Remember when you opened the door to your own car and took hold of the steering wheel without any parental supervision.
As a teen, my Chevrolet Impala was a haven away from my father. I rolled all the windows down, turned the volume up on the radio, and smoked. My secret joy was hoping the driver next to me would hear the music and notice me. If he was a suitable face I turned around and bobbed my head. Then, just as he looked over at me, I turned away, and looked in the rearview mirror, or sang my heart out to show off brazen behavior, the kind I couldn’t express at home. There was a sense of freedom from examination and explanation. When I drove my spinning Impala that leaped over road bumps in three waves, I was going somewhere alone. It was the only self-contained space my father wasn’t attached to, and he didn’t like driving with me, because he didn’t like me being in control. That is the sensation that life brings to us in volumes as teens; explosions of discovery. Today I don’t experience that sweat of discovery; my life is deodorized.
Remembering the sensations I felt as a teenager, reminds me to intertwine more challenges, sports, mental and academic thought into emotional adventures. If I’m lucky to break through all the percentages of disease, that the late night commercials warn me off, the edge of my rhythm is asking me to make a commitment; to put the Bo’ Jangles back in my steps. I heard the voice yesterday, almost a whisper, asking me why I exclude long term commitments: joining groups, classes, associations, serving on committees, planning ahead, even magazine subscriptions are not worth the trouble because I am always planning on moving.
The answer always comes in the photographs that bring back that moment in time, and the immediate recollection of the internal places I moved from venturing into the unknown. Many years ago, I was in therapy, and in one discussion, this discourse occurred that I considered an awakening then. “I think you jump into unknown places, and situations, to test yourself, and you do that because that is what your father did most of his life.” That is what adolescent behavior is meant for, to learn by experiment, to see how far our strength of character will take us. We each have a different set of alarms and temptations. Why compare what one has to the other? My path is familiar to me, I am a born mistress of unfamiliarity; the quest for discovery keeps me moving.
As a teenager, I remember the most remarkable configuration of images, that passed by while I was driving, the faces of shopping mothers walking the streets of Beverly Hills and Westwood, the prostitutes positioned along one section of Sunset Boulevard, and their counterpart degenerate gin-soaked soul mates inched up against abandoned buildings, the Ocean Park joggers, and walkers, and picnickers, waving to each other, as they slapped together hard boiled egg and tuna sandwiches. Like a playroom without walls for Europeans’ and senior citizens to elope with each other. I didn’t favor one street life over another, they all made sense to me.
Living in the Northeast calls your pragmatic and sensible strings. I’m still learning how to tame my lust for unpreparedness; like going out without an umbrella, leaving delicate brick a brac on the porch, driving with caution for deer, rabbits, and turtles, maintaining a close eye on water in the basement,and dressing down so I don’t look like I’m from Los Angeles.Every day is experimental in some way. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, maybe that is how I like it. With every intention on writing about living in a village of five thousand, surrounded by forests and fields, my pen of expression is a bit too wobbly to publish. I’ve had this post up for editing all week, and it’s not a new one. Most of it was published in 2011. Is that cheating?
Co-owner Chris Nieratko reports two of the shop’s four stores have electricity and have been stocked with power strips to allow residents to charge their phones and “pretend things were normal if only for a while.” But many are ill-equipped to handle the incoming storm, he writes, and are already struggling: “Seeing your children cold and hungry is a feeling I never want any of you to experience.”
Nieratko is asking for shipments of any winter clothing to the store’s New Brunswick location, from which they will distribute to people in need:
I have no TV so I don’t know what you’re hearing on the news, but let me tell you, it’s bad. Very bad..we’ve opened to the door to anyone with children. For days we ran generators sparingly because there was no gas…
There’s another storm coming. Temperatures are dropping. Things are getting colder and even scarier. I am writing to you to ask for your help in clothing the displaced, homeless, under-dressed skaters in our community and their families…If you have anything warm (socks, sweatshirts, jackets, beanies, gloves, shoes, tees, ANYTHING) doesn’t matter if it’s 5 seasons ago…there are many in need from very young to very big XXL. Anything you can spare to help people stay warm will be appreciated.
