On my daily walk, I pass the end of the line, where trains are idling more than they should be. We live 45 minutes from The City, my hometown.
I hallucinate about getting on the train, masked, at social distance, passing familiar sights I have not seen in 13 months – the high overpass between Manhasset and Great Neck, the tidal inlet between Douglaston and Bayside, the crowds in Flushing Chinatown, the skyline up ahead, the new high rises in Long Island City, the tunnel under the river, and then we arrive in the insulting dump known as Penn Station.
In my daydream, I get off at the front, rush up the stairs to Moynihan Train Hall, which opened this January, the instant landmark that has risen in the poisonous air of fear.
* * *
With one shot in my arm, and another on the way, I dare to dream again.
In the name of sanity, I have repressed memories of things we used to do, back when.
Our widespread family is mostly okay. My wife and I are blessed in many ways, including family and friends and the means to pursue projects and interests at home during this pandemic. This is hardly a lament. She got wise to the pandemic right away and we agreed: Don’t take chances.
But now the urges and the memories come flooding back.
I’ll admit it, I am stir-crazy. My daydreams multiply.
--- My wife and I have been hard-liners, repressing the urges to hug our kids, our grandkids, in a year of elbow bumps, quickie chats in driveways, emails and phone calls, a few furtive visits across a deck or a large living room, the door cracked open for ventilation, even in mid-winter.
We have been united mostly by a chain of eight text-message addresses, known as Family Bigs – snarky politics, music links, family gossip, sports updates. But in my daydream, there is the chance to settle in, tell stories, laugh behind a mask –at long last, hug.
-- I am a realist. I know these daydreams could be destroyed by another surge, brought about by simpleton governors like the guy in Texas who does not seem to comprehend what the scientists are saying. These politicians and their followers want to “open up” the businesses, even at the risk of lives. I understand the urge for normalcy, after the vicious ineptitude of the previous president. Now we are close to being able to imagine the past. We can dare to dream. But don’t screw it up.
-- In this daydream, we are upstate, visiting one daughter’s home in the woods, and I take a walk up the hill, and look out over a long Adirondack ridge. I cannot hear a human sound. Hawks glide below. Way over on the other side, a car pulls up to a house in the woods, but at this distance I cannot tell if it is a modest cabin or a luxury hideaway. I have missed open space; all is mystery, all is serene.
--- In another daydream, we slip into a booth at one of our local favorites, let’s say Gino’s, and order pasta for my wife, Gaby’s salad (fresh farm vegetables) for me, those great chewy rolls, and then one slice of Cheesecake a la Nonna with coffee. Or maybe we are in Diwan down by the bay (Bobby C's amazing roasted cauliflower!) or DiMaggio’s on Port Blvd, or Little Dumpling in Little Neck. My wife has cooked so well over the past 13 months; for reasons of safety, we cannot see ourselves going out for a meal anytime soon.
--- Waiting for the second dose of vaccine (I hear tales of chills and aches), in my mind I start making overdue appointments -- a recall on our car, the dentist, the dermatologist, the optician, maybe even the barber. Then there's the furnace/AC spring tuneup plus a capable carpenter who can fix everything that is falling apart. And what about the telephone company that is threatening to install an “upgrade” on our service. (Or is it really time to ditch our landline?)
--- In this daydream, I am walking around The City, any neighborhood will do. I bet I am pulled to the Met Museum, for a pilgrimage to the Goyas. I also miss my friends from high school, from college, from work. Zoom and e-mail and phone calls have served their purpose but maybe soon, in early spring, I meet one good friend or another on an outside bench, for a coffee, just to encounter a familiar voice, familiar eyes, over a mask.
--- We drive to visit our other daughter in Deepest Pennsylvania -- the ridge of Blue Mountain, on our right, accompanying us for more than an hour. Barns and hexes and old farmhouses alongside I-78. Then a meal on the patio, laughter, gossip, work updates, maybe the grown grandson and granddaughter materializing. Real life.
--- Sometime in the near future, we sit in a den with our son and his wife, rooting for deGrom and McNeil, enjoying the banter of Gary and Keith and Ron, in their cloisters up in the booth. Real life.
----These are just the starters. I daydream about new National Theatre presentations in the revived Kew Gardens Cinema; I daydream about a run up to our late-in-life discovery -- Maine; I daydream about seeing my siblings. Real life.
What do you miss?
How do you imagine it coming back, in some form, maybe soon?
Please feel free to share, in the Comments section, the things you imagine when you close your eyes.
