Continued Success for Singer Celebration!

singer-celebration-dlv-dec-17-2016-v2

One of the popular events I host each month is Singer Celebration. I’ve written about it on this blog elsewhere, but I thought I’d mention that there is a big Holiday Edition of this event coming up this Saturday night.

Details: Singer Celebration, Sat, Dec 17th, DLV Lounge, 300 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair, NJ. 9pm to midnight. SINGERS are welcome to come and sing a favorite Jazz, Blues or Holiday tune with my swingin’ band! It’s a great opportunity to meet lots of other singers from the area.

And if you are interested in live music performances in New Jersey, please look at my Facebook page: @CarolDeminskiProductions. There you will find a list of events.

Another place you can find more information is Carol Deminski Productions. I have music videos, photos, along with other tasty goodies you will enjoy!

We will continue on with Singer Celebration in 2017 too….

For the January Show, we will have an amazing Featured Jazz Vocalist!

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For the February Show, our Featured Vocalist will be a fabulous Blues singer!

singer-celebration-dlv-feb-2017

 

 

May 7th at the DLV Lounge!

Singing at the DLV - Carol and Michael

“Carol Deminski and the Little Jazz Birds” will be playing at the DLV Lounge in Montclair, NJ on Saturday night, May 7, 2016, from 9p-12M.

Please join me and my band, including keyboard, bass, drums, trumpet and trombone … sit ins welcome! I’ll be the hostess and lead vocalist. We’ll have two featured vocalists, along with many expected guest singers. It will be FUN for participants and audience alike!

The DLV is a small club which emphasizes live jazz. They have jazz jams on Tuesday and Thursday (9-11:30p), special Latin Jazz nights, and other jazz performances. The DLV is homey and inviting, with reasonably priced drinks and a newly opened kitchen offering comfort food. DLV Lounge, 300 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, NJ, 07042.

 

 

 

A Pax on our Houses – or – Endless Winter

The latest snow-hurricane, storm “Pax” has passed, and we hardly had a moment to breathe here in New York City when another dumping of snow is upon us.

Will Winter ever end?

Normally the weather is not of interest to me as a blog topic, but I know I’m not the only person feeling an abnormal amount of cabin fever right now.

The average high temperatures for our area at this time of year should be around 40 degrees. We haven’t come close to that, it seems, in weeks. Certainly not on average.

And I’m sure we’ve had record amounts of snow this year too.

You’d think with all this time indoors that I’d somehow be more productive, but no. I’m as lethargic as a bear in her den, still waiting for Spring.

Still, as the days click by, the sun stays out just a little bit longer. The sun is setting around 5:30pm, and that sunlight holds a lot of promise for the thaw to come.

NJ As Non-Site – Show at the Princeton U Art Museum

NJ as Non Site - Show Entrance

NJ as Non Site – Show Entrance

The New Jersey as Non-Site exhibition at the Princeton University Art Museum came to my attention in the New York Times Arts section a few weeks ago. I guess it’s ironic that I’d find out about the show through the NY Times since one of the themes of the exhibition is New Jersey’s proximity to New York City, and yet how the landscape is totally outside the urban center. (What’s even more ironic is that I was reading the NY Times in California, where I had traveled on business… but we can only have so many degrees of ironic separation here.)

Today I made the trek from Jersey City, down the NJ Turnpike, over to Route 1, and then over to Route 27 into the heart of Princeton… far from any urban center or major highway which are the primary subjects of the show.

Maybe this suburban remote location for this “boutique” sized exhibition is fitting because the museum attempts to mount a show about a subject that is much larger than the space afforded – the exhibition composes two small galleries in the museum.

Of the images on display in the show, this one is the most striking:

Nude

Nude

Beside this photograph is a video showing how the artist (in the photograph) is building a miniature “landscape” on his own body. You cannot see it well in my version of the photograph above, but in the video we see him building tiny walls on top of a dirt foundation, brick by brick, built on top of his torso.

We don’t see the artist’s whole body in the video, just the close up of the “building site” each brick is perhaps one inch… the finished image (above) is the final result.

I think it’s quite beautiful.

The curator’s description of the show:

New Jersey was one of the principal laboratories for experimental art after World War II. Between 1950 and 1975, a host of innovative artists flocked to the state’s most desolate locales. There, in its industrial wastescapes, crumbling cities, crowded highways, and banal suburbs, they produced some of the most important work of their careers. The breakthroughs in sculpture, conceptualism, performance, and land art that New Jersey helped catalyze are the subject of New Jersey as Non-Site, which features more than one hundred works by sixteen artists.

