The Apocalypse… Otherwise Known as “Sandy”

This hurricane was seriously one of the strangest experiences of my life.  The devastation in the northeast was intense, and people close to me lost many of their belongings, and parts of their homes.  Thankfully, everyone is safe, which is honestly what we all need to remember, while wading through pools of water in our homes and throwing out all of our crap.

The physical devastation is the obvious part of Hurricane Sandy.   The emotional effects were way stranger and less predictable.  Last Wednesday, two days after the storm hit, and after spending a silent, pitch black night in my apartment BY MYSELF, I filled garbage bags full of my freezer foods, loaded them into my car and decided to head back to Babylon to shower at my parents’ house (boilers and hot water heaters drowned in my basement…not to mention I was going stir crazy).  As I attempted to enter the Lincoln Tunnel from all angles, avoiding the flooded streets, only to be redirected, I pulled over to ask a police officer if it was easier to get through the Holland.

“The Holland Tunnel is filled with water, honey… don’t waste your time.”

Crap.  I started driving back to my apartment… only to remember the bags of frozen food in my backseat, which was my strange motivator to not give up hope.  I hate wasting food.  I went to talk to another cop who informed me that if they don’t start letting people through the Lincoln, the mayor of Weehawken was going to be put in handcuffs.  So I took his word for it and decided to wait it out…

As I finally made my way through the tunnel into the city, I felt like I was driving through Narnia into a new world.  PEOPLE, walking around like normal (appearing clean), and filling a Starbucks (which had lights on) was an odd sight.  It had only been a couple of days of an eerily dark, water-logged Hoboken at this point, but it had already become the norm.

My parents were one of the very few on Long Island who never lost power, so I welcomed a warm shower and lights.  What’s funny though, is I ended up subconsciously avoiding electronics anyway, sitting at the dining room table with my sister and a big bottle of wine and playing cards all night.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my ex boyfriend, Tyler and I connected a few weeks ago to get coffee… to extend an olive branch of friendship, so they say (is that what they say?).  We sent each other a couple of texts Wednesday night to check in and make sure the other had survived the hurricane.  Somehow these messages turned into offering each other company in the powerless, boring world of Hoboken since neither of us really had anything to do.

The next afternoon, I went to get him at his parents’ house where he was staying.  After a quick catch-up & photo sharing session with his mama, he took me outside where his new motorcycle was waiting.  He handed me a helmet and popped my motorcycle-riding cherry, so they say (is that what they say?).  It was exhilarating.  We were such badasses, racing down the suburban streets of Darien, CT!   It was freezing, but we took a quick tour down by the beach before dropping off the bike and starting our drive back to Hoboken.

We somehow navigated our way around all the flooded areas and closed bridges and tunnels, making our way through the ghetto of Jersey City.  As we were nearing Hoboken, we decided to stop in a sketchy little shopping center that seemed to have power.  We stocked up on the essentials at the liquor store, then headed next door to a small, dank, moldy smelling bodega-type grocery store to find something to bring home for dinner.  It was nasty in there, but we didn’t have much of a choice.  There were probably about 15 people in the store.  As I’m browsing the aisles, I hear:

“Hey Court….”

I look down one of the aisles.  Oh…crap.  I wave.  I look at Tyler.  His mouth drops open, as he turns to me and goes… “Is that Baldy?!”

Yep…. that was Baldy.  At first I wave and run away.  Why?  I don’t know.  Because I’ve been ignoring his texts, and I’m standing here with my ex-boyfriend.  Then I realized I was being an immature ass, so went over to talk to him.  The poor freakin guy lived in a garden level apartment, which was at this point more of a personal pool.  Might I take this chance to remind you that this is NOT the first time I have randomly run into Baldy in the strangest place ever after ignoring his texts?

After the semi-awkward encounter, we got our food and got outta there.  Tyler, well-versed on my blog entries says, “He is NOT what I expected.  I didn’t think his voice would sound like that.”

I just think… of course.  Why WOULDN’T I run into someone awkward?

