Sunday, July 19, 2020

PA Visit

Last week, I got back to Pennsylvania for a visit, the first time since late February. That previous visit was by chance: free time, I thought I’d be bearing down on finding a job in March, so may as well kick back for a few days before this. Two weeks later, the world ended.

Four months on, things had finally leveled out enough in both Pennsylvania and New York that I could manage this. Without my normal bus line that drops me off a hundred yards from the house in PA. Martz Trailways started running its NYC line in early June, out of Wilkes Barre, an hour north from where I’m going. My siblings agreed to get me up and back on weekend days with a week visit in between.

The bus ride was unnerving. The subway ride into Manhattan was, too, my first since the day after St. Patrick’s Day. It featured one dude without a mask coughing (I changed cars as train was still in station) and another carrying on into his cellphone with mask dropped (I went to other end of the car). This is the kind of shit I don’t want to see going forward. Subway cars are not the street, and people can’t treat them as such. They’re enclosed public spaces, the exact kind of place where this virus will thrive, and everyone needs to wear a mask all the time.

Port Authority wasn’t much better. I cringed when I saw a gang of about 30 people around the gate I was supposed to leave from, with the station otherwise empty. I spied the departure map from the actual gate number and realized Martz was sending out two buses at the same time, one to Wilkes Barre and another to “Water Park” (a large water park in the Poconos that surely must be a good getaway for NYC families), both trips leaving from adjacent gates. I knew I was in the right place, the only one standing at the correct gate for Wilkes Barre.

Finally, the drivers came in and told everyone what was going on. It turned out a majority of those passengers were going to Delaware Water Gap. In the past 20 years, a lot of black and hispanic New Yorkers have moved to the Poconos, where housing was much cheaper in the 90s and 00s, advertising that you could “live in a house in the beautiful Poconos while working in New York City every day.” And that’s just what a lot of people do these days. Which seems nuts to me, but I gather there are even people commuting to NYC from Wilkes Barre and Scranton. As it panned out, about 15 people got on each bus.

I tripled-masked for this trip. Much like the subway, a bus, especially a bus for an hours-long trip, is the exact kind of place I picture the virus being a threat. Thus, a mask is necessary. I had three cotton surgical masks and put them on, one on top of the other. It felt safe, but I was still on edge. I heard one sneeze and two coughs during the trip. A loudmouth kid got on at Delaware Water Gap and rode to Scranton, on his cellphone the entire time, although I couldn’t tell if his mask was on. This is the exact kind of shit I don’t want to experience in an enclosed public space. While I wouldn’t say I’m dreading subway and bus rides going forward, I surely anticipate having to deal with assholes who aren’t grasping how the virus works and never will.

Rural Pennsylvania had such a different vibe from New York City. Obviously, but this was something new. I noted earlier the discrepancy between people living in an urban area, particularly one where over 700 people a day were dying for much of April, processing this thing differently from people in a more sparsely populated area with a much lower death count. I could see just by walking around my hometown, it’s easy to go maskless as nearly every encounter could be more than six feet apart.

Don’t get me wrong. I encounter maskless assholes on the streets of my neighborhood daily. I don’t just mean people with that insulting “masked pull down to chin” nonsense. I mean people with zero intention of ever wearing a mask. Usually in 20s and teens. Usually male. The dipshit contingent, a strange, surly mix of stupidity, arrogance and sociopathy. Rest assured, as this thing needlessly drags on for months, it will be these sad clowns who keep this thing alive and thriving.

My siblings had warned me, watch out for Redners (a wonderful local market owned by employees, comparable to any urban supermarket I’ve shopped in). The “live free or die” zealots had been purposely going maskless there to wave their freak flags high. The governor had just passed a public mask ordinance a few days early, but my siblings didn’t expect it to have any effect on these geniuses.

Lo and behold, every person at Redners had a mask on while I was there! I was pleasantly surprised. Frankly, every store and restaurant I was in, people had masks on and were respecting the ordinance. The only place I didn’t see this was Tractor Supply Company by the Walmart in St. Clair, a few surly-looking assholes in their lone-wolf t-shirts, all scowls and angry eyes. They should know, they have company in New York City just as dumb and misguided as they are.

I have to admit, it was wonderful to run the back roads around my hometown without a mask, where I rarely see anyone. In the entire week I was there, I came across three people on my route: one dude checking his mailbox, one runner and one walker. The closest I got to any of them was about 12 feet. (I really don’t understand how people go running with masks on. I can do my four-mile walks in mid-80 degree heat and humidity, but that level of cardio must be march harder. It seems like about an 80/20 split in NYC with runners and masks, 80 without, 20 with. I really don’t care all that much as we’re in open air and sunlight, save to say I’ve encountered too many runners who don’t seem to grasp that nearly brushing my shoulder as they pass isn’t quite six feet.)

People back there were just as rattled and spooked as we’ve been in New York. We got pounded by this thing like very few places on earth, but Pennsylvania took a beating, too. I’m hoping this isn’t the formula for this thing to go away. That where you live needs to be ravaged by the virus before you have enough people with sense to mask up, socially distance and fight this thing. When you’re going through the virus in a harsh way, like we did In New York City, like states like Florida and Texas are experiencing now, it adds a layer of fear and tension to daily life that’s incredibly stressful. I can tell people in Idaho and South Dakota haven't experienced this – people anywhere where they’re going brazenly maskless and acting like this is a political issue and not a medical one.

I had dinner with an old friend at an Italian place with outdoor seating. Well, it was pushing 90 that day, and we found that the outdoor seating was in direct sunlight despite the table umbrella. It was too much, so we asked if we could go inside. I wasn’t too nuts about this, given New York state’s reticence to move forward with indoor dining, but there was just no way we’d last an hour out there. As it was, we were seated at a booth with high walls. Frankly, I was more worried about the occupancy level, as I could see the place slowly getting more crowded as we ate. (Pennsylvania indoor restaurants were at 50% occupancy at the time, now reduced to 25%.) We had our masks down most of the time to eat and drink. I didn’t know how to handle this, if I was supposed to keep putting the mask on and off, or what. It didn’t feel natural or right to have my mask off in this situation, but I knew the person eating with me had been as diligent as I’d been with the virus.

