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Sunday August 17, 2003, 04:46

Twenty three.

There were twenty three cockroach traps hiding underneath my refrigerator along with twenty years worth of dust and various kitchen detritus that had been accumulating since the previous (and only former) tenant of this apartment moved in when this building opened.

I feel like the fridge is now breathing a little easier, though I shudder to think what I will find tomorrow when I walk into the kitchen as all of the empty space now left under it provides the perfect outlet for all of the air being kicked out the bottom of the appliance, and with that air will come tumbling out the remaining dust balls. But that's what Dustbusters are for, presumably.

This all comes about, of course, as I was recently informed that during the recent blackout, a cockroach of undetermined size was found hanging out on top of the lemonade container that had been emptied and was sitting on the counter awaiting rinsing. This cockroach, unaware that it was supposed to scatter and hide, remained on the container and soon found itself staring down the business end of the kitchen sink. The removal of that one roach not withstanding, I do not relish the thought of sharing my eating space with the most vile looking insects in the city. In laying down traps to catch these bastards, however, I uncovered an ecosystem of dust and ancient roach motels living under the largest appliance in my apartment.

So what of this blackout? I really couldn't let the opportunity pass without imparting upon my (now dwindling) audience the Blackout of '03 from my perspective. The truth is that I am incredibly tired right now and the words are not flowing as they once were, and my keyboard is hurting my hands and I feel a closer connection to photos1 than I do to words right now, but still, the only way to get a muscle back in shape is to flex it (or so the common belief goes) and so I begin to write. Again.

After the power went out, and after I decided that it worth walking down the twenty-seven flights of stairs in my apartment building, I hit the streets to watch as thousands of people headed down broadway, heading for the bridge to Brooklyn. Those who weren't heading across the river were heading towards delis and corner markets, stocking up on fresh supplies of beer which were, by the time night rolled around, in short demand. Wandering back up through the Lower East Side after spending some time at the bridge, I saw a girl writing "LOVE" on the sidewalk. She had started at one end of the block and was heading south, filling sidewalk square after sidewalk square with those four letters.

Further uptown, a crowd had gathered around an East Village street vendor selling books. These too (like the beer and the water) became fairly hot sellers as it was realized by one of the young men standing by the table that "books don't need electricity to work, either!"

After the East Village and a stop at a friend's apartment2, it was decided that we would trudge up to Times Square where we found no lights and hundreds of people milling about in the street, locked out of their hotels, stranded in the city or just eager to be in Times Square when the light finally came back on. Those in the last group would be sorely disappointed as the Midtown lights wouldn't come on until late morning on Friday. Photographers appeared out of every crowd, all trying to capture darkness on film and attempting for it to come out a little less like darkness and a little more like "what the brightest place on earth looks like when all the power is out." They were also taking photos of flares and at one point I looked up (after taking my own flare photo) and saw three others, crouching next to the red, crackling glow of the (for the time-being) brightest things in sight.

Having taken my fill of photos of folks and flares, I headed back downtown, and back up the twenty-seven flights of stairs I had descended mere hours earlier. From the apartment, the city was quiet. The hum of the fans on the buildings around and the roar of the cars down Broadway were both conspicuously absent, and I liked it. As the waning moon rose over the dark city, the only noises I heard were from the bicyclists rolling through the empty streets, whooping and hollering at intersections and any passers-by who would listen.

And the city was alive in ways that it never had been before.



1. I can't tell whether it is out of fear, pain or laziness that I have been spending the time to post a photo a day at jessechannorris.com but have left the pith journal relatively un-loved. Much of it is a time issue. I just have not made it a priority to schedule an hour or so to sit down and write out a solid entry. I have also recently begun to make the call that falling asleep at the keyboard is not appropriate behavior and that sleep (be it on the couch or in bed) would be preferable to writing. The laziness may speak to the frequency with which I will expect to write for a little while to come, which would be unfortunate, or it could be a wakeup call for me to start carving out the time and mental energy it would take in my day to actually keep my journal (and my writing brain) updated. Only time will tell.

2. The building next door caught fire on Thursday afternoon and as the firefighters tore out the windows on the second and third floors to try to extinguish the flames, all of the lights in the city. So just imagine this scenario: You leave work because the power just went out and you have to walk down the stairs in your office building since you don't want to take the elevator even if it has backup power; You then walk a very long way home, since you live in the East Village near A and you work in midtown (or perhaps the financial district) and, sweating and tired, you come upon your building which has glass on the sidewalk and looking up, you see that your apartment and the ones around it, are now burn-out shells of the homes they used to be. Think about that and then try to complain about the blackout.

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