Please send whatever you’re able to (and there’s no box too small) to our New Brunswick shop:
Harold Jamison will make it to the Tanger Outlet center this afternoon to see Ben Affleck’s “Argo.””That movie is so good, I have to see it. I’m not missing it. It’s about the 1979 Iran conflict and there is old TV video clips and everything,” Jamison said.
But first, he was living his own 1970s-style flashback, a nearly three-hour wait to get gas in Deer Park in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Jamison was in line to get gas at the Deer Park Express station on the corner of Deer Park and Long Island avenues. He was still idling around the corner on Lake Avenue and E. 4th Street. In 90 minutes, he had moved two blocks.
WASHINGTON — Before hitting the campaign trail for his final swing before the election, President Barack Obama on Saturday stopped by the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington for a briefing on Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
“We still have a long way to go to make sure that the people of New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and some of the surrounding areas get their basic needs taken care of and we get back to normalcy,” Obama said, adding that the situation continues to be his “number one priority.”
The president emphasized five components of recovery: getting power back on as quickly as possible, pumping water out of flooded areas, making sure people’s basic needs are taken care of, debris removal and getting transportation systems up and running again.
“Our hearts continue to go out to those families who have been affected, who have actually lost loved ones,” Obama said. “That’s obviously heartbreaking. But I’m confident that we will continue to make progress as long as state and local and federal officials stay focused.”/blockquote>
There’s no question that an event like Sandy will have insurers adjusting their actuarial tables. Estimates on the amount of damages in the wake of this week’s storm vary, but all are well into the tens of millions. …
Whatever the ultimate value, climate science suggests in broad terms that a warming planet will likely produce more muscular storms, as well as increased heat waves, droughts, higher-precipitation in some areas, and other weather events that have clear implications for the long-term viability of the insurance industry.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, listen, I just completed not only a meeting with our team here at FEMA and all of our Cabinet officers who are involved in the recovery process along the East Coast, but we also had a conference call with the governors of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, as well as many of the municipalities who have been directly affected by this crisis and this tragedy.
We still have a long way to go to make sure that the people of New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and some of the surrounding areas get their basic needs taken care of and that we start moving back to normalcy.
A couple of things that we’ve emphasized: Number one, that it is critical for us to get power back on as quickly as possible. And just to give people an example of the kind of work we’re doing — the military, DOD, thanks to the work of Leon and others, have been able to get military transport facilities to move cherry-pickers and personnel from as far away as California to get that equipment into the area so we can start getting some of the power back on as quickly as possible. It is a painstaking process, but we’re making progress.
Number two, we’re getting assets in to pump as much water out as possible. Lower Manhattan obviously is a particularly acute example, but there are problems with flooding that are affecting substations throughout the region. That’s going to continue to be a top priority.
Number three, making sure that people’s basic needs are taken care of. As we start seeing the weather get a little bit colder, people can’t be without power for long periods of time, without heat for long periods of time. And so what we’re doing is starting to shift to identify where we can have temporary housing outside of shelters so people can get some sense of normalcy. They can have a hot meal; they can have the capacity to take care of their families as their homes are being dealt with.
Number four, debris removal still important. Number five, making sure that the National Guard and other federal assets are in place to help with getting the transportation systems back up and running — that’s going to be critical.
What I told the governors and the mayors is what I’ve been saying to my team since the start of this event, and that is we don’t have any patience for bureaucracy, we don’t have any patience for red tape, and we want to make sure that we are figuring out a way to get to yes, as opposed to no, when it comes to these problems.
The other thing I emphasized, though, is that it is much easier for us to respond if we know what these problems are out in these areas, so if everybody can help publicize the number 800-621-FEMA — 800-621-FEMA — then individuals can register with FEMA and immediately get the assistance that they need.