Our high-school teacher was supposed to join us, but I knew she was worried about potentially exposing her husband (with an underlying condition) to the virus. She came to greet us but told us she had to pass on the indoor dining. (I assured her the outdoor version of this would have been just as uncomfortable!) Before leaving, she gave me the gift of life: an unopened N-95 mask she had from a painting project she was working on a few years ago. I could wear this instead of the triple-mask set-up I had going for the bus ride back. I’d never been so over-joyed to receive a present, like an eight-year-old getting a G.I. Joe for Christmas! Hopefully, next time I get back there we can arrange some outdoor meeting that works.

That N-95 mask was hard on my face the whole trip back from Wilkes Barre. Hurt the bridge of my nose. Dug into my cheeks. But the peace of mind it gave me to know I was wearing something that would offer me the best protection possible was worth it. The bus was more crowded on the way back, more people getting on in Scranton and Pocono Mountain than had got off on the way in. By the time we left Delaware Water Gap, there were 25 people on that bus. Roughly every two-seat row taken, no chance of getting six feet between each person. I suspect if everyone masks up and does this thing right, a situation like this is manageable. But I’ve learned in New York City, you need to account for assholes, people who just don’t grasp the gravity of the situation. Dropping their masks to talk on cellphones, coughing or sneezing while they do so. I’m anticipating this as I know there are people out there too fucking stupid to handle this thing. And it’s great that I can N-95 it for at least the next few bus trips!

Overall, it was a great trip. It’s hard to communicate how trying it was to spend four months in a studio apartment with maybe 2-3 hours a day outside. That’s what people aren’t getting about New York City: most people live in small spaces, often in roommate situations. This is hard to pull off when you can’t go anywhere or do anything. That’s loosened up in the past month (obviously too much in terms of bars), but our normal lifestyles are centered on using the city as much as possible, counting heavily on public transportation and being part of a bustling metropolis. No bustle starting in March. Things got rough mentally by end of May. Just in time for a few riots and daily protests. (I still find it hard to believe they’ve had no lasting impact on virus spread.) To top it all off, the landlord had some troubling health issues in early June. Nothing life threatening, but just enough to get under my skin with all this other shit going on in the world.

I wouldn’t say I came close to a nervous breakdown, but I reached a low plateau in mid-June where I felt isolated and unnerved. Not in a good place. I brought myself out of it by maintaining the exercise schedule on the back patio, walking daily, and training my mind to not focus so much on the negatives and to let go of what I couldn’t control. It worked, at least so much that I feel normal now and in a much better frame of mind. I’ve noticed one big change: when something needs to get done, I just do it. Rather than letting it become another thing playing on my mind. I picked up a few good mental practices in response to the virus. My attitude is if this thing is going to massively interrupt my life and make things hard for the next few months, the least I can do is reduce the stress by removing extraneous bullshit.

Speaking of, I normally avoid politics in my writing. But I need to state that the past few weeks have been jaw-dropping with Trump and his “response” to the virus. Never mind the ongoing mask debacle that has most likely led to the deaths of thousands and infections of hundreds of thousands. The disturbing smear job of the CDC and Dr. Fauci has done even more to damage the deadly, ill-conceived political take so many wrong-headed fools have on this issue. Just when I think he can’t do any more wrong, he does things that are like pages from a George Orwell novel. Only this shit is real, and it will guarantee months more suffering and stumbling with the virus. I feel like I’m living through a time in history where new lows are being created. That one day historians will look back on 2020 and realize that it got no worse than this in the history of American presidents, as if we were being led by a clandestine operative for a foreign agency trying to destroy the country. I don’t get it; the lack of leadership and constant mixed messages are puzzling. I’ve been indifferent on Trump most of the way. The last four months have been one long, unbelievable streak of inaction, unaccountability and childish head games that amount to the exact opposite of what we need to fight a raging pandemic. I don’t state this as any condemnation of the president. There’s still time for him to take control, guide the country to a safer place and get this virus under control, for the sake of our lives and the economy. I’m not holding my breath. Are you?

Friday, June 19, 2020

Letting Go

That’s what the last week or two in NYC feels like. People are letting go, in good and bad ways.

Bad way: people are acting like this thing has never happened, and we’re not in the middle of massive pandemic that’s still very much active. Not everybody. In fact, I find myself surprised by the number of people on the streets who aren’t screwing around and are masking up and distancing appropriately. But enough people in denial to cause concern.

I’ve seen a few youtube and news clips of people in their 20s gathering outside of bars in the evening or night all over NYC, no masks or distancing in sight, basically partying like this thing is over. I’d like to say something vaguely complimentary like, “Well, they’re seeing New York’s vastly improved statistics and celebrating that the first wave of the virus has mostly passed over.” But I suspect the reality is these people are just idiots who are strangers to news and statistics. Or maybe they’ve seen news clips of thousands of people marching and thought, “If they can do that, then we can do this.”

And it is a pretty ragged signal to be sent out. I don’t care if it’s rednecks with semi-automatic rifles in state capitols, planned indoor Trump rallies in a state where the virus numbers are rising, or the numerous police brutality protests over the past few weeks. The last place on earth I want to be now is in a large crowd, in any physical circumstance, that could cause the virus to spread. There will easily be 200,000 Americans dead from the virus by September. I’m not sure why this number seems unreal or non-existent to so many people. It’s not bullshit. I wish it was. At some point in your adult life, you realize you're not living in a vacuum, and that your actions impact everyone.

I wish this whole thing was a put on. I do believe the authorities are over-stating the case, asking us to adhere to standards that at this point in states where the virus has done its worst, might be overkill. The problem being if you don’t make a statement this forcefully, many people are going to take this thing even less seriously than they already have. From what I’m seeing here recently, most people are taking this thing seriously, hopefully enough to keep moving forward.

On Monday, NYC will move to the next phase, with all retail stores opening, outdoor seating in restaurants, salons and barbers opening, etc. I gather masks indoors in public will be strictly enforced. That’s what I find encouraging, as we take these baby steps back towards normalcy. Most people I know with jobs in NYC have told me their companies plan to get them back in office after the Fourth of July. This is great news, a major step in the right direction. We’ll have to reacclimate to public transportation, where the “six feet” rule will be impossible to follow during rush hours, but if everyone is masked up and being sane, hopefully the virus has died down enough not to start up again.

What I’m gathering from the people blowing this thing off is they’re living lives where they can get away with no masks, whether they’re students on summer break, unemployed, probably living with their parents, and not in positions where they have to mask up to buy groceries, go to laundromats, conduct bank transactions, etc. In other words, as we get back to normal, these kids (overgrown or actual) are going to encounter the real world most adults live in, which requires getting a mask on while we interact in public/indoor spacing. When school starts in September (which it will, barring any spikes or catastrophes), that should let them know, this is how you need to handle this thing. The downside of everyone being isolated is people make up their own rules. I’ve done it myself. But I caught on pretty fast that the livelihood of my country, and this city in particular, depends on people like me to help, so I have. I hate masks as much as any d-bag who’s refused to wear one. We all do!

