Man and His World

photo (7)Nature has again reminded us of that lesson we refuse to learn. She plays her hand last, and she holds all the cards. We cannot build up what she cannot rend into pieces. We have trouble, and that trouble is with water. Ice breaks up mountains, rain erodes plateaus, and all monuments melt in the salt spray of the oceanside.
Alas on the continent our weather is crisp and calm. There are no storms on the horizon that we can imagine, and we are working hard to celebrate our own SuperStormSandy(tm) anniversary with memorials and monuments to those who lost their beach homes or otherwise could not convince the insurance industry that their home build on sand needed to again be rebuilt on sand. Not to belittle any loss, even of your only beach house, but hashtag, First World Problems. On the other side of the world the horror of Nature’s power has again visited an impoverished nation, ripped the mask off the modern world of malls and cell phones and showed us as the teeming and naked frail creatures we had been until we mastered tools and learned to be immortal.
Until this past week, there had been a great deal of talk about SuperStormSandy. I remember that storm well, the old SuperStormSandy of 2012, now over a year ago. I recall everyone stocking up on milk and bread from the store across the street. In Gotham, everyone stocks up on milk as if the best preparation for any disaster is to pack your fridge with as many perishables as possible so that when the electrics are disrupted you can enjoy tossing out all that spoiled crap into the trash which will then fester either in your place, in the hallway, or on the street as the city attempts to catch up with services.
There was much preparing to do for the storm. Some stocked up on water. Others sports drinks. And some still bought up boxes of glow sticks, I assume in the event the lights went out and we needed to put on an emergency rave which, considering no one was stockpiling drugs or DJ equipment, would have been the worst rave ever. Some of us, such as this author, bought a great deal of liquor in the event that the storm caused the monetary system to collapse and hoards of hipsters bereft of their ATM cards ravenously wandered the streets like the Walking Dead except they moaned “bruuuunchhh” rather than “braiiinnns” as Roberta’s, Toast, Cle Cle, and Superfine were all shuttered due to an unusually high bacteria count in the pate. When The Change comes, have enough bloodymary mix and stockpile a few good highball glasses while you’re at it.
Now, with our handy piles of oat bran and goldfish crackers, with our movies downloaded and our iDevices charged, we awaited the storm wondering if the city would survive.
We watched news reports.
We watched cat videos on YouTube.
We looked out the window and the rain and wind seemed about the same as some of the fierce summer downpours we had been having of late.
Would this be as anticlimactic as Irene? Albeit, if you didn’t live in Prattsville, NY… where it was almost too exciting… since that little village was wiped off the map. That event and the loss of over 600 homes in the Catskill Mountains still hasn’t made the news or inspired any Occupy Prattsville movement since we know that if it doesn’t happen close to a reporter’s house or cluster of graduate students, it never happened at all, and no one up there will get a monument to the storm. Also, at the rate we’re getting storms, we may be bankrupting ourselves building monuments to unusual weather.
The rain came stronger. The wind blew and the glass buckled a bit in the large windows. Living in an illegal loft was interesting, we all traded the large common spaces and private rooms with high ceilings for freezing in the winter and boiling in the summer and wondering if all the cracked cement and broken bits of the building were important and didn’t the people who originally build the place as a knitting factory oh so long ago intent it to be staffed by Eastern Europeans and then Hispanic migrants who… were considered disposable in the event of a building collapse…. So apart from the storm, would we all die from lack of code enforcement? The news reported since this was the Perfect Storm(C) and the merging of this storm, that front, a high tide a blood moon, a blue moon, a partial total eclipse of Mars, Mercenary was in retrograde and the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man was real? Would we run out of milk before the power went off? Why is the VCR blinking “12:00, 12:00, 12:00”? Why do we still have a VCR?
Reporters were standing out in the wind. They stood out close to the shore. They looked at sandbags downtown. They talked of the “perfect storm” and attempted to coin terms for it of which only SuperStormSandy seemed to stick. As the storm bore down on us with the furry of so many storms before (the building had been hit with a minor tornado which was much much worse than anything going on at this point…). After the fifth Dark and Stormy, I remember little of the details of the night other than the tape on the windows in X’s seemed to be working in that I knew this was a precaution we needed not take, being inland somewhat. I usually believe the opposite of whatever the news says. They are hand in glove with the duct tape industry anyway. It’s always the storms they don’t report on that pack heat. I also knew any tape on the windows would be there for the next few months since its removal was nowhere on the chore chart. To this day tape on windows remain in many part of the city as a reminder of the storm and that people in the city don’t have time to clean their own apartments.
