Tag Archives: hurricane sandy

Old Billy Was Right…

24 Nov

     Just another Hurricane Sandy story to report:

     My tree went down in the storm. It was one of those trees that was not so much big around as it was voluminous in its growth. It always had a branch going this way or that and they would seemingly sprout and grow like Jack’s Beanstalk each Spring.

Anyway, it would always drop a branch or two in a storm, but Hurricane Sandy took it and shook it like an angry giant avenging his lost goose and deposited it very nicely over my neighbors shed and rear yard while also destroying my fence in the process…you know, the good fence that had made those ogres in my back yard such good neighbors for all these years.

So long story short, within 2 weeks of the worst hurricane to ever hit the New Jersey shore in the history of shores and New Jersey, my ogreish neighbors, with the speed of summer lightning, hired a lawyer threatening to sue me if I did not promptly remove the tree and its unsightly debris!

Wow! I needn’t tell you that I was amazed. Trees had fallen all over the eastern seaboard. Some even killing innocent bystanders while others tore through houses and wrecked havoc on homesteads great and small, not to mention the other billions of dollars in flood and wind damage that had devastated the area. Contractors and electricians and police and fire rescuers had been working non stop to help those in need. There was so much to be done and so few available to help that a disaster triage system had to be put into place to determine who was in the most need of relief services…and yet my “neighbors” had found a “lawyer” to draft a threatening letter and send it in the space of 16 days when 6 of those days had been without electricity and power of any kind. And all for a downed tree in the remote corner of a back yard at the end of October with nary an innocent bystander nor lawn furniture to be seen laying under it.

Of course I had every intention of removing it and even felt that it was my responsibility for doing so since it was my tree that had fallen into their yard and I responded in kind to their lawyer and forwarded a copy to our township’s lawyer for good measure just to see if I could get a legal opinion to chime in on my side.

And I did…sort of…except that the township’s lawyer who works for the town, I presume, which is also the same town that we all (neighbor, lawyer, myself) live in couldn’t (wouldn’t?) offer any specific advice as to the legality of one resident’s claim over another or the legal responsibility for removal of trees and debris from yards and such. And why is that? Are we not township residents? Be he not the township’s lawyer? Doth we not payeth the taxes?

Apparently (and this is me presuming now) without any fees being involved or lawyers being specifically hired to render such opinions none would be forthcoming because that’s how lawyers make money isn’t it?

 Anyway, I find a tree service. They chop and remove the tree. I pay the bill and then send the claim over to my insurance company. And that’s when a nice lady, not a lawyer, but just a common working person just like you and me tells me

“It is unfortunate that your neighbor is so un-neighborly.  I can tell you that your legal obligation to remove a tree from your neighbor’s yard does NOT exist unless you have been negligent, which would create liability. In the case of trees, the only time where there’s negligence is if you have let a dangerous condition to exist without  doing your duty to correct it in a timely fashion. That would mean the tree was dead, sick, or dying and in clear need of being removed prior to when the storm hit.  Most insurance companies would require proof of written notice by the neighbor before they accept any liability on the part of their insured.So you can feel free to send your neighbor a bill for the part of the  tree removal that was specifically from their property.  It’s their responsibility, not yours. No matter what their attorney says.”

Gee, wouldn’t you have thought that one of those nice well schooled lawyers could have told both my neighbor and me that in the first place? Especially the one that our township employs and pays with our tax money? Of course now all of this misinformation or lack thereof from the lawyers involved might generate a nice law suit between angry neighbors. Wouldn’t that be a nice chunk of change for a lawyer or two looking for a job?

What I hate about lawyers is that they seem to make it a point to never tell you anything that can be useful and they always treat the truth as though it were a commodity to be leveraged, bought and sold and/or manipulated for profit. It seems that the more lawyers we get in this world the less truth we have available to help us figure out what’s going on.

43% of all Congressmen are lawyers while 47% are millionaires. These statistics may also explain why, when it comes to the government, it’s so hard to find out what exactly is going on these days.

Sadly though, I had to get my truth from an insurance company of all places!

And even more sadly, if only my tree had been destroyed by volcanic ash (IN NEW JERSEY!!!???) I wouldn’t have had to pay my policy’s deductible!

Undoubtedly a lawyer put that in the policy just for kicks.

Yep, Old Billy was right…

Moral of the story? Get a good education and learn as much as you can about everything that you can! The truth may set you free but unfortunately it may only be available for a fee.

A Lesson Learned or Lost?

12 Nov

Just a few more observations from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy…People sure love their cars and with that comes the love of gasoline. It’s been 100 years and we’re still hooked on gas. When the power went out our cars were really the only power we had left and the only source of power that we could rely on to charge our other important, can’t do without, devices that require power. Suddenly we were all on a gasoline Jones! People were sitting huddled in their cars with phones or maybe a lap top plugged into what used to be called the cigarette lighter. (Remember when almost everyone in America had a cigarette Jones?)  And as the days dragged on our cars were the only source of heat for many also.

