Mr. Rick Will Not Be Performing This Evening, And Some Of You May Drown
I took the 6 bus up to Harlem's 125th Street station right after I got off work (6:00) and arrived at 6:30. Pretty fast for a non-express! So this gave me half an hour before Slick Rick's concert in the park, and I decided to grab a cheap bite at the first restaurant I saw, which was a Chinese take-out place halfway down 124th. At 6:45, while I was finishing up, the sky darkened, and a storm broke.
This was the worst storm I've seen in my six months in Manhattan, and I suspect it'll be pretty hard to top in the next year or two. And what made it really strange is that I hadn't even seen rain in any forecast. And you'd think this would have registered somewhere, because it was really something. The rain came down so fast and so thickly that it actually blurred vision---you had to squint to see what was across the street. Some rainstorms spatter you, some drench you. This felt like it was actually trying to push you to the ground.
"Well," I told myself, "I guess Slick Rick will not be performing today." So I raced back a block and a half, darting in and out of useless eaves, until I made it to the subway station---where, as I should have expected, dozens of other New Yorkers were stranded and waiting out the rain.
Here I got a taste of what New York must have been like during the blackouts. It's awfully inconvenient, but it's nothing serious, and this tends to bring out the self-deprecating, world-weary humor that New Yorkers are particularly skilled at. All you had to do was look up those stairs at the rain hammering down, shake your head and roll your eyes at someone near you, and they'd smile. Or possibly even laugh if they were particularly exhausted or, in fact, crazy. I commented to no one in particular, "Damn! This is some New OR-leans shit up in here!" And a guy nodded and said, "You're the second person I've heard say something like that."
At this point I realized I had a problem: Because I'd taken the 6 up instead of the A---the better to reach Marcus Garvey Park for the concert (and it pains me even now to write about such a failed hope)---I was in the middle of town instead of at the western end. I thought of riding the 6 up further to about 181st Street and taking some shuttle or something across the island. But a glance at the map showed me something I didn't know: At its tip, Manhattan is shaped like Michigan, with a swath of river cutting down at a diagonal and making the western end way taller. It may be a straight shot going up on the west side, but if I took it north from here and tried to cut across, I'd be crossing the Hudson twice: Once up into the Bronx and/or New Jersey, and once again going west back into Manhattan. And I could only do that last step at the George Washington Bridge, which is at 181st Street. I live at 185th. This was not a five-blocks-of-sprinting type of rain.
Turns out I had to take the M60 bus, which wends westeward along 125th from LaGuardia Airport and has a stop at my usual A station. So I went topside again---after one quick camera-photo shot of my feet to demonstrate how deep the water was that was pouring down the steps into the subway---and waited with two or three dozen others in a covered patio outside a Rite-Aid. The M60 is famously slow and sporadic, but it appeared just as I was about to complain.
I wound up seated behind an older man who was one of about six people on the bus who were freighted with luggage. "You just came in from LaGuardia?" I asked. "You picked a fine day for it."
He looked at me and shook his head. "It's been an interesting travel day. First the hijackers plot, and now this."
"Oh my god!" I said. "I'd forgotten about that." I'd been listening to stories about it all day on NPR: 19 hijackers, British inteligence, red alert, all liquids being confiscated.
"No one knew what was going on," he said. "No one warned anybody, so of course everyone came to the airport with things they had to get rid of. They had these huge trash containers just piled high with, you know, cream rinse, shampoo, soap for your hands and such. It brought out everyone's gallows humor. So yes. It's been a very interesting travel day."
I had nothing to add, so I nodded respectfully and kept silent. Who was I, suddenly, to complain about a little rain?