Urban Hurricane

[Image: Photo by Chris Woebken, from his Flickr account].

I'm sitting out the winds of Hurricane Irene in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where the basement of this house is starting to flood, a siren is going off somewhere, and the power has flickered off—and on, and off, and on—for the last hour, though the full brunt of the storm has yet to hit.

But everything I own is in a creekside storage depot in Queens, as we wait to move into our new place next week; I'm thus finding it hard to fall asleep thinking of the fact that we've moved back to the east coast just in time, potentially, to have everything ruined and swept away into an industrial canal in New York City. But that's the way things go.
   [Image: Photo by Chris Woebken, from his Flickr account].

In any case, artist Chris Woebken, with whom I've had the pleasure of working as part of the Landscape Futures exhibition over in Reno, has been posting some photos today, showing New York City on lockdown, with plywood walls appearing in what once were windows and new facades popping up in a flash atop old storefronts.

Extreme weather brings its own architectural ornament, a whole family of plug-in and bolt-on designs that would otherwise have lain dormant as everyday materials, sleeping on the shelves of Home Depot.

The photos in this post are by Chris Woebken, and are taken from his Flickr account.
   [Image: Photo by Chris Woebken, from his Flickr account].

But being back out in the suburbs of my teenage years—and hurriedly evacuating the family basement—also means that I've stumbled upon a bunch of old books, and it seems vaguely appropriate to quote a brief excerpt from a poem by John Balaban.

Balaban treats the impending weather above him as a kind of aerial organism, a gargantuan meteorology of displaced marine life passing ominously through the sky:
Toward dawn, two nimbus clouds drifted in,
the larger—trailing down tendrils of rain
like a Portuguese man-o'-war—began to pulse
with lightning, brightening its belly like a huge lantern,
arcing a jagged streak
to ignite the smaller cloud.
Pulsing and flaring, striking each other,
dragging the earth with rain,
they drifted off over the mountains.
All about them the sky was clear.
The storm is a memorable presence, entering lives and leaving again, both animate and terrible.

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6 Comments:

Blogger wileycount said...

Geoff - good luck with the underground (I am also battling my basement's desire to express itself as a cavern with water delicately trickling down the cinderblocks) and the possessions on the creek....and really love the evocative balaban.

just saw this counterpart to the plywood plugins: designer sandbags and expressionist tape jobs:

http://eetheridge.posterous.com/window-dressing-the-west-village-and-mepa-for

August 28, 2011 12:50 AM  
Blogger chuck.godwin said...

Geoff,
The "vaguely appropriate" Balaban quote and the vaguely artistic photos from Chris combined to make a thoughtful post. I hope your stuff and your person are safe.

Chuck

August 28, 2011 1:49 AM  
Blogger up_today_arch said...

first I thought it is London....

August 28, 2011 7:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Storms are alive.

August 28, 2011 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Tally Essen said...

Nice post. Check out the article on Barkitecturemag.com "Irene spares NYC’s ugliest buildings."

August 28, 2011 8:36 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Thanks, Chuck—things seem okay for now (no word on the goods stored up in Queens).

Wileycount, great link!

August 28, 2011 8:43 PM  

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