My first blog post, 1,790 days ago, was on Christian Marclay’s The Clock.I have posted 999 times since, each somehow related to “my writing process”. Notes on The Bachelor and Hurricane Sandy drew the most traffic. Details of my actual process attracted the least. What’s next?Another 1,000, I guess.
I need something that makes sense, that will make me whole. These words, that’s what I want. Need is the word. I think of it as simple, straight, nothing else in my head. It is why I get up, stand in the room, move through the streets, reach out to drink. And while I’m trying to keep the eggs evenly out, this is it: a stream of words, where I’m turning and move like I know, inciting right, others assent and are stirred. It’s not that none of the rest matters but that I lose the sense of what really is, what it might be, important made nothing and nothing jacked up, so that I don’t know what I’m doing and may seem like I’m screwing the wind. Everything else is distraction. Yeah, like I’m doing now, a direction, something clear, words published, understood, stamped forward. Yeah, that’s it. That.
Make no bones about it, Barrack Obama is the greatest President of the United States in the past 60 years. I say this despite the anti-Obama media barrage, the ceaseless mud slung by his political opponents and the embittered populace who have lost faith in a man who was once their desperate icon for hope. The truth is that President Obama was set up to fail. The ridiculous expectations dumped on him demanded that he walk on water and then turn that into wine; anything less would be a failure. That’s the way everyone wanted it. It gave them a perfect scapegoat for unemployment, international strife, indeed whatever plague or natural disaster arose.
All anyone has to say is, “Obama’s let us down again,” and there is applause. This despite the facts, which are these:
a. Obama passed a bill that actually made health care more affordable, an achievement no other president has been able to achieve in the face of a sick political culture which believes in money more than well being.
b. Obama has reduced America’s military presence in the world, despite a war-hungry opposition, and worked to develop coalitions with anyone who will listen.
d. Obama has consistently endorsed social policies which promote understanding and acceptance of others, such as gay marriage. And although he has yet to succeed in the battle for gun control, he has stood firm for the reduction of automatic weapons.
e. Obama acknowledges the need to confront climate change and looks ready to put this issue at the top of his agenda in his final two years.
It’s actually surprising that there hasn’t been even more hate against the president. After all, not only has he directly challenged the establishment – and played golf with friends – but there is also the insidious problem this country has with skin color.
As high-minded as it might have sounded to have a black guy as president, there are some, a lot actually, that are tired of the idea and want to go back to way things were, everyone knowing their place, that kind of thing. The George Zimmerman verdict, unrest in Ferguson and choke-hold death of Eric Garner all speak to the fact that this is not going away any time soon.. Nevertheless, the elections are just a couple of days away, and as much as everyone seems to want to distance themselves from this leader of our time, only time will tell how bad a mistake it turns out they all made.
I am back to work on my science fiction book, The Ark, at the beginning again.
I edged out further, holding hard to the balcony rail, and looked down to the street, 28 floors below, at the neat rows of sandbags banked up around the Custom House grates.A howling gust snapped sharply over the trees as a line of Japanese tourists, ensconced in cheap clear ponchos, suddenly appeared out of the park, some stopping to take pictures, followed by a police car, its blue lights mute and slow. They had stopped broadcasting the evacuation order hours ago. Zone A was closed. The surge was almost here.
I slid the balcony door closed, and the curtains lulled back. Apollo circled away, eyeing the black sky and buffeting glass.
“This morning’s high tide was at 8:30 am. Eleven hours ago.” The weather guy was earnest, his sleeves rolled up, his square jaw pushed out for this soap-opera apocalypse. “That tide surged over the walls into the city this morning. It has already been here. This tide is a full moon high tide; it’s much worse. This is the one we have to watch. This one could be anywhere from 8 feet up to 11, 12, 13 feet. 13 feet! Think about that.” He had his hand stretched up like he might sing. “In just 15 minutes. 13 feet in 15 minutes. This is as serious as it gets. This is it.”
My blog had minimal interest when I started 16 months ago – maybe a dozen visits a day, and most of those by my loving partner. And then I blogged about Hurricane Sandy and interest spiked, up to 80-100 hits a day. I tried to keep interest up with my thoughts on gun control and my Top 5 Lists. Interest slid back to 10-20 hits, and I reminded myself that the purpose of the blog was to focus on my writing process. And so I stuck to that.Interestingly enough, people have been visiting more over the past few months – with hits exceeding the days of Sandy, not that this means anything, especially when I admit that most searches are the same: Kesha naked, Nadine Velasquez and Jane Fonda Barbarella.
My obsession with disasters started at a young age when I blew up model airplanes and cars. It was never as satisfying as I expected and always ended with a mess to clean up. The films were better: The Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno and Earthquake, which had Sensurround Sound; I went to that twice. I have lost interest in these films for the most part – Twister, Armageddon, 2012 lack the original flare – but remain fascinated by massive destruction. I gap and ogle. I exchange messages and express my concern; it happens every time, Oklahoma, New Orleans and Japan. When Hurricane Sandy came to New York, I walked the dog to see the storm’s surge in Lower Manhattan. I must admit to a habit of walking away from a place – anywhere, a subway train or building – and then looking back, thinking it might explode, be engulfed in smoke and flame. It hasn’t happened yet, but I keep half expecting it. Is this a side effect to my disaster addiction? What is this dreadful fascination? Do I have a sense of doom, an obsession with the impending end? Or is it just boredom in the modern world?
Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects have been well documented in New York City and the surrounding environs. The New York Times published a fascinating map on the flooded areas just today. But Hurricane Sandy’s damage is even more far-reaching, as it goes all across Long Island, to the Hamptons and beyond.
Flying Point Beach in Southampton, shown above, had been some 40-50 yards wide, all of it long and flat. It has since been pushed back at least 30 of those yards, right up into the dunes in parts. It has torn out fencing and grassroots, leaving behind a dark black residue. And while the ocean still breaks at the same edge, the water now flows across a wide shallows where there once was sand. There are also hundreds of trees down all over the region There is a certain beauty to all of this, even if it’s broken scattered, or just detritus. But even if it isn’t appreciated by all, as they say, life does go on.
I took Biba out for her morning walk the day after Hurricane Sandy. We found this car on Maiden Lane just below Pearl Street, a Toyota Prius, most unfortunately parked.
I didn’t think much about it except that I would hate to have found my car hit by one of the few trees in Downtown Manhattan. I imagined the owner was still in his apartment, calling his family, telling them that he was all right.
Biba and I came down Maiden Lane again the following morning; the car was still there.
I thought about how it would almost be worse to see the smashed hood and windshield without the tree still on it. I thought that the owner – let’s call him Tim – had probably come down to find it, cursed, and gone uptown to power his computer and email pictures of his afflicted Prius to the family. They could forward them to the insurance company for him.
A day later, three days after the storm, and the car was still there.
I figured that Tim had realized that there was nothing he could do about this and decided to deal with everything else first – water, power, food. If the city towed it, so much the better.
One week later, a day after the Nor’easter, the Prius was unmoved.
Tim had probably left town to get away from everything. Maybe he had got a ride with his girlfriend to her parents’ place in Virginia. He could have a proper shower there, sleep, and forget about all of this. That made sense.
Days turned into a week and then some; nineteen days in all; the Prius remained..
Did Tim leave New York altogether? Was he not coming back? Was he that upset about it? Was it even Tim’s car? Or had he borrowed it from his girlfriend without asking and now he couldn’t admit it? Had he abandoned it just to get out of a lie? Didn’t he realize that the police would tow it eventually, and she would find out then?
No, he didn’t realize that. He was leaving it here. He didn’t care. He didn’t really love her anyway. It wasn’t worth the hassle. At least he had had those few good warm days in Virginia. The truth was that he had never even liked her or her Prius that much. I mean where had all of this environmentalism gotten him in the end? It had got him here. He had always dreamed of something else, something exotic and incredible. The Mercedes Sedan CLS…now that was a car!
He knew that he could really love that. (Poor Tim.)
New York City has been called The Capitol of the World – albeit mostly by New Yorkers – and is iconically loved. It’s a great city, overwhelming in its needs and offerings, inhabited by peoples of all nationalities and faiths, many of whom live and work well with each other – as symbolized by their recent action and compassion to those devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
But what New York is really known for is its money, its business and its buildings.
The unrelenting canyons stretch out, the sun barely there, the sounds and smells swirling within. And while there is a dynamic aesthetic to the steel and asphalt, there is something else, something sinister and unfeeling. As I blogged last week, many of these buildings remained fully lit through the blackout caused by Hurricane Sandy, buildings such as 222 Broadway (Bank of America)
and 140 Broadway (Brown Brothers Harriman). There was no one in these buildings during the blackout, no one working, no one moving, no one. The assumption is that the employees simply couldn’t get to work and the buildings were kept lit and heated by generators, but it is an ominous image. It seems that these buildings just might aim to carry on without us…leaving us to wonder: “Who are they here for?”
One of the neighborhoods subjected to the most devastation by Hurricane Sandy is the Rockaways, in southern Queens. I rented a car and went to the Occupy Sandy Hub in Brooklyn to ferry supplies and volunteers. We loaded the car with food, diapers, cleaning supplies before heading out through the traffic and confusion. The Rockaways is a very long peninsula, spanning some 180 streets; many of the houses have been badly damaged by flooding; power remains out at most intersections; and the sand and detritus is everywhere. We drove slowly through the streets – slowed by emergency vehicles and construction equipment everywhere – and made our delivery at Inglesia Pentacostal Rehoboth.There was a gas station with no lines across the street, however I had rented a car with a license plate ending in zero (which counts as an even number in the current gas rationing system) and therefore was not supposed to have access to gas today. (The rule is odd number plates on odd number days). I thought about this and the fact there were not only no lines, but there were absolutely no cars either. It seemed like a good rule to break. I left my volunteers at the St. Gertrude Parish.
I returned to the Occupy Sandy hub for more supplies. I re-stocked with blankets, batteries and volunteers – three moderately hip 20-somethings from Brooklyn – and was directed out to Coney Island.
Coney Island, a geographical neighbor to the Rockaways and yet separated by many miles of roads and traffic, appears to be doing better than the Rockaways, but is still struggling with a lack of power and an excess of sand
and muck. We delivered food to a small apartment building, climbing the cold dark staircase, knocking on doors and doing our best to communicate with the mostly Russian inhabitants. I was brought into the apartment of an elderly Russian lady who showed me how she has cleaned up after the six inches of flood water. She didn’t need food or water. She had been provided with those. She needed her power to be turned back on. I couldn’t do that. We hugged instead.