Thursday, February 14, 2013


We brought two small boxes of shoes from storage to the apartment last week. Today I decided to take them out of the boxes, wipe off any residual mold or dirt, try them on and see if they were worth saving. The condition of many of our things surprises me because the salvaging was done in such a rush, and under such stress and weariness. This particular stash of shoes, six pairs, had been placed in a plastic bag and stacked high on top of boxes on the top shelf of my closet. They were the ones that were out of season or not worn too often. The shoes that had been in heavy rotation were kept by the front door on a pencil wire rack.

The first day of the cleanout went cautiously and carefully. We needed to get the back room, which I had been using as my studio, emptied so we could start moving larger items from the main room to the back yard. The back room didn't have a floor drain and thus collected water like a bathtub. Bryan, our friend Eric and I tackled the task of fishing through the room for valuables. Eric created a walkway out of downed shelves to navigate the muddy room. The first day was a bit of a head-scratcher as we tried to figure out how certain things had gotten where they were. As I worked on making room in the back yard, I wondered what had happened to my compost bins? Inside, Eric had opened up the closet. "Wait, what does your compost bin look like?" he yelled. And out he walked, holding one of my bins, which had floated into the apartment, all of its contents becoming dissolved into the flood water. As the day went on, we found bits of eggshell and barley hulls as we sifted through the water. Eric handed me clothing, boxes and the bag of shoes from the closet. What was stacked high fared the best in the flood. The back room, an addition, had a slightly higher ceiling than the rest of the apartment. There were a couple of things that were in fact, bone dry.

There had been some confusion over what had happened to the bag of shoes. I thought I had left them in the back yard. As the weeks went by and our possessions were gradually moved to a storage unit, I wondered what happened to them. The missing shoes became one in a list of things I obsessed over. Why? I asked. Why? They were perfectly good! They barely got wet! Why did they get thrown away? The fact of good things getting accidentally thrown away became my biggest demon. We were broke. We were spending what little money we had on cleaning supplies and auto repair and take-out food and dry cleaning and propane and flashlights and lots and lots of batteries. It killed me to know that things had been thrown away when we didn't have the money to replace them.

Five weeks after the hurricane Bryan and I drove to the Catskills to start the search for a new place to live. It is unbelievable to me now that Bryan got the flooded car running in that short a span of time. While we were staying with Derrick and Pamela, I had been taking batches of things up to their apartment to clean or dry out. When we went on the road Bryan suggested that I could continue to do the same thing in our motel room. One of the things that started to drive Bryan crazy was a missing piece of artwork. We both remembered seeing it in a stack of things he meant to save, but we can't figure out what happened to it after that. On a search for the missing drawing, the bag of shoes turned up. It had been sitting in D&P's hallway the entire time. Since I had left them in the plastic bag, and they were indeed damp, some of them started to mold. This didn't worry me too much, because the same shoes had developed mold inside the damp closet after Hurricane Irene. So we threw the bag of shoes in the car and headed out of Brooklyn. I washed the shoes in the bathtub of the Margaretville Motel and laid them to dry on newspapers. I thought it would be best to store them in cardboard boxes, to help absorb some of the water. B and I grabbed some flat rate boxes at the post office (shhh!) and there they have stayed until now.

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