During the week of Oct. 24 to the 29th, there was a hurricane called Sandy. It was a Category 2 storm at its peak, hitting the Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, as well as Eastern Canada.
NY Daily News covers Hurricane Sandy. Oct. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
So unless you’ve been living in a cave, or believe all the lies from the GOP, Hurricane Sandy had a deviating effect on the east coast. In NYC, areas like Staten Island, Rockaway Beach, Coney Island, and many other communities were affected.
Luckily my neighborhood wasn’t one of those affected. At first I didn’t take the storm too seriously. After the hype of last year’s Hurricane Irene, some folks just didn’t care. (Although Irene impacted other surrounding areas.) Others went into panic mode and raided the local grocery stores.
After stocking up on some items, I noticed the wind blowing harder than usual. Walking further down my street, snapped tree branches were already littering the sidewalks.
Running out of beer. Hurricane Sandy, Queens NY. October 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo
Pre-Hurricane Sandy. Queens Oct. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
Entering into my local 7-11, I couldn’t help but notice the beer section becoming scarce.
As Sandy wreaked havoc in NYC, there was a part of me that wanted to take a peek outside. Common sense told me otherwise. As a precautionary measure I turned off most of the electricity and huddled in the bedroom. It was kind of wild hearing the windows creak from the wind pressure.
From my window I heard someone walk around outside during the peak of the storm going “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” A dog could be heard barking on and off. By that point, I was content staying under the sheets.
Damaged Carvel sign. Queens. Oct. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
Luckily the next day there were no causalities around my way. After making a celebratory breakfast, I took a brief walk around the block. Very little damage was to be had. Other areas around NYC weren’t so lucky.
Damaged McDonald’s sign. Borderline between Ridgewood and Bushwick. Nov. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
Since classes were cancelled for the next few days, I just chilled out at home. What else could you do – unless you had a car, you couldn’t go anywhere. Public transportation was at a standstill. Slowly some local buses started on their routes again, with limited service.
Anderson Cooper reporting on Hurricane Sandy. Oct. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
Couldn’t help but notice how some other people were treating the aftermath in my area. CNN and NY1 were broadcasting from various restaurants and cafes nearby, covering Sandy’s damage. Meanwhile, some people were clearly enjoying their days off. As we walked around, I started making sarcastic jokes. Taking a cue from PeeWee Herman, the word of the day was ‘PRIORITES!’
Priorities. Cue the Lana Del Rey song. Line outside local Game Stop. Queens, NY. Oct. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
Among some of those observations: Customers lining up for treats at a local yogurt place. Business was booming for a nail salon as women had their nails done. Meanwhile, lines were queuing outside of video game shops. The hottest game, “Assassin’s Creed III” had just been released. It was a combination of people enjoying their time off, playing catch-up, being oblivious, or trying to get their mind off of the hurricane altogether. Priorities? Take your pick. What a difference between my area and Far Rockaway for example, where residents had lost everything they ever had.
Halloween rolled around. Understandably the Greenwich Village parade was cancelled. So me and Ben walked around our local neighborhood once more. Since most locals weren’t going into work, the main shopping street was packed with parents trick and treating with their children. There were also teenagers and young adults wearing their respective costumes.
Halloween despite Hurricane Sandy. Queens NY. Oct. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
Born this way? Post Hurricane Sandy Halloween. Queens NY. Oct. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo
Later that night, cabin fever was kicking in. So I recycled my Devo outfit for a third time. After having a beer at my favorite nearby Germanic bar, we went to Williamsburg for some Halloween festivities. I should’ve just stayed local. First stop was Duff’s, a Metal bar. Two guys were heckling some hipster by calling him Moby every fifteen minutes. Then some snooty girl with an Irish accent asked me what my costume was. I said Devo. She had no clue who Devo was. Wow, did that make me feel old, and therefore ruined my mood. Snooty girl went back to sucking face with her equally douche-y date.
Further down Bedford Avenue, it was no better. Bedford was crawling with ungrateful wanna-be Hipsters. That’s right – not only do we have ‘Hipsters’ but now we have the ‘wanna-be’ Hipsters. Only they’re not as cultured and three times the douche. It wasn’t long before me and Ben did a 360 back to our neck of the woods.
