At the risk of accruing stalkers, I will reveal: I live in Zone A, the Battery Park area, where Hurricane Irene threatened to raise sea levels to the fourth floor of what are normally very dry buildings. That newscasters’ wet dream never came to pass: circa 3 p.m. on the Day After Tomorrow, the street is practically dry. And I am home with my cat and a good excuse for carelessly consuming my hurricane rations.
The lack of heavy lubricant hardly amounted to a yeast infection for the neighborhood. If I weren’t buzzed enough off our hurricane alcohol to not feel like doing physical activity, I would have been on at least an eight mile run by now, no problem. Alas, my friend, Tess, who took me in as a hurricane refugee, wouldn’t let me leave until I helped her finish the last bottle of Gato Negro in her fridge. So I’m sitting on my couch, well, buzzed.
Gato Negro, cheap wine snobs will tell you, is not the best gotta-get-drunk-now wine option. However, I felt it was on-theme, considering my cat, who refugeed with me in Tess’s apartment, and Tess’s cat who lives there full-time, are black.
It’s funny, with the dryness of the streets, to remember how scary it all got before nothing happened. I debated, as Mayor Bloomberg ordered evacuating nursing homes on Friday morning, whether or not I should just plan on going to Tess’s place with the cat. Eventually, the world got freaked out enough to decide, yes, the Cat and I should go on Friday night before public transit shut down completely. Thanks to the kindness of Tess and Her Cat, we managed to ensconce ourselves at her Williamsburg apartment, which remains in the peak of hipster season year-round. I figured if the storm got bad enough, we’d at least see some skinny hipsters in their skinny jeans blowing past the windows in the hurricane gusts, as though leaves or PBR cans on a blustery November day. This area, just half a block into Zone C, would be ideal for both safety and comic relief. For, aren’t they the same thing, at the end of the day?
We spent the day before the hurricane doing two things: trying to shop and drink. The latter was much easier than the former. A hipster friend, Jes, and I tried to shop at bird, where he had a store credit, but they weren’t open yet at 11:50 a.m. Twenty minutes, a Diet Coke, two herbal teas, and one Korean fish taco later we returned tot he store front, where, as soon as we approached not long after the opening hour of noon, the five people inside ignored us and turned the lights off without even motioning us away or coming to the door to tell us the hurricane scared every Bird person shitless, and they wouldn’t be able to allow us to come into the store to maybe spend our money at this time. It was the retail equivalent of dating someone who just gradually stops texting and Facebook messaging you, which you have a hard time caring about too much, since he never really got you off anyway.
With shopping for clothes out of the question, we turned to necessities at the Sunac on Metropolitan, where hipsters in tight rolled up jegging shorts and sheer knee high pastel blue socks will unfailingly shop with no sign of stress at all times. An active, toxic ash-spewing volcano could burst through the floor of that place at any moment, and it would still be filled with contemplative hipsters shopping for wet cat foot at the speed of feeding starfish. Here, if there was a concern amongst Tess, Jes, and I, it was how many pre-made sandwiches will get us through 24 hours and then some of having no access to grocery stores? Turns out, about one per hipster and hipster guest, respectively, as long as you get a couple of those medium-size bags of salt and vinegar chips, too. With a bottle of sparkling wine and a bottle of rose added to our stash, Tess and I returned to Tess’s apartment, where life — even with hissing, hateful-toward-each-other cats — was too boring to just sit around for. So we went out to try, again, to find something to do.
By now, the subways were essentially inoperable, leaving hipster kind to decide how it would stand itself in isolation. The answer? With alcohol, obviously. To a shabby cafe we headed, where the huge pitchers of sangria were only $25, and we could spend as much time waiting for it and drinking it as we needed. After that it was up the street to another bar — this one was empty — where the ‘tender was offering $5 hurricane cocktails. The bartender’s button-down was drenched in a big rectangle of sweat on the back and front, suggesting he either showered and then ran out of towels at his apartment, had very moist sponges tucked into his armpits, or was just perspiring grossly due to the pre-Irene humidity.
Us three being the only folks in the bar, he wanted to chat, despite his embarrassing perspiration. “So are you guys freaking out about the hurricane OR WHAT?” he asked, his black curly hair twitching in the bar fan’s gusts.
“We’re fine,” we told him. “Prepared but it’s not the end of the world.”
“I know, right? My roommates are spending hours in line at the grocery store. I’m like, worst thing, you’ll be unable to food shop for a DAY and then you’ll get back to normal. I rode here on my bike.”
“Is this Deathcab playing?” Jes, a hipster at heart, noted, as the local news playing on the huge TV screens in the bar showed a “performer for children’s birthday parties.” This woman, with her face painted fuchsia, her nose painted black, and her cheeks emblazoned with whiskers, said she was embarrassed to be shopping in her costume, but felt she had no choice but to ransack the paper towel and bottled water shelves at her nearest Key Foods. At least she wasn’t one of the shoppers pictured preparing for the storm by stocking up on shopping carts full of frozen Eggo waffels. The storm, every news anchor known to man will always fail in pointing out, is merely an exercise in humanity’s common sense.
The bartender, the rectangles of sweat on his shirt failing to dry in the humidity even with all the fans and air conditioner in the joint, had adopted the true hipster’s only hurricane attitude option: “Who fucking cares?” he said as he waited for other like-minded hipsters to get bored enough to walk into the bar (which they inevitably did). “It’s not like you’re going be out of food and water for a week. Maybe for 24 hours you won’t be able to go shopping. I rode my bike here. In the rain.”
“How late are you guys open?” we asked.
“I just opened. I just rode my bike here,” he said again, to emphasize how little he cared of the impending probable doom. “I’ll leave, maybe at midnight. I can ride my bike home in the rain.” We weren’t necessarily alarmists but: “That’s just stupid,” Tess said later, as we were finishing watching her illegal download of Working Girl, the ultimate movie about risk-taking as an office chick in the Eighties, if there ever was one.
“I know,” I agreed. “That’s equally as stupid as saying, ‘Fuck, the hurricane’s coming — let’s rent a car and drive to Miami to wait it out.’”