Tales From A Hungry Life

November 14, 2012

15 Things Sandy Taught Me

By Maria Schulz

Superstorm Sandy blew into town a couple of weeks ago, and she wreaked havoc across the area. I hear Fire Island was cut in two by the ocean. I saw photos of the roller coaster from the Jersey shore, now offshore.  I had several friends whose homes were terribly damaged or lost entirely to raging floodwaters in Long Beach, Long Island.

Swept offshore by Sandy

Since I am not close to the water, I made it through Hurricane Sandy without the predicted floods, and for that I’m thankful. Lots of other people lost everything (homes, cars, and all their earthly possessions), so I know how lucky I am to just be sitting here blogging.

But there is a price to pay when you live in a wooded area and a certain Sandy arrives. As the storm blew through my town and the wind began to scream outside my window, hundred-year-old trees began to fall over like tiny twigs. In the distance, we could hear the eerie ‘BOOM’ of one tree after another hitting the ground. Then it was our turn as one of the double oaks in the back of our yard bent and swayed, and then…crashed to the ground as our house shook.

“Tree!” I said, as we ran for cover.

When the noise settled down, we peered out the back window. All we could see in the inky darkness were enormous limbs whipping around, on top of our new kitchen deck. We kept hearing the same sickening “BOOM” for a while, and knew that trees were still falling outside like elephants raining down from the sky.

A short while later, our electricity went out and we were plunged into darkness.  For once I actually heeded the days of hysteria leading up to the storm and we had batteries, flashlights, firewood, and enough canned goods to make a dyed-in-the-wool survivalist flush with pride. We grabbed our trusty flashlights and ran downstairs, where we huddled around each other for warmth and prayed that the next big tree would not come down and crush us.

I discovered a lot about myself on that night, and for the next 2 weeks to come. So here, in no particular order, are the things I learned thanks to Superstorm Sandy.

1. I am tough because I am a New Yorker. Really? Who says? I kept hearing the politicians spout this line on the radio as I sat crouched beside it, trembling with fear and afraid I was going to be crushed to death by my backyard trees. I am not tough at all. I like being alive, and have no desire to tangle with trees that resemble those psychotic apple trees from the Wizard of Oz.

The trees were angry, my friend

2. People in a crisis band together. Yeah, well, sometimes. Then other times, you find two people in a fist fight over a bag of ice that’s selling for $15. Nobody stops and thinks, “why would I pay $15 for a bag of frozen water?” They just think, “I have to have that bag! And I will kill that little old lady for it.”

3. Survival instincts kick in immediately. Well, maybe other people’s survival instincts do, but not mine. As we sat in our cold, dark house and wondered whether we would be crushed to death by the giant falling trees or drowned by the projected massive rainfall, all we could contemplate was that we were tired and needed sleep. I don’t think the survivalists will let me join their club.

4. My local power authority has our back. I’m not even sure my local power authority knows we exist. Oh sure, eventually we were restored to the grid, but I’m thinking that was just some sort of happy accident. It took trucks from other states like Tennessee, Texas, Colorado, Ohio, Iowa and Florida to get my power restored (and for that, I will be eternally grateful). My favorite moment? Listening to

Help me, help you!

my husband give his Jerry Maguire speech to the girl on the customer service line as he implored her to “think outside of the box and do something that makes a real difference in someone’s life. Put down your script! Have an actual crew dispatched to our neighborhood! You have the power in your hands! Do it now!” My sister-in-law and I were hysterical laughing, saying “Help me, HELP YOU!” in the background.

5. Snack food does not make you warmer. In fact, it just makes you feel worse, because under the 75 layers of clothes you’re wearing because you’re freezing, you now know that you don’t just look fat because of the layers. You are fat! And that Entenmann’s Marshmallow Fudge Cake isn’t helping matters. I had officially banned it from our home years ago, but we felt sorry for ourselves and brought it home. Like a puppy you regret getting later, that cake didn’t last very long.

6. Either New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg gets very bad advice or he is trying to fiddle while Rome burns. “Emperor” Bloomberg, as I’ve heard many people call him, actually wanted to hold the New York City Marathon just 6 days after Superstorm Sandy decimated the region. Worst of all, he wanted to start it in Staten Island, the borough that suffered the most devastating losses of life and property. He only cancelled after people began protesting the fact that he was going to host a pasta dinner in heated tents right where many homeless, hungry and cold Staten Islanders would be. Oh, and they weren’t invited (don’t even TRY to use our port-o-potties!). And as for you, elderly lady who has no home left and no where to go, time to get out of that hotel room because we’ve got runners showing up with a reservation. Epic fail, Mr. Mayor.

