The death toll continues to rise from the wrath of Sandy. Photos and film of the disaster continue to be introduced showing the devastation was, and is, even greater than everything that's come before showed. Just walking around my neighborhood, including the beautiful park I've posted about many times, was a revelation. Giant trees torn out by the roots and pulling down phone and utility lines with them.
The tree guys have done the best job so far, getting at least the parts of trees blocking traffic cut and removed, or moved, so that cars can get by, opening up more and more streets, though some remain closed. The low hanging wire on my street was raised, and traffic is flowing there again. But most of my family and friends and neighbors without power are still without it, and many of them have gone to relatives and friends who have it, either around my area or further away, like some friends who went to their parents in the Bronx, others to Pittsburgh, and me to Western Massachusetts.
My teenager's mom, and some of her friends who don't have power too, are staying at my apartment while our son and I drove up to The Berkshires for the weekend to stay with my oldest friend [that's one of my post-brain-op strange brain tricks, my brain told my fingers to type "oldest son" but my fingers typed "oldest friend"] and grandson. It was a revealing ride.
We didn't just pass nearby areas, like Union, with damage—on one street there were three telephone and utility poles in a row knocked onto the ground or into houses with the wires still attached—but going further on the Garden State Parkway we passed a three mile long line for gas. When we got on the road I had only two gallons of gas left, but I knew my Prius—you knew I'd own a Prius, an old one, in fact one of the early ones—would get us at least well up into New York state and it did. Each gas station as we got further North had shorter lines until we finally stopped in Brewster where the lines were only ten or twenty cars long.
We did pass stations that weren't working, either out of gas or of power. And saw many knocked down trees and some obviously outage areas. But for the most part it only got better the closer we got to Massachusetts. When we first got on the parkway we passed a long caravan of power trucks coming from Florida, which was heartening. And later coming in the other direction trucks from New Hampshire and some that looked like they might be from Canada!
Western Mass got off pretty easy, not much more than some power outages, but Eastern Mass, especially on the coast, got hit pretty badly. As did Rhode Island and Connecticut. They weren't mentioned much on the TV show tonight to raise money for the Red Cross's efforts. It was only an hour long and totally low budget. The set looked like one room with no decoration just some microphones and appearances by mostly homeboys and girls like Christine Aguilera, Mary K. Blige, Bruce Springtseen, Billy Joel, Stephen Tyler, Jon Bon Jovi, etc. Their performances were pretty raw, not always perfectly miked (can't spell that "miced," it looks like the rodent) but pretty powerful and in some cases unique, like Jimmy Fallon singing lead on "Under The Boardwalk" with Tyler, Springsteen and Joel doing backups! Or Sting playing acoustic guitar and singing "Message in a Bottle."
The most powerful was Billy Joel doing a song I can't remember the name of ("I Saw the Lights go out on Broadway"?) but for which he changed the lyrics to match Sandy's wrath and aftermath. It was pure brilliance. Brian Williams and Jon Stewart and Whoopi Goldberg and Tina Fey were among the introducers of the musical acts and pleaders for donations to The Red Cross relief effort for victims of Sandy. (You can probably find it online).
And all I could think of throughout the day and the onslaught of information and images of the disaster and its continuing toll was how impermanent everything is, even coastlines, even great cities, even all of us. And how important it is to dig the moment for whatever it is and be grateful. Easy advice and perspective from someone who still has power and a home and didn't lose any family or friends in this one. But I have in others, so I know a little of what that might feel like. And I still say: dig the moment for whatever it is and be grateful.