The storage warehouse's basement smells of mold and motor oil. Sand lies in uneven ripples across the cement floor. I brought work gloves with me, but Ray at the counter has a box full of latex gloves and I use those instead. I like my work gloves, and considering the crap that came in with the water when the East River storm surge hit, I might ruin them for good.
I've been keeping a bunch of boxes in storage in Long Island City since I moved back East from Los Angeles. When Sandy hit, the basement flooded; I've only now been able to come back.
I come down the industrial elevator, and unlock the unit. I had packed everything in tough blue plastic tubs, about 2 and half feet high, three wide. At first, I think I'm lucky - I crack open a lid and run my penlight on the stuff inside. It's clothing. It's dry. Then I realize that the tubs aren't all safely stacked. Some of them are tilted, askew. I open one. On the top sits a bush hat, a gift from my parents. The hat's snap button has rusted through the fabric. I can smell the mildew. Below that, a Hebrew bible, a prayer book, both mold-eaten mush. I'm not religious anymore, but I was brought up to think of those books as sacred. Now they're rotting. Then paperbacks, favorites, stuff that's hard to find: Harlan Ellison's Watching; Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness, with the original psychedelic 70s cover; John Brunner's The Compleat Traveller in Black; a biography of Sergei Eisenstein that I searched for for years; Eisenstein's Film Form, with the essay that I recommend to every writer; Orwell's Selected Essays.
Then it gets worse. All the notebooks I saved from college. A notebook from grade school, with the Hebrew letters scrawled carefully from right to left. The records I kept of the movie I produced in film school. My clippings from the Columbia Spectator, and the Journal of Commerce and the Business International Money Report; my workbook from the one class at USC that was truly mind-expanding. The tassel from my high school graduation. My past, such as it was.
I'm so much luckier than so many other New Yorkers.
I left it all in a mulched pile next to the door.