It’s Time Somebody Did Something About That

There are a lot of things wrong in this world. Bad people do bad things. Every day. It’s pretty terrible.

You can turn on the news, locally, nationally or internationally and find out about all the bad things people do. Or, you can find out about how bad the weather is in a lot of places, or where mother nature wreaks unthinkable destruction on millions.

Alternatively, you can look for problems with “the system.” There are plenty of those too, so you won’t have to spend too much time looking.

You can read about how bad our schools are doing, or how corrupt government officials are (locally, nationally or internationally), or corporate greed, then again maybe you’re more interested the latest massacre, road side bombing, or other thing going on in your neck of the woods.

And always, when these terrible things happen, we are asked again and again to DO something about it. Or we’re told SOMEBODY should do something about it.

YES! we all cry – somebody should do something about this.

Immediately, if not sooner!

It’s an outrage no one has done anything about this before now. There are so many to blame because nothing has happened.

Global Warming is terrible! Glaciers are melting and the seas are rising. This puts hundreds of millions of people at risk.

I personally do believe global warming is happening, and I agree, many people are at risk. Okay!

Now DO something about it!

Hmmm.

I don’t want to stop taking hot showers every morning… and yeah, sometimes I stay in a while.

Well, I fixed my faucet that had been dripping… that’s something right? I’m saving water by not having it drip.

I wonder if the amount of water I use in the shower cancels out the amount I saved on the faucet?

Let’s see… there must be something else. <looking around my house…> Um…

I’ll just give myself credit on the global warming thing for the faucet, and I’ll ignore my carbon footprint thingie because I’m on a plane a lot for work.

Crap, that’s a lot of carbon too.

Is there something a little easier, please?

How about gun control?

YES! I believe in gun control. I don’t own a gun and I don’t think assault weapons should be available in this country.

Okay, whew.

Yes, let’s pass an assault weapons ban. That way, we can prevent crazy people from getting access to these guns that kill so many people.

But wait… the gun used in the latest incident was purchased by the mother of the shooter, and she passed a background check. And uh oh, there IS an assault weapons ban in the state where the incident took place and the gun she owned was NOT COVERED by that ban.

Well, crap, that’s no good.

Okay, but we can pass a new, more stringent law to ban any kind of assault weapon, including the one used in that incident.

Yeah! Let’s do it now!

But wait… the gun of choice on the street for the majority of gun crimes isn’t an assault weapon. It’s a handgun, because they’re easy to conceal and easy to buy on the street on the black market (where background checks don’t go.)

Oh, that’s really bad.

Now what?

Well, somebody has to DO SOMETHING about this right now!

We’ve got to…..

.

I don’t know about you, but I feel helpless.

.

I feel horrible about all those adults and children who were killed. It’s beyond comprehension that a human being, obviously a person with serious psychosis, did this… but he did. It’s caused pain and grief and a gaping hole in a community that will not heal for generations.

I wish I knew what to do about it, but I don’t.

I do think banning assault weapons is a good idea, and I think making background checks mandatory is a great idea, and I think banning the sale of all guns in this country is the best idea. (Tough luck hunters, and militia men, that’s what I think!)

But can I personally affect the outcome of what actually happens?

Hell no.

Maybe you think you do, but I have no illusions about that. I have nothing to do with that one way or the other.

I’m hoping some sawed off NRA type comes on my blog to tell me why doing these things is a bad idea, or some lefty liberal (who I’d sympathize with) tells me it’s a good idea, or an independent tells me the pros and cons and we’ll all be a little wiser, or pissed off, or informed with statistics, or lied to with statistics, and then the lobbyists will go to Capital Hill and help write the legislation along with the Congress and the President, or whatever is going to happen with this issue and you know what?

I’ll have nothing to do with it.

Not really, anyway.

Except for this blog post, clearly stating my views that global warming is bad, genocide is bad, glacier melt is bad, landmines are bad, corrupt dictators are bad, and oh yeah, assault weapons are bad too.

So, have I done my part?

I doubt it.

.

Maybe I should donate money to a cause, then I’d feel better, right?

Not really.

After Hurricane Katrina I donated a little money, and I felt worse because I understood that no amount of money I could provide would truly help those people who lost so much, family members, homes, everything. What was my twenty bucks gonna do?

But…last year I went to New Orleans and spent as much as I could afford locally on tourism, and talked to people there about surviving the hurricane, and talked to them about how they felt the recovery was going, or not going, and generally did “what I could” that way.

I don’t know if that counts because I really enjoyed myself and fell in love with NoLa, but I think it does. (But there is that carbon footprint plane trip hovering over my silver cloud…)

Well, anyway… somebody should just do something about all the bad stuff in this world.

And there’s no time to waste, so hurry up people.

Do it now.

 

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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

.

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.

 

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.

