Jack Riepe has not had a chocolate cup cake since last May and he would kill for one now if you could slip him one amidst the devastation of Tom's River, New Jersey. It gets worse, members of the premier Motorcycle and Wrenching Chartered BMW club of Pennsylvania (its called some shit like that) have threatened to show up to help and he is desperate because they are holding out on bringing the chocolate cup cakes. Other than that the premier motorcycle scribe of New Jersey is doing fine. He has received mail, he has hot showers and he has a half gallon of rum he is keeping safe for a real emergency, he says.
The lights flickered around ten pm the night of the storm, the transformers in his neighborhood blew one by one and he knew things weren't going back to normal for a while. "A while" is the bare minimum and the stories of devastation from around the Garden State tell Jack he is doing better than most. His sister moved to the Big Apple for a taste of the Manhattan lifestyle and she is now living in a 27th floor walk up surviving off emergency rations she managed to buy at the last minute from her neighborhood grocery store. As she stood inline for two hours to buy her "supplies" one can hardly imagine the level of discomfort. No running water, no electricity and no way to move around in a city of eight million?
Jack's new book Conversations with a Motorcycle was supposed to be shipping wildly this week, with 25 orders a day coming in but his publishers are underwater in Manhattan and offices are without electricity across the southern half of the island and no one has a clue when power might be restored. Two million people across New Jersey are without electricity. It gets dark at six, and today, Thursday afternoon it's starting to rain once again on the devastation and temperatures are dropping. Jack wraps himself in a sleeping bag, writes long hand by the light of a lantern and goes to sleep in the early evening in a house that is fortunately dry if not warm. It sounds utterly horrible. And he notes wryly he is the youngest resident on his street, and the most spry.
We've all read Jacks stories of riding and wrenching and wrenching across improbably named communities that for a California raised immigrant like me are just names, but for Jack his childhood and adolescence and perhaps most important the scenes of his varied (and quite possibly mythical) sexual conquests have washed away. The town he liked to called the Painted Whore of the Jersey Shore, Seaside Heights is no more and he waxed nostalgic at some length on the phone about the likelihood he will ever get to have a drink there again and look at pretty young women parading.
I've heard of Hoboken as a gritty urban community rather resembling On The Waterfront but Jack says recently the place was refurbished and it's most upscale streets are now lined with million dollar homes filled with four feet of sewage from backed up and ruined sewage lines. A river of shit was how he put it. Trees are down everywhere and salt water has invaded the infrastructure all round him. So far he says no one talks of looting and people are "taking it in stride." Personally I'd rather be in the Florida Keys in a disaster where people at least try to be prepared and the weather is far more comfortable when services fail. But I am not as hardy as residents of Up North.
I was never in any doubt he would survive this mess and he will survive into the future as things continue to be a mess, for hurricane clean up in my experience is far more sapping and dreary than the major event itself. He did have one other big item on his wish list even as he lamented the absence of chocolate in his life. "Boy," he moaned, " I sure wish they had electricity in a can. I'd buy a case right now."