LIGHTS WENT OUT, AGAIN
By Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (retired)
lights went out all over the world, again. Well, at least our world.
They dimmed slowly, and rather strangely.
I was working on a web page on my computer.
Did I hit the save button, as I have been taught to do?
Of course not. My G-4 hasn't crashed since I got it.
But there it was; a strange, slow dimming of my screen.
I just stared at it as I watched an afternoon's work go down
the damned dimming tube. And then it died altogether.
Some of the lights in the apartment
continued to glow very red. And both air conditioners continued
However it was hot air that they were producing and that's not
what these machines are supposed to do, doncha know. So
I shut them off and played in the fuse box to no avail. I stepped
out onto the veranda of my second floor garden apartment
and heard the quizzical voices
of neighbors in the other apartments asking one another, " Do
you have power?"
A husband drives up and tells us that his car radio is saying
that the power is off from Canada
down to NY and as far west as Michigan. There is talk
on the news about possible
terrorism and all my neighbors faces become drawn and
pale. This will be the third major East Coast blackout that
I've been through.
I worked my ass off the first two times.Now I am
If they want me, they can damn well call me. But,
So I took the chicken breast that I had been marinading
along with a cold beer. I set the barbeque up on
the table on my
cracked the cold beer and enjoyed how the sharp,
cold liquid opened up my hot, dry throat and made
Life is good" I thought. This will turn out to be another
of life's adventures which we will all survive.
While I waited for the chicken to cook, I ran down
to the car to listen to my only working radio.
same as it did back in 19 something something and
years before that in 19 something else. People
and in elevators. They are there in the dark with
nothing to do. In 9 months
they will attribute the rise in the birthrate to
was sent into Manhattan in '65. It was just about dusk and it was
strange driving in and not seeing city lights, or any lights other
than car lights, for that matter. What did make a good shot, though
was the fact that
New Jersey still had power so you could silhouette the NYC skyline
black against the Jersey lights. I recall making photos of cops
directing traffic with flashlights at intersections. There
were places in the city that still used dc power and for some
reason, they had power. So every so often there would be an oasis
of light in the midst of all the darkness. I shot the owner of
store trying desperately to save his stock by running a power cord
across one of the avenues from one of these dc powered shops,
hoping to run his fish tank heaters and air pumps. I think it lasted
as long as
took for a car to drive up the darkened avenue, taking out the
long extension cord. I made some mood shots of people in posh restaurants,
eating by candle light. That was a tough shot in those days with
the highest rated film being ASA 400. I made shots of Transit Cops
leading people out of subway tunnels after being stranded in the
inky darkness when their trains stalled. I made photos of New Yorkers,
grouped together on the sidewalks, listening to transistor radios
as the information began to be broadcast. And, then, because
of an early deadline imposed by the power outage, it was time to
return to my office on Long Island.
paper had emergency generators. Not enough to power the whole operation
so we had to soup our film and make our prints in a closet off
the newsroom. Fortunately we didn't have color to worry about.
The presses were able to handle a special edition. In fact, our
arch rival, The NY Daily News, even arranged to print their entire
run from our plant.
next blackout, in the 70's I think, happened while I was covering
the NY State Legislature up in Albany. They were working on some
During a break, I went to the AP office in the state capitol to
soup and transmit my pix. The AP chief was an old acquaintance
and he told me that the lower part of the state was blacked out.
The problem was traced to a substation not far from where we were
and he was on his way out there if I wanted to join him. I had
no idea how bad the blackout was, but I figured, "what the
hell" and off we went. The place was in the boonies and was
just a fenced in shed of some sort with no one around. It was pitch
black so I blew a couple of strobes and we headed back to Albany.
I ran into our reporter who was frantic and told me to call my
desk, ASAP. When I did, I got screamed at. "Where the hell
have ya been? I've been trying to get you for over an hour!! There's
a major blackout and it was caused by a tripped transformer near
Albany. Get out there and get a shot."
I am sooo bad. I just said, "Got it. You'll have it as soon
as my film is out of the soup. Goodby."
Back to 2003. On the news, some were saying that something popped
in the grid at Niagra Falls and took down a third
Can't blame Osama or Sadaam. Too bad.
My chicken is done. I had made some cold potato
salad and some cole slaw a few days ago.
That and a beer and I'm in hawg heaven.
I sit at the table and eat on the veranda
and enjoy the good meal and the cooler air
It really isn't bad. Neighbors with whom
I haven't spoken ten words to in as many
months, are stopping
beneath my supper table.
My downstairs neighbor, Reneé, waters her lush and lovely
flowers in front of her ground floor apartment, while her boy-friend,
Beautiful Elise and her youngest son are
in the mood to chat. The boy wants to play
Then it becomes, let's see how wet the
boy can get. It's still hot and the complex
run the filter without electricity. When
to take the empty dishes into the kitchen
to soak, I
grabbed a Hershy
for my dessert. I grabbed one for the child,
but asked Elise if was ok and it was, so
I threw it
down to him. He
tousled face and asked for more. I gave
him a couple more. What the Hell.
The young lady from the apartment building
across the way came over and sat down on
the grass with
I mostly listened. It sounded like they
were dissing all men. I said, "HEY.
Cut me some slack!" They said that
I was one of the good ones. "
How do you know," I asked? This is the first time we've had
a conversation that was more than "Hello" "Goodbye."
They said it was because my girlfriend was so nice. So I must be
ok. Howz that for
logic? I could be Mack the
Barbara loves me.
I had seen a dead BlueJay in the woods,
the last time I walked to the 7-11
for the paper. That could mean that
there was a West Nile Virus mosquito pool in the area.
So when I heard mosquitos buzzing
around the terrace, I headed in.
I called Barbara on the one phone
that I own that isn't a portable,
on her one
I told her how exciting my evening
had been, At about that time, someone's
It's one that shouts "BURGLARY""BURGLARY" WHOOOOUP
WHOOOUP. "YOU HAVE VIOLATED
A SECURITY ZONE COVERED BY THIS
ALARM. BACK OFF!! WHOOOOOOUP
It has no auto shut off and goes
on and on and on and on. And
I thought that it was coming
from my apartment complex
so I set
off to find
it and maybe
do something stupid which would
once again violate its security
But, it turned out to be coming
from the industrial complex
As I walked, I could sense
other pedestrians in the
A lot of couples
A lot. About petty things.
on folks. We're all suffering with the
dark and that
stinkin, stupid alarm.
It just made me glad
to be living the life
rattling my cage,
telling me how
to live my life.
And, even if Barbara
were here, she doesn't
as I do
I called her one last
time to tell her
that. I said
on my nerves
Ambien and hopefully
it would work fast
It did. I went out
like a candle in
to find the
power back on.
And, I felt like
writing this. I
can still feel
fighting to drag
so I know
But, what the hell.
While under the
pill, this could
be the best bit
prose that I've