Nov 8, 2012

Friday Saturday Sandy

I don't know what day it is.

I almost threw up the white flag today.  This was the worst of them yet.

Anyone want a Q*Ball CD?  It's our annual hurricane sale.
I showed up at the house in the morning.  Unlike the previous days, my street was pretty dead.  Huge piles of rubble on every side of me, as my neighbors had caught up to me on the house-gutting process.  Most didn't have dumpsters, they just piled drywall and lumber and forever-ruined electronic devices on the streets in front of their houses.  Today there were fewer people around, just more garbage and grayer skies.

When I arrived, there was a big yellow sticker from the Board of Health on my front window, announcing my house uninhabitable.  Thank you, Captain Obvious.  No hot water, no heat, no electric - a seemingly common problem for most of the surrounding areas - but on Staten Island, you can add raw sewage, mold, outright destruction.  Yellow "No one should live here" stickers were a common theme on the block and beyond.  It was already flurrying by the time I got inside and when I left hours later, it was full on snowstorming.  When it snows it pours.

The digital thermostat displayed the indoor temperature at a balmy 43 degrees.  I could see my breath as I began to salvage more items to bring back to my temporary refuge in Brooklyn, threw more ruined stuff out, and moved box after box of now-rare surviving Ronnie memorabilia into one room.

Everything attached to the floor upstairs has some level of dried up ugly brown water-dust on it.  I don't know how much more quickly inhaling, touching, and potentially ingesting this substance will bring me to cancer, but I couldn't help but wonder if I was lopping a few years off my life as I wiped my leaky nose with hands and gloves that have touched things that may have been touched by the poopie in your toilet bowl.  This is what you call being in the shit.

So I wanted to throw up the white flag.  Enough.  Enough.  But I can't.  The only thing I can do is go on.  I have to go on.  I have to.  When someone special to you dies or leaves you behind, your mind and your heart and your body shift somewhere else, to another place.  You are not yourself for a little while, sometimes a long while.  I've been there, we all have.  I will be there again.  It takes awhile for you to recover - you attend wakes and funerals, you gather with friends and reminisce.  And when it's over, you return to the comforts of home.  This time, it's my house that has died.  It's the same feeling and yet it is completely different.

In the first two days of post-Sandy cleanup, I had a ton of help.  Hardly anyone was at their jobs, the weather was tolerable.  The two days that followed were just my parents and I, salvaging whatever was left from the fallout.  The dumpster was gone and all my material possessions were now part of a much-bigger-than-normal landfill.  My father and I did some heavy lifting.  My mother, bless her soul, hand washed every Christmas ornament, Pez dispenser, toy that was not obliterated by the basement tsunami.  Very little else survived on that level.

Some things are irreplaceable.
My parents returned to their home in Pennsylvania on Monday, and since then it's been just me.  I don't take it personally.  People are getting back to their normal lives, dealing with their own post-Sandy struggles, big and small.  My neighbor came by, we took a few puffs from his pipe, and he lamented our situation.  "Why me?  Why us?  What did we do to deserve this?"  I reminded him that it was just geography.  We weren't selected for punishment by Poseidon.  We were in a flood zone.  And we got flooded.  Prophecy fulfilled.

On the main level, my upright piano continues to die a slow, cold death, the extreme indoor temperatures taking their toll on its delicate wooden body.  Today, I lifted the blanket and played for a little while, my freezing hands numb as I played a song I had just written about a girl who had recently departed.  I hadn't played the piano for two weeks (?) and I was unsure if I would remember how to play the song.  But I did remember, and I sang aloud in my ice cold Sewage House as bulldozers removed debris outside my front window.  It seemed appropriate, considering the subject matter.  Just another of those Twilight Zone moments in a Twilight Zone-y existence.

Being in that house alone today was a mistake.  Even when I've been there alone, I've never been alone.  I shared the house with women who shared my heart.  I always had the dog there.  Always.  I dropped a few things today and instinctively braced for my dog's reaction, but he wasn't there.  I ate an oatmeal cookie and some crackers from an Emergency Kit Insta-Meal.  I tried to heat up the contents of the entree as described in the instructions and failed, proving that I would die in the wilderness if stranded there.  I drank a Bud Light and shot some vodka to try to stay warm.  I wanted to start a bonfire in my former living room.  None of my rooms were living anymore.  Every time I needed to clean the filth off my hands, I had to wash them in ice cold water.  This was misery at its finest.

