Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Update: Cups full of coffee and hearts full of empathy


In the midst of the terrifying chaos brought on by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York---property destruction, psychological trauma, seemingly relentless hardship brought on by power outages, gas shortages and death---the emergence of basic human kindness is the one thing that can be counted on.

At the center of many of the acts of kindness has been the offer of warmth, both in the form of refuge from the cold and a hot cup of coffee. Over and over that offer is made---on facebook, via email, and in person. Volunteers drive to stricken areas around the Rockaways, Staten Island and the Jersey shore with large vats of hot coffee and hearts full of sympathy.

When coffee is offered person to person, the underlying sincerity in that gesture belies the immensity of that act. What is being said is the following: “Come into my home and share space and resources with us. Use my water and our toilets. Shower and use clean towels. Sleep on our sheets, rest in our beds and close the door for privacy and dignity. Use our power to stay warm, charge your phones and read the newspaper.” And finally: “Drink our coffee. Use our sweeteners and dairy and non-dairy add-ons. Find comfort even as I stretch my boundaries a bit to share what I have with you.”

I am so amazed and grateful at how many of these offers were directed our way, as our house in Montclair was without power for 8 days. At the beginning, we turned to our candles, flashlights and fire logs—but the food started to go and the small inconveniences---such as our cars being locked in the electronic garage---mounted until that forced us to leave with our toddler and 9-year-old in tow.

So we left for a generously offered apartment in Brooklyn Heights. When we arrived, I found coffee. I immediately felt at home at Starbucks on Montague, especially enjoying the communal feel of working and drinking coffee at a long farmhouse-like table.  I enjoyed the dark cherry wood paneling, brick interior walls, brown mugs and the various depictions of Brooklyn and its main memes—the view of the skyline and the bridge. I also had a huge supply of Via with me that I made in the mornings before I put the baby in her stroller and headed out.

While enjoying power after not having it for what turned out to be a relatively short period of time---especially compared to some others---I thought back to that first day without power. The first day, I went to Starbucks here in Montclair. Knowing that it would be crowded, I brought my own foldout chair---one of the chairs that we used this summer to witness fireworks, and to see outdoor movies in Manhattan. I arrived and found a seat with a group of people I didn’t know, and I found power to charge my computer and phone. Everyone was nice and friendly, including the baristas, who spent the entire day dealing with a line that was out the door. The warmth of the coffee and sweetness of the pastries offered was a sheer joy to us. We have been humbled and laid low by Sandy and now Athena. It’s been a tremendous challenge---but the offer of coffee has been tremendously uplifting.

And by the way, have you heard about the “lox Sherpa” of Russ & Daughters on Houston Street? Now that’s a hero. During the height of the storm crisis, he commuted every day from Jackson Heights, helped get the generator started to keep the refrigerator going, and moved all of the lox onto ice and into crates. He also hauled food and water up 24 flights of steps to a sick coworker. Previously, this 39-year-old was a professional Sherpa helping mountain climbers summit Mt. Everest. You know what keeps him so strong, healthy and clear? When asked about his preference, he admits to preferring coffee to tea, saying, “In this city, you have to start your day with coffee.” Read more about Mr. Sherpa here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/nyregion/the-lox-sherpa-of-russ-daughters.html?_r=0

3 comments:

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592 said...

Meme; "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."

A cultural entity that one might consider a "replicator," such as fashion, for example. The evolution of behavior.

Coffee drinking, in a coffee house, such as a SBUX, perhaps?

It's Evolution, baby.

Admire me, admire my home
Admire my son, he's my clone
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
This land is mine, this land is free
I'll do what I want but irresponsibly
It's evolution, baby

I'm a thief, I'm a liar
There's my church, I sing in the choir:
(hallelujah, hallelujah)

Admire me, admire my home
Admire my son, admire my clones
'Cause we know, appetite for a nightly feast
Those ignorant Indians got nothin' on me
Nothin', why?
Because... it's evolution, baby!

I am ahead, I am advanced
I am the first mammal to make plans, yeah
I crawled the earth, but now I'm higher
2010, watch it go to fire
It's evolution, baby
Do the evolution. (Pearl Jam-Do the Evolution).

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592 said...

Have you been to the website; The Sartorialist, yet?

It's an amazing site about fashion. What it is is,is is is, a site where a top fashion photographer goes around (mainly in Milan, New York, Paris and London) and takes shots of real people (mostly) wearing interesting clothes. Interesting clothes from a fashion perspective.

One of the most fascinating things about it is that the subjects aren't necessarily wearing expensive items, they're just put together well. The people he presents make bold, stylish choices, expressive choices.

It's cool. It's a meme. It's evolution, baby.

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592 said...

I saw the new Jennifer Lawrence movie tonight. Maybe that's the definition of Stardom. That I remember it as the new JL movie rather than: "Silver Linings Playbook," (not the greatest title for a film). Maybe it's that when you Google; Jenn, her name comes up first ahead of all those other Jenns (J Lo, Aniston, etc...). She's the #1 Jenn, now. I think she's a Star.

What defines a Star, rather than simply an actor or actress? It's not looks. It's not necessarily acting ability, although almost all Stars have that in Spades. Is it simply charisma, a pure likability, the power of a personality to appeal to a wide audience? Bogart had it, Barbara Stanwyck too, there are many, many others who are simply famous, some well remembered, but not really Stars, in my book. Maybe the definition of Star, is that people take the money out to see a movie because that person is in it.

I can tell you this; J. Lawrence didn't appear for the first 30 minutes of this movie, but when she did, you could feel the audience respond, somehow. The movie took off. Also, during the scenes with her co-star Bradley Cooper (who was also very good) you could hear a pin drop, in a very crowded theater. Not like during the first run of "The Blair Witch Project," when no one even breathed, but the crowd was with them, the crowd was interested.

Yeah, so, I like Sappy Romantic Comedies, wanta make somethin' outta it?