SANDYLAND: The Blacked Out Peter Pan Edition.
The Sunday before Sandy aggressively agitated the casual and symbiotic relationship between the Atlantic Ocean and the New York City coastline I spent it as any other responsible New Yorker within an ear shot of Mayor Bloomberg’s repeated apocalyptic rants would: at a Jets/ Dolphins game – at the tail end of a 24 hour booze and drug binge. It was my 1st ever NFL game, a thing I’ve always wanted to remove off my make-up-as-you-go-long bucket list. The experience was complete with tailgating with the visiting team (where I met Fergie from the Black Eye Peas and one of the billionaire Dolphin team owners, who was promptly hit in the face with a condiment filled cheeseburger thrown by a Jets fan) and the worst whiskey you could ever poor into a plastic cup doubling as a shot glass. By the 3rd quarter my caked up nose made it impossible to breathe while the delirium from my lack of sleep turned the ominous pre-storm sky into a tie dye of grey cotton balls.
My last memory before completely blacking out was the cab ride home with my next door party/porn photographing neighbor. I didn’t know the city had already started systematically shutting down all forms of public transportation. I made nothing of the long lines at the local Walgreen’s or the drizzle that had been pelting me all day. I came home, pushed my girlfriend aside and crashed in an explosion of empty cocaine baggies and stolen football memorabilia. I would remember little of the football game except for urinating in a man troth, watching part of the game from season ticket holder seats, and The Jets losing miserably. The following events survived the booze-ocaine.
My eyes parted around 5 pm on Monday at the behest of my insatiable hangover food hunger. I wobbled off into the kitchen and peeped my girlfriend’s ill prepared storm provisions on the counter – one bottle of smart water, ice cream, wine (her thing) and what I could only define as starving supermodel gerbil food. I rolled my eyes at her in a reluctant agreement and rolled myself a blunt as my hand slid up and down my ATM machine of a cell phone. There I noticed a text message from a friend of mine offering me all the food and drink my heart could desire at her restaurant in the West Village. My Girlfriend was not too fond of this Idea as we lived across the bridge in Brooklyn and the trains where no longer running. She had been watching the consistent warnings all day – although she wasn’t that convinced – being that she remembered all the hype surrounding Hurricane Irene from last year. I was persistent in my immature need to play in the rain. After her 5th “no” I messaged S**F – who lived a couple of blocks away – to join me on my adventure instead.
His stomach knew no obstacle.
We made plans to meet and walk the bridge into the city together.
I readied myself with the most weatherproof outer-wear I could find. We were a half hour away from Hurricane Sandy touching land-side and I was beside myself like a child’s first time in a bouncy castle. My eyes had the insane hypnotic swirl you’d find on a pair of comic book x-ray glasses. My excitement was contagious. My girlfriend, annoyed but ever so supportive, convinced herself and one of her friends to come with. Soon enough we were standing in 70 miles per hour (and increasing) winds on the corner out South 5th and Hooper. The rain poured from the sky horizontally – stinging the side of our faces as every raindrop strengthened with the consistency of uncooked peas. This charged me up like a dominatrix lashing her whip on a submissive. Soon enough S**F showed up – draped in head to toe North Face Gore-Tex wear and his water sponge of a beard. We both had the same insane look in our eyes.
The first thing we said to each other? Without skipping a beat it rolled off our tongues like drool at a dentist office; “YO YOU GOT PAINT?!”
Neither of us had any minus the few Krink markers S**F had on him. This was enough. Soon we were making our way across the bridge while Sandy’s g-force wind pushed us around like the plastic bag in “American Beauty”. Each tag we took on the Williamsburg Bridge washed out, only staining the metal with the ink drips trailing horizontally. The rain turned the bridge into a dangerous Slip & Side prompting us to surf our way into Manhattan until S**F cracked his head on the concrete. Sandy had just made landfall. The narrow Soho streets turned into wind tunnels tearing down store awnings and tossing garbage around like an ice cubes in a bartender’s shaker. Our trip to the West Village went from roller coaster anxious to “The Day After Tomorrow” frightening.