My attitude was, is, will be, whatever it takes to get through this thing as quickly and as safely as possible.

I hope to get back to Pennsylvania in July, and after that, back to Manhattan via subway train, even if it’s only to take long walks in parks, but hopefully to hit the gym and have lunch with friends, assuming NYC goes to the next phase later in the month. I think that’s what’s been depressing me more than anything, the lack of mobility. I moved to NYC years ago because of Manhattan, to work there, partake of the arts, great shopping, restaurants, etc. My life here is better when I have daily access to Manhattan. I feel more active and connected to the world. Even if I’m doing nothing while there, I still feel that force. I haven’t set foot in Manhattan since the day after St. Patrick’s Day, and I surely do miss it (the real, active city, not the ghost town I encountered that day). And once the economy starts kicking in again, I surely hope to start working again later in the summer. If it happens before then, great, but I’ll surely be surprised if that happens so quickly.

So, I’m hoping to get through June and anticipate life opening up just a little in July, but enough to start easing back to some sense of normalcy in the city. Three months is a long time to lock down, so I can understand why New Yorkers are busting out, even if I don’t agree with how some people are doing it. The ultimate reality is I don’t know more than anyone else, if all of this is overkill, if it’s not going to have any recognizable effect for so many people to go maskless, if things will ease up or grow worse in the next few months. I’m just as uncertain as everyone else. As noted above, whatever it takes to get this thing in the rear-view mirror. “Letting go” for me may eventually imply letting go of this hardline stance on distancing and masks I’ve held since the last week of March. We are surely farther along than we were back then, and things have improved dramatically here.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Temporary Normal

How does that sound? I know, we’ve been inundated with countless headlines and examples of “the new normal,” usually designating some aspect of the coronavirus that we find troubling, distasteful and hard to handle. Why not call it what it is: the temporary normal?

I would guess because doing so doesn’t play on that angst the media hopes to generate by exploiting people’s fears. I’m hardly a shaved-head/goateed freedom fighter. If anything, I want us all to wear masks when necessary in public, socially distance when necessary, and get this thing under control as quickly as possible. You’ll find me walking in the street routinely to avoid assholes on the sidewalk who are going completely maskless and appear indifferent that the three-feet width of sidewalk we’ll be sharing doesn’t cut it in terms of distancing. (While I firmly believe it’s very hard to get this thing outdoors unless you’re in a crowd, I also firmly believe someone who unsubtly signals me that he’s sloppy and careless is worth avoiding at this time.)

I started in with “the mask thing” with the understanding that I’d go out walking with these neck gaiters that you can pull up over your face like a balaclava. That way, I could walk without a mask for long stretches where I wasn’t encountering anyone. This theory worked in March when there were much less people venturing out. Once it warmed up, and particularly on sunny days, it made no sense to keep pulling up the mask and dropping it down as people were coming out of the woodwork. It made more sense to simply put the mask on when I left the house and leave it on until I got back. I found myself running into people routinely enough that it became impractical to keep going up and down, particularly with runners coming up behind me on my walks, never mind more people coming out of doorways.

That’s where I’m at now. I keep this in mind when I see these unbelievable news clips, people jammed together at a resort bar swimming pool in the Ozarks. Without fail, every interview of a participant is an eye-rolling exercise in unforgivable stupidity. I know, again, the media is doing its thing by rubbing our noses in these outlandish situations. That’s why they’re news; you’re not going to get pearls of wisdom from a drunken, shirtless 23-year-old in full-on party mode. (I would put forth that the reporter was lucky that his response wasn’t, “Blah ba-ba-ba cunk ma-ma” … before the interviewee vomited on her ... the reporter then desperately googling "coronavirus and vomit" on her iPhone.)

But I also think about someone living in rural or suburban America. These people most likely have property, even if it’s only a backyard. Some may have acres of property. They’re used to walking around the property with no mask. They get in their cars and visit people with similar space and properties. They’re not living in a bubble. I’m sure they understand, get the mask on at the supermarket or drug store. But I would also guess that’s the only time a lot of these folks are wearing masks, and they’re not as acclimated as I am to this living in a crowded city. There’s no excuse for what went on in the Ozarks video, but I also understand it’s a completely different scenario than the one I’ve experienced in a city where the virus dropped like a bomb.

Last week, I gave myself a quarantine self haircut. I had to as I was about a month past my normal cutting date, and it was getting far too shaggy. The hair felt heavy on my head. My hair goes wide before it goes long, and I hate the feeling of going helmet head with too much hair. How did it go? See for yourself. Not a bad job, right?

Of course, that’s only half the story. I own a set of Conair barber clippers, extensions and scissors. I bought these in the 90s, back in the Bronx – why, I can’t recall. But it stayed with me through two moves, so I sensed some value in the kit despite never using it. Last Wednesday, the time had come. I watched at least a dozen videos on YouTube regarding self haircuts – some complete bullshit, others helpful. I noticed that most of these guys had relatively short hair to begin with and wouldn’t be giving themselves the radical cut I was in store for. The general idea appeared to be pick out the clipper extension one higher than you’re used to getting at the barber. I normally “get a #3” – matching that clipper extension. So, I clipped on the 4 extension, the idea being start at the bottom of your hairline on the back and sides and push it through your hair all the way up to the natural part, making sure to pull the clipper away as you moved near the top.

That worked very well. There was so much hair in the sink that it looked like I was shearing a sheep. So, I got out the 3 extension with the concept of going halfway up the back and sides. This went very well, too, even more hair. I could see the beginning of the fade effect of a normal haircut.

With the 2 extension, the concept was to just go about an inch up the sides and back, as this would be a much closer cut. Very good results again – I felt great, even though hair was all over my back and the sink. (It would take me close to half an hour to clean up afterwards and a few days of dabbing up loose hairs around the bathroom with moistened tissues.) Still, when I pushed my hand against the back, I didn’t get that feeling of a full cut, of hair bristles flicking against my fingers.

I decided to take off any of the extensions and use the bare clipper on the very back edge of my head and the lower sides beneath each ear. It felt great on the back of my head – that bristly effect I loved to feel after leaving the barber with a good haircut. So, I did the sides behind the ears, too.

