11/12: Here’s a Kiss for Sandy

Seen in the discarded debris outside my mothers house, in the wake of the October 2012 flood.

Is it “post-Sandy” yet? If yes, I’ve got a handful of observations to offer, not that anybody asked or anything.

1. Respect the ocean. Fear the ocean if you must. At least pay attention to the ocean. But make your home near any other body of water, low lying marsh or stand of big old trees, and you’s a gambler.

2. Most of us have recently emerged from a strange interlude during which we were time-tunneled back into a lifestyle more in tune with that of a hundred years ago (only largely without the ability to set fires inside our homes). As a bankrupted renter with few material possessions, I had the advantage of nothing to lose, and not far to fall. But to my friends who lost much or even all, I offer sympathies…and I wonder, given all that has happened in recent years, if the continued stress and unhappiness of the pursuit of “the American dream of home ownership” is more in danger of taking you from us than the angriest rogue whitecap.

3. Personally, I passed on collecting free food and water from the many charitable distributors who appeared around the area. But the need for information — a thing that I value every bit as much, and tend to miss much more than microwaveable Jimmy Dean Flapsticks  — sent me out of the house and over to any place where I might possibly be able to obtain it.

4. The Asbury Park Press, to whom I’ve contributed for more than a decade (and about whom I’ve groused at every opportunity) really stepped up in a time of unprecedented crisis and uncertainty. Coverage was old-school intensive; the website made sense for once, and a much-appreciated printed paper appeared each and every day. And when we finally got around to seeing some TV, the previously ignored News 12 NJ proved to be (and continues to be) THE go-to resource for updated info, images and on-the-ground reporting.

5. Prepared or not, I would NEVER have put money on my own ability to survive more than a week without power, heat, phone, internet, gas, cash, public transportation or those aforementioned Flapsticks. But I did (the wife camped out for much of that time at her generator-powered nursing home job)…and many of you were forced to endure much less for far longer. I am pleasantly surprised at the degree to which our often tense little communities did NOT slide into armed anarchy…and I’m astonished at the scarcity of car crashes throughout an extended period of detours and unlighted major intersections.

6. The thing I like least about times like these is how SMALL your world tends to become during a period of need and emergency…how, even if you want to get out there and do great ‘n heroic things for scores of fellow humans, the home front and family take precedence. Which, if you’ve met my mother, requires more than a bit of attitude adjustment.

7. Ever since my family moved there in the 1960s, I’ve thought that the Bayshore area of Monmouth County was the rancid asshole of the coastline; a truly awful place to make your home, and a near-forgotten outpost perched precariously between some of the ugliest entrenched hide-bound attitudes and imminent destruction on a newly reset game board. Now everybody else in America sees it, and anyone who stays there is stuck there.

8. Ready or not, the NEW New Jersey Shore starts now. SHORT TERM, I have every confidence that rebuilding will happen soon enough wherever there’s a buck to be made…the devastation is such that it’ll be a quiet summer (maybe in some cases an off-limits summer) in many of the traditional beach destination towns…meaning that a relatively unscathed town like Asbury Park (the boardwalk in which had problems of its own going into this scenario) is poised to take advantage of other communities’ weakened state.

9. LONG TERM, I ‘d love to think that we’d all plan smarter and take a step or two back from an ever- fascinating but formidable coastline…but the “guaranteed never wrong” cynic in me sez that the old working-class, honkytonk, family-fun Shore of rides and games and stands and old-school kicks is finished…to be replaced by a Pier Village-y seascape of luxury condos, upscale shopping, pricey restaurants, prohibitively priced parking and other signifiers of the have/have tidal forces.

10. Finally, I’d like everyone under retirement age to try and wrap your head around the enormity of what we’ve been through here…the rude and sudden deprivations; the little tea-lights of basic decency and problem-solving energy that “weren’t supposed to be there” in our society; the fact that we somehow had an Election Day if not a Halloween; the “new normal” and the simply heroic act of managing to keep it together in a time of genuine uncertainty. Remind yourself of the strength that you tapped into; the things that you discovered about yourself…and give yourselves ultimate fuck-you bragging rights over the so-called Greatest Generation.

Make no mistake, we salute the coddled codgers of the most safety-netted crop in American history, and admire the truly great and forward thinking things that they accomplished (whenever not sustaining Jim Crow, inventing sleek new ways to hurt people, and generally pulling up the ladders behind ’em)…but time to tuck ’em into bed, put up the railing and let them drift off into bladder-bothered sleep with dreams of the hardscrabble Depression and the wars that Tom Brokaw told ’em they won singlehandedly. This is the marvelously shaky world that you’ve inherited and in many cases contributed to: you and your kids WILL make do on much less; you’ll take very little for granted and given; you’ll carry the experiences of these past couple of weeks with you for life, and find that they’ll color your perceptions in some unexpected ways…you’ll react to a future situation in a way that might surprise you. And these tides that continue to slosh around inside us could be the hi-colonic we were searching for.