A Pretty Bad Day For New York – Happy Halloween!

Note: This post was written as Hurricane Sandy crossed over New York City, and my fiancee and I were hunkered down in our apartment hearing from all sides that the world was about to end.

At that point, the news media was going crazy overhyping the storm for ratings, while misinformation spread across the internet, and fake pictures of Sandy’s devastation ran rampant across Twitter and Facebook, most taken from movies or past storms. Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, and I wrote this post with the hope of briefly uplifting the mood of anyone who had been in the same situation as me.

For the most part, the post received a very positive response. One reader wrote: “As a NYer whose family home had 22″ of water in it, I find this post awesome. It was an uplifting moment to my dreary day.” Another wrote “I live in NYC and appreciated this…The media has played this storm up as if it were the apocalypse.”

But I also received responses from readers appalled I could make light of the disaster. And in retrospect, I see that my writing could easily be misinterpreted, especially as the period of survival transitions into one of mourning and recovery. I apologize for any offense I may have caused.

For four years, I’ve written this site as a love letter to New York, and it greatly saddens me to see the amount of destruction Sandy caused. But I stand firmly by my closing paragraph: “Thanks to the brave, tireless work of city employees and endlessly resilient residents, the real New York is still standing…recovering from bruises but ready to continue her role as the greatest city in the world.”

As you’ve probably heard, New York recently had a pretty bad day. In the interest of providing Scouting NY readers with the most accurate account of events, I spent 24 hours in Manhattan weathering the worst of it. Here is an hour-by-hour recap with my photographs. Be sure to read and not just scroll through.

8:30 am: With ample notice of the coming storm, the city begins precautionary measures. Below, a police officer stands guard in Lower Manhattan as a light rain begins to fall.

01

9:30 am - The first signs of trouble: an overflowing storm drain on Canal Street.

01a

10:15 am - As fears of the storm intensify, midtown becomes choked with gridlock as panicked New Yorkers flee the streets, many abandoning their cars.

02

10:20 am - Water is already ankle deep and rising.

02a

11:12 am - The city’s public helpline 311 begins receiving mysterious reports of a creature climbing the Empire State Building.

07

12:06 pm - An enormous reptile, now believed to be of Japanese origin, lowers a scaly claw onto the South Street Seaport.

05

12:35 pm - Completely baffling astronomers throughout the world, a meteor shower begins raining down on midtown Manhattan.

06

1:43 pm - The MTA reports that the city’s subway tunnels are flooded as deep as seven feet with a strange, psycho-reactive pink slime.

07a

1:55 pm - Even though the eye of the storm is still hours away, reports of flooding on the FDR quickly sweep across Twitter.

04

2:01 pm - The first tsunami comes in from the south, sweeping over the Statue of Liberty, a little odd when you consider New York geography.

08

2:01 pm - Leading meteorologists are quick to report that destructive weather usually takes the most photogenic route possible into New York.

09

2:02 pm - The wave sweeps across lower Manhattan…

10

2:02 pm - …devastating the thankfully empty Brooklyn Bridge.

11

2:15 pm - New Yorkers run for cover into the New York Pubic Library, which quickly announces that no fines will be levied for water-logged books.

13

2:16 pm - New Yorker Jake Gyllenhaal barely makes it.

14

2:45 pm - Washington Square Park is strangely filled with New Yorkers flagrantly ignoring the city’s repeated warnings and spending a leisurely day outside. This is not good.

15

3:02 pm - A dragon-like creature, believed to be of Aztec origin, is spotted flying around the Chrysler Building.

19a

3:22 pm - The giant reptile, now nicknamed Godzilla by the press, continues its path of destruction into midtown as it slams through Grand Central.

16

3:50 pm - The enormous ape, now at the spire of the Empire State Building, is found to holding a young woman. Fighter planes are scrambled to take it out with gunfire.

17

4:00 pm - The asteroid storm shows no signs of abating as Grand Central is directly hit. Incredible that its trajectory would happen to target such an iconic building.

18

4:02 pm - Also destroyed in the cosmic onslaught is this bizarre entrance to the 53rd Street subway, which no one previously knew existed.