And so the more that folks in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut understand that there are a lot of resources available for them, not just with respect to housing, but also with respect to childcare, medicine, a whole range of support, then we want to make sure that they contact us as soon as possible if they’re in distress because help is available.
Let me just close by saying this: Obviously we’ve now seen that after the initial search and rescue, the recovery process is difficult and it’s painful. But the governors at the local level — Governors Christie, Cuomo, and Malloy — they are working around the clock, their teams are working around the clock. We are incredibly grateful to the heroism and hard work of our first responders, many of whom themselves have had their homes flooded out. Our hearts continue to go out to those families who have been affected and who have actually lost loved ones — that’s obviously heartbreaking.
But I’m confident that we can continue to make progress as long as state, local and federal officials stay focused. And I can assure you everybody on this team, everybody sitting around the table has made this a number-one priority and this continues to be my number-one priority.
There’s nothing more important than us getting this right. And we’re going to spend as much time, effort and energy as necessary to make sure that all the people in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut know that the entire country is behind them in this difficult recovery effort. We are going to put not just 100 percent, but 120 percent behind making sure that they get the resources they need to rebuild and recover.
FlightStats.com has issued a report stating that from October 27th to November 1st in North America alone, 20,254 flights were canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. Roughly 9,978 flights were canceled at New York area airports alone.
United stands as the airline with the most cancellations by Sandy (2,149), followed by JetBlue (1,469), US Airways (1,454), Southwest (1,436), Delta (1,293) and American (759). In an examination of weather events over the past seven years, Sandy comes in second in terms of total number of cancelled flights, behind the North American Blizzard of February 2010 (22,441 flights).
Information, in advance of storms and to aid relief after, plays a critical role. That is why both NOAA and FEMA must have the resources they need to protect families.
As Gov. Chris Christie mentioned in remarks this week, the loss of life could have been much worse. No one took Sandy lightly, as early warning and real time information derived from NOAA’s satellites and forecasts saved lives.
This is a perfect example of the dangers of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisc.) budget proposal. That short-sighted scheme would cut $250 million from the NOAA’s satellite program, crippling our weather prediction capability. NOAA ran an analysis in 2011 that found without data from the satellite closest to the end of its shelf life, the accuracy of its forecasts for major storms like blizzards and hurricanes would decrease by approximately 50 percent.
That’s the difference between knowing the storm will bring heavy rain or cause a flash flood and would place lives at risk.
At 3 p.m. on the Friday after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, the St. Jacobi church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, was overflowing with boxes of water bottles, piles of clothes and volunteers baking bread pudding. The mood was busy and hopeful as 350 people helped sort donations from across Brooklyn to be sent out to neighborhoods like Staten Island and Far Rockaway that were devastated by the storm.
But one key element was missing: gasoline.
“We have a lot of everything right now,” said Diana Aguinaga, a dental hygienist who was volunteering at the donation hub, a joint effort of 350.org and Occupy Wall Street. “What we really need is a car with gas.” Outside the church, there were about 15 parked drivers loading and unloading supplies, though not all of them had enough gas in their tank to go as far as was needed.
On Thursday afternoon, firemen set up a few grills near an intersection here and cooked burgers for hungry residents in this beach community devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
On Friday afternoon, the grills were gone. The firemen were now training a hose on a row of businesses and homes around the corner that had burned down at the height of the storm. The only lunch option for those in need was a small pile of packaged goods dumped in a unappetizing heap on the dirty ground near a crowded mobile phone charging station set up by police. The nearest hot meal was more than a mile away, past the smoldering ruins, at an intersection where Ajay Singh and three other Sikh men from Queens had come of their own initiative to dole out steaming bowls of rice and beans and toasted bread made in their church kitchen.
Waiting in a 45-minute line Friday morning at a Hess gas station in Center Moriches, Long Island, to fill up a portable fuel tank, Chip Daniel noticed sudden a flurry of police cars surrounding the station. He heard shouts and stomping, and the groaning of drivers in the packed crowd of cars in what is becoming an increasingly familiar scene at New York and New Jersey gas stations in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“There was some jackass trying to cut the line and they called the cops. Four police cars came up to him and he began arguing with the police,” said Daniels, 44. “It took them some time, but finally he went back to his own spot.”
