Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane in Brooklyn

Tornado, earthquake, a tsunami if you count the one that came from Japan to my relatives on the Big Island, and now a hurricane. This is shaping up to be a really weird year for Big Island Rachel. No wonder church attendance was so good at the Catholic church on Court Street today.

Being from Hawaii, I have a Girl Scout badge in Hurricane Preparedness--Survival Camp at Kilohana, 1997--and good thing, too, because my little perfectly-Rachel-sized apartment on the East River ended up being in the evacuation zone. My Daddio left me a voicemail AND sent an email telling me to head for the hills and "don't do that family thing where we say, 'What is this strom you speak of, I can handle it!'" It was sound advice from the parental unit to the latest generation of that family the other kids were warned never to play with. I confess that I did have a passing fancy to stay in my apartment just to see if I could handle it, but when Daddio tells me to get out, I know it's serious.

Fortunately, me Mum was in town and staying a few blocks inland out of the flood zone, so I spent the night with her after hurricane proofing my apartment. Here is my "go-bag." Sure, it has all the usual stuff: passport, computer, three books, two graphic novels, five comic books (my worst nightmare is being stuck on a deserted island with nothing to read), blankets, clothes. I also brought Spam, couscous, my teddy bear (seen squashed up against the plastic bag) a chocolate donut that has been in my cupboard for so long it qualifies as a scientific experiment, and candles, except the only candles I had were tiny little Chanukah candles, so I ended up having to bring my menorah, too, since it was the only candle holder that would fit them. And of course, you can see my blue rubber boots there. A girl on the street yelled, "A shout-out to all my sisters rocking the boots and shorts!" I was the height of fashion that day, even without a bra.

I hung up my heavy winter curtains and covered the body--I mean, all of my clothes with my winter down comforter. If I'd been more clever about it, I would have simply lifted the closet rod off the wall with all the clothes still on it, but as you can see by the bare rod resting on the heap, that eminently practical idea didn't occur to me until it was too late. I figured that if the worst did happen and my windows burst apart in the gale like deadly flowers of glass and mayhem, all my expensive and fancy clothes (not always correlated, my fanciest gown was only $10 at the Hilo second-hand store) would have a modicum of protection.

I also filled up the bathtub. I got to impress a lot of people at work on Friday by informing them that the bathtub full of water, a standard preventative measure when a hurricane is bearing down on you, was not really for drinking, but rather for flushing the toilet in the event that the electricity went out and the toilet couldn't pump water into the tank. For reasons unknown to me, New York City water is a gentle shade of teal. I'm not sure if this picture really captures that soothing, sea-like hue, but trust me, that shit is teal.Saturday night was spent on the stoop of Mum's sublet, drinking wine and singing all the songs we used to sing when she drove me to high school in the morning. I think I slept through the actual hurricane, which didn't pass over us until 2 or 3 in the morning. It passed quickly and had downgraded to a mere tropical storm by that time anyway, but Mum said the winds still sounded like a freight train as they roared through.This morning, we went to inspect the apartment. The windows are all unbroken, but two of the three windows had leaked and there were a few puddles on the floor. The curtains in the bedroom were so heavy with water they'd pulled the curtain rod down. But underneath the down comforter, the body--I mean, my fancy clothes were bone dry. Everything is coming up Milhouse. Thanks, Girl Scouts of America!

And the bathtub? Totally empty. I always suspected that my bathtub plug was slightly defective. Oh, well. If there had been serious enough flooding that the power had gone out (all New York City power lines are buried in the ground), my riverside apartment would have had sewage and river water backing up into the pipes, and flushing the toilet would have been an exercise in futility. Rank, rotting futility.

Here are some tree branches that fell over. Fellow curious Brooklynites for scale. So long, Irene. Don't let the doorknob hit ya where the door should've bit ya.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquake in Brooklyn

The Big Island gets little tremors all the time. We're volcanic. It happens. It's not supposed to happen in New York City. If I'd known I would have to deal with earthquakes and tornadoes in addition to fucking WINTER, I might have just stayed in Hawaii with my earthquakes and tsunamis. At least there we have perpetual summer.

