Postcards From a Week in New York City

With President Barack Obama getting a second lease in The White House, it was a historical week for the whole nation. But with over sixty houses burning in Breezy Point and the subways flooded, it was an especially eventful week for New Yorkers. We asked our staff to briefly reflect on their voting and Sandy experiences. 

* * *

Shortly after midnight on the 30th of October, a day before Halloween, I noticed the flashes across the East River. The old redbrick complex was easily five miles from the East Village power plant, but from the sixth floor apartment we could still make out the transformer failing. You had to concentrate on the bluish flicker from this distance: it was not bright but undeniably not business as usual. As soon as I turned away, the whole apartment lit up, like lightning struck right outside the window. When I turned back to the window, lower Manhattan was dark.

~ John

* * *

I live in Sheepshead Bay, an evacuation zone. Most of the local establishments I’ve known my entire life were flooded and destroyed. Many are still not opened, a month later. Trees had fallen everywhere, and some of my close friends in the area, particularly Manhattan Beach just across the bay, lost everything they had ever owned. After my entire neighborhood was destroyed, I stopped caring about my school and work responsibilities: I retreated to a deep lethargic state of being. I thought, “who cares about school if everything I care about can be destroyed in a matter of one night?”

The day after the storm we went to my girlfriend’s apartment to find her cat. When we entered, it was like a scene out of The Walking Dead—post-apocalyptic but sans the zombies. In the basement, an emergency pump had lowered the water level by at least a foot but there was still about five inches of water with her belongings floating around like lifeboats. The power was still out. We searched the whole apartment in the dark for the one thing that was really worth saving. Finally we found him trembling in her bedroom, sitting atop the dresser, cuddling into her clothes. He is at my apartment now, safe and adorable, as always. But for a long while after the hurricane, he wasn’t the same chipper cat we knew and loved. I know how he felt.

~ Ethan

* * *

This year, I was determined to register to vote in New York.  I have only ever voted via absentee ballot and I wanted the visceral experience of going into a booth and voting.  I also wanted to escape the possibility of jury duty in Maryland. Last year, I was nearly selected to serve on a jury for a triple homicide trial in Baltimore—a trial expected to go on for several weeks, hours away from my school, work, friends and my apartment. Before I could register in New York, however, I learned that Maryland was putting gay marriage to a vote.  A month later, I was, yet again, filling out a boring absentee ballot.

~ Tolly

* * *

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I found myself thinking about the difference between reactive and pro-active government, and considering where we stand, as a country.

On the one hand, a storm with the magnitude of Sandy is historically unprecedented in New York. Although the city’s response was not a massive failure, weeks without power and mass transportation is still an amazing consequence, a consequence officials justified citing said lack of precedence.

On the other hand, evidence, on-hand since well before the immediate threat of Sandy, suggests our assumptions about the scope and magnitude of storms need to be re-evaluated. This is pretty basic stuff: we can make educated guesses based on data gathered via observations made over time, and anticipate need and enact changes to systems we have come to rely on.

Necessity is the mother of invention, though in the US, the politicization of anticipated realities, like climate change, have delegitimized solving problems preemptively. The forecast is moot. Did New York City respond appropriately to Sandy? It doesn’t matter. We were not as prepared as we should have been.

~ John C.

* * *

Picking through the pieces, six
Reduced to rubble wet, with
A Girl in Greenwich Village, is
Because she can’t get, her

~ Steve

* * *

Someone shouted my name in the street. I jumped and threw open the window. Hank had come to fetch my daughter, Lily, and me. Although glad to be transported out of the darkened East Village, I was thinking about the fantastic sleep I had that night. No electricity, no hum, no inaudible frequencies. I had woken to peaceful, pure silence—even the air felt rested.

What a disaster, but inside a little gift.

We were in a bubble in the East Village. Nothing except each other. We walked the street and talked to strangers and shared the news. Ben’s Deli, even though it was dark inside, was open and selling coffee. This is New York: always open for business—especially in a blackout.

I love this town.

~ Charlotte

* * *

Sitting in the kitchen, I am dressed to go outside. My dad is on the line with an explanation that makes me cry. Here for more than fifty years and not one single vote he’s cast. He calls people apathetic but fails to use a mirror. Mom is conservative normally but this year she will vote for Obama. I asked her to for my gay friends.

~ Zoe

* * *

On November 14th recordings of private phone calls Mitt Romney had previously made to explain why he lost were released to the general public. Throughout his campaign, this millionaire former governor didn’t explain much of anything, so why now? Who has this kind of influence? Campaign donors. They shell out exorbitant amounts of money and they expect results. What can he tell these investors? Perhaps blaming the other guy for procuring votes through gifts might work. A ridiculous justification but that’s what Governor Romney said of President Obama. Why? Maybe it was the loss of both the Popular and Electoral votes? Seeing Florida turn blue might’ve stung a bit too much. This was meant to be a private conference call. Maybe the leak was a reprisal for his loss, for his lack of results.

~ Enrique

* * *

(A story that could be a joke but, sadly, was simply true.)

A white woman and a black woman walk into a polling booth. The white woman asks for the displacement affidavit. “Certainly,” says the ancient attendant behind the desk.

The black woman walks up and asks for an affidavit.

“You can’t have one,” the dinosaur replies.

Every ear in the place, those of the white woman who just voted, the four of the two black security guards, every all-American ear in between, pricks up with indignant interest.

The pruned relic takes note. “Well, do you even know your district?” the dusty voice fumbles. “Oh, you know your district. Well here, then.”

“Thank you.”

The black woman fills out her form, feeling half satisfied that she overcame a hurdle to exercise her rights, but half certain her vote, once returned to Mother Time, would never actually make it to the ballot.

~ Ricky