Saturday, November 3, 2012

Superstorm Sandy and marathon mayhem

I turned 60 a fortnight ago, and I'm not sure I can stand all the excitement.

Normally in New York my life's quite predictable: I'm up early with the raccoons for runs in Central Park with the 5:30 a.m. crew (Maria, Susan, Sarah, Lissy, Heather and Joe, Andrea, Natalie, Marie, Stephen...), this year in preparation for the New York City Marathon. I see films (Argo) and exhibitions (the very moving and wonderful Discovering Columbus, and Kalup Linzy's artist talk at the Met with Oz friend Rick), and sometimes a concert (Crosby Stills & Nash) or a play. I catch up for meals with old friends (CY, Jasper from Venice Beach, Sung for a birthday lunch, Selma and Murray whom I met in Santiago, Gene, mates Gary and Anne, and the running crew) and occasionally I make new friends (my dog friend Max's owner Ellen). And I work very hard at staying on top of my workload.

Discovering Columbus: The statue has been re-imagined by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, who has housed it in a temporary contemporary living room built in the sky, at a height of c. 30 metres. Columbus stands on what appears to be a coffee table, in a room complete with bookshelves, artworks on the wall, even wallpaper designed by the artist. The whole construction overlooks Columbus Circle. I found it very moving to think that Columbus, who has had only pigeons for company for 120 years, is temporarily at home to visitors. See more about the work here.

I've done all of those things over the past fortnight, in addition to having a landmark birthday. But the two main events have come right out of left field in the last week: New York was hit by Hurricane Sandy on Monday night, which has left devastation all over the region; and the New York City Marathon 2012 has been cancelled in its wake.

I stay on the Upper West Side, right next to Central Park. The park has been closed since Monday due to the severe damage it suffered. A few of us did the 8-mile trail run in the park last Saturday morning, when it looked glorious with all the autumn leaves. There were some trees and signs down in my area, and we lost internet access for most of Tuesday, and subway service until yesterday, but that's about the extent of the impact. But it's been a very different story downtown, where major flooding caused by storm surge has disrupted everything all week. There's been no power: no working elevators in high-rise buildings, no lights, no communications, no transportation, etc.

As the week has gone on we've seen that lower Manhattan wasn't even the hardest-hit community: Staten Island, Queens, New Jersey, and other places are still reeling. It's unprecedented, and it's not going to come good overnight. There are fuel shortages all over, and power outages still in many places. There is an overview of the damage as of this morning here.

New York Road Runners and Mayor Bloomberg tried to push ahead with the marathon, calling it this morning the "Race to Recover", but the wider community as well as many runners have been insisting it's just not right to go ahead when parts of the city – some of which are on the marathon course – are still in shock and need all the available resources to help in their recovery. The death toll for New York City is about 90, I heard. The damage is estimated at $50 billion. This afternoon the decision was made to cancel the race. I totally agree it's the right thing to do.

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