Report From a Last Responder

Hello friends. How quickly things have changed, no?

First, I don’t know why these terrible ads with swollen legs are showing up in the middle of my blog all of a sudden. I’m too lazy to research and rectify but I will take the time to apologize.

Here is my little train of thought from the way back of the frontlines in the epicenter of the crisis, New York City, as I sit in isolation in my apartment on this the 97th day of March 2020.

First, things happened so quickly. One minute we were talking about bars having to operate at half capacity, the next there was no capacity and keep your filthy ass at home. Then the second minute the streets still felt fairly normal, albeit quiet, when I walked my dog three times a day – morning, afternoon and night, the only times I ventured out. Then in another blink it changed again.

I had to stop the after dark walks. It’s not just empty outside, it’s desolate and scary. There is an energy. And I am someone who has walked the streets freely for years, after midnight, didn’t matter, never feeling too nervous because there were always people outside, neighbors I knew, groups spilling out of bars and restaurants, couples arguing next to their cars. The Manhattan of the 21st century has, for the most part, felt pretty safe for the old school residents, who remember when it was Fear City.

It feels like Fear City again, both inside and out. The news hammering us with steadily rising numbers. My friends hammering my social media feed with constant nagging memes about staying home. I want to shout, “Bitch, all your friends are over 40. They’re all well at home scrolling past and reposting this same stupid meme!” I’ve unfriended some overly strident acquaintances on Facebook. the fear-mongering grates on me. Shut the fuck up already, we’re all watching the news, Gladys. But I take a breath. I know it makes people feel like they’re doing something. Everyone is hurting in one way or another and it’s important to at least try to be gentle.

Prisoners have been let out of jail early. There is a jail two blocks down the street from me. And worse, juvenile prisoners have been released early. Teenage criminals scare me more than adults because they are far less concerned with consequences.

The last night I went out right before dark I passed three young guys, jailhouse needle poke tattoos covering their faces, high as fuck. My guess is they got released, immediately went and got dope, because why not, and then had nothing left to do but roam the empty streets looking for action.

We passed each other under a scaffolding, even darker than the already fading light. They sized me up. For once in my life I felt grateful not to look 22. One of them said, testing the waters, “Hey, ma.” I responded casually and friendly, but carefully and with strength. “How ya doin?” I felt a relaxation of the energy. I was off the hook; deemed not an easy target. He looked back over his shoulder and said, “Stay safe, ma!” I waved over my own shoulder and said, “Yup. You too.” And then I moved quickly because I knew the urge to engage was wending its way through the drug fog in their brains.

So the nightly walk is gone. My little dog, who is my only companion through these quiet days and nights, holds his bladder for a crazy amount of time throughout the night as I try to get to him to understand he can use the balcony/terrace any time he wants. I bring him out there and lay out a wee wee pad and he looks up at me not understanding. After a time of fruitless urging I pick him up and stand for a minute in the cold. I hold him close and look up and down the ghost town street from my private outside space, feeling my fortune and praying for everyone inside and out. Then we go back in and go to bed.

I am so lucky. I have a salary coming in. I miss the extra cash from my bar shift but I can survive without it. I donate what I can with each check to service industry friends who have gofundme accounts set up. I thank the sweet baby Jesus in his manger that I don’t have kids that need to be entertained or fed or home-schooled. The days pass pretty quickly for me; I enjoy solitude. I do yoga every morning (holla Cat Meffan yoganuary!) and limit myself to one to two glasses of wine if I drink so that I don’t fall down an emotional rabbit hole. I watch our collective Corona-dad Governor Cuomo break it down for us on the news. Numbers are rising, hospitals are gasping, they’ve built a MASH unit in Central Park. I should be working on “the book” but I resist it and play video games instead. Here and there I do a bit of my decidedly non-essential actual job work for Wendigo. We started a record company with trusted friends and have big plans for when people can watch live music again. I read a bit and have virtual happy hours with friends on FaceTime and Houseparty. I FaceTime with Sam, who is in Brooklyn, and he tells me about the salads he’s inventing. I text with friends in Nashville, Portland, London, Sweden, Finland about what their lives are like. We make plans for later, much later. I make dinner, I watch movies and moisturize and watch Netflix in bed, the constant and comforting warm body of my dog pressed up against me. The cat stays near, less needy but still understanding that we’re in something big together.

People from our rock and roll tribe are dropping so quickly. It’s jarring and devastating. Now on top of being sick or worrying about sick family or being scared of being sick, people are also in mourning and unable to get together with fellow mourners to say goodbye. I look at the social media of the newly dead I know and most of them were posting the usual quarantine activities just a few days prior. How is this possible? Then I look at photos of my friends only so recently hugging and standing close and it feels like such an unimaginable luxury. How do we find comfort in each other now?

I got a call from a family friend who is a psychic who sort of specializes in speaking to the dead. He is happily safe in a farmhouse in Michigan and said a friend of mine was pushing him to call me so she could speak. He said, “I see the color red and she’s very specific about being called ‘she’ And she’s very funny!” I said, “It’s Codie, she always comes through when you talk to me.”

So he relayed the words and jokes he was hearing from her. She told me to use my neti pot. She told me to make sure to wash the dog’s feet when we come back inside. She told me I was wise to stay inside at night. She told me she has changed her evolution into a revolution, and to trust that all is moving according to a higher plan. She said that it’s time to be quiet and to listen to my intuition, and that new ideas would be coming to me. She said the earth and people need this to evolve into a different kind of energy. She said we would never be the same, but we would be okay. She said specifically that I would be okay. She called me a sister and a friend and said she was grateful for my love and support when she was alive. She said that she is always watching over me. I cried.

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My very alive biological sister is younger than me but always frets over my safety when things go sideways in NYC. She’s taken on the role of the responsible and prudent one while I continue to behave into my dotage much like a teenager at their first Kiss concert. She texted me on a thread with my brother asking if I carried mace, asking for pertinent information should she have to leave the safety of the Michigan countryside to get into my apartment. Meaning if I were dead or incapacitated. My brother and I cracked wise, always the shittiest sense of humor. I remained unbothered but fully aware that it’s not an unreasonable conversation right now.

I worry about the stray animals and animals in shelters. I worry about children and people quarantined in abusive households. I worry about all the doctors and nurses and EMTs and exhausted people trying to fix this for us. I worry about the homeless people outside my door. Some of them are so crazy and vulnerable. Are they being picked on? Are they going to rise up against people like me because there is no one left to answer the panhandling? I pull whatever small bills I had squirreled away Before Corona (B.C) and put them in my pocket to hand out during the walks. Then I think, is there virus on this money? How are people using actual cash right now?

I remember my favorite homeless man. He sits for long hours against a gate on Canal Street around the corner from my place. He sits upright and still as a statue, his suitcase neatly beside him. I don’t know how he does it. He has the alert eyes and round cheeks and gentle expression of a Christmas card Santa Claus, but his skin is very dark, almost black. He has an accent and I wonder what warm country he came from to sit by himself on a cold, dirty street all day. He doesn’t appear to do drugs or have mental issues; he’s just calm and sweet. When Canal was pumping he seemed to have purpose, conversing and helping the tourist vendors who appeared to know and like him. Now the vendors are gone and he sits alone. He feeds the pigeons but is mostly still, facing forward at the traffic. Sometimes in the evening I see him pushing his suitcase, leaving his post til morning. Where does he go at night? Is he safe?

I made a beeline for him and said, “Are you okay out here? Do you need money?” He said, “It’s okay, you don’t have to.” I said “I know I don’t have to but you need it.” I pulled all the cash I had in my pocket, probably about 14 bucks, and thrust it into his gloved hand. He said, “Thank you. Thank you.” I nodded and walked away, turning my back so he didn’t see that I was suddenly crying. I don’t know why I was crying, maybe that it was so little and the disparity in our positions feels so unfair. Everything feels so unfair right now.

A few minutes later a little old man behind me hawked up a giant loogie and spit it on the sidewalk. In Little Italy/Chinatown the old men are well-practiced loogie enthusiasts. Now I had somewhere to fire all this emotion. I shouted, my voice cracking,”Stop the fucking spitting!! Now is not the time for that shit!!” He looked at me like I was crazy.

I am crazy. Mama, mama weer all crazee now. At least until A.C.

Take care and stay safe, my beautiful friends. See you on the other side.

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It’s Not Me It’s You

I’m currently reading an autobiography by someone in a famous band. It’s a great read but I’m not going to type out the name here because I prefer to fly under the search engine radar so that it’s primarily friends reading this.

A million years ago, in the 90’s, I had a moment with the singer of the band in said book (not the writer). Essentially he saw me at a show, liked what he saw and pursued me fairly intensely. He won me over (not too difficult to do back then if you were skinny, attractive and in a band), we hung out a few times in New York when he was here, spent a weekend in Philly together, and then he dropped me like the proverbial hot potato. In mid-phone call. Like one minute I was getting postcards from the road and we were chatting about something fairly benign on the phone, the next he said he had to go and hung up abruptly and I never heard from him again.

Well, never heard from him again in any real way. About six months later he showed up at my job looking sheepish, primarily because his bass player was dating my friend and she dragged them in. He apologized and said he’d take me out to dinner the next day and to make a reservation wherever I wanted. His band was filming for VH1 unplugged in the morning and he asked if I wanted to go to that as well. I said no because I was in the middle of bartending until 4 am and I didn’t want to have to try to look cute that early in the morning, but that I’d see him at dinner. Which I did not, because he ghosted me again after I spent a day excited about it and planning out what to wear. So essentially he blew me off hard, twice. I cried into takeout with clean hair and a red dress laid out on the bed.

It was a bummer. And he got so stupid famous so quickly right after we met that his photo and voice were everywhere. It stung to know I was on the outside of that. But happily it hadn’t lasted long enough for me to get seriously hurt and I would never have been able to handle it anyway. I was in no mental or emotional shape to take on a rock star at that level. So it was all for the best.

But at the time I didn’t see that, I just thought that I screwed up majorly, as usual. That I was too open about liking him and about who I was and it caused him to lose interest. In the beginning when I didn’t care he was all over me, once I opened up about who I really was, not as cool or sexy as I put on and in actuality pretty midwest normal, he was gone in a flash of roadrunner smoke. I got over him but I didn’t get over the idea that I was the sole fly in the ointment.

I had one photo with him from that brief time that a friend sent through myspace that I didn’t keep, because it was terrible. He and I were walking down the street together but looked completely separate energetically. I had my usual big, stupid, no idea I’m about to get stomped on grin on my face, while he appeared decidedly unhappy. We’d might as well have been on different planets. It was a visual representation of what I couldn’t see.

And then every time I ran into him over the years, which happily wasn’t often, it was some less than ideal situation in which I was still suspect. Like I was having a crap week and ended up sitting by myself in a dive bar one evening after work, visiting a bartending friend and sulking into a glass of whiskey, trying to be deep and jaded like a character in a noir film, but looking less than stellar in slightly tearstained, day-worn makeup and some crappy basic work outfit. In he walks with a much more put-together girlfriend with much cleaner hair and no runny mascara. Oh yay, hey, it’s me, the weird lonely woman you screwed a few times, drinking in a bar by herself. Nothing depressing to see here! Or another time when I passed him on the street looking cheap as hell in an accidentally too lowcut dress for the time of day, covered in dog hair and saliva as I wrangled my brain-damaged Pekingese who happened to be in mid-seizure at that moment. Bet you’re sorry now that you let go of all this magic, you bastard!

I am the Lucille Ball of rock chicks.

I recently told my business partner that the thing to remember when fighting with me is that I secretly believe that all conflict is due to me being fatally flawed, so if we ever have a bad argument he just has to wait it out to win. I will get angry and argue stridently, but then I’ll go home and dissect all the ways I should or shouldn’t have done or said this or that. And then I’ll feel so bad about myself I’ll eventually capitulate to whatever is placed on the table.

I also had a conversation with my supersmart friend Grace, one of those ones where you sit in your apartment after a night out and just break it all down with tears and oversharing. She listened to me spill about the pain and confusion I still feel at times about the losses over the last few years, how hard it has been for me to heal and and how deeply it hurt me that some key people I loved simply stopped caring about me. This was coupled with the added insult to injury that at the same time that these deeper abandonments were happening, strangers were going out of their way to hurt me over imaginary laptop theft and old photo posting*. It was all too overwhelming to be coincidence, but why?

*See past blogs if you’re interested.

I mean, I know the spiritual reasons why – change, expansion, growth, clearing old energy to make way for the new. Blah, blah, barf. I get it. But that mental knowledge doesn’t change how the heart feels. And because of the aforementioned secret thought that every action and reaction around me is bearing upon my behavior and “badness” or “goodness”, not being able to fix these connections means that I failed. My failure. Not good enough. Never good enough. If only. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. The brain contorts in excruciating fashion.

Happily, Grace said something pretty basic that I needed to hear, which was “You can’t control people. People have their own trajectories and demons and feelings separate from anything to do with you, and you can’t always create the outcome you want no matter what you do or say.”

I hadn’t considered that. What is this lack of control that you speak of?

So now I’m reading this book and guess what! It turns out that this particular guy who I assumed was amazing and who rejected me for not being amazing, is in fact BATSHIT CRAZY. Like more than usual singer crazy. Like bipolar and narcisisstic crazy. Like impossible to get along with crazy. Like someone I don’t know that I’d want to be friends with crazy. Like exactly like a psycho, sociopathic ex-bandmate that I will never speak to again crazy.

Oh.

OH!

OOOOOHHHH!

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So could it be possible that this particular rejection, and maybe others in my life, may have had less to do with my awesomeness or lack thereof than I assumed? Maybe that one photo just captured me being my optimistic self and his darkness in that moment was his own? And in following that train of thought, does that mean that the decisions of others are not necessarily directly influenced by the things that I do or say? And does this mean that the world, in fact, does not revolve around me??

Impossible! No! This cannot be. And yet….

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The amount of thought and energy wasted on that one situation that could have been dismissed almost immediately, then add that to the myriad situations one has in a lifetime–the mind boggles. Suffice to say that I’m pretty glad I picked the book up.

So when will we be able to relax and allow ourselves to be who we are and shine clearly without all that fog? I dunno. I’m not sure it’s possible to move forward without truthful self-examination, but where does dissection end and flagellation begin? We screw up, we get up, we do better next time. Some people get us and like us, some people never will, and some people seem like they do but then let us down. That’s life. I’m tired of thinking about it in any other way than to focus on the people and opportunities that lie in front of me. The rest, at the end of the day, is all noise.

At least until #45 and the coronavirus take us all down.

I kid! I kid!! Namaste, bitches. Wash your hands.