OK, I guess 'refugee' is laying it on a bit thick. I'm sitting in a trendy, air conditioned coffee shop on Melrose Avenue in LA, sipping an icy latte, surrounded by your tired, your poor, your tattooed screenwriters and slackers and pretty people yearning to breathe cool.
Not that dire, I admit.
But I'm not here by choice. I have been driven from my home/office to this unlikely refugee shelter by a neighborhood power outage that's now three days old. And therein lies a tale.
Los Angeles has been transformed this summer from the cool, breezy climatological envy of the nation to a sweltering, muggy, mosquito infested bog, thanks to a historic heat wave that represents either a 50-year or a 100-year maximum, depending on whom you ask.
That wouldn't be that scary - records are meant to be broken - except that records have now been broken just about every year for the past decade. Which smells of a trend. Which smells of global warming. And this year, those broken records have broken LA's electricity system at the most intimate level.
In my case, the villain can be seen looming over my neighbor's backyard. Looking like a gray garbage can doing a pole dance, it's actually a transformer. A very old transformer. A very sick transformer.
It first burned out on Saturday evening, plunging my leafy little enclave into a weird, alienating darkness - weird because it only affected about 12 houses, including mine. The people across the street still had juice. Even the people next door to me. I felt like Woody Allen in the loser train car, looking out at Sharon Stone sipping champagne in the glam cabin. Why me?
But the same thing was happening to thousands of little enclaves all over the city, and that was just the start.
On Monday morning, after everything in my refrigerator had gone horribly wrong, the nice people from the electric company came by to make things right.
They helpfully explained that the transformer in question had been installed back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, before people had plasma TVs in every room and computers and Sub Zeros and all the modern conveniences that - well, that contribute to global warming. And the poor thing couldn't handle the deadening load. It was literally burned out. It had to be replaced.
But, the guys explained, it wasn't going to be replaced. Because there aren't any replacements. Over 1000 transformers have burned out over the past few days in LA, and the city has a stockpile of about 125. So they were going to 'fix' my transformer instead.
Great, we neighbors said, hearts full of hope. How well would that work?
Let's put it this way, the guys replied. Don't replace all the stuff inside your freezers. Consider eating out.
Long story short, the transformer blew again after about eight hours. It's been off ever since.
So here I sit this Tuesday afternoon at Stir Crazy on Melrose, charging up my cell phone, mooching off some unsuspecting soul's internet connection (sorry, Buzzy's Network!), and contemplating my future as a global warming refugee in LA.
Today's LA Times offered, uh, cold comfort. Concerning the sick old transformers that can't take the heat, it reported, "Edison officials said they hope to make fixes" as part of an upgrade "over the next five years." And Mayor Antonio Villaraigoasa said "We are continuing to maintain our system and we may have to more aggressively do so."
"Hope"? "Next five years?" "May?"
If Mayor Villaraigosa thinks LA "may" have to replace its stressed out transformers, I have two words of advice: "Mayor Lindsay."
Back in '68, that dynamic political celeb had plans, big plans, just like Antonio. But Lindsay failed to grasp the gravity of a snowstorm that shut down the borough of Queens. Angry residents never forgave him, and the rest was history. Just like Lindsay.
So yo, Antonio, listen up. When thousands of people are driven from their homes and forced to drink endless cups of latte in order to plug in their Imacs and contribute to the local economy, you have a very big problem. Phrases like "may have to be more aggressive" have no place in that script.
I suggest you scare up a few transformers, pronto. And I promise to set the AC in my office to 78.