I should start by saying that I've been incredibly lucky and fortunate so far. Here on Ferry Street, we only lost power for a day, and today I got internet and phone back. Our local grocery stores are not running out of food, our water is still potable, and we spent the weekend before the storm stocking up on food, bottled water, gas, baby formula, and rum, grenadine, and limes (for making hurricanes, natch.) I have yet to go back to work, but I am dreading what it will mean to get across the Hudson without train service. I have a feeling that a two hour bus ride awaits me tomorrow or Monday. That said, it beats what people on the Gulf Coast went through after Katrina, and the devastation that's been wrought on the on the Jersey shore.
Of course, it's easy to feel lucky today. When shit was going down, I was pretty damn scared. Our oven started making this strange popping noise from the fearsome gusts of wind shooting air up the vent. The wind was messing with our building's fire alarm, which started going off for short bursts every ten minutes or so. The thought of having to evacuate the apartment and go outside in the midst of winds so strong that our nineteenth century brick monolith of a building was actually shaking at the time filled me with more dread than I may have ever felt in my life. Luckily the power went out at that point, so we figured we would just wait to smell smoke to tell if our building was burning down. Needless to say, I didn't sleep much that night. Our dog started bugging us at 3AM with the sound of howling wind outside, apparently in need of some comfort from us.
The next morning I took her out for a walk, and saw some of the more surreal images of my life. Tree branches lay all over the place, those trees standing were stripped of leaves now clogging the storm sewer drains and covering the sidewalks. Torn cables and wires twisted in the breeze, and the sky was the sick-gray color of a dead tube television, pregnant with danger. No one was on the streets in a neighborhood that is usually bursting with activity at that hour. As I was getting close to home, I noticed some strange-looking things on the sidewalk, and suddenly realized they were tiles torn from a nearby roof. Coming home to an apartment without power, phone, or cell service, I felt immeasurable worry.
For our day without power we were lucky enough to have a camping lantern with a built-in radio. It doesn't even need batteries, we hand-cranked it when we ran out of AAs. We pretty much kept WNYC (New York public radio) on all day and night, and I think that for people without power, radio has been their lifeline. I will be contributing during the next pledge drive, for sure. For three days I wasn't able to see any pictures of the devastation, but could listen to residents describe it. Seeing the images today has been a horrifying experience; a lot of those little towns on the shore aren't going to make it, I'm afraid.
We took a trip out to my in-laws in the 'burbs yesterday, and I was stunned to see the number of downed lines and uprooted trees. The leafy streets were full of the sound of power generators, which seems to have driven the demand for gas to dangerous levels. Today I went out with my family to a local grocery store, and we passed by a gas station along the way, which was frightening. An acrid mood of angry tension and violence hung in the air, I don't know how long it will be until we start hearing of beatings and shootings over gas. The storm is in many ways in illustration of the perils of the suburban way of life. Here in my neighborhood stores are easy to walk to, we don't need gas to get around. When power went out in the building, some neighbors came by to make sure we were okay; it's harder to fall through the cracks. With fewer trees, it was a lot easier to restore electricity. I only mention this because a lot of folks in suburban NJ think Newark is some kind of benighted hell-hole.
Last, I'd like to offer some perspective on Chris Christie's performance. He's been highly competent, I will admit, and at least this time he is using his savy and confidence to help people in need, rather than to vilify teachers and pass budgets that give to the rich and take from the poor. His competence, as opposed to the disorganized crackpot stupidity of the Tea Party crowd, is what makes him so dangerous when he sets his mind to putting his Reaganite policies into action. He can actually get these things accomplished in a state that will be voting overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. However, his actions have also revealed, yet again, his bullying nature and overriding desire for power. I have the misfortune to have known many bullies in my life, and they tend to attack and humiliate people lower than them, and talk shit about those above them in their absence, but kiss their asses when they actually come around. Christie fits the bill, with his public humiliation of the mayor of Atlantic City, and craven sycophancy towards the president, a man whom he has spent months publicly lambasting. Christie also knows this is his biggest opportunity to increase his national profile, which is why he has not thrown a bone to Romney, a man who will block his route to the White House in 2016. (That also helps explain his convention speech, which barely mentioned Mitt, and this after he was rumored to have rejected the vice-presidential nomination, predicting that Romney was a losing cause.) Christie also has to run for governor next year, and needs to do a lot to convince people in this state that he is not a wacko conservative, which does not sit well in these parts. I think he has actually intentionally thrown Romney under the bus. You heard it here first.