The next several days were strange.  Beyond strange.  I’m not sure why Tyler was with me, but neither of us thought we needed a reason.  It was awesome to re-connect and offer each other some comic relief during some crazy circumstances. We hung out with some friends, and of course, “Are you getting back together??” was a common question, where, “No,” was a quick answer.  “Why are you together?” was another question, and “Because there was a hurricane” was the answer.  I’m not sure why I think it makes sense, but it does.  It was the zombie apocalypse.   Anything goes!

We spent our nights lighting candles and using leftover pickle juice to make shots, while playing board games.  We spent the days trying to find food.  Which proved to be quite an adventure.  We drove up and down Washington Street looking for an open restaurant.  We found that the Elysian was open…. with a signs on the windows reading: Limited Menu.  They listed about 5 different choices.  The bar on a normal day has a 19th-century feel to it, but without power, everything was magnified.  It was freezing cold, everyone was dirty and bundled up, and our voices sort of echoed in the large, open, quiet space.  Food was served wrapped in paper, rather than on plates.  It had a feeling of soup kitchen meets mountain lodge, meets old western saloon.  All conversations we overheard had to do with evacuated hospitals, gas shortages and destroyed homes.  It seemed everyone knew each other.  It was a strange feeling, one I absorbed, and won’t soon forget.

After lunch we made our way up the deserted street to City Hall where they were calling for volunteers.  We got our assignments and were on our way.  We were sent to one location to pick up MRE’s from the National Guard.  They had boxes and boxes stacked on the sidewalk.  They handed us the amount of meals we requested, and we brought them a few blocks over to a large low-income housing building.  As soon as we walked in we realized why these people needed help.  Many were elderly, and all the elevators were out.  The hallways were PITCH BLACK… “Eerie” is an understatement.  We didn’t have flashlights so I began by taking pictures every 3 steps using the flash to see a few feet in front of us.  Luckily, after several minutes of barely missing walls with my face, we realized the video feature on the phone keeps the flash on consistently.  After climbing six flights of stairs,  my fatass whining most of the way, we finally found Theresa… a poor, elderly, diabetic woman living by herself.  Well, not exactly by herself.  As she opens the door a crack, she immediately informs us,

“I have three cats.  I’m not allowed to have three cats.  Please don’t tell on me!”

We laughed… and told her not to worry… we are fellow cat lovers.  Oh, Theresa.

What added to the eerie feel of the apocalypse was the lack of communication.  Cell towers were down so I relied on my laptop to touch base with friends and family.  Somehow the general wifi in the area worked, so I was able to log into my Optimum account.  It was a ticking time game though, because I only had so much laptop power… and didn’t know when or where I’d be able to recharge.

“People helping people” became our tagline, but as much as we laughed when we said it, it actually rang true.  Walking down the street, you’d witness the outpouring of support, people cooking hotdogs and giving them out, others who had generators, bringing extension cords outside so strangers could charge their phones…  Posts on Facebook by random Hoboken residents, inviting anyone without power to use showers and outlets and get a hot meal.   Sometimes it takes a disaster to take a minute to appreciate humanity.  Or maybe it’s the disaster that causes people to stop acting like self-absorbed assholes for two minutes to help a neighbor.  Either way….

So here I sit… more than a week after Sandy…. on my couch in my winter coat and snowboarding socks with a nose about as cold as an icicle and probably a family of rats living in my hair. But grateful. We are far from finished assessing the damage caused by Sandy, but there’s’ something humbling about going through all of this..  Something romantic about sitting around a table on a Saturday night with three of your close friends, candles surrounding you, and just board games and conversation to keep you occupied…  Something touching about the willingness of friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers to offer up water, clean-up assistance, outlets, showers, food, and even just company.   I continue to feel for all of the families who lost way more than I did, but hope everyone can at least see a slight glimmer of hope, somewhere in this huge mess.

This has truly been a week I won’t forget.

Video:  Free gasoline line in Hoboken:  5 gallon maximum.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mom
    Nov 07, 2012 @ 18:29:42

    Great blog!


  2. Lindsay
    Nov 08, 2012 @ 15:45:41

    Favorite line “a family of rats living in my hair”.


  3. mom
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 17:53:26

    This was so well written!


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