New York Stories

The first I heard about Hurricane Sandy was on the radio the other day, part of the 7.30 news update, sandwiched between something about a local politician and something about the Hobart Show. It stood out because it seemed so silly, like someone had inserted a movie promo in somewhere inappropriate and they’d forgotten to change the voices. The newsman said a Hurricane was About to Hit New York, and People were Advised to Evacuate. How do you evacuate a city of eight million people? I mean, where do they go? How does that even happen? What happens if these choose not to go? Would it be like New Orleans after Cyclone Katrina, with all those people living in sports stadiums for months? And then the Weird Thought came: This is New York. They’ve faced alien invasions (Independence Day) and giant apes on the Empire State Building (King Kong) and probably attacks by zombies and werewolves and giant purple bats and anything else that could come to mind, and hey, they’re okay! This is New York after all, the most famous city in the world.

I wonder: is that what the people there think as well? Is that why they stayed? No. I don’t believe that.

I kind of forgot about it, because life goes on in small-and-far-away places, and it was the weekend and we had things to do, but then I saw it again on Facebook: American friends expressing sympathy and fear, and I realized again that it WAS real, not a movie, and something I should care about. It sounds dumb. But New York for me is movies and pictures and Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sesame Street Brownstone apartments and the Muppets Take Manhattan, and all those Yankee symbols that turn up in inappropriate places like advertising hair products in out-of-the-way hairdressers who like to pretend they’re hip and upmarket because they know what big cities are all about.

We so don’t know, down here in Hobart, what big cities are all about. I remember growing up in my little town and traveling down to Hobart once every few months, and feeling the need to dress up, coz I too was going to the “big city”.

New York is a dream. New York is pictures. New York is movies, and everything is okay in the end, because New York is Hollywood, and Hollywood always has happy endings.* And New York is BIG, so big that funny little things like weather shouldn’t be able to touch it, like it’s possibly even true, in a city of eight million people**, that sheer force of numbers should be able to control stuff like that, should be able to control God. It’d be nice to believe that, but I can’t.

New York City, according to my research, is approximately half the geographical area of Greater Hobart, and contains approximately half the population of my country. I shouldn’t be surprised that I can’t understand it, any more than I should be surprised that I can’t understand the way God works. Or, for that matter, the way weather works.

I’m glad to read this morning that most people are safe, and that the worst is nearly over (although my heart breaks for the families of the ones who are not, those who did not make it through), and I have to stop and remember to give thanks, and not just presume that everything was okay because I knew it would be, because it was New York, or Hollywood, or pictures, or stories.

One day I’ll go there. But even then I don’t think I’ll ever really understand.

NASA image of Hurricane Sandy

*Please don’t correct me on my geography. I’m talking METAPHORS here, not subway stations.

**I met one of them recently. Well, one who USED to be from there. His blog is really cool, and if you ask him nicely he may put up a whole lot more New York Stories. I hope so.

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12 thoughts on “New York Stories

  1. Enjoyed this post. It’s interesting when you watch car commercials, almost 100% of them have at least one scene shot in a city. My hubby and I lived in NYC, WITHOUT a car…and many people don’t use them there. Kinda funny. But the hurricane is not funny. We got the snow in my region (WV), but it’s hard to grasp the water and electrical damage in NYC, for sure.

    • Oh yeah…wow, the water and electrical damage. I’ve never lived through a flood of any description, and I hadn’t even considered that yet. Oh man, that’s serious!
      Interesting observation about the cars – until I looked up those stats this morning I had no idea just how geographically SMALL NYC was. Wow. Yet another thing I can’t understand.
      Sorry about your snow. Hope it’s not been too mental for you. Thanks for commenting Heather!

      • Except you’re not allowed to walk alone at night, right? So what, you just stay in?
        Just a different style of living. There’s so much to think about it in the ways that our neighbourhood influences our lifestyles. I could talk for hours and bore everyone senseless about that 🙂

        • We did walk at night all the time. In places where drivers’ licenses aren’t needed, it’s usually safer to walk at night because everyone is out walking – because they have no other option. The problems arise when you’re walking in a disconnected commercial area, not a residential one.

          As for living style, when we moved way from NYC, I was staggered and frustrated at how dependent upon my car I became. 13 miles round trip to the grocery store; never in my life! I could have walked to three of them before. It makes the area you cover so much bigger, but it makes your world so much smaller because you’re isolated in your little steel box instead of on the street sharing experiences with those around you.

          • That’s a really interesting observation (did I just say that?). I live in a fairly old suburb (my house was built in the early 1920s), and the houses all have postage-stamp sized front gardens, wide footpaths, and there are little corner shops and playgrounds dotted every few blocks. I love it, and I do a lot of walking, and I take that for granted as “normal”. Friends of mine, however, live in a new subdivision, in a house three times the size of mine with an enormous parcel of land around it and no footpaths. There are no corner shops, and they have to drive everywhere. Same city. Different urban planners in different time periods.
            I like my version of life much better.

  2. Hey, I finally made it to your blog. Great reading! I’ve subscribed.

    I’m glad we’re in Texas now instead of Pennsylvania (where we used to live). Paul’s jealous because he thinks all the mayhem in the northeast would have been exciting, especially the blizzard in WV. I think of the floods in New Jersey and shudder… the stench this is going to cause, the misery, the clean up, the terrible inconvenience for millions of people for months to come. My prayer is that they will use this as an opportunity to draw close to God and find His comfort and support, rather than using it as an excuse to curse their rotten luck. No doubt every attitude from A-Z will surface during the stress of rebuilding.

    Anyhoo, I owe you an e-mail (including Larry’s critique)–and I’m trying to get on the ball. It’s difficult between Paul and grandchildren, but that’s only an excuse.

  3. Having just lived through it, this post is so interesting….I know how I feel when I read about a catastrophe like an earthquake in India or a tsunami in Hawaii…it is so hard to believe it’s real…sometimes life is just too big to comprehend…

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