Author: by Daisy Prince
Onwards and Upwards
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York, Daisy Prince joined the power-hungry downtowners who beat a path uptown in search of electricity and fancy cocktails
WHAT A WEEK! The editor of Spear’s asked me to write a blog on living through Hurricane Sandy, but I couldn’t fulfill the assignment on time for a couple of reasons. Firstly we lost power in our downtown apartment, and then the friends’ place we had decamped to didn’t have wi-fi. Most of my days were spent trudging to the upper floors of Eli’s and trying to catch up on emails with friends from out of town. Here are my notes from a week that will be remembered as the time when the city that never sleeps had its lights shut off.
The storm begins. Our offices have closed and, unsure of what to do with myself all day, I do what I believe my late hero, Nora Ephron, would in this situation: I bake.
First I make turkey and spinach meatloaf and then I get over-excited and make my speciality: triple chocolate bundt cake. Hugh helps out by looking after baby Harry and we invite our friend Tom Leveritt for a lunch that lasts until he heads home at 5pm. I’m getting worried text messages from friends in the UK who relax once I tell them about the magnificent lunch. ‘At least you are being British about it,’ sniffs one text approvingly.
We take a walk at 5.30, just before the storm peaks — it’s not even that windy, just rainy. At 8.30 our lights dim, come back on, dim again and then go out. It reminds me of the scene when the lights go out in Titanic. The rest of the evening Hugh and I spend playing backgammon by candlelight.
The lights are still out and, still unsure of what to do with myself, I start to make lunch. In times like these, it’s all about comfort food, so it’s spaghetti bolognese for the three of us.
Hugh has called friends on the Upper East Side to see if they will take us in (they do). We can’t decide if we should tough it out another night or head uptown. I am tired of trying to do the washing-up in the dark so I say we ought to go. Our building’s super and the other doormen on duty the night of the storm have been sleeping in the building since the power went out. They live in Queens and there is simply no way for them to get back home.
The electricity has been off for eighteen hours now. I open the door to the fridge and it smells weird — but then it always does. Hugh gets alarmed and starts filling our pots with water in case the upstate aquifer gets contaminated.
Looking out of our window it’s hard to see any real damage done. The only discernible difference is my neighbour’s glorious red and gold Japanese maple tree has been entirely stripped of its leaves. Otherwise, you would have no idea there had been a storm.
Late afternoon we pack everything up and manage to find a cab to get uptown. The streets are empty as we leave — it’s spooky. The Empire State Building is still lit with white light as we make the move uptown.
Hugh takes the bus to the apartment and bikes to work from there. My office is without power and therefore without email. I get text messages from my bosses checking that I’m still breathing, and I have lunch with a colleague on the pretence of working, but in reality to have a jolly meal at Amaranth.
It’s Halloween night, and we dress Harry up as a skeleton and take him trick-or-treating in a friend’s Park Avenue building. The sidewalks are jammed with little kids in costume.
A stroll down Madison Avenue turns into a walking cocktail party — I run into at least ten people I know. I meet a fellow refugee from downtown who says she has to get out of the city — she’s staying with friends who are saints, but her children are behaving appallingly. ‘If I have to smack my son’s bottom one more time they’re going to call child services on me,’ she laughs.
Another friend I meet for breakfast thinks there will be a lot of divorces filed after this week: ‘No one is used to spending this much time together.’
Hugh and I have dinner at Swifty’s. Before eating we try to get a drink at the Carlyle, but it’s stuffed. The Upper East Side feels electric all of a sudden — many celebrities have moved into the Mark Hotel, while Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle is positively pullulating with downtown hipster refugees.
We finally escape from the city. Hugh calls every car rental place possible but there are no cars available, so we take a car service up to Newport. The traffic is as bad as any Fourth of July weekend and the driver insists on driving five miles below the speed limit.
A couple of hours out of the city, I finally think we can relax — but at that moment all the excitement of the move and the inconsistency of the previous few days catches up with Harry. He throws up all over himself, me and the car seat. For the next two hours we are trapped by the permeating smell of sour milk and banana in a small car — it is Sandy’s final revenge.
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