Monday, November 12, 2012

Post Hurricane Sandy -- Reflections on the "American Dream" and Post-War Building Boom

Well, I have to say [blushingly] that I have been incredibly fortunate through these two atorms -- Hurricane Sandy and the Nor'easter.  Not only did I never lose power or heat,  but once again I am reminded of the awesome group of aides I have, who managed to work out logistics among themselves to get to me and never leave me without an aide.  It helps that two of my aides are a mother and a daughter who live in the same house, but the third lives in Brooklyn, and has a husband who was able to drive her over.  My fourth aide is spending a month in her home country of India.  She left a few days before the storm, and is coming back a couple of days before Thanksgiving.  I'm sure she is watching the news from India and thankful she managed to get away at the right time.

But, as someone who always volunteered for causes like AIDS, cancer, MS and a lot of other charities, it's very tough for me to sit and watch what is happening and feel so helpless that I can't do more to help.  Compounding this feeling is the fact that my family and friends in Long Island have not had power or heat for almost two weeks, and might not get it back until Thanksgiving.  My sister and her family have a generator, but even people with generators have a hardship getting the gasoline needed to run them.  I am hearing that my 84-year-old father is in his home five minutes away from my sister, also with no power or heat.  I am told [I can't get in touch with him by email or telephone] that he prefers to stay in his own home [which I totally understand].[update: my dad emailed me the afternoon of Sunday, November 11 to say that the power came back on, and that he spent whole days under the covers in bed]    And my good friends and their almost-three-year-old twins are also suffering. I really feel for my hometown of Long Beach, which is destroyed, the Jersey Shore and the Rockaways. As I write this, there are still homes without heat or power almost two weeks after the storm.  Some homes have generators but there is a shortage of gasoline to run the generators, and gas rationing is in effect in New York State.

A lot of Long Island communities -- especially those near the coastline -- were built on landfill or marshland, and I think the weak foundations just gave way in combination with the low elevation.  This includes a lot of NYCHA housing projects, one of which I spent my childhood in.  They were built to house World War II veterans like my dad, and their young families.  This storm and the destruction it wrought, had me thinking a lot about this "American Dream" we have all been chasing since after the second world war, the dream of marriage, family, and eventually home ownership.  The communities which sprung up on Long Island were in response to that dream and the supply couldn't keep up with the demand, and so the older established communities had to give way to communities built on landfill and marshland and -- in some cases -- on top of dangerous chemical waste, leading to the epidemic of cancer cases in places like Nassau County.  This all makes me want to read more about the history of Long Island and Staten Island.  I remember when we used to come out from Brooklyn to go to Nathan's in Oceanside when I was a child, and there was a woodsy forest behind Nathan's.  And where I am living in Rego Park, apartment houses were built on farmland, although Flushing Meadows Corona Park was built on a big garbage dump, which you can see in the movie "The Great Gatsby".  Kind of creepy the way that Robert Moses oversaw the construction of all the highways around my neighborhood just to bring people to the 1939-40  New York Worlds Fair, which took place on a garbage dump.

Anyway, I have to go see an endocrinologist about the nodule on my thyroid.  And now, I am scared shitless because Brooke Burke Charvet, the hostess of "Dancing with the Stars" also had a nodule on her thyroid and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and has to have a thyroidectomy.  I am keeping my fingers crossed and will call the doctor I was referred to, first thing tomorrow.....ugh.

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