A young Mitt Romney type in J. Crew stood on the corner of Christopher and Hudson streets, thermos in hand, offering passersby cups of coffee, two dollars a cup. People just gave him looks.
Mostly, people were neighborly. Hudson Bagels handed out day-old bagels. Garber’s Hardware, who had a generator, put out power strips for people to charge their phones and offered Pepperidge Farm cookies and coffee (no two dollar donation required).
People shared candles and batteries and food and offered neighbors hot showers. (No, not in that way. Although … well, maybe.)
Calvin Trillin was seen wheeling his bike up the street looking for a copy of The Times on his way up to the New Yorker offices. “I don’t think of it as a magazine. I think of it as a filling station. It’s up on Times Square, they’ve got all the electricity you can eat!”
Local animals sensibly stayed out of harm’s way, but not all their owners were so lucky, and a nearby vet quietly examined pet owners who couldn’t get to a doctor but who’d broken a toe or taken a spill in the darkness.
At Buvette, on Grove and Bleecker, the owner was cooking up whatever was in the fridge and freezer, laying out trays of croque-monsieurs and cheese and apples and fresh tartes tatin for the neighborhood. Wines, good wines not likely to go bad because of a power outage, were opened with cheerful abandon and poured for anyone who ambled by. (The Gigondas was described by one of the staff as tasting like plums and bedroom slippers, while the Chambertin was reckoned to be more like an early David Foster Wallace story, very complex, a lot going on, but no resolution.)
That seemed a pretty fair description of the long, chilly days with no power and no news, only rumors and candles and dark. Meanwhile Jody kept pouring Medoc and Cahors, Burgundy and Beaujolais.
“That’s why I got into this in the first place,” she said. “To feed people. To offer a sense of community and warmth.”
And maybe make some money? I ventured, watching another sixty dollar bottle of wine being emptied.
“Well, that was Plan A. I’ve had to move over to Plan B.”
Brian Cullman is a writer and musician living in New York City.
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