April 22, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and warm

Where do I even start? The newspaper took down the photos and the link I posted a few days ago is broken. But the flood was much worse than last time. The water was 6-7 feet higher. It almost entered the first floor apartments.

Standing by my window, watching the parking lot next door fill up was like watching water rise in a bathtub. Once I have some time, I’ll download and post some of the photos. Many of what would be the most striking photos didn’t come out, because the highest tide was at 10:30 PM on the night of April 15, and it was dark. The camera’s flash wasn’t strong enough to illuminate the area.

I moved my car four times. The final time, when the street in front of my building went under water (which hasn’t happened in over 100 years) – we had to wade through chest-high water through the building’s courtyard. We came around the corner as Con Ed cut the power line so we wouldn’t get electrocuted. I asked where I should move my car, and the cop told me up to the train station, because, “if that lot goes under, the QE II’s coming down Purchase Street, and we might as well all get on it.”

By the time I moved the car (less than 10 minutes), the water was too deep to go back through the courtyard. Fortunately, a first floor neighbor was still home and opened her window, letting us all back in through the window.

Most of us helped the tenants on the first floor move their stuff up to higher floors and evacuate their animals. Three out of four apartments on the first floor of our section chose to evacuate. One grumpy old man with his grumpy old cat (she sat in the window and hissed at the rising water) elected to stay; I told him that if there was a problem, he should come up to my third floor place and knock on the door – we’d figure something out.

Inflatable boats came to evacuate the elderly and pregnant, but soon the current was too strong for them. So, anyone else who wanted to leave had to go to a balcony on the second floor of another section (we could cross over the roof). The fire department set down a cherry picker horizontally and positioned firefighters on each side to coax residents crawling along over the rungs on their knees as the water rushed below them.

Meanwhile – my neighbor agreed to take in Spooky since her cat died last week, she had all the stuff for a cat, and it was currently a cat-less apartment. An hour later – she tossed him back out into the hall, with the water rising! What would have happened if his reflexes weren’t good enough to keep him from landing in that sludgy water? I grabbed him and tossed him into the apartment with my girls, where, I must say, he was a perfect gentleman. They were a little surprised, but, other than some hissing, they all got along.

In my world, you do NOT throw a living creature out into danger NO MATTER WHAT. Whether on four legs or two, you just don’t do that.

Meanwhile, Idiot Neighbor is running up and down the stairs screaming because the fire department won’t drop everything and evacuate her and her teen-aged daughter by boat. Now, neither one was ever in any danger (third floor), there was plenty of opportunity for them to be evacuated across the ladder, and they didn’t help ANYONE else who was actually in danger. Instead – it was all about them. She actually expected the fire department to stop evacuating a pregnant woman and an elderly woman who had an oxygen tank and take her out instead. Not after or later – but INSTEAD. This is after, in the flood six weeks ago, I helped her move everything out of the basement, where she stored stuff ILLEGALLY and carried an entire room’s worth of stuff up from the basement to the fourth floor (she carried two boxes). And she couldn’t help anyone?

Her behavior was completely unjustified, and is the culmination of several years of parasitic behavior. She doesn’t respect any boundaries – I’ve asked her a million times not to bang on my door when I’m working unless it’s an emergency, but to call and when I check messages, I’ll get back to her (and at least three times a week it’s because “I ran out of conditioner.” “I don’t have enough milk for my cereal.” “Do you have any paper?” – Not that she EVER reciprocates). I’ve even put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door – and she knocks because “it means you’re home.” I stopped being polite to her when she does that awhile ago, and now – if I never speak to her again, it’ll be too soon.

It was a relief when she was gone.

Of course, by then, there was no power, no phone. But, you know what? Our ancestors lived without electricity for hundreds of years. A few days wasn’t going to be that bad. It wasn’t that cold. Those of us who stayed basically turned the place into a cross between a college dorm and a camp-out. We shared supplies, checked on each other, etc., etc. Later, I found out that it wasn’t the case in other sections of the building. We’re lucky here. Except for that one Idiot Neighbor, everyone else pretty much holds together.

The gas line was still working, so we could heat up water (we had to boil all the water; it was contaminated), and we could make hot water bottles. We had candles, matches, extra batteries.

In our apartment, we actually found a fluorescent lamp someone gave us years ago – it was bright enough to light the entire room, and we could sit up and read with it. And we had batteries for the radio, so we could hear a little bit about what went on around us.

Can I just say CBS radio was inexcusable? To tell us to “check the website” for shelter listings? Exactly how are we supposed to do that when there’s no power? It’s not like the Wi-Fi was working, either.

