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Sandy Does Swindlehurst: Part Two
A Jonesin' Journalist Emerges From The Frankenstorm, Soaked In Sewage & Farting Blood, Recounts The Disaster Movie That Became Americans' Lives
PART TWO: THE BOULEVARD OF DOLLAR STORE GENEROSITY & THE CARAVAN OF CURIOUS GUTTERSNIPES
"With power lost, weight is gained."—Dr. Schnoz, Public Service Announcement)
"Then I heard it turn off/I swear I heard the screams/And all the wild eyes/All the wild eyes know what I mean/They're scared they've lost their dream/They press down on me/You know I thought I was there."—"Already There"' The Verve
Teenage emo terrorists in black body stockings, limbs, torsos and faces covered over in a skin of onyx-reflective leotard material, leaped around in traffic where Montauk Highway merged into Merrick Road. Why? Because they were celebrating the disorder. Because they were welcoming the New World Order conspiracy cats like Alex Jones have been promising all these years. Or, more probably, because it was Halloween, even if no township in Suffolk County, New York was acknowledging the disastrous day as a formal holiday.
No solstice. No autumn. Just chaos and confusion in every direction, as Freak and I tooled around Merrick in search of fuel, some unleaded and a few Monster energy drinks to kick-start a brutal afternoon of hurling fetid furniture out the front door of the crib off Wellwood. No matter where you looked, you could see something that resembled nothing so much as a Roland fucking Emmerich picture, confounded citizens staggering around in moth-eaten winter coats, distraught expressions carved into their frostbitten grills, their steps quicker than usual but just as haphazard.
These were the hours when much of the looting and price gouging went down, with godless cum-sucking guttersnipes dive-bombing bankrupt geriatrics under the guise of being Con Ed workers, only to make off with Mildred's fine china and pearl necklace. The zero hours. Sterling opportunity for the human scavenger.
Companies like LIPA failed us completely, while small businesses were the only ones to benefit from Sandy, and even then, only to a certain extent. There were many who seized the opportunity to get their brand out there by donating everything from hand warmers to whole lemon-meringue raspberry swirl layer cakes. But, in keeping with the Manichaeistic tone of this sour saga, the corporate giants generally shit down our necks and caught whatever dropped out of our anguished nether regions. One such conglomerate was Verizon, who moved in for the kill within days of the storm, setting up "Charging & Heating Centers" on the shoulder of Wellwood Ave., in hopes of converting the condemned into future customers.
Freak and I were festering on Montauk/Merrick, choked with gridlock - a consequence of street lights being out and addle-brained motorists ill-equipped at using their indicators - when the old man called us to warn of the price-gouging.
"Way ahead of you, Fat Man," I shouted with the cell on speaker in the console, and my eyes locked on two mustachioed National Grid men trading blowjobs for a bucket of siphoned diesel. "We've been to three stations and every one of them's more backed up than our bowels are gonna be after all the Roxies."
"Tell Pops to drag out the Generator," Freak said. "If I have to bust some doctor's shit wide open, we're gonna have heat tonight."
Bear in mind this was only the second day of the shortage crisis. November 2nd, with its furniture-spiking, price-gouging pygmalion night terrors, would prove much more dire. Nevertheless, shit was getting hairy, and it helped to have a less-than-moderate bovine-headed garbageman and one-time strip club bouncer weighing in at twenty-five stone in the driver seat.
Sleeping two feet from his funky-ass feet in a three-by-three foot wide hallway amidst the scent of a sewage redolent of sour milk and expired hot dogs, was another animal altogether.
The austere fun came at night. All power poles out and most every window blackened, it was like living in a void, one of those black holes that gimp Stephen Hawking's been rapping about all these decades long, and don't you know? There it was, stretching out as far as my bloodshot blues could see when I stepped out at the midnight hour to swap fungus for carcinogens in my lubricious lungs.
There is no dire experience quite like the sensation one feels when their father rousts 'em in the wee hours before dawn with a .38 special on his hip, and tells 'em to grab the sawed-off and follow him out, in night stockings and baseball cap, to see if his suspicions are correct, if some shameless shitter is trying to make off with the generator he's got chained to four cinder blocks in the open garage. Or...if he simply snored too loud and mistook the cacophony for the clatter of metal on metal. Pops was snoring so loud he was scaring himself awake, coming severely close to swallowing his own face. I wasn't sleeping; I was dreaming of not having to dream anymore, wishing to wake from the reality of a berserker.
