Dispatch from the home front: hurricane watch

Sandy’s coming to town. Hey girl.

Red Hook is mostly deserted, the blocky homes and project buildings and warehouses quiet but for the steady sibilance of the wind. Even though we’re in an evacuation zone, we see the occasional straggler, and I’m certain that the walls here shield plenty of stubborn souls. The streets are littered with yellow leaves and fragments of trees. Road signs quiver, wobble in the wind. Power lines undulate. Our jeans speckle at first before clinging to our knees, shiny. My vision is mottled by the droplets on my glasses; I squint but it doesn’t help much. Everything is grey grey grey.

Patrol cars crawl by, lights flashing, but the only sirens are those of car alarms set off by the brusque caresses of falling branches. Sandbags lean against warehouse doors, buttressed in some spots by wooden pallets. Heavy tape crisscrosses the windows of storefronts. All these defenses seem ineffectual and petty. Lady Liberty in New York Harbor stands tall in the distance, her outstretched arm looking less like a sign of welcome than an obscene gesture, daring Sandy to do her worst.

We sit at the bar at the aptly named Fort Defiance nursing our early afternoon breakfasts, surrounded by old postcards and framed vintage posters. When I peel off my trusty North Face shell, I find my hoodie soaked. I realize that the jacket, purchased sophomore year of college, is over ten years old. The smoky blonde with the tired eyes at the bar tells my roommate Dave that he looks like an old-timey sailor. Dave jokes he’s an old-timey sailor buying drinks with a credit card.

I wonder momentarily whether I’m surrounded by neighborhood locals, a disaster tourist early on the scene, my presence unwanted. But the blonde and her man are from Park Slope, so I sip my Irish coffee a little easier. Bearded and bespectacled types familiar to gentrified Brooklyn wander in, cloaked in fancy outdoor gear, each time sending the door rattling in its hinges. It feels more like a lodge on a snowy mountain peak than a bar blocks from a turgid ocean.

I look down at my drink. The foamy homemade cream curls on the coffee’s surface, looking awfully like those satellite images of the East Coast on TV. Outside, a gust sends leaves swirling in the air and tree trunks leaning, and I wonder what else Sandy can, and will, wash away.


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