It’s an okay Sunday morning, November 4 – but we Kings had the unreal experience of almost nothing happening here on the favorable high ground on the western end of Long Island. I believe we are 18 feet above sea level…and we’ve been spared both Irene and Sandy…
Sandy killed several people in our neighborhood who were out walking their dogs. Hit by falling trees. Some big ones gone in the park and in the GreenWood cemetery as well. Our house and our block unscathed. Our power flickered a few times late Saturday night while wind hissed and hummed.
Three blocks down slope from us the Gowanus Canal got a flushing none of us needed. Will this ameliorate the toxicity, or simply stir up the bottom stuff, called “black mayonnaise”? (Poetry lies mostly untapped in urban hydrologists.)
Timing: Today, Sunday, is only a full week from the storm. I honestly thought by last THURSDAY – it was four whole days after all – Elinor and I could present our reading series at the SideWalk on Avenue A. Hardly a beachfront, Avenue A. So what the lights had gone out. It took a while for the extent the damage to sink in for us. After all no tidal surge squashed the reading we’d planned – Bob Rosenthal and Ammon Shea. The whole shebang serving lower Manhattan blew up.
The flood barrier at the 14th Street Con Ed plant was built to be some 18 inches higher than the highest flood tide ever recorded at the time it was constructed. Which was 1803. When base sea levels were 8 or10 inches lower than now. Waiting to happen I’d think. One thing you can be sure about in re climate change is how slowly it is. An inch a decade. Count it up.
In Jersey City our daughter Mallory not so lucky. They are a mile from the harbor but their house is only one foot above sea level. It was swamped…four feet of filthy salt water rushed onto the main floor and the basement filled to the top. Problem is the basement was already full. Mallory and her husband are packrats. He saves stuff he finds abandoned. She “buys in bulk.” They were left with a huge sodden spoiling mess. The water force so strong a freezer full of meat was knocked over. They still have no power but they do have an electrician and a plumber on the case — and some wonderful neighborhood volunteers. No flood insurance. They have applied to FEMA though they suspect they may be over an income eligibility line. Yesterday’s crew of volunteers completed the basement clean up. High marks & many many thanks are due.
Mallory discovered her Bard diploma and some Stafforshire china inherited from her great-grandmother undamaged and unbroken. She also found her menorah,none the worse from salt water & mud. I think we’ll need to do a Hanukkah celebration next month!
Our friend Harry was startled awake about 7am Saturday morning by shouting down on Barrow Street… The power is back! Screaming joy. Like winning the World Series. Like Happy New Year. The Hudson River had come almost as far up the street as his apartment building on the corner of Washington. His house has been dark and cold since then. His car was safe but marooned high up in a multistory garage.
Lights. Warmth! Hot water. From the look of Facebook, every one of our friends who hadn’t decamped was taking baths, washing clothes, and posting on Facebook yesterday.
So wonderful when accompanied by hot water.
As late as Saturday night, there was a black hand on lower Manhattan. Park Avenue South at 38th Street, where our friend Virginia lives — pitch black and cold; 39th Street bright and functional, people everywhere. Every restaurant from there on north jammed with customers. Lines at takeout joints like the gas lines in Jersey.
Driving home from Lincoln Center to Brooklyn this Saturday night, our daughter Hetty described LES: No stop lights, no street lights. Here and there a fire in a trashbarrel. Shadows. The odd camp lantern. She saw people washing in cold water from a hydrant.
In Jersey City, hydrant water isn’t safe to drink our daughter Mallory reports. Nor is water from house taps. Boiling isn’t advised as it should boil hard for ten full minutes. They’ve been getting bottled water at the Bright Street Elementary School, two blocks from their house.
Hillarious descriptions from the two New Jersey grandchildren about the military meals they were given. Surprisingly edible: the pasta and red sauce, and the sliced beef and green peppers. Once the weird chemical smell abated. There’s a package of something under the aluminum tray into which one pours the contents of a packet of salt water. It steams immediately and produces hot food in about 3 minutes. “Dog vomit” they called the chicken with gravy. Are these the infamous MREs I’ve read about? The kids say they are “Heater Meals.”
Gas stories are everywhere. Gas for stoves and water heaters is okay if it hasn’t been shut off. This is gas-0-lean for cars. Staten Island and all of New Jersey is turned turtle without a car that runs. We hear that people are driving (if they have the gas) all the way to Pennsylvania or Connecticut to get some. But I’m not getting this first hand. I’m polluted with ‘weather-porn’ – the tide and temperature of media coverage.
Man, the media adore those photos of smashed yachts and upended beachfront properties. Stories they pronounce “heart-rending” (close-ups of mud covered tricycles) or “inspiring” (beachfront neighbors sitting around bonfires). We must have seen Breezy Point 14 times…and we don’t watch TV that much. Nothing at all from Newark or Bayonne where a beachfront bonfire isn’t possible. Worse, actually, hardly any serious information about water quality, gas leaks, or how to reach 311 if your phones are dead. As in the political campaign our 4th Estate flunks the mission of a free press and majors in bathos and sensation.
Everyone everywhere, hit or not hit, is a bit shell shocked. Many of our downtown friends have refugeed to friends family or even hotels. Others, especially single folks with bicycles are coping well.
The weirdest for us here in Brooklyn is being MAROONED. Until today there was not way to get to Manhattan. Well– as of yesterday one could take a subway or bus to Atlantic Avenue and cram into a special bus for a weird trip over the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge. Now the buses have been cancelled. I’ll be so happy to see a dirty old #5 train. Even if I have to stand all the way to 86th Street where I have a twice-postponed doctor appointment.
God knows what this will do to the election Tuesday. Another story for sure…
A last word, very quickly responding to all, from Steve Dalachinsky:
power back after 51/2 days
disabled seating for priorities only
430 am radio goes on
tv on lights on
try to kiss wife
(my) power deminishes after 5 minutes
priority disabled hum veeeees
made 3 collages by flashlight
eating by candle light in a tenement apartment
first thing discovered
after power is back
one quietly struggling little mouse
caught in a glue trap
beneath the fridge
hot water back
marathon no marathon
opera on the