Survival backpacks

Sunday, 11/4
Email from my dad:

So, now that you’ve lived through a real storm, my supplies don’t seem so nerdy, do they?

Goddamnit. I hate when he’s right. When I was in high school, my dad came home one day with four red backpacks, one for each car.

“Put this in your trunk and DO NOT take it out.” He then unloaded one of the bags onto the kitchen table. He pulled out a rope, water purification tablets, vacuum packed astronaut food, a flashlight, flares, a space blanket and a book with a picture of someone’s butt in 90’s mom jeans and The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive! splashed across the cover.


My father had purchased survival backpacks for us to keep in our cars in case we ever ended up stranded somewhere. It’s super sweet and fatherly, but at age sixteen I was like, “OMG dad. We live in Sandy Springs. What am I going to fall into a ravine in between McMansions and lose cellphone service?”

He explained that it was better to be prepared than not and then I asked him if he included the book for some reading in case I got bored in the ravine. He did not laugh. A brief tutorial on items most necessary to our survival followed shortly thereafter… My little brother and I had way too much fun provoking our father during the tutorial.

“What is the number one reason people die in the wild?”
“Because they don’t have a space blanket!!!”
Giant sigh, “No, because they don’t have rope.”

There was a reason the number one cause of trapped-in-the-wild deaths is lack of rope, but I don’t remember it. All I know is if I’m ever in a fight-or-flight situation, I’ll be all, WHERE THE FUCK IS MY ROPE?!?”

My dad was totally serious about these survival backpacks. Any time he’d find one in the garage he’d immediately figure out who’d tried to ditch theirs and reprimand us. I didn’t ever see the value in the bag, but found it to be a great conversation piece anytime someone opened up my trunk, and I figured at some point astronaut food could be cool so it stayed there until I finally sold that car.

Last week I got a brief taste of what it’s like to need a survival backpack. Sure, the situation in Manhattan was in no way dire, but realizing that I don’t so much as own a flashlight was a reminder of my complete lack of disaster preparation. Living in a city doesn’t make you conscious of the elements. I’m conditioned to hold my keys in between my fingers late at night so I can stab an attacker in the eye, but the closest thing I have to a “wilderness” skills is my ability to light a cigarette with a match when it’s windy out.

Ok, enough about how I need to ask my dad to mail me that backpack so I can wear it everywhere… In other news, completely dark lower Manhattan was eerie, but for me (who had power), it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Chris and I sat on the steps of a church on 7th street and drank wine in the dark while watching the cops circle the block.

Blacked out Flatiron building

After that we found a ramen restaurant that was open and running in candlelight.
We made friends with four other people and hatched a plan to meet up anytime there was a not-so-dangerous natural disaster.

Pork bun by candlelight

We spent hours debating whether or not it was ok to open the freezer and hung out with all my friends who took refuge at our powered, wifi-equipped apartment.

As with any storm, memories were made, like the renegade West Village Halloween parade. Powerless Manhattan is one of my first experiences here that made me feel like I’ve lived a piece of this city’s history.

Of course, while Manhattan is nearly back to normal, there are still so many people who need help and I would be remiss to not remind everyone of ways to support those in need of disaster relief from near of far. So here are some links:

Red Cross
Americares
NYC Service

Also, for anyone in need of survival backpacks, I found this link. It’s not my dad’s exact backpack, but it’s close…

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