Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: How are you? Because I am Not Good.

8 Jul

A few months back I got a message from a reader on my Ko-Fi page thanking me for sharing all my feelings and experiences throughout the pandemic. I feel that I owe that reader an apology – I have not written about or documented these past few months nearly enough. In part this comes from not wanting to burden others with my feelings. We are all having our own experiences of grief, loss, confusion, fear, anxiety and, for some, a bit (or a lot) of success and positivity mixed in among all the confusion. It feels as though taking up space – even if that space is my own little corner of the internet that people can choose to engage with or not – is an imposition. And also in part it comes from the specific way in which my particular creativity works. I am someone who has always written with a specific story in mind, or a strong reaction to an ongoing issue or big piece of news. In the years since Trump was elected, I have found myself writing less and less often. There is just so much. And to be completely honest, I have been really struggling to make sense of the world. I have been struggling to find my bearings in an environment and a society that I thought was one thing but is, in fact, something entirely different. It feels like walking up to a structure that I think is made of something sturdy but when I touch it it turns out that it was constructed out of sand and the entire thing just crumbles at my fingertips, blows away in the wind.

People have been saying this since the election, that the modus operandi of this president was to plough ahead with one inhumane statement and policy after another, to overwhelm us to a point that action feels impossible, fruitless. Well, consider it a success because I am overwhelmed. Does anyone even remember what life was like before Trump? I’m having a harder and harder time mentally getting there. It’s like when someone dies and in the months following you can still hear their laughter in your head, feel their touch on you skin. They visit you in your dreams and you get to remember what it was like to have them in your life. But then, over time, they visit less often, their voices fade further and further into the distance, you no longer remember how they smelled. I am having a harder and harder time remembering what pre-November 2016 felt like. I know that this country was still horrible, was an enemy in a lot of ways, but at least it was an enemy that I sort of understood, knew how to fight against. Right now I feel like we are all face-to-face with a shape shifter, a reality that makes no sense, follows no rules, changes the game to suit its ends halfway through the match. And then changes the game again, just for fun. And again and again and again after that.

Now of course there is the pandemic, which the administration has decided to wish into non-existence. Turns out, viruses don’t take orders from a wannabe authoritarian leader and his morally bankrupt enablers, those people riding his coattails towards the true American Dream: mountains of wealth brought upon through the only method a lot of the powerful know – depraved indifference. And what about the rest of us? Those of us who are not immune to the shockwaves that will run through our economy for years? What are we supposed to do? I put over a decade of my life into an industry that essentially no longer exists, that will never be how it was just a few months back. There is no longer a living to be made there. So, what now? What now for me and millions of other people. The unemployment extension and eviction moratoriums are about to end and people are going to be in free fall. What we have seen these past months has been incomprehensible and I think it’s going to get worse. I think this is only the beginning.

So, I don’t know. I feel pretty fucking sad. How are you?

Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: Back to Work We Go!

3 Jul

Whelp, it’s official. This country is a fucking disaster. I guess no one told the Trump administration that the narrative of “American Exceptionalism” is a load of bullcrap and that even if it were true, which it most assuredly is not, that no amount of exceptionalism would have made us immune to the spread of this fucking virus. We have, what, 131,000 dead now? That is 131,000 lives lost; 131,000 communities that are now without a loved one; 131,000 families and friends forced to mourn from a distance. And that doesn’t account for whatever long term effects those who were severely stricken by the coronavirus might suffer from down the line. That number also doesn’t account for people who could not get the medical care they needed for other illnesses as a result of the strain this virus placed on our healthcare system, or for the people who were too scared to enter a hospital and put off lifesaving care. And of course, there is the mental health toll this has taken on the entire medical field – specifically those in the hardest hit areas like here in New York City.

For those of us who remained in New York through April, it feels like  we will never be the same. It was a goddamn horror show. Overrun hospitals, people standing in long lines desperate for care, refrigerated trucks parked outside to collect the bodies because there was no more room, funeral homes and cremation centers overutilized, daily coronavirus briefings from Cuomo who documented the seemingly never-ending surge in infections, hospitalizations and death. Going to the grocery store felt like walking into certain death. Leaving the house for things as routine as dog walks and bodega visits was fraught with anxiety. Everyone you passed was a potential super spreader, a lethal germ machine unknowingly spewing droplets to land on what? And for how long? Do you bleach everything you buy from the store? Does it make sense to wear gloves? Does Trump know, or care, that people are dying? Does the CDC have any fucking clue what it is talking about? Are other citizens watching? Do they know what’s happening here? Do they realized it is already in their grocery stores, gyms and restaurants, silently spreading? Do they know they will be here too? That it might already be too late to stop it?

