Here's a good spring thought:
Disaster may strike at any moment, in any city of America (it says here in this thing called "Is Your Home Equipped for Disaster?" by Deborah Gunther in some publication or other) and the question is whether you have 10 gallons per person per week stored in some handy place.
Twelve drops of iodine per gallon, it goes on, will purify the water if it gets a bit stale and full of germs, so be sure to lay in some iodine.
Man cannot live by water alone, so you want to lay in at least a one week's supply of food for everybody (not forgetting Prince and Rover). Don't forget canned fuel, flashlight batteries, canned tomatoes, lots of powdered milk, tons of Vitamin C, candles, lantern, buckets for waste, lime (for the waste), snake bite kit, measuring cup, tent, and truly I don't know that I can go on.
Once you get several tons of stuff, you mark everything with the date you acquired it, and then you keep up. You don't want to be in a tidal wave, after all, with some canned beans three years old, so every month you inventory your supplies and eat up the old tomatoes and buy new ones and so on forever.
I imagine this will keep many a citizen off the streets and give him some purpose in life, for a change -- futzing about with the powdered milk ("powdered milk and Brazil nuts for supper tonight, dear") and other perishables that are to be renewed in the great Supply Side.
One quite odd bit of equipment is suggested, among the endless other items:
As the sea sweeps into our capital, accompanied by earthquakes, firestorms and the Red Cross, you can test your batteries and pat your wallet and congratulate yourself that like the wise virgins you trimmed your lamp (don't forget coal oil, by the way) in good time.
And in the meantime -- short howe'er it be -- you can feel superior to slothful folk, and can indulge in the dream that you can take care of yourself when disaster comes.
My own advice -- and don't ask me why we should suddenly be planning for disasters in which we need all this stuff, but I've seen several articles of this sort lately -- is somewhat different from the above:
Get rid of everything. The Persian tiles, the slightly damaged electric toaster, the oversized Empire sofa whose springs gave out in 1878, the extension cords that the lawn mower chewed somewhat, the tin molds for Danish, Swedish, German, Italian and Russian cookies (never used, of course) and all the rest of the stuff, let it go, as you prepare for disaster.
Then, when the firestorm rages through the capital, you will not have a lot of stuff in your house or on your mind, and can race straight to your stud box where, among the brass collar buttons and one gold cuff link that was your grandfather's, you may speedily find Luke's dog tags from 1963 and, saving them, dash out of the house free, 21-plus, and ready to do the pioneer bit.
Otherwise, if you don't follow my advice and clear stuff out, the first thing you will do when the earth trembles and the sea floods in, is save the extra freezer in the basement, the one with the stale bread in it.
Another thing worth considering, when disaster strikes, is spending some time at the theater. During the London Blitz, the smallish theater flourished and the populace was sustained to a large extent by actors and actresses.
The Star theater (Sylvia Toone's Actor's Repertory) had a huge night here with an audience of 40 which, I am told by Constance Holden, actress, is the biggest house to date.
They improvise. You sit at the edge of the stage and offer suggestions for some possible action, and the cast (there are 10 in the group altogether) start acting, reacting, developing dialogue and motives, etc., before your very eyes.
Holden, like all good actresses, writes for Science magazine and is occassionally seen eating celery at refined receptions given by the National Academy of Science.
"Eighty-five percent of all actors are out of work," she said, and I gather she intends to keep right on with her science stuff. She is a Bennington girl who, instead of becoming a potter, became a writer an an actress. She worked in Living Theatre for a bit and got bit by the boards, so to speak, and it's doubtful anybody now will ever get the Bernhardt out of her.
Like so many before her in the theater, she started in a small way, thinking it might "help me as a writer" and be good general therapy and, like many before her in the theater, she continues in a small way.
That is, they don't hound her night and day to perform in the East Room or to give a concert version of "Antigone" on national television. But she found fulfillment recently playing Nancy Reagan choosing the Cabinet at a casting agency.
"Pretty scandalous?" I ventured.
"You are editorializing. Why do you assume it was scandalous?" Holden said.
Well, I just hoped it was.
Holden and all the rest of the troupe are into honesty. Terribly hard to talk with any of them, I suppose. But apart from their set pieces (rehearsed, of course) their great specialties are improvised dramas in which it is important to keep the brain (or the supergo) under control and let the id out. They would not phrase it so, but the thing is to react to the other actors, not holding back, not censoring, not thinking ahead, and not plotting to work in the Deposition Scene from "Richard II" when you can next get a word in edgewise.
You concentrate on the circumstances of the sketch at hand, suggested by the audience, say, and you give it all you've got.
"Honesty is the thing," said Holden, and of course you're pretty vulnerable. Your head tells you to whoa, not to say that, even though that is what you feel at the moment. You say it anyway.
People have not been killed on stage, however, I ascertained.
"When people are honest and spontaneous they are always interesting," Holden went on, "and the trouble is when people are not really honest at all."
She assured me that when the actors truly concentrate and truly act as their inner core tells them to, then the piece works nicely and the audience is pleased.
"Ah, but is it art?" I countered, prepared to dodge some olives from her salad in the cafeteria where we were dining (Holden paid for her own, and does not eat olives, not that it's important in the long run).
"That's where Sylvia Toone comes in," said the actress, gazing steadily from beneath her gorgeous mop of red hair. Toone teaches them as they go, liberating them, you might say, and encouraging them to be brave, to be honest, to accept the anxiety that the stage necessarily involves.
They perform at 8 and 10 on Friday and Saturday nights in the basement of the Delie Sun next to the Commodore Hotel right there at the Union Station. The Deli thought the Star troupe might help sales of beer and sandwiches (the audience is encouraged to have something to eat while souls and humors are being catered to on the stage).
Without giving away any busines secrets, Constance Holden is not sure the Deli Sun sales have boomed, actually. The actors will move elsewhere after the March 14 performances.
I don't know why -- it's just something that popped into my head, and if it were not for Ms. Holden I wouldn't say it, of course, but she gave such a lecture on honesty -- I don't know why, but I feel this troupe and their performances, especially the improvised ones, would be far better disaster training for us than a whole garage full of powdered milk.
They would expose us to honesty. And with the tidal wave an firestorm moving in, it might be worth trying.