We made a pit stop at our friend Dave’s loft on Lafayette Street. His house was stocked with all the beer, weed, and all the whiskey we needed to warm our damp & chilled adventurer hearts. His 5th floor loft provided the perfect view of a city under siege by Mother Nature. I stepped outside of his window to Instagram a picture of all of the pretty lights flickering under the now 90 miles per hour winds. Ever smoke a joint under those conditions? The fact that I wasn’t blown off the fire escape imbibed me more than all of the substances I was enjoying at the moment.
Then it happened.
As I was crawling back into Dave’s apartment we all witnessed what appeared to be lighting fill up the sky. We all faced the window in amazement of the hurricane’s powerful flood light.
Then we saw another one.
This flash didn’t come from the sky as we initially thought but from behind the buildings in front of us facing towards the direction of the East River.
Then all of the lights in the apartment sputtered and dimmed as the TV went from High Definition to who-put-the-TV-in-the-green-fish-tank.
S**F excitement is now at drug addict locked in pharmacy levels of frenzy. Dave satisfied his craving by giving him a bag full of spray paint he had kept for him under his sink. My girlfriend wanted no parts of this. She abandons us for a group of her lady friends who had stopped by moments earlier to have a mushroom and codeine party at an apartment one of them was house sitting. I tell her to call me when the all-girl trippy orgy starts. She laughs, tells me not to get arrested, and disappears into the shadows of Batman’s Gotham city. We met up with C**Z and commenced to decorate all of Soho with our aliases – but not until S**F tried to climb up and beat up some random who politely asked us not to tag on his property. His Spiderman agility bordered on impressive yet comical. I couldn’t stop laughing.
We were drunk and out of our faces.
By 1am we were drenched and out of paint. We all wanted to go to the downtown studio The M**F kept for more but by then S**F’s girlfriend was making her way into the city to meet him. I tried to call my girlfriend but by then her phone died. I tried calling everyone of her friends until it dawned me that there was no electricity to keep cell phone towers working. My calls where nothing but a drain on the little bit of battery life my phone had left. Soon I was walking back over the bridge to a brightly lit and warm Brooklyn. I go home, turn on the news, and slumped heartbroken into my anxiously because I had lost my innocent and helpless girlfriend in the urban darkness.
The next morning I woke up to NY1 news drilling the travesties that blanketed my city into my porous consciousness. Very minute was a new level of bum out. From the flooding to the power outages to an entire Queens neighborhood burning down to the ground, the world tiniest violin had grown into a bass that could only be played by King Kong. This put the fear of God into my irresponsible heart. I grabbed the most weather proof outfit I could find and proceeded to walk the bridge back into the city for the 3rd time in 24 hours. The bridge has been closed to car and walking traffic. I bargained and negotiated with the cops blocking the entrance – going as far as faking an illness – but to no avail.
Now my selfish guilt was turning into a minor panic. I went back home and took to every single form of social media available in hopes that someone that followed me had seen my girlfriend. After a couple of hours of brewing in my misery the city announces the bridges are open to foot traffic and emergency vehicles only. K**O, another one of my local acquaintances, gives me a ride into the Lower East Side where I meet up with another friend (Omari) and proceeded to yell my girlfriends name all throughout the eerily muted Soho streets for hours. Omari kept a safe that’s-not-my-friend distance behind me as my antics teetered on lunacy.
After walking to Chinatown – the only part of downtown Manhattan with phone reception – I finally get ahold of her and we meet on Delancey Street where give her one of those “Gone with the Wind” kisses that the jaded exclusively barf at. We crossed the bridge back home and had the ravenous blackout sex I’ve dreamed about since the sexually disappointing 2003 blackout.
My phone squealed for attention after a couple of hours of napping in my sex sweat. M**T has finally decided to make an appearance and is at my local bar with S**F, S*, and B** J**Z. The city is still in the dark and begging for the clanking sound of a shaking spray can. I look at my girl in the eye and can tell that she doesn’t want me to leave. I do the “yeah I’m not going to go” spiel with the aw-shucks-frown that drags out the “sigh, you can go” response from her that I needed. Once again she punctuates my goodbye with a threat about me and jail. I casually dismiss it behind the closing door.
