Author Archives: genevramcneil

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I feel like a thief. 

But I’m a mother and I’m happy to shoulder that guilt.

Avery gave it up last night. Apparently we were one of the last kitchens in the city to stay open — everyone else shut down three nights ago. We’ve been so consumed by trying to find Gil — and then finding Gil — that I failed to notice. Avery called me at about 11 o’clock last night. I was still numbly moving around the condo, just moving with no purpose, when I got the call. 

She was shutting the kitchen down and handing out all the food in the warehouse. She wanted to give the folks who had worked there first pick.

Dad and I got in the Passat and loaded up. Mostly rice and beans, about 250 lbs. of flour, a case of dried powdered milk, several boxes of carrots and sweet potatoes and onions. Some of the peach preserves and apple butter and even the pickled beans. Every single scrap of chocolate and sugar I could find. There was a whole pig’s worth of cryo-vacced primals that I strapped to the roof. I also took the pressure cooker, the Hobart mixer, a couple of knives, and every bloody fucking one of those tomatoes that I canned. 

I can’t believe that was only a month ago.

Driving back through the ghostly streets gave me a bone-deep chill. The riots down in Southie were too far away to hear, but I could see the dull red glow of the fires off the low-slung belly of the clouds. I was driving, Dad was riding shotgun — literally. He was crouched in the passenger’s seat with the double barrel cocked and held across his chest. The same man who had stopped me from firing just a few nights ago was ready to shoot. Happily, there wasn’t a soul in sight. 

We’re leaving. 

Paul and I and my folks talked about it until late at night, after I got back with the food. The violence in Southie has stayed contained so far, but with the kitchens shut down, the shooting war in Connecticut and the Berkshires, and the city a target for the US forces, it’s just not safe here. And winter is coming.

It’s 80 degrees today, but the London plane trees are starting to show yellow around the edges and it got down into the 40s a few nights ago. Unless there’s a massive relief effort, the city is going to be a humanitarian disaster this winter — there won’t be heat or food for all these people. We’re very well stocked, thanks to my efforts and last night’s raid on the warehouse. 

But that just makes us a target here. Already we get looks from some of our condo neighbors. We’ve seen evidence of someone trying to jimmy our storage locker open. Two of the chickens have gone missing. And it’s still September. In the cold heart of February, I get the feeling we’d be murdered in our sleep for the food in our kitchen. 

With my folks here, we can pile into two cars and bring up as much food as humanly possible to the cabin in the woods. We’ve got food, water, and fuel up there. I planted potatoes back in the spring that should be ready soon, plus there’s a giant wood lot filled with plenty of deer and dead falls, and, most importantly, a scarce population that entirely used to self reliance.

I doubt any fighting will make it to the North Woods. We’ll be able to hunker down for the winter. 

Paul has already gone out to trade some things for enough gas to make it up there. Mom offered up her jewelry but Paul said that our liquor cabinet would be worth more. I insisted on keeping a pair of vodka bottles, but he’s been in and out all morning, taking a bottle of brandy and coming back with a five-gallon can, going out with three litres of wine and coming back with a gerry can. 

Dad’s been doing guy things out in the back with the cars. Mom’s been taking care of April while I gather up heavy blankets, first aid supplies, tools, that sort of thing. She looks white faced and pinched. She’s worried about her dogs. They are huge and eat a lot. We don’t know if we can take them. I know she loves them like her children but if it’s a choice between feeding my mom’s two dogs and feeding my daughter, the matter is simple. 

Dad just came in. He traded the cryo-vacced pig primals for a car trailer to hitch to his SUV. That doubles our carrying capacity. We may be able to take some of the books.

April has been very quiet, very still. She occasionally asks about Paw Paw, sniffles, and then goes and sits in a corner with her stuffed rabbit. Right now she’s asleep in my bedroom so I can pack up her room. Going through her toys to pick out what we’re going to take has been tough — we only have so much room, both in the car and in the cabin. I want to sit and hold her, to croon songs and read to her, to hold her and promise everything will be okay. 

But I feel guilty already for taking a few moments here to rest and get my thoughts together and to tell you all, our friends, that we’re leaving. April will have all winter to heal, in the quiet woods. Right now I need to think about surviving. 

Paul’s back. I gotta go.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Does anyone know anything about wha the hell happened?!

Paul and my dad are trying to get downtown right now. I begged them not to go, the whole fucking city looks like it’s on fire. I would have sat on Paul if Dad wasnt’ with him. Dad’s very level headed.

The men in uniforms on the street say it’s just a fire, that they fire department is on it, but no fire eversounded like that, damnit. KABOOM! They are fucking bombing Boston! 

If you know what’s going on, please please call me. If you have heard from Gil, please call. The cells seem to be up, Paul calls every fifteen minutes. We can’t reach Gil, though. 

