The glamour gals of the underground New York City hurricane world: Irene and Sandy. Two gals out and about town, stopping traffic with their looks, shutting entire cities down and even worse, closing down the subway. Not even the superhuman yellow NYC taxis among us are safe from their perilous wrath.
As far as crazy storms go, they’re expecting Hurricane Sandy to be one of the worst, going so far as to dub it ‘Frankenstorm’ (tying in nicely with the overall halloween-esque theme).
I can’t help but feel a sliver of adrenaline and fear when people talk of these New York hurricanes. I was there for Hurricane Irene. Incidentally it was also my first time in NYC. There I was, just a young, bright-eyed thing, excited by the tiny things, like people saying ‘trash’ instead of ‘rubbish, ‘candy’ instead of ‘lollies’ and ‘flashlight’ instead of ‘torch’. I treated fire escapes like a tourist attraction: ‘take a photo of me looking pensive on the fire escape’…’take a photo of me looking angry on the fire escape’. Generally I was there to experience all the thrills and spills that this resplendent city had to offer. Natural disasters included.
As an Australian with no previous experience of hurricanes, I was all like, ‘hurricane? Isn’t that like a storm but a storm that is cray?’ I underestimated the severity of the American Hurricane. With nothing to compare it against apart from Marky Mark’s performance in ‘The Perfect Storm’, and no real emergency training in how to deal with hurricanes, I continued to frolic unencumbered in the fair city.
The New Yorkers I came across were equally unhelpful and blasé, as most were simply planning their hurricane parties with not a care in the world other than what to include on their Hurricane Music Playlist. Native New Yorker shopkeepers were completely unfazed, leaning out of their shop door to ask their shop neighbours if they were planning to close up shop for the hurricane (and they were all like ‘I wouldn’t close up if the world were ending!’ and you really believe this to be the case because the real native New Yorkers are a rare and crazy bunch with enviable accents).
It was all one big chill out sesh. Until it wasn’t, mainly because the media had a rare predilection for creating fear by hyping everything up (I know, it’s so unlike them), like sending crazy reporters named Hobo Ken (see below) out in ‘dangerous’ windy conditions, dramatic visions of Mayor Bloomberg being awesome yet serious and other such panic inducing news items, like giant maps with red EVERYWHERE.
Our reactions were swift in the face of potential destruction.
Sophie: ‘This is real, I think we need to do something’
Me: ‘I know! We must raid the supermarket to buy emergency supplies!’
Sophie: ‘Great idea! So, what constitutes emergency supplies exactly?’
An hour later we have all the alcohol left in the supermarket and two torches with batteries. Success. Next step, we decide that our house is in a low level area and thus at risk of flooding. We made this self assessment not from official warnings but rather from the sheer and unimpeachable logic that our house was on ground level, meaning that the rats needed to run somewhere for shelter during the hurricane, and naturally they would seek out our low lying house and smother us to death in our sleep.
We decided that we would not be there during the great rat plague of 2011, even if the house we were renting had a boogie board that we could use as a flotation device to swim away from any rats that could swim, after being possibly contaminated in the sewers and developing ninja-turtle-esque powers (we also had turtles in our backyards as well as rats, so this was an entirely plausible concept at the time).
So we self-evacuated in a state of delirium to our friend’s house in Brooklyn, which was at least four levels up and free from the path of the rat stampede.
And yet lo and behold, Andy and Kim announced an evacuation of their own. Andy’s mom (see what I did there?) had a last minute freak out and urged the couple to travel upstate, away from harm’s way. The best part? Andy’s mom wanted us to evacuate with them, because she is considerate like that and possibly under the impression that we were two bodyguards, hired to keep Andy and Kim from the hurricane’s path. Either way I could have bowled her over with a bear hug for attempting to whisk us away from Irene.
And just like that it became impossible to evacuate the city as all transport had shut down. The four of us were confined to Andy’s Brooklyn apartment (sorry Mom, we tried!)
What followed next can only be described in list form:
- Moment of adrenaline and excitement as we realise we will be riding out the worst of the hurricane, barricaded in a New York apartment.
- Moment of panic and fear as we realised we would be riding out the worst of the hurricane, barricaded in a New York apartment.
- Realisation that we only have Nicolas Cage movies on hand.
- Watch Nicolas Cage movie.
- Drink every time Nicolas Cage makes a hilarious expression.
- Everyone drunk at half time!
- Decide we cannot possibly stay in the house. Decide to risk it and leave the house.
- Find the only restaurant in Brooklyn open during the hurricane.
- Have the greatest meal of our lives at South American restaurant.
- Dig into fried chicken like a pro (me).
- Drink from the cup of the never ending carafe of wine from drunk waiters who have given up all hope of survival.
- Realise we may not make it home.
- Keep drinking.
- Did not factor that restaurant would close at some point (I haz hurricane?)
- Find the last taxi in NYC still operating.
- Laugh hysterically at the reporter from Hoboken, mistaking the caption for the reporter’s name, which I assumed to be Hobo Ken, a homeless reporter named Ken from New Jersey. Disappointed to learn that Hoboken is actually an area of New Jersey. Continue to call it ‘Hobo Ken’.
- Watch movie from the Coen brothers that we have to watch twice because someone fell asleep the first time.
- Kim makes American style burgers with mustard. They are delicious, but then again, rubber tyres would have been delicious at this point as hot food is a RARE LUXURY.
- Hurricane happens.
- Lots of wind. Shop sign keeps rocking back and forth ominously. That’s about it from our end of town.
- Beer is consumed and a pizza with slices bigger than my face.
- What day is it again?
- Hurricane, you’re not even that big!
- Probably more drinking.
- Debris everywhere. Strong winds flail about like a former celebrity trying to stay relevant.
- Subway still closed. Probably because all the rats have gone missing. National emergency declared, in my brain.
- Advised not to leave house by Mayor Bloomberg, who now appears to be speaking directly at our group.
- Leave house to procure more alcohol. Apologise silently to Bloomy and hope we don’t get blown away, holding on tightly to cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
- Buy every novelty American candy I could find (JUST IN CASE HURRICANE HAPPENS AGAIN AND I NEVER EAT A BUTTER FINGER)
- Heated game of monopoly where labour unions are formed by the losing team, who then go on to win.
- Hurricane is blamed for loss of previously winning team.
- Tequila becomes involved in monopoly. Relationships will never be the same again.
- Mayor Bloomberg comes over to play Monopoly: Tequila Edition.
- Can’t sleep, hurricane clown will eat me.
Being stuck indoors for two days while the greatest city in the world raged on outside? Priceless. There are some things a trip to New York can’t provide. For everything else, there’s a random, cataclysmic hurricane that turns out to be all hot air.
I hope this hurricane turns out the same. Stay safe either way, kids. And don’t you dare do anything we would do.