Autumn in the Big Apple is a true delight, and, quite frankly, the season couldn’t have made its presence any sooner. Summer 2011 dispensed weather extremes of the highest order, to the point where New Yorkers, not the most tolerant souls at the best of times, became fed up to the back teeth with freaky forecasts and unimaginable conditions. So, being as the mysteries of meteorology have now become an everyday news item, I offer no excuse for dispensing the accompanying address about the region’s climate. As an aside, at least the subject makes a change from the interminable round of political prospectors who’ve been boring us mindless in the media, and will continue to do so for another twelve months as they gear up for the 2012 Presidential Election.
The chaos first reigned back in July when soaring temperatures began to melt the mercury on thermometers and barometers everywhere you went. Here in our 33rd floor apartment, Annie and I cranked up what is normally an efficient and responsive air-conditioning system to gain some relief. But on the day that a record high of 108 degrees was recorded a few miles away at Newark International Airport, the coolant began to boil, not to mention those who it was supposed to be refrigerating. Having lived in the south and visited sweat-boxes like South Africa and Hong Kong, I can honestly say that I have never felt so uncomfortable in my life. All in all, the atmosphere became little short of brutal for the next several weeks.
Somehow we learned to live with the humidity, the kind that belonged in a rain forest rather than a normally temperate metropolis like Manhattan. But then, just when things began to settle down, along came the next challenge. An Indiana Jones scenario not usually associated with the local terrain. On what started out as an ordinary Tuesday afternoon late in August, tremors from a 5.8 magnitude earthquake epicenter-ed in Virginia shook the city and sent seismologists racing to their digitizers and accelerometers. Whilst not on a level of the truly serious earth-moving moments felt by Californians, the shock waves nevertheless did tens of millions of dollars worth of damage to buildings and infrastructure.
What the hell was going on? Well, nothing compared to the next round of fun and frolics that blew in just a few days later. “In Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen”. So said the Hungarian film producer, Gabriel Pascal. Once upon a time the man’s assertion (it evolved in “Pygmalion”) could logically be extended around the New York area to include Harlem, Hoboken and Hell’s Kitchen but not any more. The final weekend in August was the date on the calendar when we were introduced to Ms. Irene. Hurricane Irene, to be precise. This enormous ball of Atlantic tempestuousness barreled inland at speeds approaching 110 miles-per-hour, and it landed a direct hit on the city.
The Mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, straightaway put into action a well-rehearsed strategy that involved evacuations and closures throughout the whole of Manhattan. To see Times Square totally empty as the rain lashed down and the winds did their worst, was a sight I shall never forget. Curfews were put in place and all but official vehicles disappeared off the streets. It was as near as you could get to a futuristic doomsday movie out of Hollywood. What nobody had foreseen was the flood damage that would be caused upstate in the Hudson Valley and along the shores of Connecticut. To that end, it was good to know that such notable area residents as Ernest Borgnine, Ronnie Spector and Keith Richards were not baling water or stuck up trees.
It is all a good deal calmer now, with the prospect of some far more agreeable conditions settling in for the immediate future. Hopefully, the long-range forecast will be kind to Charleston, South Carolina, (a truly delightful part of the world) as the Colmans are due to attend a society wedding there in a few days time. Much shopping has been done upfront, with the result that yours truly will be decked-out in a brand new suit from Macys, whilst Annie will be proudly showing off a little figure-hugging number from Bloomingdales. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because the weather aberrations we’ve suffered have been playing havoc with the lady’s wardrobe of late.