Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene

The city is freaking out about Hurricane Irene.  It was a beautiful day today but there was a nervous energy in the street; the sidewalks seemed more crowded than usual, the lines at drugstores and groceries snaking down the aisles.  People clutching bottled water, toilet paper.  I went to five stores looking for D batteries to no avail.

My wife the civil servant is in Brooklyn tonight.  She is part of the city's emergency response team, working 12 hour shifts at an evacuation center in Brooklyn.  Hopefully I'll see her tonight before she has to report again for duty tomorrow.  Once the city's transit system has shuddered to a halt tomorrow afternoon, I'm not sure how she'll be able to come back home from Brooklyn.  So when does my wife come home?

The idea of going through a hurricane with just me and Alice, without L, is boggling and ridiculous.  I am very proud of my wife for the work she does and the spirit she brings to her job.  I hope she understands that she is doing important, humane work.  But her absence tonight - and presumably, through this long weekend of emergency - baffles me.

I found some batteries at home and we have one good flashlight.  I pulled aside candles and matches.  We have enough food, I guess, and milk and water.  Water bottles in the freezer.  I guess we are almost ready, with almost everything.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The vise

I have been uncharacteristically worried lately about the state of things in our life (and that's saying something).  L and I have had some big talks about our family, our careers, our home, and our finances, trying to find the best way to manage everything in a sustainable way, a way that will keep us on a good path to prosperity.  In some ways I feel like the same few questions are constantly swirling around us, and each passing day pushes us towards an answer.  Can we stay in New York?  Can we stay where we are?  Does our life require changes, large or small?  (The questions are more specific in my mind, of course, but they thunder down to the same basic propositions.)  I worry about making a choice.  I worry about not making a choice -- that our inaction will lead us to an answer in itself, an answer we may not want. 

Sometimes I wonder if we are somehow being selfish, living in Manhattan and raising a family here.  Is it stupid to try to do this?  Does it matter that we still live in New York, since we are not exactly regulars on Broadway or at the museums?  Are we trying to accomplish something best left to the financiers and their dowager mothers-in-law?  Perhaps worse: are we the last ones left at the party, still toughing it out in Manhattan while so many of our friends have cycled in and out of the city?  And yet so much of our life is grounded in the structures of urban living -- walking to playgrounds, enjoying the parks, living in a certain kind of community.  I fear that if we lived someplace surburban, we would enjoy the luxuries of the 'burbs for a few months until we woke up in horror one day, realizing: I am bored.  And then it would spiral downwards, Revolutionary Road-style.  (Not to say that city life is inherently better or more exciting; just that it has clearly become our preference.) 

If I think about these questions hard enough, it feels like the floor gives way under my feet, and all of the structures we have created to organize our life - the jobs, the childcare, the commute, the apartment, the friendships - are ripped to shreds in a single thoughtless moment, and the stark precarious nature of this balance emerges.  Yet does life ever become more solid than this?  What exactly could I expect someplace else?

I hit the point a few days ago where I just grew weary of worrying.  We had a good talk with my folks about things, and I feel like we're doing the best we can.  We are not sitting back passively and letting the circumstances of life dictate our fates; we are doing everything we can to best protect and support our lives.  Beyond that I don't know what else can be done, besides work on my patience and serenity.  Like I was saying to L tonight:  I'm worried something will happen.  And I'm also worried something won't.

At some point, I have to take a breath and just stop worrying.

Photo: my favorite monkey at the Manhattan Children's Museum.