What Upper West Siders Did During the Hurricane

Friday Night

  1. Complain about the need to reschedule Sat. night Phantom of the Opera tickets
  2. Order one take out steak from Peter Lugers (with a side of creamed spinach).
  3. Eat two bites of creamed spinach and one square inch of steak. Put leftovers in refrigerator.
  4. Consume two bottles of good red wine.

Saturday

  1. Order two bagels from Dean and Deluca. Get lox and cream cheese in small plastic containers. Place in refrigerator.
  2. Complain that the subways are closing. Chef cannot reheat the steak because he lives in Brooklyn. (Ask Concierge how to turn on the stove.)
  3. Give Doorman extra tip for carrying case of Perrier up to the apartment. (Complain to Doorman how Maid is not available to put the bottles away.)
  4. Place two bottles of Perrier in the refrigerator. (Complain to self that Safeway was out of bottled Volvic.)
  5. Complain that there is nothing good on television except for all those sad reporters in bad rainwear hovering over small puddles. Not one of them is wearing Ralph Loren, not even the sport line.
  6. Fret that the windows will need to be washed immediately after the storm. Call Concierge to ensure windows will be washed on Monday.

Sunday Morning and Early Afternoon

  1. Complain that there isn’t much rain or wind during the hurricane.
  2. Complain that there was not enough flooding during the hurricane, not even downtown in Battery Park where it’s unfashionable to live.
  3. Call Maid #2 at Hampton’s house to ensure that the windows will be washed on Monday. When Maid #2 does not answer the phone, complain to self that it’s impossible to get good help.
  4. Eat a bagel with lox and cream cheese and consume one bottle of Perrier. (Complain to self that there are no fresh limes to put in the water.)
  5. Complain to Concierge that the fitness center in the building is closed just because it is in the basement. Complain that bagel carbs, left un-worked off, will go straight to hips.
  6. Open a rare bottle of Madiera that was being saved for 20th wedding anniversary that was retained during the divorce settlement. Consume half of the Madiera.

Sunday Late Afternoon

  1. Call best gay friend and explain how you have somehow managed to survive the hurricane in the most chic fashion. Coyly drop the name of the Madiera that was consumed earlier.
  2. Complain that there was very little evidence of damage in Manhattan due to the hurricane.
  3. Complain that the Mayor, the Police and the Fire Department have disrupted a perfectly fine weekend.
  4. Determine which Upper East Side establishments are open for a late brunch. Mimosas don’t make themselves, after all.
  5. Make plans with gay friend to meet at chic brunch establishment.
  6. Select best hurricane worthy head scarf, of a sort Audrey Hepburn might have worn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Tie scarf in a jaunty, but completely chic way.
  7. Have Driver take you where you need to go.
  8. Meet gay friend at chic brunch spot and immediately order a round of Mimosas. Spend the next three hours engaged in the most delightful bitch session about the poor taste in clothing of the other brunch diners.
  9. Return home to the penthouse, secure in the knowledge that Upper West Siders can survive a natural disaster without assistance from others.

Carol’s Hurricane Dinner

If you’ve survived the hurricane AND you still have power, chances are you are wondering what’s for dinner?

Many folks would be likely to have the ingredients below on hand, and for those you don’t have – substitute something else. Survival is adaptability, after all!

INGREDIENTS:

Get a pot of boiling water going on the stove. If you’ve been ordered to boil water, let the water go for a while before you add these ingredients:

  • One package yellow rice (you can sub. white or brown rice)
  • Two sm-med white potatoes diced into small cubes
  • One can of pink beans (you can sub. black beans, butter beans or red beans)
  • Salt and fresh ground Pepper to taste
  • Pinch of chili powder (optional)

Boil the three items together (I’d wait until the rice and beans are half-way done to add the potato) until cooked.

Heat a skillet with olive oil (or the oil of your choice or butter):

  • One large onion, chopped (can sub. leeks if needed, or chopped scallions could be added on top after cooking if that’s all you have)
  • Meat or chicken of choice (I had some beef sausages and cut them into small bite sized pieces)
  • Two medium green squash, sliced (you can sub. yellow squash, eggplant, zucchini, or other veggie of choice)
  • Five medium mushrooms, sliced (you can sub. canned mushrooms, if you had to)
  • One small can of sliced water chestnuts (that’s what I had on hand, check your cabinet for something interesting)
  • Salt and fresh ground Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in the pan and add the onion until just releasing water, then add meat and continue cooking. Add squash and cook down. Add sliced mushrooms towards the very end they don’t take long to cook. Throw in the water chestnuts just to get warmed and absorb some of the cooking liquids and flavors.

Once everything is cooked and ready…

Spoon some of the rice, beans and potato mixture into the bottom of a bowl. Add the meat, onion and veggie mixture on top.

If you like cheese, you could add some grated parmesan to top. If not, dig in and enjoy!