I was a child of the fifties; when raising kids was easily defined. Mommy stayed home and made sure the kids didn’t burn the house down. Daddy went to an office to make money to pay for the house, and children waited until they were grown up to find out anything really useful. It was before the generation-gap was coined, or children knew how to be witty and sharp. In our air-tight neighborhood of Bel Air, Los Angeles, we were naïve, privileged, kids; bogged down with falling off bicycles, not being chosen for the school play, and bringing home the most candy at Halloween.
I believed in Santa Clause, the Easter bunny, and if I was good, Mommy would let me stay up and watch the Sunday night Variety Show.
America was threatened by the Russian Communists and Organized crime. Public enemy Number One was New York Mafia Boss, Frank Costello. Frank became super famous when he refused to testify on national television for Senator Estes Kefauver. The Kefauver Committee delivered explosive headlines between 1950 and 1951, as the government unveiled the hidden hand of the Mafia in the United States.
The first twenty-four hours. I stepped out of the cab and into the froth of a seasonally warm Saturday night Halloween crowd. The Chelsea Hotel Bell Captain trotted over to greet me.
“I’ll get those.” He grabbed the bag.
“You go inside.”
The pathway to the lobby entrance was red carpeted; a very old skeletal one that had been stepped on by plaque famous artists, writers, and bohemian debutantes. The Chelsea was built in 1883 as an apartment house. The neighborhood of 7th and 23rd Street used to be the theatre district. The theatre crowd was replaced by the literati, and more recently by film and television celebrity. The hotel is crumbling with novelettes. Even though it has recently been restored, it has the feel of a craggy lady of the street.
The lobby was crusading with costumed ready to party extras. My traveling ensemble and exhausted expression didn’t fit into the scene. I needed to eat, drink, and take off my coat. The desk clerk was very young,
“Your in Room 624–you’ll like the room, it’s a really nice one. Here’s the key.” When I opened the door, my vision parachuted as if the room was expanding the closer I got. It looked staged rather than decorated: minimal pieces, colors that drew the eye in, and nothing to get in the way of feeling insignificant. The walls were bare and the drapes partially opened. I pulled them back to see the city; a jagged puzzle of gray brick buildings staring back at me. I watched the faint silhouette of people moving behind the glass and suddenly felt very alone and uncertain. In haste I added a smudge of lipstick and left the room. The clerk looked up as I came out of the elevator,
“You like the room?” I nodded a bit falsely, because I wasn’t sure I really liked it. The room had more to say to me.
“Where is the closest Bistro?”
I stepped across the red carpet and into the restaurant. At that moment I landed in Manhattan; the gravity sucked me down into a red leather cushioned booth. Then I remembered why I was here, the next day was the Copa reunion.
Twenty-four hours later Room 624 was mine. Victor, one of three Chelsea staff doorman who zapped formality with the grace of a king met me at the entrance. He had time to wave to half a dozen people passing by, hail a taxi from the middle of 23rd street, open the door for a guest, and still talk to me.
“Hey! How you doing today?”
” I’m rested and on my way now.” A young girl stepped out of the lobby.
“Hi honey,” Victor said,” Where areyou going? I worry about you.”
“Shopping,” she answered unconvincingly. “I like your outfit,” she said to me.
“Thank you. I’m going to an event I’ve waited for a very long time.”
“Oh yea, where to?” she asked.
“Have you heard of the Copa?”
”Sure, the Copacabana.” Victor started to hum the lyrics from the song and I dug out the book from my purse.
“I’m going to a Copa reunion–my mother danced there in the 40s.”
They looked at the photographs of the original Copa for the first time. New Yorkers will stop anything for New York anecdotes, especially history. Moments later the cab pulled up and I waved good-bye. I sat in the taxi and thought about my mother. She was seated next to me; an imaginary yet distinct vision that kept returning.
