April 15, 2020. Sunny and in the high 50s yesterday in New York. After Monday’s rains, sometimes in torrents, other times misting. It all ended in a beautiful sunset with layers of greys and soft to fiery pinks. My personal view of it is nothing poetic. I like it because it reflects in fleeting nature’s beauty on canyons of steel, stone and glass. From here I look south on buildings bordering the river as far away as East 72nd Street.
I’d gone out to the market that afternoon, and when I returned, going into my building’s lobby on my way to the elevator, I saw three men in white hazmat suits and head coverings and masks, scrubbing the doors around the elevator, the building’s metal mailbox, the doorknobs nearby as well as the marble fl00r. The elevator had also been disinfected obviously. It was odd but not alarming. I later learned that the real estate managers had announced to the tenants via their web site, that there is a resident who tested positive.
My first thought was that this will add to the fears that so many are acting off of. Not that I’m not fearful, but upon that “discovery” via the men in white, I could only think most of us, if not all of us, will be all right. If we don’t have to be rounded up and kept outta sight from each other. That is my optimism which usually only comes to me at a much later hour in the day and I am thinking and looking (for peace of mind) to see the best of it.
And then there are the trees budding and blooming right outside my window. Some of its baby branches extend within a few feet from the terrace. In my quest to look for beauty in my surroundings (the city), I watch the rebirth of those branches. Brown-grey and skeletal-like in the cold months, right now, mid-April – their transformation begins. Soon in full blooming leaves I won’t be able to see much of the building across the avenue. Just the tree. It’s a kind of psychic relief. And for free!
I’m reminded of when I was a young man in my twenties, I had a job as a Registered Rep at a brokerage firm called Harris Upham & Co. The branch office was at 445 Park at 57th Street. Every morning I’d take the Lexington Avenue line (IRT) as it was called then, to 59th Street and stop off at a coffee shop (stools and counters) on 58th and Lex. There was a large framed painting/illustration of a doughnut on one wall, visible to everyone who entered. Underneath the portrait was the caption (that I never forgot obviously):
As you ramble on through life, Brother,
whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the doughnut,
and NOT upon the Hole.
This is the 35th day of my lockdown or whatever they’re calling it. I’ve lived alone since the early ‘90s and I’ve never minded it. I prefer it because I’m one of those writers who always has to be available to himself. I’m a late bloomer, a child manqué who took forever to grow up (and I’m still that child). I lack the discipline to set aside certain hours in the day to write. But the evening hours are the most productive to get it done.
The lockdown demolished the social calendar that required my presence (as a responsible adult) in covering the philanthropic and social side of the city. That is over. At least for this season – which normally ends around the end of the first week in June. That’s only seven weeks away but it seems like years right now.
I haven’t had a vacation, per se, since JH and I started the NYSD in 2000. I haven’t minded that non-stop because I have had the opportunity to write and publish all that time. I couldn’t think of a better vacation. This time right now, mid-April, the calendar would have filled up with obligations through the first week of June. Add to that scores of fundraising luncheons and galas to cover. It can even be too much. But it’s a nice time of year in New York. The changing weather brings more people out, and the best of New York is on display.
The pandemic, this lockdown, however, has ended all that. Yes, it may be just for this season, although maybe, just maybe the oncoming Fall season. And maybe not. It’s strange being on this “hold” in this city known and loved the world over for its “energy.” If I were living in Los Angeles right now — having lived there throughout the 1980s — I wouldn’t be as distracted by this shutdown. Life out there is centered around the home, the abode. Never leaving it (and with a swimming pool right outside) never even wanting to. Here, New York is The Center of the world. At least when you live here it feels that way. It is the only city in the world where you can meet anybody if you need to. Dozens of cultures and religions live here together and even peacefully. Take these people away, and what have you?
A Wall Street bank, Morgan Stanley put out a report of some kind that projects the virus moving in again toward the end of the year … until “vaccines are available, in the Spring of 2021 at the earliest.” From knowing nothing to knowing the future; that is one aspect of this virus event in our history as well as in our world economy and its history.
In the meantime we need to keep our minds and hearts open for others. The largest part, almost the whole of what makes this great city are the working people, those of us who make our way in life with our jobs. Many New Yorkers, and all across the country, are now out of work. Debt is everywhere among us; everywhere. No job, no money; no money no food. These are the real basic social problems about to confront us. These are not seasonal, and all our lives depend on it.
But, to get back to the premise of this Diary: a friend sent me this video that gets you back on the bus …