The TeeVee was on. There was a moment by moment account of the rising waters and all I could hope was that the building that housed my place of employment be flooded too since it missed out being so for Irene as the water line was about a block down the street and we had to return to work after a day or two. This time it would be properly flooded so I could again enjoy another this time longer disastercation (paid time off due to disaster since they no longer offer a healthy vacation package). When I saw that the waters breached the boutiques of Dumbo, that an unhealthy effluvia and a oily coating of startdust memories had breached the doors of the lower levels, flooded the condos I could not afford to rent, and ruined the hardwood floors and stainless steel high end this and that of such and such a high-end establishment I thought I could sleep in the next day. I rested assure that the following day we would be able to “work at home,” especially since all transit was closed or not work at all. Then the email from facilities came through. We were to stay safe but expected to work the next day from home. We were invited to use our time off if we did not think we could work from home. Days off? Use my own time for disastercation? Not in your life. I expected that while I was not going to get up as early as usual, I would not let the latest storm rob me of my time off…. It was not until days later that a communique from the Castle rescinded that order since the High Command living in certain Suburbs where limited government anti-Federalists park their rolling stock of commuter trains in a swamp and were then to hear they are all flooded and out of commission… and those grand trees on their landscaped McMansions had fallen over and taken out the power with it since people refuse to bury electric lines…. Only then were we instructed by High Command that indeed, wow, this had been a hell of a storm and in some places Der Verkers could not get power or internet connections and since the Bosses were now living off the grid and unable to review our work, we indeed were not expected to file email reports of how we spent our time in the minutiae.
However, this was days later. In the storm we had to consider our work week and how to bill out time. The next morning I awoke thinking that were I not to somehow get on and answer emails I would lose a vacation-sick-personal day, of which I only had ten for the year, or perhaps fewer at the time. My first issue after I had survived the storm was to brush myself off, have a hot shower, make breakfast of boiled milk and bread and check in with the Daily Show. No one else was up early since all work had been canceled for everyone else. I knew after the morning coffee I needed to hit the email for work.
photo (8)To my horror, we had not been unscathed by the wrath of Nature. Sometime in the night we had lost our service to the Interwebs. The router stopped working. Or maybe water got in the line. Our one roommate who had some computer knowledge turned it on and off and on and off and on and off again to no avail. Without connectivity we were forced to evacuate to the local cafe which still had a working connection to at least send one email in order to create a time stamp that we were indeed Keeping Calm and Carrying On. I will never forget that morning we awoke to see what had become of our community. The 24 hour laundry that had shuttered itself in the night remained shuttered. The Mexican deli was just opening at 10 instead of 7. The milk and bread truck restocked the store across the street, the isles that had been bare just a few hours before were now again teaming with hot fudge and Krispie Korn Kernals. The wreckage all over the street was the usual sort, the bits of paper that fall off of poor people, the water bottles that contaminate our water forcing us to buy bottled water, the flocks of spent umbrellas that come out when it rains. The storm had impacted but a vale of settlements that rested against the water and had not obeyed that dictum of the Old Testament that forbade one to build a house upon the sand since while the adherents of the Hebrew faith consider the edict on swine being unclean, despite millions of people reveling in the heathen bacon, the part about not placing your house on a pile of that shit we use in hourglasses because it shifts to well from one area to another…. well, ahem… that was just a metaphor. There were indeed calamity enough to go around for the different news organizations. But unless you traveled to the places impacted, or attempted to use the closed subway, or watched the news hour upon hour, it was just another day seemingly as if a Sunday and for the next few days we enjoyed almost a week of Sundays, brunch and all.
Now, imagine for a moment the strongest storm known to history to come barreling in.
Imagine had the storm that has just leveled parts of the Philippines were to visit Gotham, or your village. The buildings in the Philippines were a lot of shacks, but there too seemed to be a great many buildings that resemble our own. How disruption, true disruption and not just a day or two of the milk isle being just Soy Milk but that our own food supply is perhaps three days at best in most of our major metro areas and that we rely so heavily on electrical tools to heat up our basically ready-made foodstuffs that we are one breaker switch away from the sort of privatization now being visited upon so many now helpless people. Think of if a storm like this was to occur not just once every hundred years, but every year. Maybe several times a summer. I am not sure what I would buy in order to prepare for that. I am not sure they make things for the sort of storm that aimed itself at a poverty stricken chain of islands and leveled entire villages. We can buy our rice and stick it in barrels, get hand crank radios from NPR, and otherwise stock up on movies for a staycation… but what is to be done if the trend is to the super-storm, the tornado cluster, and snowmagedon is to continue? When five hundred year storms are become yearly events, what are we actually counting and what does it mean when I want to charge up my iDevice?
One woman speaking to a Guardian reporter said it was as if she was a helpless baby. We should consider hard our changing environment since we are all helpless mewling infants in the eyes of our Mother Nature. And she is indifferent to our cries since we are but one instance of life on earth, and She had many many other children to feed.
photo (6)

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