And of course when you’re in your car you might as well go some place! So go they went… even when there was no place to go. Whole families were just driving around while policemen pointed the way through road blocks and traffic jams. Many just drove to the gas stations where they waited on long lines for hours in the hope to “fill er up!” Of course many learned the dreaded curse of the SUV and discovered that it takes almost as much gas to wait on line for gas as it does to actually go someplace. Remember when we used to drive little cars that got lots of MPGs because we were afraid of wasting or running out of gas? How did we unlearn that lesson?

Today we are addicted to gasoline as much as we are or can be addicted to any liquid in our lives. I shudder to think what we will ever do without it. A home without power is still a home, although rather depressing… but a car without gas? That’s a tragedy!

Circuit du Soleil?

11 Nov

Usually on the day after every great storm there follows sunshine…bright beautiful sunshine! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use that sunshine to power our homes? I recently read a book about how much energy the world’s population is consuming on a daily basis and about how our energy consumption is growing exponentially in an effort to power all of the new electrical gadgets that we have all come to know, purchase and love. And our need for energy is growing so rapidly and so voraciously that it is even silly for us to think that we are ever going to reduce our energy needs or replace them with alternate energies.

In fact the reality of our greedy consumption is that in the future we are going to need not just all of the fossil fuels that we have left on the planet but new alternate energies like wind and solar and water and even nuclear, in addition to those fossil fuels, just to keep up…if we can keep up. It’s a moot point! We are going to be drilling and digging and fracking and mining and ripping this world apart until there is nothing left. that’s what we do. Humans never, in the history of humans on the planet, downsize. Let’s face it. Humans never go without, unless it’s gone.

A few months ago my son and I were walking down an old railroad right of way in Edison, NJ when we happened upon a PSE&G power plant that was surrounded by large solar panels for as far as the eye could see (maybe I exaggerate but it was a pretty big solar field. We even have names for them now) and I thought, Hmmmmmmm what does the power company know that we don’t?

What I think it is, is that solar panels work pretty darn well these days… but unfortunately I think the trick will be in how we can charge people for using the sun and make it into a big business? After all up until now (hopefully into the future also) sunshine has been free and available to all on a simply, just go outside, basis! It is truly the one and only completely democratic energy source in the world! Sunshine knows no greed.

Maybe we could privatize living! Free the people of Earth by giving them dominion over their own homes allowing them to hoist solar panels onto every inch of their roofs until each home is it’s own energy powering station wired into their own power grid and free from the tyranny of power companies. We the people could lay off the power companies! Wouldn’t that be cool? People laying off companies because it would make business sense?! And we’d have 8 billion more years of fuel (Until the sun burns out…sorry, apparently nothing lasts for ever) to waste!

I know, I’m crazy. Too expensive! Never happen! Can’t be done! It’s Beyond the limits of human imagination and ingenuity… like harnessing the power of the atom in a nuclear reactor, or creating remote control flying killer robot drones, or communicating with people on the other side of the world from a small devise held in your palm, or sending people in a tiny vehicle to the moon… and back.

Oh well, what was I thinking? No sense in dreaming such dreams. Maybe someday we’ll be able to smog over the entire world (See China)  so that the sun can only be seen in space. Then we can hoist giant solar panels into space, collect the energy, send it back to Earth and then charge people money for it! Problem solved! I think smogging up the world with good old gas powered generators and coal fired mega-plants is definitely the way to go…only until of course we finally blot out the sun (See China) and can then build sunshine factories in space and sell sunshine by the gallon, or whatever, to whoever has the time to stand on line and the money to pay for it.

“I’ll take a halliburton of sunshine please! And fill up this can while you’re at it too.”

But sunshine knows no greed. It’s a pity that people do. Will we ever learn otherwise? Perhaps if we just put good old human ingenuity and our tenacious spirit into figuring out how to provide solar power cheaply and benevolently to the world we could use the next 8 billion years to work on the greed thing.

Sweet Home Alabama!

10 Nov

     Another 44 hours without power and this time because of snow…and only a few inches…but they say the snow was heavy… as in heavy snow. So that makes 122 hours without power in the last 12 days. I have never experienced anything like this in New Jersey in the US of A in all of my 57 years. Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe we’re all, country included, getting a little too old. And we sure picked a fine time to show our age: Now in the 21st century when we need power and electricity more than ever! One minute I’m on the computer, accessing the internet, charging my cell phone, watching television, recording another show on the DVR, texting a friend, tweeting on my iPhone while blow drying my hair. The fridge, washing machine, dryer and dishwasher are all happily doing their thing. The yard and driveway are lit up like a CIA compound in a third world country…and then poof! It’s suddenly the 18th century…for 6 days!!!

