A Comparative Analysis of the Heroic Exploits of Antarctic Explorer Ernest Shackleton and Downtown Resident Brent Shearer During The Five-Night “Sandy” Blackout



Neighborhood: Lower East Side, Tribeca

October 1915 – Shackleton’s ship the Endurance crushed by ice after drifting for nine months.

October 28, 2012 – 7:30 pm: Shearer hikes two blocks from residence at 90 Hudson St., #6B, to Hudson River with stated goal of checking out storm surge and keeping feet dry. Forced to wade through three feet of water at foot of Harrison Street, Shearer retreats to #6B.

October 1915 – Shackleton and 28-man crew forced to camp on floating ice for five months.

October 28, 2012 – 8:00 pm: Shearer changes out of wet sneakers and jeans. 8:30 pm: Power goes out in #6B and most of lower Manhattan. Shearer locates, uses flashlight and candles. Reads the novel “Telegraph Avenue” holding flashlight in mouth.

February 1916 — Melting ice allows Shackleton and five crew to row for fifteen days to South Georgia Island. Hurricane forces landing on wrong side of island. This necessitates three-day, overland trek to whaling station. Having eaten the leather binding of the expedition’s Bible, Shackleton distributes portions to crew for entertainment, moral uplift, kindling.

October 29, 2012 — Shearer rides bike across island. Sees massive tree destruction in East River Park. Crossing Broadway on return, Shearer sees deli rolling up shutters. Buys two forty-ounce Heinekens, plus two muffins so he doesn’t look like an alcoholic. Retreats to #6B, cooks and eats melting veggie burgers, reads “Telegraph Avenue” by flashlight. Cellphone not working.

March 1916 – Shackleton returns to Elephant Island and rescues remaining crew members who survived by living under upturned life boats for three months. Frostbite costs most men some toes. Cellphone not invented.

October 30, 2012 — Shearer despite nearly total lack of contact with humans during power outage decides to bathe. Hauls six stew pots of boiling water from stove to bathtub. Uses trick of setting candles up in their own wax to provide illumination.

April 1916 – Shackleton gives his mittens to a crew member, suffers frostbitten fingers, but retains them.

November 1, 2012 — Shearer sleeps late, reads until mid-afternoon. Again rides bike to East Side. Finds favorite bar closed. Riding home in darkness, nearly hits two joggers on bike path under FDR drive, wishes he had lights on bike. Retreats to #6B, flashlight fails.

Shearer hauls bike down darkened stairwell using one of few remaining candles, rides to Battery Park City, closest neighborhood with power. Asks two supermarket clerks and one deli clerk if they have flashlights. One clerk laughs disdainfully, none have any. Shearer buys three bottles of Beck’s dark beer and three packages of raman noodles. Consumes provisions, reads “Telegraph Avenue” using last few candles.

October 1917 – Shackleton, by now drinking heavily, is sent to Argentina as a diplomat. Fails to persuade nation to join British war effort.

November 2, 2012 — Beginning to crack after four days without power, Shearer takes desperate action in bid for entertainment: goes jogging on West side bike path. Sees open bar on Spring Street. Drinks six Heineken, is served free plate of meat loaf and chicken breast. Shearer not big on veggies anyway. Shearer meets cute female sculptor who gets his jokes. Learns Mayor has promised power to lower Manhattan by midnight. Staggers home from bar around 1:30 am disappointed that a. cute female sculptor not with him, and b. no power.

October 1920 – Shackleton becomes professional lecturer, regales audiences with stories about expeditions in which all 22 sled dogs died and men suffered from snow blindness, frostbite and scurvy.

November 3, 2012 — 4:30 am: Power returns. 10:30 am: Shearer’s wife returns from his mother-in-laws’s apartment. Shearer realizes parting from cute female sculptor not worst outcome. Wife expresses amazement that Shearer didn’t “burn the place down.”

January 1922 – Shackleton dies on South Georgia Island leading final expedition. His honors include the Order of the British Empire, admission to the Royal Victorian Order and being named a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society

November 4 to present – Shearer awaits honors from civic and exploration society authorities, tries to remember what gallery cute female sculptor said work was up at.

Summary: Shackleton and Shearer are both Anglo-Irish heroes, though Shearer is Anglo-Irish American, possibly alcoholics. Shackleton deserves the honors he has received. Shearer is likely to receive fewer accolades. Shearer may eventually rediscover cute female sculptor, but expedition will involve running up considerable bar tab at Spring Street boozer waiting for her.

Conclusion: Whether the object is the South Pole or cute female sculptor men like Shackleton and Shearer will continue to launch heroic expeditions, which will be hindered (Shackleton) or enhanced (Shearer) by hurricanes.

Shearer is a freelance writer living on the Lower West Side. His work can also be found on the blog “In the Front Row, On the Dole,” the first memoir to combine “laid-off lit” with “getting laid lit.”

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