19

4:11 pm - A flying gremlin is reported on Park Avenue South.

gremlin

4:20 pm - Things are not looking good for Lady Liberty.

20

4:44 pm - Another enormous lizard, believed to hail from approximately 20,000 fathoms under the ocean, rises up near the South Street Seaport, where all sea monsters traditionally enter Manhattan.

21a

5:01 pm - Police officers with firearms battle the winged creature atop the Chrysler Building, which is now being referred to as Quetzalcoatl (or Q, for short).

23a

7:01 pm - As night falls, 911 lights up with calls about a loud bang heard throughout the Flatiron District. An investigation reveals it to have been caused by the detached head of the Statue of Liberty.

24

7:20 pm - A 112-foot marshmallow monster appears in Columbus Circle.

24a

7:45 pm - A rare picture of resident Snake Plissken, previously thought to be dead (and a little taller), combing through the rubble.

snake

8:14 pm - A space alien takes out what remains of Grand Central, following its devastation by meteorites and Godzilla.

26

8:47 pm - As if things couldn’t get any worse, serial killer Jason Voorhees is spotted in Times Square.

jason

9:00 pm - Downtown’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is reportedly encased in a giant shell of hardened pink slime.

26a

10:12 pm - New Yorkers flee the city via the Brooklyn Bridge as it is ripped to shreds by a space monster. Mayor Bloomberg suggests taking alternate bridges that Hollywood usually ignores.

27

11:55 pm - Gozer becomes a serious problem.

gozer

Aftermath: At this point, you’ve probably already heard what happened next:

  • King Kong was gunned down by fighter pilots.
  • Godzilla became entangled in the steel cables of the Brooklyn Bridge and was easily taken out.
  • The Ghostbusters used their proton packs to destroy the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, then crossed the streams to rid the city of Gozer; Vigo was later dispatched with help from Lady Liberty.
  • Grenades were used to take out Q
  • The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was destroyed in Coney Island using an isotope injector bullet
  • The Hammerdown Protocol eventually got rid of the Cloverfield monster
  • The asteroid showers eventually ended
  • The gremlins were exterminated en masse by electrocution
  • Jason was killed by toxic sludge flowing through New York’s sewer system

In the end, though a little colder, Hollywood’s New York was still standing the day after tomorrow.

Hurricane Sandy was a pretty bad day for New York too. But that one ended a little differently. Thanks to the brave, tireless work of city employees and endlessly resilient residents, the real New York is still standing as well, recovering from bruises but ready to continue her role as the greatest city in the world.

Happy Halloween!

-SCOUT

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try4

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32 comments

  1. Awesome! As I’m not a frequent movie watcher it took me until picture 3 to realize that something might be slightly off. Picture 4 proved that immediately.
    Great idea and nice descriptions.

  2. I got great joy out of this.

  3. Amazing you were able to capture such telling images! For those of us outside the US, it’s difficult to get a true picture of the sequence of events. Thank you!

  4. Thanks for the Halloween treat! I can’t wait to see what your post will be in late March. (wink wink nudge nudge)

  5. Brilliant as always. Thanks for the trick and treat!

  6. Best post to pay homage to those fake Sandy photos on the internet. ^^

  7. Awesome .. good read .. have fun trick or treating.

  8. HAHA! Amazing!

  9. Thanks for another awesome post, Nick! New Yorkers are resiliant and everything will bounce back in time. It was encouraging to see so many folks at the BAM last evening for the Jimmy Kimmell taping, despite the obstacles.

  10. I actually just checked in to see whether you were OK – great post proves you certainly are!

  11. I also surfed over to see if you were ok, and just spent the last several minutes laughing out loud at your post. You know NY is in trouble when you spot Snake Pliskin but not Woody Allen. NYers rock. Stay safe out there! (wonder if anyone is going to don a wetsuit & try to get photos of the submerged subway stations?…)

  12. Oh I laughed and laughed and laughed. Good One!

  13. genius. I salute you sir

  14. Pretty funny. Guess you’re not one of the few hundred thousand of us below 42nd still without power, running water, food, lights, heating, etc huh? But at least the upper east/west siders won’t have so far to walk now their subway is up and running. Must have been real tough.

