Point of View: Blackout Reverie

During a blackout in Fort Lauderdale one dark and stormy night last week, while we were having the best Italian food this side of Firenze at Noodles Panini on Las Olas Boulevard, I thought of New York City and the first blackout there, in 1965, a night in which a communal spirit famously reigned.

There was in the air that night 54 years ago a palpable feeling of good will. Everybody remarked on it and has continued to since. 

I lit a candle on returning leisurely by bus from The New York Times, where I worked as a copy boy, to Alphabet City — to my one-room apartment on East 12th Street whose cement courtyard gave out onto a funeral parlor vent. 

An apartment in which, I told a fellow Fort Lauderdale diner, I could warm my feet in the gas oven while sitting on the pot. 

The first column I ever wrote for this paper was about that $65-a-month apartment whose walls I painted in many colors, and about how the landlady, Mrs. Messina, told me to save my money when it came to buying a bed, glassware, and cutlery (there was no room for a couch) inasmuch as the lady downstairs was just about to check out.

I characterized myself as a “desperado” then, like everyone else in the East Village, though, since desperation was our daily portion, a commonplace, I don’t recall feeling all that desperate at the time. In fact, I felt a certain satisfaction, I think, in just being able to survive, typing being my foremost skill. The other, acquired painstakingly during a three-year stint in the Army, was bed making, a skill that Mary marvels at even unto this day.    

On a holiday visit back to the stolid Midwest, my mother said that I looked like a dope fiend. 

My prospects, of course, were to improve insignificantly as time went on, and now, self-satisfied and full of years, and buoyed by the camaraderie that comes with blackouts — whether in New York or Fort Lauderdale — I can say, “Those were the days, my fiend, those were the days. . . .”