What would Saturday night be like without the great Kate McKinnon? This time, she was Dr. Fauci, demonstrating the national/worldwide roll-em aspect of getting a vaccination. However, to our surprise, in recent days, my wife and I got lucky. This is our updated story:
Until a few days ago, my wife and I were preoccupied with trying to stay alive, with no coherent program from national or local governments.
Every morning, millions of Americans play the game of going online and pretending we have a chance for a Covid shot.
It kills the time, what with the wintry weather.
I know things would be better organized if the cretini who were in charge of the country for four years had any ability to organize, or even read the playbooks left them by the Obama regime. But grifters operate outside rules, outside structure.
Then our luck changed. I got an email -- a "random call" -- from the health powerhouse in our area, saying I was qualified for a shot. Bingo. On Tuesday I got my first jab. But my wife could not find anything even though she has had more contact with that regional mega-chain in recent years.
Then on Friday afternoon, our dear friend Marie called and told us of a program run by the great heart hospital, St. Francis, at a public park only 20 minutes from our house, and after a few clicks with the phone my wife had an appointment for Sunday-- earlier today, as I type this.
Until our double strokes of luck, I would go on line every day and play tic-tac-toe with the local hospital chain and the drugstore chains, and eventually all efforts are funneled into the “system” of Gov. Cuomo. Once in a while, the site says there just might be appointments within the state, like Potsdam or Plattsburgh. (In other words, Canada South.)
What makes it worse is that the New York Times issues a daily advisory that the county where I live has a high infection rate. Gee, do you think it has anything to do with superspreader parties that self-indulgent suburbanites tossed during the holidays?
So we wear double masks and I make quickie runs to the grocery store – people are uniformly masked and polite at the Target Market I frequent. My wife and I get furtive glimpses of our loved ones. You know the drill.
Meanwhile friends my age in the city tell me tales of getting shots at their hospital or the Javits Center. One pal was visiting a medical building and the elevator stopped at a different floor and he saw a sign: “Covid Vaccinations Available.” He doubled back and the lady with the clipboard said they did indeed have vaccine. (It was 3:15 PM.) “How would 3:20 be?” she asked. He said, he thought he could make it.
He tells me that every time we talk, the smartass.
On Thursday, President Biden noted the country had given 50-millon inoculations in his first 37 days, but that progress does not help those with no way to register as seniors, entitled to the drug.
I credit the governor and the mayor -- the odd couple -- for the state’s placement of vaccination centers only for residents of urban centers, including Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn (right where Ebbets Field used to be) and York College in South Jamaica, Queens (where Mario Cuomo’s dad ran a grocery store.) This is called doing the right thing.
* * *
Now I have my own strange little tale of how we lucked into our shots:
Last Sunday, around 4:45 PM, the following message popped onto my phone:
We’re happy to let you know that we have recently received a small quantity of COVID-19 vaccines for eligible Northwell patients. You are currently eligible to be vaccinated, according to New York State guidance.
To book your COVID-19 vaccine appointment, call….
Next morning at 8 AM, I got right through and signed up for a shot. Amazing. Then I inquired for a shot for my wife, saying that nearly two months ago we both filled out forms for appointments with New York State; we have the printouts, with our serial numbers and all.
“It is strictly a random call,” the lady said.
Could my wife get a random call? “She might get one at any time.”
Last Tuesday, I went to a large, clean, brightly-lit room in the Northwell complex in New Hyde Park, where a couple of dozen workers were wielding needles or pens. In 20 minutes, I was out the door.
I felt a surge--not of medication but of love and respect, first for the scientists who jumped into battle while the previous “president” was lying to his country.
I was thankful for all the medical workers who have saved lives and comforted family members; those workers deserved first crack at the vaccination.
The first nurse to get inoculated was an administrator, Sandra Lindsay, who lives in the same town we do.
My left arm ached a bit for a day, but according to the experts, one shot of Pfizer means even if you pick up a stray bit of Covid, you will not go to the hospital, you will not die, particularly if you wear double masks and minimize contacts.
My wife got her shot of Moderna on Sunday; you take whatever they are giving. We are sad for the people without computer skills, without friends who know somebody.
The whole thing sounds like the eminent scientist – Dr. Wenowdis -- on “Saturday Night Live,” last week, played by the brilliant Kate McKinnon, who summed up national vaccination procedure: “Dis we don’t know.”
Don't we all have things we miss in this pandemic -- beyond family and friends?
I miss my home town twinkling on the western skyline.
I wrote about this a few months ago.
On Sunday I did something about it.
With the plague at full blast, I had to deliver something to the NYT plant in the College Point section of North Queens.
It was a cold day, very little traffic. Ideal driving conditions.
