It was the blackout. You know the blackout, from August 2003? I think it was the 14th. I thought it was the 23rd, but then I looked it up. It turns out it was a Thursday. I thought it was a Friday or Saturday cos I was going to see a Steely Dan show, but I also thought it was a school week. August, summer vacation, blah blah blah, you’d figured that out already. On the way there–they were playing the Molson Amphitheatre, you see–I finished all but the last page of the second Dark Tower book, and started the third. I have this thing where I can’t finish a Stephen King book unless I’m on my futon. So, I read all but the last page–thankfully no plot twists–when we noticed that the traffic was heavier than it should be. There were no streetlights on in any town we went. We were supposed to meet Uncle Glen–it was me, my dad and my brother going–or was it Uncle Rob?–anyway, we were supposed to meet one of my uncles halfway there–perhaps it was all three–but that took a long while.
It took longer still to get into Toronto proper. No traffic lights (for some reason–being in a car means you don’t notice a blackout happening, and we didn’t listen to the radio) plays hell with traffic. I think we were on Lakeshore Road. We’re rolling along, I’m reading my book, we’re in stop and start, bumper to bumper traffic, wondering if we’re gonna make it to the concert–You know. In fact, I remember now, the blackout started before we got on the highway. It was literally 10 minutes walking away from home, two minutes in the car. We went past Aberdeen and Longwood, turned right on our signal, drove to Longwood and Main to get to the highway and the lights were out. And we thought, well, good thing we’re Canadian, and can navigate this without incident! Canadian politesse for the win. Anyway, we got into Toronto, and I remember this image like it was yesterday. I don’t know if you remember, but I do. It was a particularly windy day on August 14th, 2003. But the windmill wasn’t budging. Just chilling to see that. Like it needed power to run or something.
In any case, we inevitably reached the Amphitheatre. Great venue that. I love it a lot. Seen a lot of good bands there. Jane’s Addiction, Street Sweeper Social Club, Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper. Good little place for a concert. However, the concert was canceled for the day. It wouldn’t happen that day because there was this blackout going on. Naive us, we never thought that it was the same thing that had happened at home and stood the windmill still. So, after all that, we drove back home. When we got back to Hamilton, it was late in the evening, about 8 pm? Someone will correct me on this. Someone will hopefully correct me on this.
We got in, and it was summer, and it was hot. The air conditioning was off. And it was humid. And the air was stale. We opened all the windows and my dad ate Raisin Bran with water because we didn’t want to take the milk out of the fridge. That’s a little quirk of my family. Dad and his watery cereal. It’s not really something we’re proud of, so we don’t mention it that often. Me, Ben, mom and dad were all sat up in our parents’ room, talking about how this started, how my brother thought even the idea of water and Raisin Bran was disgusting. We talked about a bunch of stuff, but I remember at one point noticing that there was a rather large brouhaha coming from outside the windows.
I heard the commotion from the street as people were wondering over the stars. It was the blackout, you see. You could see all of the stars, the galaxy, unfolding above us. It was magic. I know, cos as soon as I heard people in the street, I ran to the window to see what they were talking about. I saw the entire street, bathed in a soft blue light. I ran outside immediately. To see all of these people, in the street, walking, talking, no cars, just bicycles. Feet on pavement. I could feel my bare feet on the asphalt of the road as I stood on Earth, staring at the stars surrounding us. It was beautiful, it was transcendent. It’s perhaps a moment everyone in the world should experience once. It’s free, and it’s not a luxury. It’s available to everyone, and everyone should get to see it.
And as I was staring at the stars, I started noticing the other people walking around and towards me. I was standing in the middle of the street. On my left, south, up the hill and up the street, the two women next door were walking their dog back home. On my right, north, down the hill, down the street, a group of elementary school girls, maybe in grade four or five were walking up the street, playing some game. I heard them giggling. Then I heard the two women next door, walking back, not breaking stride, but starting to laugh as talk as well. And that’s when I realized: I was in my boxers. And nothing else. I was standing, fully visible, in the middle of the street, in boxers with holes in them.
I ran back inside faster than you can imagine and pulled on pants as fast as I could, just to get back out there with my modesty intact, but the damage was done. The magic was gone. The girls were playing up and down the street, people were trying to talk to the guy who was out there in his boxers. The stars didn’t seem as bright anymore. The night was just another night, only without the light pollution from the streetlights. Eventually, I just went back inside and slept until morning. The power was back on then.