darkness falls
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


"Darkness Falls" is the headline on today's Ottawa Citizen. I like it rather more than the Ottawa Sun's alternative, "Lights Out." The city's astonishing. Driving back from my friend D's last night, the streets were pitch-black, houses all unlit, traffic lights invisible against the sky. We drove slowly, taking care not to sideswipe cyclists, pausing at intersections to allow right-of-way, laughing as we talked about looting or Byward Market bonfires. Sitting in the back-yard, staring into the heavens, we could see a blanket of stars for the first time that I can remember. For once, there was no city glow, no "light pollution" to wipe them out.

This is how it happened: I was sitting in my cubicle, typing away. I work in Gatineau, Quebec - across the river from Ottawa, Ontario. (Today is my last day of work. Shortly, I will return [hooray!] to Montreal.) At 4:30pm or so, a muttering rose around the office. Though our electricity was still coursing, people had begun to notice panicked news-stories on cnn.com, cbc.ca, etc. Given that this is the federal government, several people huffed about bourque falling offline. (I notice that it's back now, but Mr Bourque is presumably lost-in-the-dark, as the website has not been updated.) Quebec, you see, has its own, functional electrical grid - I like to give credit to the province's traditionally left-wing government. Ontario, meanwhile, with its cutbacks and privatization, is tied to the American system. And when they go down, apparently we do too.

Though a lot of people were twittering, I wasn't really worried. I left work at 5 and noticed the enormous crowd of people waiting at the bus-stop. "Something's not working there," I thought, and crossed the bridge to Ottawa on foot. Indeed, as I hit the halfway mark that switches from the province of Quebec to Ontario, the traffic-lights had ceased to function. Cars were dribbling one-by-one through the bridge intersection, the drivers red-faced. I eventually caught a bus on the other side and made it home. There, it was appropriately dim. We gathered candles and flashlights, turned on a battery-powered radio. Ate sandwiches and finished the ice-cream (well, we had to!) D phoned me to invite me to our weekly game of Ultimate Frisbee; I had presumed that the game would be cancelled - that my Ontario-dwelling friends would be crazed and panicking - but apparently they were as calm as I, and the game was going forward. For the drive down, I pulled out a Godspeed You! Black Emperor CD. This was the apocalypse, after all.

The game was good fun, but night fell quickly. No streetlamps to give a glow to the field. No bars to grab a beer. We wove in a bicycle caravan through the eerie streets, toward D's house. It was dead quiet, except for the squeaking of crickets, the muttering of cicadas. Pedestrians with their dogs smiled and waved.

A barbecue by flashlight. Still-cool soft-drinks in frosted glasses. Pressed apricots, smoke from a hookah. Delicate jasmin hashish.

People gradually drifted away, conversation lulling. A neighbour on the other side of the fence called over some friendly words - a disembodied voice.

This morning at home, still no lights. I showered very quickly, not to use up all of the hot water. No electric razor.

And back here at work, it's a motley crew. Quebec residents who saw no reason not to come. Ontario residents with a sense of responsibility, or just a sense of there being nothing better to do. We're going to out for lunch, and then for beers in the afternoon. We hear rumours of lights in Ottawa - traffic signals on Holland and Carling, patches of U of O's residences. Browsing the web, some websites are still offline. The people with cordless phones can't be reached.

I was planning on having a review of Wednesday night's Flaming Lips concert ready for today. If things get really slow here, I may, yet - but without computer access at home, it was nothing-doing last night. What had struck me Wednesday evening, however, was that it was a show for the End of the World, all explosions and confetti and joy and blood and madness. It was beautiful. And I can't help wondering, maybe they were right.

(a lightning strike!?!?!!)

Posted by Sean at August 15, 2003 9:49 AM

Salty! Your blackout experience sounds lovely.

When are you back in Montreal? What about Julian?

Posted by amy at August 16, 2003 2:21 PM

Julian's a Big Mystery who is Not Answering My Emails. I should be back on the 28th. Hooray!

Posted by Sean at August 16, 2003 2:46 PM

Ahhhhhhh I'm so jealous of the blackout, it sounded like so much fun!!!!! Mmmmm.

enjoy montreal. i miss you. i can't believe it's already time to go back to school and i won't be there...

Posted by anne at August 18, 2003 3:24 PM

ooh! querbes crew! (i hear julian is too busy tending his feather collection to check his email.)

anne, i'm jealous of you every day.

and i'm glad that you had a lovely black out, sean, and had icecream to finish and fizzydrinks to drink.

AND i met a boy this summer that reminded me just of you, amy. if he only was a bit taller, you would be a good match.

Posted by kyla at August 20, 2003 1:26 AM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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our favourite blogs
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Ill Doctrine
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Words and Music
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Gorilla vs Bear
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Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
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Nicola Meighan
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CKUT Music
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The Clear-Minded Creative
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Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
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things we like in Montreal
st-viateur bagel
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le pick up
kem coba
le couteau
au pied de cochon
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chez boris
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drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c

casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe

Cult Montreal
The Believer
The Morning News
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