Planga-La: Music and Stuff

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Standpipe is the name under which I complete Album-A-Day projects. There is no special meaning behind the name. When I moved into the New York area I became enamoured with standpipes. Not really sure why. But I knew that I needed to start a band called Standpipe and release albums with names like Sprinklers Throughout Building and Siamese Connector.

But I was told about Album-A-Day, and in that found a chance to use the band name. And the rest is history.

Love Of A Salesman

Love Of A Salesman is a work detailing the trials and tribulations of a used car salesman who falls in love. It was written and recorded on 19 April 2006. I had decided only a day before to do an album.

I wrote all of the music in order, then did most of the lyrics in order (track 9 came before 7 and 8). In the end, I think it's a pretty interesting work.

I didn't have an idea for the concept when I started, so I just recorded music. After 7 hours or so, I decided that I should do an album that is the backstory to a plot in a science fiction story I am working on. After 11 hours, I came up with the salesman idea, and moved forward from there. I can't tell you how easy it is to paint yourself into a corner when you decide the songs are all being told from a car salesman's point of view.

Dark in the Park

I wrote and recorded this piece between Saturday, 16 August at 10pm and Sunday, 17 August at 9:30pm. And I actually slept for six hours, so it's almost more impressive.

As this was a bit of a rush job, I've often thought about taking the time to re-record these songs, but that idea usually lasts about twenty minutes when I figure that the album is a moment in time that I should never tamper with.

Thanks go out to Mike Lebovitz for telling me about the challenge, Duncan Pflaster for suggesting the album title, and the blackout on 14 August 2003 for inspiring the content of the album.

These 21.5-hour Commutes are a Killer

There's a long version and short version.

Long version:

Yessir, 21.5 hours between blackout and walking in the door of the apartment. I know it sounds bad, but as you'll soon learn it wasn't bad at all. But for a one-line summary, it sounds good (because it sounds bad, you see?).

Unrelated pre-story: At lunch I went out to Bryant Park. There was some sort of thing going on there. It turned out to be Broadway In Bryant Park, where they bring out Broadway stars to sing their stuff as a way to sell tickets. After hearing a song from Aida that I disliked even more than I could imagine disliking a song from a musical, I headed back to the office. Because of the large crowds there, police officers were present. Sure, fine. Police officers with automatic rifles. Not so cool.

It's a bit after 4:00pm in the office. I'm clacking away on my notebook computer, working on the final piece of a project, which is interestingly enough a stress management workshop. The lights begin to flicker, there is a yell from somewhere, and the power goes out. I remove the power plug from my computer and continue clacking away. I wonder if I have an appropriate mp3 file to play, but I can't think of one (as it turns out, I do in fact have Oingo Boingo's 'When The Lights Go Out' on this machine - such a shame I didn't think of it at the time). I save the files I'm working on, then open up the last one. I make the appropriate changes, and hit save. By this time the network has gone down, so my computer freezes. Also at this time, the non-mobile employees begin wandering into the lobby. My computer unfreezes and I save the file locally, close up and pack my bag.

We had a fire drill on Tuesday, so it is fresh in our minds what should be done in emergency situations. Of course one dimwit walks back in complaining 'how are we supposed to evacuate if the elevators don't work?' The word 'evacuate' caught my attention. I'm from the suburbs of Cincinnati; power outages happen all the time. If you go more than three months without an outage, you get an uneasy feeling that you can't quite place. But then I realize, 'dude, I'm in New York, they had that thing happened that one September.' So maybe there is some sort of seriousness involved.

My company's plan is to evacuate the building and meet in Bryant Park. So we did, grabbing a bagful of cookies from the kitchen first. In the park I find a seat and continue working. It's fortunate that I saved the last file locally because I discovered an error. So I had to remake 11 files, which only took 20 minutes or so. Bryant Park has wi-fi, and of course I didn't have my wireless adapter with me, but it wouldn't have mattered much anyway, seeing as the Internet host was likely not running off of a battery.

