Art Buchwald, Sidewalk Serta, The Washington Post, August 19, 2003
The morning after the lights went out in New York, I got a call from Duncan. He was very excited.
"The lights just went on, and I wanted to call you."
"I was worried about you. Where were you last night?"
"I was sleeping on the sidewalk. No one thought I was a homeless
person because everyone was sleeping on the sidewalk. I had a UPS carton as a
Duncan said, "What happened was, I walked from Times Square to my
apartment on 85th Street, but since I live on the 34th floor, I decided to spend
the night outside under the stars."
"Did you get much sleep?"
"Not a lot. When I got up to stretch my legs, a guy tried to steal
my spot. We had an argument, and he got so mad he started to tear up my UPS
"Where was your wife in all this?"
"She was on the 34th floor, and she told me this morning she wasn't
coming down with the elevator not working because she heard Bloomingdale's was
"Was she mad you slept on the sidewalk?"
"She didn't believe me. She said, 'You probably spent overnight with
an airline stewardess in a motel.'
"I showed her the bruises from the sidewalk, and she said she felt
so alone. She even called a Chinese carryout shop, but they said they wouldn't
deliver anything above the 10th floor."
I told Duncan: "We were on the Cape and saw the whole thing on
television. While we were eating a lobster with Ira Harris, we all agreed New
York was a disaster and were glad we weren't there. Did you see Mayor
"We heard he was on 81st Street, but he never visited the people
sleeping on the sidewalks on our block. It was very disappointing, as there are
a lot of voters on our block."
"I know you didn't sleep a lot."
"No, to keep up our morale we sang songs. 'When the Lights Go Out
All Over the World,' 'You Light Up My Life' and 'God Bless America.' "
"Why 'God Bless America?' "
"You always sing 'God Bless America' to thank Him for everything,
except the blackout."
"I'm curious. Did you blame anybody for what was happening in New
"The Canadians. We decided they had a lousy grid system."
"How did you come to that conclusion?"
"One of the people on the sidewalk said he had just been to Niagara
Falls and he didn't like what he saw."
"Well, now you are safe and sound in your own apartment. What did
you do with your UPS carton?"
"I wanted to keep it as a souvenir, but my wife said she didn't want
it in the apartment. Did I tell you everything in the freezer spoiled?"
"I've heard of some terrible stories, but yours is the worst one."
"I can't wait to see you to tell you about when I went to the
grocery store and they had run out of milk."
"Well, anyhow, I'm glad you called. I'll be able to tell everyone on
the Cape what it was like."
"You should have been there."
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