OK. Must focus. Too distracted. YouTube comments, Facebook updates. What has happened? Where have I been?
It’s been a long, long week.
A week ago, Monday, we were housebound anticipating the storm. Bill and I settled in and soon enough the lights went out. We still had hot water and heat. Bathtub filled with water, fridge stocked with cold cuts and ice. Time slowed down without electricity, and sleeping was easy. Earlier nights of sleep for me, for Bill it was still the same. We spent Monday night listening to the Hoboken police scanner by candlelight.
On Tuesday Bill and I ventured out to see what hath Sandy wrought. No power in town, a few people roaming around like this. People like me with cameras, documenting and uploading. For me, power was dwindling on the smartphone. We walked by Newark and Garden Streets which was badly hit. My friend Lisa lives on that corner and she was stuck indoors due to three feet of water outside her door. We walked around the block to see the Guitar Bar on First Street and it seemed alright. Major damage and flooding just a few feet from the Guitar Bar. There but for the grace of the gods…
We came home around noon and I was exhausted. It was windy at times and the two of us, on the other side of 200 lbs. resembled Marcel Marceau walking into the wind and drizzle. When we got upstairs I took a two hour nap. When I woke up, Bill took a nap. Soon I was feeling antsy and decided to head north while Bill slept. I nudged him to let him know what I was doing. He grunted and I went out.
More damage heading up the avenue. The west was impassable on foot. You could see where cars were lifted by the water, once parked alongside the curb were now on the sidewalk and the street, or jutting out dangerously into the thoroughfare. Not that there was any worry about passing traffic since the only thing that would get by would be a boat. I found the sidewalks to be slick with who knows what and I slid a couple of times, leading me to regret going out without Bill.
I pictured myself falling and breaking a leg or arm or even a hip and being taken to Jersey City Heights and without any way to get in touch with Bill who also had no way to reach me. But since I was out I was determined to find somewhere to go and charge my phone. I looked towards the high school which was supposed to be a shelter but nothing was going on there. Bill and I read the night before the Wallace School shelter was being evacuated and moved to the high school. I decided to head towards the Wallace School.
Hyman Gross lived across the street from the Wallace School and I lived in a basement apartment right next door in the 1980’s. But it was all shut down as I walked by. I continued up past Rite Aid which was closed as was everything on 14th Street. Not many people around and few cars. I walked over to Washington Street which was sparse. A handful of people standing around here and there as I walked by. I eventually ran into Rand and Lisa and we talked for a few minutes. I mentioned how I should have bought a deck of cards so Bill and I could at least play gin rummy.
Lisa said they had a few decks and Rand suggested I go with them to get the cards so we walked over to their place. Cards duly found and with slight arm twisting I decided to have a shot of Woodford Reserve bourbon. Nice. I have a bottle here with a little bit in it. It’s a great bourbon when you’re smoking a cigar. Rand suggested sipping it instead of doing it like a shot so I sipped mine for about five minutes. I wanted to get back home before it got dark out, and I figured Bill would be awake.
Rand and Lisa were invited to dinner at a neighbor’s in their building so we all headed downstairs together. I felt good from the bourbon and walked back to Washington Street. There I ran into Mike and Sarah. They had just gotten back from church. Not for religious reasons which Mike had emphatically stated, but rather for the charging of the smartphones. A quick thank you and soon I was climbing up the stairs to get Bill.
He was awake when I walked in and I told him to get his clothes on and his stuff together, explaining what was going on at Saints Peter and Paul Church at 4th and Hudson. It was quite dark outside and we would probably be able to see the stars if it weren’t so cloudy. Inside the church it was warm and there were pockets of people huddled around outlets and power strips. I met a few nice people there, some regular attendees and others who like Bill and myself, there for the AC/DC.
At one point Bill got up and started playing the church piano. It was a bit muffled due to the cartage blanket still atop the piano. He played hymns of course, he grew up in a church and here he was in a catholic one. Pastor Bob didn’t mind though he mentioned that he didn’t really want anyone playing the piano, since he was worried they would be playing with their elbows. Hoboken PD stopped by with cupcakes which we almost started to eat in the church until Pastor Bob said there was to be no eating in the sanctuary.
So we went outside on the sidewalk and ate Halloween cupcakes, keeping the black cat plastic sticks as an homage to Zed. Walking home, Bill and I stayed close to each other holding flashlights in the darkness. We were juiced up and stayed up for a while posting reports on Facebook and calling friends and family letting them know what was going on and that we were alright. Facebook prived to be most effective throughout all this. Phone service was spotty as were texts via SMS. But if you could get to Facebook messaging was very easy and fast. And there were updates on curfews, emergency services and the general state of Hoboken. Luckily for me and Bill, most of our loved ones are on Facebook and we were able to see how they were doing as well. If you were in New Jersey you were likely screwed.
Bill took the ferry to work on Wednesday which from what I heard was Halloween. The parade in the Village was canceled, wisely so since there was no power in Manhattan south of 34th Street. Bill and I watched a video of the Con Ed plant exploding which helped with their blackout. Bill left early anticipating a crowd at the ferry and it proved wise since it took him a few hours to get to his desk after leaving Hoboken. I walked over to the church again.
I hoped it would be the peaceful scene it was the night before but it was quite the opposite. Word got out and it was crowded, almost like it was Christmas Eve or at least the feast day of Saint Blaise. There was no way I was going to get to an electrical outlet so I left disheartened. I made it back home through lonely streets and was able to get online through the juice left on Bill’s iPad.
