So, yeah. The blackout. This is a long entry that covers a good amount of territory. Stay with me.
I was at a birthday party at work when it happened. We figured it was just our building, or maybe our floor, because our building is pretty crappy and has occasional problems. I went back for a second piece of birthday cake. Finally when the alarms started going off we decided to hike it down the 17 flights. We were all down on E.52rd trying to figure out what was up. I tried to call Erin but couldn't get a cell signal. We noticed that the Austrian Cultural Institute building was also dumping people out into the street. And so were other buildings. All the other buildings. And the traffic signals were out, too. So, we figured it was some switching station or transformer explosion, somewhere in midtown. Local. It was sort of funny, I mean, we were joking about trying to go over to Rioyou, the sushi bar, and try to cut a deal on all that high grade fish that was about to go to waste ("I'll give you $25 right now if you just let me behind the counter for an hour. Could you hand me that wasabi?").
Rumors started to move through the crowds. The subway is down. Most TV and Radio isn't broadcasting. It is all five boroughs. Actually it is the whole tri-state area. No, the eastern seaboard. And parts of Canada. Toronto, certainly.
I (having always been a bit, erm, paranoid, and growing increasingly more so in the past, erm, 2 years or so. Ahem.) started wondering if perhaps we all might want to do something other than stand around on the street corner, with our thumb up our collective ass, cracking wise and waiting for something to change. I was thinking about clean drinking water. I was thinking about nightfall. More than anything I was thinking about Erin.
Erin and I had spent the end of the previous weekend, and the early part of the week, baby and house sitting for the folks that she works for, and so, since she had worked a good amount extra, she had Thursday off. She was, as far as I knew, at home in Brooklyn, although she had talked a bit about heading in to Central Park to go for a walk with friends. I was starting to feel a little panicky. Thinking about Erin, was she at home, fine? Was she at home freaking out? Was she at home napping, unaware? Had she decided to head into the city (I didn't much like to think about that one. If she had come in to the city she was supposed to meet her friends around 4:30 or so, which would very likely put her under the river at 4:11. No good. No good at all.)
I told Kate and Heather that I was going to walk home. I think they could tell that I was starting to feel a little edgy. They bade me good luck and I said "Thanks, I'll see you tomorrow. Maybe.". (Later on I realized I should have brought them home with me, or at least made the offer. My house, although pretty far, is quite a bit closer to midtown than either of theirs. Ah, well.)
It is about a 5 mile walk to my house from my work. It is quite a bit closer in a car (they don't let pedestrians into the Midtown Tunnel, and I ain't getting in no damn tunnel with the lights off anyway) and even closer than that as the crow flies. To walk it you have to head up to the 59th street bridge (think: the bridge in the beginning of the TV show 'TAXI'), make your way across the bridge to Queens, head over towards the Citigroup Building (an odd 51 story glass skyscraper smack in southwest Queens. Literally the only building taller than maybe 5 or 6 floors as far as you can see. Makes a hell of a landmark) and then cross over the Pulaski Bridge back into Old Mother Brooklyn (nice view. See it here.) Then it is just a dozen or so blocks to home.
There were quite a few people on the 59th street bridge. So many that we couldn't fit on the pedestrian walkways so we were just streaming out onto the roadway. People were largely quiet, but not, seemingly, all that scared. I wasn't scared either, particularly. I wanted very much to know that Erin was OK, and to listen to the radio and find out what the hell was going on, but I knew that I was doing the only thing I could do, which was walk. I even had a few chats with a few different people, strangers and one co-worker (and fellow resident of Greenpoint) that I ran into on the way.
It was really really hot. Mid 90's, sunny, humid. I took a picture, a Polaroid of all of us crossing the bridge. I really like it but, obviously, it is not the picture that I intended it to be. I am the only person clearly visible, yet I was standing in a crowd of several hundred thousand. I'll get a better one next blackout, promise.
A funny Polaroid note: for the first time since I started the "Polaroid-a-Day" project my camera jammed up. Somewhere on my walk home I spilled some water into my bag, and my camera was in there, so really this was MY fault, and no the fault of my camera. No permanent damage, but it made some funny stuff happen to the next few pictures. Sure do know how to make a fine camera, them folks at Polaroid.
Finally I made it back to Brooklyn. At the far end of the Pulaski bridge there was a fellow sitting on the railing selling really old candles. "Six candles for one buck" he would say as people walked past him, ignoring him, and then, a few steps later, realize what a good offer it was and turn back to make a purchase. I did too. They look like squat, bulb shaped Halloween candles from 1964. I also, a few blocks later, bought 6 1-liter bottles of water, all that I had cash for and walked down my block. I was starting to really get a bit anxious. Was Erin home? Was she OK? Eek?
About a half a block from the house I saw her walking towards me, smiling, laughing, waving her arms over her head at me. Relief.
