I shut the lights off at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower in Baltimore last night, but it's not so easy in a large landmark like the tower, where there are five completely separate timers and control mechanisms, spread out over twenty-two stories, so my Earth Hour started at 8:25, 8:29, 8:35, 8:38, and 8:42 and ended with a similar spread. The worst part was that the mechanical timer for the lights in the clock faces is a brutal heavy brass steampunk-looking thing that I taped up with eight layers of tightly-bound duct tape, and it still managed to break loose early and restart the clock lights at some undetermined time without my intervention.
Seeing as I was on the verge of fainting from climbing the last seven floors on steep ladder/stairs, I opted to stay on the roof of the tower, 288 feet over Lombard and Eutaw Streets, for the duration, and watched the city going on its way around me. No other large building killed their lights, alas (particularly the old Baltimore Trust Company tower/Bank of America building, our only real rival for pride of place on the skyline, the brightly-lit SOBs), making me wonder if people would just assume some kind of electrical failure was involved and blame the facility manager (me). The air was clean and brisk and the sky as full of stars as you can expect in Baltimore, so I put on my mp3 player and a nice playlist of mid-seventies funk and spent an hour dancing over the disco-ball tabletop of the city, surrounded by helicopter fireflies.
Fire trucks came and went, in one case racing to a fire in West Baltimore that I could see clearly from my vantage point, and the Shock Trauma helicopter lifted off from the hospital below to rescue someone, and the funk kept on keepin' on. Almost at the end, a single police helicopter buzzed the tower, catching me in the twitchy blue-white light of the perp-spotter beam, and a stern voice barked out of the beating cacophony of the churning blades—
"What are you doing?"
I shrugged and yelled back, "I'm dancing!"
"When you come to Shibuya it's always a party," she says through an interpreter. "The whole city is having fun. I like to come here because it makes me feel energetic."
But these days, the mood is more somber. Because of the power shortage, giant electronic billboards that normally make evenings in Shibuya as bright as day have all been turned off.
Hidetomo Takahashi, an office worker, scans the crowd, trying to find a friend.
"Usually Shibuya is so bright you can see everyone's face even if they're far away," he says in Japanese. "But today it's so dark, it's difficult to see people approaching you."
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