I was the only person in the section with a working cell phone. I did all I could to preserve the battery in case of emergency, hoping that in a few days the water would recede enough so that I could get up the hill to the police department and recharge.

Spooky cried most of Sunday night. He wanted to get out (being mostly an outdoor cat). But I ignored him, and eventually he settled down. He was fascinated by the morning routine of the girls – watched from a near-by chair as the trio poked and prodded me awake in the morning. He was lovely – ate his breakfast, took his bath, looked out of the window. He scooted into the hallway once when I answered the door, but stopped when he saw the four inches of mud in the vestibule and turned around, asking me to pick him up and take him back to the apartment. I washed his feet (he didn’t like that) – but still, he never really fought.

The water didn’t recede until nearly 8 AM on Monday morning (having flooded in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday). From what we could hear on the radio, the flood waters in New Jersey were still rising.

The usual group of us who band together in a crisis made the rounds, checking on people still in the building, seeing who needed what, etc. Some of the first floor residents came back from the shelter; some elected to stay. Even though New York passed a law saying pets can be brought into shelters, the American Red Cross retains their no-pets policy – which I find completely unacceptable. They did allow some people to stay out in the unheated hallways of the shelter with their pets, but they should be forced to create separate but equal areas. It’s not that hard.

Spooky figured he had a good, cushy gig going. And I think it was the first time he felt he could sleep safely for hours and hours in who knows how long.

My friend J. and I walked down the street to a new pet store, recently opened. They’d gotten all the animals out, but lost all the merchandise in the basement and had two feet of water in the store. I’d hoped to buy an extra cat carrier (I had more cats than carriers at this point), and the owner simply handed me one, when he heard I’d rescued a cat. I told him I’d come back and pay for it when the store re-opened.

At 10 o’clock that night, someone pounded on my door and said, “You have my cat.” This guy, I guess, is Spooky’s owner – although why the cat’s been living in the courtyard for the last five years, and been fed by nearly a dozen people is beyond me. So he borrowed the carrier and is taking the cat to live at his mother’s house. He said he’d return the carrier – but, of course, he hasn’t. And he acted as though I tried to steal his cat. Talking to other people in the building, they can’t figure out why he thinks it’s his cat since he never took care of it.

But if Spooky has a good, safe home, it’s all fine.

Tuesday, I trudged across the street to the train station, got on the train and went to the theatre. I showered there, and recharged my phone, and did my day work, then turned around and came back home. By this time, Con Ed was handing out dry ice, so several people from the building went and stocked up for everyone else.

The girls searched and searched for Spooky. I realize he’s been in and out a lot during the past six weeks after the last flood – but I hadn’t realized they’d accepted him!

We’d hoped to have power back by Wednesday, but no such luck. Con Ed was out of dry ice by then and had no idea where to get more. I found bags of ice at a grocery store the next town over, and, by putting Tupperware containers filled with ice cubes in and around the food, we could keep it cold. Electrical inspectors came and went and threatened and played God, without giving us any useful guidance as to what we could do to get things into a state where they’d give Con Ed the okay to flip the switch for us.

The landlines were still out, except for one woman’s phone in the building. Every time someone called Verizon to report the outage, they acted like it was news the entire town was under water. Although the guys in the trucks were great, Verizon really needs to train their customer service reps to respond in a crisis with both courtesy AND compassion, because they weren’t showing anyone either.

However, some of the people working with the super managed to jerry rig something or other so we got back the hot water. What a huge difference hot water made, both physically and psychologically!

A few of us went out to dinner on Wednesday night, just to get a change of scenery and try to figure out how to mitigate problems next time.

Idiot Neighbor wafted through and tried to start something with me in front of other tenants. I refused to engage. I was perfectly cordial – but I refused to engage. And God forbid she should ask if anyone needed anything or if she could do anything to help anyone.

Still no power on Thursday morning, but that hot shower made a big difference! Again, checking on everyone, restocking the ice, splitting up the tasks, trying to help scrub things down. By this time, I’d moved my car down from the train station back to Purchase St., but I wasn’t going to put it back in my lot until the flood advisories stopped.

Thursday, after dinner, my friend J. and I took a walk around the surrounding neighborhood. Oh, my god. Six weeks ago, it was bad, but this was much, much worse. The entire neighborhood directly next to our building went under water – some houses all the way up to the second floor. Every driveway has a dumpster in it, and people are trying to clear out. Some people have power back; some got the orange stickers declaring their entire electrical systems have to be replaced. It’s heartbreaking.