At the end of the week, a small number of subways regained service. By then my curiosity got the best of me. So I took the J train and then the shuttle bus into lower Manhattan.
Upon entering Manhattan, I got off at Essex Street. Immediately there was an slight eerie feeling in the air. Not many people were to be seen. I walked further up past Houston until I reached Avenue A. I stopped in front the bar called Double Down. What do you know, it was open. My friend who bartends there part time did inform me about working her shift. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Double Down, so I decided to go in. Why not?
Outside Double Down after Hurricane Sandy. Nov. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
Inside there was no electricity, but plenty of customers. Mostly L.E.S. locals making the best with what they’ve got. Most of the common complaints were not being able to take showers and no heat. Cellphone service was not to be had. Since texting was temporary disabled, for once maybe people were forced to carry conversations were one another. Just like back in the old days. Maybe the clientele that night weren’t really looking to drink, but to share grievances with one another. One guy brought in his vintage record turntable along with some vinyl. The patrons were sipping their whiskey to the sounds of classic Jimi Hendrix. Despite feeling run down, everyone was lifting each other’s spirits by sharing jokes and whatnot. I sat to one guy who called himself Marty Manhattan. Well I think that was his name. He was leading the pack with his special brand of stand-up. He was actually funnier than most comedians on Comedy Central. Next to Marty was a guy sharing left over Halloween candy with everyone.
Inside Double Down with no electricity. Nov. 2012. Lower Manhattan. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
You would think people would be despondent, but on the contrary. It was nice to converse with people without their smartphones in the way. In the year 2012, we’ve gotten used to being in our own digital world, that we forget talking to one another. Who needs honest communication when we have Facebook? Nowadays, we seem to talk to strangers, acquaintances or in some cases friends, only if we want something from the other person. It’s like we’ve forgotten how to share without any hidden agendas.
NY Post at Double Down. Nov. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
The guy with the battery operated turntable had to go back to his place, but he told the crowd he’ll be back. Slowly daylight was fading. Looking out the windows, I could see locals walking around with flashlights. Luckily, Double Down’s bathroom still had running water, where as many places in the Lower East Side didn’t have as much. Seven day candles were burning for necessity, not for ambiance.
Suddenly two uniformed cops on the beat walked into Double Down. Everyone turned around to see why the hell the NYPD was standing there. A few started grumbling being harassed by the po-po.
One of the cops spoke toughly: “Hey! Are you guys gonna stay open all night?”
Some of the patrons got slightly defensive. The bouncer confirmed yes.
The cop then relaxed. “Oh. Okay. Just checking. We just might come back after our shift…”
As they quickly headed back out, you could hear the customers heckling them. Some even booed the cops. I over heard someone sneer in a typical New York fashion: “get the fuck outta here…”
Meanwhile, I got caught in a middle of a prank. The bar row where I was sitting began playing this communal joke. It was a game of fake whispering, followed by snickering. Another female bartender had just shown up for her shift. Again the fake whispering started. This bartender immediately whipped around, looked at me in the face and snapped “what!?!” Somehow I got blamed. I must’ve looked like a deer in headlights, and I wasn’t even doing the whispering. Everyone else started hollering. I took it in stride. After all it was funny.
The guy with the portable battery- operated turntable came back. Now he was spinning the ‘Loaded’ album by Velvet Underground. As the first strains of ‘Rock & Roll’ came on, he sat on his bar stool staring at the vinyl record. This scene reminded of what I used to do during my teen years. A more simpler time when I would sit in my bedroom, transfixed by the needle playing vinyl released by some of my then-favorite bands.
My friend’s shift was coming to close, and she invited me to tag along afterwards. Before heading over there, my friend picked up a six pack at a corner deli. There were a few delis and restaurants open despite no electricity. Then me, her and her friends went further down to Avenue C.
Inside East Village deli with no electricity. Nov. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
Again, it was weird walking down the Lower East Side with no street lights. How ironic that after years of gentrification, it came down to this. People were walking around with hand held flash lights, or those flashlights headlamps. Flashlights headlamps, the perfect accessory for times like these. Of course, since I didn’t expect to stay past night, I was totally unprepared.
