Well Loyal Readers, after a couple days without power or running water with no end in sight, I did exactly what all of my training and hard-earned experience as an intrepid, prize-winning* journalist taught me to do: I said fuck it. I have safely made my way to my family in Maryland, where hot showers and fresh foods and good coffee and cold white wines are mine for the asking.
But before I bailed like the cowardly and overindulged monarch I so clearly am, I used the last trickle of battery life on my trusty iPhone to take some pictures. On Tuesday afternoon, after the winds and tides had died down considerably, I made my way down dark hallways and pitch-black stairwells to the streets of the West Village and walked around for an hour or so. No businesses were open, except for a couple delis operating in candlelight or total darkness, and one storefront bagel shop on Hudson Street. The line was down the block.
I walked to the piers at the Hudson River Park, about which I had written on Monday before the storm really kicked in. At first glance, nothing seemed amiss. The park was officially closed (and still is as of this writing), but the barricades had been pushed aside, no police were in sight, and many New Yorkers were happily taking advantage of the access. I saw joggers, bikers and hikers up and down the walkway along the waterline, though not nearly as many as one would expect to see on a typical Tuesday. People boldly strolled out onto Pier 45, and it’s smaller next-door neighbor Pier 46.
To get a closer look I walked out onto Pier 46, which as usual was not as populated as Pier 45. About halfway to the end of the pier I realized that the solid slabs of masonry comprising the walkways had severely buckled; they looked like flowing ribbons. It occurred to me that it might not be safe to be out here. But I kept going anyway. (See? Super intrepid!)
When I reached the end of the pier I was relieved to see that the water level was slightly lower than at normal high tide, as measured by how many of the old pillars are visible above the waterline.
Next I walked out to the end of Pier 45, the one that reaches much farther out into the Hudson River. There was some obvious damage, but it was remarkable to me just how little. I saw two steel railing supports broken, although there may have been more that I just didn’t notice. There were no downed trees, no detectable buckling along the pathways, and the grass expanses looked no worse for wear. Only one of the mesh screens along the South walkway had come loose.
Near the end of this pier is a large canvas canopy. Chunky concrete blocks anchor the poles that support the tent-like structure, and these blocks also serve as seating. All but one had lost the wooden slats that normally cover them. But considering the exposure to hurricane force winds and a 13 foot storm surge, the destruction is relatively minor and mainly cosmetic.
I took this next shot back on the waterline walkway, facing South. You can see the Freedom
Penis Tower looming in the distance at ground zero, the former site of the World Trade Towers. Those cranes on top look fine to me. But what do I know? (Note: I know absolutely nothing about cranes.)
Sadly, the iconic tree-lined streets of my neighborhood are now quite a few trees short. Interestingly, though, none of the downed trees that I saw were ginkgos, which are fairly ubiquitous in these parts. (Have I mentioned that I love ginkgo trees? I looooove ginkgo trees. They are freaking awesome.)
Wednesday brought glimpses of crystal blue skies for the first time in days.
A handful of neighborhood bars and restaurants reopened, including Palace favorite Left Bank whose Twitter feed informs me:
But as tempting as it was, what I really needed more than anything was a hot shower. (OMFG, like, more than I have ever needed a shower in my life. You. Have. No. Idea.**) And so it was that I soon found myself traveling South on the New Jersey Turnpike. Frankly, I was a little bit taken aback when I read this sign:
But I figured with everything else going on in New Jersey right now, updating this particular turnpike sign is not exactly a high priority. Or even anywhere near the top one million priorities.
Should you or your loved ones expect to find yourselves in a similar post-apocalyptic scenario (such as a Paul Ryan presidency in 2016), perhaps this next section will be of interest to you. I call it:
Some stuff I found invaluable.
My little flashlight. Last year I picked up this small, super-bright LED flashlight at a discount at Brookstone, stuck it in my purse and pretty much forgot about it — until the power went out on Monday. Then I wore it around my neck like a talisman. I used it to find my way down dark hallways and pitch black stairwells, and to pee in the middle of the night without the need for lit candles. It came with both a belt clip and the lanyard, and IIRC it was available in a bunch of different colors.
