Monday, August 29, 2011

Me, Myself and I(rene)

There is a sense of dread that comes with anticipation. It can be the dread of the belt as you await you father arriving home from work to punish you for something your mother is going to tell him you did that day. It is the dread of opening the last gift under the Christmas tree and knowing beforehand that it is not the two-toned denim jacket you wanted more than anything else. It is the dread of sitting and waiting for hurricane Irene to hit with all of her powerful, Mother Nature winds and rain while you hope the power stays on and there's water to drink and flush your toilet.

On Friday, New Yorkers learned that the MTA would begin shutting down mass transit at noon on Saturday. That's a major shut down for a city of 8 million people, most of who rely on mass transit to get anywhere. As the news broke, word quickly spread that Broadway had cancelled all performances for the weekend. I don't work on Broadway, but I do work in a major theatre complex in midtown Manhattan and we too cancelled all performances. The shuttering of the subway system prompted the cancellations. People either wouldn't be able to get to the theatre or might not be able to get home once they got there. Every precaution that could be taken by our Governor and Mayor was being taken.

I was already enjoying a day off on Friday and now I was going to have the weekend off as well. What's a boy to do? Well, I got in touch with some friends and whiled away most of the late afternoon through dusk to early evening outside at the wine bar, Diwine, in Astoria. I enjoyed many beers and lots of laughter. Food was ordered as necessary and the conversation flowed as easily as the booze; that’s what New Yorkers do. We prepare for pending disaster by hanging out with our friends and daring whatever it is to interrupt our festivities.

Via facebook countless status updates reflected the party nature of my friends. People stocked up on wine, beer, vodka and Jameson. The recipe for “Hurricanes” floated around. Bars offered special "Hurricane" drink discounts. The 1919 musical Irene (revived on Broadway in 1973 with Debbie Reynolds) hadn’t been as talked about in years as it was on Friday as Hurricane Irene approached NYC.

As Saturday morning arrived and I didn't have to go to work, the wonder of how to spend my day occupied the top spot in my mind. I didn't really have that much food in the house and I didn't have a flashlight or extra jugs of water. I was sort of walking around in a daze. I didn't know how to truly prepare for something when I had no idea how bad it might or might not be. I created a Pandora radio station called "Rock Me Like A Hurricane" based on the song of the same title by the Scorpions. Soon 80's hair bands were filling my apartment with rock and roll and my facebook status updates were reflecting my pleasure. Eventually I made my way to the Trade Fair.

It was packed as I had anticipated it would be. I stocked up on chips and pretzels, cans of pork & beans, apples and of course more beer. I bought three prayer candles. Not because they were prayer candles, but because they were the ones that burn for 12 - 24 hours. There were no flashlights to be had. Not at the Trade Fair, the Rite Aid or the Duane Reade. People had already panicked and that shit was gone. If I could have gotten it over-nighted I guess I could have ordered it on Amazon, but the candles are what I chose. Nothing like a little prayer to go with the light that takes away the darkness. As for the water, I washed every pitcher, decanter and large vase that I owned and filled them full of water from my Brita pitcher. I just didn't want to spend money on water when I had plenty of water-storing options at my house.

I also filled every pan that I owned with water should I need it for anything. Maybe the funniest thing I did was filling my largest trashcan with water. I had been told to fill my tub with water so that I could use it to fill my toilet and flush should we lose water. Everyone knows I’m regular so having water on hand to flush was one step I couldn’t pass up. I chose the trashcan instead of the tub. I’m unique in that way. Sometimes I go with the flow and sometimes I like to walk into the traffic.

As I sat at home on Saturday, I found myself completely unmotivated. I'm so used to being at work that I literally wished I were at work. As 12:30 pm rolled around I sat down on the sofa to watch The Young and the Restless. I used to watch it all the time, but gave it up more than a year ago. For shits and giggles, and out of boredom, I decided to visit Genoa City while I ate breakfast. That's right, breakfast at 12:30pm. Anyway, I turned the television channel to CBS and was not greeted with Y&R. That's because it was Saturday. Having a weekend off was throwing me for a loop. One of my Diwine comrades the night before had told me to live in the moment and just enjoy the time. I was trying, but I was frustrated. Thankfully, HBO was running a couple of Bugs Bunny cartoon movies back to back. That occupied 3 hours of the afternoon.

It continued to rain off and on throughout the day. The sky was gray. Irene was coming and there was nothing to do but wait for her dramatic, over-the-top arrival.

I watched The Weather Channel for a while, but the gloom and doom, fear-mongering media trying to prepare us for the impending deluge of rain and winds that were approaching did nothing but suffocate me in a fear bubble. I had to turn it off. I had to placate my mind with Lost. My husband and wife landlord team had started to raise their voices at each other above me, a light rain was falling outside and the wind was gently blowing the leaves. As much as I wanted Irene to be past us I was thankful that the real drama was still (landlord yelling aside) on disc 6 of season 2 of Lost.

