InPath to Power
, the first volume of his epic Lyndon Johnson biography, Robert Caro has a terrific passage dealing with LBJ's tireless fight to bring electricity to the isolated Hill Country.
Utility companies refused to string wire to far-away, low-income farms. Even when families physically moved their homes to be near major wires, the companies refused to hook them up.
As a young Congressman LBJ masterfully forced the companies to change. And Caro writes of one farm family who had gone to town for an event and were crawling home in their truck through the pitch-black night. When they saw, far in the distance, that their home seemed to be on fire, they raced as fast as they could.
And they found that during the day, they had received power. The dusty light switches, years ago optimistically flipped to the "on" position, had lit up their house and made it seem like it was on fire from far away.
Thanks to Ike (a Republican president!), my family had a similar experience. Except it was the exact goddamn opposite.
Me, my wife and kid had come downtown together to our various jobs. When I called my son up later to see if he needed a lift home, he said he didn't -- and then added "I called home and the answering machine picked up."
His co-workers all told him that was the magic ticket; the house had power. I asked around the Press and everyone agreed -- we were golden.
My wife and I went out for a celebratory dinner. We didn't head back to our neighborhood, fearful that those pathetic benighted hordes without electricity would be packing every open establishment. Instead we ate in Montrose and then headed home.
As we neared the house, we kept expecting to see homes lit up. We didn't. We turned the corner just as my kid's ride was dropping him off.
So we all got to experience at once the wonderful thrill of finding out we were still fucked.
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My kid dialed the home number. It didn't ring in the darkness, but yeah, he got the answering machine.
Somehow the message wasn't "You've been punk'd, dude!!!"
But it should have been.
-- Richard Connelly