Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ghost Town

Pictures: below, a beautiful sky in spite of everything and the beach in the New Town

Above L, Ristorante Ely, Above R surveying the car, L up Via Roma - the gates are the holes - R, to the left of the Church looking at Ciak

Another Evacuated street, our new waterfall

Pictures L-R: pastry shop, inside fast bar, via roma, hotel margherita

It's funny how that 30 seconds before you wake up, you hover in this weird world that is between sleeping, dreaming, and fully realizing what's going on in the environment around you in real life. This was one of those mornings. I woke up and it took me a minute to remember what had happened here, and the sheeting rain of yesterday. I pried open my eyes and gazed out our window. Everything looked normal.
In fact, it's a beautiful day here. The sun is shining through a smattering of light clouds that
are casting perfect shadows across the rooftops. The only evidence of Alert 2 storms is the high, rolling waves in the distance, but I was incredible relieved, and more so after we went down to Via Fegina. The rain had, in actuality, helped us a little bit with our clean up, clearing the street of debris and crusted mud, leaving a few men the easy task of hosing off the rest. Our sandbagging and water diverting had worked perfectly. Provided you didn't look at sandbags, disaster workers, the chaos on the beach or any boarded up windows, it actually seemed, on the surface, like a regular day here in the New Town.
Again, things aren't always what they seem. The Old Town was a different matter entirely.
The evacuation had rendered the Old Town eerily empty - in fact, it seemed more the
n a little like a ghost town. As we walked there with Manuel's Aunt and Uncle, who were evacuated from their home on Via Roma, we found the first odd discovery of the day.
Their car, which had been swept away in the torrent of water two Tuesdays ago had stubbornly reappeared, sunning itself on what is left of the beach in the Old Town. Waterlogged and a bit like a shipwreck returned from the depths, it sat at the shore, waves crashing over it with all the other debris washed back into town from the storm this weekend.
As we meandered through town, it was insane to see only four or five people around away from the Red Cross tent. The "evacuated" areas weren't heavily monitored, and we were able to wind our way through the Old Town pretty easily, until confronted with what used to be Via Roma. As you can see from the pictures, they have done an insane amount of work clearing out the mud that used to be caking the town up to the second story, but the street that was flipped in half and gnarled wasn't something that could be fixed. It was simply taken off and left as a deep crevice in front of the Fast Bar, with the diverted water running off from the higher part of town crashing over what used to be the street, creating a waterfall as it ran into the ground under, which used to be a river. That was odd discovery number 2. Holes were cracked in the pavement all over the Old Town, providing the water a place to spill off safely and giving me a peek into what lies beneath Via Roma. The water underneath was higher then I expected, which immediately gave me an unsteady feeling that stemmed from both feeling unsure about the ground I was standing on, but also how fragile this street really is, and how difficult it is going to be to rebuild this infrastructure.
Odd discovery number 3 was a strange smell of gas that was wafting through most of the streets in the Old Town. Now the fear isn't so much of another storm continuing the need for these people in the Old Town to leave their homes, but other issues just as dangerous. A permeating smell of gas, along with the trickling sound of water and echoing silence was unsettling, to say the least. After helping Manuel's Aunt and Uncle move some food out of the huge fridge in Manuel's Aunt's mother's hotel, which, without power, was simply sitting there rotting, we made our way back to Fegina. As you can see from the photos, there is no one around, save for a few disaster workers and firemen. It was incredibly bizarre, and coupled with the disturbing gas smell and the unexpected warm sunlight, the whole thing immediately brought me out of whatever false sense of normalcy I'd felt for a moment this morning.
There is no point for me to try and convince myself or others that things aren't that bad or that this isn't going to be very hard. It's a truth that is ugly, and it stares us boldly in the face everyday. The important thing is to remember that we are staring back, just as unblinking and unmoving and stubborn. We know it's going to be hard. We know it's going to take time, and that we need help, especially though donations to the Red Cross. But it can and will be done, I have no doubt about that. Coming to terms with what happened has, well, happened, and a lost car reappearing can bring laughter now instead of tears. We pick up, move on, and rebuild. People aren't talking about if they can get back on their feet, but a matter of when. As long as I keep seeing that incredible drive to get Monterosso back to what it was, I can wake up, and for a spit second or the rest of the day, feel normal.
And proud.


  1. Thanks, Christine, for your continuing updates of Monterosso, and for posting photos of everything, including Ristorante Ely. Give them my love, if you see them. I am blogging, and encouraging others to donate. I hope your cantina recovers in record time, and that dealing with insurance companies goes smoothly.

  2. Those photos of Ristorante Ely were specifically for you! Thank you for all your kind words - I will tell the folks there, and if there are any other places you want to check in on or see photos of, let me know :)