This is what happened on the right side! The left side, I carved out only a small patch that’s already grown over. But boy, did I mangle that patch of my head, down to bare skin. I hadn’t even realized it as the hair felt the same all around, not like these two jagged V’s cut into my head. I finished off with the top of my head, simply combing up swatches of hair and clipping off ¼-inch portions that were between my fingers. This went well, too, although I’m sure a real barber would shit himself laughing over my ineptitude. I know I left too much hair on top, but there was no way I was going to butcher that part of my head. I’ve been waking up with an eraserhead as the hair goes straight up after sleeping all night, but this is easily reduced with a comb and some water. In a few weeks, the sides will grow in proportionately.

As far as that awful patch behind my right ear? Lesson learned: never take bare barber clippers to the back of your head! I never thought I’d look forward to wearing a face mask, but this is how most people have been and will be seeing me in public for awhile! My neck gaiters pull up nicely on my ears so I can just cover my radical error. It’s a week later, and I can already see those patches growing in; I hope they’re grown over in another week, two at the most. Frankly, I don’t ever want to cut my hair again and hope the barbershops in NYC re-open some time in July.

Thus, the virus rolls on, with the news of the day and our own personal foibles. Things here are getting better, to the point where we’ll be going Phase Yellow in a few weeks. Forget about politics. You either want this thing under control and our lives reverting to a more normal existence, or you want to pretend this thing doesn’t exist. The sort of empty bravado I’m seeing on the news, and often on the streets, is just that. People who are either so stupid or afraid (or both) that they can’t grasp this thing without forming a disingenuous, macho wall of denial around themselves. If the virus rolls around for a second or third round, and I suspect it will with or without masks, here’s hoping that what we’re going through now is the worst it gets, and we’ll be ready and able to handle it. I have to believe there are enough people out there with their heads on straight that we’ll keep a lid on this thing.

Sunday, May 10, 2020


Things are going well in New York City. Our virus numbers are slowly but surely decreasing, and it’s foreseeable by month’s end that we’ll be able to start the re-opening process.

We’ve reached the Tallboy stage.

This stage is designated by the addition of tallboy beer cans to street trash, alongside the used rubber medical gloves, that I still see constantly. (On the plus side, I haven’t seen any used rubbers in the gutters for awhile.) We had a few warm days last weekend, after a month of unruly weather not unlike Scotland’s rainy/windy climate. Of course, people came out in droves, which was to be expected. One thing I hadn’t anticipated. At night, I could hear young adults and kids going around in groups. Not necessarily being assholes, but being an asshole did seem to be a prerequisite for many of them.

Even without aural proof of them wandering the night, I could tell they were assholes by their droppings. The usual detritus – empty cigarillo and cigar packs to make marijuana blunts, and those small zip-lock packets suggesting recreational drug use. But most of all: empty tall-boy cans of cheap beer. Keystone Light, Milwaukee’s Best, Bud Light, etc. You have to be cheap and tasteless to be buying shit beer like this. Buying it in tall-boy cans?


Much to my surprise, I haven't seen any Four Loko cans. Maybe too high class for this crowd?

In a perverse way, it’s a good sign. It suggests a greater wave of freedom is coming, and these assholes can’t wait to partake. Granted, I’m describing very few people in the neighborhood, but I look at them as those birds you see in flying V formations in early March skies, slightly ahead of schedule. I can clearly see we’re going to have stops and starts, and flare-ups with the virus in the next few months. By the same token, we’re all yearning to be free, so I can understand an idiot expressing it this way. I have to believe that with social distancing and masks in tight public quarters, and enough sane people practicing these things, that we’ll be able to keep a lid on this, if not eradicate it. Once we get a vaccine in place and mass inoculations? Game over for this shit virus. Or at least render it controllable on the same level as the annual flu epidemic, which will still mean tens of thousands dying. (If you hadn’t noticed, this is normal for the flu.)

But we’re months away from that, not even to the point of opening society here in NYC, but inching closer. It’s a good feeling. As much as I hate masks and waiting in lines for basic services, I’m much more used to it now. Unlike people who are going around stating things will never, ever be the same again, I can see they will eventually. Beware of people using “never, ever” in a sentence. If they’re more than five years old, there’s no excuse. If you’re thinking “never, ever” with this virus, understand that the Spanish Flu in 1918 killed 50 million people and infected over 500 million. Aside from the availability of an annual flu shot, there have been no “never, ever” scenarios associated with that pandemic. (I write that knowing there are probably countless small ways the flu changed society that we still practice today. But I’m focusing more on alarmists now implying our world will be “forever changed” in countless major ways. They may as well be wearing acid-wash jeans and listening to Candlebox and Matchbox 20 as far as I’m concerned. Things change, often for the better. Every “list of changes” article I’ve read has been nothing but negative; there will be major, positive changes coming from this thing, the same way they come from any world war, which is exactly what this is.)

I like to think there’s a Jonas Salk out there who, in the next few years, will come up with a gamechanger in terms of thwarting any future viral outbreaks. As it is, I’ll settle for an annual vaccination that keeps the coronavirus numbers manageable going forward. Amidst all the negativity and paranoia, I’d like to believe there are some major breakthroughs in the near future that could greatly diminish or eradicate pandemics all together. At least something more tangible than wearing a fucking mask and crossing my fingers that some moron doesn’t sneeze too close to me! I don’t consider myself a particularly hopeful person. Maybe when I was a child or teenager, or a young adult. But at some point in my adult life, I realized that if you want positive results, you need to work towards them, with the possibility that all your hard work might be fruitless. I suspect there’s a lot of that going on right now with major drug and viral research companies.

What the hardest thing I’m realizing the past few weeks? It’s not only the virus and its endless spider web of issues. It’s stupidity. I see it every day. It’s safe to say that New York City has been one of the hardest hit places on earth by this virus, over 20,000 dead, hundreds of thousands infected. From the first day of mask regulations to this day, I will see people with no masks, clearly no intention of ever wearing one, making no effort to distance themselves from anyone, convinced this whole thing is “fake news.” On the streets. In stores, although I’ve seen a few deny them entrance. Believe me, when you live here, unless you’re completely clueless, you’re acutely aware of just how hard this thing has hit.