    • Is that what you guess?

      • I’m sorry. I overreacted. This is the first piece I have seen which makes light of the situation which for me personally is too soon and I responded as such. I think you live in Brooklyn, maybe in an area which is without power. My apartment block was flooded, we evacuated elsewhere in lower manhattan and now we have no idea when we can go home and no idea where to go next. But that is my problem and not relevant to your blog.

        • Jeep –

          Making light and being flippant are two very very different things. The latter would be me making fun of your plight, saying, say, you’re a wuss for not sucking it up, or suggesting you’re not having a tough time. That would be distasteful and awful.

          But 12 hours after it started, as Sandy was reaching its peak, after all preparations have been taken and there’s nothing more you can do, “making light” of a bad situation, I truly believe, is often your only defense against it.

          I was afraid. News report after news report was overhyping the oncoming disaster, waiting like vultures for something to go wrong so they could rush cameramen there and make it out to be the coming apocalypse. That crane fell down and my God, you could almost see the glee in their eyes that they no longer needed to simply show reporters on windy beaches – FINALLY, some sort of PROBLEM. When the FDR flooded, HOORAY – another actual PROBLEM we can show viewers.

          It got worse as misinformation spread. I was hearing rumors about everything from armies of rats coming up from the sewer, to Manhattan being fully flooded up to three feet, etc. Worse, people started circulating horrific pictures that were NOT ACTUALLY TAKEN DURING SANDY. But how were we supposed to know?

          And finally, the disaster porn happened – people began emailing around pictures – and time lapse videos – of the destruction – to ogle at, under the guise of it being news, but really in the same way we all look closely as we pass a bad car crash. I’m not above it. But it’s a reason why I hate times like this.

          I took precautions. We stayed indoors and settled in to weather the storm. And then it was like everyone was saying, YOU HAVE TO BE AFRAID. IT IS YOUR DUTY TO BE AFRAID. IF YOU ARE NOT BEING AFRAID, SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOU.

          Fuck that. I don’t like feeling like that. And so as things were getting worse and worse, and I was feeling more and more afraid, this post occurred. It’s my natural reaction to the events. It’s how my brain’s only defense.

          Part of it was a reaction to the news channels and how they prey on disaster for ratings and drama. Oh, how they’d LOVE for a ridiculous day like the one I wrote about. Another part was a reaction to the many fake photos that were sent around the internet, many from these very movies, and how easily everyone was being duped. Another part was the thought of people clicking the link hoping to get another barrage of disaster porn of the city I call home, only to find themselves face to face with what they were hoping to see.

          But my main reason for doing it was because it made me laugh out loud as I was writing it, and that made me feel better in a bad time, so I kept writing it with the hope that it would make other people laugh a bit and feel a little better too, no matter what their situation. That they might click the link expecting more horrible pictures, and be surprised to see the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man marching down Columbus Circle, and maybe with a smile, go “Well, at least things aren’t THAT bad.”

          At the very least, maybe not feel like it’s their duty to be afraid.

          • Well, honestly, while I (now) understand you were trying to make a point about the media’s response to the event, to an unsophisticated reader like me it comes across as making light of the plight of hundreds of thousands of people.

            FEMA’s bringing us water and food, and we can get buses while it’s daylight, but the reality is still pretty grim down here with no end in sight. Maybe there are some people in a similar position who disagree, but I imagine its easier to do so if your story is one of subways and heavy rain rather than food parcels and drinking water. This is a story of the divide between the haves, and the have nothings, in a city which has always stood united. Of course, this has always been the case, but rarely has it been imposed literally overnight.

            But my apology stands. I’ve been enjoying your blog for many years, it’s your blog, you can write what you want, and I will continue to read it.

          • Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments and for being a reader – I meant no offense, and I hope life very soon returns to a semblance of normal for you and everyone else who was hit hardest.

    • For what? Please be specific.