It is neither incidental nor accidental that artists came to occupy New Jersey in the years after World War II: much about the state resonated with ideas and themes already in the air. Intrigued by its people as well as its landscape, artists found New Jersey both informative and revelatory. Whether they crossed the Hudson River to collect materials, forge a political movement, or stage performances, artists seemed to agree on one thing: peripheries like New Jersey provide critical leverage not available in cosmopolitan centers, an unfamiliar perspective that disables convention and expectation alike.

Behind artists’ commitment to New Jersey lay something specific: difference. For more than a century, New Jersey’s identity has been measured in terms of its difference—not to mention its distance—from New York. Long considered New York’s “other,” New Jersey was one of the first “other” places that artists explored in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a period when many, including those featured here, started to abandon the insular world of the studio for the environment at large.

Here are some other images from the show:

Bayonne - photograph of landscape sculpture

Bayonne – photograph of landscape sculpture

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Photograph on a NJ beach with oil drums

Photograph on a NJ beach with oil drums

Unfortunately, the depth of this show and its subject matter is not conveyed in the limited materials on display at the Princeton U Art Museum in “New Jersey as Non-Site.”

New Jersey’s urban landscapes are iconic and inspirational on many levels. There were too many things “left out” and what remained was a smattering of rock sculptures, photographs of landscapes, and other objects that did not hang together cohesively enough for me, as the viewer.

As a life long resident of New Jersey, I’ve always had conflicting views about my home state anyway… so it’s no surprise I’d have a mixed reaction to this show.

The show will be on view only a few more days, until Jan 7, 2014. Entrance to the Princeton Art Museum is free, and always worth a look.

Jersey City Writers – An Inspiring MeetUp!

I want to give a shameless plug to the Jersey City Writers MeetUp, that I joined this evening for a “writing prompts” session. It was my first time sitting in with the group and it was a great experience.

The Thursday group meets at a cool space called IndieGrove on Newark Avenue. There is a Tuesday night group that meets at Tachair Bookshoppe, also on Newark Avenue, which I plan to visit in the future.

Tonight, fourteen writers got together for this session, which as far as I’m concerned, is phenomenal turn out. It was an eclectic mix of people with a variety of literary interests, which kept things lively and fun.

We cycled through three different writing prompts, with ten minutes to write on each prompt and then we went around the table and everyone read their work.

Jim, the host of the Thursday group, brought yummy snacks and a welcoming approach to me as a newcomer, for which I’m grateful. As it so happens, Rachel, the lovely hostess of the Tuesday group also attended this evening, so I got to meet both facilitators my first time out.

Clearly it was my lucky night.

Actually, tonight was the first time I’ve written something “new” from a short story perspective in many months.

I’m so excited to have a group of local writers I can rub shoulders with to push me to keep creating!

Cultural Gluttony: BB King, The Armory Show and more

This week I’ve binged on culture and this post covers my wanderings.

I saw BB King and Robert Cray live, went to the 100 year retrospective on the Armory Show at the NY Historical Society, and saw blues artist Joe Nemeth for his one night NYC performance.

I've got a golden ticket!

I’ve got a golden ticket!

Read on for details!

BB King and Robert Cray – live at the State Theater

BB King is now 88 years old, and I’d never seen him play live, so it was a treat to see him this week.

His eight piece back-up band, consisting of 4 horns, a keyboardist, drummer, base player and guitarist were great, and from their ages I’d say they’ve been playing with BB a long, long time.

BB with the band - 8 pieces!

BB with the band – 8 pieces!

The State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ is an intimate setting, and for my $100 (USD) ticket I got a seat in the “front balcony” of the theater, above the main hall and overlooking the stage. I could see what was happening on stage clearly, but I wasn’t close enough to get good cell phone photos. Still, you can see some of the stage set-up… :-}

Lovely view of the State Theater stage before the show

Lovely view of the State Theater stage before the show

Robert Cray and his band opened the show with a one hour performance of some of his classic popular blues hits like Strong Persuader, but I’m sorry to say he never played Smoking Gun, probably his biggest hit. Still, Cray’s voice and guitar playing are top notch.

The Robert Cray Band

The Robert Cray Band

It occured to me, during Cray’s set, there’s a reason why he made it as a professional. His stage presence is strong but easy going; he’s so obviously a talented and capable musician.

After Cray’s band finished, the re-set up process created about a 45 minute intermission before BB King’s band came on.

Once BB’s band came on, they played two numbers without him as a warm-up, and then he joined his band and played perhaps five or six songs total to finish the evening.

BB likes to patter with the audience and joke around, which fans know if you’ve seen videos of his performances or listened to his live albums. This performance was no exception, and BB delighted in leading the audience in a sing-a-long of “You Are My Sunshine” and then kidded around with some of the folks down in front near the stage.