I can work around this individual stupidity, but when stupidity is contagious and possibly deadly? That’s a whole new level of crawling up your own asshole. In every action movie, there are numbskull bad guys who appear to be menacing. We watch the movie and usually within the first half hour, these brazen imbeciles either get murdered or ass-kicked by the hero. These people I’m seeing now in New York remind me of those disposable action-movie henchmen: arrogant and dumb as nails. I never found that movie-character archetype worth emulating, but these guys aspire to that level of assholic loser. Whether it’s on the streets of New York or toting a semi-automatic rifle in a state capitol’s veranda. This is shameful behavior that’s the antithesis of everything I understand to be true about America.

The unspoken threat I’m seeing is the horrifying failure of the American education system that people like this not only exist, but take a perverse level of pride in their stupidity. If we come away with anything from this? It’s the realization that we need to overhaul our education system so that people like this can grasp basic human qualities like shame and empathy.

And a word on New York “seeding” the virus in early March via travel before restrictions were imposed in mid-March. It makes sense. We were all living normal lives up to St. Patrick’s Day, believing the virus “wasn’t here yet” and those news reports of pandemics in China and Italy would, much like SARS, have little impact here. I would wager all American cities did the same to varying degrees. You can’t really fault people for spreading what they did not know or understand to exist at the time. None of us did.

That said, I gather there have been waves of New Yorkers who have abandoned the city since then, not quite realizing wherever they go, the virus is already there. And they’re possibly bringing it with them. A vast majority of us stood our ground and have weathered this thing. April was a truly frightening month to live here, no matter how much we downplayed it in reassuring phone calls and emails. It’s the same fear a lot of people across the country are going to have when virus numbers skyrocket where they live. It didn’t occur to me to leave here for two reasons: this seemed as good a place as any to face this thing, and I didn’t want to risk spreading the virus wherever I might have gone.

The pain of New York? All those people who fled will come back. Eventually, they’ll be among those who can afford to live here. Many of us who stood our ground, who chose to stay, will slowly be funneled out of this city by rising rents and gentrification. What’s wrong with this picture?

Sunday, April 26, 2020


You’ll have to excuse me. I over-dosed last night. Syringe full of Lysol. In my black, sleeveless “Lone Wolf” t-shirt but otherwise naked. I was looking for a quick pick-me-up after a rough day of seasonal allergies - not to Make Heaven Great Again. Luckily, I’m still here and now making an American flag for the next freedom protest, out of the walls of toilet paper that I couldn’t sell for $10/roll on eBay in early March.

Now that we’re coming down the other side of the hill with this virus in NYC, the song “White Cliffs of Dover” by Vera Lynn has been stuck in my head. The song came out in 1942, the “darkest hour” for Great Britain as they were under constant air attack from the Germans, the U.S. not yet fully engaged in Europe. There were multiple covers by American big-band artists shortly thereafter. I’ll Be Seeing You” was another hit song that my Dad certainly had good memories of as many people took to its message during the war. (That song became particularly poignant after Dad died; the implication of the song isn't that the singer will be seeing someone again, but seeing vestiges and reminders of that person who is now gone.)

I remember Mom singing along to songs like these on a portable AM radio in the morning. That was her oldies show that she played while making Sunday dinner in the 1970s, usually meat loaf or pot roast. I would sit in a kitchen chair by the window playing the imp, poking fun at her. But she paid no mind as she worked. Call it osmosis, but those songs stuck with me for decades, through blizzards of teenage and early-adult cool, for me to appreciate how great they were. It’s strange, how the world was so much harder then, millions of violent deaths, yet this music was so light, hopeful and buoyant.

That’s how I’m feeling now, although this thing is far from over. Most people who don’t live in a large urban area have little idea what it’s like in New York City. (Thus, the black-covered book advertised on this site that’s selling like shit-flavored ice cream!) A vast majority of us have small apartments, no back or front yards, living literally on top of each other, not owning cars, taking public transportation everywhere. Even when this thing ends for most people, we’ll surely be wearing masks and gloves in certain social situations for months. I can see that now, as much as I wish we could drop this shit all together and go straight back to normal. That won’t be happening here for awhile.

I’m dreading my return to daily subway rides. Here’s what they look like normally and will surely be like as things get back on track. (This is what they look like now, thanks to the homeless taking over the empty space. That video reminds me of what it was like in the late 1980s at the height of the crack epidemic.)

Being on unemployment for the time being, that would imply going into Manhattan to attend my boxing workouts at various gyms throughout the week. I can only wonder how they’ll be … with the instructors wearing face guards when we do hand-pad combination workouts? We’ll be wearing boxing gloves on our hands, but I’m sure social distancing will still be an issue. I’m dreading the locker rooms, which are always the worst part of going to the gym, how cramped and unsanitary they are, in close proximity to childish buffoons who think the world spins around them. I have no clue how gyms plan to handle this.

I finally learned of someone I “knew” who got this thing, and that person died. I didn’t know her well. Back at the job, there was this woman I’ll call Beverly who worked on the other end of the (football-field length) floor. Usually the only time I saw her was in the lunch room, eating with her friends and talking shit loudly, which I considered perfectly healthy, for coworkers to commiserate over their injustices. If I saw her down on my end of the floor? Particularly walking up my aisle? It could mean only one thing: she was shaking everyone down for charity donations.

I know this should have been banned from work, but I’m not going to out someone getting money for breast cancer research. That was her big one, along with Girl Scout cookies for her daughter. She always called me “William” based on my cubicle name plate and was very polite. I usually had a $20 bill and would ask her for $10 in change. It irritated the hell out of me to see her skulking down the aisle, but I also knew she was doing it for causes she cared about deeply.

Well, I didn’t know she was in poor health herself and often suffered bouts of pneumonia during the cold season. Whatever happened in March, she got this thing, and it took her down. A strange passing. Someone I knew and would nod at or say hello to in the hallways, and liked despite whatever mild dread she inspired coming down the aisle with her sign-up sheet, envelope of cash and big smile. She meant well, and this thing took her like a truck on the interstate running over a deer in its headlights.

I say “only person I know” not even knowing if I have or have had this thing due to lack of testing. Given that a few million New Yorkers may have already had this thing without even knowing it, I would surely love to get tested, but who knows when that will happen.

But for now, it’s just the daily grind of waiting out the pandemic. Jumping rope and doing calisthenics on the back patio. Going for a long walk each day. Washing hands constantly. Sing “The Birthday Song” twice while washing? I’m singing “Hey Jude” in its entirety. Wearing a mask has been the hardest thing to adapt. When this whole thing kicked off and we were told masks would be a necessity, I found myself cutting up old pants, thinking the length of fabric from the knee to the thigh would make a perfectly-sized piece of cloth to cover my face.

