2020 was a distinctly bad year and is burned into my memory. It wasn’t just the pandemic, although that sure had a motherfucking big role. Not will I soon forget the dark days of New York’s Covid Spring, the eerie silence punctuated by the banging of pots and pans at dusk.
2020 was a lot of other bad things too.
I was attacked on a Zoom call in front of the entire faculty by an angry woman who claimed that I discriminated against black students. It didn’t matter that none of it was true nor that she knew none of the students nor even that many, including my black colleagues, called immediately afterwards to express their outrage. It was ugly and awful, and I had just been laid off. I was never given the chance to respond nor ever received an apology.
I received a call from my mother’s caretaker with the news of my mother’s death. It wasn’t sudden – it was more of a relief – but the image of the fire escape stairs and the multitude of drinks along with repeated viewing of the climax of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (my mother’s favorite opera) are indelible memories. As was the Zoom funeral that followed.
I had both of my knees replaced and was stuck in a hospital room with no air conditioning, the bedsheet sticking to my back. They didn’t do anything about it until a day later when they noticed that my temperature was high, and I explained the connection.
This Covid Pandemic is carving pieces of people away. In an attempt to maintain a semblance of normalcy through posting images, completing puzzles and asserting that all will be well, a feeling of identity loss dominates instead. Or thinking that anyway.
The need to belong somewhere – friends, family, a team or bar – has been eroded by life being moved onto the screen. This has created a sense of mutation, a half-shell of selves turned sideways into paper-thin abstractions with cartoon broken arms, modules and warts sloping out in disturbing and hopeless directions.
This isn’t a one-dimensional thing, but a sputtering prick into the bubble of self-awareness where one thinks of being half-asleep in a dream, shruggling (shrugging & struggling) with the accusations and denials of one’s most obvious flaws made obscene and dull. And it’s only getting louder.
On a more concrete note, I had my bank account cleaned out by a fraudulent check and await the fire marshal’s clearance to helped my wife salvage what we can be from her office which was destroyed by fire.
On a more positive note, I have applied for jobs in all five New York City boroughs as well as Paris, Helsinki, Lisbon, Lucerne, Lugano, Rome, Newport, Atlanta, Havana, Cayman Islands and Kathmandu. I have also rewritten the first 110 pages of Anori, with some satisfaction.
Covid-19 Exhaustion has set in. The distancing tape is peeling, masks are hanging and the stores and subways are packed again. What is going on?
I guess all of the signs have been up too long, and we need new words to remind us that the pandemic is still here.
Perhaps we should send dead people to walk the street?
Or maybe a sign like this: Do we not remember what happened in March? Do we not remember being stuck in our apartments? Do we not remember the silence of the city? The empty streets? The death tolls? Are we that fucking stupid?
For all the complaining about Trump, maybe we deserved him in the end.
While Trump’s statement that New York is a ghost town is a gross understatement, there are quite a few businesses that have kept their doors closed for the time being.
Along with the surprising closing of a Starbucks, many independent businesses have shut down, including a number of bars and restaurants, the iconic Century 21 store and Amish Market on Park Row.
But let’s be clear, Chicken Little, New York City isn’t close to being dead. As good as that might be for clickbait, it’s bilge water, as my father used to say. Just try to remember that a pandemic is a pandemic, which means that we have to respect the medical authorities, and that there is always something else coming around the corner.
In the meantime, it’s time to treasure that Escape from New York feeling. No doubt we will be sentimental about it in the years to come.
It’s eight months since this pandemic got going, and it looks like another few months (eight?) to go? Yikes! Anyway, I am still accomplishing things, still doing the rehab, getting safely out, breathing and still blogging.
I have applied for a few jobs and, although I did not get the job at The Julliard, I had a solid interview for a job in Paris. No final decisions on that, but I did go to the airport to renew my Global On-Line card.
I’ve made significant progress on my latest edit of the first part of Anori: “A lot to take in? Huh.” She sipped the drink. “First of all, I’m supposed to believe that you’re an interstellar pilot? Is that it? I’m having imaginary drinks in a galactic orb with an interstellar pilot? Is that it?” It’s a mentally taxing affair, but it should be complete in a month when I can take it to another editor and get slaughtered again.
