Downtown Manhattan is a noisy neighbourhood, making it hard finding a place to think. For example, while there is a park around the corner….
John Street Methodist Church Park
It is claustrophobic, more akin to a prison yard than a park. City Hall Park offers a beautiful fountain, festively decorated during the winter, for contemplation… But the traffic, on Park Row and Broadway, is a never-ending story. The East River Esplanade looks like it might have moments of quiet…
If not for the fact that the traffic on FDR Drive Overpass is worse.
The World Trade Memorial has potential as a place of solace…
Once the security checkpoints are gone and the construction is complete.
World Trade One projected completion date: 2014
Until then, I will have to accept that the only time silence comes anywhere around here is when a hurricane comes to town. But then the power is gone too…unless I get a generator. And there’s no quiet in that.
We got our power back at 7:30 last night. I was actually writing my previous post (Sandy IX) in a deli while it happened. Oh well, missed the moment. We did have the salmon and shrimp and then played Scrabble by candlelight – and waxed nostalgic over the recent dark days.
Two blocks below Stock Exchange, October 29
I read The New York Timeson-line later, and there are a lot of depressing numbers: casualties, those without power, percentage of operational gas stations, etc. It’s overwhelming. Here are my numbers, hopefully a little less daunting: 95 hours without power; 264 floors (ascended & descended) for Biba walks; 7 locations visited for connecting/powering up; 5 meetings cancelled; 3 buildings sighted with full power and no occupants throughout the week; 3 movies viewed (at $27 per visit!); 2 Negronis consumed ($12 per); 1 new bike lock purchased ($119!)…and 10 blogs posted. (By the way, the number of floors for Biba walks does not compare to people we were told about who lived on the 53rd and walked their dog three times a day. They eventually moved to a hotel.)
World Trade One: Power returned
It was still dark to the east and south of us; not everyone around here has their power back just yet. I took Biba out for her late-night walk before going to bed. The elevator is a marvelous thing.
This has all been quite mentally wearing, more so than I would have thought. I mean, it really hasn’t been that bad for us. It’s true that we didn’t have power or running water, and climbing the stairs has been exhausting – especially with old Biba! But we really did have everything we needed – food, shelter and each other. (It’s true.) One of the best aspects of these past days has been planning our journeys of escape – uptown and to Battery Park City. The films have been a definite highlight. It’s a wonder what a couple of hours in the dark of a theater can do for your mindset – taken away to a different reality. That said, whatever you do, don’t see Looper. It’s not only stupidly violent; it’s also completely stupid. (And he kills himself in the end, so I’ve just ruined it for you.) Flight, on the other hand, is something to consider. It wasn’t what I expected. Interestingly enough, it has much in common with Zemickis’ previous hit, Castaway. There were some good moments and others not so much, but this film -and the others – have been about getting away from the dark…in the dark. Is that irony? I don’t know.
Extension cord coming across World Trade Center passageway from Battery Park
Being without electricity has been all right. Actually it’s been more than that. It’s been something; it’s been important and quiet – generators withstanding; it’s been still and dramatic. As the oft-quoted Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.” And we do. And it’s hard to process…because storms aren’t this: They are nothing more than this… and this… and this…
Statue of Liberty Island Ferry Terminal
I have felt like a tourist – an intruder – through it all. I have gone to look. I have gone to take pictures of the most dramatic (worst) things I could find. I have recorded the little things I have seen.
Flares as traffic lights at Broadway and Vesey Street
One day I might know what they mean to me. In the meantime, Con Edison has called to confirm the story in The New York Times: we are supposed to get our power back at midnight tonight. And we are going to celebrate. We’ve opened the freezer. We’re going to have salmon and shrimp. We’ll play Scrabble and toast the return of the Electronic Age with Double Cross vodka and Moroccan Mint herbal tea…but we will miss the dark, as weird as that sounds. I’m just happy that it is now (almost) in the past.
I think I was a little over-detailed yesterday. It’s just that everything is so weird. I had a lot to do this week. I was going to start the final draft of My Bad Side. I had started to make notes on my next book – a trilogy about leaving for outer space! I had meetings. I had to teach. (I should also mention that my plans do not compare at all to those of my partner’s work and her amazing project coming to the Lincoln Statue next week at Union Square. (And despite everything, all of the power outages and cancelled deliveries, it is going to happen!)But these days are all weird. The first thought of the day is of course, “Is there any power?” The second thought is, “When will it come back?” (The New York TImes says tonight by midnight. Con Edison left a message with us that it would be Saturday at 11pm.) The third thought is, “I have to pee.” (And get water out of the tub to flush.)And then it’s time to walk Biba, and the weird day begins. Almost all of the little trees in this park east of Water Street are down.The truck is still underwater. And they’re still pumping water like crazy. But along with the batteries, they’re selling flowers too. We got the Spider Mums. And then I had a weird interaction with a guy that wanted money. “Hey, buddy, can I talk to you?” His eyes burned; his neck and arms were taut. “Nobody will listen down here. I don’t know what’s wrong with everybody down here. Listen, I just got out, all right? I’ve been out for two days. They gave me six years for assaulting a guy that raped my daughter, all right? And he was my fucking neighbor. And I just got out. I just need $16.25 for the bus fare, all right?” I had just bought my flowers and batteries. I gave him 85 cents. “That’s all I have.” That was true. “Thanks.” And he was gone. Things are starting to get back to normal. I think it might be time to get back to work.