My muscle memory told me how to handle the turns and merges and quick decisions of parkway driving in the city,
With every mile, my exhilaration grew.
First stop was the NYT plant; since my retirement in 2011, I have become friendly with the people there.
On a quiet Sunday morning, I dropped off the item and kept going.
The museum had large banners facing the Grand Central Parkway. I remembered one winter in junior high school, when I went ice skating in this building with some classmates. Now it is a vibrant community asset; I thought of my friend who helps run it, and the Panorama of New York City, where we have "bought" our family home in Holliswood.
I drove around to the front of the awesome building on the glacial hill. My mom was in the first wave of students in the new building -- in 1927. She loved the school as much as I do; it was our major bond, She passed in the very nice Chapin Home, a few blocks away, in 2002. The city, in its dunderhead way, terminated Jamaica High a few years ago -- a DiBlasio failure -- but there are several smaller schools tucked away in the building that will last forever.
I drove along Henley Rd., near the house where the worst president in American history used to live, soiling the image of Queens. There was no time for a drive past our old house, where my mom moved nearly 100 years ago; I had to pick up my order of Shanghai dumpling soup in Little Neck.
My Sunday morning excursion temporarily dispersed the miasma of the murderous pandemic.
I'll keep in touch with the many dozens of my Jamaica contemporaries; we are very tight.
Maybe some quiet Sunday morning soon, I will drive into The City (Manhattan, that is) -- just to see it.
The main thing is that thousands of people are dying per day because of the Orange Fool and his little helpers in Congress. (Somebody on MSNBC called them "eunuchs" on Saturday. Sounds about right.)
Americans are dying at a growing rate because he has convinced a horrifying chunk of the nation they can breathe on each other at close range.
Nurses are getting sick, getting demoralized. This is the tragedy. We know that.
The personal side of Covid-19 is the carnage in a region I know well, North Queens, one of the worst-hit neighborhoods in the country. The human side has been caught by the NYT in a special section in the Sunday paper, written by the great Dan Barry. You won't hurt my feelings if you abandon this blog and go read about the very American swath of Queens, the losses of humans who are now real to us.,
Meanwhile, the Orange Fool is trying to break the nation in his final weeks, protesting the election, which he lost soundly. To cover for himself while he pillages, he sends out Rudy the Clown, performing Opera Buffa in the courts of America. We know that, too.
Nothing’s working, and now I am beginning to realize that even the Web-driven delivery system. designed to keep consumers safe from germy stores, is starting to sputter and falter.
For once in my journalistic life,, I just sniffed a trend. After encountering delays on most things I tried to do online, I just read another story in the NYT's Sunday paper: the backup of many items ordered online for delivery. The system is on overload. Plus, it's the holiday shopping season. None of this, I hasten to add, is as bad as Covid-19.
NB: The following is the bleat from the comfortable class, which wants to shop and do business by computer, by phone, by courier.
That "system" breaking down, too.
Most online and telephone ventures are met with a long pause. Banks. Stores. Utilities. Services. People are working from home. Good luck to you. I got this message the other day:
"Due to COVID-19, our carriers are experiencing delays in shipping packages. Thank you for your patience. Please check online for the status of your order."
That message pops up regularly, online or on recorded announcements, from the new masters of the Internet. Even Amazon is having trouble with Covid in the warehouses, and when the workers complain, Amazon seems to be putting the legal squeeze on them, in classic management heavy-handedness:
Here are three personal examples of services wearing down. Bear in mind, this is the whine of somebody (me) who would pay somebody else to do his shopping, to deliver his goods:
*-- Our regional cable company used to have techies available on the phone, some of them quite knowledgeable, in their weary sarcastic Long Island accents, talking Luddites into re-setting their TV sets. Now the company depends on a Chat system with people apparently in call centers working from a script. One of our sets went rogue the other day. and the voice at the other end told me to perform the normal reboot functions. No good. He claimed to run some tests. Nothing. “Your box is broken,” he typed. “I will send you a new box.” In a few weeks. Okay. When he was done, I noticed a little white card in a slot in the box. I pulled it out and inserted it again. The TV set immediately went on. How do I notify the unreachable cable company? Let’s see if they send the box.
*-- Another hurdler for the well-off: We selected nearly 60 grocery items from our favorite big-box emporium but the "system" shuddered to a halt when the store tried to hand off the order to a delivery service. I asked for help online and got a personable bloke at a call center -- in Durban, South Africa. I love Durban! Spent my best three days of the 2010 World Cup alongside the Indian Ocean, smell of curry in the homey little hotel. Great memories. Alas, the agent couldn’t help me, and my food order got blown out during the transfer. I typed it all over again, somehow got the order from a very capable delivery guy. The process? Maddening. But of course we ate well. As I say, indulge me.
