Tag Archives: hurricane sandy

GET INVOLVED with Ongoing Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

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Hello to all my fellow New Yorkers, tri-staters, out of town friends, and all of you who have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Although I’m grateful that my son and I and our immediate family were spared the worst of Sandy’s wrath, I have several dear friends whose homes were lost in the storm, and I’m disturbed that so many of our community members are still suffering way past the point of acceptability. Business as usual is resuming for so many, but not for others. Fortunately, there are still many of us who care and who are doing something about it.

For the past several days, I’ve been collecting information regarding events and ongoing work on behalf of the people who are still without power and basic supplies in the wake of the hurricane. I’ve assembled a list of articles and notices for those of you who want to know more about the various relief efforts and how you can support them or get directly involved.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does speak to the various communities with which I’m personally connected. Feel free to comment with additional information that you’d like to share with one another.

  • In Brooklyn, active relief efforts have been undertaken by Red Hook Initiative and Occupy Sandy. These groups both still require volunteers for this weekend.
  • The NYC Service page lists a number of agencies and programs that can use your help or contribution.
  • The venerable international organization, Doctors Without Borders, has applied its technical and logistical expertise towards assisting local aid workers in the most affected areas. They can always use more financial support.
  • The organization Acupuncturists Without Borders is offering a series of free acupuncture clinics for trauma and stress at locations in Rockaway Beach, Point Pleasant, NJ and Manhattan, including one this afternoon (Friday November 9th) at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM, 915 Broadway, 5th floor at 21st Street NYC) from 2:30-6:00.
  • A group of Long Island ex-pats, their families and friends have galvanized relief efforts in Western Massachusetts on behalf of beleaguered residents of the Long Island towns of West Babylon and Lindenhurst. With operations based in Turner’s Falls, MA, they will be trucking supplies to Long Island this Sunday, November 11th.
  • On his blog, New York Theater, Jonathan Mandell has assembled a list of resources for theaters and theater artists affected by the storm.

On the Lighter Side:

  • One of our venerable lower east side eateries, Russ & Daughters, has done its part by keeping the lox safe.
  • The good folks at TrivWorks have decided to convert their scheduled November 13th trivia night at The Bell House in Brooklyn, into a full scale hurricane relief fundraiser.

ALSO: This AMAZING article by Deanna Zandt in Forbes Magazine: When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough: How to Improve Sandy Relief

Thanks to everyone who is contributing their time, money or energy. Our community grows in strength and resiliency with each person’s participation!

Stormy Thoughts

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It’s calm here in NYC, in this upper west side Starbucks, five days after the fury of Hurricane Sandy hit our metropolis. I am still trying to make sense of my feelings and the significance of the experience to me, to my family and friends, to the city and region as a whole, and of course, to our world.

I was not severely affected. My home lost power for a couple of days, but my son and I had a warm and loving place to spend the blackout days and nights. Aside from the inconvenience of having to relocate ourselves, some bags of food and basic supplies to another location, we were not significantly impacted. We did not lose our lives, get injured in any way, or incur damage to any of our property.

I have friends who are still without power. Again, none of them are in shelters, and none are in any life threatening positions of which I am aware. SO DAMN LUCKY!!! One friend’s mother lost just about everything she owned out of her home in Long Island that was completely flooded with about three feet of water. Despite the fact that her childhood home was ruined and her mother will no doubt be living with her and her family for at least the next six months, she is now in Ohio working to get out the vote for President Obama. I love her more fiercely than I can say for her commitment to our future, despite the shambles of her past and present.

On Wednesday night, I went trick or treating with my son and some of our friends around our mostly dark neighborhood, gathering what candy there was to be had from the sporadically electrified or otherwise determined to celebrate homes (our neighborhood always incurs random outages from block to block). It was an act of optimism. We didn’t mind letting the children get sugared up and run crazy for a couple of hours. On the flip side, it was a bit desolate and creepy, and we parents had to work to keep the atmosphere festive. Also, I ate too many bite sized candy bars, and now have two massive pimples on my way-too-old-to-be-going-through-second-puberty face.

Evil Sponge Bob on Halloween – note the evil eyebrows, bloodshot eyes and bloody fangs…

I have another friend who recently went through a period of renting out a room in her apartment on airbnb. After a half a year of that, she maxed out on having strangers living with her and swore she would never do it again. This week, after being offered large sums of money from individuals through that online platform, she’s been giving people access to her bathroom to take showers. She’s only accepted a fraction of the dollars they offered, and has used a portion of it to buy diapers for needy storm victims in nearby housing projects, who are still without basic resources. Unable to travel to her usual place of employment, her volunteer service has become her job for the week.