I dressed extra ready for the adventure, the rain had subsided by then and I chose an outfit straight out of Complex Magazine’s How-To-Look-Like-a-Graffiti-Douche issue. The minute I get to the bar S* calls me out on my hunter neon orange Carhart hat with some joke about how it could be spotted from space. “Yo you are not bombing with that hat on.” B** J**Z pops out of nowhere to punctuate my embarrassment with comical humiliation. After a couple of starter whiskey shots we all piled into a car and traveled back into Batman’s Gotham.
The active loudness of Brooklyn was dwarfed the empty silence of the city. The only light for miles where the strategically placed NYPD police floodlights that covered the major traffic intersections and the roving siren lights on top of the ever patrolling police cars. Regular traffic had come to a near halt as it was way too dangerous to maneuver the streets with all the fallen trees and debris you couldn’t see without your headlights on scare-a-deer high beams. Certain intersections were being manned by pedestrians who took it upon themselves to direct traffic with flares and glow sticks. I knew it was serious when I saw Mott St Deli – a store frequented by taxi driver and nightlife junkies and stood open for 24 a day since the crucifixion of Jesus – was closed. Certain local bars stood open by candlelight while restaurants took to grilling the rest of their stock in the streets in hopes to recoup some of their impending and surmounting loses. Several high-end stores boarded up their store fronts in hopes to deter looters and the occasional fashionable opportunist. Everyone we came across had a flashlight in one hand and a beer in another. Everyone was oblivious to how severe of an ass whooping NYC had endured.
Lower Manhattan had become a lawless temporary autonomous zone.
The lack of order provided a perfect cover for our exterior decorating. All you heard was the clanking of our steadily emptying and hissing spray cans and the crushing of the Budweiser cans we sucked down like air. We all took turns looking out for one another. Because of blackout the police were forced to ride around with every light in their possession on making them easy for a blind man to spot. No one questioned our clandestine activities, choosing to cross to the other side of the street than to confront the drunk vandals taking full advantage of a crippling scenario. B** J**Z provided the eyes and humor of the night until his drug lust took precedent and he found one of the last cabs still operating and commandeered it back to Brooklyn. We proceeded to tag on every neighborhood any art lover, rival graffiti writer, or future girl we wanted to “impress” would frequent.
Both of the Villages.
The less paint our cans held the more we wanted liquor and drugs. The guys had one more spot they wanted to hit, a permanent spot on top of some grates on a quiet but highly visible and well traveled street in Nolita. Like marauding ants at an unattended picnic they quickly climbed the grates to reach their coveted spot while I looked out on the intersection that faced the oncoming traffic. Soon M**T joined me as S**F needed to complete the outline on the giant M**F fill-in while S* completed his. I texted a drug dealer back in Brooklyn and patiently waited for a response while my eyes scanned the streets like a really old copier. M**T entertained me while off his new skinhead haircut while smoking my last rationed cigarette.
And then we spotted them.
Until then we hadn’t seen any cops walking the beat. We assumed every officer was in cars as to cover more ground being that everything from 34th street to Battery Park was Wesley Snipes dark. What gave them away was the crackle of their radio’s and the reflective shine off their badges. M**T and I slowly sauntered off while trying to whisper loud signals to S* and S**F. The cops were waaaaayyyy too close. As soon as I was far enough for a running start I called out for an imaginary girl (I was pretty experienced at this by then). All we heard was a fat donut filled “HEY!” before we started speed walking like it was an exercise in a mall full of old people. All I could think about was having to spend a week in a jail with no power and my girlfriend chucking all of my belonging on to the street. She warned, if I got arrested she would leave me with the rapey cellmate to procreate and die. Then I thought about S**F in jail with the same rapey inmate, petting his beard and signing him a lullaby. Then I snapped out of it.
This is what I wanted, this thrill, the rush, my name all over lower Manhattan – I had no time to be scared. I didn’t know how I was going to help, but I did know I had too. M**T and I retraced our steps back to where we last as S**F and S* and all we saw was S*’s car peeling off like they robbed a bank – complete with the Dukes of Hazards tire shredding screech.
Whew, they got away.
M**T and I just looked at each other. My phone vibrates with a message from my drug dealer saying he was in Brooklyn and ready for us. This was PPPoooiiifect (perfect). We grabbed the first cab we spotted – this point they were as rare as Unicorns – and Back to the Future-ed it over the Williamsburg Bridge to South Brooklyn…
Brooklyn, or how it would be known for the next couple of days; The New Downtown New York.