The snowstorm, which had slacked off late in the afternoon, started building in intensity once again right about dinnertime. The streetlights developed halos of snow and ice pellets, and the passing cars sounded more like boats than wheeled vehicles. Then just before 8 p.m., I went back to the kitchen to start another pot of coffee. When I turned one of the taps, all I got was a hollow, gurgling sound. No water.
My first thought was that I’d somehow messed up and let the pipes freeze. So I called the Pad Thai restaurant across the Avenue. The woman in charge was beside herself — they’d lost their water, too. Hard to run a restaurant without water. After about five minutes, the restaurant’s “Open” sign went out and suddenly Nighthawk Books was the only business open on the Avenue between Dunkin Donuts and the supermarket two blocks thataway.
I was thinking about locking up for the night. Brosna, a group playing traditional Irish music, was supposed to perform, but I hadn’t gotten any e-mails from them and the roads were getting risky. But they are dedicated people, and a little after 8 p.m. they showed up to play, storm or no storm.
Better still, there was an audience: two women, one from town, the other from Piscataway — one town over, but not so close that one would drive over from there on a bad night without giving the matter some serious thought. It was probably the smallest audience Brosna has ever played for, but I doubt many others could have matched it for attentiveness and enthusiasm. For the next 90 minutes or so we were a lovely island of light, warmth, and music on a dark street full of snow and ice.
But the storm wasn’t letting up, and the roads were still bad, so the band packed up a little past 10 p.m. I followed everyone out the door in order to unplug the exterior lights. I took a last look up and down the Avenue. Taking a note from Douglas Adams, I dubbed it the bookstore at the end of the universe. Then I turned off the lights and got the shovel and sidewalk salt into position for the morning, when it would be time to move all the glop out of the way.