Working at a receptionist desk is pretty bad, but not as bad as working in a public park during a crisis. 'Is that working?' a random woman asks me, pointing to my obviously working computer on which I'm typing. I lift it up, appraising its weight, and say 'it seems to be.' Then she asks me if the power is out in Brooklyn. I tell her that I am not connected to the power grid in Brooklyn, that I'm running off of a battery and there is no connection to the Internet. It takes some convincing, but she finally believes me and lets me get back to work.

I finish all of my work, save for one graphic that needs to be made, for which I'll want to use my mouse. All employees need to sign a sheet that indicates we got out of the building and made it to Bryant Park. The team manager tells us he doesn't expect us into work on Friday, and that we can go. It is now 5:00pm.

The sheer number of people on the streets is just staggering. Buses are filling up. I never use the phrase 'packed like sardines' but it is absolutely true in this case. Perhaps 'jar of olives' is a better description, as there is no discernable airspace in the buses, just bodies and faces pushed against the windows. I'm not sure what I'm going to do, other than wait a good portion of this out.

Reports start coming in from cell phones. All of Manhatten. All five boroughs. New York State. The entire eastern seaboard. Canada. Midwest, including Ohio. I hope that Cincinnati is included in Ohio, so that my mom won't freak out as much. Everybody is very level-headed about what's going on. Obviously the stress management workshop is effective. Nobody is wondering aloud if this is some sort of terrorist attack. Discussions into what has happened focus on how the power grids are set up and why it wasn't fixed after 1977. A few of us wonder how the Ben & Jerry's scoop shop is doing. I wonder about my roommates in the city, and if I should try to find them. I quickly decide it would be foolish to try.

There is a large group of coworkers heading for Brooklyn, including one of my managers. He gives me his phone number and an offer to stay with him should I need it. I thank him, but say I probably shouldn't have trouble getting to Hoboken, which is fewer than two miles away. I've never taken the ferry. Now would be a good time to find out where it docks in New York.

At 6:15pm, there is only a handful of my coworkers left. Two of us are New Jersey-bound, two to Brooklyn, and another is totally screwed because she's from Long Island. She has a friend in the city, though, so she's cool. One Brooklyneer actually drove his car in today, but we later find it is on an electric lift. The five of us decide to find a pub or something and just hang out for a while. We walk down to Penn Station and find it closed. We almost go into the Molly Wee Pub, which is just a silly silly name, but decide to get some Italian ice instead. Mine is strawberry and it is the yum.

The sun is going down, and the city is beginning to show us exactly what darkness is. One Brooklyneer starts to walk home, another has a boyfriend waiting on 6th Avenue, and the Long Islander heads to her friend's place. This leaves the Jersey boys. No bother, we'll just find out where the ferry docks. Most likely on 34th Street, on the side with water. We head down that way, walking in the middle of the street, which is well cool. The streets going east and west are not necessarily closed, but nobody is driving on them. Walking is so much better when you have a lot of space. I think New York would be much improved if there were no cars. Everyone would walk or use the subways. But I suppose deliveries need to be made. Maybe just convert the streets to single lanes. Hot dang that would be cool.

At the Hudson river, we're not sure whether the ferry is to our left or right. There is a place that normally does helicopter tours that is now dropping people off as far as Newark (for the regular tour price of $200, however). We ask them which way the ferry is. He tells us it's off to the right, but suggests the best kept secret are the boat tours a few blocks to our left, which he guesses are now ferrying people. We thank him and head down to find this 'secret.'

Well, some people know about it. There is a line. A big line. A big, long, line. It's six people wide and winds down a block and a half. We follow it. Oh, did I say block and a half? It's obviously at least three blocks. Four. Five? And it winds like a snake. It's probably a good half mile, if not more. We go up to the front of the line to appraise the situation. The boat tours are on large speedboats. So they get across the river in ten minutes. But they only hold 50 people. There's also a cruise ship which apparently holds over a thousand people, but seeing it fill up and not seeing the line move is not encouraging. We are totally not going to wait in this line. But we sit by the dock for a few minutes because the air is nice and cool. I try to call the apartment but the power is obviously out there too (the answering machine did not pick up).