I did run into some neighbors who let me sit in their car and charge up the devices, but I didn’t want them to use their gas on me plus I was getting cramped in their car. After an hour of car sitting I headed up to my apartment. Using the juice from the car I was able to see on Facebook (told ya) that Guitar Bar Jr was up and running and Jim Mastro was allowing people to come in and juice up. Now that’s my kind of church.
I was surprised when I got to 11th Street. Up and down the block, people had power strips on their front stoop, letting people sit and charge up. Coffee and snacks were offered. It was heartwarming and I headed inside to the Guitar Bar Jr where Jim’s wife Meghan and their daughter Ruby were getting ready to head out. It was great to see them. Other daughter Lily (my ersatz kid) was safe and sound at college. Various friends and people I had seen throughout the years were passing by, checking in on Jim and the downtown store.
Jim allowed people to pick up a guitar and play if they wanted, and he encouraged me to do so. SO I sat outside and played a song or two with another gent who was charging up. I was lucky, before Meghan left she set me up in a room where I could charge my phone, iPad and MyFi device in private, so I didn’t have to worry about someone walking off with it. On Washington Street restaurants were giving away their food with some requesting a Red Cross donation. The Elks Lodge were setting up for hot meals as well.
I did not partake since we had food at home which was going to have to be eaten since the ice was melting. Bill met me at Guitar Bar Jr and told some of the folks around his tale of heading in and out of Manhattan. Then we walked home once again in the dark. More posting of updates and getting information by candlelight as we watched our batteries dwindle faster than the time passing by. We heard that NJ Transit was going to have buses running which got Bill excited. He went to bed and I soon joined him since I had discovered some wine given as gifts over the years and required no refrigeration at all. It was Halloween.
With a kiss goodbye, Bill was up and out again Thursday, early enough just before the sun rose. I slept soundly for another hour before getting out of bed. Still no power and despite trying to conserve a visit to the Guitar Bar Jr. was on the agenda.
More friends at the store, no Meghan and no Ruby though. Their lives were getting back to normal. Jim Mastro tirelessly proved himself to be a truly great guy. He would not let me help him with anything, not that there was anything to do. Once or twice I was the ‘manager’ while he ran out for just a minute. No one was buying, no one was shopping. Outside the store he set up some speakers playing Bob Dylan, inside people would play banjos or guitars or surf the net while Jim repaired guitars.
I talked with people, reconnected with people and also made new friends and acquaintances. I am sure to forget names but I don’t forget faces so there will be awkward reintroductions in my future. I was going to get a hot meal at the Elks Lodge but ran into Mike and Sarah once again and while talking to them I partook of some snacks the electrical host offered.
Bill came back to the mainland and told more harrowing tales of commuting. This time involved way too many people waiting for the bus back to Hoboken, so instead he took the ferry back once again. The ferry ain’t cheap, $9.00 each way. But Bill being the smart man he is, already bought 10 which was slightly cheaper for him yet still an extravagance for a geezer like myself.
A walk in the dark once again, this time seeing Mark Singleton and his mother Maureen on the sidewalk. Also ran into Lois, almost literally. We heard there was a truck delivering ice downtown and all we had to do was go there and get it. Someone had the idea to take the downtown bus and just then a bus appeared. We rode to the end of the run, then walked over to Observer Highway where the ice was. Too cold and heavy to carry all the way back uptown we caught another bus which was a very good idea. So the items in the refrigerator had some more time before wasting. Lois rode on as Bill and I got off a stop before her.
Re-positioning items in a fridge using flashlights wasn’t easy with 2 bags of ice but we somehow got it done. More update posting, getting info and wine before Bill going to bed followed by me playing the tipsy geezer. I’d like to think I was charming and who’s to say I wasn’t charming in the dark?
Friday was once again spent at the Guitar Bar. Karyn Kuhl stopped by and there was a kid who had been hanging around wanting to learn guitar the past few days. I tried showing him how to play Get Back by the Fabs and Karyn tried showing him No Expectations by the Rolling Stones. I wound up learning the song from Karyn and played along with her as she sang when Jim Mastro jumped in playing a sweet slide guitar lick which made the hair on the back of my neck rise, never having played with Jim before or playing a song that sounded so good.
After playing discussing what was going on in Hoboken and in politics at the store with friends for the rest of the afternoon (and a hot meal at the Elks Lodge), Bill came by once again and we were back to walking home in the dark. This time with a chap named Caesar who knew me from Maxwell’s back in the day and whom I did not recollect at all. He named all the right names so it didn’t seem to be a phony and I made a mental note to contact Steve Fallon and ask him if he remembered Pat Clarke’s former roommate. Steve got back to me, saying it was fuzzy.
Caesar had no heat or hot water or electricity and I felt bad for him. I thought about asking him if he wanted to come home with us, but I didn’t know him at all really and Bill certainly didn’t either, plus the apartment was a shambles. We checked our messages online and Rand and Lisa invited us over for some drinks. Bill and I walked over, flashlights in hand and we stood outside flashing the light into their top floor window to get their attention.
Rand walked down and let us in, there was Mike and Sarah as well as Lois and Fred. We sat and chatted, Lisa providing snacks and dip, Rand pouring the wine. Many laughs were had which were greatly appreciated. Time flew at this point, probably since we were having fun. Bill and I walked Mike and Sarah to their apartment up the block from us. Soon Bill and I were fast asleep.
There are Post Sandy photographs in the PAGES section, lower column on right.