Virginia just had a 5.9 earthquake that we felt up here in Brooklyn, first as a maybe-it's-just-me tremor and then as a holy-building-evacuation-Batman shake that left us milling about in the parking lot for about half an hour in some pretty gorgeous late summer weather. So it wasn't all bad. I was standing by the office printer with a piece of paperwork and thought at first that I was having a sensory flashback to the great Hawaii earthquake of 2006. But then the hangers on the coat rack started to clink together and the floor began to sway like a boat (we're on the top floor, six stories up, so sway is actually a good thing. Sway saves. Brittle breaks.). My coworker told whoever was on the phone with him, "It's an earthquake, get out of the building," hung up, and looked at me and snapped, "Get moving!" Combat veterans: they always know what to do.

It's a good thing we just had a fire drill a couple of weeks ago. Everyone scurried briskly down the stairs, making loud human-noises similar to wildebeasts evading lions on the savannah. "Don't panic, don't trip, don't puke," I told myself. Self, all excellent suggestions. I was one flight of stairs away from the outside world when this guy in front of me suddenly stops, turns around, and says, "I'm going back to help get Admissions out of their office!" I shoved right past him, because Hero, I'm too young and pretty to die! Let others perish, I've too much to live for!

I got out into the parking lot, looked down, and realized that the only thing I brought with me was the piece of paperwork I'd been clutching when the quake began. I felt like finding the student who gave me the paper and saying, "When disaster struck, yours was the only thing I thought to save!" I didn't feel too embarrassed, because one of our student workers was in the file room before she evacuated, and she brought the paper she'd been holding at the time as well. And it was one of my emails! Bonding moment!

Hanging out in the parking lot with everyone from my building was actually pretty fun. If we'd had a couple of kegs and a grill, we could have made an afternoon of it. Alas, they made us go back inside and work for another hour. We received emails and text messages telling us that "the buildings are secure and workers are to resume all activity." So I went back to copying my sexual organs on the Xerox.

You know. Like ya do.

Natural disasters--I use the word loosely, I don't know if much was actually damaged, especially not this far away from the epicenter--have a fun way of bringing people together. It doesn't matter who's the boss of who, or who makes more money than who (whom?). If that building goes down, peasant and noble are squished alike.

Terror of the wrath of the gods: the great equalizer.

Friday, August 5, 2011

New York Fucking City at it's Fucking-est

I wish I'd come up with that quote, but it's from Craig Ferguson's book, "American on Purpose."

I don't know if it's living in New York or working in customer services that's done this to me, but I am now totally willing to yell "Fuck you!" to random strangers that piss me off. Last night, I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond in Manhattan to pick up a bookshelf. It was my second bookshelf that week. The first one I bought was so awesome that I had to go back and get another one, exactly the same, so they could ruminate side by side, groaning and satiated with all of my pretty, pretty books. So sexy.

These bookshelves are wood, so they were too heavy for me to get on the subway. I had to hail a cab. I put the shelf in the boot, buckled myself in, and said, "I'm going to Brooklyn." Cab drivers hate it when you're going to Brooklyn, but the law says that when a taxi picks you up, the driver has to take you wherever you want to go. Which is what I said to the driver when he said he couldn't go to Brooklyn because he was on his way to pick up a fare at the airport.

"I'm in the car, the law says you have to take me to Brooklyn," I said, smug in my New York knowledge of taxi guidelines.

"Oh man, oh man, I can't take you, I have to go pick up this other man, I'm going to lose a hundred dollars if I can't make it, I've worked hard all day, I thought you were just going uptown--"

"I'm going to Brooklyn, you're required by law to take me there, why'd you stop and pick me up if you can't take me where I need to go--"

You have to imagine both of us talking at once. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I caved first.

"Fuck it! I'm not going to sit here and fucking argue with you! Get my shit out and hail me another cab."

Rachel from the Big Island would have never said "fuck" to a stranger. Big Island Rachel is sorry she didn't say it louder. New York Fucking City, everyone.

He got my shelf out, but didn't get me another cab and I didn't get his license number. I really should have, and I immediately scolded myself when I realized I'd forgotten it, because I wanted to report him. I still do. My heart beats angry every time I think about it. I want to put on my Catwoman costume and go beat the crap out of someone. My desire for retribution is great!

I should just let it go before this city gives me a heart attack