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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
                 Friday, August 22 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Where were you when the lights went out?
- vacation journal, part 2, August 14

Photo gallery related to this day's journal (19 photos)

New York City — Finally we arrived at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed-and-built Guggenheim Museum, only to learn that Thursday is its non-open day. After getting pictures of the building, I suggested we try to find a Starbucks for some ice coffee (it being a perfectly clear and hot day) on our way to the AYH hostel on Amsterdam Avenue near what I took to be 89th street, judging by its street address, 891. We were planning to book a room at the AYH hostel if we could, to avoid coming back to the White House on our return next Monday evening.

Photo by Michael KennedyTo get to Amsterdam, we had to cross Central Park, and found once inside the park that we were at the middle of the Jacqueline Onassis Reservoir, meaning either way we went, we'd have to go around half the reservoir to get to the west side. But we did that and the walk was more enjoyable than it looked. But alas, there were no Starbucks in that area and the blocks on Amsterdam were numbered at far less than 100 doors per block, meaning we were an undefined distance longer to the hostel than expected. It turned out to be 13 more long blocks of walking before arriving, only to discover that we were in the least-friendly appearing section we'd been in yet in the city. My side was beginning to be taking second rank to the pain in my feet now as we walked so long over hot pavement. We tried finding some chilled Snapple ice teas in a grocery along the route, but had to substitute bottled water as there was no chilled sugar-free ice tea of any brand available. And when we reached the AYH, there was only one room available for Monday night, and that was a family unit for four people and would be $135. We didn't book it, but started walking back to the nearest subway entrance. It took us to Times Square, where we still had to walk a long way to make it from the subway stop to Broadway. Finally there, we found the Starbucks that had eluded us till now, on 42nd Street just down from the Great White Way.

We were pleased with the straight-up iced coffee, sweetened only with half and half, and stood against the wall to wait for an open table, where I was planning on doing work on my computer (plugged into Starbuck's power) for at least an hour, in which we hoped to recharge our juices while getting some work done for the next day's post to the Nanty Glo list. But before we could get next to an outlet tapping in to Starbucks New York Edison, the lights went out. Everyone sighed, and in a couple of minutes the staff of the coffeehouse were shooing us all outside. All the other stores and theaters were emptying onto the sidewalks. We edged through the throng toward the heart of Times Square. Only a disfigured image on one marquee remained aglow, and only one still-good marquee of LED clear lights depicting a children's feature film in dazzling three-dimension clarity, continued glowing. It was 4:11 on 8/14/03. There was no place to sit, and we were exhausted from our hours of walking since being rejected at the Guggenheim, so we leaned against a railing outside the Times Square military recruiting center.

Photo by Michael Kennedy
Grant Park - in the dark

Theories and ideas about the blackout (though it was still broad daylight) began forming, the most feasible one seeming to be an act of terrorism on one or more power-generating stations on the Mid-Atlantic grid. We soon overheard reports from people who'd heard via radio or cell phone or conversations with cops that Canada and everything from Ohio to the coast and all the way down was without power. This was no doubt a catastrophic event.

We decided to start toward the nearest park, Grant Park, a square four blocks from Times Square which was set up for what appeared to be a free concert, with hundreds of light folding chairs. We found two and pulled them into the shade and sat still speculating and listening to tidbits of information. Everyone seemed a bit chagrined, unsure what to make of it all, and the mood that seemed to prevail was that whatever it would take, we're ready for. A group of children led by some young adult leaders, maybe day campers, sat on the concrete appertances and the floor near us, and some of them got interested in Mike's review of the photos he'd recently taken and chose to review on his camera's LED screen.

After regaining our strength, we decided it would be wise to continue walking downtown toward the White House on The Bowery. Just after resuming our walk, Mike was accosted by a news crew from a television operation, asking his attitude toward the power outage, whether it worried him, how he expected to get around (with no subways running and busses all already full to capacity), his name, and his general impressions.

Every intersection was a crisis, as with no traffic lights sometimes panicked drivers wondering how they were ever going to get home were jockeying with pedestrians for the right of way. Some pedestrians just assumed the right of way and plunged ahead, though most of us tried to find ways of negotiating fairly with the drivers. Ambulance and other emergency vehicle sirens were going off constantly, making us wonder if too many pedestrians had taken foolish chances and were being delivered to hospitals as the outcome (we heard a day later that there were no pedestrian hitting emergency calls through that afternoon that was now quickly turning into evening).

It occurred to me that we should try to buy some food from a vendor or a corner store (some of which were doing some cash business to supply needs despite having no power) as we would not likely be able to eat at a restaurant that evening. A bit of a way on, we found some vendors offering fresh cooled fruit salads for $4.35 and bought one each.

Madison Square was our next resting stop, where we found bench space to sit (though it was scarce, with thousands also sharing our quest), and there we ate our salads with plastic forks that came with them. They hit the spot and seemed like a good buy under the circumstances.

The best was yet to come.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


Marriage is the process of finding out what kind of man your wife would have preferred.

Thought for today

The hardest years in life are those between 10 and seventy.

— Helen Hayes (when she was 73)
Sent by Trudy Myers

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