The news is coming in really garbled. NPR says that they are trying to get a man on the scene, something about Southie being a mad house. Gil’s at the convention center in Southie and I am terrified that Paul is going down there and going to try to get past all those angry old mobsters and those terrible old bridges. 

If you know anything, please CALL!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

As predicted, things have gone from bad to worse. My folks arrived last night with most of their possessions… but not all. Apparently they got charged “tolls” for entering the city and when they didn’t have the cash, the men with the guns took jewelry instead. Mom lost her pearls, her wedding ring, her emerald earrings, and some costume stuff she had in a box that was clearly visible from the street. They also took my dad’s wedding ring.

Her engagment ring, her mother’s pearls, my grandmother’s locket, and several gold chains were all in a pouch in her purse. She kept those. 

They arrived to find me hauling my self out to the kitchen for another night with The Shotgun Brigade. (That’s what the three of us with guns have started calling ourselves. Gallows humor.) My dad — he used to be a Ranger a very long time ago — heard what I was doing, reached into the trunk of his car, and pulled out his hunting rifle and then insisted on joining me. 

There was a very long line outside of the kitchen warehouse when we got there and people screamed some awful things at me for “cutting the line.” When I waved my gun and tried to explain that I worked there, they just got angrier. 

There were several attempts to rob the place and one partially succeeded. A large group of angry men rushed us at about midnight. I was angry enough and tired enough that I swear I think I was about to fire. My dad stopped me. He’s a rock.

They got away with several boxes of food. Mostly cereal and some canned veggies. 

If they were starving, if they were hungry people trying to feed their families, I wouldn’t be so livid. But they are just stupidly frightened (or maybe frightened stupid) and scrabbling food to hoarde. They probably have plenty of food still at home, but it’s like those bank runs this time last year — once people start to lose faith, it all comes down like a house of cards. 

And the thing is, I really feel like they raided us just to be doing something. They feel everything going to hell and instead of just hunkering down, they feel like they need to DO something. So they steal food. Which causes this whole cascade of mistrust. 

Dad and I arrived home just an hour ago. We’re going to sack out now that the rest of the folks are up and about. Good thing, too. There weren’t enough beds for all of us to sleep at once. Gil’s off to the convention — Paul says he’s frothing at the mouth about everything, about the betrayal of the people. We’re frankly a little worried about his heart. Or a stroke. 

I’m going to bed.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The house is quiet, the streets are desserted, there are no lights in the city. 

Over the summer, with clear skies and warm nights, the darkness didn’t seem so odd. I was raised in the country with no streetlights — I’m used to that absolute black. But fall blew in on a storm two days ago that knocked out all the electricity and had us all pulling out the wool sweaters. Between the heavy cloud cover and the fact that no one wants to put a light in the window, and the fact that dawn doesn’t come until 6:30….

I feel like it’s all coming apart at the seams.

I was awake to see the early morning dark because I got tapped to guard the kitchen warehouse last night. Apparently, I’m one of three people in the whold staff who can use a gun without blowing my foot off. With the General gone, things have gone from got to bad to HOLY FUCK pretty damned quick. We’ve got people from the outlying ‘burbs pouring into the cities on the rumour that it’s better here. We’ve got people from the city leaving for… I don’t know where. In the day time, it’s confusing but still normal. New-normal, but it was safe on the streets. The rumours were flying fast — the General’s daughter being held at Gitmo, troops on the Mass./R.I. border, spaceships at MIT (which really wasn’t the most ridiculous thing we’d heard, believe it or not) — and people we gathering at any public space to talk, natter, worry, debate, argue. 

Once the sun went down last night though, with no electricity, it got bad. There were roving gangs of looters and roving gangs of “neighborhood watch” types trying to defend their little chunck of city, and roving squads of military types who are trying to protect everyone but don’t have a command structure right now. 

I know all of this because I spent the night sitting at the warehouse with a loaded shotgun, some emergency flares, a bullhorn, and an extra-strong cup of the last coffee in the city. Happily, in Cabridge at least, guns are pretty damned rare among the general population and the Neighborhood Watch types and the looters were mostly unarmed. And there’s really nothing quite as frightening in the dark as the sound of a double-barreled shotgun being ratched. Most folks would give up. Things died out about midnight, happily.

We did let one group of armed types with uniforms take some food. Not a lot, but we weren’t sure that they weren’t actually the military types. I miss the General.

Today is going to be tough. Tonight is going to be tougher. If I wasn’t so wired and tired, I’d be panicking.

My folks called on the cell last night. They and their dogs are on their way up today. They are putting as much food in the car as my dad can manage. I asked them to bring dad’s hunting rifles, too. And I told them to come in the daylight only and on backroads only. It’s going to be a tight fit with them and Gil. Not that we’ve seen Gil in three days, what with the “convention” going into overdrive. 

