Reflections on Frankenstorm

drugs

I don’t normally see cops smoke on duty, but lots of cops were smoking last week.

Beer was being sold for up to $30 a six pack.  Not good beer either.

I overheard a barista at Verb Cafe in Williamsburg say that Tuesday had been their best day ever.  They did twice their sales of a busy Saturday and closed early because they ran out of everything.  He also said he saw a lot more Nouveau Yorkers than normal.

I smelled no more weed on the street than I normally do.  Stoners are consistent.

zombie apocalypse

The Brooklyn half of the Williamsburg bridge had power, but crossing into downtown Manhattan was like regressing into a time before electricity, or more accurately, a time after electricity.  When it got dark at night, it actually got dark.  Anyone who has been to lower Manhattan knows there is a limit to how dark it actually gets: the sheer amount of ambient light prevents real darkness, even in places without street lights.  This no longer held for the few days after Sandy.  Walking the city was passing through endless empty black canyons, devoid of life and filled with remnants of once useful technology.

Every so often I’d come upon a person sitting on a stoop, looking haggard and sucking hard on a cigarette.  When this happened I wouldn’t notice the person till I was already upon them and walking by.  I couldn’t even muster a head nod, not that New Yorkers would be looking for the social interaction, and it was inevitably too late to bother anyway.

My mom called while I was walking back to the bridge a few blocks south of Delancey.  Surprisingly the cell phone coverage held for the duration of the call.  I could hear her voice drop as I described the situation:   The windows are empty and lifeless for blocks, and I can barely make out the sidewalk.  There are no people, or none that I can see.  Sometimes they would show up, but as I said, they were the strays, and would disappear just as quickly.  The cops, wherever they were, were just as cut off as everyone else.  She ended the call quickly.

They eventually got the power down to 14th street and east of Broadway back on.  This returned some of the ambient light to lower Manhattan, but not like normal.  Instead of the sad darkness, a weak, insubstantial haze took over.  It was like being in an old video game where they just colored everything dark, but there were no actual light sources.  You could see things, but it wasn’t like things were lit or had shadows; it was all shadows.  Unlike the previous nights, which hurt in its collapse of basic New York reality, this haze provided an unreality to the situation. It was a transient state, a purgatory, one where you could feel civilization trying to leech its way back.

My friends who live and work uptown were barely inconvenienced by the storm.

banks and power

A bank was robbed clean by Upright Citizens entering the building’s basement and then breaking up through the floor.

I told everyone that if I had a truck I would have ripped up and ripped off those ubiquitous street ATMs that charge $4 a transaction.  I’m actually surprised I didn’t see any of this.

Goldman Sachs had barricades of sandbags around their entrance ways.  Not sure if they were trying to stem the barrage of water only.

They moved the power lines in the city under ground after the 1888 blizzard, which was the last time the stock exchange had been closed for 2 days due to weather.  This was to prevent wind and snow from affecting the power supply.  So maybe the banks will ‘encourage’ our utilities to make the power supply more water resistant.  Cuomo (NY State Governor)  is threatening to revoke the electricity monopolies of ConEd and LIPA due to the power failures.  Floodproofing New York City would be an unimaginably huge project.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a proposal to actually raise the entire island of Manhattan.  If the banks don’t have battery backup security cameras in a few weeks, though, I will be shocked.

the birds

Fauna in New York is sophisticated.  The animals that live here are either well adapted to living with humans or well adapted to getting out of our way.  However, when I saw a pigeon standing very still near the curb in the street, I felt something was wrong.  A van pulled up and the front wheel missed the pigeon by not even a finger’s width, but the pigeon didn’t move at all.  Then the rear wheel ran directly over the stationary pigeon with muffled bone crunches.

I walked into Washington Square Park and a very obese man followed me in.  I sat on one side of the pathway and he sat across from me.  Often, though not generally, people hanging around in public parks who don’t take care of themselves have mental problems.  Then a large flock of pigeons, which is strange in itself, all descended upon this man.  Standing on him, walking up and down his arms, crowding as close as possible to his body. I saw his face, he looked confused, which I took to confirm my suspicion about him.  He noticed me looking and he spoke, completely lucidly:  “I don’t even have food. What’s going on?  I guess the birds are just as stir crazy as the rest of us…”  He wasn’t crazy at all: the birds went Hitchcock on him, and he was trapped.  I left Washington Square Park.

candles

I only type up my philosophy writing when it is being prepared for general consumption, that is, no longer my own notes.  Otherwise I write with a fountain pen, which I find to be the least intrusive and most versatile writing implement.

So I am at my brother’s place in Williamsburg as Sandy shakes the windows, hoping the power doesn’t go out — the internet and cable TV had failed, but not before we saw the footage of the 14th street power station explosion and cars floating on C.  I lit a candle just in case.

As I am getting ready to go to sleep on his shockingly ludicrous couch (not his fault) I turn off the standing lamp, leaving the candle the only source of light.  I think, “Hey, this is how people wrote in the past.  Every philosopher up till just recent has sat hunkered over a notebook with a bottle of ink, a pen and a candle.  Let’s see if there is anything to it…”

OH MY GAWD.

It is fantastic.  Modern lighting is excellent, but it sprays light everywhere.  Normally this is a good thing: one or two lamps can light an entire room easily.  But for focused concentration, the single flickering point light of a candle melts everything else away.  Romance is good for philosophy.

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