Okay, so I just went and checked it out for you. These little thingies are currently on sale at Brookstone, two for $15 (it’s a buy-one-get-one-free deal). And they do indeed come in a bunch of colors. I also just learned from the highly informative Brookstone website that they are made of “aircraft-grade aluminum,” the “6 high-power LEDs last for more than 100,000 hours” and they are “water-resistant.” Ooh look! Shiny:
This. Fucking. Radio.
I bought this inexpensive solar/hand-crank AM/FM radio/flashlight online from Quake Kare about ten years ago, when I was making a bunch of go-bags as holiday gifts. Nowadays most models come with a USB port so you can also use it to charge mobile devices such as cell phones or iPads — a feature which sure as hell would have come in handy over the last couple days. (I’m ordering a new one with USB capability this week.) With no TV, newspapers or Internet, I cannot tell you how helpful it is just to have access to the news. Incidentally, Quake Kare has a huge selection of emergency supplies, and great prices including volume discounts. (I’ve purchased supplies for Occupy from them in bulk.)
Wanna get your holiday shopping done quick and cheap? If you know ten people you would want to survive a natural disaster — and believe me, I am certainly not judging you if you don’t — you can get these hand-crank FM radio/flashlights for $11.75 each. It’s a great gift, although perhaps it may not be fully appreciated until it’s actually needed. (Note: Quake Kare’s processing and shipping isn’t super quick: it’s Quake Kare, people, not Quick Kare. Order sooner rather than later if you want them before December.)
CASH IS KING. Those darkened delis? They can’t run a credit or debit card. Small bills are particularly useful.
Water and ice. I prepared ahead of time with gallons of tap water in the refrigerator, a case of bottled water, and a freezer filled with ice: I filled all of my tupperware*** with water and stacked them in my freezer, so I would have ice packs for perishable food (and insulin) if necessary. I had also filled up the bathtub with water, which turned out to be necessary to refill the toilet tank after flushing. UM, VERY IMPORTANT.
Beeswax candles. In particular, these beeswax candles in glassware from Bluecorn Naturals. They burn forever — I’m talking through the night and then some. I am not kidding: once you burn beeswax candles you won’t want to burn paraffin candles again.
I would be remiss if I did not provide a word here about safety. My building’s management sent out an email to tenants that said:
please do not use candles for lighting, as they pose a serious fire risk and danger to all other building staff and residents that remain on site.
This is exactly right on all counts. But of course I did not heed this advice (and come on, you probably wouldn’t either). I am, however, exceedingly careful about open flames (thus the preference for glassware). You should always keep candles far away from anything flammable, children, pets, curtains, bedding and drafts, and trim wicks to 1/2 or 1/4 inch if necessary before lighting. All of these sensible precautions take on even greater importance in the context of emergencies.
So, you know: don’t be a dumbass. Please?
And don’t forget to keep plenty of matches on hand. I’m partial to wooden ones, which I pilfer shamelessly from area restaurants and bars by the purseload. (I also have a stash of waterproof matches in my go-bag, which fortunately were not necessary… this time.)
Paper plates, cups, and plastic cutlery. I almost never use them, and buy only the recycled and sustainable types. But without water to wash dishes they sure do come in handy. Also: white wine makes a fairly decent cleaning solvent for cookware. Who knew?
Finally, I will leave you with this:
Sure, it makes a good point. But in substance, of course, it applies just as much to Mr. Obama, who has presided as president during an unprecedented U.S. oil and gas boom, enabled partial construction of the Koch Brothers’ unconscionable Keystone Pipeline, and greenlighted drilling in the Arctic for the first time ever, all while these industries continue to enjoy record profits year after year. Yes, I know: Romney would supposedly be worse on this issue. But at this moment, I’m finding it exceedingly difficult to envision how exactly that would even be possible.
* Hey, I have so won prizes! Okay no, not in journalism. But important and valuable prizes nonetheless — which makes me a prize-winning journalist.
** My Amazing Lover™ informs me that this experience was very much like camping. Which only further cements my already-permanently-cemented position that I do not want to go camping. Ever.
*** By “tupperware” I mean “the plastic containers that my takeout food sometimes comes in.”