It was extremely charming that as his band was playing When the Saints Come Marching In to end the show, BB didn’t really want to leave the stage. People rushed to the front of the auditorium to shake his hand, take his photo and get his autograph… while they still can.

BB King is rushed by adoring fans at the end of the show!

BB King is rushed by adoring fans at the end of the show!

I can’t blame them – BB King is a living Blues legend.

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The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution – new show at the NY Historical Society Museum

Original 1913 Armory Show set up

Original 1913 Armory Show set up

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Cutout of Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase in front of the NY Historical Society

Cutout of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase in front of the NY Historical Society

I’d been greatly anticipating seeing this show at the NY Historical Society and finally got the chance to go yesterday. The show will be up until early 2014, so there’s plenty of time to see it.

Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase

Duchamp – Nude Descending a Staircase

Travel Tip: Since it’s only the second weekend since the show opened, I’m happy to report it was crowded. Still, tickets are readily available at the museum, you may not need to reserve them online. (I called the museum to check on ticket availability and was told to come in.)

Matisse - Blue Nude - 1907

Matisse – Blue Nude – 1907

This retrospective show is very small compared to the original Armory show, which had hundreds of artworks. In fact, the entire NY Historical Society coverage consisted of two galleries, while a third gallery covered pieces shown “soon after” the Armory show but not from the show itself.

Still, the curators of this show have gone to lengths to explain the original placement of the artworks and the cultural context for the showing of these works. One thing that fascinated me was the curator’s emphasis on how the artists were found for the show. Half of the works at the original show were American, the other half European. There is a lot of good reading material in the show too, and if you’re interested, there is a catalogue for sale.

What surprised me most about the show was that many of the works shown were not only “not shocking” they were traditional landscapes and portraits. It turns out that the organizers of the original Armory show were trying to show viewers an art trajectory, from the classical European, to the American point of view, and then the big divergence with Cubism and Fauvism and so the traditional works were a purposeful lead in, to help the viewer acclimate to what they saw in the final gallery.

Van Gogh - Mountains at St. Remy - 1889

Van Gogh – Mountains at St. Remy – 1889

This final gallery was the only section of the original Armory show which showcased the “new” works, and the public was shocked by them due to their bold colors, multi-varied perspectives, non-traditional forms and in some cases content.

One of my favorite “put-down’s” of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase was that it looked like a “splinter salad.” The reaction was clear: critics of this art were severely challenged to understand the new forms.

Although today’s viewers will likely not be shocked by the Matisse, Duchamp, Gauguin and other paintings and sculptures they see, it’s good to be reminded how new art forms CAN shake viewers up, and CAN challenge them to think about art in new ways.

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Joe Nemeth at Terra Blues, Thurs, Oct 17th

What can you say about Terra Blues on Bleeker Street in NYC except that it’s a Blues Institution. This venue attracts top talent from all over the world to come and play blues, and yes, sometimes the acts are only in town one night – as was the case with Joe Nemeth, a blues harmonica player and five time Grammy nominated musician.

Joe Nemeth - Blues harmonica and lead singer

Joe Nemeth – Blues harmonica and lead singer

Nemeth and his band played a funky blues first set, and then… the electrical power went out for the amps in the back of the stage.

Nemeth was undaunted by the set-back, and sent his band offstage to take a break, while he decided to sing solo, just a boy and his harmonica, and he brought down the house.

Joe Nemeth at Terra Blues in NYC (bad lighting!)

Joe Nemeth and his base player too at Terra Blues (bad lighting!)

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However, after his one solo song, the power had not come back on, and so he too took a break. Unfortunately, many in the audience didn’t wait for the electrical repair and got up and left. Since it was only Thursday night, and I knew I had a busy few days ahead (to see BB King the next night, and then off to the Armory show too) I also decided to call it a night.

Young drummer for the Joe Nemeth band

Young drummer for the Joe Nemeth band

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The very talented lead guitarist for the Joe Nemeth band

The very talented lead guitarist for the Joe Nemeth band

Does it look like I was sitting right next to the stage? Because I was at the very first table next to the stage. I could have almost reached out and touched the lead guitarist’s cowboy boot!

Enjoy!

Jazz Jam Jersey City: Mon Nights at the Brightside

Jazz Jam JC - the guys I know: Jordon on piano and Noel on drums, cool cats both!

Jazz Jam JC – the guys I know: Jordon on piano, Noel on drums, and Sam on the base!

