Long Island, 2013

Cris organised a group of us to go to New York City to volunteer with Sandy recovery.

Friday November 15, 2013

I'd shifted my work day to a more traditional 9-5 range, and paid for it as expected, with a much more stressful bike commute. Getting home, I actually got stuck in traffic on a couple of narrow streets, but luckily so did Cris so I had time to take a quick shower and throw my toiletries in my backpack before he and L-Train showed up to get me. After a bit of a round about way getting down to I90, and some traffic delays, we stopped at the Framingham travel plaza to meet up with Joe and Maggie and to grab some food for supper. We hit really bad traffic again on I84 or so, there was an accident plus the highway was constricted down to 1 lane for construction. We all pulled off at another service plaza to stretch our legs and shake off the traffic jitters. We were running quite late for our arrival at the All Hands base house, but luckily traffic cleared up after that and beyond some slow downs to play tolls (holy cow $7.50 to get across the bridge to Long Island, I see why that was factored into the budget for previous trips), it was smooth sailing to the house in Atlantic Beach. Only one person was still up to help orient us and get us settled, she had us change and get ready downstairs before sneaking us into the bunk room upstairs - I nabbed the first bed near the door and threw my sleeping pad and and bag up (there were only top bunks left). Trying to climb up was a bit nerve wracking, it wasn't that sturdy and felt like it was going to topple over onto me as I tried to position my bare feet on the thin ladder rungs without hitting sore spots. Made it up wihtout any disasters though, closed the blinds next to the bunk and settled in for an exhausted sleep. And then kept waking up all through the night. :-( Whenever the guy below me would turn, the whole bunk bed would shift, and I could feel it doing the same as I tried to find a comfortable position. There was just a thin board over slats, and my bag kept edging off my pad so I'd have an elbow or a foot on the bare board. I put ear plugs in to drown out the movements of other people in the room, and was worried that I wouldn't hear people getting up in the morning - we were supposed to be ready to go by 7:30am, not 8:30am as expected, so I wasn't even able to get a full night's sleep anyway, since we arrived around 12:30.

Saturday November 16, 2013

Phone alarms started getting through to me at around 7am and I hurried through getting changed and downstairs. I'd been given a pair of light hiking pants as a thank you for lending out my sleeping bag, so I was wearing those with a wool base layer, another wool layer on top under an old exercise shirt, and had an old heavy wool sweater in case it was really chilly (the houses we were working on couldn't be counted on to have things like walls or electricity or heat). Luckily the rain that morning passed before we got to the site and I was more warm than cold once I started working. The base house offered breakfast food and stuff to pack a lunch along with the bunk beds, so I took advantage of tea and milk to go with the granola I'd packed. Maggie and I signed our volunteer waivers and then there was a bit of confusion over who was going to which house (one demolition, one repair) and in which van/car. Joe and Maggie ended up going on the repair, the rest of us did the demolition. Cris drove me and L-Train to Massapequa to the site on Forest St near the water, and Barb and Masha met us there.

Our team leader, Jess, gave us a short run down of the work we'd be doing, majorly tearing up the floor in one room and then detail work to clear out trim and nails and vacuuming all surfaces. I started on nail removal, then switched to carrying ripped up floor boards outside, then when the pile was growing faster than Masha and another woman could bundle them, I joined in the bundling and Masha went on to breaking the boards so that they were 4 feet long or shorter (no dumpster, relying on city sanitation for haulage). Cris was pounding down nails as L-Train used the gorilla bar to pry things up and Barb carried armfuls of wood out to us in the front yard. I think we had two enforced water breaks, and also a decent lunch break at noon, sitting in the back yard by the canal. I'd made a turkey sandwich and brought a Clif bar and guzzled down more water from my bottle (they had a tub from which we could refill as well).

After lunch, I helped do another nail check, this time on the gutted floor, pulling up (and sometimes breaking) old iron nails. I found out that the tiles underneath were asbestos, and there was definitely a lot of mold on the wood surfaces. I'd snagged an N95 respirator from the All Hands stash, as well as some sweet leather work gloves, and I kept both on as much as possible. The safety goggles were almost useless though, I only used them when I didn't have to see clearly when I was working above my head, vacuuming out mold and dust from all the ceiling beams and surfaces. I was a bit amused to see one of hte long term volunteers doing rafter pull ups, I'd just finished reading a body weight strength training book that recommended them - I was tempted to try, but refrained. :-) I helped clear the staircase and move the plastic barrier from the bottom to the top so that the drywall there could be checked and removed. Moving the lady's posessions up into the rooms upstairs where everything had been stashed was a bit emotional, seeing a life piled up willy nilly like that as her life was on hold until her house could be made liveable. We had a fairly large group for a small house (there were also 3 high school students) and I was probably bugging Jess a bit much, as well as Katherine, to give me more jobs - at one point my job was "find a notebook". :-) One trim removal job went by in less than a minute, and was superceded by someone else working on another section of it. The ceiling vacuuming was the most mind numbing and tedious task, I think I finished just three segments between rafters because you had to cover every millimeter of every surface with the HEPA filtered nozzle. Luckily the hose was long and pretty light and the ladders reached up high enough, so my arms weren't dead by the end of it. I also helped saw some 2x4 boards into < 4 ft lengths, amazing what a difference a stable saw blade makes (I have a very thin one at home). Around 3:30 we started wrapping up, packing away the vacuums and tools. I went to put away something in Cris's car but couldn't get into the trunk and a neighbour pressed bottles of water on me to share with the others - I was parched and everyone else had water already so I ended up guzzling them both down. The sun had come out during the afternoon but it was going down and the site was getting darker now. Jess made sure she had everyone's names recorded in her log and marked down where we'd left off in our tasks then it was time to hop in the car and head back to base.

