At about 8:30pm, we lost power. You never know what to do when the lights finally go. It’s like reading a book on how to change your tire, and then suddenly finding yourself on a turnpike with the iron in your hand. We lit candles and drank and stood around, prehistoric-style, looking at the flames. I went into survival mode. I compulsively checked and rechecked supplies, water stores, rates of candle consumption. I experimented with what lighting arrangements yielded the most light. At one point curiosity got the better of me and I donned my Burberry and went to the roof. The storm was a layer cake of calm, then wet, then utter wind. It slapped the hat off my head and glared at me in the dark. It chased me off the roof. Back under, we experimented with the guitar and story telling. What little stored electricity we had we spent on incessant tweeting and music. All and all, it was a small party. We stayed up, fueled by alcohol, but found that in natural darkness the urge to sleep was very powerful.
The next morning we wandered out. It is a testament to capitalism that, without shops open due to the outage and lack of workers, people didn’t know what to do with themselves. We just milled about, somewhat curious but mainly not sure what to do with ourselves. Use whichever analogy works. We were zombies. Or prisoners out on the yard. We wandered, slowly, hiking north towards civilization.
I dressed like a hiker. Tall Redwing boots, jeans, a waxed jacket and vintage rucksack, filled with nothing. We headed north with the rest of humanity and foraged primarily for coffee. Street after street and shop after shop was shuttered, but people all generally were in high, if confused, spirits. None talked of anything but the storm. At a friend’s apartment’s lobby, a generator hummed and stank up the space with gasoline. A half dozen phones were jammed into the only live socked in the whole building. News wasn’t good: could be days before power returned.
North of 26th street power functioned but a lack of staff meant still closed shop doors. A strange sight: Starbucks coffee shops with people clinging to the outside. Perhaps mindless zombies returning to their old habits? No. Wireless networks in the shops were still broadcasting, and users congregated outside.
The most valuable thing in the city now is a live power source. We stowed ourselves at a bar on 33rd and every outlet had been sniffed out and crammed with power plugs, each charging a phone. I found one and my phone drank happily. In Manhattan, survival food isn’t MREs or canned goods, it’s chicken strips and Guinness and onion rings. The football game was on.