And this translates in two very different cities. In one, elevators work, water which gets pumped up to high rise apartments, and televisions and FIOS internet based phones work. In the other Manhattan, none of this is true.
Nor is this the traditional Park Ave. vs. Harlem divide. In this storm, both of those areas are on the "have" side. Meanwhile, multi-million dollar penthouses in Soho, Tribeca, and Battery City Park, along with the cheaper apartments of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, are on the "have not" side.
Which gets back to why I am sitting on the floor of Barnes & Noble. Those of us south of the Great Divide have trekked uptown to reenergize our cells, our i-Pads, our laptops — and we have taken over nearly all the public uptown outlets. This isn't just a random run on uptown outlets; this is the south invading the north to partake, once more, of civilization.
But it does not stop there. With the traffic lights out in south Manhattan, traditional order has broken down. Instead, driving is catch as catch can, a la Bombay or Calcutta. With the subway stations still flooded, busses are packed. And with running water unavailable, simple tasks become less so. Thus, just to take a shower, I walked down the stairs from my 11th floor Lower East Side apartment and then took two busses to an uptown branch of my gym.
And I am one of the lucky ones. My home was not washed away in a tidal surge nor was it beset by fire, as were over one hundred homes in the once paradisiacal Breezy Point section of Brooklyn. Nor do I live on a barrier island - such as Fire Island or the many Jersey islands - which suddenly got stripped of sand and dunes, threatening to wash away entirely. Nor did I accidentally step on a live wire and die, or rescue family members only to drown in my own basement, as happened to at least one woman and one man during the storm.
Still, even with my more limited experiences, surprise registers. Surprise that the difference is not greater between the first world - we can take care of ourselves no matter what - and the third world, which frequently invokes our pity. If a single storm - admittedly a big one - can wreak such havoc on the world's preeminent city, what is the real difference between the first and third worlds? When it comes to issues including climate change, which arguably contributed to this massive storm, are we not all in this together? Will a solution not have to come from first and third world countries together, combining their efforts?
As I write this from the floor of Barnes & Noble, the Presidential election grinds on, with charge and countercharge, strategy and counter strategy. And yet, despite my intense political interest, what matters most to me today was that I was able to take a shower, and snag an electrical outlet to recharge my communications devices. What matters to me is the day and hour when the electricity gets turned back on - estimates range from four to ten days. What matters is the day and hour when most food stores reopen their doors, many stores now open having lines a la old Soviet Union. What matters is knowing the day I can again go to the toilet without thinking about whether I can flush.
What matters, in short, is the power of my mayor, my governor, and my president to help remedy a situation in which the world I grew up in and took for granted has been broken.
To combat the effects of this massive storm which has touched 60 million Americans, national efforts are needed. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is needed.
And Mitt Romney's opposition to FEMA — his intention to effectively abolish it and let the states take the lead in reconstruction, means that it would take infinitely longer for my lights to go back on, my phone to work, and my toilet to flush. This is no longer a theoretical talking point; this is real. We need to give our government the resources to accomplish this, and then to build enough precautions that such a disaster never repeats.
One candidate provides that leadership; the other tells us — and the us could be anyone in the path of a natural disaster - that we are on our own. That he does not care about the 47%. That he follows an ideology which is callous, indeed injurious, to individual needs.
I may not always agree with Obama. But Romney's ideas are ineffective, inept and unjust.
So when Nov. 6th rolls around, pray that you are not about to be hit by a Frankenstorm, or Frankenquake, or Frankentsunami. And then, vote for the person you want to head an effective response when disaster hits. Don't fool yourself that whoever leads does not make a difference. Sitting here on the floor of Barnes & Noble before I return to temporarily third world city of South Manhattan, I can assure you it does.
VOTE!By Joseph Hanania, Aslan Media Columnist