We entered an apartment building where my friend’s pals lived. Usually it was nice residential building, but thanks to the Hurricane, it was now nearly deserted. Many of the apartment dwellers hightailed it after the second day with no modern conveniences. The building also had barely any running water. If we had to use the bathroom, there was either the toilet in the laundry room, or sneak into a vacant studio in-between renters. Since there were no working elevators, we had to trudge up nine flights of stairs. Hey, I needed the exercise.
Inside the apartment, we listened to music from a battery operated boombox and carried conversations. It was nice actually. Felt as if I was back in the 1990s, being in my twenties, hanging with friends, listening to CDs. Again, there was no iPhones or Androids to distract us. Of course, then me and my friend started talking about photos, and we took out our cellphones. So we kinda-sorta ruined the moment. Well no, not really, but thinking about this later reminded me again how we’re forced to talk to each other if we don’t have any contraptions to stick our noses into. We couldn’t get any phone bars, but there was still enough juice to show pics stored on the cell.
The couple who shared the apartment along with their friend mentioned that they had to head everyday uptown to wash up, charge their cells, eat, and maybe get a chance to catch up on emails. Besides that, they were doing what every other person was doing in a crisis like this – having a ‘boozecation.’ Nothing else to do but to consume alcohol.
Went a few floor down again to use the bathroom in the empty studio. On the other floor, I could smell pot from another apartment. Guess they were having their own little ‘weedcation.’
I looked outside the apartment window. Lower Manhattan was completely dark, except for one high rise building from the Wall Street area. Why was I not surprised? Meanwhile, who knows how many people went without within the tri-state area?
Things were winding down, and I was too full from all the beers. Time for me and my friend to head back to the outer boroughs. Now did I mention we were not prepared to walk in the darken streets. Luckily I still had juice on my cellphone, so we used that as a flashlight substitute. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was scared shitless. No streetlights, not knowing who or what was going to jump out of nowhere to mug you. My friend didn’t seem to be bothered. She loved every second of it. I think she might’ve said it was like being in a zombie film or something, can’t remember the exact quote. Me on the other hand, I was freaking out. The traffic was dwindling down. There were even less cars than before, and we had to be extra careful crossing streets thanks to no traffic lights. It felt as if we were in a scene from a late ‘70s/early ‘80s apocalyptic flick on VHS.
We nearly bumped into this tall beefy African American guy walking his dog. He gave us a stern warning in a deep voice: “you girls better get out of the street. It’s not safe.” Actually he was trying to be nice, but the seriousness in his voice was enough to put the fear of God in me. At that point my only goal was to reach Avenue A in one piece and grab any cab back home. My friend wanted to go back to Double Down for another round. I gently grabbed her into the cab I managed to hail.
Going over the Williamsburg Bridge, we looked outside the back cab window. It was so strange to see Manhattan completely darkened. Even though just minutes ago we had been walking those same streets, it just didn’t seem real. As we turned forward towards the driver, we could see the complete difference. Cross the other side of the East River we were approaching civilization. For years people would scramble getting of the outer boroughs into Manhattan. Now at this time it was the other way around. Who would’ve thought.
We got off at Marcy Avenue, walked towards Bedford and had a bite to eat at a nearby San Loco. Afterwards, I jumped on a Q54 heading home.
As of this post, things are back to normal in some areas. I was in Lower Manhattan this past Saturday, and it was business as usual. Meanwhile in places like Coney Island, Rockaway, Staten Island, etc., the recovery is still beginning. So if you’re reading this, and you’re able to, perhaps you can help those affected by giving a little something. Unless you’re some asinine Southerner who thinks Romney should’ve won. Therefore you refuse to help out NYC because the majority voted for Obama. Honestly, I don’t usually care who you vote for. But if you’re gonna to be that petty…well in that case, you can just go shove it.
Line for gas a week after Hurricane Sandy. Flushing, Queens NY. Nov. 2012. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.
In hindsight, the hurricane reminded me of what it was like in the days before smartphones, social networking, texting, digital, etc. Perhaps we do depend too much on computers, internet, smartphones, iPads, video games, and all other mod cons. Had we forgotten the simple pleasures? I’m not saying modern technology is such a bad thing…but maybe we shouldn’t depend on it too much. Since then I’ve been slowly weaning myself off of Facebook. Being grateful for what I have, and enjoying some old fashion human interaction. I ask myself how long this reflection will last, since I’m also becoming more misanthropic by each passing day. We’ll see.
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