Batten Down the Hatches: Hurricane Irene, Saturday a.m.

[Update 7:34 a.m. Saturday]  I wake up and stare out my window at a tableau of suspiciously still trees.  Not a leave moves.  The gray sky is brooding some yet-to-be-seen horror.  I hear a bird chirp and think about what might become of these poor little chickadees when the storm hits.  If they were pigeons, I wouldn’t much care; the pigeons in New York just look like a bunch of worthless fucked-up chickens that somehow survived the fallout of the A bomb.  If Hurricane Irene wipes out the pigeon population of New York City, I’ll be fucking stoked.  The rats, too.  Dear sweet Jesus, take the rats.  No, I’m thinking about sparrows and other avian charmers that likely had cameos in that scene in Cinderella where they’re waking her up out of bed and singing duets with her.  Those kinds.

[Update 7:57 a.m. Saturday]  I eat breakfast, the last meal I might have in my apartment while it is still one piece.  Afterward, I make a salad out of all of the fresh vegetables I stupidly purchased yesterday that are now going to go to waste while I’m holed up at the St. Regis, finding refuge in foie gras and flutes of champagne.

[Update 8:37 a.m. Saturday]  I consult my mother’s emails from the previous night.

Fill some water containers (your Brita and any big things like a big pot or container and maybe the bathtub ½ full in case).  Pack a small bag too and leave it by the door just in case you have to run.  Tennis shoes, snacks, a clean toothbrush and thong (hehe) and a jacket and hat.  Think elementary school emergency backpack.  Also, have some small bills ($1 and $5) and some change in a bag in case the electricity goes out.  Nobody will be able to charge anything.  Are you really prepared?  Now I am getting concerned.

This one no longer applies, being that I am going to be staying at the St. Regis, though I am happy that my mother so kindly cited $1 and $5 bills as being my Small Bill Options, as I had contemplated getting a ton of $2 from the bank the previous day.  And opposed to my clean toothbrush, I was thinking about bringing my dirty one.  Phew.  Crisis averted.  I scan through to the next, hoping to procure some more Mommy Wisdom.

The emergency backpack still applies [at the St. Regis], AND know where all the emergency exits are (in the dark) and don’t stay high (fire safety).  Take water     and snacks, small bills (could be a big tipper gets the best food and water             situation) and tennis shoes.  The staff will want to be home not there so plan to take care of yourself just in case.

My mother should work for Mayor Bloomberg.  Effectively terrified, I am now envisioning scenes from The Poseidon Adventure – the original one from the 70s, not the shitty remake – as well as the last two hours of Titanic, an analogy not lost on my St. Regis friend, who is actually able to quote a snide remark Billy Zane’s character makes regarding how half of the passengers will not be saved.  “Not the better half,” she says in a later reenactment.  We laugh, evil and victorious.

[Update 9:08 a.m. Saturday]  I take this time to renew my renter’s insurance online.  I had been pondering switching over for the last week, hoping to find a more competitive rate, but, hey, who’s got time for price shopping when your trees are about to get bashed in by the broken limbs of trees and 100 mph winds?

[Update 9:21 a.m. Saturday]  I move all of my notebooks and journals to what will be the safest, driest place in my apartment if the hurricane is get in through broken windows.  I hide a laptop in a closet, put books away in my dresser, and tie up my kitchen cabinets with black hair elastics, which might just be the knee-jerk reaction of a Southern California native used to earthquakes, not hurricanes.

[Update 9:39 a.m. Saturday]  I pack for the St. Regis, which ends up looking more like I’m going on a delightful little vacay to the Hamptons than preparing for Armageddon.  This hurricane requires one Philip Lim tunic, a Stella McCartney skirt (to be paired with a gray silk top), a leather jacket, some gym clothes, my passport, and my mother’s necklaces.  I put on my outfit for the day: Stella shorts, white button-up tank, Alexander Wang leather vest, and a Jenni Kayne trench.  If the ship’s going down, I’m at least going to look good.

[Update 10:15 a.m. Saturday]  What was once such a grand idea to fill my fridge up is now a potentially smelly situation if the electricity is to go off while I’m on holiday uptown.  Soymilk will be fine.  Kale I can live with if it wilts for six days.  The cheeses might be questionable.  Yogurts will contain themselves until I can throw them away upon return to the homestead.  My freezer, however, poses different problems: frozen salmon and frozen apple-chicken sausage, artifacts from moments when I actually envisioned cooking at home some months back.  I call my mom.

