ArchivesCategory: The blackout


We emerged from our cave horrified to find out there are so are many in such dire straights. We were busy just living from cell phone charge to cell phone charge- having no idea what was happening in other parts of the city and New Jersey. It was a shock to see the images on the television. We had heard some bits and pieces, and mea culpa; I figured it was another case of media fear mongering. There have been so many cases of The Media That Cried Wolf, I underestimated how bad things were. The brutal reality sprang from our television screens last night.

I’m a trifle abashed to have been so nose-from-joint over our minor saga of life without power.  We exist in our own niches, and even knowing that there are others out there in a very bad way- we have to deal with our own concerns that affect us on a daily basis.

The galleries of Chelsea are distraught over the great loss of so much artwork. The  downtown theaters were closed for the greater part of the week. Broadway was dark for a couple of days. Our grocery store is slowly restocking. I’m behind on deadlines. This is my world. Thankfully these inconveniences/losses are all we still suffer from. We survived the threat of Zombies in the darkened stairwell, being unwashed, or bored to death. For us, normal is returning. All good.

I’m grateful my friends and family are all intact with little damage- not a single board game related injury or candle catastrophe. As I step carefully over curb-puddles of melted freezer items, I count my blessings. My thoughts are with those who lost so very much.


The disclaimer: I know this post will make me sound like a spoiled bitch. People lost their homes, some people lost their lives and my piddly travails are nothing at all. But I’m a writer. I write and I document, and what’s a blog for if not a good whine? And perhaps some of you will laugh inside your own newly lit apartments and identify- just a little bit- and that’s what it’s all about. What we went through during the hurricane is a speck, but it’s my speck.

After a last restless night spent in midtown- mere blocks from Penn Station- in a hotel half filled with confused tourists and the other half power-refugees like myself- I am home again- home again- jiggety jig! I am now gleefully running the dishwasher, tossing candle stubs and used batteries while intermittently stroking the freaked out furry cats. Thanking my lucky stars neither one ignited during the candle hours.


Today has been enlightening. I now have tourist-empathy. They must feel so gouged. For $380.00 a night our bathroom is Lilliputian.  One tiny square sink- very chic, but the water pools in it and since the vanity is only inches wide, I’m afraid the blow dryer will fall in there and electrocute one of us. Teeny tiny stall shower has the water pressure of a kinked garden hose and the toilet is in a niche and requires dislocation of one’s shoulders to reach the toilet paper. You have to ask for fresh towels in the morning. I get the whole conserve water issue and always defer clean sheets every day, but with a Barbie sized bathroom there isn’t anywhere to dry the towels so they can be re-used. And no cotton balls? What is my teenager daughter going to do without cotton balls? I secretly think she eats them. I open the mini-fridge to find it completely empty. Not one miniature bottle of booze on the wall. When the extra cot is brought in and the couch unfurled there is not an inch of floor space and I bounce from mattress to mattress to cross the room. I stop drinking water after ten so that I won’t wake the kids by leaping on them during a nighttime bathroom mission.

When I emerge onto the street I felt like I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. This has never been a neighborhood in which I’ve been comfortable. The streets are awash with those poor tourists and hustlers taking advantage of them. The stores are all chains and so are the restaurants. That burger that was such a treat in the Financial Center (Wow, was that only yesterday?) is now joined by another. That’s my meat quota for a month. The kids know 5 Guys Burgers, so that’s what we eat. I just feel so out of sync. I guess massive power outage will do that to you. At least we weren’t having Zombie discussions any more.

Tonight the kids have gone off to bunk with friends who gotten their power back, so I’m camping out by myself. I know I should be reveling in not having to spring from one mattress to another, but it’s lonely. The gigantic bag of peanut M&Ms and I will have to manage all by our lonesomes.

I stay awake into the wee hours dialing the home phone repeatedly, hoping my own voice will greet me on the other end. I long to hear it announce no one is home- duh- but a live machine would indicate power had returned to my place. No joy. We live in one of the very last grids to be re-powered, but I kind of figured that.

I put in the earplugs purchased at Duane Reade (along with a bag of cotton balls) and try to sleep.

This morning:

I wake at 6:00. Before even opening my eyes, I hit the phone and pray. Never was I so happy to hear the sound of my own voice!

I pull on my jeans- the same ones I’ve been wearing since the hurricane- I don’t know why. For the first three days I had my entire wardrobe at my disposal, and could have been weathering the blackout in Dolce and Gabbana, but somehow it just felt right to pull on the same jeans each morning. Black ones of course. I add a black tee, black combat boots and my black leather jacket. I would say this is my be ready for anything in an emergency outfit, but it’s just everyday wear. Clothes horse I am not- at least in the daytime and this utilitarian ensemble just works every day, blackout or not. Plus I think it makes me look dangerous, like Laura Croft Tomb raider. I am seriously deluded, I know.

