The last time I wrote something here was both of the following: a week ago and just before hurricane Sandy knocked my power out. I made a couple of cracks about how CNN and others were overstating the severity of the storm to come. Fear-mongering, as usual, to keep us from switching over. To keep the ad-man happy.
Well… I’m still without power. The office I work in is still without power. And the train line I take to work “remains suspended until further notice.” Sandy was a baseball bat, all those days ago, and this part of the world was the hanging curve ball it smashed out the park. (Hapless Caribbean the first of back-to-back home-runs; Canada the next batter up after the no-good pitcher finally got yanked.) Sandy came, saw, and conquered, and CNN had it right, after all.
All of which, several nights running, failed to the win the fight for our attention, in a cold, dark house with a baby to be fed. Candles, blankets, and the crying baby won. As we – me, Jacqueline, and Colette – tried our best to all stay the very best of friends, as, without light, television, radio, and the internet, our world shrank right down to a few walls we could barely even see. In our distant part of New Jersey that less than two years ago I wouldn’t have known from the Badlands of Montana.
Urgh. Cell phone batteries running low. Perishable food slowly rotting in the silent fridge and freezer (how long to keep it, on the off-chance of power soon returning?), and, wholly absent: the steady hum of a house working to be a home – the whir of a modem, the air conditioning, a TV on in the bedroom, a live-streaming radio show from across the world in England. And everywhere outside, the same sorry picture lent a breath of life by dawn gradually replacing night: fallen, uprooted trees, and the rough, wet detritus of a freak October storm.
A couple of days in, we made it first of all to a Target somewhere along Route 10. Running only on emergency, back-up power, much of it was off-limits, and the rest gloomy and quiet. But at least we were among other people similarly displaced – and at least we could stock up on cartons of soup (the hobs of our gas oven thankfully available to use), snack food, and a few helpful household aids. And it was someplace to take little Colette, bundled up in hat, scarf, and some sort of snow-suit. She seemed ok, but we worried about her anyway. The night before, the temperature on my bedside clock read “57F”.
Next, last Friday, we made it to our in-laws house in Princeton. They lost power too, but got it back before us. We drove late at night, the first chance we got. Along the way, dozens of gas stations were closed, many traffic lights were out (temporary stop signs replacing them), and several roads cordoned off, either dangerous or impassable.
At last I got to read some updates from work: twenty-odd sites throughout New York City (one main office, and the rest the housing sites we operate for formerly homeless individuals, people with various kinds of mental illness, and low-income New Yorkers), and a good amount of them without power, flooded, or both. Many emergency contingency plans wiped out by the storm, as well – emergency phone lines, faxes, and servers down for the count like so much of everything else.
Meanwhile, again, it’s still just me, Jacqueline, and Colette. My in-laws off on a short, pre-planned vacation (I know, lucky timing, right?!) Maybe next time around, I’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny. Truth be told, though, Sandy really kicked us up the arse. To many others much more seriously, I know… but plenty enough to leave me feeling worn out and beat.
As it turns out, you take away for a week or so many of the things that make up your life – and the effects are unsettling and weird. Maybe it’s mostly tiredness typing, but my circumstances right now have left me kind of spooked. No joke: a day or three ago, a typical, reassuring sssshh for Colette tumbled so exhausted out my mouth I didn’t even get to the end of it. And around that same time, some part of my brain got me asking Jackie, “how much of the things we enjoy really give us pleasure?” I don’t know. That TV that usually is on in the bedroom: did I miss it being on – or realize in a jolt all the things it took the place of ?
Either way, what price right now a good night’s sleep in my own fucking bed?