I told myself to stop and I left.  The snow was getting bad, the road conditions would be worse.  Enough was enough.  Back to electricity and warmth, even if it's not mine.  I think about how the days are hellish now while the nights are tolerable.  It gets dark an hour earlier thanks to Daylight Savings Time.  Dark is when I feel halfway normal again even if I'm a refugee.

Yesterday, I had lunch with an old band mate who wants to help me produce the album I was planning to make at the house.  I played him all the demos I've been working on and he got excited, which gets me excited.  Music - somehow...strangely - continues to be a priority even tho my means to make it have been destroyed.  Maybe the hurricane will be the thing that gets these songs to finally see the light of day.

After that, I had dinner with my ex-wife.  I hadn't seen her since I removed her from my house and my life over 18 months ago.  She had recently reached out, like so many others, to express her sorrow over my situation.  In a way, I guess I was glad she did.  I always knew my ex-wife had a good heart even tho she had trouble letting it control how she acted in our relationship.  We drank wine and swapped hurricane stories and reminisced and expressed regrets.  It was really nice.  Maybe the hurricane will be the thing that gets us towards a friendship.

Tonight, it's snowing.  Hard.  First week of November and more people are losing power, temperatures are barely above the 30 degree mark.  It is the End of Days.  I called a friend for some help at the house earlier and he couldn't get out to me because he has no gas.  He said at this point he would "suck a dick for a gallon of gas."  Earlier tonight, I loaned him 5 gallons of my own stock and told him I'd take a rain check on the BJ.

I continue to feel distant from the outside world.  Sleep is poor despite my exhaustion.  I keep myself up until I know I'll hit the pillow and pass out so I don't have to think about what I have recently lost, both emotionally and materially.  I'm not in my comfort zone, that's a disaster area now.  A bird without a nest.  I miss having a place to have sex and watch television.  Then again, I miss sex and I miss television.  One doesn't realize how valuable such luxuries can be.

There was an election?  Did Bob Dole win?  The NBA season started?  Wha?  Huh?

Now I am looking for a place to live.  It is time to go.  My Staten Island days are either suspended indefinitely or more likely over forever.  The West Coast still cries my name at night, but it is not yet time.  It is not yet time for a lot of things, apparently.  And I have an adult responsibility to ensure that this house is rebuilt, whether I want it in my life anymore or not.

So I will rebuild and relocate, to smaller digs, simply because there is now much less stuff to fill a place.  I hold out a small hope that I can bring my piano along - if it survives - but more likely I will have to find storage for it, or loan it out to a studio or musician friends until I'm back on my feet.  Piano is a big part of my therapy and I need therapy now more than ever.

My baby before the storms came.
The considerations over where to move are hurting my already fragile brain - West New York?  Kensington?  Tribeca?  Tatooine?  I want to be closer to work, to be by a park where I can walk and run with the pooch.  I want to avoid laundromats and shitty subway stops and late-night noise.  I liked my house when it was intact - you could hear the crickets at night.  I miss those dead drowned crickets.  But can I afford to be selective?  Shouldn't I just be glad that I have the option to leave, as a lot of neighbors on Staten Island and elsewhere do not?

This weekend, I am celebrating my 38th birthday.  It's not even here yet and I have already awarded it the prize for Most Surreal Birthday Ever.  I am also celebrating my first year as a homeless person, and what better way than to numb myself with alcohol?   

This Saturday from 9pm til unconsciousness, I will be drinking responsibly at The Wicked Monk in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.  The Monk and I have a history - on my 21st birthday, my friends Brian Phillips, Skeery Jones, and I celebrated my first legal alcoholic beverage together.  I met my ex-wife at The Wicked Monk and I've played a few shows there.  The owners have relocated to better digs recently and I can't help but be lured by all the parallels.

Many of you have a history with me too and have reached out asking what you can do to help me get thru this incredibly difficult time.  Coming by for a drink and a hug would be a good start.  I know people have gasoline issues, power issues, heat issues, time issues, rugrat issues.  I feel your pain.  And then some.  If not Saturday, then another night will do.  But for all that can attend, it will hopefully be a memorable evening, one to celebrate life and togetherness and to put the destruction and grief behind.  Have a beer with me, snap a photo with me.  The urge to document this period of my life remains strong.  By losing what I've lost, I hope to regain friendships, to regain my humanity.

On Friday, I will stop by to see my co-workers and remind myself that I have a place in life when I'm not dealing with all this.  By Monday, I hope to return to work at least part-time and restore a bit of normalcy to my own overturned life.  I will be working on a move out of desolation and into the light.  I no longer need blankets or garbage bags or masks.  I need people.  I would love to see you all.

No comments:

Post a Comment