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.
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.