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August 15, 2003

Uh-huh, yeah, okay
Posted by Teresa at 09:26 PM *

Here’s CNN’s summary of the blackout in New York. They sound surprised and mildly disappointed at the lack of violence and general disorder. They’re not from here.

I can’t give you a better summary than Seth Lerner’s, as our group of Brooklyn-bound Tor employees was walking over the Manhattan Bridge. Seth, by the way, was having to walk from the Flatiron Building, at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue and Broadway in Manhattan, to Kings Plaza in Brooklyn. Look up the distance if you’re interested. Anyway, Seth’s take was, “It’s just another thing.”

Which it was. Granted, it was a wholly unexpected hours-long thing in humid ninety-degree heat. Not what I’d have chosen to do, but life is full of those. It’s also full of things that don’t work they way they’re supposed to. If your life has led you to think that things work the way they’re supposed to, well, good. I’m glad. Let’s all work together for a world where everybody’s life works that way.

But, yeah: Getting home yesteday was just another thing.

Comments on Uh-huh, yeah, okay:
#1 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2003, 10:02 PM:

Kings Plaza?! Yikes. I hope for his sake that the B41 bus was running somewhere last night. I mean, I settled on going to my mother's so I wouldn't have to walk the extra mile to Grans Army Plaza in the dark, and that's not halfway down Flatbush Avenue to Kings Plaza.

If he really walked the whole way, I will want to shake his hand next time I'm at Tor.

#2 ::: Mike Ruby ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 01:24 AM:

Jonathan Edelstein reports people who walked from Manhattan to Nassau County.

My 70 block walk to Harlem is nothing even on a normal day. But even if I lived in Baychester, Flushing, or the Rockaways, it would have indeed been "just another thing."

#3 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 06:57 AM:

I was surprised and gratified a few years back when, here in Virginia, a power outage knocked out a major traffic light, and people were politely taking turns. Perhaps even the same people who would chisel away at the yellow/red when it was working.

As I just said on Usenet, perhaps there is a thin veneer of nastiness with civilization beneath.

#4 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 10:04 AM:

A friend of mine walked home from downtown Manhattan to somewhere in the deep Bronx. He left around 5:00 and got home around 7:00 -- the next morning.

He did stop for several interesting encounters along the way (he rested in bars, essentially).

Somebody should write a novel about it. It'd be funny.

#5 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 10:45 AM:

So what is it that’s made this so different from 1977? Is it just that the whole nation’s shaken off the collective malaise of the 70s? (And, for that matter, what made 1977 different from 1965?)

#6 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 12:45 PM:

One evening in 1965 my youngest brother complained that "Batman" on TV was messed up. I walked to his side of the living room, with its slice of the octagonal tower running the height of the 10-story "first skyscraper built in Brooklyn" [1888].

Through several of the 5 windows, I saw, to my astonishment, all the lights of Manhattan go out, and all of Brooklyn Heights in view.

"There will be looting and raping aplenty tonight," I said.

Happily, I was wrong. Too many dystopian novels, I guess.

I walked from Brooklyn Heights across the Brooklyn Bridge, and up to 15th Street for Stuyvesant High School. Then home, after classes.

There was a festive, cooperative air to the people I saw.

I also recall the Red Cross giving away coffee and donuts at the East side of the bridge.

The birth rate tripled 9 months later.

Criminals kicked themselves for not taking advantage of the chaos, and swore they'd not rtepeat the mistake. The next big blackout (1977?) there were almost 4,000 arrests, and massive looting.

One definition of a true community is the shared response to adversity.

New York passed the exam on 9/11 and remebers the spirit well.

Thanks for allowing me down memory Lane...

-- Jonathan Vos Post

#7 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 01:40 PM:

My own take on why this one was different from '77 (and like '65 and 9/11) can be found on my blog here, but it boils down to one word: daylight.

#8 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 03:32 PM:

Don't worry. After a week of Fox News, the rest of the world will believe that massive looting and violence occured during the blackout. And all the fault of those libruls, too.

#9 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 09:32 PM:

Kip -- possibly the problem with traffic lights is that they are designed to constrain the idiots. There is one bad intersection on my commute (think of a traffic circle with too many lanes, entrances, and exits in too small a space); during the few days last year that the main traffic light was down, traffic flowed easily even at the times when it normally was worst.

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 11:23 PM:

Jon, most of the stories I heard about widespread misbehavior on 9/11 were approximately traceable to ex-New Yorkers living in Florida. Needless to say, the stories were false.

Shared adversity, yeah -- as our part of Toroidal Brooklynites was walking across the Manhattan Bridge, we saw a group of young women picking their way along the tracks, coming out of the tunnel where the trains surface to cross the bridge. They'd obviously gotten caught in a stalled train. People helped them up the side walls of the tracks. We happened to have some bottled water, so we asked if they wanted it. I've never seen people reach for water so fast. A little later, Seth Lerner caught up with us, and shared his oranges with us. Once we were down on the other side, Natasha and then Jenny had to split off from our group, and I gave them my address, phone number, and directions to my house, in case they needed some of my many lamps and candles -- I have lots. And Jenny handed back my tote back, which she'd been carrying for me since about two blocks south of the Flatiron Building.