*-- We ordered a few basic items from a very good office-supply chain. It was supposed to take two days, but got stuck in a warehouse somewhere. A very helpful agent named Pamela convinced me to wait for the delivery, which arrived Saturday morning, four full days after ordering. But as the saying goes, nobody died.
You know what's efficient? I'll tell you what's efficient: The federal government. Medicare. The very thing our Vandal-in-Chief is trying to break. I went online Friday to finalize the drug programs for my wife and myself in 2021. The process took less than 15 minutes for the two of us. Every step was simple. The same thing is true about ventures into Social Security – real people or website -- smart, knowledgeable, polite, able to solve the problem. Just what we need to tear down, according to angry maskless Trumpites.
Meanwhile, if we listen carefully, there is the crunch of things being broken, on purpose, Trump still trying to harm immigrants while stuffing goodies into his gunnysack. Evidence of pardons for money, pardons for his sweet little kiddies. People are being told not to believe the obvious election results.
After this guy vacates the White House, please, somebody, check the silverware.
This is how bad it got bad at the Mets’ home opener on Friday:
When Edwin Diaz walked into the game, the cardboard mockups of real fans began to head for the exits. I swear.
Edwin Diaz! Aaagh! Not him again!
Cardboard people began checking with the baby-sitter on their phones, began edging toward the rest rooms, began filing out toward the parking lots and the No. 7 elevated train – to get the hell out of there before Diaz torched the place, again.
Eight innings into the first game of this bizarre season -- a season I am not sure should exist, given the pandemic -- I experienced the mini-terror of the fan – with no ticking clock, with three massive last outs to achieve.
This is the same Edwin Diaz who was acquired by the Mets last year and had one of the worst years ever for a so-called relief pitcher. Fans groaned when they saw him flexing in the bullpen.
On Friday, as rigid and lifeless as the fans appeared, they knew a terrifying situation when they saw it.
It was a classic Mets’ game of recent seasons, Before Covid. Jacob deGrom pitched five crisp innings, looking like the two-time Cy Young Award winner that he is, reaching his pitch limit, and turning the game over to the bullpen.
All those vividly-colored one-inch-thick fans recognized the script – the paralysis of the Mets’ hitters whenever DeGrom pitches.
This opener had a subplot – the presence of Freddie Freeman for the Braves, after a terrifying siege with Covid months ago, when he admittedly felt he would not live. Later, he recounted his experience to Nick Markakis, a teammate, who promptly decided to sit out this season.
Freeman is back, one of those admirable opponents that even some Mets fans, in all their bilious loyalty, can respect. He monitored first base, and seemed to greet the Mets’ Brandon Nimmo with a tap of his glove after both of Nimmo’s singles.
This camaraderie would not have gone over back in the day, when an opponent would have fallen to the ground and called for the umpire to eject Freeman for menacing with his microbe-laden glove. In these nicer times, it was good to see Freeman’s hawk-like features back on the field.
The Mets got a post-deGrom run when Yoenis Céspedes clubbed a massive home run, and Diaz induced terror in Mets fans by striding onto the field, but somehow he procured three outs, around a walk (to Freeman), to secure a 1-0 victory, and the Mets remained undefeated 24 days into July.
This patchwork “season” may or may not last 60 games. But on Opening Day, with thousands of faux fans planted in the seats, a pyromaniac “relief” pitcher terrified the fans, in whatever form.
I know it is hypocritical of me to worry about spreading the virus -- (the Mets abandoned all pretense of safety when they greeted Cespedes in the dugout)-- but baseball, in this strange form, is back.
"The day after my 80th birthday, which overflowed with good wishes, surprises and Covid-safe celebrations, I awoke feeling fulfilled and thinking that whatever happens going forward, I’m OK with it. My life has been rewarding, my bucket list is empty, my family is thriving, and if everything ends tomorrow, so be it.
"Not that I expect to do anything to hasten my demise. I will continue to exercise regularly, eat healthfully and strive to minimize stress. But I’m also now taking stock of the many common hallmarks of aging and deciding what I need to reconsider."
--Jane E. Brody, my pal in the NYT newsroom, oh, a few years back, in the Personal Health column, Sept. 13, 2021.
"People have said to me, ‘You’re fully vaccinated. Why are you being so careful?’” said Dr. Robert M. Wachter, professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “I’m still in the camp of I don’t want to get Covid. I don’t want to get a breakthrough infection.”
---Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times, Aug. 16, 2021.