July 12, 2006
AN OPEN LETTER TO LIPA CHAIRMAN RICHARD KESSEL
Dear Mr. Kessel,
I'm obsessed with you. I Googled you and read how you came to be the Chairman of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) by pushing out those hopeless, helpless, executive idiots at LILCO, who were causing so many power failures every summer in the Hamptons.
Actually Mr. Kessel, I'm writing to invite you to join me and my wife, The Beautiful Judy Licht, for a quiet, candlelight dinner at our home in East Hampton — just the three of us. Let me emphasize that it will be a candlelight dinner not because we want it to be a candlelight dinner, but because, thanks to you and LIPA, we have had no friggin' electricity in our home just about every night for the past two weeks.
I'll say this about LIPA, you are like a well-oiled brownout machine. Every night at about 5 p.m., the lights go out. Then they come back for a half hour — just to get our hopes up — but by 5:30 p.m., they are out again. They stay out until 10 p.m.
But July 1st, that was the day LIPA was at its worst.
It started at 5 p.m., as we were getting ready for our annual (God and Plovers willing) fireworks party at our home.
Mr. Kessel, as you might imagine, there is a certain amount of tension as you wait for 500 guests to show up for a party. You want so much for everyone to have a great time. You pray nothing will go wrong.
Then someone noticed the light in our pool wasn't working.
That's a pretty frightening thought when you imagine 500 people walking on your lawn in the dark and all you can hear is an occasional splash and gurgle as yet another guest stumbles and falls into your pool and drowns.
We called our pool maintenance man and he showed up, but as he started to repair the pool light, suddenly the electricity went off. To make matters worse, our overworked back-up generator kicked in for a few minutes then sputtered and died.
Now Judy, not believing that LIPA could target our neighborhood for their planned brownouts three nights in a row, decided it was an electrical problem.
Have you ever tried to get an electrician to make a house call at 5 p.m. Saturday night on a Fourth of July weekend?
But Judy, in a panic, got on her cell phone and started calling electricians.
"Please, I beg you. You must come over as soon as you can," she shouted into the phone. And then she uttered four words that I have only heard in 1930s movies about people who were too rich for their own good.
She said, "MONEY IS NO OBJECT."
Now I know some people who are millionaires — I even know some people who are billionaires. I have never heard any one of them say, "Money is no object."
I almost passed out. I screamed at Judy loud enough to be heard in Montauk, "Money is an object! It's always an object!"
A visit to a neighbor's house proved that once again the whole area was being screwed by LIPA.
Finally at 6:30, Gerard Tarzan, my hero from GT Power Systems, showed up on his mission of mercy and restarted the generator and the lights flickered on.
The night was saved.
Of course, the generator wasn't strong enough to power the music. So, Mr. Kessel, the music to accompany the fireworks that I worked so hard to make perfect all week stopped and started, stopped and started, while the sky was filled with fireworks.
The sainted Kate Smith's inspiring rendition of "God Bless America" was ruined. Kate sounded like she was hiccupping "God Bless America."
Yes, you and your gang of electrical terrorists ruined "God Bless America" by Kate Smith. Have you no shame?
When I told Judy I was writing this column she said, "Kessel? You mean Richie Kessel?" — I used to cover him years ago when I was doing the news. He was a Mario Cuomo guy. He was The Chairman Of The State Consumer Protection Agency.
The shock of your last title sent a chill through my body.
At LIPA, you have turned out to be the kind of executive you once swore you would protect me, an innocent consumer, from.
But Ritchie, I'm an upbeat man. I see the bright side of every issue, even though I pay my electric bills for service I'm not getting. Even though I don't have a clean towel or set of underwear in East Hampton because the washing machine doesn't work on a generator.
Even though all my neighbors have also lost their electricity and are LIPA victims just like me. Even though I have to spend every waking moment wondering when one of your LIPA executive thugs will decide that it's time to brown out my street again. I am still an upbeat man.
Rather than curse the darkness, I will light a candle, and then, in its dim, flickering light, I will curse you and the darkness.
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