Today my next door neighbor and I donated some clothes, water, juice boxes and tampons to a local temple collecting supplies for people still in need of basic supplies. I had a bag of baby blankets from my son that I was saving for my cousins who are expecting their first child. After taking out one special piece, I donated the rest of those, too. I feel confident that my cousins will understand and support our choice.

My sister, returning to the east coast several days ago from California, spent two nights with us at our house with her cat, because her dark apartment is in what was until last night the dark and largely deserted east village. After emptying my own refrigerator and then bringing things back home again two days later, we did the same from her apartment to my place, and then back again this morning.

And so, this week has felt like one big disjointed moving sleepover party. Warm and loving, yet tinged with the pressing knowledge of the desolation and suffering happening in other places. I do not know how to make sense of this, only to report random details of the experiences. I feel grateful and sad, exhilarated and drained at the same time.

Workwise, it has been a lost week. Internet service for me was gone for several days, and even after I got it back, key people with whom I work have been unreachable. But mostly, I have been unable to focus on anything significant for any length of time. Transporting my and my sister’s bags of food and toiletries all over town has been a welcome distraction – tasks with a distinct beginning, middle and end.

Today I took my son to a friend’s birthday party at Dave and Busters. I stuffed my face with pizza, chicken, french fries and tortilla chips. I talked to the waitresses. They told me that people who have lost their homes and are staying in various Times Square hotels have been coming in for their breakfast buffet, spending time there distracting themselves while they wait for their government disaster assistance.

Come Monday, some NYC public school students will be sharing their buildings with shelter residents still living at their schools. The subways may be almost completely up and running again. Some people are still trying to put their lives back together again. Some of us who have already known hard times in our lives are putting our hard-earned muscles to use dealing with this latest manifestation of the spooky and random great unknown breaking up our familiar reality. Some of us, not quite as adept at handling major obstacles, have been forever scarred by the trauma of this new and frightening intrusion into our sense of safety. The latter group is learning that they will have to get in shape, sooner than they’d like…

My heart is fluttering. I am aware that everything is changing. I knew that things would be different after Wednesday, but I didn’t know that it would feel so diffuse, so raw and random and unfocused and paralyzing. My emotions are so close to the surface, but any sense of logic I could impose on this is absent. I am not sure. Of anything.

Honestly, did you think I was going to try and wrap this up in a neat ball and deliver it to you? Shit. It doesn’t work that way.

The Perfect Storm

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There’s a storm comin… yeah, they say it’s a killer hurricane called Sandy, but it’s also an election that’s going to decide the fate of the country, and there’s also a battle for the soul of my son.  Perhaps that’s a little overdramatic on all fronts, but that’s how I perceive it right now. It’s kind of a perfect storm in my own mind, actually…

Let’s start with the election. It’s topical, it’s on everyone’s mind here in the United States, or at least it’s on everyone’s TV and in many of our inboxes. Personally, I feel as though I’ve been getting spammed like crazy by the democratic party, even though I support its candidates. There’s a desperation to these missives that’s been filling me with anxiety, even as I realize they are designed to spur me into action. Yes, I’ve clicked donate more than a few times, succumbing to the relatively painless gesture of giving $5 here, $6 there. I feel as though it’s the least I can do. For even though I realize that our political system is rife with the corruption of big money’s influence, I am frightened by the embedded belief of the benefits of unfettered capitalism combined with an increasingly dangerous influence of the religious right that characterizes today’s version of the Republican party.

Here’s something I shared on Facebook recently that articulates my position:
I object to the notion that free market and business models are the answers to everything. I believe there are certain things that benefit all of us that it’s good for people to contribute to – like public television, like roads and bridges, like police and fire departments, like public parks and other natural landmarks and treasures. And yes, Medicare and other publicly funded insurance programs, social security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other safety net programs. Because they’re not defined by the people who abuse them. They are defined by the overwhelming good they do for the people who need them. And it’s bullshit to reject that. Because everyone has needed or knows someone who has needed help at one point or another. It’s hypocritical and mean and short sighted to think that any of us is immune from ever needing that kind of assistance. Relying on churches and charities and the kindness of strangers isn’t enough.

