Noe Valley Voice April 2001

Survivalists Gloat: 'We Told You So'

By Elliot Pogo

After years of slow sales, things are finally picking up at Camouflage Carl's Military Surplus Hut, located in the new Old Navy store on old Army Street.

In reaction to the state's ongoing power crisis, Noe Valley residents are descending on the store in droves, clamoring for flashlights, blankets, generators, thermal underwear, cans of sterno, and cribbage boards. In late March, Carl's shelves were nearly bare; all that remained was an assortment of rusty tent bolts and a couple of expired snakebite kits.

Owner Carl (who refused to give his last name, citing concerns about government surveillance) is happy, but not surprised. "All them [expletive] yuppies and dot-commies, sittin' in my parking lot, slurpin' [expletive] decaf lattes from the Star[expletive]'s next door, man, they thought they could trust the gubbermint and PG&[expletive]E to keep their lights on," he cackled. "They were all runnin' around like [expletive] Rockyfellers, throwin' money up in the air. Now they're down on their knees, begging me for a camp stove--and waterproof matches!"

Although most Noe Valleons watched the TV show Survivor, many forgot to take notes and found themselves ill prepared for power outages this winter. Now neighborhood residents are anxiously awaiting more emergency shutdowns during the summer.

The California ISO (I'm a Smooth Operator) says blackouts will likely occur during daytime hours. This could have a calamitous impact on Noe Valley, given our high concentration of allegedly self-employed individuals. "My computer is essential to my information-peddling business," said Judah Street entrepreneur Robert Phil Hansen.

Local sand-play therapist Petey Barnum worries that blackouts will negatively impact his counseling service. "I won't be able to heat up my aromatherapy oils. And what if I can't play my John Tesh in the Rainforest CDs?"

Noe Street resident Leeva Leiton shuddered while recalling a PG&E blackout this past February. "I couldn't get my George Foremeat Keen 'n' Mean Grilling Machine to work at all," she bravely recounted. "It was the longest 90 minutes of my life. I could have starved!"

She and other neighborhood residents are on the lookout for ways to maintain their current level of overconsumption.

One option that has proven especially popular is the RapidRodent Home Energy Kit, available at Gerbil Exchange on 24th Street. "It's compact, it's educational, and it's fun for the whole family," raved Gerbil Exchange employee Pam Stir, "and unlike a real power plant, no environmental impact report is required." Each kit consists of a glass terrarium with a large aluminum exercise wheel, which, given a sufficiently compulsive rodent, will generate 120 volts. Just add gerbils.

Of course, the development of this innovative product has not been without kinks. Crisco Systems deployed one of the first RapidRodent Kits in a San Jose warehouse last December, and when the power blackouts hit, "the squeaking [of the wheels, not the gerbils] was deafening," notes Stir. So now, every kit includes a can of lubricating oil to apply periodically. To the wheels, not the gerbils. M