Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rocktober Shocktober

As I sit here on Halloween, rejoicing that I don't have to trick-or-treat or go to any parties (costumed or otherwise), I can reflect on what has been a really surreal month.

When October started, I was really anxious and excited about the UN Security Council vote on 18 October.  We had been talking about "the campaign" ever since my first day at work, though it had been a priority for years before I even arrived.  Energy levels were high, and the anticipation was palpable.  As UN Leaders' Week got into full swing, we hosted visits to New York by the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and their respective delegations.  Timetables had to be kept straight, programs had to be managed seamslessly - it was an all-hands-on-deck affair and we were all strangers to sleep.

Before we knew it, Vote Day had arrived and we were all given jobs to do.  Even though everyone had been working crazy hours and we were all exhausted, we all had just enough puff left to want the day to go over well.  As the General Assembly hall filled up, we all pitched in to help.  We did what we were asked to do, and then we waited with baited breath to see how the dice would fall.  When the President of the General Assembly read out the vote tally for the first round and we realised that Australia had won - and won decisively - we were in total shock.  Then that gave way to elation and excitement.  I was sitting in the gallery with my colleagues and despite my firm no-touch policy, we hugged and smiled.  And we collectively breathed out for the first time in a long time.  It was really a wonderful day.  The first champagne cork popped not long after that, followed by so many others.  Needless to say, the weekend was somewhat of a write-off.

I didn't visit the General Assembly Hall for a few weeks after that.  Indeed it wasn't until last Monday - UN Day - that I headed back.  This time, I had tickets to the UN Day concert, hosted by Stevie Wonder and friends.  Yep, THAT Stevie Wonder.  I'm not sure I would have bought tickets to a Stevie Wonder concert, but I was curious about how they would stage the concert inside the GA Hall.  I had seen Beyonce peform there in August for World Humanitarian Day and I just had to be a part of this latest musical spectacular.  And the show really was great.  Streamed live on the internet, and recorded by the BET network (for screening in February 2013), the show was non-stop entertainment.  Stevie Wonder is very good live, and his supporting acts were equally good - except for the woeful Korean all-girl band.  That was just weird.  Can you believe that one of the MCs was Theo Huxtable from "The Cosby Show"?  He hasn't changed a bit!  It was great.

The week ended with some cocktails on the rooftop of the Library Hotel, and a Saturday excursion to Broadway to see the adorable production of "The Heiress" (hello Matthew from "Downtown Abbey" woohoo!).

Sunday dawned and I watched the news stories about the approaching hurricane.  I remember being a little concerned at the size of the storm front, and the projected devastation.  With K out of town, I made sure I had enough filtered water in the fridge, and cans of soup in the cupboard - just in case stores would be closed (or worse, the delivery guys would be off duty).  That may sound flippant to you, but I honestly never thought my building would be as affected as it turned out to be.

If you look on a New York disaster map, my apartment building is in Zone B and that is the "evacuation likely" section.  I guess on Sunday afternoon they must have revised the zones a bit, because at about 3pm the NYPD drove down my street, yelling into a megaphone that we had been upgraded to Zone A, the "mandatory evacuation" area.  I had only just had a giant pizza delivered.  Can you believe the timing?!  Here I was thinking I'd be able to live off the pizza for days, and now I was being told to gather up my belongings and do the skedaddle.

My lovely friend Sharlo lives on the Upper East Side, almost sixty blocks north of me, and she offered me asylum straight away.  So I packed a couple of bags, plus the pizza and a bottle of wine, and headed up to her place.  Four off-duty cabs refused to pick me up and instead left me stranded on the street, before one good samaritan finally stopped and drove me away from my place.  I had no idea what condition I'd find it in once the storm passed by.

Sunday night passed without incident, despite the fact we were glued to CNN and watching the storm inch ever closer to the eastern seaboard.  By the time Monday dawned, and the UN and my office declared they would be closed, we hunkered down in the apartment and tried hard to fathom the destruction were seeing on the TV screen.  Originally Sandy was supposed to hit New York around 8pm but that was later brought forward to 6pm.  We listened intently to NY's Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo as they hosted press conference after press conference, updating residents on what to expect and how best to cope.  I was particularly impressed with New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie, who took a very no-nonsense approach to the storm and put pesky news reporters back in their places quick-smart.  The public information was very impressive.

Everybody has seen the news footage and photos of the total devastation that followed.  Not a single New York borough was spared Sandy's wrath.  I was truly lucky to have Sharlo as my good samaritan and friend through this process.  We have full power where we are - the water is hot, the toilets flush.  Life continues without interruption.   South of 39th Street in Manhattan, it is a different story.  In my apartment, the power and water is off and the corridors and stairwells are the very definition of 'pitch black'.  Traffic lights are out, so the NYPD traffic cops are working overtime.  The subways are all obviously out of action, and taxis are doing a roaring trade.  Bus service is limited but at least it's coming back to life too.  The city looks much more crowded than usual, as tourists and locals alike are forced above-ground to walk everywhere and assess the carnage.  Downed trees, littered streets, seaweed on cars - it has all been very strange.

It's hard to believe that all this excitement has happened in one little month.  I'm almost too afraid to ask what November will bring.

1 comment:

glamah16 said...

If you get anything out of this , is to live for today, as life is fragile and can turn in an instant. So glad you are safe. You are living in a remarakable time and place.