If you happen to be in Jersey City on a Monday night, and you happen to want to HEAR live jazz, or better yet you want to PLAY live jazz… swing on down to the Brightside Tavern on Monmouth Street and participate in the Monday Night Jazz Jam.

Entrance is FREE, and the music runs from 8pm through midnight. If you feel like a snack or dinner, the Brightside serves food, and of course the drinks flow all night long.

Each Monday night is different, but to give you a sense of what was “on” tonight, there was a ton of talent: 3 piano players, 2 drummers, 3 upright bass players, a guitarist, 2 trombonists, 2 sax players, 3 jazz singers, and a few others I’m sure I’m forgetting… and I left before the jam ended.

Musicians or singers can come in at any time and grab the sign in sheet.

A jazz singer croons a lovely tune at the Monday night JC Jazz Jam

A jazz singer croons a lovely tune at the Monday night JC Jazz Jam

Given how close Jersey City is to NYC, some Monday nights the talent is top notch. I’ve heard musicians at the jam that stopped in to play, and then headed out on tour to Europe or Asia.

Other nights, folks come in that just want to have the experience. They may not be full time professional musicians, but they’ve got the chops to get up on stage and play in front of an audience.

There are a lot of things to like about this jazz jam. Unlike many venues in NYC, this setting is very casual and cozy. Even if you’re coming in for the first time, people are extremely friendly and you’ll likely feel at home within ten minutes of being in the room. The audience is very supportive of the various players and singers, and there’s a lot of clapping (and when needed, hooting and hollering too!)

I’m glad to have access to such a fun venue in my local stomping grounds. If you’re in the neighborhood and in the mood for jazz on a Monday night, you should definitely stop by…

Not a Hundred Dollar Day

dollar bills

 

I had a personal appointment, but I was running early (somewhere in the NJ suburbs.) It was afternoon and I hadn’t eaten, but dashed out the door thinking I might be late (I always do this, worrying about traffic, and I’m always early…). I found myself looking for a place to get a quick bite, and so it was that I found Dave’s All American Cafe.

Dave’s All American sits to one side of a pot-hole filled parking lot. The “other side” of the parking lot is a slab where there used to be a pizza place that crumbled until someone knocked it down. Oh, and the cop car that is usually parked watching for speeders coming off the highway. There was a cop car when I went into Dave’s; he was gone by the time I left.

When you walk into Dave’s, the first thing you see is a bank of three refrigerator cases filled with bottles of soda. I don’t know why, but I instinctively pulled out a bottle of Diet Cola Beverage, and it’s a good thing too – I soon found out the fountain wasn’t working.

But, before you get to pull your bottle of soda out of the refrigerator case, the first thing you’ll really notice at Dave’s when you open the door, is the smell of grease. (I noticed while I sat in my seat I did not hear the whir of a ventilating fan coming from the kitchen…probably not a good sign.)

Now, I’m from New Jersey after all, and these places dot the landscape. And I could lie to you and tell you that I did not eat anything there, but I was hungry, and I did. Besides it was either this place or Johnny K’s – some re-fabbed bar and grill that USED to be the town’s main diner (formerly known as The Windsor). Johnny K’s would have offered me a crappy salad for twelve bucks, so I opted for Dave’s.

Dave’s has two waitresses, an older woman in her mid to late 50’s with long grey hair in a pony tail, and a younger woman in her late 20’s with a nose and lip piercing. These ladies do not wear uniforms, they’re dressed in street clothes, but you’ve already figured out Dave’s is pretty casual on the dress code, right?

I sat down with my bottle of soda, and the two ladies were talking to each other, and to their regular Eddie, a very rotund gentleman with a full head of white hair sitting in the far seat at the counter. The ladies are rolling silverware into napkins and placing them into a wicker basket.

Older waitress to younger: You know, I wish we had those fancy paper bands people put around silverware. It would make them look so much nicer.

Younger waitress: I don’t think so. They’re fine like this.

They kept chatting for another few minutes, so I interupted.

Me to younger waitress: Excuse me, can I get a menu? You do have them, right? (I had my eye on a specials board above the doorway leading into the kitchen, hoping it was not the entire menu.)

Younger waitress: Sure.

She finishes rolling two more silverware packs and then goes to get a menu, and puts it on my table. Then goes to get my cup with ice.

The older waitress finishes rolling the silverware and puts them around on the tables and at each empty seat at the counter. The younger waitress stands behind the counter eating soup out of a paper soup container used for take out orders.

Me to younger waitress: I know what I’d like to order.

The younger waitress looks at me, you know… in a way to let me know I’ve interupted her lunch, and puts the soup container down and picks up her order book and comes over. She looks at me, but doesn’t say anything.

