vrijdag 2 november 2012

Guided bij Sandy (day 1, Sunday): Ignorance

Nobody is certain what to expect from Sandy. TV is giving one warning after another, newpapers are writing about Frankenstorm. Sandy is coming to town, maybe today, probably tomorrow. But hey, this is the media, you never know what's news and what's entertainment. Manhattan is ignorant on Sunday.

Peddling south from 29th street, nothing special seems to be going on. Until I arrive in the financial district.
After having visited the American Indian Museum on Bowling Green, I notice the first sandbags. Wow, sandbags. Why?

Nearby, more sandbags. Some in large piles...

---some in small lines...,

...oddly formatted groups of sandbags...,

...and sandbag-fortifications still under construction.

This seems to be getting serious.

At lunch with good friends (and Greenwich Village natives) Brian and Melinda we talk about the elections, Halloween, Europe, the music industry and a lot of other things. Sandy is only sporadically mentioned. Brian tells me to take care. "Not sure about this storm. It looks like they'll be closing the subways this evening, closing the airports, shutting down schools. Hard to know how serious it is, but it might be bad."

I decide to take a ride through lower Manhattan and notice only occasional storm preparations. Sandbags of course in all sizes and constructions, taped windows, and lots of plastic covering doors and cellars. Nobody seems to be experienced in this kind of building activities. As the afternoon progresses, more and more little notes appear on the windows of shops and restaurants.

At Starbucks...,

...at the pet shop...,

...at the theaters...,

...and even in the parks.

Some of them coming with apologies. Well, sort of.

Brian turned out to be right. Subways are closed by 7PM, putting public life more or less to a standstill. 

As opposed to the day before, some people are considering that Sandy might not just pass by unnoticed. I wonder if I will be able to make it back to the hotel after the dinner appointment I made with David Hirschman. He is the organizer of the conference that led me to Manhattan in the first place. Just an hour ago he decided to postpone it to January. The official statement I get:
"We've been closely monitoring Hurricane Sandy and the "Frankenstorm" likely to impact the NYC area, and have unfortunately determined that we will need to postpone Street Fight Summit. We do not take this decision lightly, but have determined that a large number of registrants and speakers will be unable to attend this week due to transportation cancellations and other complications as storms impact the East Coast. We are working hard to find a new date in January."
David is a disappointed man, but he has no choice. The airports are closed and without people there is no point in conferencing. Having arrived on Saturday, a French colleague and I seem to be the exception. David wants to reward that and invites us for dinner at Balthazar. He assures me that I will get back to 29th street safely. "If not, I have a problem myself, I have to get back to 82nd."

Balthazar's on Spring Street, all covered in wooden plates

Before dinner I have a drink in a bar two blocks further on Spring Street. More than a dozen tv screens show tonight's football. Nobody speaks about any storm. During dinner this is no different. We have long and interesting talks about business models for local journalism, and Sandy only comes in as we leave Balthazar's. One of the guests tells about the blackout of 2003: "We visited friends, and some more friends, we lit candles and drank a lot of beer. It was nice. Sandy might be like that."

The wind almost blows us away. Opposite to the restaurant, people are covering their store in wood. Everybody is helping, but coordination seems to be difficult, there's a lot of shouting.

Elsewhere, more sandbags. Firm protection against things to come. Well...

"No worries. Tonight Sandy won't come yet", David reassures me as we leave. We go home.

In the ACE hotel lobby about a hundred people are drinking and celebrating. Dancing on the volcano.

First post in this series: Preface
Second post: Ignorance (this post)
Third post: Anxiety
Fourth post: Helplessness
Fifth post: Epilogue
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