And then it was.

And here we are.

So, what now? What do we do now? The past 3.5 months have been really hard. Us New Yorkers have largely stayed home, stayed safe, masked up. For awhile, it seemed like nothing we did could stem the tide. It felt like those numbers would keep climbing, our loved ones succumbing. And then, one day, those ever-rising numbers stabilized and then started to fall, and fall, and fall.  It felt like a miracle, but it wasn’t. I would like to say it was the result of collective action – millions of New Yorkers staying home to protect themselves and others – and in some ways that is true. We did stay home. But let’s be honest, a lot of people stayed home because there was nothing else to do. No museums, bars, restaurants, salons, gyms, jobs to travel to, schools and after school activities to ferry kids to and from. But now that our numbers have fallen and stayed low, things are starting to open. And as I said back in March when I hoped that bars and restaurants would be forced closed, if things are open people will go to them, regardless the risk. And if people go to them, they have to be staffed.

Listen, I get it. We are stir crazy. People want to see their friends, return to some degree of normalcy. But as far as I am concerned, these decisions to reopen are not about us at all. They aren’t about our happiness, health or well-being. They are about the fact that, as I stated at the offset of this piece, this country is a fucking disaster. The unemployment benefits, with the $600 weekly extension, are set to expire at the end of this month along with the moratorium on evictions. So people’s unemployment and housing security will both be gone at the same time. The House has passed an extension of the federal aid – called The Heroes Act – that was supposed to extend the $600 through January 31, 2021. Mitch McConnell will not allow that to get through the Senate. So these re-openings, in my opinion, are largely being pushed through too early because people need to pay their bills and without continued help at the federal level they will not be able to. So, back to work in the middle of a deadly pandemic we go! But not to worry because the governor has put a travel restriction on people traveling here from…16 states where coronavirus cases are on the rise. People arriving here from

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. Arizona
  4. California
  5. Florida
  6. Georgia
  7. Iowa
  8. Idaho
  9. Louisiana
  10. North Carolina
  11. Mississippi
  12. Nevada
  13. South Carolina
  14. Tennessee
  15. Texas
  16. Utah

are all being informed by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to self-quarantine for 14-days upon arrival. This self-quarantine is “voluntary but compliance is expected.”

I’m sorry, what? Have they watched the news? There are people spitting on people with cancer who ask them to put a mask on because the Constitution apparently gives them the right to be goddamn disease vectors. (I tried to find a link to the article but I couldn’t because there are too many articles about people spitting on other people who ask them to put on a mask or give them space.) People in this country are monsters! Sure, most people will likely cancel travel plans to these states as some of my friends already have but as we have  seen it literally takes one person, one super spreader, to undo all the work we have done. The mantra of individualism that we bow to in the good old U. S. of A. is one that creates a society full of selfish assholes who care more about their own right to go to a fucking swimming pool than the rights of their neighbors to actually survive. This “every state for itself” bullshit doesn’t work when you have porous borders. We either have to shut down the whole country or else just resign ourselves to the fact that this will go on until there is a vaccine, as we swiftly approach flu season, while people’s money runs out. And it seems as though the government has made its choice.

So what does this mean for those of us who work in non-essential businesses that are now basically being forced to reopen during an international health crisis? It means that we don’t matter, that’s what. The federal government has essentially thrown its hands up and said “whelp, we tried!” and sent us all back out into the world. But let me remind you, that we don’t actually know that much more about this disease than we did when it first showed itself. Herd immunity could be a thing or it could not; antibodies could be helpful or they could not; blood type might be indicative of the seriousness of the virus, or it could not; this virus could form another strain and run right back through our area, or not. We know literally nothing except what has already happened – people get sick, really sick, and then they die. And so for all this talk about learning from history, we sure do have a short fucking memory. And for all this talk of American Exceptionalism, we sure are exceptionally stupid.

Maybe I am being nervous about nothing. Maybe we are safe here in New York now. But everything in my being is telling me that is not the case and we are a long, long way from where we need to be to start returning to some semblance of pre-Covid life. But, what does it matter what I think. According to the government I’m expendable. And so are you.

Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: Who Am I In This Moment?

