Hurricane Irene was catching everyone’s attention, gathering speed and power as she spun out in the Atlantic Ocean. It became the ninth named storm and the first hurricane of the 2011 season. The hurricane was forecasted to speed up the coast and the experts were fairly certain it would be one of the first hurricanes to hit New York, straight on, in decades.
We had just missed the earthquake in Virginia but unless we left the eastern seaboard, there was no chance of missing Hurricane Irene completely. Knowing that the weather would be relatively fine on Friday – the worst of the storm would most likely hit on Saturday night, peaking on Sunday morning – we decided to make the most of the day and spend much of it in Manhattan.
I remembered from our previous visits that it was possible to purchase same-day tickets to a variety of Broadway plays if you lined up near the ticket kiosks in Times Square. After taking the bus into the city; we walked the short distance from the Port Authority Bus Terminal along 42nd street to the Theatre District. I was pretty sure that I would be able to snap a photo of the DowJones moving banner, alerting passersby to the impending arrival of the hurricane.
I took a similar photo on our visit to New York in 2008 when the stock exchange was hammered after the initial ‘No’ vote on the economic bailout. It seemed fitting that Nature’s wrath should be announced in a similar fashion to the havoc brought on the world by mankind.
After catching the hope-for photo, we carried on to the bleachers in Time Square and sat and watched the swirling action on the streets below us and studied the Broadway posters for ideas on which shows to see. There were several I was familiar with, The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Godspell, The Jersey Boys and The Addams Family, but I was surprised to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I had seen the movie and loved it, but Anil missed it for some reason and I had actually planned on viewing it again, to refresh my memory and to entertain him as well.
It was too late to get in line that day, and besides, we had plans with Puneet and Komal for the evening, but we made a promise to ourselves that we would see our very first Broadway play before we left town. That is, if Broadway was still standing the following week. There must have been hundreds if not thousands of disappointed people when the shows were closed for the Saturday and Sunday performances.
The mayor had ordered all the mass transit to come to a standstill prior to the storm; it would be difficult for anyone crazy enough to head to Manhattan to get around, much less enjoy a musical with the wind and rain battering the city.
I was still having a great deal of difficulty with my right foot; walking was very painful and I was taking painkillers to mask the problem. I searched the map for somewhere nearby for us to see and realized that we had never been to the UN buildings over on the East River. It was a little far off, but seemed to be a manageable destination. All along the route, which we came to realize cut right through Little Brazil, we saw signs that the businesses would be closed on Saturday and Sunday.
We stopped in at a few shops looking for D cell batteries but I think they were completely sold out everywhere. People were stocking up on non-perishable foods, water and other emergency supplies; the batteries were the first things to be snapped up. Along our route, we passed the northern side of Grand Central Terminal and it was only then that we realized that the traffic is directed literally up and over the terminal itself. It was strange to see Yellow Cabs emerging from the elaborate façade of the building.
Anil stopped for a warm pretzel and a little further on we spotted a food cart selling Indian savouries and we picked up a couple of ‘wraps’ – it was at this cart that we spotted the ‘comfort’ food – kichuri – listed on the menu. We’ve always had a laugh with my brother David that though we all love kichuri, you have to make it yourself or visit a relative to get it – it never appears on a restaurant menu. Well that line is out-of-date now, can’t make that claim any longer.
We arrived at the UN complex just as they started taking down all the flags that line the street. For that reason, we felt we wouldn’t be able to tour the building, but to our surprise there was still plenty of time for an audio tour. I don’t know if I would advise most people to visit the interior at this time; the main tower is completely closed for extensive renovations and the lower building is looking pretty shabby. We were told we were fortunate to be able to visit the UN Secretariat because it is often closed to the public when meetings are in session. There was meeting being held in the Security Council chambers so we were not allowed even a peep inside.
It was wonderful to see the Secretariat because one of Anil’s former students at Tempo School is a high-level Chinese/English interpreter and he often works on the interpreter’s booths located up and around the front of the room. Shortly after our visit, we were sent a link to a Globe and Mail newspaper article about Andrew that went into great detail about his amazing skill as an interpreter. If you would like to read the article, please use this link: Globe and Mail Article - Andrew Dawrant.
We walked back to the Port Authority Bus Terminal this time taking a different route that saw us pass the Chrysler Building, the front façade of Grand Central Terminal and on towards Bryant Park. We had seen the park on previous visits, but it was looking especially beautiful in late August compared to the previous September. I made a mental note to return to enjoy its charms if it was spared by the approaching storm.