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Flatbush Flashback

Everybody Had a Hard Year

Everybody Had a Hard Year

Soho street art. Photograph © Robert Rosen.

 

On Friday, March 12, my wife, Mary Lyn Maiscott, and I received our second Covid vaccinations at a Duane Reade a few blocks from where we live—Moderna for those keeping score.

 

Exactly one year after New York City went into lockdown we walked out of the drugstore feeling elated, facing the world as fully vaccinated people, awaiting a return to something approaching normalcy. To celebrate, we bought bread and little pizzas at the Sullivan Street Bakery.

 

People told us we were lucky to get vaccinated so quickly. I've no doubt. I know people in Florida and Missouri who drove hundreds of miles to be vaccinated. We've certainly been luckier than the nearly 540,000 Americans (more than 30,000 in New York City alone) who've died from Covid-19 and continue to die at a rate of about 1,400 per day. That only one person in my family, my 81-year-old uncle, succumbed to the disease is both tragic and miraculous. My mother, 94 and in an assisted-living facility in Florida, continues to endure, though I haven't seen her in more than a year.

 

I've spent that year mostly within the confines of my apartment with Mary Lyn and our cat, Oiseau, who seems to appreciate having us here 24/7 and will soon be in for a rude shock. The days have been a blur of routine and routine horror. April, the "cruelest month" as T.S. Elliot called it in "The Wasteland," more than lived up to its reputation in 2020.

  • It was the month almost a thousand people a day in New York City died from Covid.
  • It was the month the sound of ambulance sirens were heard round the clock and the sound of vuvuzelas and people banging on pots and pans to salute "essential workers" filled the air every evening at seven.
  •  It was the month most of our building cleared out and we were the only ones left on the seventh floor.
  • It was the month that one morning, before dawn, clad in latex gloves and a $3 face mask and armed with a small bottle of hard-to-find hand sanitizer, I ventured into a supermarket. On the checkout line, I saw, social-distancing behind me, a man wearing a gas mask, with the rest of his body, down to his shoes, wrapped in plastic garbage bags, his cart overflowing with carrots, potatoes, and onions. I felt as if I were in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie.
  •  It was the month we stopped going to supermarkets.
  •  It was the month we began washing our groceries with disinfectant.
  •  It was the month I began studying a Covid map of the USA. A small corner of Montana had no cases. I wanted to be there.
  •  It was the month we stopped taking the subway.
  •  It was the month Mary Lyn began working from home, turning our couch and coffee table into her office.
  •  It was the month I lived in a state of terror and didn't leave the house for days at a time.
  •  It was the month that when I did emerge from my apartment, always early in the morning or late at night, when there were fewer people in the street, I felt enraged every time a maskless person came too close to me.
  •  It was the month, while passing through Times Square, I saw only two people: the Naked Cowboy and a solitary tourist listening to him.
  •  It was the month that every time my throat felt scratchy I thought it was the beginning of the end.
  •  It was the month I became aware of the mobile morgues—refrigerated trucks and trailers—parked outside every hospital and couldn't walk past one without imagining the overflow of bodies inside.
  •  It was the month my post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie became more of an Edgar Allan Poe story.

And that was only April.

 

As the months passed and the body count grew, every day I binge-watched the news, though it sometimes made me feel physically ill. I could barely believe I was living in a country that elected Donald Trump. For all the good it did (none), I began rage-tweeting at Trump in response to his endless flow of toxic inanities.

 

By May, as restaurants struggled to survive, our entire neighborhood, Soho, was transformed into one big outdoor café. It would have been nice to sit in one of those cafés and have a glass of wine if being around people didn't seem like such a bad idea.

 

frum.jpg

Post-riot graffiti as literary criticism. Photo © Robert Rosen.

 

On a Saturday night at the end of May, after the murder of George Floyd, Soho was trashed and looted. The luxury stores and quaint restaurants were reduced to a jumble of smashed windows and boarded-up storefronts, some covered with graffiti, others with street art.

 

The pandemic played havoc with what I loosely call "my writing business." The European and West Coast events I was planning for Bobby in Naziland went by the wayside. My participation in a documentary, Did America Kill John Lennon?, and an event celebrating Lennon's 80th birthday, at Subterranean Books in St. Louis, were postponed indefinitely.

 

But some good news did emerge from our household: Being in lockdown gave me time to make progress on a new book, as yet untitled, about the 1970s. You can read a description here. And Mary Lyn released some new music, including a pandemic-inspired song, "I Can't Touch You (Supermoon)."

 

Then came the election. We lived through that, too.

 

Now I'm wondering if the widespread availability of vaccinations is the light at the end of the tunnel or just another oncoming train.

 

I'm betting on light. In a rare act of faith and optimism, I've rescheduled my Lennon event at Subterranean Books for October 7, 2021. I hope to see some of you there, well vaccinated and probably still masked.

________

My latest book, Bobby in Naziland, is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my eternally embryonic Instagram.

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