Me: Uh, I’d like the grilled cheese and french fries please. Does he make that with American?

Her: nods.

Me: Oh, okay, good. Yes, I’ll have that, thanks.

She writes it down and takes the ticket into the kitchen.

While she was taking my order the older waitress sat in one of the seats at the counter and emptied the tip jar onto the counter. There was a large stack of bills and coins.

A couple walks in the back door and seats themselves. Neither waitress goes over to them.

The older waitress starts counting the money like a bank teller into a single pile. She counts it slowly, then shakes her head.

Older waitress to younger waitress: This is not a hundred dollar day. You said you thought this was a hundred dollar day, but there’s no way. Look at this… this isn’t a hundred dollars.

The older waitress picks up the stack of bills again, and this time counts the money into piles. I can see, because there is nothing else to do but watch her, that the bills are all singles. I assume she is counting them into piles of ten. There are six piles.

The younger waitress gets my plate and puts it in front of me without saying anything, or asking me if I need anything, and walks back behind the counter, so she can continue eating soup.

The older waitress starts re-counting the money again. Now she is counting it into two separate piles. She is satisfied with her counting.

Older waitress to younger: Do you want thirty dollars for your register?

Younger waitress: Okay, sure. (She takes half of the singles from the older waitress and puts it into the register.)

Now the older waitress begins counting the change. She counts it repeatedly, and again starts stacking up the coins in small piles.

Eddie finishes his coffee, and bids them farewell.

Both waitresses smile at him, “Hey have a great day Eddie!” they say. “See you tomorrow!” they say, beaming at him.

Eddie leaves a five dollar tip, puts on his jacket and leaves.

The younger waitress stands behind the counter, in front of where the older waitress is counting the coins. They are sharing some secret joke about the coins. The older waitress puts one coin on one side of the pile, then puts it to the other side. The younger waitress laughs.

Older waitress to the younger waitress, putting the now counted coins back into the tip jar: I told you this wasn’t a hundred dollar day.

Me to the younger waitress: Uh, can I have my check please?

Younger waitress: Sure. She continues looking at the coins and playing the mystery coin game with the older waitress.

Eventually she gets me the check and I pay the bill.

I get up to leave.

Older waitress to younger waitress: It’s so slow today. It’s just dead in here.

Me to both of them: Thanks very much.

Older waitress: Sure hon. Come back again soon.

Oh the Humanity – Hurricane Sandy – Part Four

One Hurricane Sandy Story … from Jersey City

PART FOUR

This is the final installment of my Hurricane Sandy story. For those of you who would like to read the whole saga, begin with The Rushing of the Water, Part One; then Days of Darwin, Part Two; Lights Out, Part Three; and this piece Oh the Humanity, Part Four.

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THE NEW NORMAL

A little over a month has passed since super-storm Sandy pummeled her way up the coast and smashed into the New Jersey shore and New York City metro area. For most of the rest of the world, they’ve probably forgotten the devastation that happened here and imagine our lives are back to normal.

They are not.

As of this writing, PATH trains from Jersey City into New York City (9th, 14th, 23rd and 33rd Streets) are not running on the weekends. It was only about 2 weeks ago that the PATH train which runs from Newark to World Trade Center re-opened. In fact, normally the PATH runs until 1am daily, and these days when the PATH is running, it only runs until 10pm. The subway from New York City to Brooklyn (the L train) was closed for at least three weeks, and people essentially had no way to get to work by subway if they lived along that train line.

If you are not from this area, it’s hard to imagine why that’s such an inconvenience. Try to remember, in the NYC metro area, we are talking about 100’s of 1000’s of people using these transit systems daily. Then add in the Christmas visitors who arrive in droves – from all over the world – to see the magic of New York City at the holiday time, take in a Rockettes show, see the tree, and yes, visit family in New Jersey, Brooklyn or elsewhere and you have an ongoing massive mass-transit problem on your hands. (That doesn’t stop the Port Authority from charging you twelve bucks to go through the Holland Tunnel in your car to get to Manhattan though…

I ran into someone today who told me that “the only good thing about having to move was that it went so fast because there wasn’t much to take with him. He and his wife lost nearly everything during the storm.” He gave a half-hearted laugh, which is heart-breaking. He said the worst thing he lost was photographs printed on paper which he cannot replace. He vowed to reach out to his friends during the holidays to ask them to share whatever photos they have as their holiday gifts to him.