The moment I walked into the Copafest reception room a voice called out, “Louellen!” It was Kris, the author of the book. We embraced as our first meeting converged with written correspondence over the last year. The Copa dancers inched closer and I was anointed with their acceptance and love.
“This is them–they met at the Copa,” I said and showed them the photograph I had brought. One woman examined the photo and turned to me, I recognize him,” and she pointed to my father.
“And I recognize the man next to him.” It was someone I’d never been able to identify.
“Yep, I knew them. Your mother was beautiful, she was here before me.” Terri Stevens took my hand in hers and led me to the place where she was seated.
“What did you say your mother’s name was?”
“Girls-girls! Come over here and meet Lucille Casey’s daughter.” Engulfed in their presence for the next five hours, I had time to talk with each one. I’d written about these women in fictional detail eighteen years ago. Now it was there turn to talk.
I was about twenty-three at the time, living in one of the blandest bachelor apartments in Westwood, working in an office cubicle, and daydreaming about places in Travel & Leisure magazine. My father called one afternoon with a no reply command to come to his apartment.
“I have something to discuss with you.” Growing up with gangsters involves many face-to-face meetings because the telephones are tapped. It is of no consequence what I happen to be doing at 7:00 PM that night– if Dad has something to discuss, we have to meet in person.
“What about?” I ask.
“What did I say? Didn’t I say we have to discuss it here?”
In those years, my head was waxed with false perceptions that Daddy was what Daddy told me – in the oil business. It did not occur to me that all those meetings at his apartment, in restaurants and parks were because he did not want any uninvited listeners from the FBI or other government agency.
After clearing my passage with the receptionist, I rode up the elevator to his Century City Park apartment. After peaking through the peephole, and asking if I was alone, he opened the door. I greeted him with a kiss on the cheek, and he asked, what kind of out fit is that. My attire on any given occasion should be a colorful coordinated double-breasted pants suit.
“I have some zucchini and rice in the refrigerator –will you make your old dad that vegetable dish? My father didn’t cook anything beyond boiled eggs, and broiled fish. I nodded and started for the kitchen.
“Wait a second, I’m not through talking–sit down. Well– I’m finally able to do what I’ve wanted to do for some time. It hasn’t been possible until now; I’m sending you to New York. Can you take a week off work?”
“I will of course-but aren’t you going?
“No. I’ve lived New York in the best years and wouldn’t go back if you paid me a million dollars.
“Why? Because I did it all, and now it’s your turn.” I moved closer to him on the couch so I could wrap my arms around and kiss his cheek.
“The first thing you have to do is get a new outfit. You won’t go to Manhattan in those jeans-for crying out loud. You’re staying at the St. Regis Hotel… I have it arranged, the guy owes me a favor and I had a bit of a windfall this month. Your mother and I stayed there. ”
“When? Where is the St. Regis?”
“Don’t interrupt-don’t you think I know where to send you? As I was saying, I booked a week for you. Now, I have it all set-up. You’ll have a driver, and do not get into a cab or any other car, you stay with the driver I hired, do you hear me Luellen?”
“Can’t I walk?
“You can walk after he takes you to the places you want to go. Do not argue with me, I know what I’m doing. You’re just a little naïve about New York. Anything can happen; it’s a jungle and you’re little red-riding hood. A fella will walk pass you on the street, clip your purse, and you’ll never know, a guy will carry your bag for you, and you’ll never see it again.”
The year was 1978, but I cannot remember which month. It was still cold enough to wear the mink coat he had given me for this occasion. I wrapped that mink around me everyday for a week. The Hotel Valet was familiar with the name Smiley, as was the hotel manager and the driver he hired was a double agent. He was also a bodyguard. The black Lincoln continental never left my sight.
The St. Regis is on West 55th, a few short blocks from Tiffany’s. That was my destination of choice, not for the diamonds, but a glimmer of where Audrey Hepburn sipped coffee and nibbled on a doughnut. I didn’t really care where the driver led me; I was visually climaxing on the traffic cops, the horses in central park, the side walkers streaming in one band as if all connected, horns blaring, lights flashing and the hi-rise silhouettes against slices of the sky.
