Christian Carle Catafago

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I arrived in New York on a week-end stopover; I had found a cheap ticket from Beirut to Buenos Aires with Air France and thought I would enjoy a quiet evening with my brother in law and his family before going to join my own in Buenos Aires. The flight in had been fantastic; not only was I on a Airbus A380, but I was on the upper deck and upgraded on premium economy; what could go wrong besides the sadness of leaving my dearest Belgian grand mother Irene in the craziness of Beirut a couple of months before she would turn 100? I also was stressed by our apartment’s refurbishing being done in my absence by a person I was less and less confident about. As I landed, for the first time ever, the immigration officers were more concerned with getting people out of the country rather than controlling whom was getting in.

It is only as I entered Manhattan that the taxi mentioned another Irene; not my dear grand mother, this one was of another kind. I was lucky to be at my brother in law’s house as I would have been stuck homeless; most hotels were stranded with an influx of passengers who were getting cancelled flights. I had to rebook and the Air France counter couldn’t find me anything, no other company had a seat available before and after the storm. While waiting for Irene to hit harder and harder, I walked the streets and regretted not having taken a tripod; all offices, shops and restaurants were closed. The street scenery was reminiscent of a doomsday Edward Hopper painting. Some neighborhoods were without electricity, as though walking straight out of an action movie, Police and National guards in alert at roadblocks. Some shops that were at the border between electricity-less neighborhoods and lit areas, even though not open, were kindly allowing persons to recharge their phones. What I found striking was the sudden erection of protective measures; sandbag walls were erected at the entrance of most shops. It is the contrast between the lit signboards and these mini-walls that stroke be; welcoming and boasting consumerist happiness on one side, protection and prohibition of entry on the other.
© Christian Carle Catafago