Saturday, September 7, 2013

Power Failure

Timing is everything.

This is true of poker.  And of life.
This past Thursday I was facing the deadline for my next Ante Up column.  What was unusual is that I hadn’t even started the column.  Now, since I started doing the column, my pattern has always been to write the column Wednesday evenings (occasionally I’ve even started on Tuesday night) and substantially finish the column before going to bed that night.
Then I proof-read it the next evening (Thursday) and email it to the editor that night, beating my Friday deadline by a full day.  A few times I’ve only been about 80% done by Wednesday nite, but in everyone of those cases, I knew what I was going to write about to fill out the column, it was just amount of writing down what was already in my head.
I think there has only been one time when I actually didn’t send the column in until Friday, and that was only because I thought I might get some news/information on Friday that I could put in my column;  it was already complete and could be sent in as is if I didn’t hear back from someone.  And if I did hear back, it would only mean rewriting a paragraph or two, a piece of cake.
Not so this time.
I didn’t write my column Wednesday night.  I planned to, or at least get started on it by then.  But it took me a lot longer than I anticipated writing my previous blog post (this one).  And I really wanted to get that post up on Thursday afternoon.  So by the time I finished the blog post, all I had time to do was make a list of topics I wanted to cover in the column, not actually write anything.
I don’t usually do this.  Usually I just have what I want to write about in my head, but this column was going to be a little tricky.  My beat is the Vegas poker scene, and right now, the Vegas poker scene is pretty quiet.  It’s the lull after the WSOP.  I had difficulty fitting all the stuff I had to write about into the previous column, post-WSOP, but fortunately, I have a talent for writing concisely. 
Now I was wishing I had left over some of it for this month.  It was going to be a struggle to come up with the 1,000 words they expect from me every month.  Sadly, my editors are not interested in dreaded pocket Kings stories, hooker sightings, boobs mentionings, or woman saids.  So it was going to be a little tougher than normal, and now I had less time to do it.
Still, I’ve done the columns long enough that I was fairly confident I could do a good job in the time I had.
And then…..the lights went out.
It was around 4:45PM and I was still doing my “day job” for AVP.  I planned to knock off around 6, have some dinner, and then get to work on the column.   I was in the middle of sending an email to a bunch of poker room managers when the power went out.  It tried to come back on twice within the first minute, but only lasted a second or two.

