Since I began writing my music column for Patch almost two years ago, I have explored the various aspects of music in our city, traditionally the kind that you hear live during our concert series, the gigs at various venues around town, our open mic, the music tracks emanating from Glen Cove’s top notch recording studios. But, during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent rabbit punch of the Nor’easter, I became intimately aware of that less-discernible, but even-more-significant, level of music that defines the pulse of a city: the underlying beat and silent melodies playing behind the street level poetry of people expressing their feelings about other people and joining in a dance that just makes you grateful to be living here. It’s the very heartbeat of human existence, the ongoing baseline behind the music we compose with each episode of interaction.
Left without power, heat or – Heaven forbid – without cable/telephone/Internet, my wife, Candy, and I, like so many others, resorted to life with candles and lanterns for light and our fireplace for heat, and considered, nonetheless, how blessed we were to have been merely inconvenienced by the harsh weather. About that heat from the fireplace . . .
A couple of weeks before the hurricane, our gardener, Michael Giovaniello, asked me if I wanted him to refill our firewood cradle by the front door. It was mid-70s that day and a fire in the hearth was far from my mind, but he pressed and I said, “go ahead.” Five days after the hurricane I texted him: “You don’t know how many times over the past several nights Candy and I have toasted you. We are now getting low on wood, but I know you are busy with more important problems, so if and when you get a chance, we would love to be resupplied.” That night, after working many hours cutting back fallen trees throughout the area, he backed up his pickup and refilled the wood cradle. Don’t try to tell me wood crackling in a fireplace on a cold night isn’t the sweetest of sounds. Here’s to you, Michael.
After restocking with some dry goods at Stop ‘N Shop, during the midst of our days without power, and feeling pretty good about small favors, I got back into my car only to find the battery had died. Feeling really beat up, I got out, opened the hood, then found my jumper cables in an emergency kit I keep in the trunk. Within minutes a stranger in a business suit, driving a BMW, pulled into the spot next to me. He had barely gotten out of the car when he asked if I’d like him to give me a jumpstart. Just like that we had the engine cranked and I was on my way to my mechanic, Mike Grieco at Glen Head Motors. Mike couldn’t get the battery I needed until the next day, but he rigged my car with a battery he had in his shop and I was off and running again. That’s the kind of over-and-above thing Mike has done for me and my family over the years we have used his exemplary services. It is why Candy bakes cookies just for him, each Christmas season.
Without any means of refrigeration, Candy and I found ourselves lunching at Henry’s on Glen Street each day and asking ourselves why we didn’t do that more often. The food is great, the service is great and the conversations with perfect strangers are wonderful. We gathered info about where the tree-trimming crews were, where the power was returning to neighborhoods, how neighbors were helping neighbors with food, a place to shower, extension chords running across backyards between those who had power to those who did not. At Page One Restaurant on School Street, generator power was allowing for meals to a packed house every night, the bar three-deep in patrons and the bar and waitstaff members providing their usual friendly service.
The sense of geniality was not confined to the local populace. When the crew from a Tennessee utility finally restored power to our block, we got in the car drove down to where they were just finishing up and literally saluted them. The returned smiles, well . . . there it was again: that silent music of friendship.
Many songs begin with some memorable life experience but it was not until the hardships of our double-dose storms that I realized we just channel the music that is already there. Perhaps we can look upon the past several weeks as the overture to what will be a joyful holiday season, many diverse melodies to hum or whistle while we rebuild our lives.