c. Ann Bodle-Nash, 2012
We’re waiting on hurricane Sandy and she’s late. We are hunkered down in the Sheraton Suites hotel, half a mile from the Philadelphia airport, with Cheetos, a jar of peanut butter, some applesauce, peanuts, and two cans of tuna. The airport is closed, will be tomorrow too and our tickets have been changed five times. The latest redo was delivered via email from Delta this morning. But all four of us, fresh out of a dental conference this weekend in Philly, are warm, dry and kind of excited. We have suitcases of party clothes–men tuxedo’s and ladies outfits appropriate for the White House, or more correctly the Inn at the Union League. But practical hurricane gear? Not so much.
My friend Leslie is wearing my workout pants. I’m wearing my green cords with spandex. The men are wearing jeans. We have a rental car but can’t agree whether we should have driven west when we could have, to a more western city with an open airport. But there were no seats available departing to the west– Seattle and Sacramento– even as far west as Chicago, so the car sits parked, away from trees, in the lot. Now we need to sit tight and watch the storm that continues to build. The airports in New York, Jersey, and Pennsylvania are closed.
The leaf-covered trees are blowing side to side, the light pole swaying, rain skittering in sheets across the parking lot. From our 5th floor room we have a view to the north, including a major bridge entrance which is blocked by police vehicles. Nothing– but wind and rain– is moving.
We went out to Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant last night for a steak dinner, feeling it to be our last hot meal for days. But it’s now nearly 3 pm Monday, the next day, and we have power, a fridge packed with boxed salads, a rotisserie chicken breast, a few boiled eggs. Our just-in-case-of-emergency provisions.
There are others here–ER doctors taking their oral, board proficiency exams behind numbered hotel room doors. These docs are young and eager, not put off by weather. I imagine they are used to much worse than some wind and rain and over-turned benches. One guy told us he’s driving back to Detroit tomorrow, storm or not–unless the roads are closed with debris.
The hotel staff are cheerful, some planning to be here indefinitely. Worry is on their faces too.
A young African-American woman, an employee trapped by the storm, sits near the elevator giving specific directions to someone on the other end of the cell phone. “Put the baby in his sleepers with feet, zip his jacket and put him in the car seat. Do it now. Get driving.” The anguish of every mother in a terrible situation is on her face.
Another worker tells us, “I’m staying here for the duration. Sleeping here, eating here. I’m with you’all.” He seems confident.
They are setting up a buffet line for dinner instead of a menu in the restaurant cafe, to accommodate whomever appears. One workers tells us of a storm last year when 40 inches of snow shut down the roads and people packed the lobby for a day. “We won’t turn anyone away,” says the employee.”
I expect a party scene in the lobby bar tonight, reminiscent of New Orleans with a hurricane approaching. But do those particular, tall tulip-shaped hurricane glasses exist this far north?
Leslie is worried about her son, who is part of a 15 truck, linesmen repair convoy summoned from Fresno, California to New Jersey, on the road east since last Thursday. They have just arrived in NYC, awaiting orders. She fears downed power lines, sleep deprived workers and live wires. The dance between careful moves and death a narrow one.
CNN, CNBC, and The Weather Channel run a stream of images–beaches with angry waves smashing into board walks; the rising Hudson river in NYC; empty, closed airports, subways, train stations ; emergency shelters; the closed stock exchange. We watch because we can’t figure what else to do.
They have dubbed the storm Frankenstorm days before it arrives. Halloween is in two days which I guess is the link. Others merely call it The Perfect Storm, worse yet than the infamous one of a decade ago. At this point it is no more than a typically fierce Pacific Northwest winter wind-and-rain storm, but the eye and full fury are not yet here.
I have never been in a hurricane, although I have heard stories of Andrew, Camille, Eneke, and Irene, and wonder what’s coming. Our hotel has a glass atrium at its core, the glass ceiling allowing light on a clear day. Not my best bet for a hurricane, but Hotwire didn’t anticipate the storm when we booked one night weeks ago.
Batten down the hatches, pull the drapes over the window glass and hang on sister.
Timestamp: 6 PM. Philadelphia. Sandy has arrived.
Indie It Travel recommends these Philadelphia spots when life resumes in Philly:
Chris’ Jazz Cafe
1421 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 (215) 568-3131
Fabulous food. Sexy, dark atmosphere. Varied cover charge depending on performers. Students from local music conservatories and universities predominated during the week. More experienced…smoother musicians…on the weekends. Ask for a Pomegranate Martini.
The Victor Cafe, Music Lovers Rendezvous, Since 1918
1303 Dickenson Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Lovely Italian restaurant in South Philly, with waiters singing Opera between courses. Fantastic young voices, powerful deliveries. You just might learn to love opera. They claim to be, “A Philadelphia insititution and home of Rocky Balboa.”
Category: Indie It Travel