Let me at this point interrupt my meandering and long-winded account with this exciting piece of information: Erin and I are getting married! True! And this is isn't even all that NEW of a piece of news, it isn't even blackout related news. We've been sure since the end of June, I can't believe that I haven't posted about it here in dirtdirt.com, I actually feel BADLY about that. The wedding is in October, in California, and will be very small. Rest assured many many photos will be posted here. We also will be having a much more inclusive reception back here in Brooklyn a few weeks later, so, if you feel at all slighted by not being invited to the actual wedding PLEASE don't. Know that we had to make some pretty brutal decisions about the guest list and that we would love for you to come to the Brooklyn Reception. And, heck, chances are: if you are reading this you are invited to the Brooklyn Reception. So, stay tuned. My point in bringing this up (in addition to it seeming like as good a time as any since, apparently, I am unable to figure out how to write a Time Machine entry about it alone) is to try and let you know the depth of relief I felt when I saw her, smiling. Boy howdy.
Turns out Erin had decided that she just didn't feel right getting on the subway (cue: Twilight Zone music) so she had stayed home and taken a nap (Ha! I knew it!) and was asleep when the power went off. She woke up shortly after, and this woman, my wife-to-be (hehehe...), even had the presence of mind to buy ICE, and beer, and to fill up the cooler thereby ensuring that the meat we had in the fridge wouldn't defrost before we could eat it. She listened to the radio (the little radio that I had the good fortune to buy a few weeks ago. At the dollar store. That little radio rules, it is shaped like a 4 inch boom-box has a flashlight on it. Cute, cheap, bizarre gadgetry ALWAYS wins.) for a while, went out and got some supplies (aforementioned ice, beer, fresh mozzarella, etc.) and then finally went to the corner bar to pass the time, knowing that I would be coming along shortly. Ahh. Once again: that's a spicy meatball.
So we hung out at the bar for a while, talking to people that we normally wouldn't (not that we wouldn't talk to THESE people normally, just that we wouldn't talk to ANY people, normally.). We talked to several different neighbors, and Erin talked to a curator for the Guggenheim, or MOMA or something (who apparently didn't ask her if she knew any fabulously talented but slightly under-appreciated, lanky, geeky, arteests). We both smoked some cigarettes (note: I have, after several years of not smoking at all, made a conscious (although probably ill-advised) decision to see if I could get away with smoking occasionally. It is working. I have smoked some cigarettes at various times, and not felt the need to run out and buy a pack, or smoke cigarettes the next day, or smoke a million cigarettes. We have had a pack of cigarettes in the freezer for about a month and I haven't even been tempted. I will let you know if it goes sour. So far so good.). We noticed how the intersection of Franklin and Greenpoint works better as a four way stop than it does as a regular traffic light.
We saw a few people walking by the bar with boxes of pizza, so we decided to go see if we could get some. As we got to the place (there is an EXEMPLARY Brooklyn pizza parlor in Greenpoint. Outstanding) we could see that they were still open, but barely. Gas fired ovens. The guy, one of the brothers that runs (owns?) the place, was saying "I'm sorry, I just can't make any more pies. I can't see anything. I HATE to make a bad pie.". We managed (whether by luck or by our frequent customer status is unclear) to get the last two slices in the store before he closed up and went home to Bensonhurst.
That was some good pizza.
We listened to the little radio. They said they were certain it wasn't terrorism. They said they weren't sure what had caused it. Excuse me, not to be contrary, but if you don't know what something IS how can you say so quickly what it isn't? I don't necessarily think that this was terrorism but I hate when people inflame my mistrust by saying obviously stupid and/or untrue things while trying to comfort me.
A bit later on we went for a walk around the neighborhood, it was completely, utterly dark. Strange to look over towards manhattan and not see anything at all. There were many many people out on stoops and in yards, some grilling, some talking, some just sitting. It was nice. It was a VERY hot night to sleep through, though, and the fact that some jackass decided to fire off their leftover fireworks, one at a time, with lots of time in between, very very late, didn't help.
The next day, Friday, we both were delighted to have free. We went out and got horrible iced coffee in a can (horrible, but did the chemical trick. We have a french press and gas stove BUT no electricity means no coffee GRINDER. I guess we could've mortar and pestled it but...), polish dollar store condiments, a $10 grill and a bag of Qik Joe E-Z light briquettes. And a Times. We spent a few hours sitting outside, in near (and unusual) silence, occasionally listening to the little radio, reading the Times and playing the mandolin. Very nice. Eventually Dylan and Jimmy and Noralyn came over, even brought some stuff (Kielbasy!) and we had essentially a day long BBQ. We even harvested some of our own crops (Hehe, basil for the mozzarella burgers. Mm!) for the festivities. When the power came back on just after 4:00 we all cheered (along with all the neighbors) but were slightly disappointed. Dylan yelled, really loudly, "Lets all go watch TV!". That Dylan.
All in all I am surely glad that society did not crumble, that I got a day off and that I was able to see stars in the sky over Brooklyn. It was a nice time, and a series of perspectives that I wouldn't otherwise have.
I sure hope that it doesn't happen again.