At four a.m yesterday morning we woke up to a bedroom FLOODED IN LIGHT. After 105 hours without electricity, water, cellphone reception and internet connection the power was finally back on the LOWER WEST SIDE of MANHATTAN.
This last week has been a very mixed experience. Talking to people back in NORWAY already on SUNDAY I kind of realized that they were not getting the same info that we were, they were just too calm, and my dad said that THE STORM would probably be a disappointment, as in it being HYPED. He was not alone thinking that, not in Norway, and not here. My best friend said she would bet me 100 Norwegian kroner that it would shift course and not hit us. Well, they were both wrong. Only when the Norwegian online newspapers started posting about the storm late Sunday evening worried messages started to tick in. And by now, probably everyone knows that the storm we were talking about would be the REAL DEAL.
Still, looking back at the following MONDAY, walking the streets early on that day felt strangely familiar and safe. Growing up in BERGEN on the west coast of NORWAY, the pre-SANDY Monday weather with strong WINDS, RAIN and streets filled with LEAVES, felt like home. It reminded me of being a kid and walking SUNDAY WALKS with my sister and parents, maybe not any Sunday, but these autumn Sundays when the weather was really SHITTY, you could hear the RAIN DRUMMING on your roof and the wind would make your windows BULGE. All I wanted on those Sundays was to stay inside, but my mother would keep saying; 'we have to go outside, fresh air is good for you, we can't mind the weather, there is NO BAD WEATHER, only BAD CLOTHES (growing up in BERGEN, this is the psychotic MANTRA we grow up with). So there we were on Monday, walking the streets of LOWER MANHATTAN, having 'Sunday walks childhood flashbacks'; closed stores, deserted streets and the feeling of rain and wind hitting your face. I have to say though, even though the wind was strong and the rain got more and more heavy, the TEMPERATURE was way more comfortable than it ever was on any of my families autumn Sunday walks. And with the storm bringing warm air from the tropics, the temperature would stay quite high through out the night.
After the walk we buckled up in our apartment, we had stacked up on classic CABIN STUFF; candy, chips, red wine, beer, ingredients to make pizza, different soups and pasta dishes, tons of water …and candles. At this point we were 4 people in the apartment, ERLEND and I, and INA and TORE, two friends of ours visiting from BERGEN, stranded because of the storm. We were all following the storm on TV, seeing footage of the water rising, the wind increasing, the facade of a CHELSEA building being ripped off leaving the house looking like a dollhouse, a crane collapsing in MIDTOWN. From our apartment located on lower Manhattan, but outside the evacuation zones, we could hear the wind increasing, but with our apartment facing a backyard and our balcony protecting the windows from wind it was pretty undramatic. It can also be mentioned that E had been wishing for a STORM, a BLIZZARD AND a BLACKOUT since we arrived (feel free to blame him those of you who want to, I kind of do), WEATHER MOVIES being his favorite kind of films, so he was actually quite positive and even a little bit EXCITED at this point .
Then the POWER disappeared. And all we could hear was the sound of the WIND and SIRENS .. then followed by some hectic minuets with the sound of running water as we filled our BATHTUB with water. And then quiet again. All of our more used to hurricane friends had prepared us; if power disappears; fill your tub with water, you might loose it soon after …and so we did. A friend of ours living right across the street described how, through friends on TWITTER, he could follow how lower Manhattan area by area was going black; TRIBECA out, SOHO out, getting closer and closer to where he was living. At this point his about 30 stories high building was swaying from side to side, making the emergency water in his tub sway back and forth with it.
The quiet and darkness that seemed kind of calming and romantic MONDAY NIGHT on early TUESDAY MORNING was replaced by the UNROMANTIC TRUTH of the storm's damages and the unromantic consequences of an apartment without water, electricity, internet and cellphone reception. Only getting info from the outside world through an ipod RADIO that would soon run out of battery, hearing about horrible damages made by the storm, eating FOOD that would soon go bad because of a fridge that was getting warmer and warmer, no possibility of taking a shower, flushing the toilet with water from the tub, leaving the apartment to find a completely DARK hallway leading to a completely DARK staircase that would lead us 13 floors down to a lower MANHATTAN left without electricity, no open stores or cafes, broken glass and trees in the streets, traffic lights not working, people emptying their cars and basements for water, people taking pictures of the damages while other took a walk or a jog on the closed FDR HIGHWAY.