     Thankfully electricians from Alabama showed up and fixed our wires and got our neighborhood back up and running. Alabama?! I never, in a million years, thought I’d ever be thanking Alabamans for bringing me back into the 21st century!

     And Speaking of the 21st century…under New Jersey’s energy deregulation law, the supply portion of our electric bill is now separated from the delivery portion. However, it appears that thanks to deregulation we now have more energy suppliers in New Jersey than we have energy road crews! I can hear Glen Campbell now, “I am a lineman for the county and… I’m the only lineman left!”

     I googled energy companies in New Jersey and got tired after counting over 60 different suppliers from all over the country. How do they do that you ask? “Oh we just supply your energy but the same company you’ve always had delivers it through the same wires and from the same place!”

“Really?…but who fixes the electricity when the power goes out?”

“Oh it’s the same company that you’ve always had with the same great service!”

So nothing changes and I just have a new supplier and it costs less? That sounds great…and magical too! Everything I’ve always wanted in a power company! Until the power does go off and then we all sit around in the dark waiting for help from Tinkerbell because our “real” power company has been downsizing and laying off workers so that my old reliable lineman is now really in Wichita looking for a job because Kansas hasn’t deregulated yet.

I know it sounds like I’m just bitching and moaning because I lost my electricity in a freakish storm that will probably never happen again (fingers crossed) BUT, I live in a brave, new world where electricity is now more important than ever and we all use more of it than ever and we all need more of it than ever before.

So you’d think that in an advanced civilization and country such as ours that would translate into having more educated electricians and more skilled linemen and more expert and well trained power crews than ever before but sadly when I walk outside my home during a power blackout these days I am more likely to be stopped and accosted by someone who wants to sell me electricity than someone who knows how or wants to fix it!

We 21st century Americans know that the money is in the selling of things not in the fixing of things. Just ask Wall Street and Enron who came up with the idea of energy deregulation in the first place. You remember Enron don’t you?

On power deregulated Long Island they do. They haven’t had electricity for almost 2 weeks.

Yet on that wonderful truck that pulled into my neighborhood one cold clear November day it simply said “Alabama Power”. Sweet home Alabama, lord please don’t let them deregulate heaven!


Step Into the Light!

7 Nov

Here is another thought that I have had since the hurricane hit us here in New Jersey and over the following days of recovery.

Where are the kids?

All of the schools have been closed for days now and I live in a neighborhood that is only 2 blocks from the local grammar school and…no kids?

No school…all the children are home…during the regular school day hundreds of the little urchins can be seen walking to school or being dropped off from mini vans by their parents…There’s daylight now…and no school…but no kids!

Where do they go? what do they do? Why won’t they come out into the light of day?

In the aftermath of one of Mother Nature’s more frightening creations I think it’s time for parents to see to it that America’s children make friends with one of her more inspiring phenomenon…SUNSHINE!

In A New York Minute

6 Nov


     For the last few days in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy I have been hearing constant police sirens and fire engine horns throughout the days and evenings. These are sounds that in my neighborhood are usually reserved for when the local HS football team wins a big game and certainly not something that we hear on a regular basis.

     Whenever I hear them now I am reminded of the Don Henley song and the refrain, “I hear the sirens wail. Somebody’s going to emergency. Somebody’s going to jail…” and I wonder what it is that is happening out there just blocks from where I live.

     It has been a time for emergencies and sadly also a time for those who find opportunity in the misfortunes of others. I’m not sure how many of those sirens are for one or the other but I am pretty certain, judging by what I have seen and heard that most are of the help and rescue variety. And although it is unfortunate that so much grief and mayhem is taking place out there it is a comfort to see that man’s humanity towards mankind is winning the day.
     People have been pulling together and working hard to help and sacrifice for others even though the stories of opportunistic thieves and looting scoundrels on boats and afoot seem to persist and haunt those good efforts.

     It’s hard to know or understand why one person chooses one path or another, but we do make those choices. I think sometimes that no matter what we profess to be under the normal circumstances of every day life, it is in that unsuspecting moment of distress and despair, when we have our world threatened and our lives shattered or turned upside down, in that “New York minute” if you will, when we discover where are true selves reside.

     When the waves of distress come crashing down, do what damage they may, then roll back out to sea, will they reveal within our hearts and minds a sense of empathy or of opportunity? Are these the times that try our souls…or not?

      Why we choose to step to one side of morality or the other is both personal and perplexing. And is a question whose answer has eluded mankind for quite sometime… but I like to think that the angels of our better nature are ahead in the game and hopefully will someday move so far ahead that we will no longer need to wonder where it is we each stand when it comes to helping others who are less fortunate than ourselves nor will we need sirens or disasters to motivate us to show it.



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