The guy selling bottles of water out of an ice chest at Atlantic and Fourth let me wash my hands and face in his melted icewater, even though I didn't buy any bottled water from him.

Back at the offices, David Hartwell, Jim Minz and his wife Sondi, and Gavin Agamore all wound up spending the night, since they normally commute by train and couldn't walk all the way home. Good thing there are all those sofas in Tom's office. Partway through the evening, Linda Quinton, our Associate Publisher, brought over food and drink for them, since she lives just a few blocks away. Next morning the trains were running, with limited service, so they finally got to go home.

I heard today that two of our people, Kathleen Fogarty and her assistant, were on one of the Flatiron elevators that were trapped by the blackout. It took a couple of hours to free them. When they finally got out, there in the lobby, waiting to see that they were okay, was John Sargent, our CEO. He walked back into the city early next morning to make sure everything was okay in the Tor and SMP offices.

People who want to pretend that everyone around them is a hostile stranger belong in the suburbs. Living in a city is a cooperative enterprise.

#11 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 08:54 AM:

CHip, intersections with no traffic lights or signs can be an interminable wait for the 'weak' side. Without the lights, some sides would never get to go at all. I find myself sometimes going blocks out of my way for the signal, so that I won't have to wait forever.

It's heartening to see how decently people behave at major intersections when the power's off, but the same people (me included, no doubt) wouldn't see any reason to yield to let someone in from a side street or driveway.

#12 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 11:40 AM:

From the 1977 blackout -- if you saw a guy with a bosun's pipe directing traffic at 42nd and Madison, that was me.

#13 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 01:47 PM:

Teresa: I heard today that two of our people, Kathleen Fogarty and her assistant, were on one of the Flatiron elevators that were trapped by the blackout. It took a couple of hours to free them. When they finally got out, there in the lobby, waiting to see that they were okay, was John Sargent, our CEO. He walked back into the city early next morning to make sure everything was okay in the Tor and SMP offices.

Doesn't he know that he can be kicked out of the CEO's Guild for that sort of behavior?

#14 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 12:50 AM:

Meanwhile, here in the Phoenix metro area, the majority of gas stations are running dry. Blame is laid on a ruptured pipeline between here and Tucson, which usually carries about a third of Phoenix's gas supply; repairs and safety tests will supposedly take two more weeks. Some of the slack is being taken up by tanker trucks being pressed into extra runs, and additional trucks being brought in from neighboring states, but the situation is still very annoying.

And may move from annoying to serious in the next few days. Out to do errands this afternoon, passed about ten stations; only one had gas left, and the lines were about thirty cars deep. I've got gas enough left to get to work and back Monday and Tuesday, maybe Wednesday (and that's because I took the lawnmower's gasoline can and put it into the minivan's tank). It's also going to be interesting at work tomorrow, since my postal vehicle doesn't have enough gas left in its tank to finish another day.

It's six miles to work. If all else fails, I can walk, hitch (a uniform helps), or fix the tires on the bicycle in the side yard. (But, but, it's a -girl's- bike! Ack!) Hopefully, some of the currently dry stations will receive fresh tankers in the next few days.

So far, there have been verbal arguments at gas stations, but no violence. (Police are being posted at some stations.) It'll be interesting to see if that continues, as this mess stretches on.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 06:56 AM:

Phoenix with no gasoline in the middle of August? That's a serious problem.

Last night we were walking back from a quick run to the store. The weather had finally broken in torrents of rain and now was clearing, and the evening was deliciously cool. I was struck by how different it was from evening just a few days ago, when at the same hour we had no lights, no fans, no AC, no food, and no cash, and had just trudged for miles through the heat.

It's a fragile world we live in.

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 10:01 PM:

Jim, the idea that you directed the traffic at Madison and 42nd has been haunting me all day. Somewhere there must be a picture of you doing it, but heaven only knows where. Were you in uniform? Did the bosun's pipe help?

#17 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 10:01 PM:

Excerpt from "Heart of Darkness" by Kenneth T. Jackson, Wall Street Journal, Monday 18 Aug 2003:

"... Along 125th Street, hundreds crowded the anarchic sidewalks. Looters were hard at their metier, hauling goods out of stores even as police cars, sirens wailing, raced in both directions. At the [Harlem station of the Metro-North commuter railroad], a half-dozen police officers stood by and did nothing as looters casually -- indolently -- made their way in and out of a pawn shop across the street.... By daybreak [13 July 1977] the fire department had responded to more than 1,000 calls, many of them arson-related; 3,800 people had been arrested for looting, and many hundreds had been injured. Damage was estimated at $1 Billion..."