Erstwhile, other scavengers took to Wellwood Avenue and the adjacent Shore Road, where the Cat-Licks had set up tables and bread trucks with warm clothes, bottled water, breakfast cereals, canned goods and every manner of cleaning product, right beside ye olde once-proud Wellwood Grille. It was, effectively, the sight of the world's first and biggest gratis garage sale, a rummage headquarters for one and all from the area. There was only one conundrum and that was their failure to ask for picture I.D. Ergo every Korean tourist and scurvy cutthroat from here to Mastic was free (there's that word again) to come and go with as many items as they could carry. The result was a clumsily-supervised clusterfuck, with police barricades overturned and automobiles like Yukons and Hummers - and any other vehicle fit to carry mountains of complimentary shit - clogging the street in both directions.
Not even the camouflaged tanks driven by pimply pubescent National Guard recruits could do anything to quell this harem of hungry, aggressively avaricious scum-mercenaries. The caravan of morons and malevolent out-of-towners stretched almost as far as the gas lines did in the days that followed, as pump prices skyrocketed and the Long Island Power Authority locked themselves in secret underground lairs to count their money and wait this thing out.
Random Notes From Sandy Aftermath
Gypsies strap on sixteen sweaters apiece at O.L.P.H. rummage bins. North Shore "Strawng Eye-luhnd" boyz look sickly in their plaid Abercrombie & Fitch capri shorts, cavorting in front of blackened 7-Eleven storefronts, shifting from pasty leg to pasty leg and arguing over who should go in to get clocked by the two Amazonian (read: fat) bitches with acne scars manning the powerless registers...calloused sausage fingers fumbling with dying calculators and loose-leaf paper...Claire the Counter Clerk warns of a possible warmth to all Taurine-infused carbonated beverages in the defrosted coolers, watches me intently as I pirouette around between aisles searching for something edible for both my cat and my older brother...memories of those black-toothed bad boys from The Road Warrior fighting over serrated cans of Alpo in the Apocalyptic Outback.
Splinter cells of the Occupy Wall Street movement surface like shit-shrooms here and there to blame the banks for everything from natural disaster and the Holocaust to the invention of those hard plastic cell phone cases everyone has trouble opening without a Saws-All...they defecate on park benches and smoke hella spliffs to prove a point while the banks...aren't even open because of the outage.
But they have a point. "No subways. No electricity. No chains" they Tweeted. And, later, "Go outside. Meet your neighbors. Talk. Share a meal. When capitalism retreats, our communities flourish." Well...
In any event, it's some kind of surprise to find that the same OWS that hurled bottles at cops and left heroin needles all over Zucotti Park have out-maneuvered the Red Cross in relief initiatives.
Where's FEMA? Where's heat? Why are my socks hard as plastic and the color of charcoal? Heading for something distinctly, patently primordial...
THE COLD & THE MOLD TAKE THEIR TOLL
"Your eyes are almost dead/Can't get out of bed/And you can't sleep/You're sitting down to dress/And you're a mess/You look in the mirror/You look in your eye/Say you realize/Everybody goes leaving those who fall behind/Everybody goes as far as they can, they just don't care."—"Holocaust" This Mortal Coil
A decidedly black Christmas came early this year, in the form of a bushy-bearded Odin dead-ringer named Jose Ramos, the alleged killer of six-year-old Etan Patz and a known pedophilic reprobate, who got out of a Pennsylvania penitentiary just in time to sing Silent Night, Deadly Night to those yearning children who were left bereft of their Jesus Juice after the passing of poor Mikey Jackson.
The newly-shorn chi-mo was sprung from the pen on November 7, just as kids were wondering whether or not their newly-impoverished parents would be able to afford cookies and milk for this year's winter festivities. The decision was a shock to many concerned for the welfare of their offspring's anal cavities and general well-being, though it seemed typical of the world we woke up to after Sandy tore us a new poop chute.
November 3 dragged its janky ass into existence after four straight days of complimentary culinary curiosities and constant drafts from under cheap aluminum doors, sans their unhinged storm door counterparts, and the first bug manifested.
Nothing was going quite right. While siphoning gas from the tank of the ravaged work van, the old man went to take a seat to weep over our rusted collection of spark plugs, and smashed the back of his cranium on the company hand truck. When I bent my legs to help him correct his sagging position on the folding chair, I felt a small eruption in my jeans and what felt like hot diarrhea crossing my chapped cheeks like so much Good Will peanut butter spread. No! It was a fart, yes, a fart...but a bloody one. The evidence in my baby blue boxers suggested that my menstrual cycle had arrived only too soon. At twenty-nine years old I was beginning to wonder when I was going to finally cross that dividing line that separates the girls from the women.
But the worst hadn't come yet. As I say, we were balls deep into the free hamburger buns and three bean casseroles by now. Three guys huffing charcoal black fumes that smelled of burnt plastic from the site of an illegal hot plate stove in the kitchen, and hunkered together around a single tray table, gorging like Vikings returned from Famine Battle...we had gone buck wild on the cardboard boxes of MRE meals handed out by the unsung angels of the...Department of Defense? That's what the package said, "From The Department of Defense...Military-Fit Meals! Military-Intended! Military-Approved!"
