Clear Blue Sky

A STATE of emergency has been declared, but it’s a magical day in New York City. Any grownup who can do so is playing hooky to bask in the perfect sun and gentle breeze. Death, damage, and flooding are expected. We’re preparing for days, maybe weeks without power or water. Any fool could make a fortune selling flashlights today. But while we go through the motions of buying flashlights and stockpiling bottled water, somehow on this blue-sky golden day the threat seems unreal.

You’re a draftee during wartime and it’s your last night before shipping overseas. You’re on the porch, kissing your girl’s neck, but in 48 hours you’ll be smelling blood and gunpowder. The nearness of war makes your girl feel unreal, but your girl’s hair and perfume make the war seem like some strange practical joke.

So today in New York: a glorious Autumn day we glide through without quite seeing, because our minds are in Hollywood disaster movie mode, our carless bodies weighed down with water bottles and flashlights. It’s like that clear blue sky ten years ago, minutes before Hell flew out of it.

15 thoughts on “Clear Blue Sky”

  1. I’m jealous. I really am. Growing up in the hurricane hotbed of Charleston, SC, I was glued to the Weather Channel all summer long hoping storms would come our way and kick up some waves. (Not much real surf in Charleston normally.) The excitement of an impending storm was always a blast. Hurricane parties and hanging out with laid back and daring souls under pouring rain and anxiety-inducing wind at the few bars that decided to stay open are memories that stick. In a way, a hurricane is like a long, drawn out tornado. You can dart around its edges and watch its approach (that is, go to the beach and check out the squalls, wind and sea!) — provided it’s not big enough to hurt you (and you GTFO of the way before the center is anywhere near). This is the first storm in my life that looks like it will impact NYC as a hurricane. A Category 1 isn’t going to bring mass death and destruction, but it is going to be a little crazy. The taller buildings are going to dance. Have fun!

  2. Take care and be well. Having just returned from a wonderful family vacation where we spent much time in the beautiful and invigorating surf of the Cape Cod National Seashore, this seems equally unreal to me. My thoughts are with you and yours.

  3. What’s awesome is the contrast between peace/beauty and destruction/pain that emerges in New York City when emergencies happen. I was there for 9/11 and the blackout in 2003. I don’t want to re-live the pain of those experiences, but without it I don’t think I would have memories such as cycling through peaceful Manhattan streets post 9/11 and eating soft ice cream at The Brooklyn Ice Cream factory during the blackout. It’s about being present.

  4. I grew up and still live on the south Louisiana coast and have gone through more hurricanes than I can remember by name. Looks like Irene will reach NYC as a Category 1 at most, and the difference between that and even a 3 is much for you to be thankful for.

    Echoing Jim Davis’s comments, remember that a lower category hurricane, even if not the threat of a major one, can be a sizable and dangerous annoyance to a large swath of the generally healthy population, and an even greater threat to anyone on the margins by way of health, age, and financial resources, so keep those folks especially in mind. And watch out for broken glass. A hurricane can wind up being a real pane in the ass.

  5. We do so much to insulate ourselves from experience. Umbrellas pop up to block even light rain, sunglasses blunt midday glare. Air conditioning dulls hot days, layers of technical fleece avert the cold–and then, of course, polyester wicks away our sweat before we even get to notice it and revel in our own hard work. So many amenities of modern life numb us to normal experience! We’re left with only the most violent events to heighten contrast and sharpen our senses to the more pleasant stuff.

    (A longer way to say thank you for beautiful perspective in New York, from here, the land of reading too much Thoreau :) )

  6. Yes, it WAS an absolutely gorgeous day. I had stopped briefly before getting on the bus at the Long Island Railroad Station in downtown Brooklyn to stop and look up at the deathly black smoke pouring out of the World Trade Center. The first plane had hit but I didn’t know that until a few minutes later.
    “Looks like one hell of an electrical fire”, I thought to myself.
    Nice piece, you captured the mood. But forewarned is forearmed.
    My daughter has to evacuate from Long Beach NY.
    Stay safe everybody.

  7. The excitement of an impending storm was always a blast. Hurricane parties and hanging out with laid back and daring souls under pouring rain and anxiety-inducing wind at the few bars that decided to stay open are memories that stick. In a way, a hurricane is like a long, drawn out tornado.

  8. Jeffrey, where are you in NYC? I agree this is a day out of time, but it’s gray and humid with a strong sense of an impending storm in Yorkville.

  9. Wow Jeffery,

    I feel for you guys and what you had to deal with. I don’t live in a hurricane area but I do live in a tornado area and have seen what an F5 can do in a matter of minutes. Makes you feel real small sometimes.

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