Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Dance Party: A Tale Of Two Cities

As I write these words, powerlines are sputtering back to life in Lower Manhattan.  For almost five days, I've been living in a city split in two. 
Manhattan's skyline for most of the week.
I was in the New York Branch of my life when Sandy came a'calling, and I sat out the storm quite comfortably (and a little guiltily) by watching events unfold from my windows on the 29th floor.  Lots of wind, a bit of rain, and absolutely no flooding in the midtown area of Manhattan. 
We're told the crane dangling over 57th St. has now been
secured. Another crane must be constructed to remove it.
The process will take weeks.

On TV, I watched the local ABC affiliate (the only station I receive clearly on my swanky flatscreen TV, don't get me started...) as it covered the storm non-stop.  All their intrepid reporters were knee-deep in water from around the New York region.  Online, I watched the swaying of the broken crane dangling precariously above 57th Street, and I watched the huge substation at 14th Street explode.

It was that explosion, more than any flooding, which plunged the lower half of the island of Manhattan into darkness.  It was eerie, and the next morning, I discovered that I was only five or so blocks from the blackout.  The rest of this week, Manhattan has been split into the Haves and the Havenots.  Life proceeded with relish in my neighborhood, with Broadway losing only a day or so of performances, and the area's nightlife returning with flamboyant flourish.  Meanwhile, below 34th street, circumstances became more and more desperate, as temperatures dropped and rescue services were hard to find. 
This is not a dollhouse.  The facade to this building in Chelsea collapsed. Can you imagine cooking dinner in your underwear when suddenly the side of your house opens up?
Mayor Bloomberg, who should sometimes be reminded that he is mayor of all five boroughs of New York City, is first and foremost a businessman. 
Mayor Bloomberg both helped and
hurt recovery efforts.

As such, he recognizes that the business of New York is centered squarely in Manhattan, so his priorities all week have been to restore power to the island.  He is also aware of the power of public relations, so all week, he insisted that the internationally known New York Marathon would take place on Sunday.  The fact that much of the route traced through some of the worst hit neighborhoods of the city didn't seem to register with him.  The televised sight of fit runners jogging past people whose lives were ruined was a PR nightmare waiting to happen, so finally, that marathon was cancelled (but not before thousands of runners from all over the world had arrived, causing more chaos.  If Bloomberg had taken the advice of EVERYBODY ELSE, he would have cancelled the marathon Tuesday morning. Yet another headache he created himself.)

Bloomie also "fixed" the traffic problem which he helped create.  From the first days of the crisis, the mayor insisted that city employees be at work.  Well, city employees, though they work in Manhattan, can't afford to live there, and all the underground tunnels and, for a time, all the above river bridges, were closed, so it's unclear to me how he thought all those employees should get to their Manhattan posts from their homes in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and New Jersey. 
Sandy created a star, and it wasn't
the Christie/Obama bromance.
Bloomie's ASL interpreter stole
every press conference with her
style. Look for a parody on SNL.

Of course, they drove, creating the most chaotic traffic disaster in New York's history.  To solve THIS problem (which was largely of his own making), Bloomie imposed draconian carpool measures to reduce the number of cars streaming into the city.  Unfortunately, the exact details of those measures were not communicated to the cops on the ground, and massive confusion (and more traffic nightmares) were created.
With bridges and tunnels closed, city workers, required by Bloomberg to return to work, did so by car, causing unbelievable gridlock.
In none of these instances has Mayor Bloomberg admitted that he made any mistakes;  instead, the city government was simply dealing with problems which had to be "tweaked."

Meanwhile, my lone TV station continued to show tragic images of the devastation done by Sandy, and the lack of progress in providing assistance to the storm's victims.  The images being shown looked like a post-apocalyptic world, which, at long last, leads to this week's Dance Party.

You wanna pee? You gotta pay.
Mayor Bloomberg reminds me of Caldwell B. Cladwell.  Don't recognize the name?  He's the antagonist, villain, and showiest role in the most unfortunately titled musical ever to hit Broadway, Urinetown
John Cullum as corporate tycoon and political manipulator Caldwell Cladwell.
That title was so problematic that nowadays, when the show is produced in high schools and community theatres, it is sometimes called You're In Town.  But the title is appropriate for this cynical satire, which concerns a post apocalyptic society where water is scarce, and in order to conserve it, drastic measures are taken. 
Little Sally and Officer Lockstock
provide Brechtian commentary.

The show is an unusual mix of snark and heart, distastefully placed outside a public urinal, where all must pay to pee.  The romantic couple in the story both die, this is not your typical Broadway musical.  The piece moved from the New York Musical Fringe Festival to Off-Broadway to Broadway over the course of a few years, but was never a blockbuster.  The subject matter and the characters were just too unlikeable.
Hunter Foster leads a revolt among the inhabitants.  It does not end well.
The milieu of Urinetown reminds me of the electrically deprived sections of New York City in Sandy's aftermath.  This clip comes from the Tony Awards, and features Urinetown's hero, played by Hunter Foster. 
Don't fall in love with our romantic
leads.  They don't make it.

The number itself is a little bland for a rabble-rouser, but I guess it must have been the most commercially accessible of the songs.  It certainly would not have inspired me to dash out to buy a ticket to the show, in fact, I've never seen a full production. (But you have to love a musical number which includes a tied-up hostage.)  If life were a musical, this might be the song which the inhabitants of the under-served victims of Sandy might use as their anthem.
I've heard that the creators of Urinetown are working on a prequel, explaining how society degenerated. Perhaps it will be ready for next year's hurricane.