Thursday, November 1, 2012


* spoiler alert: if you haven't read EGGMAN yet you may want to skip this post
* disclaimer: while I have been in a relentless self-promotional mode of late, that is not the motivation for this post.  I had a rather odd and cool experience today and I wanted to document it here and fuckit, it's my blog. 

The line between the light and dark sides of the moon is called the lunar terminator.  I had to look it up when I was writing EGGMAN because I imagined a situation on the West Side Highway (yes, yes, I know, West St.) that required it.  The word I mean.  It went like this:

They were out there in the dark, somewhere in the Courier Quantum. Like Nibs said, while the Package was in Clive’s bag, it was everywhere and nowhere, it was between pickup and delivery, it was safe.  Safer, anyway, than sitting in one place waiting for someone to show up and take it.  So they moved, and until they heard from Virginia, moving was their destination. 
Odd took them through Chinatown, a few corners lit up with generators, noodle stands and tofu carts that were off the grid to begin with, and didn’t really notice the lights had gone out.  Commerce here adapted quickly to the blackout, hawkers had an immediate and endless supply of flashlights, batteries, candles, lanterns and glowsticks, and the sidewalks around them looked like raves.  Odd and Clive wove through the people who were everywhere, just like always.  Like the weather, police, health regulations and Little Italy, Chinatown didn’t give a shit about the blackout and certainly didn’t give a shit about Odd and Clive.... 
...She took them past the cruisers at Christopher Street and the Meat Markets at 14th. As they raced uptown, they could see the line between light and dark at 34th Street, like the terminator on the moon.  They didn’t get that far, though.  With no warning, Iman downshifted and pulled an e-brake turn into a small parking lot right on the River. 

I rode my bike home from work tonight, and I took the West Side bike path like I often do.  Check the date: Nov 1 2012.  The power went out in Manhattan 3 nights ago and won't be back on until Saturday (so says ConEd.) And this is what I found.  The Chinatown part of what I wrote was sort of accurate and I didn't see Iman out there today, but tonight I could see the line between light and dark at 34th Street, like the terminator on the moon.  And that was fucking weird.

But not scary.  In my book, the partial blackout of the City is the result of terrorists.  Homegrown ones from Vermont.  Spurred on by amoral consultants and the historical imperative.  Or some shit.  And it's paranoid and jittery and how things felt ten years ago. It scared me when I thought it up.  It was a device I made up for dramatic effect and cinematic impact.  And now it's true.  It happened.  But not by the hand of man.  Hurricane Sandy blasted through my City and the lights went out.  But it doesn't feel jittery and paranoid out there.  It's eerie and strange and the quiet is profound and it makes you think about how tenuous Civilization really is, but it's not frightening the same way it was the last time Lower Manhattan was deserted. 

I rode through the terminator and into the darkness.  The bike path was lit by the partial New Jersey skyline and the lights from the few cars on West Street.  It was like this in the book:

They stood there, looking out across the water.  The New Jersey skyline was all lit up—expat banks and financial services groups who left the City on the advice of high-priced Consultants, natch, shining back with tacky schadenfreude.   They’d been told to leave to avoid just such disasters, terrorist acts of God, and now they were gloating with all their lights on, from the bright side of the river. 

But it wasn't like that tonight because Jersey had it worse.  And for once we're in it together.  Shut up, I'm from there.

I rode across Canal Street, and looked up the dark avenues.  Traffic was sparse.  I tailgated a bus, thinking that drivers would see him, and therefore not hit me.  There were pockets of activity, but not quite the buzz I imagined Chinatown would maintain.  Then the Manhattan bridge.  And halfway across, another terminator.  The lights over the bike lane on the bridge that were out from the Chinatown ramp suddenly were lit on the Brooklyn side.  And for the rest of my ride home, the streetlights were on, the stores were open, traffic was harsh, and my path was lit from all around, the constant glow of New York City.