Double life

I only made it in to work a few days last week.  It was a physical and mental trial before I'd get to my desk.  I would wait in the cold after showering in the dark (and cold) for a bus.  Once it came quickly, the other days were weird, I found myself wandering in a stunned circle trying to figure out where it was running, too easily confused  by makeshift signs that were actually quite clear after I re-read them a few days later.  I'd get on, swipe my metro card and make my way through the town center of Rockaway Park where the high water line had been above my head when Sandy raged hardest.  It physically hurt to see the destruction.  Heaps of people's wet and ruined belongings piled high in front of every house and building.  Huge portions of the boardwalk were blocks from where they were once anchored to concrete, and every car that stayed through the storm was sitting at odd angles and waiting to be towed. 







The structural destruction has nothing on the sights of people seeking necessities and the amazing human kindness you witness here.  That part is a little harder for me to talk about because while it is the best of what you see here, I also feel that those are the most private moments.


And, it continues after the bridge from Rockaway.  The route I take is through Broad Channel and then Howard Beach.  Miles of the same piles in front of every home,  boats in the street, red, yellow, and green inspection tags on houses, donation stations, no working traffic lights, things I've only seen in movies or on the news. 


Then onto the A train.  A big part of my decision to leave the city for the beach was a trade off of a long daily commute.  It had been a direct route, before parts of the train bridge fell into the water.  The parts that are now damaged were  my favorite parts of the ride, cruising over Jamaica Bay, looking at the houses and boats on the water, seeing JFK airport in the distance, and having a seat because I was near the beginning of the line.  Now I board the A shortly before it goes underground and stand for nearly an hour.  My commute now feels like penance for wanting –  wanting to have my job in the city, a lot of living space, no commute to where I want to play in the summer, and tempting the fates you do living near the ocean. 


The first day I got to Chelsea I felt like I was on another planet, not because it had changed, because it was exactly the same as I'd left it.  The office was warm and bright and people were back at work.  The internet worked and my cell phone which is dodgy at best in the office worked better than it had in over a week. 


I had to really grind to get things done, and couldn't spend time fretting over the glop of toothpaste i found that fell on my shirt getting ready in the dark, or browsing the news to see what the rest of the world was seeing, everyone was talking about the election and I had a hard time adjusting to life outside Rockaway.  I had to rush to leave at 3 to chase the sunlight before the buses stopped running.  Because we couldn't keep perishables at the house with no running fridge, I picked up dinner before heading back into it.  One evening I found myself walking 25 blocks because the bus that goes closest to home runs infrequently, and I had waited enough.  I walked that same route of ruin through downtown feeling the contrast of the dry home I was returning to, with a takeout in my bag as others walked carrying cases of MREs. I felt like an asshole eating dinner that night. 



So much of that first week straddling both worlds was indescribable and in such high contrast it was dizzying at times. There is an odd camaraderie that happens at times like these.  And just like I'd share a little of the Rockaways with people outside of it, I'd find myself telling my neighbors about the normalcy that existed across the bay and the river, as if it was so out of the ordinary.