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.
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.
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.