7. New York is really, really cold in November. One day, you’re having a warm-air fueled hurricane and the next, you’re in a full blown snowstorm and a Nor-easter is raging outside your already freezing door. I know this, because the minute October was over and November began, I was in a house that was so cold we could’ve used our own breath for a smoke-ring blowing contest. It got so bad one morning that I almost sat down and cried. But then, I would’ve been cold AND wet.

8. I never knew how much I would grow to hate the phrase, “Do you have power?” My neighbors and I would seek one another out and ask each other this question. If one of us had power and the other one didn’t, the one who did felt guilty. Of course, I never had it so it was usually the other person who averted my gaze and mumbled “yes.” Then, I had to trudge back home to my dark house and wonder why the gods of electricity were angry with me.

9. I am not as low-maintenance as I thought. No, I don’t get my nails done every week and I don’t wear a lot of makeup. But my one small concession to the fact that I’m a girl is blow-drying my hair. So what did I do without my hair dryer? I walked around with hair that was pasted flat against my head and straight. Also, without the lights, I couldn’t get rid of the grays like I normally do. So that, coupled with the snack food eating frenzy, means that I now I look like this.

Do you have power?

10. Gas lines are not just for the Soviet Union. I remember learning about the Communists back in grammar school. My teachers would tell us how awful it was for citizens of the soviet bloc countries because they had to wait on lines for their food, face constant gas shortages, live with very little sunlight and tolerate bitter cold temperatures. Hmmm….sounds like the last 2 weeks of my life.

11. I missed cooking dinner. Most nights, when I have power and can cook whatever I want, I want to go out. But after 2 weeks of constantly having to figure out what we were going to eat morning, noon, and night, I can honestly say that I never want to see another can of beef stew or the wrapper from a fast food egg sandwich again. Does this sound like the ravings of a lunatic? Just think of The Elephant Man when he screamed, “I am not a freak!” Home cooked meals are better. Even my home cooked meals.

12. Listening to the radio is not as charming as it was in the movie Radio Days. Remember that one? It was Woody Allen’s sentimental look at the simpler days of radio, when families spent time together listening to soap operas, mysteries, and news events. Of course, when my family sat and listened to the radio, we had to have most of the song lyrics explained by our girls, because we didn’t know what the heck anybody was saying. If we changed the station to listen to “our” music, the girls grew bored by the old people music. Old people? I don’t know why they said that; I wasn’t listening to Jonathan Schwartz doing his Frank Sinatra marathon on WNEW-AM.

13. Gazing into a fire isn’t fun anymore after 14 straight days. Usually, breaking out the firewood and making a fire is something that we really enjoy. That is, until there is a wood shortage on top of the gas shortage, you have to hunt in every hardware and grocery store around to find the logs, and you’re freezing to death because the fireplace isn’t really throwing off any heat. I think I began annoying my friend Lisa because I kept sending her photos of my roaring fire.

Not as hot as it looks

14. I have the best family and friends in the world. They offered my whole family (yes, the dog too) a warm place to stay, cooked meals for us, let us recharge our phones (our only way to communicate with the outside world) and made us coffee, tea and hot chocolate when our teeth wouldn’t stop chattering. They offered us all a place to shower and do laundry. They let us watch football and basketball when sitting in our family room staring at the fire made us want to cry. They listened to me rant when I sat on 2 different gas lines for a total of 5 hours, only to be turned away. They applauded my good fortune when I actually found gas a day later. They made me soup and chicken salad when I was too cold and tired to feed myself. They assured me that one day, I could stop living like the colonists and that I too would have power.

15. I found out I can be miserable and still laugh. I think I already knew this, but now that I have power, I realize that I was laughing all along. Of course, that was just the insane laughter that comes from looking like a Yeti and smelling like one too. But I just got a message from my power authority that went like this: “power has been restored to your area. If you do not have power, call us to report the outage. There must be something wrong with the electricity in your house and you will need to hire an electrician to fix it. Thank you.” Um…if I don’t have power, how will I get your message? And don’t worry; if everyone on my block had power except me, I am sure I would already be on the power authority’s doorstep, with Jerry Maguire in tow.


This chicken dish is easy to make but just takes a little preparation ahead of time. Now that I have a refrigerator, I can marinate my food. Life is good!

Broiled Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar

Serves 4-6

2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts

½ cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon dry mustard

2 tablespoons sugar

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, cover and marinate in fridge for 8 hours, turning chicken occasionally. Preheat broiler. Remove chicken from marinade and broil (or grill) about 5-7 minutes per side, basting chicken with marinade while cooking.