“Hey, Mom.  You think I should throw away the salmon in my freezer just in       case the power goes off?  That could be really gross.”

“Just leave it in the freezer; it will stay cold.”

“But what if it defrosts?”

“I think it’s going to be fine.”

“Whatever.  I’ve had it for four months and haven’t used it.”

As an adult, I compulsively ask for my mother’s advice and then refuse to take it. The salmon, chicken sausage, and an icicle-encrusted tube of polenta get tossed into my garbage bin.  I think about chucking the eggs in my fridge but decide against it – a fortuitous decision if there ever were one.  Kind of like the time I realized that I had been putting money in a Roth IRA for the better part of 3 years without investing it – naively assuming that someone else was in charge of doing it for me.  In the depths of the recession, after having heard my friends discuss their decimated mutual funds on multiple occasions, I went online only to realize I had been funneling money into what was essentially the underside of Fidelity’s proverbial mattress, at which point I invested all of it at rock bottom prices, proving that sometimes sometimes being a complete moron pays off.

[Update 11:02 Saturday]  I tape my windows up with blue painter’s tape, smugly proud of the responsible adult I have become.


After the Rain

Crazy from an afternoon spent hunkered down in my apartment, I take a ride around the neighborhood, wet and newly cleaned.  I make my way down to an empty concrete park with basketball courts, a baseball diamond, and some caged area likely for handball, though I don’t know if that’s a game that children play any longer.

Puddles stand still in lake shapes, reflecting back Brooklyn trees and the Manhattan skyline and the sky turns purple and pink within its grayness just for a moment, a singular effort on behalf of the sun to say goodbye as it leaves, though it is really us turning away, I suppose.

A man comes to play his dog while I ride around in circles, like when I first learned how to bike as a child, half my height and naturally blonde.  Around and around and around I went on an asphalt loop – a moat of black surrounding sea grass and a few trash bins – unattached to the training wheels I had become used to, aware of my wobbliness, enthralled by the possibilities of success and failure.

I ride away and down the street and I find a pier and I ride down that, too.  Couples sit on green metal benches, talking, leaning, kissing, enamored with their own affection.  Old men who have long given up on charming women stand side-by-side, talking pointedly in a foreign language.  Some young boy in a uniform of black picks at a guitar, the breeze sweeps my hair lovingly in front of my face, and all of a sudden I am in my very own Woody Allen movie – a romanticized version of reality that doesn’t exist, though tonight it does.

The wood on the pier is damp.  I sit down in my shorts, my bike leaning on the fence in front of me, Manhattan beyond that.  Sometimes it feels as though I’m staring at nothing – some beautiful Hollywood backdrop with painted-in lights and a fog machine, too wonderful to comprehend, too vast in scope.  A city built, brick by brick, light by light, not at all at once but over time.  The overwhelming achievements of man all crammed into one tiny island.

The boy finishes, puts his guitar in his case, and then walks away – with no fanfare, no clapping – and the pier becomes so silent all you can hear is the water lapping at the crumbling shore and the sound of hushed conversations built for two.  Manhattan stands there, big and seemingly silent, belying the frantic buzzing inside of it, a beehive with a concrete shell.


Living Here

It’s a Sunday morning and the lazies are still sleeping, collectively tucked into their beds, awaiting hangovers and grease-laden brunches.  The main drag is quiet, save for the sound of footsteps and the rustling of plastic bags crunching around the weight of purchases.  A woman walks towards me, a kitten tucked in close to her generously proportioned chest as though it were a baby and not a new pet.  It steadies itself with outstretched paws, its eyes wide, staring up at trees it instinctively wants to climb.

I walk the park, the breeze finding its way through my coat.  My shoes hit the pavement and I wonder if I should get them shined; they are covered with tequila and footprints – evidence of the last three weeks.  Above one of many brick buildings, a flurry of pigeons catch a swell of air, riding it like an ocean current, beautiful and synchronized, suspended in air until they find grounding in a telephone wire.

I pass a family on a sidewalk in dire need of repair, their little boy sitting in a stroller, crying, “It’s too late.  It’s too late.  It’s too late,” like the broken voice of some hidden apocalypse.  He wipes tears away from his eyes, towards his ears, while his father placates him with “It’s okays” and one “It’s not so tragic.”

