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Five Alarm

I woke up at 2:20 this morning to the smell of smoke.

As you know, I threw my back out again. So I've been rocking the heating pad quite a bit. My first instinct was that I forgot to shut it off and my couch was on fire. But I got up and it was fine.

False alarm.

So I stumbled into my kitchen. Maybe a dishtowel magically ignited on the gas stove (that I haven't used for days).


Then, I opened the front door -- the smell of smoke was even stronger in the hallway. Now totally convinced my apartment building was on fire, I did a few things, while still half asleep:

1) I switched from pajama pants to lounge pants. A subtle difference, unless you consider that my pajama pants were covered in green butterflies and my lounge pants were plain navy blue. That felt more presentable. At 2am. I also put on a bra. No butterflies there.
2) I gathered up my purse, wallet, keys, and cell phone. And just for good measure, my cell phone charger.
3) I brushed my hair and my teeth. And then put my toothbrush in my pants pocket.
4) I grabbed a granola bar, a bottle of water, and a bottle of Advil liquigels (because the extra-strength Excedrin tablets I've been popping for my back are slowly giving me a stomach ulcer).

Oddly, I didn’t put on shoes – but maybe I didn't notice because I had socks on my feet (that’s how I always sleep).

Then I sat on the edge of my bed, with my purse on my lap, waiting for the fire alarm to go off. It was kind of like waiting for a bus. But nothing happened. So I called the lobby downstairs. Maybe they didn't know about the fire that surely must have been raging directly above or below my apartment, based on the strength of the smell.

It was my duty to call! Nobody answered.

So I struggled to open my window, not because they're hard to open, but because everything's a struggle when your back hurts. I finally got it open only to find that all of 40th Street was full of smoke. My heart started racing. And I immediately shuffled over to my kitchen table to grab a piece of mail and stuffed it in my purse. My renter’s insurance policy arrived the other day. I thought it might come in handy incase all my new stuff burst into flames.

Then I went back to the window. This time, I pressed my face up against the screen, straining to see the street. I'm on the 28th floor, so you can't see much. I could hear sirens, but it didn't seem like anything was happening directly below on 40th or 2nd. So I looked to the right, and saw TONS of red and white fire truck lights.


At this point, it was about 2:45. In the morning. And I realized it wasn't a fire in my building after all, just a ton of smoke. Seeing the blaze was a block away, I went back to bed. In my navy pants. With the toothbrush in my pocket.

This morning when my alarm went off, part of me thought the smoke was all a crazy dream.  I grabbed a tissue off the nightstand and blew my nose.  What came out looked a bit like soot, so I flipped on my beloved Channel 11 morning "news."  Surely, if anything happened, it would be a top story (right after the Mexican jumping bean contest -- or something equally ridiculous).

Turns out there WAS a fire. On 39th and 3rd. A 5 alarm fire, no less, with nearly 200 firefighters on the scene. It started shortly after midnight in the kitchen of a restaurant, and quickly spread to the neighboring restaurant. When they zoomed out, I realized I knew one of them -- The Frontier Coffee Shop! I once had a great piece of apple pie there, shortly after I moved into the neighborhood.

The first time.

It always struck me as an odd building amidst all the skyscrapers, kind of like the city grew up around it. While sitting in a corner booth reading a magazine and eating my pie, I remember overhearing a woman at the table next to me and the waitress whispering that disgraced NY Governor Eliot Spitzer used to come in for breakfast after he’d worked up an appetite with his… female constituents.

If the Wild West had a Denny’s, it could have been inspiration for the Frontier. I guess it was the American dream for a couple of immigrant brothers back in 1974 to build a Greek diner with a cowboy theme. Looking at the charred exterior of the building, your heart can’t help but break for the family, their 40 employees, and the 15 people who were hurt battling the blaze when the roof collapsed.

I truly hope they rebuild. And when they do, I’ll come by -- in my leisure pants -- for a piece of pie.

tags: city life, food


Anonymous said...

I ate there once too! It was after a wedding, and we were pretty hung over. I don't remember it being great, but their western omelete with a side of home fries and a gallon of water did the trick.

chris said...

Classic. Only you would pack a "My House Is On Fire" bag that contains a granola bar and your insurance policy. Are you sure you weren't a boy scout? ;)

Jenny From The 'Brook said...

Anon #1: Yeah I'm not sure the food was stellar, but the pie I had hit the spot.

Chris: Ha, no. But I was a Brownie for one year when I was in the 3rd grade!