It only took a little more than a month after Hurricane Sandy, but the flooding found its way to my house.
Monday night I returned home to the sound of water dripping to the kitchen floor through a vent and several cracks in the ceiling. And in the little utility room behind the kitchen, it was downright pouting onto the furnace and hot water heater.
Turns out the appliances in my landlord's apartment upstairs were overflowing, and that they had been leaking water long enough to permeate the vents and ceiling in my apartment below. The landlord was home, but seemed surprised when I notified him that something was wrong.
I could never compare the leaks and puddles in my kitchen and closet with the sort of flooding our neighbors experienced all throughout the Rockaways. But in the weeks since the storm, our relatively unscathed home was one of the few sources of comfort in the midst of the surrounding turmoil that is life in the Rockaways post-Sandy. Just another dose of perspective in what feels like a never-ending test of emotional endurance. Every time we start to feel comfortable or begin to settle in to some sort of routine, a new challenge comes along.
Yes, that is a Mister Softee truck providing electricity to my otherwise dark home.
It's only been two days since the power came back on in my humble little corner of the Rockaway Peninsula. The electricity was out for more than two weeks following Hurricane Sandy.
Our neighborhood, along with all the others on the Rockaways, were among the last to start having their electricity restored by the Long Island Power Authority. During that dark time between the storm and the restoration of power, we relied on the kindness of a neighbor, who coincidentally owns a small fleet of ice cream trucks, to provide enough electricity to power a living room lamp and to charge our phones at night. If it wasn't for that small, generous act, we would have been otherwise forced to spend each night in darkness, with nothing but a handful of flashlights and candles to light our home.
I'm writing this down now, before I fully readjust to the ability to use things like light switches and power strips. Before things fully return to normal and I return to taking for granted all the little amenities that make life so convenient in New York. Never before had I considered electric light to be something so extraordinary.
Before the hurricane, the longest power outage I'd experienced was no more than a few hours. The most recent widespread outage to hit New York happened in 2003, and lasted only two days. Right now, in the third week after Sandy, there are still entire city blocks and neighborhoods in the Rockaways and greater Long Island that still don't have electricity.
In those first days without power, we held on to the hope that electricity would come back soon -- at least in New Jersey, where we had evacuated. But as time wore on, and the ensuing gas panic took hold of the region, it became increasingly harder to stay positive. Time ticks by much more slowly in the dark.
We ultimately gave up on New Jersey, choosing instead to wait out the restoration of power in the comfort of our own home. When we got there, the ice cream truck was in the neighboring driveway, serving as a generator for the apartments next door. A short time after arriving, we were given permission to daisy chain to the ice cream truck's power supply, thus, bringing us a small amount of comfort in the face of an otherwise pitch-black neighborhood.
That ice cream truck was just one small example of how neighbors pitched in to help each other after the storm. And it was the one that impacted me most directly. As I continue to internalize and make sense of everything I've seen in the last several weeks, I keep coming back to that ice cream truck that lit our nights and gave us a little taste of normalcy when everything else in the world was upside down.
Perspective is a funny thing. That is to say, at the May 9 Avett Brothers concert at Terminal 5 in New York, I managed to get a good view of the band. In the bigger picture, it came at the expense of actually getting to hear much of the music.
Shortly before the show started a, dare I say, short guy and his girlfriend squeezed in behind me. As the band walked on stage, they started talking about the inequality of not being as tall as the people in front of him, and justifying the view of my shoulders by saying, "At least we'll be able to hear them."
I suddenly felt guilty for my height.
But hear the band we could not, as the guy behind me began singing at the top of his voice with each and every song. Now, I'm all for singing along with good music, and have at loud concerts been guilty of doing so in the past. But hopefully not at the expense of others. The Avett Brothers is not a particularly loud band.
Not having been terribly familiar with all of the Avetts' work, I came into the concert with an open mind. From that perspective, the first half of the show was terrible, and it wasn't the band's fault. Eventually, either as a result of repeated complaints from those around him or the loss of his voice, the guy behind me finally shut up. The concert got better.
Self awareness has not always been my forte. Over the many years I've been in bands or gone to concerts, I've been guilty of singing along with my favorite songs. I get it. And I understand the passion of feeling like the music was written and performed just for me. But I think this recent experience has also enlightened me to the effect that my own behavior might have on others. I hope I haven't ruined too many concerts for everyone else.