Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blackout Memories, Mel Brooks Got It Right, and Judges of the Same Sounding Name

Hey, New Yorkers, how did you get home from work 10 years ago today? 

For those who don’t remember August 14, 2003, the city suffered a massive mid-afternoon blackout that extended well into the night, forcing many to walk home across bridges, camp out in offices, or crash at a relative’s, friend’s or co-worker’s pad. 

For many, it became an invitation for impromptu libations, as revelers “volunteered” to help restaurants and bars dispose of perishable stock before it spoiled. Gilda was one of those. She joined a co-worker and her husband for a delicious seafood meal at a restaurant abutting the Hudson in Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. 

My staff and I were in our sixth fIoor offices on Park Avenue between 55th and 56th streets when the power stopped. Sunlight streamed through the western-facing windows. As shadows started to darken the office, individual plans became more desperate and disparate. Risa decided to walk across the 59th Street Bridge on her way to Long Island. She fortuitously hitched a ride in mid-bridge with someone serendipitously going to her North Shore town. Ken opted to sleep in the office rather than attempt to get home to New Jersey. Marianne chose to gamble on getting a bus out of the Port Authority back to Jersey. She boarded a bus going to a town near her home. Mary Beth decided it would be better to go to her sister in Jersey rather than go home to Dutchess County, NY. She had to walk hours to reach her, a feat the rest of the staff marveled at the next day considering Mary Beth’s troubled feet. Farida was in no mood to walk to Brooklyn by herself. Kyung agreed to house her for the night at her Upper East Side apartment, but Farida was equally reluctant to walk there alone as dusk approached (Kyung had left earlier to be with her infant daughter). So I trudged up Park Avenue with her. Kyung lived near my aunt on East 81st Street. I figured I could stay with her if I didn’t link up with Gilda, whose whereabouts I still had not ascertained since our phones weren’t working. 

Walking to Kyung’s was not easy. It was hot and muggy. But New Yorkers were taking the blackout in stride. Few car horns ahonking. Pedestrians helped direct traffic at intersections. Cars were angled in front of bars and restaurants, their headlights illuminating the interiors. When Farida and I climbed the stairs to Kyung’s apartment, she wasn’t there. We suppressed panic and waited about 15 minutes till she arrived. Kyung offered to put me up overnight as well, but I declined since I wanted to check up on my aunt.

When I arrived at her apartment, her phone was working. I called Gilda’s brother on the Upper West Side. Luckily, Gilda had been able to reach him. Carl graciously picked me up and lent me his car so I could get Gilda and drive home to Westchester. It was among the more eerie rides of our lives in New York. Like a scene from a disaster movie. Hardly any other cars on the road. Skyscrapers dark, except for the occasional emergency light, or even eerier, a whole building lit up by generator. We got home around 11 pm. 

Mel Got It Right: Mel Brooks makes me and millions of others laugh out loud, but he may well be laughing harder than anyone today. 

Did you see Tuesday’s NY Times front-page article, “Much Ado About Who: Is It Really Shakespeare?” ( The thrust of the article is that Shakespeare had lousy handwriting and that some of his words may have been transcribed incorrectly because of poor penmanship.

You may recall in my second to last post on July 30 I sourced a 2,000-year-old-man routine Brooks did with Carl Reiner wherein he disputed that Shakespeare was a good writer. He wasn’t a good writer. He had lousy penmanship, Brooks argued. 

What’s that saying, “Many a truth was said in jest”? According to the Web site, The Phrase Finder, “The first author to express this thought in English was probably Geoffrey Chaucer. He included it in The Cook's Tale, 1390: 
But yet I pray thee be not wroth for game; [don't be angry with my jesting]
A man may say full sooth [the truth] in game and play.’

“Shakespeare later came closer to our contemporary version of the expression, in King Lear, 1605:
‘Jesters do oft prove prophets.’

Judge Not: A quick check of the Internet proved I wasn’t alone in thinking there might be a link between Judge Judy and the federal judge who ruled New York City’s stop-and-frisk police tactic violated the constitutional rights of minorities.

The names are pronounced the same, but that’s where the similarities end. Judge Judy Sheindlin works the TV circuit. Judge Shira Scheindlin serves on the federal bench. Judge Shira’s last name has a “c” in it.