We were thrilled to learn that an actual hurricane was headed all the way to Manhattan.

Those of us in the northeast only got the tail ends growing up – the oozing (yet benign), detached organs once belonging to Hugo and Andrew and Gloria, and so on. Kids our age in Miami and Charleston and some magical place called “The Outer Banks” were being interviewed by Tom Brokaw on the evening news while horizontal rain pelted them every which way – the type of natural disaster that looks a whole lot like the coolest water park in the world.

The tri-state area, on the other hand, was soon thereafter blanketed with five-to-seven days of non-descript gray piss – just enough to cancel a little league game or a weekend camping trip or (almost) anything else a 12-year-old boy had to look forward to at the end of the summer.

On a personal note, the Great Blackout of 2003 was as close as I’ve come to an honest-to-god civic disaster, and while power-outages are by definition unexpected and thus deny the populous the queer anticipatory pleasure of imagining the absolute worst, it was everything I’d hoped a regional catastrophe could be. There was good reason for panic – particularly if you were one of thousands of New Yorkers stuck in an elevator or subway car. Notions of anarchy become very real when the crowd to board the Staten Island Ferry stretches a mile deep.

But that wasn’t my experience.

Mine was, like seemingly everyone else’s around me, a juvenile one. Slightly-bad behavior like littering-at-will and napping on abandoned taxi cabs was not only permitted, but encouraged. For once, the Manhattan sky was filled with stars. All the while, a comical tone prevailed. The Governor actually blamed Canada for the blackout. Restaurants in my neighborhood – Chumleys, for example – emptied their soon-to-be perishables from walk-in refrigerators and served up family style meals on the sidewalk. No one cut the line and everyone said thank you. And then several people had missionary-position sex on the corner of Bedford Street and 7th Avenue.

When the lights finally came on the next day, I was relieved but also instantly nostalgic for what was surely to be a New York City I’d never experience again.

Then I read this.

Meet me on the corner of Bedford St. and 7th Avenue around 5pm on Sunday and we’ll all bid good evening to Irene together.



  • C. Brian Smith


Images via NASA, Gothamist and Flickr