Black Out #52

When parents with existing children decide to remarry and become a blended family, I think there ought to be mandatory premarital counseling. JUST TO CLUE THEM IN ON THE BIG STUFF!! This is not an endeavor for the timid or the weak-kneed. We need a guidebook to drum common sense into our heads prior to the event, because what love has to do with things at that point is only a tiny part of the equation, an infintesimal part actually.  Just because the soon-to-be man and wife love each other to bits, does not automatically guarantee that the stepparent will love or even like your child, and certainly doesn’t imply the step-siblings will be peachy keen on each other. Does everyone out there know that the stepparent is not to discipline the child/children of the biological parent? Where is this written? In a secret bat cave in Afghanistan? Just a random, stray thought, but I wish a little birdie had whispered such wisdom in my ear four years ago. Now, before my head starts spinning 360 degrees, and black vomit spews from my mouth, let’s move on to another installment of “Texas Toast”.

When Jack and I returned to NYC, newly and unexpectedly married, several parties were held in our honor. It felt like we were on a very long, exhilerating vacation. On the night of July 13, 1977, we had been invited to be VIP guests at the private screening of a soon-to-be-released movie entitled “Julia”, starring Jane Fonda and Meryl Streep. One of Jack’s good friends, James, had worked on the film, and the black-tie screening seemed like just another night of fun. After the screening, we were invited to join James and his wife for a celebratory dinner at a  trendy Cuban restaurant that had just opened in the West Village. We had just placed our drink order and were just starting to peruse the menu when we had our first inkling something was very wrong. When the staff brought lit candles to the tables, I just thought it was a romantic gesture. Soon I noticed two odd things. The streets were suddenly swollen with people, most of whom were holding lit candles. Also, the wait staff seemed to be purposely delaying taking dinner orders. After about an hour we were finally informed by the owner that Manhattan was being affected by a black out and they would be closing for the night.

I’d heard of the big black out of 1965 but never considered the possibility of being in one personally. At that point it was around 10PM and we were starving, so , with all businesses and restaurants we passed being closed, we decided to go to to James’ brownstone and raid the fridge. Several hours went by and there was still no power; the entire city was dark as far as the eye could see. It was quite an eery sight. Although we were invited to spend the night at the couple’s house, we decided to head home, clueless about what we were going to encounter. First, there were no cabs available; they were all packed wth people, and traffic resembled the wild west with no functioning street lights or traffic signals. Thousands of folks had taken to the streets to be part of this crazy night, and we were packed elbow to elbow. Jack and I certainly stood out, as he was wearing a tux, and I was  in my white wedding dress and extremely high heels. You know that expression “stood out like a sore thumb”? Well, that was us that night and probably was a huge factor in what transpired next.

We had finally given up on the idea of catching a taxi, and decided to walk home from the Village to our midtown apartment. All was uneventful until we reached 23rd street. From there until we reached Macy’s at 34th and Broadway, we witnessed rampaging gangs smashing store windows and looting; storefronts were being shattered and glass was flying everywhere. I was becoming increasingly alarmed and started to fear for our safety. We were suddenly surrounded by a menacing group of teens who began taunting us and trying to snatch my purse; it all started out almost playfully, but was quickly escalating into something ugly as they began jabbing at Jack and tugging at my dress and earrings. Suddenly it seemed as if the entire crowd on the street was focused on us, as they began to chant, “Get the rich people”. Then, someone yelled out, “Rape the bitch first, then kill them”. The entire energy of the street became supercharged with danger, and I knew we were in great jeopardy. The fear was paralyzing, and was almost a physical thing that you could taste in your mouth, like toxic metal. I remember the sensation of blood draining from my head and feeling almost etherial and ghostlike, as though I was simultaneously present and not.

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Suddenly, a cabbie began honking his horn and yelling “Get in, get in fast”. The car was crammed full of bodies, but it looked like an avenging angel to my terrified eyes. The door of the checker cab swung open, and both Jack and I dove in, headfirst. We had to sit on the laps of fellow passengers. Apparently this cabbie had been going around for some time rescuing folks in our situation. When he dropped us in front of our building, Jack emptied his wallet of every bit of cash he had, probably $100-200, and I hugged that good cabbie for all he was worth; I shudder to think what would have happened if he hadn’t come along at precisely that second.  Another Toe Tag moment averted!

In the lobby of our building, the superintendent’s wife had decided to open her own business; she was selling candles and books of matches to the residents in order to make their way up the pitch black stairs. I can’t describe the total darkness of that night; imagine no ambient light coming from anywhere. I suppose that must be what blindness feels like. I reluctantly gave Lupe my last ten dollar bill and off we went, trudging our way up 13 flights of stairs, with only the company of two candles and a book of matches.

The next morning we woke up to find electricity restored, and read of horrific accounts of violence on the streets, some as close as the Brooks Brothers’ store on Madison Avenue, quite near our Lenox Hill apartment. I reached deep into my Catholic past, and said a heartfelt prayer of gratitude to my guardian angel for getting us out of Herald Square in one piece, but it would only be another eight weeks until that penthouse on the unlucky 13th floor would remind me once again that it had an urgent message for me. Would I be listening then?

2 thoughts on “Black Out #52

  1. Pingback: A Night To Remember | Just Another Gay In The Life

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