8-18-03, 8:38 AM -

So, what to write about this week? What, what, what...

Oh, I know! The complete and utter shutdown of the entire Northeastern power grid!!


So I'm sitting at my desk on Thursday afternoon, composing an "I'm-so-bored" email to the Wifely, and the screen starts flickering. Not really that alarming, since the damn thing kicks me off of the network at least twice a day anyway. I was only hacked off because it killed my internet radio connection. How am I supposed to keep current on the California recall if I can't hear 8 hours of analysis every day?

But not a few seconds after the flicker, WHAM. Everything's gone. No lights, no computer, no phone. Hmm. The next thing I know, Confrontatia, Theatra, and Affirmatia are peeking out our 9th floor window.

Theatra: "Look at that! Everybody be goin' home!"

Affirmatia: "I know that's right."

Confrontatia: "We'd BETTER be going home."

A: "You know it."

T: "But I wore my pumps today, and I can't walk in these shoes."

A: "Go on, girl."

C: "If they think I'm hangin' around here waiting for the terrorists, they got another thing coming."

A: "It ain't right."

T: "I can't walk down stairs, it gives me blisters."

A: "I heard THAT."

C (calling down the stairwell): "Y'all best get out my way! I ain't playin'!"

A: "You know she ain't."

Big Jimmy the Goyim, who now presides over the 9th floor, strides out of his hermetically-sealed corner office (wise man, that Big Jimmy) and gives us the rest of the day off.

But none of us really knows what's going on yet. As far as we know, a transformer blew in downtown Brooklyn. However, Big Jimmy tells me that he was on a landline call to a guy at LaGuardia, who reported the power out there, too. It occurs to me to call Wifely. But it appears that my cellphone is kaput. It may sound silly now, but from a darkened office tower with a view of lower Manhattan, all of this was feeling pretty ominous.

On the way down the stairwell, waddling behind Theatra's blistering feet, I fish out my battery-operated radio. Sure enough, the announcers at WNYC do little to calm my spidey sense, given that they have no wire service reports and are broadcasting by candlelight. They've gotten telephone reports that Albany's out, & someone mentioned Canada.

As the news gets spookier, I pass Theatra and begin to descend quickly, in a sudden fever to get into open air. As we emerge onto the crowded sidewalk, thick with aimless loitering, the radio confirms power outages as far west as Detroit and as far north as Ottowa.

I share this information with Sam & Essie, who immediately go stiff & bug-eyed. Of course, both of them were here for 9/11. I remember how the trickle of reports from different cities on that day filled me with an uncertain but insistent fear, and I try to imagine the worries that must be swirling madly in their brains.

But thus far, we're just short the electricity, and nothing appears to be burning. Talk of carpooling home begins to circulate, and I find myself as the only guy with a Manhattan zip code.


"Hey, Meester Onderson, is anybody going across the breedge?"

One-Joke Louie. It figures.

For a split second, I consider a lie. But then I think about it: It's 92 degrees, 98% humidity, and all the power's out. My honky ass might need a big fat Dominican guy to hide behind if rioting breaks out.

"Sure, let's go."



Turns out One-Joke Louie lives in the Bronx, which is about twice the distance I need to go, but I figure he can handle himself through the Harlem corridor once I jump off in Hell's Kitchen.

Thankfully, we're only a few blocks from the Brooklyn Bridge, which is PACKED TO THE GILLS (see above). Not only packed, but all heading AWAY from Manhattan. It's salmon time for matthew & One-Joke Louie. And it quickly becomes evident that I've chosen the right companion.

"'Scuse me..." [BUMP] "'Scuse me..." [BUMP]. Louie apologizes to his victims as he parts the crowd like a big fat ginsu knife. I ride the wake, occasionally falling behind as I take in the view, which is spectacular as always.

It isn't mentioned much, but the Brooklyn Bridge is probably the best place to view New York City. You get the statue, Governor's Island, the whole Manhattan skyline, plus all the other bridges. And the East River, of course, which is far prettier from above than up close.

