I’ll keep trying, but in the meantime, quotes do it better

Last night I struggled with my end of the year video.  "Struggle" is the wrong word – having reached my creative end is probably more like it.   It's such a goofy, self indulgent little exercise, but I enjoy spending a few hours each December reflecting and summarizing.  Usually I can figure out the "story" and how to tell it pretty easily…  I mean, it's been unfolding all year, right?  But, this year I am stuck.  I've been working on it for days and I'm ready to throw it in the virtual trash bin.   It's an endeavor I do for fun, but I'm not enjoying it, because it speaks to something bigger.  So much has happened over the last 12 months and yet – one day, one effing storm has my whole life feeling as though it's been thrown into a state of limbo – no pictures, no videos, and no words can sum up how ridiculously overwhelming it still feels.


I guess in some way I keep feeling like if I could just aptly portray just one small bit of how it feels, maybe those bits could relax, and the rest of me might follow.


Bob Hardt's NY1 Blog (which apparently has been lost to time, UPDATED 2020) does a better job of explaining some of the subtler aspects of life in Rockaway these days.  It's an odd comfort, but I return to it several times a day.  He wrote this earlier:


"Rockaway Beach has reached a “life during wartime” stasis where things aren’t quite working but they’re not totally broken either. There’s some sort of mass transit service off the peninsula. Some stores are back open for business and there’s sort of a daily workflow on the streets that have been made muddy and dirty by all the sand deposited by the storm."

"There are plenty of signs posted everywhere. Signs promising free things to hurricane victims, signs touting demolition and construction, and plenty of signs for businesses that are still boarded up and may never be coming back.

Plunked down on top of all this near the boardwalk on Beach 94th Street is a massive Christmas tree that’s been donated by a Long Island nursery. But – like most things Rockaway – there’s an argument going on about where exactly the tree should be placed. And like most things right now, it’s a little bit beautiful and confusing."


Tuesday 12/11/12, 10:30 a.m., NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt


UPDATE 4/14/20 – My gosh, if I had known it would disappear, I would have quoted more of it.  Once again, he finds words where I can't 



The other day I wrote the date as October.  I have done that a bunch of times through November and now into December.  I know it's the 12th month of the year, not the 10th, but part of my brain is still stuck.  It's well into another month, and still I want it to be October, I want to un-lose that month in there.  I realize there is no going back to before this storm, it happened, I just miss so many of the things we had before.  Mainly laundromats, restaurants, and peace of mind…not small things, but some of those things will come back.


Most of all, I miss the A train.  The MTA has offered alternatives.  The three solutions, so far as I've seen -


  • The "H" shuttle.  The A train currently terminates at Howard Beach.  There you can get a bus to the beginning of what used to be the A train at Mott Street.  From there, you can board the H train which is running the route along half the peninsula

  • Seastreak is running a ferry from 108th street to Wall Street and East 34th

  • The Q52 and Q53 buses continue to run from Rockaway to the A train at Rockaway Boulevard.  The MTA has started running the Q52 more regularly than before.


Those are the most objective ways I can state the transit "alternatives".

The realities -

I live in the middle of the peninsula.  So….

  • I can take the A train, transfer to a bus at Howard Beach.  Normally home would have been just two stops later.  Two long but lovely stretches across the bay, those are the parts of the A train's tracks that have fallen into the water and are otherwise are out of commission until the Summer (likely the earliest).  The bus doesn't just run the old route of the train, that would be bearable.  Instead it runs directly 7 stops (or across the bay and then over 70 blocks) to the end of the line.  At that point I'd get to re-board the train and back track 6 stops.  This easily adds 45 minutes to well over an hour to my commute
  • I can and do take the ferry.  I drive 15 minutes to the dock.  I could take a bus, but I'd have to give myself at least 30 minutes to get the 30 or so blocks there.  I love the ferry.  I get to take a boat to work!  It takes about an hour to get to Wall Street, where I then walk a few blocks to the subway, which takes roughly 20-30 minutes to get within 2 avenues of my office.  If I miss the ferry, I may have to wait over an hour for the next one.
  • I can and do take the A train to Rockaway Boulevard.  Walk to an island in the middle of some crappy traffic patterns and board the Q52.  On a good day, I get a seat on the bus that arrives shortly after I do.  But, I have waited in excess of an hour on that cold island in the middle of a junction of what feels like 4 different throughways.  So, it's a crap shoot to say the least.


