In anticipation Irene, sprang high off my lap seconds before a loud knock resounded on my front door.
“You are in a potential flooding zone,” yelled an NYPD Cop, “emergency management has announced last minute mandatory evacuations for your area. If you plan to stay and weather the storm, you are on your own. Sign this waiver please.”
After a week of poor economic news and a 5.8 earthquake with its epicenter in Richmond, Virginia, catastrophic disaster warnings triggered post traumatic memories in the collective New York psyche.
I could not believe what the officer was telling me, as he handed me the list of city-wide shelters. I immediately saw my neighbors, the Goldwyns, packing their car with several bags, boxes, and their two miniature bull terriers.
“Those shelters don’t welcome pets,” they shouted. “We are going out of town.”
“The bridges and mass transit system will be shut down shortly,” announced the policemen. I had a flashback to 911 when Manhattan became closed off.
It had been hours of rainy clouded columns of grey sky when already wrecked nerves prompted millions to empty out supermarket shelves and convenience stores in a frantic search for supplies. Fighting for batteries and essentials, jittery resident formed lines at the grocery store which took hours to reach the register. I saw people getting swarms of candy and popcorn as if the lockdown meant another fun media hype and freakish entertainment. Sick to my stomach I could not contain my angst. The live coverage of this tropical hurricane “reality show” alerted possible flooding for miles into residential areas up the eastern continental seaboard. Across five states, mandatory evacuations led millions of people to second homes, family and shelters.
As I recovered on the sidewalk, I noticed down the street that disaster response teams were setting up sand barricades. At that moment I remembered that my homeowners insurance did not cover flood damage. Desperately checking my “iphone” for pet shelters, I panicked. Who would take care of my old cat Irene. I started to shake, as I stuffed my backpack with, keys, maps, credit cards, passport, mortgage, deeds, utility receipts. Racing thoughts confirmed my worst nightmare unfolding before me. In a swirl of rapture I was about to lose it all, the whole rug swept from underneath me, no attachments, no addictions, no familiar way of life.
I had to leave Irene with enough food and water to last 5 days. My black silver alley cat had belonged to my deceased uncle Erwin. I closed the door behind me as she purred and scrambled into quantum de-coherence.
Emergency management had deployed disaster camps with congested registration at the door. Admitting residents required proper utility receipts, state identification and mandatory teaser wrist trackers upon entry. Thousands of bunker cots bumped up long lines to the bathroom. Meals had been rationed. With little communication to the outside, we all felt broken and despairing. Homeland security enforced mandatory vaccinations and fingerprinting; we all walked around with electronic chip badges.
After hours of surveillance, the loud anxious distressed cell phone chattering grew louder. Regular public announcements in three languages amplified the sobbing sighs of rich and poor, black, white, Polish, Chinese, Latinos and Jews. The crowded warehouse facility gave me a glimpse of how the millions of displaced African-American families in New Orleans might have felt after Katrina.
The lobby area had a giant tent with a dining floor designated area. On every corner big plasma TV screens tracked the storm updates. A news hour story leaked that occupation-backed Libyan rebel forces had indiscriminately killed, mistreated and tortured thousands of innocent black migrants in detention camps. How could this be happening? Was this one more government aggression, all in the name of Liberty? If enough good people stood together we would be able to stop this new genocide.
Facing facts and getting upset was only dependent on a lingering hope that a return to normalcy was just around the corner. Deterring to mental strategies, I shut my eyes and pretended to enforce my ability to affect my own destiny. Maybe this way it will all go away. I could not believe that just a few hours ago, I was planning my seasonal weekend trip to the sinful Jersey shore.
Next day I turned over and almost fell out of my shaky cot. A talking head came up close, disclosing news of how the storm of the century had been disappointedly degraded. I could go home now. Perhaps this had all been staged by the new world order apparatus. To them this emergency disaster situation had been but a ruthless exercise in what is about to become routine.
Death does come to us all, but not until then my old cat Irene was both dead and alive. I secretly slid the key into my apartment door, unlocking this paradox.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carlos Cuellar Brown is a New York City media artist and essayist who has written on new media, social theory and metaphysics. His essays have been posted online by Opendemocracy, The Global Dispatches, The Pelican Web, Kosmos Journal, and STARDRIVE.
In 2013 his essay “Intermedial Being” was published by A Journal of Performance and Art PAJ #106 MIT Press Journals. In 2015 Mr. Brown was nominated for the TWOTY awards out of the Netherlands for his essay “Blueprint for Change”. He has been a regular columnist for Second Sight Magazine and Fullinsight.
His book, In Search of Singularity: Reflections and Chronicles from the End of Time, published 29 January 2017, is a series of reflections on the current cultural evolution from competition to cooperation, from patriarchy to reciprocity between humanity and the human habitat.