But I couldn't spend a whole lot of time enjoying the scenery while half of Lower Manhattan was trying to push me back to Brooklyn. About midway across the bridge, the radio reports began to settle down and the whole thing started looking more like bureaucratic incompetence than organized terrorism. However, the fact remained that I had another hour and a half to walk through the heat before I could rest my feet in our steamy, poorly ventilated apartment.

As we descended off of the bridge, my thoughts turned to water. Water, of the sort I was now out of, having guzzled my Aquafina bottle on our way across.

"Eet's fucking hot out here," quoth One-Joke Louie.

Passing City Hall & the Law & Order filming district, we saw depleted carts being wheeled away by their vendors. Damn.

But upon reaching Chinatown, we were pleased to find little old ladies giving out bottles of water from the doorways of their shuttered shops. Most people paid for the precious fluid, but those who couldn't were simply smiled at. Paying for ours, me & Louie made for the Village.

The streets were full, much to the chagrin of motorists, who sat stymied as the traffic lights stared out blankly, like Admiral Stockdale at a Reform Party mixer (do I get the Dennis Miller Award for that one?). But amid all of this, the most remarkable calm held sway. It was almost as if someone had planned it ahead of time, like the world's largest fire drill.

There were a few tense moments when Louie's forward momentum interrupted someone else's, but otherwise there was a general sense of controlled emergency. The further into Midtown we got, the denser the crowds grew, and the wearier I became.

At last I left Louie to his own devices and made for my block. Suddenly it occurred to me: What the hell was I going to eat? I had planned on going to the meat market after work, but fat lot of good that would do me with no refrigeration. Apparently the Atkins diet is not designed for food-rationing situations.

So I figure what the hell, I've just walked two hours in the blaring heat. How much weight could I possibly gain from a sandwich? Thankfully, a deli was open, and I stocked up on fruits while waiting for the dim figure behind the counter to make my two bigass sandwiches (two, because bringing the Wifely her dinner earns many husband points).

I arrived home to a darkish apartment, a tired wife, and a confused cat. Jehosafat kept staring at us like we'd lost our minds: "What the hell's the matter with you? Why won't you turn on the air conditioner, you stupid cat-butlers?"

We sat by our newly-batteried clock radio as night fell, listening to announcers come up with new ways of saying that nobody knew anything. It was strange to consider that the rest of the country was watching this on TV as we sat by our dark window, begging for a breeze.



Paul and his friend from out of town dropped by around 10:00 PM, after having toured the blackness of Times Square (as seen above). We yakked for a bit, and then they set off on their long journey to Harlem, something that made me remember how very close we came to moving up there early this summer. I'd like to take credit for my prescience and forethought in avoiding a 186-plus-block walk, but I'm afraid I can't. You see, the Wifely reads this.

So anyway, we slept in our own sweat, and the power came back on at 10:00 AM Friday morning, and I didn't go to work. I'd like to say it was only because the subways weren't running, but again with the Wifely.

8-23-03, 5:31 PM -

Had an interesting week otherwise, though not quite as inconvenient. On Tuesday, I began my search for a neighborhood hangout spot.

Part of what bugged me about Sunset Park was that everything but the Chinese restaurant and the bodega (convenience store, for you folks down south) closed at 6:00. You could take the subway to Park Slope, but that was a bit of a trek, and you couldn't stay too late or you'd have to wait for the friggin' once-per-half-hour R train to get back home.

Sometimes the apartment can get a little small, and having a place to escape to is nice. There's a nice Starbucks I've hung out in on the weekends before, but it closes at 8:00 or something. What crap.

So I found a couple of bars right next to each other a few blocks from my house, and tried one of 'em out. The bar and its staff were cool, but I unwittingly sat next to Cliff Claven, and had to hear about how New York isn't nearly as cool as it was in the '70s. I've heard this argument before, but I really don't give a shit.

If bar know-it-alls are to be believed, everything was cooler back when they were young. Deep Ellum was cooler, Brooklyn was cooler, TCU was cooler, Austin was cooler, and now everything sucks.

