Blackout

The power went out on Thursday afternoon. Word traveled quickly as the scope of the problem seemed to grow: it’s the whole building, the block, the neighborhood, the city, the entire northeastern seaboard. Cellphones stopped working because cell towers had no power and public telephones were stuck repeating the mantra, “all circuits are busy now.”

Subway passengers had the worst of it: suddenly silent and still within hot underground tunnels, with no light and no idea what was happening above. All minds turned to terrorism and many mentioned the upcoming anniversary of September 11th.

My neighborhood took the darkness in stride. It was too hot to sit inside, so everyone moved chairs to the street, every block a block party. The local café, Brown Café, closed the kitchen and offered a cooler of free beer to regulars.

A small band of Brown habitués joined together to wander the streets. There were hand drum-driven salsa dance parties in the street and barbecues every few blocks. Barrio Chino served four dollar mojitos by candlelight. I met a dozen of my new neighbors in a few hours.

The last of us ultimately found ourselves sharing a bottle of Absinthe on the roof of a twelve story building on Ludlow Street. The darkened view of midtown was surreal. My new Australian friend Jason, all sheets to the wind, hanging precariously over the roof’s edge shouting, “C’mon, New York City, get your loot on!” The city mostly resisted his urgings.

This entry is part of Jack Rusher’s journal, originally published August 16th, 2003, in New York.