Barb and Masha came by to visit. I jumped in to get a shower when one of the many bathrooms came free, but I wasn't quick enough to get hot water. My shower went from lukewarm to cold, it was ... bracing. Got all the dust, sweat and crap off of me though, it was lovely to feel clean again. Dinner was included for us, a huge mess of spaghetti with vegetarian ball sauce, and a big salad on the side. L-Train decided to go home that night with Joe and Maggie, and Barb and Masha were staying in Brooklyn, so it was just me and Cris left at the base from our group. The communal dinner was fun, found out that Katherine was doing NaNoWriMo, and talked biking with Mario. I was last to finish (big servings as I pledged to eat L-Train's helping), and managed to talk Cris into checking out a bar we'd seen on the drive back before he went into Brooklyn to visit friends there. The bar was called Speakeasy, but it was total false advertising - it was a beer bar, with no cocktail list, the bartender didn't know how to make an Aviation and I had to call him back to rescind my order since he repeated back "cherry juice" when I said maraschino liquer, and it turned out he planned to use grenadine anyway. I hope I was gracious enough in changing my order to a gin martini (they had Tanqueray), though it was almost drowning in vermouth. Cris probably went the safe way with his order of Guiness. :-) We also both were still hungry enough to demolish the brownie sundae for dessert - it was basically a big slice of chocolate cake with ice cream, whipped cream, strawberries, with chocolate and caramel sauce over all. That was delicious and worth the trip. He dropped me off back at the base house, it must have been only about 8:30 or so, and went on to Brooklyn. I was just goign to read and then crash, but the living room couch of doom was scatted with people watching Disney movies, and they had room for me. I managed to kick over a glass of water I'd put on the floor, but luckily got it dried before it hit anything other than wood. I couldn't resist when the second movie was a choice between Tangled and Brave, and ended up staying up to watch Brave again. Then I was done and crept into the bunk room to grab stuff, change in the restroom, and collapse into bed without collapsing the bed, at around 11pm. I didn't start off with ear plugs in this time, couldn't dig them up right away, but when some snoring woke me up in the middle of the night I found and put them in.

Sunday November 17, 2013

Sunday landed on their every other week rest day, so I was able to sleep in until about 8:30 or so, and had a much more restful night. I was a bit achy but nothing dire (except for a bruise on the back of my head where I'd slept on my sleeping bag toggle). I had a leisurly breakfast of granola with yoghurt this time, and two big mugs of tea. I talked a bit with Becky about books and art and travel as she was eating breakfast before getting ready for a bike ride with Mario. Masha was going to get a ride back to Boston with us, so when she was about an hour from being ready, I started collecting my stuff and getting ready to go. I had a moment of "omg cult!" when some people started asking me when I'd be back to help again, but let Cris answer with his plans (the next trip I'm out of town, but I might be able to do January if it doesn't conflict with a work trip).

We drove into Brooklyn and I waited in the car, flashers on, while he ran up to get her. Michael W was there too, and we dropped him off near his place before hitting up an awesome French bakery, Richol Bakery. I couldn't resist getting two things: a raspberry croissant (perfect) and a spinach one with a nice sharp cheese inside as well (delicious). I also grabbed some more tea, I was struggling with a general amount of tiredness. Two of Masha's friends joined us there and told us about their hot pot party the night before. I was getting burned out on strangers and was a bit put out that the guy insisted on shaking my hand, I need to come up with a good way of refusing that form of interaction when I'm not up for it.

Traffic was heavy and we were a bit behind on getting to Sean and Hillary's place in CT for 2:30, I think we arrived around 3. C was shy initially but S was a bundle of smiles once she wasn't being made to nap. More tea and some bread+jam for a snack and a good chat to catch up made it a lovely stop halfway home. C also insisted on playing dress up for us, I have a hat I need to get to her. :-) I managed to stay awake until I was dropped off at home, but bailed on goign to the grocery to get food for dinner, instead doign a pantry raid and having some of my emergency chicken chili. I did manage to get everything I'd brought to Long Island washed that night though, not trusting to keeping it around with any mold that might have been attached. The wool wasn't the best idea, it had to be washed on cold and hung to dry, but it was bone dry the next morning and should be fine.

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