It’s been a long week. Sunday night, the NYC Subway shut down in advance of Hurricane Sandy. Parts of New York City are getting back to normal, while other areas are still devastated. My electricity has been out since Monday night, but things could be worse. I have running water and my gas stove works. Since I work in midtown, getting supplies wasn’t too much of a hassle – although lines are longer than usual, everywhere.
Further downtown, things are worse. On Staten Island and in New Jersey, in parts of Queens and Brooklyn, things are worse. (Note from Sunday: The situation in certain affected communities is still not good, but efforts to get help to people in those areas seem to be getting more notice now.)
Sunday, October 28th, my roommate and I stocked up on supplies and prepared to be without the Subway. Monday morning, we went down to the water to look at the beginnings of the storm surge; the park was already closed off, and the pier that usually sits several feet out of the water already had waves at its edges.
As the weather got more intense on Monday night, we lost power and cell signals. My roommate and I stayed up until about midnight, reading aloud from Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf and drinking beer and wine. Earlier in the day I made vegetarian chili, just before the power went out I made my grandmother’s recipe for pizza. “At least pizza will keep for a couple days,” I thought. Work had already been cancelled for Tuesday, at that point. When the power blew, our frenzy of snacking came to an end: now the plan was to conserve the cold in the fridge in the hopes it would only take a day or two to come back on.
Tuesday morning I woke up before my roommate. No power, no internet. No hot water, though the cold still worked.
At this point in writing, the friend who’d taken me in Thursday night and I started chatting and I put this blog aside for a few days. I’d like to jump ahead, but instead I’ll pick up where I left off. The remainder of this blog is being written early Sunday morning.
I checked the windows: things didn’t look too badly flooded, but my phone wasn’t getting a signal. Without a battery-operated radio, there was just one thing to do: head outside and survey the damage in the neighborhood. I left my roommate a note saying I was going exploring, and headed outside with my cell phone and charger. I got to the corner and said good morning to a couple pedestrians; finally I ran into a man walking purposefully down the avenue and asked if he knew if anything was open.
“What kind of place are you looking for?” he asked.
“Just somewhere I can charge my phone,” I said.
He shook his head. “There’s no power below 30th street,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said. He continued on his way and I stood for a moment before deciding to head back upstairs. Once I got back to the apartment I asked my roommate if she’d like to come exploring with me, since we wouldn’t be able to communicate, or if she wanted to stay at home. She decided to stay in the apartment and I headed out.
I walked up to Times Square, through the West Village and Chelsea. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but there were plenty of closed buildings and trees down along the way. It was a few blocks before I got my cell phone signal back. Everything was closed. Most stores had signs in their windows from Sunday night – closed from XX time because the subway was shutting down at seven. There were no traffic lights, but not much traffic (yet) either. Eventually I made it to the Marriott, where an upper-floor lounge had plenty of plugs and power – plus coffee. (The Starbucks downstairs was also, it seems, something of a post-hurricane Mecca for city-dwellers looking for a way to spend their time). I drank a coffee and charged my phone and called my parents and chatted with some of you on Twitter, and once I’d rested for a while, turned around and started back on my way home.
Tuesday night was quiet and dark. My roommate and I are both writers, so we set up our candles and projects and I got a bit further along in editing and rewriting Electalytics (by the way, once my mailing list gets 50 subscribers, I’ll be sending out a sneak preview of the first chapter of my novella project). Both of us had work in the morning. By the end of Tuesday, there were loose estimates of power coming back on.
Wednesday I went to work. I was the only one on my team who made it in. Limited bus service had resumed, but the bus stops were mobbed – this got marginally better as the week progressed and the subway slowly breathed back to its current (as of 5am) status of about 80% functionality. I came home Wednesday night and, with no power or internet to distract me, decided to wash my hair. This required boiling water on the stove, dumping it in the tub, and hoping I could finish boiling enough water to take a bath before it all cooled off. I joked to my roommate (over text – by now we’d gotten enough of a signal back in the apartment to be able to send and receive texts, though they were often delayed) that I was going all Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Wednedsay night was Halloween. Bloomberg had already cancelled/postponed the Halloween Parade, and with the power out my roommate and I decided to go for a walk before it got too dark out. We took a flashlight with us.
I don’t know about other New Yorkers, but for me, this was one of the first chances I’d had to experience the city in darkness – and as we walked, of course, it got darker. Pretty soon it was pitch black out, and we were glad to have the flashlight. Walking across downtown, it occurred to me: anybody – or anything (remember, it’s Halloween and my roommate and I are both writers) – could be hiding in the shadows. Once I said that out loud, our imaginations ran away with us and we beat a trail back to the city’s nearest main thoroughfare.
Cars were backed up from Houston to Cooper Square. Commuters were smushed into buses that weren’t moving anywhere (the featured photo from this blog entry was taken on this walk). The High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) restrictions hadn’t been put into place yet, so traffic was barely moving.
Walking back through our neighborhood, we found a cafe where the owners had set up a generator and had a full menu ready. It was an oasis of civilization. We ducked in, charged phones, had wine and split an order of bruschetta. Next, we wandered along to a cash-only place that had no power, but was still serving beer. We got to talking to the women who owned the place, and even got to watch part of the impromptu Halloween Parade that headed past – a thin line of costumed enthusiasts hanging on to a city tradition. Finally, we stopped at a bar across the street from the apartment and bought a bottle each of Corona before getting a stealth-upsold shot of Jameson apiece – “only,” as we found out once they were poured, nine bucks.
Thursday was when the frayed edges of the week started to unravel. I picked out the things that we needed to get out of the fridge and walked them into work, while my roommate made her second 100-block trek to work in as many days. I found a gym at lunchtime and had my first proper shower since Sunday night. Left work early to make my own (much shorter) hike home. But when I got here, the power still wasn’t on and the apartment was cold; by the time my roommate got home we agreed we’d strike out to stay with friends until things came back together – which was now looking like Saturday night.
Which brings us to Thursday night. We split a cab to Grand Central and parted ways, and I headed further uptown to stay with my old roommate (you may remember her, she was briefly on twitter as @mycoolroommate). I bought us a huge BBQ dinner, we stuffed our faces, and then we watched TV and hung out. Friday was full of silly movies – first NO STRINGS ATTACHED (which I have to say, I quite liked) and then TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL, which if you haven’t seen , you should make time for. Friday night we met up with another friend who’s a bartender, and she kept us in cocktails for the evening.
Saturday morning, the news came out via ConEd’s twitter feed that my network had been restored around 9 in the morning. I made my way home – the subway was already running straight through Manhattan to Brooklyn. I walked home from Union Square to survey the neighborhood, and spent most of yesterday alternating between cleaning up my apartment.
Now it’s Sunday. I woke up at three in the morning (technically four) after falling asleep early last night and spent the last couple hours writing this post and putting photos in the gallery below.