Recipe comes from The Mediterranean Prescription by Dr. Angelo Acquista with Laurie Anne Vandermolen.

Here’s another balsamic chicken recipe that’s supposed to be healthy, tasty, and easy to make:


Watch the video:


So Hungry Lifers…did you encounter Sandy? Do you have power? What was your favorite “Lights Out” or “I’ve Got Power!” recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!



  1. Hey, Yeti! You’re a survivor! Even without power for all those days you had the power to capture Sandy through your writing. And, btw, I loved getting your photos of the fire. They confirmed that you were still alive!

    Comment by Lisa S. — November 14, 2012 @ 1:45 pm | Reply

    • Yes, I was still alive–cold, but alive. Now that I know you like my fireplace photos, get ready for more!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — November 19, 2012 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  2. Maria

    Thanx for shedding some sunshine and warmth with all who endured Sandy and those who still have a journey in front of them.

    “Always face the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.”

    Comment by Neil Platt — November 14, 2012 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

  3. I loved #14. You brought tears to my eyes. I’m glad you are back blogging again. I’m also glad we can text about something else now besides electricity. It is very funny(I should say was) to see the embarrassed people that had power! and btw I thought your hair looked very nice.

    Comment by Suzanne — November 14, 2012 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

    • Suzanne, thank you for keeping me company in the diner and giving my kids their favorite Halloween moment (big candy bars!).

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — November 19, 2012 @ 11:34 am | Reply

  4. But tell the truth! Aren’t we all glad we live on Long Island and not Staten Island? Except of course if you live in Island Park or Long Beach Island. Mitt Romney made a joke at the Republican Convention about Barack Obama being concerned that the ocean was rising and the storms were getting wilder and the planet needs healing. Aren’t we glad that this group (The Republicans) who insist that there is no such thing as climate change and therefore there is no danger to be worried about never made it into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.. Some member of that party in Congress said to combat global warming we should cut down all the trees in the rain forests. Doesn’t that Idiot know that trees absorb co2 and if we did that we’d really worsen the situation. The hurricane of 1938 cost more lives because we had less to prepare with and less time to do it.
    Let’s be thankful we are on the way out of this morass but for some it might take a year to come close to being out of it. And if the people who govern us don’t put in Diaster Recovery Plans that work the next time we may not be so lucky.

    Comment by Bglou — November 14, 2012 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

    • I am so sorry for the people along the coast who got devastated by Sandy. My troubles were nothing compared to that. I love my trees and don’t want to cut them down–I just hope that next time, they don’t come down on their own.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — November 19, 2012 @ 11:37 am | Reply

  5. So glad your power got restored – 2 weeks seems to be the American limit before going crazy – you Are right it isn’t nostalgic after the first 2 hours & the junk food gets old real quick. Enjoy getting back into your routines 🙂

    Comment by Pml — November 16, 2012 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

    • A blackout is a novelty when it happens for a few hours–you get to play board games and tell stories by candlelight. But by the 13th night, you’re just sitting there silently with tears rolling down your face. Hey, I bet you’re glad I’m not calling and complaining anymore! Thanks for listening and always being such a great friend.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — November 19, 2012 @ 11:39 am | Reply

  6. I’m sorry it took so long to read this post. Another great one! #4 had me laughing out loud. Oh, those Mets fans…..

    Comment by turafish — November 20, 2012 @ 10:38 pm | Reply

    • Lol yes the search for a well-run organization (in baseball and in electric companies) goes on! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — December 1, 2012 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

  7. Maria, you made it through the storm. You and your family will have tales to tell to your grandchildren about the whole mess. This is what brings family together, like eating.

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — November 29, 2012 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

  8. Hi Maria – sounds like you fared better than most. My sister and Bruce were without power for 2 weeks and my Mom was out for about 10 days. Glad to hear you had no major damage but I have a few friends out in Rockaway with flooded basements and totaled cars. I hope it doesn’t take too long to get things back to normal. Please say hi to your brothers for me – John

    Comment by John Wagner — November 29, 2012 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

    • Hi John! Yes I am grateful that I didn’t have flooding issues or lose my car to water or all the trees that came down. Like your sister, I had no power or heat for 2 weeks. Just glad it’s over.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — December 1, 2012 @ 12:53 pm | Reply

  9. I loved everything about this post, you nailed it right when you described how insane people go and literally go rabies ballistic for things as trivial as a bag of frozen water, or crackers.

    -Samudaworth Tree Service

    Comment by Tree Pruning Brooklyn — December 3, 2012 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

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