Sammy likes it! But of course! As with the exasperated ground troops in the Middle East, all the government was doing was dropping insufficient rations on us, in hopes that the nature-nurture ethic would weed out those who were weemers; less mouths to feed, less class-action lawsuits against FEMA for their late response to bitches with bulbous face blisters and watering blood-eyes.
"Let them eat dung. 1,200 calorie 'high-performance' sodium-enriched dung packets."
What choice did we have? After all, at this stage of the game, all FEMA had done was pass through for a proverbial drive-by, just to make their presence known before pulling a full-on ninja act and vanishing into a puff of Sandy smoke—dust, spore and sheet rock particles—without helping out a single person in our general vicinity. By the time they returned to Lindenhurst, many days later, the Buddhists with the Tzu Chi Foundation had taken their place, doling out $600 Visa cards for all desperate and dumb enough to stand on an interminably long line and grovel at their feet, and most of us had already been through the wringer with the insurance company representatives and various home inspectors.
The MRE meals, each in a signature "sauce" that could take the bronze off the First Lady's personal "Rush! More!" pewter pleasure rod, were all that stood between us and starvation...well, those and the Red Cross meatballs...and the snack packs from Salvation Army employees...and the Halloween treat bags from North Shore Johnny-on-the-spots...and, of course, the donut holes and coffees from a kindly Jewish girl named Amy who spun a 180 across what was left of our mud-pie lawn about three days after Sandy, and said she couldn't stand the sight of what she was seeing on her television set and had, therefore, traveled from somewhere far more privileged than here to hand-deliver pastries and steaming mugs of java. So you can see that illness was inevitable given the scarcity of sustenance.
I was the first casualty, doubled over and fisting the empty toilet paper roll as I dry-heaved in the upstairs bathroom and contemplated what seemed, at the time, like certain demise. For days afterward, even after the chills up my spine and gooseflesh on my rash-ridden groin had gone, my chest and throat cavities pumped with what felt like hot lava at all hours of dawn and dusk.
Paralyzed on a rickety mattress, hugging myself like the little matchstick girl, I found myself stricken. Freak and the old man still shake their head incredulously when I mention it, insisting that they had shared all the same treats and not once summoned Ralph from his porcelain depths, but I know.
Is it altogether impossible to think that, perhaps, the same hands that would be goodly enough to deliver a free meal to the unfortunate, might also be malicious enough to have designs on a human being's expiration date? We do live in a day and age where kids grow up being admonished of razor blades and arsenic as hazards that could await them when Trick Or Treating. So couldn't a good pantry run by an enigmatic evangelist preacher cook something that would kill those it was intended to save, thereby expediting the souls' procession to said evangelist's Lord?
I pondered this as I stared at the puddle of pinkish-orange ick that I had forced out in to the dirt, and remembered that the previous night's puke had been seasoned and flavored with the feast of that evening's penne pasta platter from the Evangel Church people. As I say, it had been an anguished eve, one that found me sweating bullets and freezing my gonads off simultaneously, praying to their god or mine (or both) that I'd make it through without having to call 911 for an ambulance that would, doubtlessly, take me to an emergency room overflowing with untended pariahs awash in every strand of wet brain, wack-a-cyst or red rash cancer cell Sandy's black and white molds had to donate.
At some point, as the fever broke and the last of the bile settled in my by-then-concave stomach lining, I found myself clutching my penis as if I was the main character in that King Crimson song. I had made it through the night, but had my manhood? And why, after near-death, could I think of nothing but Olivia O' Lovely's ass?
There was a plenitude of desperation in the wake of Sandy, no shortage of longings resulting from the lack of power. Mine just so happened to be best described by Freak as we sat in line at LukOil and waited to load up.
"I haven't taken care of myself in two weeks. Pretty soon we'll be able to use my reserves to spackle the walls."
Without Skinemax or an Internet connection, health magazines and AARP newsletters became commensurate to softcore pornography and simple masturbation developed, as the temperature dropped, into an endurance trial requiring mittens, Chapstick and heated strips of double-ply Cottonelle. Helen Mirren and Metamucil-era Jamie Lee Curtis replaced Julia Ann and Lisa Ann in masturbatory MILF fantasies. A windshield ice scraper was a not uncommon accessory to self-gratification after a prolonged afterglow which, in kind, grew to be confused with hypothermia or exhaustion.
The mushroom cloud had wilted my mushroom tip, but still I yanked on it. The Thanatos Sex Logic was alive and pugnacious.