Hurricane Henri

August 2021

We returned to New York late Saturday night under threat of a hurricane calculated to hit landfall mid Sunday. The trip was one of the longest I have had from the Hamptons to New York City. Five inches of rain fell in the four hours it took for a ride that normally takes two and a half. The next morning the weather had calmed so I ventured out to find a New York Times for the latest news of the disastrous fall of Afghanistan and the plight of those still trapped in the country – Americans as well as the Afghanis who were relying on the United States to provide a safe passage out. The morning streets were wet and absent of pedestrians except for a few dog walkers who never shy from bad weather.

This New York morning looked very much like a year ago when the streets were devoid of people due to the Covid quarantine. The storefronts that had been boarded up during the protests over the killing of George Floyd were now open, but this was a different kind of calm, like the first snowfall on an early December morning. Apartment dwellers were holding in place until all the hurricane warnings passed. After picking up my paper at the corner bodega I impulsively bought a dozen yellow roses from the flower display at checkout for Patti to brighten the dismal day. I continued over to Lexington Avenue where at 69th street the road was closed off with police barricades. The Russian consulate is on that block. Perhaps there were some dignitaries in town in need of extra security. I made my way past the barrier and saw I wasn’t too far off in my guess. A movie was being filmed and the Russian consulate was part of the set, with one of the actors being filmed exiting the building. I walked past the firehouse on 69th and a fireman was standing at the open doors with his arms crossed viewing the Hollywood scene unfolding across the street. “Nice flowers,” he said. “Thanks,” I responded, and continued walking west to my favorite bookstore on Lexington, Shakespeare & Co. I like to stop there for a peek at the latest titles on display and it’s where I can cheat a coffee and danish. “Closed due to weather” read the sign in the window. I continued to my barber shop at 70th street. A haircut would be a pick me up I thought. Not to be. Closed as well. I walked a few more blocks north to see if the nail salon was open. After fishing all week in Maine a manicure would be in order. Not to be. All closed due to the weather. Bodegas were the only game in town. I was left to reading yesterday’s news and listening to WQXR while the hurricane was downgraded to a Nor’easter/tropical storm. My friend Ted in Montauk called in to say the winds out on the eastern tip of Long Island were 30 mph and the waves were pouring over the docks at his marina slip. I know the Hamptons will recover by dinner time. The roads will be open and free of the steady strain of traffic now that half the crowds left last night to beat the storm.

The solemn and quiet atmosphere in the city feels appropriate to me. Tomorrow I say a final goodbye to one of my oldest friends, Stef Poss, who died suddenly this past week. I have been fielding calls from mutual friends, reminiscing and reliving moments from our college years in the 1950s. Stef was married to one of my best friends. Lives, like hurricanes, pass, leaving survivors in their wake to carry on. But we never forget their impact.

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