I stuff the meager wardrobe I’d packed in my dark apartment Thursday into the single bag I brought, concerned we might have to hoof it up here. I do a quick glance around the room, grab the do not disturb sign off the door and toss it. Dance from foot to foot waiting the the elevator. Fly though the lobby dropping “keys” in check out box with an audible good riddance. The staff calls out to me as I run past “Please join us another time” and I think; Seriously people?

A taxi sits in front of the hotel and I leap into it like my doppelganger Laura Croft being chased by cannibals. As we drive downtown I see lights blazing in storefronts, traffic and street lights, and I have never been more grateful. A refrain of “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” keeps cycling through my mind. I am even grateful for my taxi driver leaning on his horn, despite the fact the streets are still deserted, because it’s normal.

I use my laser key to enter the building- never more happy to hear the once annoying buzzing sound. The pinging of the elevator is music to my ears. I walk in and find two lights blazing. Cave woman see fire for the first time. I burst into spontaneous tears. I have no idea why.

The Ruby Slippers worked Auntie Em. I’m home.


Diary of Ghost town Tribeca

Monday: Hurricane. Need I say more?

Oh yes, one unusual thing: a keening sound, unlike anything I’d ever heard before. It rose and fell crystal clear over the howling wind. It’s the Trade Center.  (It will never be the Freedom Tower to us.)  The wind is shrieking through the girders which don’t have skin yet- making a hundred story whistle. Eerie doesn’t even begin to cover it.

My kids are hibernating. They emerge blinking from their rooms for food as the storm continues. As it intensifies they emerge more often, I think for the comfort of my companionship. Mom is still good for something.

At 8:30 the power flickers and dies. Because my natural mindset is “the sky is falling” we have multiple flashlights and batteries. I have a huge stock of candles, Yankee Candle has nothing on me. None of which were actually purchased by me, but are nestled in the hostess gift graveyard. These are tokens of appreciation from the Guests of Christmas Past and were never used because having large longhaired cats- makes candles less atmospheric and more feline death trap. Being of good frugal Presbyterian stock, I never threw them away so they are stockpiled in a cabinet. It’s a very well fragranced blackout.

Tonight we resemble clan of the cave bear, huddled around our modern version of fire- the Ipad. We went into a restless sleep early, hoping morning would bring good news.

Tuesday: The Mole People

We decide to venture outside to the river to see what the storm hath wrought. Obviously no elevators- we head to the stairwell. We discover the emergency lights are not functioning and we venture into the pitch black with flashlights- feeling very Indiana Jones. We burst from the stairwells into the street happy to find much of the neighborhood doing the same thing. We are all somewhat festive- and happy to see each other. The last time we emerged after a disaster, we’d all lost friends and were being herded out as evacuees in a cloud of dust- in fear for the safety of our homes and families. This seems like small potatoes. We are pretty freaked out by the power loss, but hey… no terrorists. Let’s have some perspective.

We assess the neighborhood. The river seems fairly benign and is below the seawall, as innocent as can be. I have not yet heard of the tragic fatality up the street. We note the uprooted trees with a frisson of “phew” and move on. The rain starts again so we return home. The apartment is gloomy. We set up camp near the south facing windows to take advantage of the gray light trickling in and began a marathon of board games. Thankfully my kids are beyond the Chutes and Ladders and Candyland phase, or I would be forced to resort to tequila.

We are a competitive and lively group and we entertain ourselves without bloodshed for hours. We pick our way through five molten pints of Ben and Jerry’s. I start to pace myself knowing that my only exercise will be those long spooky flights up and down to the basement to charge the phones. We are more fortunate than most having a car on the premises. The down side is that stairwell looks like Zombie territory.

The exodus has begun. We see out the window people loading cars to head uptown to hotels or friends or perhaps out to country homes that may have fared better and still have power.

By 5:00 the light has waned. Time to light up. Tonight’s aroma is lemon verbena.

I look outside the window. It’s very eerie. It appears post apocalyptic here. The buildings are completely dark, candles flicker in about half the windows.  We are all abiding by an unspoken curfew of 6:00 because the streets are terrifyingly dark after that time.  Police cruisers drift by but they are the only movement. We feel so utterly isolated. There are no lights for fifty blocks north and the only indication we are not totally alone in the city is a dim glow from above 34th Street. Traffic lights are out and there is nothing but blackness.