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

I’m thinking back now to the days after the storm, and there are vignettes in my mind that stuck with me because of how human and decent they were…

Previously I mentioned how woefully unprepared I was for the storm. I had candles but no matches, for example. I was walking down the street to buy some food, and I stopped at my neighbor’s house. One of my neighbors is an older gentleman and his wife, and his children were there trying to use a hand-held plastic bucket to empty out the four feet of water that had accumulated in the ground floor level of his apartment. I suggested that it was probably dangerous to keep stepping in the water (this was the day after the storm) since we were unsure whether the electric was fully off or not. The man’s daughter had not considered this and stopped what she was doing. Later they did get someone to pump the water out for them.

In the meantime, we talked about how cold it was, and that we had no heat. I mentioned that I had no matches to light my candles, or even to light my stove, and the daughter ran into the house and came back out to hand me handfuls of matches they had gotten in a large box. I only accepted two books from her, telling her I’m sure I wouldn’t need more than that. She assured me they had plenty, and I promised to come back and ask for a few more if I really needed them.

The matches came in handy that night…and for the nights following that while I continued to stay in the apartment:

A group of candles lit during the Hurricane Sandy power outage

A group of candles lit during the Hurricane Sandy power outage

Meanwhile during the day, people emptied the entire contents of their homes and left them at the curb:

Furniture and other belongings left at the curb in Jersey City after the storm

Furniture and other belongings left at the curb in Jersey City after the storm

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The entire contents of an apartment left at the curb

The entire contents of an apartment left at the curb

Finally, the high point of my worst days after the storm was a kind of miraculous moment (for me). I was coming back from having bought a little food and I saw the hair salon near my house that I go to regularly. The door was ajar, and there was a generator outside but it wasn’t running.

I pushed the door open and the owner of the salon was sitting there warming her hands over a candle at the reception desk. The salon was empty. I asked her how she was doing, and she said the generator had stopped running and she wasn’t sure how she was going to get her business back up until electric was restored. She mentioned she hadn’t been flooded, and somehow, she added, they still had some hot water left in their tank. It was 4 days after the storm, so that was surprising.

Rita, I said, it’s been four days since I’ve been able to wash my hair. I don’t have hot water at home, would you mind washing my hair? Of course, she said.

I took off the hat I was wearing and she proceeded to wash my hair. It was an emotional moment because it just felt like all the disastrous, terrible things that had been bottled up inside me were threatening to come spilling out as she rinsed the soap and conditioner off my now clean hair.

She towel dried my hair and apologized because there was no electric so my hair would have to stay wet in the cold, no hair dryers. I was so grateful, I told her, and the lack of hair dryers didn’t matter to me at all.

Just as I put my hat back on my wet hair, the lights in the salon came on. “Oh!” Rita said, surprised. “Oh my god!” she said, again. Then she went rushing around the salon to check all the electric, and unbelievably, the electric for that street had been restored… just at the moment we finished.

We were both so overwhelmed by the simple act of the lights coming back on, we hugged each other. I walked home feeling like I was part of some strange miracle. It was like I had seen a glimpse of what can happen when people are good and kind to one another.

 

Lights Out – Hurricane Sandy – Part Three

One Hurricane Sandy Story … from Jersey City

PART THREE

For those of you who have not read Parts 1 and 2 of my Hurricane Sandy story, you may want to read “The Rushing of the Water” and “Days of Darwin” to provide context. This is the continuation of what happened to me in the days following the storm.

Niagara Falls, In the Basement…

The second day after the storm, I still had no electric, but by then I also realized I had no heat or hot water. During the storm surge four feet of brackish sea water from the Hudson River flowed into my building’s basement…where my main electrical panel, furnace and hot water heater reside.

My neighbors found a guy who had a generator and a pump and he pumped the water from the basement.

This guy was very popular on our block in the days after the storm. Even while he worked on ensuring the hose pumping the water wasn’t filling with debris or mud (the bottom of the basement is a dirt floor) … people kept coming up to him and asking him when he’d be done so could he help them out. The guy was so decent, he only charged us a few hundred dollars to do the work, and the niagara falls of water that came out of the basement literally flooded the street again.

When we saw what the basement looked like after the water was pumped out, we realized all the systems needed to be replaced. And “all systems” meant the main electrical panels for 9 units in the condo association, new electric meters needed to be re-installed by the electric company, and 3 furnaces and 3 hot water heaters needed to be removed and replaced.

It seems that when your furnace sits floating in frigid cold sea water for two days it “don’t work no more.” Same for the hot water heater and electrical panels. And speaking of electric…

My Kingdom for an Electrician…

I’ll cut right to the punchline: it took us three weeks to get our electricity restored.

