Lugging a Baseball Bat Through the Blackout of 2003

Blackout 2003 NYC Brooklyn
  • The author’s friends, day/night

I was on the computer when it happened. The power cord was no longer powering the laptop, and I figured it must be my father; he’d been working in the basement, and he must’ve needed to shut the power off? But when I went downstairs and asked, my parents said no, they hadn’t done anything. This is the progression of blackout thinking: it’s just my room, it’s just my house, it’s just my block. And then you realize it’s the whole city—then the whole northeast.

I had heard stories of the ’77 blackout, and I was excited. I wanted to be outside. As I passed the front door, I grabbed the Louisville Slugger that sat in a ceramic jar with the umbrellas—you know, just in case shit got real. I walked over to Blockbuster, where I worked, and they had locked the doors; the ladies on duty stood amid naturally lighted shelves, wondering when the power would come back on. I waited with them until word came down that they could close up shop, and I walked one of the girls a few blocks to her house, baseball bat cocked, ready to fend off arsonists.

But no one was lighting fires. Instead, on Third Avenue, I saw my customers standing in intersections, directing traffic and smiling. In the bodegas, everyone was buying batteries and joking about when the beer would become free. (The answer: never.) This wasn’t my parents’ blackout; no one was looting, no one was rioting.

I dragged my baseball bat along the sidewalk like a ragged claw scuttling across the floors of silent seas till I got to a friend’s house; we stayed in, drank increasingly warm beers. When it finally got dark we endeavored to travel outside, convinced that now we would finally get the blackout experience that was our birthright.