The kids have begun a discussion of which one of us should be feed to the Zombies first.  I say one of them because of their large Walsh heads; one of their brains could feed many Zombies, whereas I would merely be appetizers.

We go to bed and cross our fingers tomorrow there will be light.

Dark and Scary

Wednesday: The Financial Center Lives!

I wake to the good news, that generators are powering the Financial Center.

The other good news is that I scored one of the rare hotel rooms for tomorrow and through the weekend, thanks to my friend Karleen. She texted me at early bird hours this morning and gave me the get-off-your-ass-and-book-something lecture.  I wasn’t able to get a room for tonight, but did manage for Thursday. Just having that light at the end of the tunnel helps. That and having my teenagers suffering from electronics withdrawal out of the house.

I told them they have to get out and walk today. No more cave creatures. The sun has come out- (Can I get a rousing rendition of the chorus from “Annie?”) They have taken off with friends in search of an open Starbucks- the haven of choice for teens. I am using this time to write and conference call with my writing partners. Our show will go on. This semblance of normalcy is good for my hunkered down mind-set and helps dispel the mental gloom.

We see more people loading up into cars and the rare taxi. Those remaining are either unable to afford/ locate a hotel room or have large dogs, the kind you can’t sneak into a hotel in a handbag.

Scarlett got on a city bus and took the long journey uptown to powwow with other kids and hang at her friend’s place. It took her an hour and a half to get from Tribeca to Upper West. I wish I had been more proactive and had been so bold as to call some of our uptown acquaintances to ask if the kids could sleep over. I know other downtown families did that. I’m a little more reticent.  Anyway she’s up there for the day and Clay has meandered off with his girlfriend and all is well for now.

Evening. We pile into the car to retrieve Scarlett from uptown and have a hot meal having eaten all the perishables in the fridge. The last of the Ben and Jerry’s soup was consumed last night. It takes us an hour to get to 65th Street. There is a huge line for gas on the 8th Avenue that crosses all lanes and it ties up traffic for blocks.

We come home and as we drive past the power outage line, normality recedes and we once again enter “I Am Legend Territory.” It’s amazing how in just a few blocks we go from laughing and normal to subdued and anxious. There is an odd feeling of the haves and have-nots in effect as well. Going to the Upper West where people were laughing and going about their business was a mind bender. We feel even more isolated as we return to our cave.

Thursday: Elvis leaves the building

I wake. Leap into another stone cold shower. My hair has not been washed since Sunday and if I do say so myself it looks kind of amazingly fabulous. A shout out to my hair stylist: Taylor. After admiring my coif, I open the fridge hoping for milk. The smell that wafts out tells me that I must admit defeat and throw out everything from fridge and freezer. It was sad (Presbyterian wastefulness gene at code red) and liberating. A cleansing. That bottle of breast milk had to go; my youngest is turning fifteen this month.  Some memories are harder to let go of than others.


I am now sitting quite happily on the floor of the Wintergarden eating a Shake Shack burger for breakfast. Thank heaven for Danny Meyer and the generators that got this place powered up. We bivouacked down here as soon as the kids got up. I packed a power strip and all our electronics and made camp in a corner where I can sit on the (unheated) floor and look up through the palms trees to blue sky.  I’m liberated to be able to write on my computer without anxiously watching my battery level dip. I’ve been rationing my time with my tech-lifeline. This new freedom does wonders for my spirits.

The posse.

I have accumulated a wheezing old man from the Lower East side who was drawn to my power strip and the aroma of French fries. The kids and I are happy to share.  We’re a motley crew. In addition to the old man, we have my son’s girlfriend and a couple of other Stuyvesant HS refugees from Battery Park.

We eat. I write. Time passes.

The marble floor of the Wintergarden is becoming uncomfortable now and my battery is nearly charged. The line at Shake Shack has reached epic proportions so our early morning oasis may be done. I hate to leave the skylights behind. And the feeling of community.  But we should go pack up while we can see and go claim our stake at the hotel. Plus I can smell my kids. They are less enamored of the cold shower.

Thursday evening: The Eagle has landed.

Hotel check-in achieved and we are in for a whole new kind of togetherness. The hotel is lovely but incredibly tiny. The fantastic news is that hot showers are imminent and there are lights.

The best part of all is that we got through this with not single cat immolation.

It’s dinner out tonight without the gauntlet of fifty blocks without traffic lights and Mongol hoards invading gas stations. We plan to dine at the fabulous I Trulli. The intrepid folks there have gone out and scored a generator so that partially dark mid-town will be treated to amazing home-made pasta and I plan to get me some! And later,  I am having a cocktail in the rooftop bar with my dear friend Astrid and we will laugh together.

Fingers crossed for us all that the power comes back tomorrow.