Finding the electrician and hiring him wasn’t the problem. We got competitive bids and got the contract going before the end of the first week after the storm. But there were fits and starts with the crew. They did not have all the parts they needed. And while under normal circumstances the right parts would be readily available, after an emergency mega-storm like Sandy, you can’t always find the parts you need in a timely manner. And so you wait until the parts are found… and you wait without electric.

After the electrician was done with his portion of the work, only then can the electric company come and replace the meters and finish their portion of re-activating the juice at the telephone poles. We were so frustrated because it took us 6 days of obsessive phone calls from many people in our condo group along with the activists among us (I’m not one) getting the local councilman’s office involved before PSE&G got a “bucket truck” dispatched to throw the final switch and turn the lights back on. Unbelievable, but true.

But I wasn’t there when they turned the electric back on. I was in California by then.

Since I’m fortunate to have the kind of job that allows me to travel, on the Sunday after the storm I was already scheduled for a business trip. And when I got to Newark airport, not only was it up and running, I was able to catch an earlier flight out of town…thanks to United Airlines.

I was excited when I landed and got to the hotel. You can’t believe how miraculous it feels to take a hot shower, after going six days without one.

But there was still the matter of getting the furnace and hot water heater replaced…

END OF PART THREE

Days of Darwin – Hurricane Sandy – Part Two

One Hurricane Sandy Story … from Jersey City

PART TWO

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, October 30th, there was no water in the street. There was no rain, and if I recall correctly, no wind. Hurricane Sandy had left town.

I had no electric in my house, so I had no way of getting news to understand the severity of the storm. I assumed, in my naive and uninformed bubble, that the New York metro area had gotten some flooding, sure, but probably all else was fine. I was still operating under a “this was probably a little worse than Hurricane Irene from last year” assumption.

THE SITUATION WITH THE CAR

My first business was to check on my new car. If you recall from my previous post, the car was parked on the street a few doors down from my house, and I watched in desperation the previous night during the surge as the water crept up the wheels.

As I approached the car, some leaves and bits of mud clung to the doors. Not a good sign.

I opened the door and expected to see soaking wet floor mats, maybe soaking wet seats, or who knows what. But no. The car was dry inside. I couldn’t believe it. I put my hand on the floor of the car because I couldn’t understand how it was possible the car hadn’t flooded. My hand, and the floor of the car, were both dry.

I slid into the driver’s seat and stuck the key in the ignition. I thought even if the inside didn’t take on water, it was still possible water came in through the muffler pipe. I turned the key, and, the car started. It didn’t sputter, stall, or make funny noises. Somehow, my car had been unharmed from the storm.

If the car had been parked ten feet closer to my front door it would have been totaled. What saved the car was the height of the street at that particular point on the curb, along with the design of the Honda Fit which sits higher off the ground…both extremely lucky coincidences for me.

AND WHAT ABOUT GAS?

As I pointed out in my previous post (The Rushing of the Water) I was woefully unprepared for the storm. I had about a quarter of a tank of gas and didn’t fill my tank before the storm.

Once I realized my car was okay, I decided to get out of Hudson County and go further inland to find an open gas station, and maybe get something to eat. I figured I’d be having breakfast at a diner within the hour. You have to remember I had no clue about what really happened during the storm. My car was working, and driving to find gas and a hot meal seemed like a logical next step.

So I drove up the ramp to get on the New Jersey Turnpike at exit 14C (the Holland Tunnel exit). And in a purely New Jersey moment, even though basically all of Jersey City and Hoboken and who knows how much of Hudson County had no electric, the freaking toll plazas on the New Jersey Turnpike WERE OPERATING. You had to “check in” at the toll booth to get on the Turnpike. (Again, I did not realize the irony of that at the time, but later it annoyed the hell out of me.)

Once I got on the Turnpike though, the scene was anything but normal. The Turnpike was deserted. I was the only car on the road. The road looked like a tornado had been through the night before. There was extensive damage from mud, grasses caked onto the center-dividing guard rails, and small branches strewn across the road. Amazingly, the Turnpike work crews were already there and began their clean up.

I drove as far as exit 12 and got out at Carteret. There were no open gas stations nor were any stores open. I realized at that moment there was no electic there either. I kept driving and figured I’d head further inland, toward Rahway or further if needed. But as I approached the border between Carteret and Rahway, there was a police cruiser and a blockade of cones across the road. I immediately realized the Rahway River had probably overflowed its banks, which it has done in the past, and flooded their local roads. There was nothing to do but turn around and drive back to Jersey City … through the toll booth that was fully operational in Carteret, and again through the one operating in Jersey City.

What I had accomplished, was using half of my scant remaining gas with my unproductive adventure, and a growing realization that the storm was much worse than I had ever imagined.

