Monday, November 12, 2012

Journal of the Storm Week, pt. 2


There’s no point in starting the day before the sun is up, so it’s nice to play the iPod until morning light. This is when the taste of coffee is most satisfying and you want to make a joke like: “Honey, now THAT’s good coffee!” as Harrison Ford did in “Witness”, but would probably get the same look of incomprehension as he did from his Amish hosts. The fridge is still cool and the milk is fresh.

The first order of business is, of course, business. The office, being on 53rd, might be open. (You explain that there were lights to the north last night.) Her Blackberry can’t get a signal and both your phones read “NETWORK FAILURE” for every attempt. Out on the street you see others doing the exact same thing: walking along, stopping, then going forward again, all with eyes fixed on their palms—everybody’s dialing and nobody’s talking.

The obvious endpoint for the stroll is the Con Ed plant at the end of 14th. Which is also the destination of everyone else. But before then you say. “Let’s see the river.” The ramble through Stuyvesant town shows a lot of downed limbs but otherwise displays no ill effects. Which is sort of how and why you need to see the monster again: as a doctor would want to know, what was the last temperature before the fever broke—how bad was it?

As soon as you cross the FDR service road it is plainly a disaster of epic proportions. It is said that one indicator will tell you all you need to know about the subject, if it is significant enough. As if placed there by gods with a slapstick sense of humor, a large steel I-beam, attached by massive rivets to two broken wood pieces—one is part of a dock, the other the top of one of it’s pylons—sits high and astride  the metal railing to the first garden patch of the copse. At any other time you’d’ve need a crane. And behind it, about five to seven feet, sits one of its fellows, only this lays flat against the brink of the sea wall.

This is when a new revelation strikes you: people who are taking pictures are also sending them. By the river, you can pick up Brooklyn towers. She immediately begins e-mailing her office and you speak to yours and are told “looks like we’re on holiday. There’s no power south of 34th Street.” Not to mention that the subways are filled with overflow. And the tunnels for the cars too. And basements all over the Financial District and Battery.

So it’s home to read until lunch. That’s when you finally decide to get down to the young lady’s request—the office mate with who you share peanuts, secrets and the bay—to read “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. You saw the movie but that hasn’t placated her. She insists that you read the trilogy so you can discuss the…socio-political ramifications of it? You had often reminded her of the fact that while you greatly respect her taste and opinion, your interest lay more in science right now than young adult fiction—however excellent it may be—which is just not your forte. You’ve even cited her championing of the “Twilight” series and the Harry Potter phenomenon. But she continues to insist that your prejudice is unacceptable.

Which it is, given that you’ve really got nothing better to do.

So, with the Kindle having a full charge and the .mobi files sitting in the “TO BE BURNED” folder on the iBook for the last six months…what better way to pass the time than reading a post-apocalyptic novel, than when you are in—basically, agenda-wise, environmentally, and if not socio-economically back to a barter system then for all immediate intents and practical purposes—a similar state?

By 4PM, you’ve read more in three hours, continuously, than you’ve read in years. The beauty of the Kindle is that you can open any book any time and for only one or two pages and that’s fine. To read a novel, however, is to surrender a small portion of yourself to that other consciousness; something, a talent or determination perhaps, not often given to the modern urban, where there’s always someplace to go or something to do of equal importance, and of limited duration of existence. As she has been writing her article, in longhandhand for later entry, it seems to be time for a break before the dusk falls, and to check in with the Verizon towers of Brooklyn again. Right outside your front door, the next door restaurant is just finishing its free lunch and putting away the steam tables. A little miffed to miss a delicacy you ask: What WAS on the menu? “Everything we had. Better to give it away than let it spoil.” You have to love a rationalist approach to rationing.

This run you encounter a pair of police officers directing traffic at—of all the odd places—Avenue B and 14th. As apropos a moment to speak to anyone in authority, you sidle up and ask: What’s the deal? The elder Irish white one has the cherubic demeanor of someone who’s got no answers and had to give then too often to take the questions seriously any longer. So he just indicates you look around you. And then it hits you: almost everyone you’ve passed on the walk over has been going in the opposite direction—west.—and all with backpacks, overnight shoulder bags and just as many pulling caddy luggage as not. And those are the same resolute faces you see streaming out of Stuyvesant village.

“We should get out of town?” “If you got somewhere to go,” he shrugs” “Yeah.” “So?” “Word is six days to a week.”

This is not what you had anticipated when you ground yesterday’s coffee for today’s breakfast.

Conversation at dinner is muted. She has been referencing “The Road”—specifically, the movie version starring Vigo Mortgensen and not the novel by Cormac McCarthy. You would rather talk about “The Hunger Games” and its relation to a possible Romney presidency. This appears to make her even more depressed. It is agreed to spend the remainder of the evening getting a hot bath. This requires heating water on the stove and carrying the kettle and three pots, still bubbling with scalding hot menace, to the bathroom, the other lighting the way with the flash, in constant rotation for over two hours. This also heats up the room—which still has the ambient temperature of early Fall—to the point where the windows mist up with condensation the way they used to when your mother would cook all day for Thanksgiving dinner. There is a lot to be said for natural gas and running water—including flush toilets— as the epitome of civilization. But hot water on tap should be right up there with them.

After a long soak there is no need for any media-enhancements towards sleep.

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