It was 7:45 pm when I paused Lost and changed my facebook profile picture to a more recent/accurate shot of Irene. At 7:48 pm I stepped into my bedroom to peer out the window. The rain changed from steady to downpour in about 30 seconds. A few cars passed by and a couple of people with umbrellas. To look at it from inside the dry, safety of my room it looked like nothing more than a regular rainfall that had drenched NYC last week.

9pm. The leaves on the tree across the street from my house were now being more than gently blown. There was no force behind the rain, but the wind had changed. I began alternating between the season 2 finale of Lost and The Weather Channel. Irene was getting closer to home. She really wasn't supposed to hit with all of her force until Sunday morning, but she had already caused over a million people to be without power as she soaked the east coast with her splash and trickle. I won't lie; I was nervous. Anticipatory anxiety is the worst.

When Lost season 2 had ended I debated whether to read, open another beer, watch The Weather Channel or pop in Lost season 3. I popped Lost into the DVD player, made a quick check of the weather outside my window then turned on TWC. Nothing like a check of the weather on TWC to confirm that Irene was still on her way and to see how much devastation she had caused at the prom already. Oh wait, that's Carrie. I couldn't resist stepping outside my apartment and into the foyer of my building. From the time I looked out the window of my bedroom to the moment I got into the foyer the rain had begun to downpour again. I stood at the front door and watched the pelting rain bounce off of the sidewalks and roads.

I wanted to stay awake and hear Irene make her grand entrance into our city, but I was tired. I had already decided to spend the night on my sofa in the living room. There's only one window and it faces the alley between my building and the house next door. I turned off the air conditioner in preparation of high winds and the possible power outage. I rejoined Harry Potter in his quest to find Sirius Black as the rain fell heavy on the air conditioner; the front of the storm had made its way into our area. The worst was supposedly yet to come. All I wanted to do was sleep. I was reminded of long trips as a child. Mom always said sleeping would make the time fly. The difference this time was sleeping was going to take me right to the main event. Irene's major performance was scheduled to hit us the next morning. The center of the storm looked on track to hover over the City. That was something to look forward to with the morning coffee, right?

Sleep proved not to be a lengthy visitor. I slept for a couple of hours until a dream that had nothing to do with Irene jolted me awake. I then heard something fall outside. It was no use. My curiosity made me get up from my sofa and make my way to the window in my bedroom and watch the rain. I stayed awake for at least another two hours. I had slept for two and then was awake for two. One Life To Live on Soapnet helped me pass the time during those two hours. I talked to a friend (who laughed at me about OLTL) and watched the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on HBO then watched Looney Tunes on Cartoon Network as the sun began to lighten the 6 am sky. Well, as much as Irene’s gray clouds would allow it to lighten. Finally I fell back to sleep, but only for another couple of hours – two-and-a-half at the most.

My groggy, irritable self got up from the sofa and put the water on to boil for coffee. What else was there to do? I was bored. I won't lie. I didn't want to be bored, but I couldn't help it. I had spent the entire previous day at home anticipating the hurricane. I just wanted something to do, somewhere to go. The rain was over. The day was overcast, but somehow beautiful. There was a breeze blowing, but nothing gale force. Then a plan formed. Two of my Astoria friends started communicating via facebook about having brunch. I was all over that. I'm a homosexual. We know how to do brunch. Waiting out Irene seemed to be all about what you were drinking while you stayed locked inside your house. With Irene's wrath past the City it seemed perfectly normal to gather at brunch for a mimosa or bloody mary and talk about how you spent the evening.

Just before 4 pm I heard the wind. It was the sound I had been expecting all the previous night. The tail winds from Irene were still present. I not only heard them, I saw them blowing the leaves of the tree across the street, swirling the clouds in the sky. My curtains were blowing as the open windows in my apartment created a cross breeze. I watched the power lines outside my apartment swaying. This was the moment that I realized that even though we had made it through everything Irene had dumped on us, we still had to get through these winds.

Irene blew through town like a party girl. She hung out long enough to get the party started and then stayed past her prime. New Yorkers know how to weather a storm be it a blizzard or a hurricane. By the time her party was in full swing, Irene had been downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm. That didn't change the power of her rain or winds. Facebook statuses were a way of keeping connected to friends across town or in another borough. We're resilient and we bounce back. We gathered and drank and watched DVD's. We filled our tubs with water and we stocked our cabinets with canned goods. We then stood in Irene's winds and waved goodbye as she left our City stirred not shaken.