Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Sour side of 'off the grid'"- by Peter Fimrite

BOLINAS - Some of Bay Area's most devout recluses wish PG&E would hurry
up and turn on the lights
Sour side of 'off the grid'
San Francisco Chronicle (CA)-January 8, 2008
Author: Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer

The people of Bolinas, famous for removing destination signs to
keep out the bad karma that emanates from all other places, would
welcome some work crews from PG&E, regardless of their spiritual energy.

The remote coastal town was, for the most part, still in the
dark Monday, the fourth day without power since a storm packing
hurricane-force winds ripped through the region.

People in more than 10,000 homes and businesses in the Bay Area
were still living by candlelight and flashlight late Monday. Three
hundred fifty of those were in Bolinas. It was a small number in the grand
scheme of things, but a burden when virtually everybody in town is cut

"I am so burned out, so tired of not having electricity," said
Debbie Morrison, a 30-year resident of Bolinas, who has been huddling
with her husband and five dogs in front of their wood-burning stove.
"The day before the storm, I went to Costco and bought $500 worth of food.
Now it's all going bad. It has not been fun."

Power was restored to the downtown area of Bolinas and to some
homes over the weekend, but most of the ridge community known as "the
Mesa" still had no electricity Monday. Residents complained that they
could not seem to get a straight answer from Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
officials about when power might be restored.

PG&E spokesman Brian Swanson said utility workers were hoping
to restore power to most of those customers by today, but he said some
people may have to wait until later in the week.

Many residents of Bolinas are suffering from cabin fever, or at
least withdrawal symptoms from their favorite television shows.

"At first it's all right because it's like camping, but it
wears off," said Marguerite Harris, 78, who was helping her husband, Paul,
82, pack their car with belongings for an overnight stay with a friend
who has power. "You get dirty, it's cold. We're ready to go."

Morrison said she and her husband escaped the house Sunday
night to go to Cirque du Soleil. "On the way back, we were both chanting,
'Electricity, electricity,' " she said. It was not to be.

"We are all spoiled with electricity," Morrison said. "You can
turn on the TV whenever you want. Actually, though, it's kind of nice
without the TV. I've read two novels since the blackout."

What is most irritating, said Nancy Miller, who lives on Aspen
Road on the Mesa, is that something like this happens every year.

"You get a little rain, the power goes out. You get a little
wind, the power goes out," said Miller, 50.

The fireplace upstairs is not enough to keep her husband,
Robin, four dogs and two children warm, so they take long drives and use the
car heater.

"You kind of rough it when you live out here," Miller said,
"but it's kind of frustrating with PG&E."

Other locals see the outage as a kind of exercise in returning
to nature.

"I like the back-to-basics aspect of it," said Jutta Richert,
59, a 20-year resident of Bolinas who never watches TV anyway. "I feel
sorry for the people who don't have a wood stove, though. And I realize
I need to get a radio with a hand crank, because without one I don't
know what is going on."

The power failure was nothing to Joe, a 59-year-old artist who,
like several other longtime locals who live mostly by their wits,
already lacked electricity. He said blackouts gave him an advantage in the
game of survival.

"I'm basically always without power," said Joe, who didn't want
to give his last name because of legal troubles he'd rather not go
into. "I have a place I live, but to save money I don't have power, so
this doesn't bother me at all."

Roughing it is kind of spiritual, said local tree cutter
Jerrund Bojeste, who drives a van reshaped into a dragon - complete with
metal scales and a toothy mouth that he insists shoots fire.

"It's not PG&E that is the light. It's the inner light of our
own heart, the love light," Bojeste said before firing up a chain saw
and felling a cypress on Grove Road that a homeowner didn't want near his
family. Without electricity, he said, "people go back to that earthly
divineness. It's only because we are told we need electricity that we
use it."

Kaiti Nagel wasn't feeling much love Monday as she threw out
all the spoiled food in her refrigerator, but she was happy that the sun
came out so she could see what she was doing.

"It has been cold, but I'm from the East so it's not too bad,"
said Nagel, 60. "I keep warm by piling blankets on top of me. It's the
lack of communication that has been the worst."

For other Bolinas denizens, living amid the beauty of an
accepting community on the picturesque California coast was enough to
counteract a few days without power. Mike Sell, who moved to Bolinas last year
from Pennsylvania with his partner, Eric Karpeles, spread out his arms
in a gesture toward the Pacific Ocean glimmering in the brilliant

"Hardships?" said Sell, 55. "If this is as bad as it gets, it's
not bad. I can't say this is much of a hardship."

Memo: E-mail Peter Fimrite at

No comments: