My Cousin Alice: Wine Critic and Hurricane Hero

Teaneck, New Jersey. There’s a car underneath that fallen tree. Photo by Offspring #2.

Seraphic Secret has not, so far, written about Hurricane Sandy (what a terrible name for such a devastating storm) because, frankly, we had nothing original to say. We all know that nature is pitiless, government services fail, and neighbors help neighbors while politicians pose and preen.

Seraphic Secret has one daughter in Teaneck and one in Queens. Both are okay, thank G-d.

We also have an elderly relative who lives in Long Beach, a beloved aunt. Aunt X is, um, kind of stubborn. So when the order to evacuate was given, she just hunkered down in her second-floor apartment, saying: “What do they know? This is my home. I’m staying.”

On the phone, before the storm hit, a concerned Seraphic Secret called Aunt X.

“You have to evacuate.”


“You won’t have electricity, you won’t have fresh water, the toilet won’t flush, you won’t have any phone service, you will be cut off. Plus, you’re on the second floor, just  a few blocks from the beach. The water might flood your apartment. It’s going to get positively medieval.”

“They always exaggerate.”

“That’s true. But this time I think they’re right. Please, get out.”

Predictably, Aunt X stayed put.

The storm raged, and we could not reach Aunt X. The TV images of coming out of Long Beach were of Noah’s flood.

Cousin Alice Feiring, wine critic and hurricane hero.

Enter cousin Alice Feiring, the famous wine critic, who has written about kosher wines for Seraphic Secret. Cousin Alice, also unable to reach Aunt X and worried sick, tried to rent a car so she could drive out to Long Beach to rescue her.

Finally, Alice went on Facebook and asked her friends if she could borrow a car. A Facebook friend came through, offering to drive Alice out to drowning Long Beach.

There, Alice found Aunt X lighting her last candle. No water, no electricity, no phone service, a primal existence.

“Pack up,” said Alice. “I’m taking you out of here.”

“No, I have to stay. There might be looters.”

“You’re over 80 years old. What are you going to do against looters?! Pack. Up.”

Aunt X is now with another cousin in a safe area. My cousin Alice — officially my hero — is staying with friends on the Upper West Side because her downtown apartment does not have electricity or water.

“I’m a refugee,” said Alice to me on the phone a few minutes ago. “But I’m luckier than so many others.”

Aunt X, feisty as ever, joked: “I don’t know how people in the Middle Ages managed.”

Suffering is widespread. We urge those who can to help those who are in need, and for all of us to contribute to reputable charities. Do not count on government assistance. It is neighbors, communities and first-responders who always come through, while government agencies usually contribute to the mess.

We’d also like to mention that cousin Alice, an excellent wine critic and a best-selling author, has just started a new venture, The Feiring Line, a private newsletter for wine connoisseurs . If you love wine, click here and subscribe.

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  1. kishke
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    We really are back to the Carter days. Christie has just instituted odd & even days for gas in several counties. Not ours, though.

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  2. Jeremayakovka
    Posted November 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Glad to hear people are well. Can’t take things for granted in such a situation. There will be real misery for the next week or so. 

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  3. Miranda Rose Smith
    Posted November 2, 2012 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    I spoke to my brother. He and his family are fine, but we’re both worried about a cousin who lives in lower Manhattan, very near the Hudson. Neither one of us has heard from her. Shabbat Shalom.

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  4. Bill Brandt
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Robert – reading about your Aunt X reminded me of this fellow:
    Glad she had a better ending (thanks to Alice!) 
    Other thing that struck me as odd/mildly funny was reading about the fist fights and guns drawn at gas stations that have no gas – no that isn’t funny but as a general rule I try to avoid situations like that – but one satisfied customer – getting a full tank – said that his work was 1.5 miles from his home and he was going to use that car.
    I walk my dog more than that every morning. 

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    • kishke
      Posted November 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      Here where I live the lines are peaceful, and things have started to loosen up a bit, shorter waits, more stations open. They all want cash though. No credit. Don’t know why.

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  5. Johnny
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I am rereading The Battle For wine and Love and I can picture your cousin throwing your aunt over her shoulder and carrying her out if necessary. Mayor Bloomberg would do it but he was busy leading a raid on a 7-11 that was selling 17 oz. sodas.

    I knew you had family back in the area so it’s good to know they are safe. Considering there were more than 50 million people affected by the storm, 60 or so deaths is barely a rounding error. All deaths are tragic but I bet a umber of those that died are candidates for a Darwin Award.

    Congratulations to your cousin Alice for not waiting around for the government.  

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  6. kishke
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Writing from Lakewood NJ, which is only a few miles from the Jersey Shore. For us personally, the storm was not as bad as it might have been. We lost power for a day and a half, but B”H ours has been restored, although we still have lots of neighbors and friends and family who are without. The gas siuation is terrible; most gas stations are without power and so cannot pump gas; there are 1-2 hour lines at the ones that still have gas and power.

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted November 1, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink


      Glad to hear you and yours are okay. The gas situation reminds me of the Carter years, during the Arab oil embargo, when lines went on for miles. Have a peaceful Shabbos.

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      • kishke
        Posted November 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely. We lived next door to a gas station in those days, whose owner was a yeshiva buddy of my father’s. We would see the tankers making deliveries at night, and he would invite us over to fill up, I remember the lines snaking past our house, even-numbered license plates one day, odd-numbered the next. This time, thankfully, we filled up two out of three cars before the storm, so I hope we’ll be able to hold out till things get back to normal.

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