yesterday, after i left the gym, i passed by gramercy tavern. the inside was bright and cozy compared to the newly shivering streets of new york. people drank wine, bustled about, jostled for an empty seat. it was your quintessential new york night out. it was also, almost to the minute, a week after my power had gone out. yet here i was, walking home from the gym, bathed in the soft light from a popular restaurant, as if it hadn't happened at all.
i knew my electricity was going to go out as i monitored the internet last monday - eventually, my power company said, everyone from 39th street on down would lose power. i thought it was a precautionary measure, shutting the system off so if it were flooded there would be little damage. brian and i were in the middle of the godfather when it happened. marlon brando's don corleone had just realized it was brazini all along when his face flickered on the screen and went to black. so we took out my crank radio and flashlight all rolled into one (thanks dad!) and lit a candle as we watched flames spring to life in the windows across the street. we finished our wine, had a mini dance party as the winds blew outside and slowly made our way to bed.
the next morning, already restless, we decided to walk uptown. we walked about 100 blocks to and from my apartment, on the search for a warm meal. when we passed 39th street, stoplights magically worked again, cvs was open, and delis had lines out the door. we didn't find an open restaurant until we made our way back downtown, a diner on 57th street. we were ecstatic. after a huge breakfast, we resumed our walk and while we passed trees that had fallen here and there it mostly looked ok to me. separated from a tv and the internet and intent on saving my phone's battery, we had no idea how bad it was in other parts of the city. we took a nap and as nightfall came we wound our flashlight back up and made our way to dinner - a random bbq restaurant that still, miraculously, had power.
i often tell people that some of my favorite times in cities are when blizzards hit us - the city quiets, it's blanketed in snow, few people are out on the street - it's just a nice change. and even if you've never been in a major city during a snowstorm, you can relate. you've seen snow bathe your lawns in bright white and quiet your towns and homes. so i can honestly say that i don't know how to describe a powerless manhattan. the pitch-black walk down the stairs and through my building's hallways, feeling along a brick wall you think you have memorized, hoping the bang you just heard wasn't anything serious, i dreaded the most. the looming buildings, dark and quiet, the streets empty. no stoplights. no street lights. it was eerie, amazing, creepy, awful and awesome. everyone described it as being post-apocalyptic. and, well, i suppose you could say that. but, like many others, i haven't lived through an apocalypse. i think it's just a phrase people use because they don't know how to convey what it was really like. and there really aren't any words. even reading what i just wrote falls short of allowing you to see what i saw and experience it for yourself.
on the way home from dinner we decided to head to brooklyn the next day. as colder weather loomed it seemed like the right thing to do. when i left for work the next morning, the only person on the street save for brian, hailing down a cab with my flashlight, it seemed like the only thing to do. and when i finally made it to his apartment, i sat down and watched the news and learned of the immense devastation i had been immune to. i saw the homes burned to the ground in breezy point. i saw the death toll rise in staten island. i saw the business owners in our beloved red hook struggling to put back together their washed out stores. and i knew i had it easy. i knew i was lucky. even as i worked from home the next two days, dashing around to find an internet signal and again saved by the grace of friend (thanks tina!), stressed to my breaking point, i knew how lucky i was. yes i lost power for a very long time, but i had somewhere to go. i had people to keep me safe and give me clean water and make me dinner. i had a bed to sleep in and heater to keep me warm. many other new yorkers do not.
the power of water hasn't been lost on me for awhile. i know how quick it can move and how strong it is. water cannot be stopped. it cannot be contained. it doesn't matter if you're the financial epicenter of the world or a small town in texas - it doesn't discriminate in it's path of destruction. and just like that small town in texas, the citizens of this city are coming together to help. opening their homes to strangers, feeding meals to those in need and volunteering to help rebuild homes that were lost. but i know first hand from being downtown and traveling uptown and then out to red hook that the disparity between those who are hurting and those who are fine is lost on many. i know after delivering supplies to red hook and seeing lines stretching down the block as residents wait for clean water and food it was lost on me too. if you live in new york - please think of ways you can help or continue to help. if you live outside new york, please strongly consider donating any money your household budget can spare to an organization you trust that is helping in relief efforts. i can't stress enough how bad the loss is in some parts of this city and how long it will take those neighborhoods to recover. any help you can provide will be much, much appreciated and, most importantly, felt by those still in need.