NYC: Scorching Heat! Flooding! Earthquake! Hurricane! Bring on the Locusts
A Portlander in New York
Jeff Tryens Special To The Skanner News
August 30, 2011What a month! Scorching heat!! Flooding!!! Earthquake!!!! Hurricane!!!!!! I’m pretty sure this is all God’s retribution for allowing same sex marriage here and, really, New Yorkers have yet to get the message. So I’m guessing a plague of locusts in next.
In the meantime...
The hurricane put my office front and center for supporting the City’s response. Those of you who follow this stuff will know that the mayor’s popularity took a serious blow when the city bungled the clean-up after the big New Year’s snow storm. Most of the blame fell squarely on the shoulders of the deputy mayor for operations – my boss’s boss. Everyone believes that his slow motion fall from grace began then. Well, you can bet the new guy was not going to blow it (no pun intended) this time.
So I’ve been doing all kinds of cool stuff in the last few days. I participated in the tree removal task force meeting on Thursday – all vests with big print and uniforms with epaulets – and Saturday I helped coordinate our SCOUT (Street Conditions Observation Unit) as they gathered on-the-street data about how evacuations from low lying areas were going. Yesterday, I volunteered with the 311 call center where all requests for city assistance go. Turns out handling every imaginable kind of call is pretty complicated – everything from who’s at fault when a tree blows down on a neighbor’s fence to please send someone right away because sewerage is flowing out of the toilet.
Of course, there’s no transit right now so I got shuttled home last evening on a school bus – owned by the Corrections Department. It’s the weirdest feeling to be looking out at people looking in at us obviously wondering what these middle class occupants had done to be on the JAIL BUS!
New York City continues to present me with the most interesting juxtapositions. The other day on the subway I noticed two ads that made an odd combination. One was an ad for a high-brow exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The other, right next to the first, was for a pawn shop featuring a woman wearing a bustier stuffed with paper money under the heading, “We’re New York’s Pawn Stars.” (Ha, ha.) What made it “special” was the sad little man between the two carrying a backpack stuffed with tiny plush toys and Barbies scratching himself, incessantly – hand under shirt. (Like Dylan, I never explain my stories.)
The other really odd thing that’s jumped out at me lately is the way some adult men of color greet me. One of the security people at my building sometimes replies to my “Good morning” with, I’m not making this up, “Yes, boss.” And a number of the men in my office say a similar, “Yes, sir.” These are all people who would not consider themselves my work peer, but would not think I hold any coercive power over them. It just reminds me of a time, hopefully, long gone in this country.
One of the drawbacks of our great apartment is most of the windows look out onto a big boring “courtyard” shaft that is nothing but walls and the windows of other apartments. Not so nice. Well, the other day I heard, for the first time, the most beautiful piano music coming in my open windows. The player is very good and classically trained. Totally mysterious and, almost, magical - thanks to the shaft.