Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Curse Strikes Again!

REMEMBER HOW I OBSERVED that I worked adjacent to a star-struck street in Chelsea? Boy, did it ever come true again today. I am going to count this because you could see this from the corner of which I have written.

I take the PATH train to 14th Street to get to work. (Dizziness update: Still there, but I'm no longer panicking about my heart going up like a grenade.) Even as I was mounting the stairs, I could smell smoke on the wind. Being the sort to savor a smoky breeze in the fall, I smiled, imagining how nice it would be to have a fireplace going on a cool autumn morning.

If only that were it! When I finally made it out to the surface, I could hear sirens in the distance, out west — the direction I was headed. Looking down 14th Street, I saw not the fringe of Jersey, but a grey smudge . . . in what seemed to be the vicinity of my building.

I called home to see if my parents had heard anything on the radio. They reported a parking garage was on fire on 15th Street and Ninth Avenue. This is right across the street from where I work! I kept walking, assuming I would know by the throngs of my coworkers if my building had been evacuated as a precaution.

Emergency vehicles passed me in haste as I finally reached Eighth Avenue. Nobody was standing outside, aside from the usual cancer cluster sucking down a quick nail before punching in. But the smoke from this distance was black and menacing. Fifteenth and 16th were blocked heading west, and I could see flame licking from some distance structure of unknown use.

From inside the building, I couldn't smell anything — surprising, as the stench (no longer a romantic wood smell, but the acrid tang of combusting gas and tires) was pervasive outside. Possibly everyone on the window side had closed up before heading home Tuesday night. (Yes, I work in a 1930s building with windows you can open. Not that I have an office.) Had they been open, the whole office easily would have smelled of it.

The horrific fact is that dozens of cars were destroyed, and in many cases, their gas tanks were exploding. I am led to understand that, contrary to what Hollywood action films would have you believe, gas tanks are far more stable in car wrecks than they seem on screen. They require a spark or high temperatures to touch off. And the latter was present in spades at this parking garage. It must have been bitter duty for NY1, which is based in the Chelsea Market complex right next door to the fire, to report that many of the news channel's employees, and the company itself, had lost vehicles. Can you imagine sitting at your desk and wondering if your car was still intact? Does insurance even cover such a thing?

So the cursed corner of Chelsea has struck again! I fully expect the follow-up to be a horde of snakes or perhaps a plague of locusts.

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