1 Jun

Along with other Jewish Americans, I grew up learning about the plight of my ancestors. It’s interesting, having that early education, that knowledge that there was a point in the not-so-distant past when a movement of hate sought to prevent your existence. It’s scary to know that they almost succeeded. I think often of the lives snuffed out, all of the possibilities that never came to pass. What would this world be like if those 11 million people, Jewish folks and the other hated and marginalized groups, had been allowed to live, to flourish? I often joke that the story of the Jewish people is much like our music – it exists only in the minor scale. Full of loss, sadness and pain. Even still, some way, some how, our knuckles are white as we cling to hopefulness, to our right to live unencumbered, not hunted, not hated. I walk with this knowledge daily, the knowledge that there were, there are, folks who would have me, my family, my friends and all the Jewish folks I don’t yet know wiped off the Earth. They came close last time, why not give it another go? Our demise, in certain ways, always feels imminent.

There is something about carrying a collective trauma. It gets into your blood, your DNA. When Richard Spencer gave a hitler salute on national television in the fall of 2016, I came as close to throwing up from fear as I ever have in my life. It felt like something had shifted. They weren’t afraid anymore, they were out in the open, and the media was giving them a free platform for recruitment. Still, to this day, hearing people quote the nazis marching through Charlottesville – “Jews will not replace us,” “blood and soil” – brings tears to my eyes and makes me feel light-headed. It is a horrible thing to feel like your life, your very existence, is repulsive to so many. And yet that is a feeling that so many Americans have every single day. That is what we are seeing borne out in the streets in cities and towns across the country.

In religious school on Saturday mornings when we talked about our expulsion from Egypt, the pogroms, the Holocaust, I wondered how there could be so many people throughout history that were filled with such hate. What had we done? Why were we so repulsive? How could people march in the streets in favor of the extermination of a people? How did they find enough people to guard the camps, to starve, torture and kill innocent and helpless people? How could hate run so deep that it could corrupt a person to the core, and make them capable of such evil? On the other side, how were there people who matched that hatred with bravery, and hid Jews and members of other hunted groups in their attics and under their floor boards? How – when we hear people say that we are all the same – could what we are built of make us so incredibly different?

How do some see human filth where others see incredible value?

I’ve been asking myself these questions a lot recently. I try to educate myself about structural inequality, institutional racism, a country built on looted labor, a militarized state that takes its might out on Black bodies, knowing that at one time it was our bodies the state sought to control, to destroy. That was different, I know. Maybe it’s some deeply rooted feeling of survivors guilt, the fact that it’s been us so many times. The reality is that in this country it’s been Black people always. Even now, today, while people take to the streets to fight police brutality and our militarized police the violence is being taken out on, centered on, Black bodies. I see it. But I don’t fucking understand it.

How? How does someone have so much hate that he can place his knee on a person’s neck and remain there, hand cooly in his pocket, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds? And how do we have a country where we all know that if that video hadn’t been captured, he would have gotten away with it? And even with the video he still might? And even if he doesn’t get away with it, even if he gets convicted of these strategically watered down charges, what does that really change? In the large sense? Will those of us whose bodies aren’t on the line pat ourselves on the back and think, job well done? Or will we keep fighting? Because whether there are people on the streets protesting or not, this is still happening. It’s been happening.

I have been thinking a lot about my role. About who I am. Who I need to be. And I keep thinking back to religious school, wondering how many people refused to help the hunted? How many slammed their doors and turned their backs in the Jews’ moment of need? I remember wondering how they could be so cruel? How they couldn’t see the people before them, frightened, begging?

Right now, we are watching a militarized police force occupy cities across the country. We are seeing armored vehicles patrol the streets. Witnessing “officers of the law” violently suppress non-violent protests. Watching police forces arrest and shoot tear gas and rubber bullets at the media. It’s terrifying. But these forces have been operating in, and against, Black communities for generations. So many of us have the privilege to ignore it, to pretend it isn’t there. But that is why George Floyd and so many others are dead. White privilege killed them. And regardless of being Jewish, I benefit from white privilege. Their blood is on my hands. I have a lot of work to do.

Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: Nightmare Edition

8 May

As if every day isn’t its own sort of scary dream, I have been blessed with some pretty fantastic nightmares recently. After each one of these I sit awake in my bed, trying to stay up long enough to reset my brain so I won’t fall back into whatever hell my brain had dropped me. Here are three I can remember.


