by Maka MacKenna

Like a lot of us I put in more time than I care to admit shivering in the unseasonable cold, craning and squinting for a good look at The Comet. It's hard for me to understand why comets got such a bad rap as portenders of disaster. I think the comet is kind of cute. Comets are the warm fuzzies of the firmament.

It's been misreported in some pretty reputable magazines that the word disaster means "bad star," referring to comets. Untrue. The Latin root "dis" actually refers to removal or nullification as in "disbar," "disinherit," "displace." "Disaster" actually means "without a star." Or, if you choose, "in another world" -- "Dis" being another name for Pluto, King of The Underworld. Catastrophes happen to people whose lucky star is absent or inoperative, not because they're being blitzed with bad vibes from an innocent little comet that happens to be in the neighborhood. So don't diss the comet.

Actually, disasters can be fun, in hindsight. Case in point: At a party, I met a lovely lady from Belize who said her happiest childhood memories were of hurricanes. Everyone would gather together in a shelter, sing songs, the kids would play. It was like a holiday. (Mental note: When I visit Belize make sure it's in hurricane season.)

My one experience in a hurricane wasn't like a holiday, it was on a holiday. On the day before Thanksgiving 1982, word went out all over Hawaii that Hurricane Iwa was moving in. By the time I got to leave work, it was 3 in the afternoon, the sky was growing dark and the power outages had already started.

I stopped at Foodland to shop for Thanksgiving dinner and hurricane supplies not knowing which we'd actually use. The store was in darkness and the clerk led me up and down the aisles with a flashlight. They were out of batteries, candles and flashlights so I concentrated on dinner, just in case we had one. Should I buy a fresh or frozen turkey? I went with frozen on a hunch.

I had two roommates but they were stranded on the other side of the island so the house was mine. By the time I got home, our power was out so I plopped the frozen turkey in the sink. I just had time to tape the windows with masking tape per the directions in the phone book when darkness fell. No radio, no TV, no candles, no flashlights, just the wind getting stronger and a particular thunking noise from above which I later realized was made by the impact of pieces of the neighbor's roof hitting our own.

Finally I couldn't stand it anymore. I had to have some light. I rummaged through every drawer and finally found some little birthday candles and stuck them into a hamburger bun. Better than cursing the darkness, they say.

A few blocks away, a friend of ours was recuperating from a vasectomy he'd had only that afternoon. In the doctor's office, he'd seen the darkening sky and suggested maybe they should postpone the procedure. No, said the doctor sternly. They'd do it now, but Mac would be sore that night, and should place ice on his testicles if the pain bothered him.

He did so but as the evening wore on, all the ice in his refrigerator melted and he was spurred on to greater ingenuity. "There I was," he told us later, "in the dark house, with the maelstrom whirling around me, lying in bed with a box of frozen broccoli on my balls."

The next morning our lawn was covered with tarpaper but the power came back on just in time to cook dinner. We left the tape on the windows for a couple of years after. I figured it was a badge of honor.

Maka MacKenna is a Eureka free-lance writer.


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