Thursday, November 8, 2012

In Case of Emergency

A busload of ten year olds including myself sat in devil’s food darkness, passing around rolls of Pep-O-Mint Lifesavers. We had heard that if you bit into them they would shoot sparks, and this class trip to see the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City had given us a mobile laboratory. We planned to use the time spent sitting in traffic after the show, the value pack of silver skirted candy, and the dark belly of the bus to create our very own light show. Hopefully, First Aid would not be needed.

Watch out, world! We went to Costco!

As you can imagine, a handful of meek and unconfirmed sparks fired dully throughout the bus. It was not the explosive fireworks we had been hoping for, but it was somehow magical nonetheless. A bunch of kids sitting in the dark, shooting off peppermint scented sparks.

Darkness is inevitable, but in New York City it is above all improbable.
When Hurricane Sandy blasted the island last week, it ravaged the coastline-taking boats with it, and leaving piles of garbage in its place. It left the bottom third of the island without power for several days, making aerial shots of the city eerily similar to the iconic satellite photos of North and South Korea. A duality of lifestyle presented by the shocking juxtaposition of darkness and light.

Thrown into a pre-electricity existence, essentially everything below 34th St. shut down. No trains, no lights, and no hot food. Gangs of New Yorkin’ it.

EXCEPT for a very specific resource that flag-wrapped Daniel Day Lewis did NOT have at his disposal…Food Trucks.

I write about food trucks because they are widely delicious, almost exclusively seasonal, and they reflect the hands-on methodology of today’s great chefs. Now there’s another reason to add to the list.
They are really handy to have around in an emergency. Since trucks work off of their own generators instead of electricity, in the days following Sandy they became a lifeline for those living in the Lower East Side, West Village, Financial District, and Battery Park areas of the city. Companies and organizations such as Jet Blue, Chase, and the Mayors Fund sponsored days of free food to these areas, and New Yorkers crowded around their neighborhood food truck for a hot meal, and a desperately needed phone charge.
By the time that I got into the city a week ago, and hours before power began to return to Lower Manhattan, most of these trucks had re-located to the more damaged and still dark areas of the city, including the Rockaways, Red Hook, and Breezy Point.

It is easy to take things for granted. It is a psycho-emotional side effect of our modern times. New York is a city of ultimate accessibility, but when it needs to be it is also a city of ultimate resourcefulness. In a city where you can get absolutely anything that it might occur to you to want (I once passed a shop in the village that dealt exclusively in animal portraits) you can stand in a blacked-out street 3 days after an unprecedented natural disaster, charging your phone and eating a nutella smeared liege waffle from the Wafels and Dinges truck. Or a kimchi and chicken thigh burrito from Korilla BBQ.
New York city knows exactly what to do with darkness. You use it to help you see sparks.
*All photos courtesy of The NYC Food Truck Association Pinterest pinboard.

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