I’m Virge Randall, Managing Editor of seniorplanet.org, and lifelong New York City resident. Living in the epicenter of this epidemic presents some unusual challenges – some familiar to people in similar urban settings, some completely foreign. Here’s a quick look at a typical day in Plague Central.
I wake up between 7 and 8 am. After coffee and a quick check of the weather, I walk in the park near my apartment. Since the gyms are closed, my daily goal is 8000 steps a day on my pedometer, in two or three passes. (If I don’t get my steps in during walks, I pace in my apartment or the hallway.) I appreciate sunny days a lot more now! I’ve also started working with resistance bands.
I wear a mask and gloves whenever I leave my walk-up apartment, since droplets linger in enclosed spaces. The mask doesn’t filter out the skunky pot the people in my building prefer, though. Sometimes I wish my neighbors would switch to cocaine because at least it doesn’t stink.
Before I head out, I load up my MP3 with fresh music, and put on my pedometer and my heart rate monitor. Even at 8am, runners and bikers zoom past me huffing and puffing without masks and without social distancing; if I see ’em coming I’ll run with my arms extended like I’m playing “airplane.” When I can, I yell “MASK!” at them and point to mine. Yes, I’ve become a “Karen.” I’m not going to get sick because some entitled, asymptomatic asshole wanted to feel the air on his or her face and sprays the air with germy droplets as s/he runs past!
I really miss the small dog run in the park. My day’s highlight was watching them from the railing. Often, some dog would catch my eye and run to me like I was made of ham. I could feel my spirits lift physically; I felt lighter inside. But who wouldn’t when a miniature Australian border collie runs up to you in near deranged joy to lick your face? Or when a black Lab comes over to you, wriggling with delight to show you his toy and get – and give – some doggie love? I enjoyed the show….until the Mayor ordered the dog runs closed. I really miss it. I compensate with videos of dogs from the internet. I will never get tired of this one:
I can report that when I feel sad, I eat spageters, and it works (see right). I felt much better! (It’s spaghetti with spinach pesto, peas, and tomatoes.) I am indifferent to golf balls, though. I’ve also been listening to a lot of comedy clips (Mel Brooks and Louis CK are the current favorites).
Outside of the morning and evening walk, I only leave my apartment once a week for food, coffee, parmesan cheese (hey, I have Sicilian blood), or to add to the Strategic Toilet Paper Reserves. (20 rolls now!) I still can’t find hand sanitizer but the stores are much better stocked than when this all first started. (It reminded me of stores in Miami just ahead of a hurricane.) There are no casual errands now. I have to ‘suit up” with mask and gloves, and join the lines outside of stores (standing six feet apart) until a bouncer lets me in (one at a time to avoid overcrowding). This type of waiting on line is a far cry from my days at Studio or The Mudd Club.
Laundry is problematic. Like many New Yorkers, I live in a walk-up (no elevator) apartment. There’s no washer/dryer in my apartment, or even my building. The laundromat is three blocks away. It’s an enclosed environment full of metallic surfaces, with customers who may or may not be effectively masked or wear gloves. Although it’s ridiculously expensive (4x the cost of doing it myself), I finally dropped off my laundry to have it done by them. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
My workaround is to wash stuff at home. Last winter, I tired of carrying my laundry through the snow, I created a makeshift home laundry.
I bought a new toilet plunger and turned it into a low-tech agitator by drilling some holes in it so water flowed through it, (like at right). Now I fill a bucket with water and soap, toss in some clothes, and move the plunger up and down. Lather, rinse, repeat, wring out and leave out to dry by a window. It actually works!
I don’t order in because I like to cook. I tend to snack, so focusing on mealtime helps (sometimes) keep me in line. I’ve been taking pictures of the main meal each day to create a sense of occasion, and when I sit down, I pray.
I am really grateful to work for Senior Planet! Most of my day is taken up by writing, editing, and more. I especially enjoy doing the Open Thread on Sundays – it’s a great way for everyone to get to know everyone else!
I’d like to say that I’m using this time to learn Sanskrit or something, but I’m really not. I sorely and deeply miss going to museums and cultural events. I miss visiting certain paintings the way I miss certain friends. (And similarly, I can ‘visit’ them online but it’s not the same as an in-person experience, like “Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer,” detail at left.)
My mental state is better when I don’t watch news all the time, but I do watch a lot of cartoons (Bob’s Burgers and Futurama). I focus on long-neglected projects like cleaning “junk drawers” or organizing my music collection. I’ve got vinyl, cassettes and CDs, plus MP3’s, WMAs, M4as, and other formats in three different laptops and two towers. I’d like to digitize everything and store in one place. Meanwhile, I’m rediscovering music I’ve loved but forgotten about along the way.
Lately I’ve been going through my comedy CD’s. “The Two Thousand Year Old Man” never, ever disappoints!
I also make it a point to call two or three friends every day; so far I haven’t been able to convince ’em to try Zoom or Google Hangouts, but I will keep trying – and I have dinner with them in my dreams (literally). Meanwhile there’s always Facebook, but it’s tough to see pix of friends with backyards and decks, when I’m stuck in a 600 square foot apartment with direct sunlight in one room from 12:45pm to about 4:30pm.
Sticking to a routine, getting regular exercise, having a project, and staying in touch with friends are my lifesavers. That’s one reason why I really the Open Threads on Sundays. It’s like I’m meeting new people as they share their own unique answers in the comments, and hopefully, readers ‘meet’ each other, too.
But what about you? What’s it like where you are? How are you handling it? Let us know in the comments!
Photo by Emiliano Bar on Unsplash