Oh, if only I could live in the New York of yesteryear, when crime rates were high, you couldn't safely go down into the subway, and everyone was unemployed. Oh, for the golden years...

Well, you know what? You can just shut the fuck up.

I like New York NOW. I like clean-ish streets and police presence and sparkly billboards. I like riding the subway without a gun and actually hearing about government corruption when it happens. It ain't perfect, but neither was it then.

So there.

Of course, I lack the boxing skill that would be required to actually engage this drunken idiot in such a conversation, so I merely left. My search shall continue.

Enjoyed a hell of a concert at the Central Park Summerstage on Wednesday, featuring two of my recent musical heroes, the two and only Ben Folds and Aimee Mann. Both put on great shows, but Ben's set came out a bit more powerfully.

This was not necessarily Aimee's fault, because the soundman seemed to be under the impression that she had no drummer. The guitars were there, the bass was there, the keyboards and vocals were there, but you got the impression that something was missing. From waaay back in Calcutta, there would come an occasional hint of a snare drum, but as far as your ears were concerned, the guy flailing away at the back of the stage was just masturbating vigorously.

Kinda pissed me off, actually, but I enjoyed the show all the same. I'd seen Aimee before, and seeing Ben was a new and cool experience. He performed unaccompanied, banging out his classics and new stuff on his piano with great fervor and audience participation.

I did get the impression that I was the only one in my section who hadn't been to every single Ben Folds show for the last 5 years, though. These people were hardcore. I need to get me some fans like that. Anyone? Bueller?

Had to restrain myself a bit during one song, though. Ben was doing a cool little improvisational piano solo, and Comic Book Store Guy behind me says, "Did you see that? He just modulated FOUR TIMES!!"

Not to be Captain Minutiae, but no, he didn't. He DID play the same riff in four different octaves, but...I know, I know you people don't care, but loudmouthed armchair musicians are a peeve of mine. Mostly because I've been one, and I know how full of shit they are.

I remember hollering some stupid crap at a Genesis show about how they were playing the intro to Supper's Ready, and it turned out that they weren't, they were playing The Musical Box. So I was just a dumbass, and should've been slapped by whoever was sitting in front of me, even though they were just there to hear I Can't Dance for the fiftieth fucking time...


Sorry, had a Nerd Spasm there.

Anyway, I was a bit chagrined to find out that the fairly large sum we had forked over for this show was not in fact going to the artists, but to the Summerstage itself, which holds crappy classical and jazz concerts all summer for free.

Not that free concerts of any kind are bad things, but I guess I'd like to think that I was forwarding the careers of these professional-but-not-terribly-wealthy artists who innovate rather than flog the dead horses of past genres. I mean, I'm sure Aimee and Ben got paid, but at the ticket price we had all bent over for, they each could've financed a new album.

Of course, the benefit status of the show helps explain the crapulent drum mixing. In classical and jazz, the drums ARE way back in Calcutta. That soundguy was probably waiting for the brass to kick in.

Which reminds me: I'm watching Letterman the other night, and the band's horn section is blazing away, and as they do their big finish, I notice that Paul Shaffer's using a HORN SECTION SOUND on his keyboard. If you already HAVE a horn section, what possible...



Still waiting for the disc. ('tis ready now, have a look - ed.) The graphics supervisor kept having to FedEx my artwork back to me for approval as they worked out their font issues. I'm told it has now been sent to press, so we shall see what we shall see.

I'm getting pretty fucking impatient, though. Gimme my disc, dammit!!

So as I take another sedative, I bid you adieu. Gotta fill up the bird feeder again. I moved it up where the pigeons can't hog all the seed from the sparrows, so I only have to refill it once every couple of days.

Not that the pigeons don't try, but when they're hanging precariously on the edge and flapping their wings to keep from falling off, they can't eat much. I'd feel sorry for 'em, but there's not exactly a wave of pigeon starvation sweeping the city. Musicians, however...

Whine, whine, whatever. So again, I say adieu.



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the matthew show