We keep checking in with friends and family who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Everyone agrees New Jersey’s situation sucks. My parents in northern New Jersey have hot water but no power or phone service. They are relying on the kindness of neighbors who have a (“very loud,” Mom says) generator. The local fire department was handing out free dry ice yesterday, which allowed people to freeze or refrigerate food. There’s no flooding where they are, but there are numerous downed trees and damaged homes. The onetime home of some family friends has apparently been squashed flat by trees in the vicinity. My parents have lived in their home more than 40 years and have been around the block before with power outages. But they’re also in their 80s now. This is not an easy thing.
But still, they’re counting their blessings. At least they can visit their neighbors to stay warm and share a hot meal. And since they live at least at the height of the Palisades, the cliffs across from Yonkers, NY, they’re at a higher elevation than New York City and did not not have to contend with a lot of the flooding you see in the images in the news.
The same cannot be said of my former hometown, Hoboken. I lived there almost a decade before getting married and moving to points south. If you saw my story that appeared this week, you might have gleaned that I still have a lot of affection for the place. My friend, former roommate, and sometimes coauthor Jack Silbert still lives in Hoboken. He and I exchanged texts over the last couple of days. He says he’s trying to conserve his battery power so I’ve avoided phoning him directly. Our exchange has run like this. And please, understand that while Jack and I have a jokey relationship to begin with, I was probably trying to inject as much levity as I possibly could in this situation.
That’s as far as we’ve gotten. The news reports as of this morning (Thursday, Nov. 1) say that Hoboken is still 25% underwater. The National Guard has been called in to rescue some residents who were stranded in their buildings. One article reported that the streets smell of gasoline. That’s entirely possible, and completely scary. While Manhattan as access to some of the best brains in the disaster business, the same probably can’t be said the small cities and towns in New Jersey. Residents were already complaining that Hoboken was completely unprepared for the disaster and sent out mixed messages to citizens about whether they should evacuate. I’m no topographer, but it seems to be that the city lies right at sea level. (That link will show you some video of the city and a shot of its proximity to the Hudson River.)
I fully expect that that once Jack gets up and running that he will be posting some images or an account of his experience. You can check them at his website. (In fact,if you like movies, music, etc., you might want to save his RSS to your feeder.) Professionally Jack’s a writer, and the author of, yes, Santa in Space. He’s also such a music geek that as the storm was bearing on him, he was broadcasting this playlist on his internet radio show.
Across the river in Manhattan, I have way too many friends to check up on. All I know is what news we’ve been able to get via text messages. One friend, who lives right on 14th Street near the ConEd plant, reports hearing those transformers exploding. Of course, since she didn’t have access to the news or clear line of sight, she didn’t know what she was hearing. (That’s the thing about all these people: they’re living in bubbles, cut off from the news, unaware how bad it is everywhere else.) I haven’t heard from our agent who lives below the 40th Street cutoff, nor from anyone in her office. Remarkably, yesterday one editor I’m working with right now actually sent a list of captions for a book we’re doing. He’s at Random House, which is located at 56th Street, uptown, presumably out of the affected zone. I was still stunned he was moved to go to work and type up some captions for a book that won’t be out until next summer.