Well, I found that denim and khaki pants were too heavy and bothered my ears when I tried to hook the fabric around them. It was then that I discovered a few old pairs of Uniqlo thermal underwear that I’ve rarely worn. Using the same methodology, I’ve found these much more agreeable: breathable and easy to drop up-and-down while out walking and not encountering anyone for at least 50 yards. As you can see from the photo, I look like that Bazooka Joe character with his turtleneck pulled up over half his face. And I don't quite understand some folks' horror that I'm wearing old underwear - as if I shat them first before putting them on. I haven't worn these things in at least two years, and they were surely washed before then!

This doesn’t feel like a long-term solution; I’ve ordered some silk cycling half-face masks that will hopefully work better and last longer. (And no lectures please, on the do’s and don’ts of wearing masks. The two articles I’ve read imply that we should wear these things as if we’re going into surgery, as opposed to providing minor, largely ineffective positive reinforcement to fellow pedestrians.)

I don’t bust balls when I see people not wearing masks in public. While I feel a mild sense of unease that they're not going with the flow, I’m not convinced it makes any difference. I’m saving the outrage for the first time someone sneezes or coughs near me without covering his mouth, which is sure to happen given the levels of stupidity I witness routinely on the streets. It’s so easy to not share your “droplets” with others by practicing common sense and simple hygiene, but I guarantee you there are millions of people out there who are too stupid to do either.

The last thing I’d like to note is the woodpecker. With life growing so quiet in New York City, the main thing I notice now is the sound of birds in the morning and evening, chirping away in the trees. One morning, I heard this insistent tapping sound. Rhythmic, but not steady. Every few seconds. Son of a bitch, I thought, that’s a woodpecker. I ran out, looked up at the bare branches, and sure enough, there was a woodpecker hammering away at the tree outside my window. It’s amazing to watch them at work, bashing their beaks into the wood. I did some research online to see why they do this (often a mating ritual, or to mark their territory).

The best explanation I came up with was from a site called Trusted Psychic Mediums that lists “spirit animal” justifications of woodpeckers: “When the woodpecker comes knocking, it seeks to rekindle your passion in finding the truth. It also encourages you to be innovative and creative and to protect those who are too weak to protect themselves. The meaning of the woodpecker can help you be more open to changes and opportunities and invite more luck into your life. The woodpecker appears to you because you need to protect your wisdom and creativity from threats. Do not be too open about your pursuits because there are many threats out there that will take them away from you. People will always want to take advantage of your kindness and generosity. The woodpecker encourages you to strike a balance between being kind and being cautious. It symbolizes the need to understand different rhythms, patterns, and cycles, and to do your best to adapt to them and flourish.”

Fuckin’ A.

Sunday, April 05, 2020


That’s what I’ve been seeing the past few days walking around various parts of Astoria. Gloves on the ground. Rubber medical gloves. I’ve seen at least two dozen scattered throughout my walks. In the past, I would find these things when out sweeping the sidewalk on Saturday morning. Before all this, that meant some strange remnant of the drug culture (people getting tuned up in cars before/after attending a nearby nightclub) that I’ve never quite understood. Now, it’s people throwing away used medical gloves on the street due to the Coronavirus.

The gloves are indicative of two things to me. One very minor hopeful aspect: more people are wearing gloves. That’s the only positive. The much larger takeaway for me is that despite the good intentions of whoever was wearing the gloves, the slovenly tendency to throw a used medical glove on a public street at the height of a pandemic suggest a near-criminal sociopath. This person could be walking around in a hazmat suit all day, and I can guarantee he will still get and spread this thing if he’s this pathologically stupid.

This week, New York City feels like a scared, shivering dog with its tail between its legs. We’re all on edge, underneath. I’m sick to death of the media, of press conferences, the heavily weighted news reports designed to humiliate politicians and get partisans riled up. I’ve had it with the media – worse than politicians, if that’s possible. This stuff is brain-eating cancer to someone in a major city during a pandemic. People don’t know how to act here, save to keep their distance. As crazy as it sounds, the most humane thing I see people doing is maintaining a safe distance. I routinely encounter people on the sidewalk who, if we both keep our course, will pass within a foot of each other. One of us, most likely me, will stop, back off and let the person (or people) pass. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got a friendly nod or “thank you” for doing this – and done the same in return. Maybe it’s the civility of being scared shitless, but it’s civility, nonetheless.

Recognizing the humanity of someone you’re passing on the street is something ingrained from my rural upbringing, but not so much the city. Sometimes you get it, usually not. Under normal circumstances, there are just too many people here. It becomes much easier to acknowledge in a pandemic! In that sense, New York City feels like a small town now. Less people on the street, all of us going through the same shit, easier to be kind.

Will it last? I’m sure you’ll read many articles in the next few weeks how this will change everything and mark the beginning of a new age. I suggest you take these articles with a grain of salt.

Why? Let’s go back to the fall of 2001. Post 9/11 world. Everything had changed. I can’t tell you how many articles I read at the time that put forth all sorts of grandiose concepts regarding humanity in general and New York City in particular. True, for at least a year or two, there did seem to be something else going on here. A few new threads weaved into our lives. Surely, efforts to combat terrorism took a quantum leap throughout the world.

But really? New York City went back to business as usual within a few years. Rents and property values sky-rocketed. It’s become much harder for middle and working-class people to live here – almost impossible in many neighborhoods. Whatever sense of humanity was generated and/or rhapsodized over by the media at the time, New York City became more cut-throat after the brunt of 9/11 lessened. Entire classes of people have been erased from neighborhoods they built and lived in for decades. The cost of living has grown prohibitive and inhumane. But this pandemic is going to change everything and transform us into higher life forms!

No, it won’t. Yes, it will for awhile, I would guess for a few years. But then it will be absorbed into a city with centuries of history, and a world with a much longer and larger history. This city has absorbed wars, depressions. influenza, outbreaks of civil strife, riots, uprisings, crime waves, etc. The coronavirus pandemic of 2020, sure as any other major event in world history, will be absorbed, too. Many things will be learned from it. Hopefully, there will be some major breakthroughs in vaccines and pandemic prevention. But I suspect if you revisit New York City in 2030, you’re going to find a much harder, less diverse, more expensive place to live.