Avery was a little white around the eyes this morning as she took over guard duties, talkinga bout her relatives in Kansas. She’s sort of the driving force that holds this little kitchen together and if she bugs out… 

I’m so tired.

Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009

The military action earlier in the week was probably some high-level message from the White House to the Boston leadership. (We totally need a spiffy house for our president, once we get a president. Maybe the Thoreau House? “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”)  I know it had a huge impact on the local psyche — the undercurrent of conversation at the kitchens was nervous bordering on hysterical.

But what really punched home the message for me wasn’t the bombs.

It was the prayer group.

Watching that nutjob Richard Land on television hold hands with his faithful followers and call down God’s wrath upon our heads for turning our back on “good, right, Christian America,” made me want to scream. The mobs of “righteous Christians” — read: crazy Baptists or Evangelicals — chanting for our firey damnation made me want to weep.

This is why we seceded, really. It’s not about an election … okay, it was about the election, but it was also about the fact that the old U.S.A. had broken into two factions: crazy-ass devout Cultural Baptist types who thought they were always right and everyone else, who knew that they were wrong.

Wrong about what? Pretty much the whole hit parade of cultural hot-button issues in the past three decades or so: Censorship. Sex ed. Abortion. Death penalty. Gay marriage. Birth control. Religious tolerance. Evolution v. creationism. Separation of church and state. Women’s rights.

Whenever the Right opposed these, their fundamental argument always came down to some version of: “Because my god said it was bad.” And just because they didn’t like something, they insisted that the whole country toe that line that they saw drawn in the Bible.

When I tried, in polite conversation about these issues, to point that I didn’t worship as they did, that their Bible was not really relevant in my worldview, my politics, my religion, or my Constitution I was not met with a logical response. I usually got anger, bafflement, and, on one memorable occasion, a red-faced man screeching “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live!” in my face.

Sadly, I’m not a witch. If I were, I could wave a magic wand and say “Bippity boppity boo!” and those mouth-frothing zealots would let us live in peace.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Well, Gil didn’t show up with clocks. Or sunblock, for that matter.

He showed up with four suitcases and a steamer trunk. He’s moved in.

Because of his status as an organizer and leader in his neck of the woods, he’s been elected to be a delegate to the constitutional convention that’s going on up here this fall. It doesn’t start for a few more weeks — Paul can tell you more about it — but Gil is up to mix, mingle, network, and rub elbows with the leading lights of the new nation.

His wife is still back home. In theory, she’s staying there to finish the harvest. (Gil’s garden could feed an army!) But Liz isn’t much for leaving her little neck of the woods and I worry a little. Gil loves his wife, but he’s deeply passionate about this new social experiment and I think Liz might resent that. She also resents the idea that she might have to leave her kids and grandkids for the big faraway city.

If I thought either of them were reading this blog, I’d erase that last paragraph.

April is thrilled that her Paw-Paw is staying with us. Frankly, I’m happy of the extra help with the garden and the chickens and the childcare. Gil excels in all three areas.

He’s so optimistic, so excited, that it scares me a little.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My kingdom for a bottle of SPF 45.

The city has slowly been running out of some things, most of which I don’t care about. For some time, many women have complaining about a dearth of their favorite cosmetics/facial products. Apparently Aveda won’t cross the border, for some reason.

I usually use Aveeno and Burt’s Bees, but as that became harder to find I switched to Dr. Bronner’s without too much grief. (I even scent it a little with some essential oils I made from the herb garden. My hair and laundry smells like rosemary this week!) Conditioner has been harder to make-do with, but I’ve got a giant bottle of no-more tangles for April’s hair and I’ve cut mine to chin length to compensate.

But this week, April dumped my whole last bottle of sunblock down the toilet and suddenly I was out. And I can’t find any more anywhere.

I understand that there’s a gray market in these things. One of my dear friends spent a largish amount of money on a case of 12 bottles of her foundation powder. But her “connection” only deals in European cosmetics. There isn’t a profit margin in regular sunblock because the communities centers are supposed to distribute it. But apparently they ran out. (There’s a rumor that there was a rumor of a run on sunblock which of course cause a run on sunblock and everyone’s hoarding it.) The community center swears there’s more due in from Maine any day now, but she’s been saying that all week.

In the mean time, it’s high August, 95 degrees out, and harvest time and I have to go pick crap in my garden with long sleeves and long pants to try not to get a second-degree burn. I’d pick at night except it’s barely a crescent moon and I can’t see expending the oil or electricity for the light. I hadn’t noticed how dark it gets at night now — city glow is a thing of the past, I guess.

We got a call from Gil this morning. It was way staticky, cell phone reception is still dicey sometimes in his neck of Connecticut, but we managed to understand that he’s coming tomorrow on the train to visit. I hope that I managed to convey my request for as many bottles of sunblock as he can get. I’m not sure. He might show up with a suitcase full of clocks. Gil’s a little weird sometimes.