Using a boat is clearly not an option, so we decide to head back to the Port Authority. Power is back on in most of New Jersey, and parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx are getting power, so it's just a matter of time before things are back to normal. We've been standing or walking for the better part of four hours, so we decide to rest a bit at the post office. It's the same post office that will become a favourite of newspapers and televisions. I'm not featured in any media, however.

I determine that full power will be restored at precisely 8:37pm. It is not, and I am going to question my prophecies from now on. I watch the shadows cast by the people in front of police lights and flares. It's quite a hypnotic sight. We start out toward the Port Authority. We look up 36th Street, and it is black. The only light at all is from cars going down Broadway. It is beautiful and eerie. And rather scary. We move on.

There is still a lot of traffic, and a lot of people. Civilians are directing cars and pedestrians. I'm thinking it's going to be too late to find a locker to sleep in at the bus terminal. As it will turn out, the Port Authority is completely closed off. We don't make it there, though. We walk past an Academy Line bus. which appears empty. My friernd asks the driver where he is going. Route 9, South Jersey. Right to where my friend grew up. He says 'we're going to my parents' house.' The driver accepts his NJ Transit train tickets. We are sitting in comfortable seats, in air conditioning, and there are only two other people on the bus. Life is good. Who cares that it will be several hours before we're actually out of the city? We're comfy!

The bus makes it around to the Port Authority, and we prepare for the olive jar effect. But nobody wants to go down Route 9. The driver refuses to veer off of his route, which I imagine is a rule, but it still upsets people. When the fury ends, only one new passenger joins us, and the bus enters the line for the Lincoln Tunnel.

And we are directed to the tunnel almost immediately. We are out of the city and in New Jersey at 10:30pm, only 40 minutes after getting on the bus. Things are going extremely well for us. Well, except for the blackout thing.

Hoboken is dark outside the windows, but Jersey City and Newark can be seen clearly. We go on past and finally arrive at the bus terminal. The house is only about a mile and a half away, so we hoof it, stopping at the local Wawa for some sandwiches. Mmmmmmmm, sandwiches. We arrive at the house and watch the local news coverage. The ferry line is still there. People are sleeping on the post office steps. The news anchors mention that it is not a terrorist attack once every 90 seconds.

Power is coming back on, so we think we may need to go to work. I suggest we don't change our clothes, and even show up all disheveled-like. Comedy potential runs high. My company has an SOS phone number that we can call for news concerning emergencies. There is no message at the number. We go to bed, planning to wake up at 6:45, as we'll have to leave by 7:45 to get to work. We give each other permission to wake the other up.

I wake up at 6:30. I go downstairs to check email and news. Power is not up everywhere. More places, sure, but not in Times Square, so the chances of my office being in service are slim. It's almost 7:00am, so I knock on my friend's door. A radio is on, but no human answer. I knock a few more times, then decide to let him sleep.

I take a shower, and watch some more news. I check the SOS website. They have a message up. It says that we'll be resuming business on Friday. And that the building has no power. Well, screw that, I'm not going to work. At 7:20 I decide that my friend not waking up is worrisome.

One thing I really don't need right now is a dead guy. His parents are in California. I'd have to call them and say that he's dead. I'd have to call the police. I'd have to tell them who I am and what I'm doing in the house. 'Um, no, I don't know the owners of the house. I'm some guy who stayed here last night. No, I don't know how he died. Can I go now?' Lemme tell you, that situation totally sucks.

I knock more forcefully this time and call his name. He grumbles 'good morning' and I cheer 'you're alive!' I say there's no power at work, and he decides to get more sleep. I watch more news coverage.

He comes down at 8:30 and we discuss what we can do remotely. Unfortunately I had erased the local copies of other stuff I could have worked on only days before. I also believe it was the same day that I thought maybe I should buy a flashlight to carry in my bag, and a cheap, non-electric phone for the apartment in case there is a power outage. Ah, my sense of planning. We get in touch with a project leader, who says not to come in, but that the company will pay for our lunch today. Suh-weet. We meet another friend for lunch and then they dropped me off in Hoboken on their way into New York.

I arrived home at 1:40pm. Exactly 21.5 hours after this craziness began.

Short version:

I'm alive.