phone with Protection 1 griping about the smoke alarm they still owe me plus the sensor failure at the upstairs window. Finally, a repair tech commits to showing first thing in the a.m.; I shut the engine down, and get out of the car.

Sounds of screaming and shoving between a male and female waft from the corner. It’s the guy the Sheriff was trying to find about three weeks ago; he’s back. I re-enter the car, close the door, call the cops, and wait – listening to some good 70’s rockin’ oldies until the police vehicle appears, so that I can tell him his fugitive is waiting for capture and I can safely enter my own house.

Bed-time news reveals a power outage of magnificent proportions, extending across the northwest corner of the entire state and into Ohio. Somewhere on Long Island or the Jersey Shore, another victim of Hurricane Sandy crawls into a clean, protected bed in a house finally made liveable. Tomorrow is the 12th anniversary of 9/11.

Goodnight, John Boy, wherever you are……..



© ruth a. scanzillo


all rights…thanks.

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