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Day 164-5: Flu York City’s Civil War

I’m neither insane nor sick nor murdered. Just bruised and exhausted. I’ve been sheltering Anna from contagious turbulence since I ran down to fetch her from Ric’s Place.

It’s no secret there’s been rioting all over New York and the power system is coming apart. The Internet is so shaky that I’m nostalgic for the dialup days, when everything was reliably slow.

ALL CLUBS ON DECK—WE'RE IN BIG TROUBLEI haven’t much to report. I saw people scared and bleeding and I saw other people armed and feeding. I put on my trademark Ramble face (a blank scowl, I hope) and ran with Anna through streets of glass and metal at a pretty good clip. Once safe at home, I’ve wallowed in whatever rumors I can dig up. It would be irresponsible to share them with y’all, however.

Activity in my ‘hood was rated moderate to intense, which sounds bad. Then—just as a tabloid said the East Village was under siege from depraved mobs—I spotted a tall woman in elegant sunglasses walking her dog, trying to reach someone on her smartphone. Her escort looked like a Husky. She owned the curb.

I doubt she got through, however. Mobile phone service has completely crashed. I wonder if the authorities shut it down so looters can’t correspond while the police chase them. The air quality implies that smoke signals have replaced texting.

NYPD doctrine has long been to overwhelm troublemakers by outnumbering them—to roll them up in a big blue blanket. But the flu leaves the brass without numbers or proven tactics. Here’s one rumor: Private contractors will fill in. Guys who fight for profit in the Middle East will quell disorder here. We the People will be paying double for homegrown mercenaries. Restore America’s Hessians, RAH!

Tribulation Beat says ‘New York’s Finest’ are tasing and gassing everyone in sight. I heard shots and shouts an hour ago, so your faithful eyewitness now shuns windows. If you can, watch our mess online. My fave clip was from a woman who—mugged by armed eight-year-olds—persuaded them to pose for her. They even sing!

I maintain a landline with a plug-in phone, which would be more useful in emergencies if most of the people I know weren’t solely dependent on cell phones—or cordless home units. Telephone companies have giant batteries to support service during brief electricity lapses. They maintain power stations to keep the system up for weeks, if necessary.

It’s great that we still have juice in the East Village. The Midwest is running out of coal and Hawaii is out of oil. I expected New York City would be spared blackouts, assumed the Feds would somehow keep electricity running because of the financial exchanges, the city’s global symbolism. I knew they’d let Philly and Baltimore burn, but the Big Apple? Wall Street would see to it that Manhattan was secure. Now I see that those guys can’t do anything right.

Con Ed gets 40% of its energy from natural gas (whose pipelines seem secure enough if Canada keeps functioning), and 33% from nuclear power, fuel for which is well in hand. Only 20% comes from coal and oil, and the rest is a mix of biomass, wind, solid waste, and Canadian hydropower. Not so bad, so long as the nuclear plants 30 miles from here keep running. In general, the U.S. derives more than 60% of its energy from oil and coal, both extremely vulnerable these days because of sickly coal miners, ailing transport, and spotty oil shipments.

Given that local demand for electricity collapsed because offices are shut and commuters are all staying home, Con Ed has been able to lose a portion of juice without anyone noticing. I feel for city residents who fled to country homes to escape the flu. How will they get heating oil? I may be safer here than I’d have been in that bungalow I rented. Some lucky soul may already have looted it.

Anna and I have plenty of energy.

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