We Americans love our suburban angst.
It’s become a cultural cliche that the suburbs (all suburbs) are so bland and intellectually vacant that the people who live there have only two choices — turn off their minds and conform, or give in to the temptations of booze, drugs, adultery and other whatever-gets-you-through-the-night fixes.
(Remember when paperback books used to carry the slogan, “Soon to be a major motion picture”? Americans love major motion pictures almost as much as they love suburban angst.)
Anyway: The novel and film, set on Thanksgiving weekend of 1973, tell the story of two families in affluent New Canaan, Connecticut, who are all heavy into booze, sexual experimentation, shoplifting and general dysfunction. Then a nasty ice storm rolls into town and blows the lid off the whole corrupt setup, more or less.
My grandparents were living in neighboring Stamford at the time. I genuinely doubt that they were dabbling in uppers, brandy or spouse-swapping.
And I don’t have any indication that they believed in suburban angst. I suspect they viewed the suburbs through the original, rose-tinted post-World War II perspective — as a new, better, less crowded place to raise morally and physically healthy kids.
But there was a nasty ice storm in the ‘burbs of Connecticut in 1973 — not on Thanksgiving weekend, but about a week before Christmas.
And that’s what this week’s blog post is about.
According to the Hartford Courant, one-third of the state of Connecticut lost power as a result of what my grandfather — ironically, or maybe just incorrectly — called “The Great Electrofying Ice Storm.”
The storm is also commonly referred to as Ice Storm Felix, which makes me think of Felix the Cat, and seems like kind of a playful name for a sock-in-the-gut natural disaster that killed two people (not including “The Ice Storm”‘s fictional Mikey Carver.) But hey, I didn’t think of it.
For some in the Nutmeg State, power would take a week to restore, as crews struggled with lines burdened by 24 hours of ice-rain. It looks like my grandparents and 87-year-old great-grandmother made out OK: They at least had power during the overnight hours of Monday the 17th and Tuesday the 18th.
While it’s not my intent to exactly retrace my grandpa’s steps, I sometimes like to use his details to imagine him at a specific point in time. His documentation of the Dec. 17 power outage — 5:18 a.m. to 7:58 p.m. — provides one opportunity to do that.
While Joanne Woodward and Don McLean were appearing on “The Mike Douglas Show;” the U.S. Senate was voting to confirm William Saxbe as Attorney General; Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” was hitting theaters; and Todd Rundgren was enjoying his first, last and only visit to the Top Ten, my grandparents were bundling up and eating out of cans.
All part of life’s rich pageant, I suppose.
Of course, a once-in-a-generation ice storm was the sort of event to bring my grandfather out of the house, camera in hand. (He appears to have limited himself to taking pictures around the yard, which suggests that his driveway must have been impassable.)
In lieu of more words, then, here are a couple of William Blumenau’s better shots of Ice Storm Felix. Click to see ’em bigger.