The Rushing of the Water – Hurricane Sandy – Part One

One Hurricane Sandy Story … from Jersey City

BEFORE

I don’t know why human beings consistently underestimate the impact of predicted disasters, but like everyone else that was there, I stayed in Jersey City on the night of October 29th, 2012.

In the days before, I watched the television with its dire warnings of an unusually high storm surge expected due to the full moon that night, and offshore models depicted a precise landfall trajectory for Hurricane Sandy to cause the most damage. I mentally made a note that I should buy a bottle of water along with my diet iced tea and two days of food. And I did too, I got a 12 ounce bottle of water.

I’m sure I was much less prepared than most: I had candles but no matches, I didn’t fill my car with gas, I had no flashlight, no battery powered radio, and not even a hand crank can opener. I also had no cash on hand, well unless you count two dollars. No, my preparation consisted of “stockpiling” 48 hours worth of fresh food – enough for the day of the expected storm and the day after, when I imagined any clean-up would take place.

And even after I heard low-lying areas of Jersey City were under a voluntary evacuation, I just assumed since I am “many blocks” from a marina inlet just off the Hudson River, and because there was no flooding during Hurricane Irene last year that I did not live in one of these alleged low-lying areas. Let me add that at no time did the news specify which areas of Jersey City were low-lying, we were just expected to know.

What does a prospectus to an investor say? Past performance is no indication of future results.

These are words printed regularly on documents warning human beings about, essentially, human nature. We underestimate what we think the worst could be until it happens and then we readjust our new reality accordingly based on our direct experiences.

For some of us, our parents or grandparents lived through the Great Depression. Many of us couldn’t understand the strange behaviors of a whole group of people who “lived without” for decades. Toasting slightly stale bread because it was “still good” or saving what seemed to be junk because it might have a future use, or putting savings away even when you didn’t have a lot because you should “just in case.”

In case of what, we always asked? We could never imagine.

Until I became an adult I never understood any of it, but these childhood experiences and conversations came back to me as I lay in a pitch black apartment during the storm. Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

THE FATEFUL MOMENT

So, as I said, I ensconced myself in my second floor apartment with two days of food in my refrigerator. I also plugged in my computer and cell phone in the unlikely event I’d lose electric for a few hours.

The television repeatedly said the worst of the surge was expected at 8pm EST. The wind was howling outside at that time, and the branches of a nearby slender tree whipped against my window in bursts, but the rain didn’t seem too severe. It was the wind that was frightening because it was much more ferocious than what we experienced during Irene, when I was also in my apartment, and thus could compare the impact of each storm to the other.

At about ten minutes after 9pm, I heard a loud POP and a transformer on the street light across the street on the corner exploded, sending yellow electrical sparks flying everywhere. Then a terrifying second POP as another transformer exploded beside a tree directly across the street, and the tree caught on fire.

My heart started racing and I began cursing aloud in my empty apartment. I ran down the stairs toward the front door, wondering if the neighborhood, which consists of connected row houses, would soon be burning to the ground. It would be extremely easy for a fire to spread rapidly.

When I got to the top step of my front porch, I was momentarily relieved when I saw the rain put out the tree fire. Then I looked down the street and instead of pavement, I saw a rippling river of surge water flowing toward me.

The view from my top porch step during the height of Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge

The water was already covering the bottom-most step of my front porch, which meant it was already above the street level and above the curb and above a full porch step. It did not occur to me at that moment, but that level was also already above the window line of basement garden apartments on my block.

Eerily the lights of a tavern diagonally across from my building illuminated the scene. Unbenownst to me five feet of water was also rushing into their less-than-a-year-old commercial kitchen, located in the building’s basement.

As I looked in the other direction, my heart sank. My car was parked on the street just twenty feet duther down from my front door, with the water creeping up the wheels of my two month old brand new car. I just stood there in shock imagining water rushing in between the door seams and into the muffler, completely totaling the car. I remember feeling so helpless to stop it.

The wind continued to gust and howl, and there was nothing to do but go back upstairs. When I got there, the lights began to dim in a brown-out fashion, so I turned off the television and all the lights…but then the electric went out anyway and the street went dark. I didn’t fully realize it at that moment, but my cell phone signal also went out.

Only the howling of the wind kept me company.

I began pacing back and forth for an hour in my living room. I repeatedly looked outside to see if I could catch my car’s final demise if anyone drove down the block, but I just couldn’t tell where the water line was. I decided to go to bed in the hopes that when I woke the storm would have passed and any damage could be easily assessed and repaired.

Little did I know, or comprehend, of what was to come.

A car speeds past me during the height of the surge, trying to race to higher ground.

END OF PART ONE