Friday, November 2, 2012
Although I'd made do with quick cold showers the previous two days, the temperature dropped a good bit overnight into Friday. Even as I stripped down to prepare to bathe, I felt quite uncomfortable, so I took another cue from the 19th century and heated a large pot of water on the stove, which I then doused over myself little by little. Hot liquid has rarely felt so good, and with each subsequent dump of water over my body, I felt more rejuvenated.
I had an egg salad wrap, which I fried on the stovetop for my warm breakfast. I worked on the blog a bit more till about noon, and then I reheated the cod fish and rice for lunch.
Around 1:15, I headed off to Brooklyn on rollerblades, which both assuaged my cramped feet, that grew tired of walking long hours in the same sneakers, and allowed me to head deeper into the borough. I went straight to The Williamsburg Bridge, across the East River, and then down under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to The Manhattan Bridge. At both river crossings I saw police checkpoints, which were up to stop cars with fewer than three passengers from passing into Manhattan from 6AM to midnight. It was a way to reduce traffic and save gasoline, which I'm happy Mayor Bloomberg put into action. I only wondered why this policy wasn't maintained during other times. Traffic is always an issue in New York, and fossil fuels are increasingly perceived as harmful by a large population. It would put a greater emphasis on mass-transit, and seems like common sense, at least during rush hours.
I turned onto Flatbush Avenue and followed it past the new Barclays Center—home of the Brooklyn Nets, and in a few years, The New York Islanders—and out to Prospect Park. I thought I might skate around the park loop, but it too was closed, so I headed further east, and slalomed down an empty Washington Avenue parallel to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Rather than skate back uphill, which is always a greater challenge than walking or biking, I decided to throw on my shoes and walk back through the garden. I'd never been there before, and even though it was not in full bloom, it made for a pleasant destination. The Japanese Garden in particular, which didn't rely so much on plants, was quite pretty.
Brooklyn Shuttle line, a 7-minute ride uphill through Crown Heights, past The Botanic Garden, leftover from a more industrial past. I considered taking the train because mass transit was still free, it would get me back up the hill, and it seemed like something curious to do.
Around 3:15, I headed back towards Williamsburg to meet Sam, where he was wrapping up a music rehearsal. Our friend Mark also decided to join us, catching a bus from his job in Manhattan back to Brooklyn. The three of us walked back over The Williamsburg bridge, which was bustling with commuter foot traffic the opposite direction into Brooklyn.
Perhaps as a sign that my adventure was coming to a close, my camera battery gave way during our walk over The East River. When we reached the other side, power appeared to be back on. Sam in particular had been curious to see what Lower Manhattan looked like without electricity, but I feared my dark home was no longer around to share. It caught me off guard, as I'd figured I had at least one more day to enjoy the simpler life I'd been leading.
As we crossed Bowery at Houston, a reporter for dnainfo.com came up to us and asked about our feelings regarding the power coming back. My first words were, "It's the end of an era," which, even as I said them, I knew were a bit exaggerated and selfish, but as you know by now, my experiences during the blackout were enlightening and a welcome respite from the grind of everyday life. She snapped a picture of us and I told her I was working on a blog about my time during the hurricane, to which she asked for a link. Of course, I didn't have one at the time because I'd been all but without internet since the storm, but I told her to visit my regular website where I would post a link. As of this writing, I've yet to see the picture or a quote from one of us on dnainfo.
As I noted to the reporter, there were supposedly several reasons for the power outage, and electricity was supposed to come back across the lower part of the island in a staggered succession. From where we stood, it didn't appear that things a few blocks away, in my neighborhood, were yet relit, and indeed, when we crossed Broadway, our surroundings got much darker. Sam and Mark got to experience a bit of the darkness, I whipped out my flashlight, and we headed back to my apartment.
Arriving around 6:00, we each drank a beer on my stoop, waiting for Sam's girlfriend Kira to meet us there. She'd just come back from her place in Hoboken, which she'd visited that day for the first time since the storm, and she relayed some of the goings on over there. It seems her apartment went unaffected, but the gasoline shortage was becoming a bigger issue. As soon as the storm subsided, people got back out onto the roads, but gas stations were hit like anything else and had trouble refilling their pumps. As a consequence, she said many cars were abandoned along the roads, and lines at the open stations were hours long. Emergency vehicles rightfully had priority, but they slowed down the lines even more, and some people had even been held at knife and gunpoint for a place at the pump. From what I'd heard, it appeared the damage from the storm was greater in New Jersey and Staten Island, and the car culture in those places contributed to a greater dilemma. I was fortunate to not witness any looting, mugging, or signs of such things in Lower Manhattan, but under more desperate circumstances, I may not have had such a pleasant experience.
Kira and Sam headed off to Lincoln Center for a concert, and Mark and I hung around The Village to grab a drink at two local bars, first in The Dark Zone, next to my apartment, and as the cold caught up with us, we headed across Broadway to a slightly warmer place.
As I went to sleep that evening, power was still out, the temperature dropped even lower, and I shivered even with three layers of blankets and two layers of clothes. However, around 4AM, I got up to use the bathroom and noticed a glow in the apartment. What I first thought was Anna having returned with a candle turned out to be our bathroom light. While I'd unplugged nearly everything which used electricity in the apartment, our bathroom light is operated by a pull-chain, so I did not know whether it was off or on. It turned out to work in my favor, and within a few hours, the heat started to kick in just enough to make sleeping more pleasant.
The power outage was over, and life would return to normal in the following hours, but with electricity back, I had new obligations in the morning, putting the apartment back together, and moving on from the fantastical experience.