A few words on face masks, the burning issue of the week. Do I wear one? Sometimes, but not all the time, when I’m in public. If I’m out walking, and clearly not encountering a lot of passers by on the street, I don’t have a face mask on. I don’t like these things. They don’t feel sanitary: sweaty lips and wet nose, stuffy, breathing recycled air. From what I’m seeing, if people are exercising in some respect – running, biking or hard walking – they’re not using face masks. I can’t imagine doing my normal 3-4 mile walks with one on. (I usually walk along a near-deserted stretch of road leading past the power plant in Astoria, down to the river and Astoria Park. If it's raining, I'll walk along the park edge as there will be far less people. Sunny day, forget it, too many people. I've noticed the same phenomenon with supermarket lines.)

That said, when I find myself approaching a stretch of road where I see more people, I put it on, particularly the normally bustling streets of my neighborhood (31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard). I can see, more people around, more contact. I surely wear it in supermarkets, drug stores and getting take out. All the supermarkets have lines now to get in, taking anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour. Once in, it’s a comfortable shopping experience with few customers. I still don’t waste any time – get my shit and get out. I normally make small visits to supermarkets during the week. It’s a much better idea now to do it once and stock up. Most people I encounter in these enclosed public spaces are wearing masks and gloves, staying the hell away from each other.

I note this because the media has me feeling like I’ll be clutching at my throat and shrieking if I dare go out the door without a mask on. I’ve been acutely self-aware and careful since this thing began. I don’t sneeze or cough in public. My bare or gloved hand does not touch my face. I wash my hands thoroughly, at least four times a day, sometimes more. If you get this thing from me, I have no clue how that would happen, with or without a face mask. You’re not going to get “droplets” in the air or on any part of your body from me. From the moment the severity of this pandemic was made clear to me in mid-March, I assumed that I “had it,” was asymptomatic and conducted myself accordingly.

If someone is acting like a slob on the street – which I see routinely - you’re going to see me walking in or crossing to the other side of the street. Asshole avoidance. This is nothing new. Anyone who’s worked in midtown Manhattan knows what it means to walk in the street to avoid packs of aimless tourists and smartphone zombies. Sometimes now I’ll walk in the street to give someone passing by their six feet. Like foot traffic, car traffic in NYC has greatly decreased. Most people I’m encountering these days have their shit together, regardless of what they’re wearing or not wearing. I’m not worried about offending someone who’s carrying himself like a complete dick.

Your other choice is to barricade yourself in a small apartment and drive yourself insane. I have to get out, every day. It preserves some sense of normalcy – the main lesson I learned in the days after 9/11. I’ve had it with celebrities, “sheltering in place” in massive duplex apartments and mansions with sprawling properties light years away from our cramped living spaces. Try “sheltering in place” in studio or crackerbox one or two-bedroom apartments. It’s a struggle.

It comes down to how much shit you can handle and stay sane. How empathetic and disciplined you are. If you’re a good New Yorker, these things are ingrained in you. Or they are not. Plenty of people live here, are sometimes born and raised here, and are lost and forsaken. Thus, the dirty, crumpled medical gloves in the streets, and the uneasy feeling that the door is going to hit our asses on the way out.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Social Distancing

I’ve been practicing social distancing in New York City for years, although I have a different name for it: Getthefuckawayfromme.

I can’t recall exactly when I started in with Getthefuckawayfromme. Surely not my first decade or two here. I loved crowded bars, concerts, movies, museums, even parades. Coming from a rural area and never having experienced it before, I reveled in the novelty of the city’s bustle. When you’re new to a city, you embrace everything about it, the good with the bad. I’d yet to realize that being on packed subways, then in crowded office buildings, then in gyms, then in jammed restaurants and nightclubs could have a corrosive effect.

But it surely did, over time. In the last decade, I’ve found myself placing much more emphasis on “alone” time when I get out of work. Not worrying if I wasn’t seeing a great band play. (Of course, never the opening act, usually in a deeply uncomfortable, nose-to-back-of-head club, sometimes standing for hours, while one act, then another, played, and my band would finally come on around 10:30, play until midnight, then I’d have to take a ghostly and sometimes frightening subway ride back to the Bronx or Queens, then get up for work the next day with about four hours sleep. That didn’t get “old, fast” … but it got old.)

As time went on, I found myself irritated by people who didn’t respect boundaries. There are myriad subway circumstances of riders invading personal space. People who stand too close in grocery and drug store lines, never mind shopping as though they were high and oblivious of everyone around them. The advent of smartphones. This was a catastrophe in terms of respecting social space; I’ll never get used to it. Previously, New Yorkers had prided themselves on that quiet street savvy: how to move, read body language, avoid being a pain in the ass for other people, avoid people who were a pain in the ass. Life after smartphones, we’re plunged into a world of self-absorbed zombies with the street smarts of a five-year-old. (“Street smarts” are simply self-awareness and empathy in a tight urban environment.)

Thus, the past few weeks in New York City have been a more acute version of Getthefuckawayfromme. To a lesser degree, I’ve been practicing it for years. After jury duty in November, my big daily ritual involved boxing classes in gyms. Without the daily routine of work, I focused on something that would get me out of the house for a few hours, doing something positive, connecting to people socially, etc. Even in a gym, the worst times are in the locker room, being jammed in too closely with flaming narcissists and ageing frat boys.

It’s been a surprise to realize that social distancing now implies a few slight tweaks to my lifestyle in New York City, as opposed to a major overhaul that leave many feeling alone and despondent. I sure do miss boxing. I miss work, too, that casual sense of power and self-importance we all get from bringing in a nice paycheck and feeling “essential” in a social format. Well, a CEO sneezes, and you’re no longer essential.

I’m not sure where this thing is going. I read something today, that the mayor is saying “half of all New Yorkers” will get the coronavirus. Does that seem odd to you? We’re coming up on 500,000 people having this worldwide. So … 4.3 million New Yorkers are going to get this thing? The fuck? I can’t decide whether the guy’s lost his mind or if he has a mad, blind seer on his staff, in a hooded robe, who foresees dark things that no one in their right minds can.

We need to define what “getting this thing” implies. For all I know, I may have already had it or have it now (another reason to be careful around other people). I feel fine – some minor sinus stuff that I get every year when the trees begin to blossom, which is full-on right now. Apparently, there’s a huge cross section of people who will get this thing and not even know it. Another large cross section of people will get this thing and receive a “stay home and rest” diagnosis similar to having the flu. A smaller number will get this thing and be hospitalized, and of that number, a much smaller number will die. I’ve seen reports that the usual diagnosis rate for people getting tested now is around 10%, meaning 9 out of 10 people who go to these testing sites don’t have it. They’re either having symptoms of something else, or are hypochondriacs who have had their heads filled with fear and paranoia by the media.