We are in the middle of a pretty nasty heat wave in the L.A. area, and I live in pretty much the hottest part of town.  Temperatures have been over 100 degrees for a few days, and it wasn’t even a “dry heat”—it had been a bit more humid than we usually have (no rain here though). 
I walked outside and confirmed that it was neighborhood wide and not just me.  This was pretty unsurprising since my specific neighborhood has power failures ridiculously often.  Two or three times a year, I’m sure.  And not just on super hot days when power usage is high, although that is very common.  Frequently when I return from Vegas, I can tell the power went out for a time while I was away.
I called the power company to make sure they knew about and to see if they could give me an ETA on when it would be fixed.  Yes and no were the answers I got.
What to do?  Ordinarily I would have two good options of where to hang out—and maybe even work on my column—in this situation.  But my friends Woody & Luv Malts were super busy preparing for their daughter’s wedding this very weekend.  They had relatives in for the wedding, staying at the house, and would not be able to accommodate me as they ordinarily might.  Coincidentally, they had to survive Labor Day weekend without air conditioning, waiting for a part to fix it.  But they had just gotten it up and running the day before.
The other option was my sister’s house—but she is in the middle of moving and didn’t return my call.
All my other friends live out of town these days.  And I figured that by the time I got to Vegas, the power would likely be back on.
As I said…timing.  The worst day this could happen for a number of reasons.
I figured I would start writing the column on my laptop.  I was sure it was fully charged.  I turned it on and despite being 93% charged, it was telling me I only had 90 minutes of power left.   Shit, is my laptop battery that useless? 
But I figured I’d get started anyway, time’s a wasting. 
The next problem was, that, without any electricity, how was I gonna get on the internet?  The list of topics I had prepared was on my Google drive.  And I have to refer to a whole bunch of emails to do the column, plus use the web to verify certain dates and events I would be talking about.  My cable modem is not battery operated.
But I could use my celphone as a hot spot, and connect to the web via high speed 4G service, right?
Yes and know.  I tried that and the speed was ridiculously slow.  I assumed the local power outage had put a big drain on the system and slowed everything down. 
I might have tried to soldier on anyway, but just 15 minutes after the A/C went off, it was already way too hot for me to tolerate.  I realized it was going to be way too uncorfortable for me to every get any work done.
Time to leave the neighborhood, even if I had nowhere to go.  The nearest decent indoor mall is about 20 minute from my house, I figured I would hang out there.  I took my laptop with me in case I found a place where I could set up to write—or if I ever heard back from my sister and could head over there.
Although I figured I probably wouldn’t return to my house until the power was back on, I decided to play it safe and take a couple of flashlights with me in case I did return to a dark home without electricity.  It was still light of course at this point.  I grabbed my two biggest flashlights and discovered that one didn’t work at all, and the other seemed very dim.
I went to where I keep the spare batteries and only found AA’s and AAA’s, no D size batteries.  Then I remembered I kept those in a different place, because the little batteries are for electronic gizmos and the bigger batteries are for flashlights.
I only had two D’s left.  OK, that would do I guess, one dim flashlight and one good one.  Except when I put the “new” batteries in the flashlight, it didn’t work.  I checked, and the new batteries had died on the shelf, all corroded.  Damn.  OK, so I’m going to a mall, I’m sure I can find some D batteries there.
The last thing I did before leaving the house was to make sure I’d be able to know when the power came back on.  For this, you need a landline telephone and an answering machine.  I have both.  I would keep calling my home number, and when the machine finally picks up, I know I’ve got power back up.
But I almost forgot that, for business reasons, I have the landline auto forwarded to my celphone pretty much all the time now.  If I hadn’t remembered to undo that, when I would call my home number, I would just get the voicemail for my celphone and have no clue if I had power or not.  Fortunately, I remembered to do this at the last minute.  Whew.
BTW, I think this is pretty much the only reason I still have a landline these days.  But I get so many power failures, I’m not sure I can do without it.
I made it to the mall and realized that the Borders books that used to be there was long gone.  They used to have a coffee place in there that had free WiFi.  But now it’s a Sports Authority.  So much for writing my column.
I killed time at the mall looking for a place to have dinner, and finally settled on a burger place.  I took my sweet time eating, thinking I had nothing else to do anyway.  There’s a movie theater in the mall and before I dinner I checked out the films, and couldn’t find a single one I wanted to spend $12.50 to see, even if the alternative was doing nothing.
As soon as I left the burger place, I called my home number and was pleasantly surprised to hear my machine pick up.  The power was out a little more than 3 hours.  Usually it’s out for 4 to 5 hours when this happens.  So I headed home.  I priced batteries in the mall and they were so expensive I decided to forego buying them there, especially since I didn’t appear to need them that night.  I’ll just have to remember to stock up on them next time I go to Walmarts.
I got home and had a little trouble reconnecting the automatic garage door opener to the door, which I had to disconnect to leave.  Apparently it works differently than the previous one I had.  It was getting frustrating but I finally figured it out.
And then I knocked out a column.  I got started around 8:30 and by midnite it was done.  And I managed to come up with 1,000 words about the Vegas poker scene in a month when absolutely nothing was going on.
I proofread it Friday evening, before writing this.  I added a paragraph about the Circus Circus poker room closing, which I had just learned about in the morning.  If I had filed the column when I usually do, I would have missed that big news.  It would have been the lead story in my next month’s column.
The good news is I already heard back from the editor and he liked it, despite the difficult circumstances I went through in writing it.
First the magazine column, then this blog post.  I hope I get to write about boobs next time.


  1. Isn't this kind of cheating, writing a column about how hard it was to write your last column? Way to push on through. Next time you might want to just hang out in a Starbucks or even McDonalds and write.

    1. Now, I was writing a BLOG POST about how hard it was to write my column. Totally different. My editor at Ante Up would never allow a column about writing a column. But my editor at my blog--namely ME--allows me to publish anything I want. :)

      I was thinking of that out of business Borders for the Starbucks type place. I don't even know where a Starbucks is since I don't drink coffee, tho I suppose it wouldn't be too hard to stumble over one.

      I completely forgot about McDonald's. I'll try to remember that next time, thanks!

    2. also 4 future use if this happening again. subway,dairy queen,burger king,and smashburger(not sure if LA has 1 there) has free wifi. also lowes and home depot does too. lowes has 2 hour limit thou.all other dont. oh also wendys has wifi.and local libraries too.

    3. Thanks, anger, but Subway? I've spent a lot of time in a lot of different Subways and never noticed anything about wifi. Plus most of those are so small I don't think they'd be very happy if you took three-four hours there using their wifi, even if they had it.

      One of my concerns was the battery on my laptop not lasting, so I was trying to think of a place where I could plug in my PC.