So the great blackout of ’03 is fading into history and, while an interesting experience (and assuming the worst is really over), I can’t complain.
The lights went out at my job at 4:13pm, just as I was in the initial stages of wrapping up the loose ends on everything I’m juggling before I leave for vacation. The first 20 minutes or so was low-key confusion as the longer the lights stayed off, the more people started to worry that “something” had happened. With my office being walking distance to the former World Trade Center, and many of my co-workers having experienced 9/11 firsthand, there were a few more nervous than others. I was more annoyed than anything else, realizing I might end up having to go in to work today to finish wrapping things up. The writer in me was also doing that distanced observer thing that keeps me from emotionally connecting to a situation. I swear people must think I’m a sociopath sometimes.
I stayed in the building until 5:30pm, long enough to get in touch with Salomé out in Colorado to ease her mind. Cell phones weren’t working but our office phones were. She was able to give me an update from MSNBC about what was going on and I realized I probably had a loooooong walk ahead of me, almost 17 miles according to MapQuest. Not relishing the thought, I decided to gamble on my usually reliable luck working out and took my time meandering north. Bumped into a couple of co-workers and we headed off to a bar near the job that was selling beer like it was water in a Mad Max movie. Not because they were gouging but the sheer desperation of the people. For the most part, though, people were relaxed and taking the whole thing in stride. When you live through something like 9/11, a blackout doesn’t really phase you much.
Salomé and I were able to keep in touch and she finally got through to the kids’ sitter who said she’d keep them for the night. Once I knew that, I was completely relaxed and ready to hoof it until I couldn’t anymore and attempt to crash near whomever I knew lived close to that whereever I ended up.
From there, we headed north up the east side, through Chinatown and some of the worst gridlock I’ve ever seen. People determined to make it to Brooklyn were sandwiched in buses and cars that were going nowhere fast. The police were doing an excellent job moderating the traffic flow and we made decent time on foot, despite the density of the crowds heading in the opposite direction. Passed by the Bowery Poetry Club where Bob, Dawn, Taylor, Regie, Shappy and others were hanging out. Felt like Norm walking into the rebel compound, and the place was pretty full with candles lit everywhere and people milling about. With a free bottle of water in hand (thanks, Bob!), we continued north.
I’d reached 23rd street around 9:30pm when my cousin Joanne finally got through the me on the phone. She works a few blocks from me (and lives in my building) and had tried to head home as soon as the power went down. Fortunately, she never made it on to the train and ended up at her co-worker’s apartment, exactly five blocks from where I was when she called! Like I’ve said in the past, I’ve always been a pretty lucky guy. We met up about 20 minutes later and headed towards Madison Avenue, hoping to find a cab or express bus as she was in no condition to walk all the way home.
As well as I know the subway, I know nothing about surface transit (I’ve probably been on an NYC bus less than five times in my life!) and if I hadn’t met up with Joanne, I’d have been kicking myself today when I found out about the buses. We missed the one that would put us right on our street and instead caught one that took us to Pelham Parkway & White Plains Road, on the other side of the Bronx River Parkway, about 10 minutes from home. In less than 10 minutes, we caught a gypsy cab, stopped by the sitter’s to pick up the kids and were home by 11pm.
The worst part of the night was getting into the apartment as the building was pitch-black, not even a glowstick had been put out! The stairwell was the darkest thing I’ve ever walked through, carrying both kids and two bags, tired as hell from the events of the day. Isaac was freaked out by the dark and, having only been in the stairwell a couple of times, it took nearly 10 minutes to make our way up the five flights, one painstakingly slow and humid step at a time. By myself, I’d have probably been spooked as hell as one of the downsides of an overactive imagination is that the dark holds many monsters, real and imgained. With the kids, and my cousin making her way right behind us, my imagination went into protective mode as I comforted Isaac that everything was okay and treated it more like a game. Once we made it into the apartment, it was all good as we’re at the front of the building and the moonlight offered suffiicient illumination. Once Isaac fell asleep, I hopped in the shower and then passed out in bed.
Woke up this morning at 7:30am when the kids’ monitor crackled to life and I realized we had power again. There’s still areas without and the trains aren’t up and running yet and there’s no official word on what really happened – or what caused it to happen, at least. Some of the theories I’ve heard have been rather interesting but I’m pretty sure there’s no truth to the rumor that Marc Smith did it for publicity but, who knows? 😉
Salomé’s flight home was cancelled and they had to book one into Philadelphia and drive in from there. Her plane just landed minutes ago so they should be getting in around 7pm and I’ll drive in to the city to pick her up. We really needed this upcoming vacation before all of this. Now, it’s like perfect timing!
Back in a week!