Audio Story Collection
On an August Thursday afternoon in 2003 a blackout hit a lot of people in the Northeast. Fragile as we were from the recent attacks on New York City and Washington DC, the immediate thought for a lot of people was that it was another attack, and that it had been successful. The battery-powered radios that people turned on reassured us again and again that no, in fact it was just a blackout (just a blackout? It affected millions of people) and that everything was fine from a security standpoint.
Interesting what happens in a community when something that has become so basic is lost. Restaurants, knowing that their freezers and coolers would not be able to store food opened up to have huge parties. Delis and stores gave neighborhood regulars credit where they never had before, because of course none of us had any money as it was all locked inside now-useless ATM's. Once feelings of fear had calmed a party atmosphere took over in a lot of places. Looting was non-existent, sharing was everywhere.
Being August, it was hot in the way that only New York City can be hot, that baking heat that radiates out from every surface well into the night. Even the breeze becomes just a fetid current, swirling the heat without dissipating it. It is a dirty heat, an oppressive heat so different from the oppressive heat of the South where I grew up. This heat is meaner, harder. It has the quality of air that has been hard-used and spit back out from machines and people and that feels greasy and gritty.
The night became a negotiation between myself and my fridge: Every time I opened it it got warmer, but that was where the beer was kept. Eventually my wife went to bed, overcome with the heat and the dark, and I sat up and did the only thing I knew to do, I drank warming beer and played guitar. I remember the feeling of my skin sticking to the back and the top of the guitar as I played, and how the guitar itself was warm, as if I had been keeping it in a warming drawer.
To take my mind off of everything I started to make a song. A waltz, which is slow and put me in mind of dancing in a cooler time and place.