I finished Brian Greene’s exhaustive opus Until the End of Time: Survival rests upon amassing information that accurately describes the world. And progress, in the conventional sense of increased control over our surroundings, requires a clear grasp of how these facts integrate into nature’s workings. Such are the raw materials for fashioning practical ends. They are the basis for what we label objective truth and often associate with scientific understanding. I understood about a third of the book, which is good for me.
I just attended Kate Hudson’s interview of Matthew McConaughey which failed to meet my exceedingly low expectations until Ms. Hudson started to get into her wine.
Mr. McConaughey was under the false pretense that I had tuned in to hear him wax philosophical when all I wanted was ribald tales and a modern-day rendering of his definitive “All right, all right, all right!” from Dazed and Confused. (Truth to be told, the best part of the interview was interpreter, Joe Lucas, just hanging in there.)
I continue to slog through Fishdom, having made it to Level 1821 and avoiding my first purchase (of $4.99), even though the ghost squid and bonus lives were incredibly tempting. I will maintain the purist route, diligently feeding my fish and cleaning my aquariums.
I just needed a couple of keys cut, but these guys needed everything. I couldn’t tell if they were drunk, on heavy meds or just done with the whole Covid Thing. They had masks on, although the older guy’s mask barely hung over his disheveled beard while his younger companion pulled his mask down every time he talked. That’s a weird pattern of many people during these trying times. Makes you think they don’t understand what the purpose of the mask is in the first place.
Anyway, drunk, drugged or just weirded out by the Covid days, neither of these guys used an inside voice nor seemed to care about the others in the store.
“I need a chair!” The older guy half yelled, almost like he was in pain. “I got to sit down.”
His companion, maybe in his early 30’s, pulled his mask down and went up to cashier. “I need a chair.”
She frowned. “You need what?”
“You know, one of those folding chairs, for camping. A chair.”
The older guy sat down heavily on the stairs. “I don’t need to buy a chair! I just need to sit!”
“Oh, okay.” The companion wheeled back and forth. “We don’t need a chair then.”
“I need a lock!” The older guy slumped forward, his hoodie cloaking much of his face, an exhausted Obi Wan Kenobi. “Come on!”
“What kind of a lock?”
“You know! A lock!”
“Okay.” He turned back to the cashier. “We need a lock.”
“What kind of lock?” She asked nervously.
“What kind of a lock do you need?” The companion asked the older guy.
“When I get home, I need to lock my stuff up so no one can get in, right?”
“He needs a lock.”
“Do you mean the cylinder?” The woman asked.
The companion looked back. “Do you mean the cylinder?”
“I need the damn lock, man! Get me the best one!”
“The best one you have, all right?” He repeated to the cashier.
The cashier wandered off, unsure of what to do, while another cashier came available for me. I gave him my keys. “Three copies of each, please.”
The other cashier returned. “What kind of lock do you need?”
“I need a damn lock to keep people from taking my stuff, man!” The old man was really yelling now. “Like you have when you come home? I need that!”
“We don’t have that. I’m sorry.”
The younger guy didn’t seem to care about any of it, like it was all a long and winding game. “They don’t have it.”
“What about a pressure cooker? They got that?”
He turned to the cashier. “Do you have a pressure cooker?”
“They don’t have it.”
“Pots and pans. I need pots and pans!”
“Okay.” The young guy was smiling crazily, like he was unsure of where he was and what this was all about. “Do you have any pots and pans?”
My keys were cut. “Thank you.”
“Soups! You got any kind of soups? Jiffy Pop! I need that.” It didn’t look like they were going anywhere soon.
Half a year of pseudo-quarantining into the Covid-19 Pandemic, 921,000 people dead worldwide, another surge predicted, and I’m still hanging on in my insular world. Lots of reading, writing and weird sports viewing mark the time of most days along with an occasional trip to my new venue, The Full Shilling, with outdoor seating!
My latest accomplishments include:
Finally left the city, once to see the drive-in premiere of Andrea Mastrovito’s I Am Not Legend, and then, on a week-long trip to Maine for lobster and more lobster.