      • I’ve been through a number of disasters: floods, fires, earthquakes small and large, a couple of hurricanes, one tornado…

        Humor (especially black humor) is essential as a coping mechanism, yes. For you, it worked as therapy to write the post. But not everyone is ready for that laugh at the same time. The ground is still wet and the death toll is still climbing and people are in shock. People are suffering profound trauma and severe losses, and judging by half of what’s going around the net, empathy doesn’t always flow in with the flood waters. People are making light of the situation.

        It’s your blog (which I have read and loved for years), which absolutely means you should do with it what you want. Hyperbolic comparison is ok, but let’s pretend “Towering Inferno” had been shot in NY: You never would have posted something about it and “Airport 77″ the day after 9/11, would you?

        Sandy is going to have an ongoing personal, direct impact on millions of people. A day after this tragedy, a New York love letter — which is what your blog is every other day but this — would have been universally welcomed and praised.

  15. The moment I saw the Caprice police car, I knew something was amiss… and this isn’t too soon. Note the grateful thanks to those who are working very, very hard to restore the City, as well as the kudos for NYers who are hanging in there with the best of them, many of whom are volunteering, themselves. A Halloween trick helps to keep hearts light, in a situation that needs it. Well done as always, Scout.

  16. NOT too soon. Just in time in fact. After the week we’ve had, some levity is just what *I* needed.

  17. Nick, It takes patience and some fortitude to escape from New York these days. Glad to see you are well and that the famous Scout humor is still kicking. Hope your girlfriend made it through without too much trauma. As noted earlier I can hardly wait for late March, the Tower of Terror is still my favorite.

  18. Geesh, this was in very bad taste. Why make light of a disaster? I just got power back and even if I hadn’t lost power I wouldn’t be comparing the misery endured by millions to a movie.

  19. Aye aye aye. This was not only in poor taste, but just terrible. I have been a loyal reader for over two years, you just lost me here. Hope it was worth losing a fan, buddy.

  20. Some people don’t understand that there is nothing wrong with bringing some light into the dark using humor. In fact it can be extremely cathartic. Where do they think the phrase “if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry” came from?

  21. I’m a fan of yours from post-Katrina country and I understand that anyone whose home was destroyed or who lost loved ones in this storm could well be offended by any attempt to lighten the blow. We’re still sorting out our own reactions seven years after the fact.

    On the other hand, I remember all too well the fear mongering and shrill insistence of the media that we all wring our hands and scream nonstop by showing us shift after shift every horror they could video. I remember the frantic gleam in reporters’ eyes when a terrified and pitiful survivor was cornered on camera. There were interviews with anyone who could tell of atrocities taking place in the Superdome (untrue) or of looting, showing pictures of people wading in water with boxes of diapers, the foul criminals! And skinny old people in wheelchairs holding up hand-lettered signs asking for help, and young “weather reporters” constantly dashing out into the wind to score some face time in the dangerous wind.

    That was when the internet became our salvation–in the end, we kept in touch with one another on the internet and listened to the people we knew. Some of them had the knack of putting things in perspective exactly this way and it was helpful. We need perspective and levity as well as help and empathy. What happened affected people unequally and they will react to their personal experience.

    Those who were very badly hit will be suffering for a long time to come but they, too, will find their second wind and begin to rebuild and find a way to laugh again and value what is left to them, even though their lives have been changed forever.

    Right now, they’re in shock. I know. I live in a city of people with “permanent traumatic stress disorder” and if we didn’t have Halloween and Mardi Gras and such things as jazz fest and po’ boy festivals, we’d not be able to make it all. We don’t just laugh; we party.

  22. I’ve obviously arrived late to the party, but OMG what a brilliantly funny entry, and I think people need to get a sense of humor. I completely understand that a lot of people are dealing with major loss due to Sandy, but I do not think that you, in any way, made light of that. You gave us something to laugh about, where the media was simply whipping people up into panic mode, and that bubble needed the “pin” of your humor to relieve the tension and gloom & doom!

    And before anyone jumps down my throat, believe me, I’ve had a lot of tragedy in my life, and I’ve learned through all of it that it not only makes you stronger, it also teaches you to laugh at it. That’s better than crying!

    Keep up the good work, I love your work, and appreciate your love of this amazing city and its’ people. When I am a bit more flush, I plan to donate (again!) to your project, and look forward to seeing it!

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