Mr.Jackson is president of the New York Historival Society and a History professor at Columbia.

I've made my hypothesis, but the truth is that we don't really know why the 1965 blackout and the 2003 blackout were kind and the 1977 was harsh.

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 10:23 PM:

Teresa --

No, I wasn't in uniform. I was in "appropriate civilian attire," which would have been blue jeans, a tee shirt, a USS Savannah windbreaker, and a ship's ball cap. Look also for the wallet-on-a-chain, and a Buck knife in my pocket. And a Bosun's call.

I don't know if the call helped, but it sure was fun.

#19 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 12:20 AM:

A bit more on the Phoenix gasoline shortage:

Was able to gas up the minivan with no trouble by going out at 6AM, before most people started going to work. Trying to gas up my postal vehicle at 10AM, though, meant sitting in line for two and a half hours. (The bright side? I basically made about eighty bucks reading an issue of ASIMOV'S today.)

Starting tomorrow, my postal substation has arranged for the Texaco station across the street to reserve one pump for postal vehicles for one hour in the afternoon. (We'll see how the normal people waiting in line react to that....) (And assuming the station still has gas by the afternoon.)

#20 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 01:16 PM:

Jonathan Vos Post wrote:
The birth rate tripled 9 months later.

Ahah! JVP lives in the UrbanLegendiverse! Things now make so much more sense!

#21 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 06:59 PM:

Dear Kevin J. Maroney,

You've convinced me. That's what I get for believing the New York Times. At least I still know that there IS a Santa Claus...

And Justice. The California Supreme Court waited until 1 day before their 60-day deadline to post on their website that my Petition for Review had been denied. This is a follow-up to the California Supreme Court case that I won by unanimous 7-0 Decision, Post v. Palo/Haklar, which you can find online with the case number S081910.

It was the case against the Hollywood producers who sent me to Worldcon in Winnipeg to promote a CD-ROM related to my JPL work, the solar system, and to be followed by a CD-ROM on interstellar travel. But they never paid my wages or my wife's in 1994-1995. Motto of Hollywood: "so sue me!"

Of course, the defendants will go to Hell. There is a Hell, isn't there? A majority of Americans believe so...

Jonathan "UrbanLegendiverse" Post

#22 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 07:02 PM:

So we're told.

Suing the bastards because they sent you to the Winnipeg Worldcon is not without its merits.

#23 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 11:37 AM:

For the latest word on blackout exploitation, see this online article:

Incidently, the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate) has a wonderfully irreverent newletter by Mark Morford (where I got this story) and fabulous, equally irreverent, animated comics by Mark Fiore. If you haven't seen them, check 'em out!

#24 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 11:38 AM:


On another thread, thanks for the Arizona info, Teresa. Fascinating stuff.

#25 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 02:06 PM:

JVP: Why? I don't know. Maybe because Robert Moses has been dead longer. And I have to point out that the Clinton years were good for the city. If you give the poor a dab of tax relief, and the economy's humming along well enough to provide jobs -- any jobs -- for a lot of them, the effect is remarkable.

You want to clean up slummy neighborhoods? Don't bulldoze them and build monoliths. We're all clear that that doesn't work, right?

And don't fund b*llsh*t "revitalization" programs that build high-priced privileged island enclaves, either; that just puts money into the pockets of the same old rich guys, and drives out the poor that used to live there and in immediately adjacent areas. Result? The areas immediately adjacent to the enclaves get pricier, and well-off people from other neighborhoods move into them. Everything else around them gets worse.

And don't do what Ronald Reagan did. It was during his administration that they had trompe l'oeil mylar window-coverings printed up showing venetian blinds, curtains, flowerpots, etc., and stuck them on all the windows in the bombed-out buildings immediately adjacent to Robert Moses's freeway projects. That way, the well-to-do commuters didn't have to notice the devastation they were passing through. The leftover window-cheats got put up in places like the Lower East Side, to make hardscrabble blocks look a little nicer.

That actually happened. I'm not making it up.

You know what really helps clean up slummy neighborhoods? Give jobs to the people living in them. Police their streets, collect their garbage, fix up their parks, repair their potholes, run their mass transit, and provide helpful social services, just like you do in wealthier areas. Make home improvement and other helpful loans available to them at reasonable rates.

Miraculously, they'll fix up their neighborhoods themselves. Turns out they don't like living in slums any more than anyone else does. Funny thing, that.

#26 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 02:40 PM:

I'm fairly sure that the look-nice window coverings stuck up on the gutted shells along the Cross Bronx were there prior to the Reagan administration. A Late-70s phenom. If we're looking for a president to blame, it would be Ford.

OTOH, I'm fairly sure that they didn't *come down* during the Great Speechreader's administration either.

#27 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2003, 11:13 AM:

A quick Google search fails to confirm one way or the other, but I thought they were an initiative of the Koch administration, not the Feds.

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