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by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

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Candles in the Wind

Spent a few hours Sunday afternoon in the rain — chipping in for the newspaper’s coverage of Tropical Storm Irene. Drove around Niskayuna, Schenectady and Glenville, talked to people, got drenched. It was all, it was all, it was all in night’s work, as Dino used to say.

The storm played a nice practical joke on me. I left the office at 5:15 p.m., and decided to visit some friends in Niskayuna on the way home. They had been without power since sometime after 9 a.m. — but they still had a few cold beers in stock. So we toasted in the dusky gloom. I must have brought them good luck, because electricity zipped back into their sockets shortly after 6.

I was home by 7, checked storm damage at my Albany stronghold and toured my always-dry basement. Bunches of bad storms in my 19 years of residency, and I’ve yet to see an uninvited drop of water in the old crypt. I decided to observe my good luck with a cold Coors, and was glad to see my brother Tim had survived his weather ordeals at Saratoga Race Course. Tim is like a ghost — sometimes I just turn around, and there he is. We shot the breeze and turned on the Baltimore Orioles-New York Yankees game at 7:30.

I think we got through the top of the first inning, and the power flickered, faded and failed. Then it came on for a few seconds, then pulled another disappearing act. The electricity rallied one more time, and then it was lights out.

I had been listening to radio weather guys all day. The storm was supposed to be finished by 7 or so, and I remember seeing brightening skies over Schenectady during the late afternoon. My bad luck that I’m away from a fully-powered home all day, return home after hours in the breach and then I lose my direct current.

The entire street was eventually all dark. The wind began to pick up, really push tree limbs around, and an Albany police car was soon sitting at an intersection on my street. I took a walk, and found a giant tree — never seems like the small ones fall — had left its longtime spot in a vacant lot on Western Avenue across from my Beacon Avenue. It would have landed in the street, but was caught by about eight power and service utility lines. Think that helped cancel the Orioles game for me.

I walked back to the house and saw bunches of small, flickering lights in windows. People were getting medieval, and lighting candles.

People have kidded me in the past for my candle collection. I generally light them in the backyard — to attract and hopefully incinerate mosquitoes — and have a bunch going on fall and winter nights. At my annual Christmas party, I probably have about 60 on display ... a sight that only a fireman and a scarecrow could dislike.

I’ve got plenty of wax in stock. A few years ago, a local drug store was desperate to get rid of their Christmas candles in late January, and was foolishly selling boxes of tapered candles for 90 percent off. Think I paid about 25 cents a box, and I bought about 30 boxes. Cleaned them out. If the sun ever explodes, my house will be flaming for weeks afterward.

Anyway, I lit a bunch of votives and listened to the wind. I’ve got a battery operated CD player, and listened to some jazz for a while. Baseball was out, as the local station that carries the Yankees had also powered down. Reading by candlelight was OK for Ben Franklin, but I don’t go that way.

The real annoyance of the evening was my planned two cheeseburger supper. They were ready for the frying pan, topped with fresh tomatoes and onions. But my 1950-something electric stove — another reminder of medieval times — was taking the night off.

I almost hate to admit it, but dinner was a grim experience, even by my bachelor standards. Popped open a can of Hormel chili con carne and filled a few hamburger rolls with the cold slop. I felt like a damn cat. I may never buy canned chili again.

The wind kept blowing. I was surprised even more trees didn’t fall to their deaths overnight.

Tonight, I don’t care if another hurricane rolls in. I’m lighting my grill and cooking hamburgers.

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