The Man in the Doorway:

A few weeks ago, just as the stay at home order was put into place and my financial viability was thrown into question, I had my first of a series of increasingly terrifying dreams. In that first one, I was in bed when my phone rang. It was my dad who has, in real life, been in a habit of calling me and giving me sometimes daily updates on Cuomo’s press conferences which I find helpful because then I don’t have to watch them. I shuffled into the living space so as to not wake up my boyfriend or any of our pets and I realized that our front door was wide open, with just the screen door protecting me from the outside. And there in the doorway stood a man, staring in at me from our small fenced-in patio. I didn’t know if he had been standing there long, spying, or whether I happened to catch him just as he arrived. I think I was still holding the phone as I walked towards him to close and lock the door, hoping I was making the best bet and he was just a creep, but not dangerous. I awoke with a start as he reached forward and let himself inside the house.


The Women with Scythes:

This is a nightmare I think I have had before.

I was at a gymnastics meet, or so I think. I was there with a group of women and we were all wearing matching outfits. Red with some sort of writing on the front. I think maybe we were gymnastics cheerleaders which feels pretty on brand for me. I was carrying a balloon that I think was supposed to be a letter L – maybe I was supporting LSU? – but somehow I blew it up weird and it ended up all folded in on itself. I didn’t care though. I carried that fucked up L-shaped balloon up and down the hallway surrounding an arena with pride, cheering my head off. Apparently, though, we were only allowed to cheer a certain amount of times for each competitor. I got a little carried away and as I cheered I saw little boxes tick off, one after the other, sort of as a warning. As I ticked off my last box, I was approached by the other women in red, all of whom were now carrying scythes in their hands rather than balloons. They walked slowly and steadily behind me. No matter how fast I went, they were always there, walking, until one of them laid the point of her scythe on the middle of my scalp. I grabbed the handle of the weapon and tried to stop her. I looked in her eyes and knew nothing I could do would spare me. Behind her, dozens of identically dressed women, holding identical scythes, stared. She pressed the tip of her weapon onto my head and I woke up.


The Fire War

I was sitting in my car inside of a garage of a house that is not mine but in which I was staying. The car was facing the front of the garage, the garage door behind me was still open. I was sitting there in the front seat, I’m not sure why, when I noticed some blinking lights reflecting off my rearview mirror and onto my face. I opened the car door and looked and there, over the Hudson River, were planes dropping balls of fire. There were so many planes, so much fire. Rather than running and hiding I called my friend on the phone because, why not.

Friend: Oh hey, you okay?

Me: Well, there is some sort of a battle happening over the river so, you know, I could be better I guess.

Friend: Yeah, I just got an alert about that on my phone but it seems pretty harmless. Just some people dropping fire bombs in the river.

(?!?!?!?!?!??!!)

Me: Why now though? With everything else happening?

Friend: I think that’s exactly why they chose now.

As we were talking, a man who I had not seen enter the garage fled on my right side wearing dark clothes and a backpack. He left the building and, running, made a sharp right turn into the darkness. Mere seconds later, the planes appeared to be moving away from the water towards where all the houses were, where I was. One flew close to the garage and dropped something that looked like a suitcase. It fell and as it struck the ground it exploded into fireball that appeared to be moving in slow motion, directly towards me. I turned and fled back towards the car, knowing full well that it, me and the entire garage would be entirely incinerated. I could actually see clearly what the aftermath of the attack would look like. The last thing I remember before waking up was me saying into the phone,

“Please, please, please.”


So, that’s a glimpse as to how I have been sleeping. Needless to say I’m exhausted. How are you all holding up?


If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing. To those of you who caffeinated me, I send you so much gratitude. And I send gratitude to all of you who took the time to read this piece and helped me hold some of these thoughts. 

Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: This is Not “The New Normal”

29 Apr

The other day I was talking to my friend Ben about whatever it is we talk about these days. We have had an ongoing conversation over the years about the sayings that really just drive us crazy. One of the mainstays is Oprah’s “aha! moment.” We’ve also discussed Rachel Ray’s shortening of extra-virgin olive oil to “EEOO” which really seems unnecessary. It’s not as if it rolls off the tongue which, in my opinion, is what a good acronym accomplishes. Additionally, and I don’t think Ben and I have discussed this particular thing, I’m going to offer up the phrase “nothing burger.” I honestly don’t know how anyone can expect to be taken seriously when they say that something is a “big nothing burger” and yet I hear correspondents for news organizations use it on air without a hint of irony. In our chat the other day, Ben added another phrase to our ever-growing list, one that we have all been hearing quite often over the past few weeks. It will sound familiar to you.  “The new normal.”

