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Home Guru: The Home Giveth and Taketh Away–and Giveth Yet Again

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The Home Guru’s neighbors at the base of a fallen tree whose roots are taller than they.
The Home Guru’s neighbors at the base of a fallen tree whose roots are taller than they.

Nothing like a hurricane to get you thinking about things that normally are pushed to the back of the mind by the distractions of television, cell phones, Facebook and Twitter.

Every home has a story, through good times and bad, and this is my story of home life in bad times.

Or are they?

Previously, I have written about how losing power in my home for a night could actually be a charming, even romantic experience, especially living in an historic home, lit by candlelight and warmed by a fireplace.

However, as I text this to myself–yes text–I work by the light of a candle on my sixth night without power, and the prospect of any charm has turned to the specter of desperation. I’m cold, cranky and, for the first time ever, resentful that my home has failed me as a safe refuge. But then, considering the misfortunes of others, has it really?

Just as 9/11 deeply altered my perception of many things, such as a long held desire to move back to the city, so has Hurricane Sandy, with her deceptively casual name, wrought still more change in my home and my mind.

When my home offers little more than a roof over my head and cold water to drink and with which to bathe if hygienic standards are relaxed, my mind is running on overdrive, filled with images of the storm.

On the night Sandy visited, we considered ourselves lucky that we still had electricity, but then suddenly, there was an ear-splitting explosion on our corner, the result of a large tree crashing into a transformer on a telephone pole. Looking out from our second-story bedroom window, we were treated to a fireworks display unmatched by anything I had ever seen, or at least within 200 feet of my house.

Then a burst of flame lit up the sky as bright as daylight, revealing that the telephone pole had been split cleanly in two as wires snapped and flames broke out, burning brush on both sides of the street. The fire department was called and arrived in short order to quell our fears that our house might be consumed. We dodged the first bullet.

I had already pulled out my generator, bought last year for Irene. Predictably, it didn’t work. So we prayed that the rain would be kept at bay so our basement wouldn’t flood without an operating sump pump. That wish was granted, dodging another bullet. But, oh my, the wind.

The next morning, venturing out timidly from my home and walking up the street, I found that my block had been hit severely with massive trees strewn across the road like matchsticks in more than 10 places, and the power lines had laced the  lawns in violent patterns. One house, hit squarely by two massive tulip trees, was all but destroyed.

But there was something stunning: neighbors that I hadn’t seen in years were out on the street, discussing their experience the night before and commiserating about the losses some had suffered. There was even one senior fellow whom I heard– incorrectly–had passed away. Encountering him was like reenacting the Bible story of Lazarus.

When we got home, indeed, we enjoyed the soft glow of candlelight and learned what it was like to tuck ourselves into bed early, no later than 9 p.m., and sleeping like logs. I enjoyed the luxury of morning meditation uninterrupted by a phone call. And I was reminded of the power of prayer.

For news, we listened to a battery operated radio that has to be at least 50 years old. The only station we could get was WCBS Newsradio 880 that told us all the news we needed to know.

After an electrician stopped by to install a generator panel, I learned how to coordinate the switch to generator power and took video of the process on my iPhone, which is not a bad idea for others like me who have minds like a sieve.

Other lessons learned in the dark:

When you dress, it really doesn’t matter if colors and patterns are complementary when the main objective is to keep warm.

Layering in both clothing and bedding is very effective.

And, finally, with the excuse that shivering requires an abundance of extra calories, I found that unused Halloween candy can enable a bottomless addiction to Milky Ways and Snickers.

Bill Primavera is a real estate agent associated with Coldwell Banker and marketing practitioner who writes regularly as The Home Guru. For anyone interested in buying or selling a home, he can be reached at: Bill@PrimaveraHomes or called directly at 914-522-2076.

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