That’s why I reject the idea that less government is the answer. People who are so busy trashing government conveniently forget the ways they benefit from government programs and services on a daily basis, which are not run by monsters, but are run by other human beings, many of whom are also trying to make a difference and help other people as they do their jobs. And, the fact is, as much as anyone would like to miscast the idea as socialism or communism or some other ridiculous notion that is code for, I don’t want anyone taking something away from me, we ARE all in this together. We share the planet, we share our communities and we have to live together and help each other. And I’m sick of the idea of privatizing every damn thing in the world as an answer to our problems. We are better than that, and humanity deserves more compassion and creativity from all of us. ALL of us.

Which makes a great segue to the next part of this essay. My son. His mind is being taken over by video games. Or more accurately at the moment, I-phone apps. I had resisted the call of the hand held gaming device for over three years. Back when he was six, I told my son, you can have a DS when you’re eight. Well, his eighth birthday showed up and I was not ready to let his attention be stolen by a portable hypnotizing machine. Gifts in the form of a Wii, and later a secondhand I-phone came to him from an uncle, and I let them lie fallow for as long as I could. The Wii remained un-hooked up for over a year, until an older cousin finally did us the favor of connecting it. Still, the phone remained hidden away in a dresser drawer. The drumbeat grew louder, and the pressure mounted as children in every sphere of my son’s life continued to acquire one device or another.

Finally, at the age of nine and a half, when even his six-year-old next door neighbor received an old I-pod Touch from her older brother, it seemed that my insistence on keeping him hands free was bordering on deprivation. I gave in. I activated the old I-phone so that he could download some inexpensive games on it, and participate more fully in the ongoing conversation about Fruit Ninja, Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, Radiant, Flick Home Run and Slender-Man.

Within seconds of acquisition, I realized that I was going to have to inject and enforce some major limits into our new normal. Absolutely no gaming before all homework and chores were completed to my complete satisfaction, strict time limits on game play, and close monitoring of where the device was being used, including no bringing it to school, etc. This was going to take some real effort on my part.

Sadly, I realized we had entered a world of electronic enhancement of the worst aspects of my son’s personality (emblematic of most kids his age) – a tendency to want to do fun things instead of work, fulfillment of instant gratification in favor of long term goal achievement, and a desire to connect with friends over the coolest, latest thing, as opposed to doing anything your parents tell you to do. In short, I was screwed.

Within the first week, I witnessed him rushing through haphazardly completed homework and household chores, so that he could get back to his little charged up friend, dazed responses to my questions whenever I tried to talk to him as he played, almost losing the phone at a crowded Halloween party (that would have been it) and a reversion to old patterns of behavior that he knew were not acceptable in my eyes. After several days of this, losing patience with him over yet another transgression, I took it out of his hand, angrily slammed it down on the table, and cracked the casing.

There’s a lesson in all this. You can’t piss mommy off endlessly and expect nothing to give. Talking had not worked, yelling had become too exhausting, and I don’t do spanking, so the anger was finally directed at the object of my frustration. Somehow, there’s a lesson in this consequence.

That was last night. Today is better. We’re both cooled off a bit. In fact, we had a nice evening of cuddling together in front of an old episode of Once Upon a Time (love it) and just enjoying each other’s company. And although it seemed at first that the games would no longer work properly, today things seem to be back to normal, or at least at an acceptable level. It’s a mixed blessing. I almost wish the damn thing had broken down completely.

Which brings me to the final leg of this essay. The storm. It’s almost upon us. The mayor has ordered the transit system shut down as of 7pm this evening, school is cancelled for tomorrow, the supermarket shelves are rapidly emptying, if not already emptied, and the winds are starting to pick up. I have one more meeting this afternoon, then it’s home to hunker down and await the inevitable loss of electricity and hopefully nothing worse. I already survived a tree toppling onto my house during Hurricane Isabel in 2003, so I know it can get bad. I also know that when nature stops us in our tracks, we have nothing else to do but slow down, get quiet and be with one another.

Sure, we’ll fill up the gas tank and charge the phones and clear the porch of all things likely to become projectiles in high wind, cook up some soup and perhaps rely on the stocked up crackers, peanut butter, canned food, water and candles, and then prepare to hunker down and make the best of it.

What will come out of all this upheaval? When the winds die down and the waters recede, what will be left and what will be our next steps? Do we really need a disaster like this to get us thinking about what’s important to us? What does it take to make us understand our true, human connections to one another? How do we maintain that contact, past the divisiveness of the elections, the ongoing isolation we feel as we get caught up in our own electronic devices, the anxiety over our own safety and security in the face of increasing uncertainty over, well… everything?

Can you feel this? Everything is changing. Everything. Get ready people.
Photo courtesy of NASA