An hour ago, I was walking down Graham Avenue in Williamsburg — which is my new home for the next few days since Hurricane Sandy wiped out my apartment and everyone else’s power below 40th street in Manhattan — and I saw what appeared to be a real life chimp passing out candy to strangers on the street.
“Why the hell is there a chimp passing out candy?” I thought to myself. “Williamsburg really has gotten so weird in the past few years!”
Then, of course, I realized that wasn’t an actual chimp. It was a person dressed as a chimp for Halloween.
Because today is Halloween. I had forgotten it completely.
I can’t say that I’m surprised. After all, there have been more pressing matters at hand these last few days. To be honest, I’m not even entirely sure what day it is. I’ve lost all concept of time. These last couple days have been a blur of bizarre celebration, glib jokes, panic, relief, anxiety and futile attempts at trying to go about business as usual. The mundane seems to exist right next to the surreal.
Let’s go back and try to put the puzzle pieces back together. Last weekend was, for all intent and purposes, Halloween. Since it fell on a Wednesday this year, people clearly chose to celebrate the weekend before, so as to avoid any gnarly hangovers at the office the next day. The city was vibrant and alive that weekend. The streets were crawling with people. It was hard to actually go in and out of the city, just like it is today. On a certain level, we knew there might be a hurricane coming but what could we really do? Cancel Halloween parties so we could stock up on water and dried foods? No. We were going to live la vida NO HURRICANE and let our wig hair down.
By the time Sunday rolled around, the Halloween festivities were over and people were starting to truly understand the gravity of the situation. A hurricane was definitely coming through New York City in less than 48 hours and we needed to prepare for the worst. Ditch the buckets of candy corn and tootsie rolls for some water bottles and cereal ASAP. My roommate had gone to Park Slope to be with her boyfriend, so I was left to hold down the fort. I stocked up on food. I lit candles. And I waited.
Friends of mine had been texting me all day Monday, telling me to come over and not brave the storm alone, but I rebuffed them all. Looking back, I don’t even really know why I was so adamant about staying put. I suppose part of me wanted to prove to myself that I could go it alone and be a man, whatever the HELL that means. I also didn’t feel comfortable abandoning my apartment because I thought of it as my sanctuary. I wanted to take ownership and protect my humble abode, which is ridiculous because if anything ever happened, what could I do? Scare it away with a $40 candle?!
When the power eventually went out in my apartment, I started to get legitimately scared so, against all my better judgment, I decided to RUN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HURRICANE to my friend’s place, who lived three avenues away. The second I stepped outside my apartment though, a different fear seeped into my brain that had nothing to do with getting hurt by the deadly weather. It was about potentially getting mugged and killed by some weirdo floating around these dark, defenseless streets. Seriously, you guys, the mood was EERIE outside. The streets were deserted and you couldn’t see shit. I should’ve just stapled “ROB ME, HON!” on my forehead. It would’ve been so easy for someone to do so.
As luck would have it though, nothing killed me. I made it to my friend’s apartment safe and sound, drenched in sweat and carrying a few bags. That night we watched the hurricane from her window, played TV shows on her iPad, and went to sleep. As scary as the whole situation was, I don’t think any of us really understood what had just torn through he city. We had to wait till the morning to see the damage.
The next day, we woke up and realized our cell phones had no service, so we walked outside and asked a stranger on the street for an update on the storm.
“There’s no power below 40th Street,” a guy told us. “Con Edison blew up in Union Square.” He then told us it could take up to a week until power was restored to Lower Manhattan.
This was when panic set in and New York turned into some I Am Legend kind of shit. My friend and I decided that we needed to go uptown to call our parents, eat food, and get money out of an ATM. In a way it was kind of comical. Downtown Manhattanites usually loathe going uptown and here it was acting as our only salvation. “We know we’ve acted like a dick to you in the past but please uptown, accept us!”
We somehow managed to hail a cab and ended up soaring through the streets with some random girl our driver had also picked up along the way. Everyone was in crisis mode so the New York social bubble you typically put up had to be gone. It was time for everyone to have a Mother Theresa moment and help some people out.
We got uptown, took some money out, and I called my mom to let her know that I was okay. (I think my mom still thinks the hurricane is happening, by the way, because she just texted me frantically, “ARE YOU OKAY?”)
Here’s the thing: No one really knew what the hell was going on. I had no idea if Brooklyn was affected by Sandy or any of the other boroughs. I was just piecing it together along with everyone else. After I called my mother, I phoned up my friends in Brooklyn to find out what damage, if any, they had sustained during the hurricane. The general consensus was:
“We still have power!”
“We barely got hit!”
It was then that I realized that I needed to get out of Manhattan immediately and migrate to Brooklyn where there was power, food, and friends. I basically hailed a cab and abandoned my apartment in Manhattan for an indefinite period of time, At the time, it felt like I had no other choice.
Since being here, I’ve watched the news and realized just how severe the destruction was. Staten Island has basically been CTRL ALT Deleted. Parts of Queens are in shambles. New Jersey got hit pretty bad. Over twenty people have died, if not more. It’s unreal. As someone who was born in California, the only kind of natural disaster I’ve experienced is an earthquake, which is nothing like a hurricane. Earthquakes have little to no warning. All you have is the aftermath. With hurricanes, however, there are days of impending dread. You’re sitting ducks essentially.
In Williamsburg, life seems to be going on as normal. People may be drinking a bit more and enjoying the fact that they don’t have to go into work. It’s crazy to think how this hurricane has effected certain areas so differently. You think of New York City as being just this tiny little guy but in the case of Hurricane Sandy, a matter of a few blocks made all the difference in terms of damages.
I don’t really know how to feel right now. It seems like I’m on a really stressful vacation in Brooklyn and I’m just waiting for the doors of Manhattan to reopen. In the meantime though, I don’t give a flying fuck about Halloween. After what the city has been through these past few days, it might as well be cancelled. We’ve had enough tricks and too little treats. Now you’re telling me to dress up in a scary costume and celebrate the evil spirits? As if. If you want to get scared, just look outside your front door or watch the news. You’ll poop your pants.