On our second day without power we walked up to the area above 26th street, on the west side that was where the line between light and darkness was drawn, or like the New Yorkers like to classify things; that was where our for the occasion named neighborhood SOPO; South of Power, ended. This area right north of SoPo had a weird feel the first days after the storm, a modern non primary needs, urban version of a refugees zone where people were camping out on cafe floors recharging their cellphones trying to get hold of friends and family/updating their facebook/twitter /instagram accounts, standing in line to get into cafes serving SOY CAPPUCCINOS or HAPPY HOUR OYSTERS.
Throughout the storm and its aftermath it has been hard not to constantly see the situation from an AMERICAN BLOCKBUSTER MOVIE kind of perspective. Even though I think Iranian PressTV took it a little too far when they chose to illustrate the storm with a still shot from the movie THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, there is something about NEW YORK that makes it very easy to see references to films and TV, for me almost all the time, but especially during a situation like this, where most my REFERENCE POINTS lies within the world of cinema. When they closed all the bridges and tunnels leading into Manhattan leaving us kind of isolated I thought of the last BATMAN MOVIE and I AM LEGEND, when we walked into the dark sides of the town it also made me think of the underworld of GOTHAM CITY, but also an episode of GOSSIP GIRL where they experience a blackout (even though that episode plays out during the summer). I guess I don't even need to mention all kinds of Extreme Weather/Disaster movies that almost always include Manhattan being flooded.
On WEDNESDAY, being sick and tired of walking up and down 13 floors, not having real food in the house, feeling kind of dirty myself and grossed out about the apartment, feeling like I never managed to wake up …and on top of that being bummed out about this years HALLOWEEN PARADE in the WEST VILLAGE being cancelled (the celebration of the american HOLIDAYS is one of the things I have been looking forward to the MOST about being here) I had my first kind of nice storm related moment …and once again walking the streets of lower MANHATTAN brought me back to CHILDHOOD MEMORIES and NORWAY.
So late WEDNESDAY evening we decided to go out for a walk to experience the COMPLETELY DARK CITY and to see if anyone had done anything in the streets to celebrate Halloween (back to films …I was also thinking that someone should totally make a horror movie for next year that evolves around a Halloween Blackout on Manhattan, because it would make a great backdrop for a killer horror movie, whether it's about ZOMBIES or a MASKED KILLER moving around in the dark streets sneaking up on people and killing them ...or both). So back to this year's Halloween, that turned out to be anything but scary and horrific. Walking outside there were hardly any people in the streets. Except from the big main streets where CARS were passing by, it was pitch black. Throughout our walk we saw a couple of BARS that were open, no music, no noise, only people getting together over some lit candles, drinking wine and talking. Seeing these places in contrast to the darkness and the deserted houses and streets was kind of MAGICAL. On this walk I also for the first, and hopefully last time, saw the STARS over Manhattan, CLEARLY. It was quiet, the air was crisp and cold, and the almost full moon was the only source of light. Long shadows, the outline of the buildings towards the moon lid sky. For a person slightly afraid of the DARK the walk felt as BEAUTIFUL, SAFE and UNSETTLING as a moonlit walk on a road leading to our CABIN in the MOUNTAINS of NORWAY. I told E as we were walking home, that this was my first nice and worth keeping storm related memory. Getting to experience the CITY like that was TRULY a BEAUTIFUL MOMENT. It kind of felt timeless, like I could walk there and experience the constant of the city, the streets and the buildings, and all its history.
Other nice memories followed; lying in the dark on my husband's arm listening to the RADIO; the songs (many of them being songs people had requested because a name in the song could easily be shifted with SANDY, like MANDY by BARRY MANILOW (the title of this post is by the way the phrase from a song that's been stuck on my brain since this whole thing started, hint; GREASE)), and also the sad but also hopeful stories of callers from all over the region, experiencing the hospitality of local restaurants that kept open with no power, talking to strangers about their experiences, founding new friendships trough meeting in our hospitable friend's apartment ...that had light. I think it is in my nature to look for the beauty in situations, most often visually, but also sometimes when it comes to the situation itself. You have probably all seen the pictures and heard the awful stories about lives lost, homes ruined, businesses destroyed. I could write about how crappy I've been feeling, how frustrated, bored, but it seems irrelevant compared to what others have been going through, BUT STILL THAT ASIDE it seems like I chose to do this text the way I choose my pictures, by picking out the things I want to remember from this experience, and not the the things I would always crop out.