Monday, 5 November 2012
How I survived Sandy, or, there is more to New York City than Times Square
I had planned to round off my series on 'Time Travelling via the Opera Tour' with memories old and new of New York. (I am currently there, in my debut season on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera, covering Ariel in Thomas Ades' The Tempest.) The planned blog was full of charming anecdotes about my life in New York prior to emigrating to the UK, introducing my eldest son to my favourite city, and the anticipation of introducing my younger son to the delights of the Big Apple when they came to visit me during their half term holiday.
Then came Sandy.
Now, in many, many ways we were very lucky: my family's flight arrived safely, on time, the day before the city started shutting down in preparation for the storm, we never lost power during the worst of the bad weather, had plenty of food and supplies in, and their flight back to the UK happened on schedule. We were unhurt, warm, safe and dry. However, my vision of gamboling in Central Park, showing the boys around the Metropolitan Opera House, visiting the Museum of Natural History, etc, etc, had to be revised slightly.
Our digs were in a vacation rental apartment in Brooklyn. Fine and dandy if the subway system is running, but a world away from the 'famous' bits of New York if not. I was contractually obligated to be within 20 minutes of the opera house during Wednesday's performance of The Tempest, which involved taking a bus to downtown Brooklyn, walking across a bridge to lower Manhattan, which was still without power, wandering through Chinatown and SoHo until finally flagging down a cab, which then crawled through the gridlocked streets up to Lincoln Center. Not a journey I fancied with kids in tow. (Eerily, the last performance at the Met before the hurricane was The Tempest, and the first after two nights of cancellations was also The Tempest. Made the storm scene quite prescient...)
It quickly became apparent that the public transport system was not going to be restored before the family returned to the UK, so we found ways to experience the city from our side of the East River: real American trick-or-treating (it is a competitive sport to see who has the scariest decorations on their house in Brooklyn), authentic New York pizza from Tony's Pizzeria, a day at the local shopping mall with enormous cheeseburgers for lunch, plus a rummage through the Salvation Army store to see what charity shops look like in the USA, and a visit to the zoo in Prospect Park. My family returned home with plenty of good memories and souvenirs of their time with me in New York. And, let us not forget, we survived an actual hurricane. What I did on my school holidays, indeed.