Down the road, the stillness of morning is even more apparent; I listen to skateboard wheels on pavement and the jingling of dog collars.  I love this, this lack of everything.  The quiet.  The peace.


Photo courtesy of Melissa Cantanese


On the Waterfront

I end the day on the waterfront, watching the sun disappear not behind mountains but buildings.  For purple mountain majesties… the New York redux.  In the foreground are the projects east of the East Village and a power plant of some sort, both getting more dark and shadowy by the minute.

Water laps against yellow plastic buoys and a lone piece of wood that once was a part of a pier knocks against rocks littered with bottles, cans, and plastic cups like unnatural barnacles.  I notice how Styrofoam does not decompose; they were right.

I’m not alone here at sunset, at least not technically; there is a woman and her dog, a man with a ragged beard and a Canon G10, and a group of people filming a rap video without a permit.  I listen to the music loop while a woman with a deep tan and stripper boots gyrates to a peaceful setting sun and lyrics about Baby I’m Going to London and I’ll buy you a bag.

It’s imperfect, this scene.  The garbage, the offensive lyrics about banging chicks, the sickening brown palate of the water.  But it is mine, all mine.  This city is about learning how to make the most out of your sick fascination with something you love and hate so deeply, so simultaneously, so psychotically that the fact the man behind you just asked his friend “Yo, man.  Where’s my kilo?” adds to the charm of your life.

I look out over the water, now black, as the cityscape morphs quickly into a sparkling monolith against a faded purple sky, buildings chunky blue and burgundy daggers, helicopters taking off and landing, rocket jets leaving their white pigtails in the sky behind them like foggy stars.


It Was a Hipster Love Story

It started with vomit.  Projectile vomiting, actually.  And not the kind that happens in the Lower East Side at 4 a.m. but the kind that happens unexpectedly and without provocation in the form of eight whisky sours.  No, this vomit rocket took the shape of a young girl, wearing a backpack and sitting next to her mother.

“Oh, no.  Oh, no.”

Jill turned when she heard the splatter hit the floor of the L Train.

James saw the whole thing happen, having unfortunately chosen to stand right in front of the kid.  He looked down at his shoes, making sure that the strategically distressed and aged leather was untainted; scuffs and tears were okay, but throw up was another beast entirely.

Jill watched as James moved towards her.  She thought she might have seen him before, but maybe it was just that haircut that was so familiar.  She’d been seeing that one a lot lately.  Their eyes met briefly and shared an accidental wink and a nod about what they had just seen.  And then they continued to not look at each other, as people in the subway so often do, holding the rails and feeling the shuddering sway of the train on the tracks.

Together, they watched as a second bout of illness quickly came, the young girl now standing on her feet and completely at the whim of her fickle stomach.  “Oh, no.  Oh, no.”  Politeness being a dangerous road to tread at this point, most everyone parted ways to create a large circle of space around the kid, like an unwelcome dance floor.

Again, the two caught eyes.  Again, the accidental acknowledgement.

First Avenue arrived and the two made their way for another train.  With everyone from the last car in this new one, the boy and girl were forced to stand more closely to one another.  Jill flashed her iPod James’ direction, angled casually to minimize the glare, hopping that he might see her Belle and Sebastian remixed cover on display.  She peeked up just in time to see his eyes moving away from her screen and down to her black boots.

“Madewell?” he asked, though the question was more the assumption of someone who shopped often and knew the minutia of marked designer characteristics – stitching, leather quality, and other trappings of the post-heterosexual days.

“Lanvin,” she countered, immediately following with a self-deprecating apology for having purchased such a grossly expensive item, separating herself from the real artists.  She couldn’t help that her parents came from money, could she?

James nodded his head in a nonjudgmental manner and placed his headphones back on.  She did the same, though she didn’t press play yet.  Instead, she listened to the thumping baseline of her new favorite song play loudly into his ears – the one by that guy who lives in a loft somewhere in Bushwick, you know, the one that sounds like all those other ones with, like, the reverb and stuff.  Her song was on his iPod.

She turned her face away.  He looked over, swearing he caught a wave of blush cross her cheeks.  But then again, it was getting cold outside.

Third Avenue arrived and he departed, off to work a retail gig for a brand that had perfected the art of skinny jeans for boys.  You know, that one.  Jill watched through the dirty glass windows and he disappeared, noting that she hadn’t realized until just now that they were wearing the very same plaid shirt.