When people from other parts of the country check in with me, they assume the city is in a state of pandemonium. It’s not. Earlier today, I jumped rope on the landlord’s back patio for half an hour. I saw a guy walking his dog. About three cars passed. That was it. In the afternoon, I went out for a long walk. Just as in the past few days, I saw a handful of runners and other walkers along a quiet stretch of road by the big Con Ed plant leading down to the East River. I walked down to Astoria Park, and I saw more people doing the same, but much less than usual. I walked the circumference of the park and saw a few guys using the outdoor calisthenics gym. (When this thing broke out, I thought I’d do the same myself but saw too many people using it without gloves – no way.) As I cut back through Astoria, I saw a few people here and there, a vast majority practicing safe Getthefuckawayfromme. More people are out on a nice day, hardly any on a rainy day.

I’m not bolting from my apartment, screaming and naked, floundering in a vision of hell like some medieval painting of lost souls being pitchforked and herded by government employees in hazmat suits, onto packed subway trains heading for the reorientation camps. It’s actually quiet, much like the blackout we had back in 2006 that I wrote about in the last book. The nights are very quiet. If there wasn’t a worldwide pandemic going on, I’d think the city had gone sane. (Keep in mind I have no idea what goes on in hospitals, which sound like war zones.)

My last subway trip into Manhattan was early last week. I had ordered a DVD from Amazon to ship to one of their Hub locker locations on 34th Street. (I ordered this before the world ended.) I left around noon, making sure to wear gloves, not touching anything in the subway station or train. There were a half dozen people on the car: a homeless dude sleeping in the corner, a guy and his girlfriend with facial tattoos on there with a bicycle, two burly guys with beards and a guy on his smartphone who got a serious dose of Getthefuckawayfromme attitude from me when he started in with that meandering, walk-nowhere-in-particular-while texting style referenced above. None of them was wearing gloves or masks. Everyone was touching handrails and doors with bare hands. I realized I was on a subway car with a small assortment of bozos who weren’t properly grasping what was going on.

I got into Manhattan, subway station had roughly a dozen cops in it. When I got above ground, I was shocked to see how desolate midtown was. I likened it to the scene in the original 80s version of Red Dawn where Patrick Swayze and a few of the other kids go back into town after the Russians took over. Bereft of the usual throngs of workers and tourists, the only people left were the assorted freaks, weirdoes and assholes you’d normally find haunting Port Authority and Penn Station. It was depressing much more than frightening. I decided to walk back to Queens from there. Luckily, when I got into a more residential neighborhood (the 50s on the east side), I could see life was more normal, people carefully going about their business in gloves and masks. But I made a vow not to take another subway ride until this thing blew over. Since then, I’ve been in Astoria the whole time in the much more sedate environs I’ve described.

It’s only when I watch the news, or more directly, go into supermarkets or drugstores that I feel the brunt of this thing. I’m more prone to watching the press conferences now and only the local news at 6:00. The rest of it is indicative of a society where the media blows every crisis into “end times” proportions, making everyone upset and angry. I’m ignoring that. Mind you, not ignoring what I need to know when I head out the door every day. But ignoring all this other bullshit that feels like cancer of the soul – watching too much of the news must be what it feels like to lose your mind.

You’ll find the main reason why this thing is spreading in the drugstores and supermarkets of New York City. At the height of this thing in our country, maybe in the world right now, no other place is more contagious, yet you still have people in these public places without gloves. This is going to be how a vast majority of people get this thing: by touching contaminated surfaces and transferring the virus to their noses and mouths. Young and old alike, there’s a blithe unawareness of what’s going on right now and how you should be handling it. I’m trying to go to the supermarkets as little as possible – never mind the depressingly picked-over shelves. Last Friday, I went to the Best Yet market down the hill from me, near the Steinway Piano Factory. Since this market has a parking lot, it draws in a lot more than neighborhood people who can walk there. Approaching the store, I saw there was a line of about 30 people waiting to get in. It had opened an hour earlier. It was then I realized people were treating this like Black Friday, showing up early to get "the best" groceries. The manager must have set crowd limits and was letting in customers one at a time, like a crowded night club.

Fuck that. I haven’t gone back since, although when I walked by yesterday, it didn’t look as bad. There are other options in the neighborhood, strictly walk-in stores. Toilet paper? Forget it – not yet in NYC! Luckily, I had bought a four-roll before the world ended and realized long ago there are better ways to do this. Hand sanitizer? None to be found, anywhere. My landlord’s healthcare assistant came back with a bottle the other day; the nearby dollar store had them behind the counter. I went down, and they were already gone, another feeding frenzy in the time it took her to walk up the hill and me down. Surprisingly, the meat section in all the markets has come back since being non-existent for the better part of two weeks. Bread is doing better, too, after being decimated. I needed 100-watt lightbulbs as I just ran out, only to find some asshole(s) completely wiped out the supply at the Trade Fair on Ditmars. Luckily, the C Town by the subway train was well stocked. That’s how it is now, piecing together what you need in different places.

The worst part is the people without gloves. Almost as bad, the smug looks on their faces, young and old alike: this thing is bullshit, and I’m not changing a damn thing about how I live. I can see it in their eyes. You want to know why this thing has spread like wildfire in NYC? It’s not the “hub of international travel, people from all over the world pass through here” bullshit. Atlanta has the busiest airport in the world – why aren’t they pounding the same numbers? It’s because of people like this who, through sheer arrogance and stupidity, think they’re above it all, in a cramped city where people are in constant contact with each other. Given that I’m in contact with a few older folks who could have a death sentence if they caught this thing, I’m not above it all. That’s not the only reason, but reason enough to wear gloves when I have to touch anything in public, wash my hands thoroughly before and after I’m around other people, etc.

Will the rest of the country get hit as hard as New York? I hope not. From what I’ve heard, the supermarket insanity has gone on everywhere, with hoarders and resellers making life hard on everyone. It’s easier to feel safer and more isolated in places where you drive your car to get things done, like go to work or buy groceries. Reality is, people aren’t safe or isolated when they go out in public and interact, whether it’s a city teeming with people or a rural outpost. There are ways to make yourself safer in this respect. I would wager how seriously people take these things will determine how deep and wide this thing goes in America.