And the Irrepressible Homo Sapiens Not-so-sapiens
People of Bloomingdale, what a surreal ride we are on together. I don't pretend to speak for us all, but for me it's been a week of heartbreak, solitude, angst, and the good old telephone. Oh, and ice cream. But I noticed you are eating ice cream, too, since there's never any in the store. We apparently all like the same flavors, and desperation forces us to consider the unthinkable. Strawberry, I am looking at you.
I have zoomed a good deal, too, and while I am growing used to videoconferencing, nothing beats a good, long dystopic gab on the phone with a good or long lost friend. So, count that as a silver lining.
Heartbreak is rolling in past the bulkhead in waves. Reading back a couple of posts, I was feeling it three weeks ago (also known as another lifetime) and my imagination is not as stretched as it once was: I do still greatly fear for our Mom & Pops, both the flesh and bone kinds and the brick and mortar kind. The so-called impending lockdown makes it all the more concrete. But it's not just the little guy; when I called to cancel a hotel-room block today for an academic event that had to be postponed, the echo of not one, not two, but three sales staff members furloughed, really shook me. There are a host of poignant stories, and I expect we will all be deeply touched by many of these as the weeks wage on. And so much more.
Solitude and angst, thankfully, don't go together for me. I like my community, but I also like my space. The angst comes from being out on the sidewalks and having to pass anyone who believes 3 or 4 feet is 6 feet. I guess we all have our sense of what is socially acceptable social distance! But don't make me take my tape measure out, because first I'll have to sanitize my hands, then pull it out, tap you, ask you to edge further to the east, snap my tape measure back, wipe it down, put it in my "clean" pocket, and try to remember which is my clean hand for when I have to repeat this process. It's meshuganah-making.
But through it all, so far, I am observing little touches of commonality. The urge to hug someone shaken because her dog got into a skirmish was powerful; but the 6 feet remained between us. Still we had a connection. The tilted heads and gaped mouths and "can you believe" gestures from nearly every neighbor passed who has dared to take a walk reinforces our bonds.
Distractions abound. Like you, I am receiving rafts of amazing offers from the suffering but stiff-upperlipping culture emporia that make our city and world so rich. From the fabulous Laura Benanti's hashtag movement (scroll down for some) to get any kids whose spring musical was cancelled to share their performance with her so she could be their audience, to the scads of streaming performances like my mad crush Ivan Fischer's Quarantine Soirées by way of the Budapest Festival Orchestra members at 19:45 each day (heure de Budapest), to this very special clip embedded below from the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra: the human power to create, entertain, empathize and innovate is as daunting as the probability that some poor poached plated pangolin would have us in the state we're in.
So. Don't eat pangolin. Wash your hands. Don't go out. But exercise every day. Maintain your distance. Destress. Sleep. Complete the census. Skip your tax deadline (til July). Vote. No, I mean really vote. Vote like suffrage had been taken away from you and you just got it back after a many-month house arrest. Vote like you are Kate Winslet as Dr. Erin Mears tracking down the index patient in Contagion. Vote like you've just come upon a shelf full of gallon squirt-bottle hand-sanitizers on a Duane Reade shelf. And most of all, appreciate the irrepressible, untouchable, fellow Homo sapiens sapiens all around you.
Until we touch again...be safe, stay well, and just one more thing: would you mind holding that door open for me so I don't have to touch it? I can't remember which hand is which.
H/T to my dear friend Hanako for Rotterdam and BFO tips. Enjoy.
Click the links to view the performances.