2. Began workouts on the elliptical and stationary bike, as well as having proper walks again, including Lower Manhattan circumnavigations.
3. Returned to writing in earnest, beginning the first draft of my autobiography, Fuck Pedagogy and returning to the fifth draft of Anori (Book One of Cx Trilogy).
4. Discovered the measured combination of Budweiser, Camel Crush, Nomad and Stoney Patch almost on par with Oxycodone.
5. Put back the 15 pounds I lost after surgery.
6. Won a shit load of acorns on Level 1552 of Fishdom.
The best thing about my writing is the dialogue. It flows.
“Who says that?”
I watch how people interact. I listen to how they speak.
And so I replicate that interaction. I make it sound real.
“You know something I realized?”
Should I identify you as a voice?
“Covid’s always been here.” The disembodied voice was both gruff and shrill. “It’s not a new thing.”
Cross-talking. That’s one of my things.
“We just found out about it now. That’s all. That’s it. But it’s always been here.”
That’s when one person is talking about one thing, and the other one talks about another, and they barely listen to each other, if at all.
“I had Covid.” The voice was irritated now, probably because it wasn’t being listened to like it wanted. “I was one of the first. I went to a bar in Rhode Island. The whole state had it two weeks after that.”
My editor said that it doesn’t work.
“What doesn’t work? I’m telling you I was Case Fucking A in Rhode Island.”
Cross-talk. He says that the reader doesn’t like it because they have to do too much work to figure it out.
“I don’t know who the hell your editor is, but I agree with him.”
I had a feeling you would say something like that.
“If you listened for half of a second, you might maybe understand half of one thing. Covid is a thing, all right. But it’s just one thing. I mean, they say it’s 19, but I bet you there’s been 2,000 of them already.”
2,000 what? 2,000 people you infected?
“Covids, man! Strands, all strands of the same thing!”
What is that based on? You know anything about biology?
“It’s not just humans and plants. It’s everything, the water, the air, the fucking cosmos.”
You lost me.
“You know how I know you’re full of shit?” The voice paced back and forth behind me, always on the side I couldn’t see. “You got nothing published. Zilch, zero, nida.”
“A great big fucking goose egg, am I right?”
“You got something out there I can read? Something I can actually hold in my hands?”
You can’t actually hold words in your hands.
“Actually? You really going to use that word twice?”
Uh, well, you said it, and then I–
“Yes?” It was breathing down my neck. “Or no?”
I thought about saying nothing but I knew that wouldn’t work. No. I said that.
“Ah-ha!” It had gone to the far edge of the room, almost out the apartment. I expected to hear the door close. But it didn’t.
It’s not like I’m not aware of that.
“My point is that–“
I know, I know. Covid’s always been here.
“If you’ve never been published, how can you have an editor? That’s my point, Einstein.”
I hired him. I paid him to read my book.
“Why the fuck…?” It chuckled or scoffed, something derisive. “You paid him to tell you that you can’t write? That is so fucked up.”
Don’t you read my blog? I wrote about all of this two weeks ago.
“You writing about Covid?”
Covid? Why would I write about Covid?
“And why would I read your blog?”
Well, I write about what I’ve done during the pandemic, things I’ve read, how Covid has affected me.
“Trump’s fucked. I tell you that.”
“That fucker, Trump.” The voice almost came into view. “He’s done.”
Well, at least we can agree on that.
“You should get him to sell your book. What about that? You could work out some kind of weird deal with him or something.” The voice faded.
I have these moments where I think incredible things might happen in my day, that I might realize something completely true about who I am. It is utterly vivid, so much that I believe it entirely. And then I try to pin it down to something tangible and it drifts away.
Anyway, this is what I have accomplished in the last few pandemic weeks:
Overcame a mild pain killer addiction
Read a Nietzsche biography
Interviewed for a job
Started to drink again (see 1)
Began to finally lose interest in Fishdom (at Level 1375)
Went out for dinner (first time in five months)
Focused my search for my first ever published work – a letter to Marvel Team Up Comic.