We ran into friends of J’s – and friends of theirs who happen to be two people with whom I went to high school and haven’t seen since 1980! Bizarre reunion. I like the people they’ve become more than I liked them in high school, which is a good thing.

It was cheering to return from our walk to find out that the power was back on – although by that point, we couldn’t remember to turn on the light switches!

Friday, I discovered that my DSL worked, even though the landline was still out – so I could get back into communication with the world again. Friday night, they jerry-rigged it so we could get some heat and dry things out – which is nice, since by Friday the damp chill had really permeated. The cable came back on by Friday night, which was kind of non-essential. Although catching up on the news was pretty sad. However, as I said, our ancestors lived like this for years. It’s inconvenient, but not impossible. But I admit, as the mod cons come back on – I’m enjoying them!

Got out three pitches and a submission – and heard back a positive on one of the pitches.

Yesterday, I waited for Verizon, who, of course, never showed up, although they promised to be there “between 10 and 6.”

J. and I managed to take a walk around town (someone else had agreed to wait for Verizon for all of us). One of the bridges has a five foot sinkhole in it and has been closed to be rebuilt. Several businesses are devastated. And some are worried because the insurance companies are making noise that they can only enter one claim per calendar year. They better fight that one, if it’s true.

Habitat for Humanity has come in to help people here and in the surrounding towns rebuild. When I get back from my trips, I’ll do some volunteer work with them. I ran into the sister of the woman who was my best friend growing up – her parents have survived this for forty years, but this time, with the water halfway up the first floor – they’re packing up one final time and going. They’ve had it.

The towns upriver don’t give a damn if we drown in the bathtub of their overdevelopment. It’s time to make them care.

I didn’t do much yesterday – the exhaustion overwhelmed me. I’m on my way to the acupuncturist, and then I have to finish an assignment for Confidential Job #1, and start a manuscript a colleague sent. It’s beautiful out, and at least I can enjoy the outdoors a little bit, in all this chaos.

In the midst of all of this, Mia King sent me a lovely, cheerful package from Hawaii, which arrived on Tuesday and brightened things up around here considerably. Thank you, Mia!

And a delicious box from Strand books arrived with the research materials for Good Names.

Off to get poked and prodded into wellness.

Sorry I can’t comment on Blogger blogs – according to them, I don’t exist. I am reading them, though!


PS Um, Happy Earth Day? 😉

Published in: on April 22, 2007 at 11:21 am  Comments (10)  


  1. Wow. I’m glad you managed to get through it all in one piece, and that you didn’t lose your new car. The Idiot Neighbor and the Faux Catowner…as a friend of mine used to say, “Some people’s children!” d:

  2. oh Devon. You’ve had a time of it lately. If there’s anything i can do – anything you need that you can’t get there – PLEASE holler at me. Via email rhian @ creativegoddesses.com since you can’t write blog comments. i’m serious.

  3. So glad to hear you are doing okay in spite of the weather conditions and damage. Are you near Manhattan by any chance?

    Yvonne Perry

  4. So glad the hear from you! Spooky’s owner sounds like a “real piece of work”. And your neighbor woman (I don’t say lady, because her behaviour isn’t that of a lady!), what a waste of humanity. Very glad to hear “the girls” are doing well, so sweet that they miss Spooky.
    Um, hubs works for Verizon, but for the cell co., not the internet co.. I can tell you, he makes sure his tech’s are very polite and courteous.
    I hope this week is better than last!

  5. Devon, I’m so glad you posted. I was worried! And wow, what an experience. I can’t imagine going through that. Take care of yourself!

  6. Wow. You guys have really been through the wars. I’m glad things are slowly improving.

    Your crazy insane neighbors are… well, crazy insane. Geez.

  7. Your Idiot Neighbor is a moron. And the guy who said you had his cat? Whatever on him!

    Glad to see your back online and things are somewhat improving. I saw the flood waters in NJ but I hadn’t see anything about your area and I worried about you.

  8. Some people are just plain dumb. I’m sorry you have to put up with such a dorky neighbor. What a surprise about Spooky, too. Hmmm. Well, you’ve done more than your share of good deeds!

    What a gripping narrative of what happened! You need to get it published somewhere. But it truly is unnacceptable, what you guys have to go through every time there is a bad storm. Is there any hope in sight? Or will you be putting up with this until you move?
    Hope things get back to normal, real soon!

  9. Wow. Thanks for sharing your experience, Devon.

    I’m glad you’re doing well.

  10. This was an absolutely riveting story. Sorry you had to live through it, but thanks so much for writing it up. Take care, Devon.

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