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Storm Stories

We are waiting for the behemoth storm to arrive, gaining strength and depth as it hovers off-shore nearly 400 miles. It’s noon New York time as I write, and down in the Caribbean the clean-up has begun in Haiti, Cuba and other islands. These are barely mentioned in the ethnocentric USA press. It’s hard to imagine a more dire place than Haiti and, by comparison, the privilege of living on the Upper West Side as a storm approaches. When will we ever go hungry? Still, I think of one or two items I am sure I need— yogurt, a cucumber—and, as the storm has stalled, I quickly get into my workout clothes and take a long, brisk walk up Broadway. The air is fresh, no pollutants. A light rain, a few gusts of wind. Up on 115th Street near the entrance to Columbia, a couple of overseas students are laughing at all the preparations and the intensity of New Yorkers. There are sandbags at the entrance to the Barnes & Noble. Whatever for? “This storm is not to be taken lightly,” I say. “The Hudson is just over there.” I point my finger in a westerly direction which makes them laugh even harder. Perhaps they are amused by my tousled hair and foggy glasses.

Crowds congealing on busy street corners, a grocery store open. The manager has trucked around Queens collecting his workers. But how will they get home if the bridges are closed? Maybe they will have to sleep in the store, one suggests. During 9/11, New Yorkers opened their apartments to stranded workers. I have heard no such offers today. Hard times harden the soul and the altruistic post 9/11 spirit seems to have dissipated, the shops brazen in their exploitation. Are the prices higher here today or is it my imagination? And why is everyone grabbing and pushing?

Children are fractious as they wait on line with their worried parents. A boy to his father: “Dad, will the wind be strong enough to topple the buildings?” And the father’s reply: “What do you think?”

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