In a rather round-about way, many of the artists have provided a visible analog for the Second Law of Thermo-dynamics, which extrapolates the range of entropy by telling us energy is more easily lost than obtained, and that in the ultimate future the whole universe will burn out and be transformed into an all-encompassing sameness. The "blackout" that covered the Northeastern states recently, may be seen as a preview of such a future. Far from creating a mood of dread, the power failure created a mood of euphoria. An almost cosmic joy swept over all the darkened cities. Why people felt that way may never be answered.
Looking south from 26th, nothing apparently out of the norm. Helicopters hovering over certain points, a black cloud of smoke from the 14th street generating station. Someone with a transistor radio tells us its out all the way to Toronto. Packing up: empty a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke and fill it with water. Down on the street everyone walking and waiting, listening to radios in parked cars, wondering where to go. We walk to Half King and get the last seats on the patio, imagine what we'd do if there was a chemical attack. Swim to Jersey or just hang out by the docks. Walking crosstown. Line-ups at blacked out dollar stores: candles, batteries and water. At Lexington several thousand people, almost all of colour, are lined up for two or three buses headed for Jersey. Traffic gets thicker as we get east. On First it is bumper-to-bumper, slower than walking. Duck into a small Italian place where people eating salads don't even notice me slip in to the dark back and find the bathroom. My shoes splash a small puddle covering the floor. I don't want to know more. Line-ups at bodegas, a teenager guarding the door with a flashlight. Only one or two people allowed in at a time. Kate's has a sign in the window saying only drinks and beer. Up to Michael's where we have dinner: a cheese sandwich and a mug of half-melted chocolate ice cream.
Down from the roof at Michael's where Jersey was faintly glowing behind the skyline, casting a shade of a shadow, barely discernable on the faade of the Empire State building. Towards the east, Brooklyn dark and seeming even darker, the imprint of the bridge disappearing into the grayness beyond it. Down through the steps counting 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 so as not to miss the last one. Slivers of faces and circles of light carried up the other direction. Darker closer to the ground. Only the railing.
The streets brighter than inside. Exhilarating. From a block away the sound of a large crowd. At 3b, music and candle-light. No one with any money because the ATM's don't work. Barter and neighborhood credit, favors to be paid back sooner or later. Down the street flares burning at the corners. People walking down the centre of the street. At the corner deli, candles everywhere. Better sell it while you can. Beer with perspiration still on it. Pre-made hummous. Bags of chips. Outside, a hint of the stink to come. A single day and so many things become garbage.
Towards Tomkins Square the sounds of another large crowd. From the corner the first view of fires. Giant bonfire and east village types beating out a drum beat and throwing cardboard boxes, fireworks, limbs of trees onto the blaze. Heat from 20 feet away. People necking and not noticing anything else. Three boys with their shirts off, flexing for themselves. A tourist in town with a ten-gallon hat covered in blue fluorescent bands, jingle bells on his wrists, still trying his cell phone. Other smaller fires across the park. Smaller circles of drums elsewhere. Cops hovering on the edge of the park, not bothering to come through.
Down towards Third, trying to get a cab. The first and last one to stop won't even consider going to Brooklyn. I leave Michael and Jeffrey at Houston, a group of thirty people at the bridge entrance, stopping cabs to fill them up with extra passengers. Down Essex, seeming empty all along the park. Every other stoop has someone sitting there in silence, in the dark. Passed Good World where there are a few stragglers at the bar in candlelight. A crowd of kids outside on the sidewalk, not the usual hipsters, just neighborhood kids hanging out. Who's dat shouted out as I pass. Closer to Canal, lots of police at the bridge. Cars rumbling past overhead, shadows at the far end that sometimes turn out to be people coming the other way, sometimes not. Lights on down near Wall Street, a drunk asking me why they got the power. A Q-train stuck halfway across the bridge, right where it was when the power cut, the conductor slumped asleep still at the wheel. At the far end, kids hanging out on the steps. Con Ed trucks all over Tillary. On Flatbush, a couple hover by a minivan. He reading in the dark, her pacing back and forth. A woman sleeping by the open van door with a newborn on her chest. Dekalb empty, lights on at the hospital. The sound of an ambulance backing in. A host of workers smoking on the stoop outside. Candlelight through the bulletproof night slots of the convenience stores. Someone muttering a curse as they cross the street. At home the key sticks in the lock, needing the same push and wiggle as the day before.