Thursday, 15 November 2012
By Renee Watkins
Two whole days lie ahead, to be enjoyed, “used,” lived, that's for sure. They feel like fresh leaves of paper or perhaps grape leaves to be stuffed.
Here's a real treat. New York is not cold. The storm has pretty much passed and while certain areas (in Manhattan zone A) got flooded and a somewhat larger area lost power, the scene is peaceful and the one house where a whole wall collapsed was still standing, albeit open like a dollhouse. This event is to bombing as a hangnail to poisoning.
The usual business of life is reduced to a sane and simple, local aliveness. The subways are partially flooded and the tunnels too. (Beyond the city, of course, some localities have been flooded wall to wall.)
This is a dress rehearsal for the rising of the sea - the inevitable rising of the sea.
This experience was quite brilliantly managed by government and even, in terms of turning off transformers, by GE.
The news was non-stop drama - not so much fear-mongering as search for pictures to arouse compassion. Hence, not so much drama as melodrama. Not catharsis but a sense of being actually safe enough. At least that's my view.
My friend, watching big-eyed the huge waves beside highways and neighborhoods she knows well, was clearly moved to a degree of awe and dismay and concern. Her son, on the other hand, with a certainty that belongs to being 15, thought the media were just whipping up emotion and that the whole thing was not such a big deal.
Perhaps the biggest thing about this storm was the placement of it, squarely over the heads of 50 million Americans, over the mid-Atlantic states and over part of New England and on to the West as far as Michigan.
Saturday, my friend took me to a Broadway production, exquisitely well done, of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The movie was good, as I remember it, but the play was much more powerful - both harsher and at bottom, kinder. The movie was farce and tragedy, the play was more human - alternating wit and sorrow and hope.
It stirred us up to an outpouring of personal truths! During the first 10-minute intermission, I told her as I never had, the horror of my history department's venality and abuse of power which of course had a lot to do with my desire to get out of academe.
She, on the other hand, told me with passion that when she was in law school, she was determined to drop out if she did not make Law Review. I had not known at all about her sense of succeed or die when she did finally enter professional school. That told me more about her character than I ever knew.
What, besides the atmosphere of the play, provoked all this was the plot: a struggle for love and status in which status is the key to love or its absence.
All of which says to me that art is often more powerful than nature because it comes from within the shared mind rather than from the external world. The news is pretty much a mediation of the external world. For all that it mediates shocking content, as art, it is monotonous and cliche-ridden, hence not likely to stir up mind and memory to unexpected depths.
The air whips over the lip of the bottled town,
whistling a sonorous note,
Go into your houses folk,
button up, hunker down.
Shish and boom,
water leaping salt and rain,
willing as no man could be
to treat us all the same.
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