This is my new reality.  Is your head spinning, are you a little confused?  Welcome to how it feels every morning when I try to figure out which route to take, or every afternoon when it's time to head home.  Where I chose to live in a somewhat remote far flung edge of a borough, I did it because it was only one train, I hate to transfer.  But, life can be about adjusting to what you hate, I'm not going to be all "Wah, I have to transfer".  My house didn't burn down, it could be worse.  On a good day it took me just under and hour to get to work, on a bad day, about an hour and a half.  While I am thankful that the MTA offered up different routes post-Sandy, it is so hard not knowing if my commute will take 1.5 hours or 3.  It is exhausting and keeps me from making any plans after work.  The monotony of going to work and running right home before I turn into a pumpkin gets old, and makes me feel old.  I feel stuck at home and stuck at the office, with no time to just enjoy being unstuck in between.  This is monotony, certainly not the biggest problem in the world.  I work damn hard have a career and live in a city I love, but this…this makes me love it all a lot less.  It feels like the last time I had to commute and I fought like hell to change that situation, to do what it took to fix it.  I put in the time and the effort to change that, but it was freaking hard.  I am just so damned tired, and it may be temporary, but it is draining.  Then I think, I'm lucky I have heat, and so I suck it up and do it all again.  And that is the current setting in which I am stuck.

so this is Christmas

Last weekend I got one of my "nesting" impulses.  They started happening a lot after we moved to the suburbs and having a nest large enough to ing in, I wake up inexplicably wanting to paint or shop for curtains on a pretty regular basis.  It felt slightly unfamiliar having been disconnected from all things "home" for weeks and I welcomed the feeling and dreaded it.  It was both comforting and alarming.


The comforting part was that I wanted a Christmas tree.  From the first time I sat in our living room I had the space picked out in my head.  This was going to be the year I would have a "proper tree."  My definition of proper is far from idealistic imaginings involving chopping one down in the countryside or picking the fattest and tallest from a city lot and the pine scent that comes with the season.  In reality, my dream just involved a fake tree taller than me, I'm not fancy.  I have been deathly allergic to trees since I was a kid and after a few years of winding up in the ER around Christmas, my family finally realized real wreaths and trees were the culprit.   But, I never begrudged Christmas, it's the time of the year when everything shitty is magical, right?


Also, since I've lived in very small apartments most of my adult life I never had a Christmas tree over a foot tall, and for much of that time I had no interest in traditional things like that anyway.  But, this year was different.  Over the summer when I realized the winter out here on the beach would be long, cold, and dark, I imagined tricker treaters at Halloween and making some Christmas traditions of our own with great romance and excitement.  Halloween never really happened as Hurricane Sandy landed just a few days before and the Rockaways have been very much a disaster area since.  A few weeks ago my parents were over, and they brought me a bunch of old ornaments that I had either made or were given to me when I was a baby.   Christmas was ON and it was going to be super sentimental and sugar coated, I couldn't wait.


The Sunday after Thanksgiving it was time to get our tree.  I needed Christmas cheer, and damned if I have no idea where we will be this time next year, I wanted a tall artificial pre-lit monstrosity.  No matter what.  So I started calling around and found that our local Walmart still hadn't opened post-storm.  But, there is a mall just across the bridge in a relatively unscathed part of Brooklyn.  So, after much hyping how much we "needed" this and how it would make us feel better, Matt lovingly trekked out with me to take advantage of the post-turkey sales.  He thoughtfully and very cautiously reminded me that seeing as though we might have a lot less space in the future, might I consider a smaller 6ft tree?  No!  I wanted the 7.5 foot tree!  And, then of course I needed a star, so add on another journey to spend a birthday gift card to pick up ornaments, an advent calendar, and more than one star "just in case"… an hour later I was sitting in the back seat of our trusty Corolla, riding bitch to a Christmas tree, buyers remorse started to set in.


I  had done it, I got my big girl Christmas tree.  Even disassembled in it's box, takes up a lot of room.  Where on earth would we store the box, and then the tree after the holidays?  Right now we have a somewhat ridiculous spacious 3 bedroom apartment, but it all feels so temporary.  I had just spent over $100 on yet another thing for our home, that has been feeling less like a home daily for the past month.  It didn't feel very good.  Without digging very deep, I could name family, friends, and a bunch of charities that need that money far more than I should have tossed on a plastic suck on our already high electric bill.  By the time we had fluffed the branches and plugged all the lights in, and gotten some ornaments on it, I resented it. 


I stopped decorating it just about half way through due in part to not having Matt's ornaments and losing interest, it feels more than incomplete.  It offers no comfort, only questions.  So, we have a big apartment in an area cut off by subway service.  We loved it here, but without facilities for laundry, and just about every local resources we need and no longer have…how long can we keep it up knowing that just across the bridge life has all but returned to normal?  With so many kids in the area not having things like homes with heat and walls and basics, why the F do we have a Christmas tree?  This thing that was supposed to bring comfort just leaves me feeling spoiled, decadent, wasteful, and utterly gross.  I never thought that finally getting a holiday tree would feel like this.  Then again, I never thought within a year of moving near a beach, the big one would hit.  So, most days I don't want to even plug it in, if a tree could mock me, ours does.  It brings questions and seems to scream them from the very corner I had picked out for it.