Hurricane Sandy hit on the evening I was supposed to shoot a fundraising gala for a choral society. The gala was canceled, but we still needed photos for an upcoming audio piece, so a few days post-storm I took the apocalyptic shuttle — with its block-winding hoards of people, all making calls to friends and relatives out of state to exclaim Oh. My. God, you would not believe how crazy this is, I’m going to be like three hours late to work, or raising their smartphones into the air to Instagram and immediately Tweet the moment — into Manhattan to shoot the chorale’s rehearsal.
The rehearsal was for a concert they were having that night; one of the few they have in the year. We couldn’t record any material at the concert itself, but after the rehearsal I realized I had little else to do, beyond take the terrible shuttle back home to my cookie-filled apartment. So I walked from Chelsea to Avery Fisher Hall, thinking I would at least get photos of the crowds lining up for the concert.
Of course: this was a few days post-Sandy. Most people still didn’t have electricity or hot water. Many trains weren’t running.
I hadn’t been to Avery Fisher Hall before and I was following the walking directions from my phone, a little cold and bewildered, readjusting my laptop and gear on my back. Suddenly I turned a corner and there it was, glittering in the dark. There weren’t many people bustling in front of its snowy fountain, but those who had made it had come in ironed clothes, a splash of cologne, polished shoes, curled hair, lipstick. I got out my camera and hunched in front of a doorframe to rest my legs, contentedly waiting for something to enter the frame. The air was cool and wet, and inside, the show was going on.
I would take ten, maybe fifteen photos before my camera’s battery died, its spare back home in Brooklyn (lesson learned: third time); I would sit there with my dead camera for a while to rest and watch the couples lean on each others arms. I would decide to walk as far as I could home to prove something to myself; I would make it four, five, six? who can say anymore hours to the Brooklyn Bridge when, exhausted and hungry, I would see a policewoman smile and gesture at the open doors to an empty shuttle. “Going to Brooklyn?” she’d ask. The city felt like a slumber party lock-in then, with its dark empty streets, freshly polished by the storm; teenagers giggling on corners, storefronts dark and taquerias buzzing warmth and the drunkenness of wild surrender. Being here felt like you were in on a secret. When night fell, anything could happen. I got on the shuttle with no idea where it was going, really, beyond toward home.