My father expected me to have lunch at the World Trade Center, dinner at La Cirque, and in between long drives through Little Italy, Central Park, and Riverside Drive. My breath stopped when we were launched into the sky to have lunch at Windows on the World. While sipping my first Manhattan the city spun me around and for the first time I realized I was a real nobody-that I’d been no where– if I hadn’t been to Manhattan, and the impression cut off my short tail of confidence. The psychological departure that turned me from Daddy’s little girl into Luellen the woman will continue.
Windows on the World for anyone who has not been there supplied even the sourest puss, a great big slice of hope, because you were on the same level as the tallest building.
I wish I would have saved the matches or the napkins from that day. The fact that my father and Bobby Short are both gone, the World Trade Center is gone, and I am still a nobody amplifies the memory.
The night I went to see Bobby Short I was seated at a table, and while I tried to inhale the glitterati of the evenings crowd, I was ineffectually blowing cigarette smoke into the thick stream of smoke lingering above our heads. The room was New York jammed every table a colorful mixture of cocktails, handbags, and beautiful arms adorned with strands of gold. I had been on the town in Hollywood, seen movie stars up close, and dined with them. This crowd generated more mystery. Their body language was fluid; they did not purposely draw attention, because they were not there to be discovered by Lefty Lazar, or Robert Altman.
Bobby Short was a nightclub piano player after everyone went home. You could picture him sitting at the piano, as you would Will Rogers on his horse, long after the image was diluted. His eyes tap-danced with the eyes of the audience; they were all together. I was young, naïve and impressionable, and that is why my father sent me so I would get the impression.
During the day we were driven around by the tight lipped body guard, and we watched New York. It wasn’t until we met Al Davis (not the Raiders Owner) but a man who owned a distillery in Kentucky and liked my father enough to buy him a new Cadillac. Dad told us we were to meet Al at the Carlyle for Sunday Brunch. There is a stage like ambiance walking on 5th Avenue on a Sunday in New York. New Yorkers dress for a walk and I was again impressed at how sophisticated everyone looked so early in the morning.
Al Davis brought along a tall good looking man, that reminded me of a run around guy; he does everything he’s told and is of good temperament until somebody insults his boss. He poured Champagne, made phone calls, and Al Davis was WC Fields liquored by the time the eggs benedict arrived. He was not only a prankster, and a tease, he was bloated with years of drink and laughter, and anything else was just not worth his time. Knowing that my father was not going to walk in and surprise us, allowed us to feel slightly deserving of fanning that freedom. Al’s associate moved closer to me, and taunted my feminine prowess, which until that particular day had not been taunted by any friend of my father’s. It was then that I felt like a woman in New York. I have not felt that particular brand of womanliness since. No offense to any other gentlemen that spoiled me on occasion. It was that Sunday in New York, sitting in a booth, with worldly older men that made the lasting impression my father didn’t anticipate. During the brunch Al kept repeating, “ Don’t tell your father, he’ll have me shot.”
Several weeks later Al and his friend were in town and asked me to join them at a nightclub for dinner. Was I to tell my father, or just go along. I decided to go. We ended up going to Pip’s, an exclusive night club in West Hollywood. That evening, I tossed my adolescence around and swirled on the dance floor with frightening vulnerability. I didn’t get home until very late. The next day, my father called.
“ What time did you get home?”
“ I went out with Al Davis, he kept me there.”
“ I know where you were, and I know who you were with, and everything else you do. Don’t you ever accept an invitation from one of my friends unless I am with you! What kind of idiot are you? Haven’t I taught you anything? I cannot be responsible for a guy like Davis if I’m not there! I’m too upset to look at you; don’t bother coming to see me. ”
I returned to the Carlyle one more time to see Bobby Short, but I have never enjoyed a more outrageously mischievous Sunday in New York like that day with Al Davis.