Last night was very good. We learned that Battery Park City had power, and so we went to see Ben Affleck’s Argos. We got there an hour early and sat in the deserted corridor, eating candy – Sours, Skittles, and Peanut M&Ms – all terrible and good. The credits from the previous showing were still rolling when we moved into the theater, after which we listened to Taylor Swift explain her new song Red: “It’s an interesting color because it represents so many emotions: love, obsession, jealousy and anger.” There were previews for so many films for which I suddenly became very excited Gangster Squad, Lincoln and Flight. I’m going to see them all. The opening of Argos was great, laid out in a storyboard, and there were some good moments throughout, including some Canadian-proud moments with Ken Taylor and sharp lines delivered by Alan Arkin. Since it was Halloween, we decided to search out a bar in candlelight. The streets were completely dark, eerie, almost threatening. We turned home only to happen upon Ward III, exactly what we had hoped for: candlelit, like-minded people huddled in the dark and cold drinks.
Narragansett beer and a Negroni
We walked home under the full moon. I read over the New York Post‘s coverage in bed: Despair. The stories were all just that, not a good read before going to sleep. The next morning was clear and crisp. I carried Biba out for her morning tour. The tree was off the car. The pumps were gushing everywhere. We went to the Dog Run, which was empty; Biba was sad about that. A taxi passed by with the thickly-bearded driver gesticulating dramatically, indicating the surge flooding over the seawall to his passengers, three very big men, suited and earnest, in the back. It was a beautiful scene, to be honest, and I got stupidly emotional until I got to the bypass to the Battery Tunnel (still flooded) and was yelled at by a very grumpy policeman. A barge has arrived at Battery Park, I don’t know what for, but it’s the kind of thing that impressive machines come out of. I came home to a wonderful breakfast of cheese, bread, asparagus, tuna and kiwis before returning to Battery Park City for the charge up and connection time. We stopped at a deli – for matches, paper plates, batteries and a pesto sauce – and the woman serving us was gruff; she threw a couple of packs of matches into the bag and said she had no batteries. And then she suddenly realized we were from the ‘dark city’ (as cited by today’s New York Times) and dropped another handful of match packs in and asked her delivery guy to check all of the boxes for D batteries. They didn’t have them. And her manner never changed. She didn’t even acknowledge our thank you. But there her sudden awareness and desire to help was most touching. It wasn’t a show. It wasn’t an automated email, asking if I was doing well. It was something she consciously did. I thought about that and got all emotional when we arrived at the World Financial Center; we found a spot under the escalator. A cleaning man came by and said I wasn’t supposed to be there, but he said not to bother moving. “I didn’t see you.” And he left. And I wrote about all of this, until I was kicked out by security and moved on to Cosi, which is most accommodating – flatbread pizza, kind people, plugs and connectivity – and, yes, I got all emotional about that too. Maybe I need more sleep.
It’s the morning after the morning after, cool and crisp, a bit of sun, and no power still…no power where people live anyway. There does seem to be power in various empty office buildings around us, including the Helmsley Building on Broadway at Liberty, floor after floor brightly lit, and this monstrosity (the white building on the left) across from us…Note the stream of smoke coming out the side (middle of the picture, two thirds the way up), probably from their generator, keeping almost the entire building alight, with no one ever in the building…not one person through these days. (Insert profanity here.) Water is holding out well for us – at least a third of a tub full.
And food is fine. Pasta last night. Something out of the freezer tonight – probably fish – and then that’s it for the other stuff in there. I took Biba, our 13-year-old boxer, down the 13 flights. “Good girl! One more! Just one more!” It was a long slow descent. We went down to the East Side Esplanade. Same wreckage, a little boarding up, the water down a few feet in the tunnel. It’s bright and cool, water pumping out everywhere, a lot more to go. I carried Biba back up the stairs – her hind legs just don’t work – lay gasping for a minute or two and biked up into the city, through the gridlock, looking for a bike store. Our tires needed air. We made good time, easing past the blacked-out traffic lights and around a lot of impatient drivers and aggressive turns. I mentioned bad driving habits to a few. There were no bikes stores open until 80th Street across from the American Natural History Museum. I wanted to connect, charge and blog there, but it was sold out! Computers everywhere. We went back down through midtown and came back to the familiar confines of the Beer Authority. I’m charging up, watching updates and listening to the latest. Governor Cuomo had a few good words. “Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality. ” Maybe someone will listen? Ha! Good joke that one…but tomorrow is another day.
South Ferry Station at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, 10:15am, Monday, October 29
It’s quiet in the city. The sandbags have been secured. A few windows have been taped. The police cruisers are patrolling back and forth, broadcasting over their PA for all to evacuate. Hurricane Sandy approaches.
East River Esplanade (under the FDR Parkway) 10:05am, Monday, October 29
The East River Esplanade and Battery Park are both in Zone A and were evacuated officially at 5pm yesterday. The tourists, dog walkers and ambulance chasers (who pretend to be journalists) remain.
Police and tourists at the Wall Street Bull, Bowling Green Park, 10:50am, Monday, October 29
There is little to no wind – although I can report one howling gust that sounded like a banshee coming out from the buildings. The water has barely crested the docks and walkways.
Southern tip of Battery Park, Statue of Liberty in distance, 10:30am, Monday, October 29
This morning’s high tide, at 8:30am, assisted the water’s brief and bare rise into the city. This evening’s high tide, at 8:50pm, threatens to be higher, amidst the peak of the storm. We’ll see.
Brooklyn Bridge from East River Esplanade, 10:20am, Monday, October 29