Thursday, August 28, 2003

Recollections of the NYC blackout

What a charged moment. Writing in the dark, high above Times Square, I only see the silhouettes of a light charade that is usually the HSBC sign, Nasdaq swirling ticker, and the US Army Recruiting Center. Now, it is all black, at the mercy of the sun which skirted off to the west to leave this proud city in an anticipated state of lascivious fun. I can only see bandit cars throwing light shadows from their headlights gliding slowly down Broadway into the shouting maelstrom. It seems that there are several police cars patrolling the same streets - they flash by every fourth car - but it is the uncertainty of a New York night without artificial lights that scares (perhaps excites?) me most.
Because above all else, New York is a city manufactured with the lights of a million dreams of human ambition writ large as the usually-sparkling Times Square promenades. But once the lights black out, there is raw human energy left, a different sort of human desire that finds its expression in more base forms. It is the soul of humans beneath the facade, beneath the glamour and veneer of well-lit placards. Tonight, New York has become that side of human motive manifested.
Even still, the passing cars and the trickling stream of headlights ennobles the city with a certain frankness and nostalgia that is charming. Suffocated by a lack of air conditioning but also stripped merrily of cellphone coverage and robot chatter, New Yorkers reverted to a simpler form of interaction in the streets. Just as the last major event in 2001, New Yorkers were bound together in a difficult if unique moment that inadvertently brought everyone together.
This time, the result was like spinng clocks back 100 years ago, when electricity was a novelty still and telegraphs were a thing of the industrialists and super-rich. We were all walking the streets in scatter-brained unison, talking to our neighbors and sharing the bustle of a certain experience on a less-than-ordinary day. In that moment, I rejoiced to share a genuine moment with 8 million strangers self-chosen to live a life of hopeful ambition on an island of palpable opportunity. Simple moment, simple living.
For all the optimism, fear, and anxiousness that this unbelievable night suggests, it is truly and certainly a New York moment.
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