A year ago today we were pouring on the coffee, shimmying into longjohns and sweatshirts and thick socks and rubber boots in the cold dark of the Brooklyn morning and heading out out out deserted Flatbush over the supposedly closed Marine Park Bridge to Rockaway. To Sweetheart’s childhood home with his dear Mama to see what Hurricane Sandy hath wrought. The masks and gloves and headlamps and axes and contractor bags and endless silty funk that covered everything like a fine dust came later, but today was a day for taking stock, and, in a way, every day since has been too. By now, everyone knows what we found out there, the grand scale of the devastation, the losses, tangible and intangible, but a year out my mind settles on the little things… Sweetheart’s grandmother’s handwritten recipes tucked on a low shelf with the love letters and yearbooks discovered with a gasp and plucked from the sodden pile and laid out to dry. Baseball gloves in the middle of the street as if they were left there in play, dropped at dinner time. The rainbows in all of the oil-slicked water eddying down each street. Books buried in the morass. The little moments of humanity in the face of the storm giving way to the big moments. A year out, we remember.
And it’s Occupy Sandy!! Forget the gravy boats and Tiffany’s china, Occupy has set up an amazing registry here, chock full of the stuff that people affected by the storm actually need. We can attest firsthand that they hit the nail on the head (with one of these hammers– they’ve registered for 40 of them) with what’s needed. The items will be shipped to the Occupy Sandy relief outpost at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Clinton Hill. I was there this morning, and it’s a truly majestic scene in there- a beautiful sanctuary full to the brim with food, blankets, volunteers, and tools, glorious tools (painted pink so they can be identified and shared)! For those of you out of the area wondering how you can help, get the future Mr. and Mrs. Occupy something off of the registry– and get them to the church on time!
top picture from here, bottom pics from my fuzzy phone.
Here we are, heading out to Rockaway Beach this past Memorial Day, a classic American beach day at the gorgeous height of summer, Sweetheart’s beach block entrance, Beach 141st. Here it is now:The sea was angry that day, my friends. We’ve been out in Rockaway every day since last Wednesday, when the news told us that the Marine Park Bridge- the only way to access our end of the four-block-wide strip of sand that is Rockaway- was closed, but we went out anyway. What to even say about it all? What has happened out there is truly horrific: terrifying on the scale of what the sea can do, terrible to see the ever-mounting piles of sewage-sodden garbage constituting the entirety of people’s lives out on their curbs, the oil slick pump-water streaming down every street, eddying around wedding albums and heirlooms, cutting through the four feet of sand that covers the streets like snow, the houses ripped in half, bricks missing like gap teeth, ten feet of sea-wall strewn about like playing cards, tragedies abounding on a scale of wonder- huge and monolithic and seemingly impossible to process.Yet- as insignificant as our humanity is in the face of tragedy, in the face of nature, as insignificant as our humanity is to withstand storm surge and loss of power and loss of life, Our Humanity is strong. It is a goosebump thing, a tear welling thing, a wondrous thing to see and feel. “How can I help?”. Our friends, our dear dear friends, a different crew every day, to lift and pull and pump, to clean out and purge, to hold us up and watch us cry and to help us yell at the sky. And then the neighbors come. And then the strangers come. To Help. Alone, together, by car, by bus, when the gas ran out, by bike, offering water, hot food, coffee (the holy grail), then later- tools, masks, gloves, contractor bags, help- hands, hundreds of hands. And the constant refrain, that everyone says: “We are so lucky, so many have it so much worse than we do”. And it’s true.
And bless Dan, Maggie, Molly, Lucy, Jocie, Julia, Chris, Fran, Seth, Tony, Eben, JJ, Aly, Paul, and John for helping our little family. And bless Jay for all of that and more.
From our experience on the ground, The Occupy Movement has put together the best real-time volunteer infrastructure. To volunteer, go here. Bless You. Bless You All.
We are safe. And dry. And, miraculously, we never lost power, just sat with our flashlights at hand just in case, playing backgammon, drinking wine, and eating fried green tomatoes from the last greenies we pulled off the vines in the backyard before Sandy ripped through them.
I feel lucky, but most of all I feel connected. Though we haven’t left our apartment (we are listening to you, Bloombito), we know what’s up. Would I ever have thought to say… Bless you social media. Never before have the social networks seemed so, well, social. Not just the connectivity of cracking real-time-jokes during the debates (though that was awesome), but actual updates as to what is really happening exactly where you care about it. Feed as Sustenance. Want to know what’s going down in every neighborhood? That’s a job for Instagram, where everyone is an embedded reporter. Jared’s shot from Ft. Greene, above, and Renee’s Trees-down-in-Prospect-Park, Anne’s Churning-Post-Storm-Cove, Lucy’s View-of-Downtown-Manhattan-with-No-Power, and Julia’s New-Park-Bench-in-Cobble-Hill: Want to know what’s actually going down in Rockaway? There’s Katie Honan (a random social media maven who also just happens to be a girl from Rockaway) whose twitter feed confirmed that Sweetheart’s block wasn’t on fire, and whose page she set up to share information is hopefully right about the actual status of the Marine Park Bridge. And the best way to know if the people you love are safe? Their morning-after-Facebook-status-announcements:We’re still putting back the pieces (actually we’re trying to bake a birthday cake with ingredients on hand for Sweetheart’s little brother who, so far, has spent his birthday avoiding downed power lines), but, bless you social media, for your pure populist power and for—however illusory—making us feel safe.
Sandy is coming and New York City has effectively shut down. No transportation, No work, everyone preparing for wine-soaked candlelit mid-day dinners. Soooo, is this the best thing ever? Not sure… Sweetheart’s dad sent us this quick snap from Rockaway this morning (mandatory evacuation be damned), storm surge already coming up and over Beach 134th and Cronston. Oh My. Us? We’re ok.