I agreed with him without really examining why. This virus has been unkind to all of us to varying degrees (except maybe Jeff Bezos – I always gotta get those Bezos jabs in), but it has been especially unkind to Ben. I could understand why he wouldn’t want to think of this as the new normal, but how about me? Sure, I hate the masks and social distancing from my friends and family. I hate being out of work and having the days and weeks stretch out endlessly in front of me. I hate this feeling of uncertainty that looms over everything. Will my job be here when this is over? What will the city be like? Will my loved ones remain healthy? The more I thought about this idea of the new normal, though, the more and more I agreed with Ben. I had something of an aha! moment myself, if I had to really distill it down for you. I can not speak for Ben but this is what I came up with, this is where I landed on “the new normal.”

If we start to describe this as the new normal, we are resigning ourselves to that reality. And what is this normal, really. We are currently living in a state that is failing its population. And no, I don’t mean New York State, although there are of course plenty of issues here. I mean the United States as a whole. Over the past few years we have watched as Donald Trump and his feckless administration has dismantled our government piece by piece. All of the norms – those standards that are not codified in law but are instead just an accepted matter of course – have been destroyed. And even as we have watched this happen, have taken note of it, we have been unable to stop relying on the consistency of those standardized practices. This pandemic is the perfect example. I know that there are limits to what state governments can do without federal approval, but we lost precious time in fighting this virus because we all waited for a sign from the feds to tell us how serious this really was. And even as state and local governments started sounding the alarm, still far too late, Trump was using his Twitter account and the Office of the Presidency to spread the lies – not the misinformation, not the alternative facts, the lies – that this virus was nothing to worry about. That it was and would be, in the words of so many prognosticators, a big, old nothing burger. And yet here we are.

Accepting this time as “the new normal” means accepting that our government turns a blind eye to the suffering and deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. It means accepting that the President of the United States as well as tons of other (mostly Republican) politicians acted against the best interest of the population of this country. I refuse to say that there was inaction, because there wasn’t inaction. There was action. It was intentionally callous, cruel, short-sighted and tragically incorrect but it was action. The action taken to prioritize the economy over human health and well-being has been directly responsible for a much higher death toll than we ever should have seen. There are people arguing that sacrificing tens of thousands of lives is all well and good if it saves the economy. An economy that would have been in much better shape had this disease been taken seriously in the first place. An economy that was failing the majority of the population while enriching a few. An economy that, for the sake of low overhead costs and a little convenience, left millions of people vulnerable.

Accepting this time as “the now normal” means allowing demonstrations of military might to replace actual real, meaningful policy work to protect essential workers and all of us doing our best to contain the spread.  Just yesterday, in the middle of a fucking pandemic that calls for staying home, our government decided to fly a bunch of military planes over New York City, the epicenter of illness, death and suffering, to celebrate the first responders and demonstrate the strength of the United States military. We are supposed to stay inside. And so I ask: what is the purpose of flying military jets above the city if not to encourage people to go outside to ooh and aah as they fly overhead? And people did just that. Against their better judgement, against the directive to stay indoors and socially distance, people gathered in groups to watch something truly incredible, truly unnecessary, and incredibly dangerous. Will we have an uptick in infections in the next few weeks? Probably. And why? Because our government is callous and cruel. In an attempt to appear magnanimous in celebrating the frontline workers, the nurses, the firefighters, the mail carriers, the grocery store clerks, all the essential workers, our government made their jobs potentially more dangerous. Our government made us all less safe.

Accepting this time as “the new normal” means accepting a mounting death toll as a part of our day. It means seeing today, seeing right now, as a line stretching before us for eternity. It means saying that science, that ingenuity, that medical advancements will not help us become safer moving forward. Accepting this as the new normal means growing accustomed to this lose and not fighting to remember that each and every one of the people who have sickened, suffered and died was an individual with a life, with memories, with knowledge. To me, accepting this time as “the new normal” means not learning from the mistakes we have made and not realizing that this country is not the best country on earth, not realizing that our country is failing, because it is. A failure that also is not normal.

So, I agree with Ben. This is not the new normal. This is a painful, terrible time that is going to change all of us forever. We will not be who we were when this is all over. We will fight to regain some of what we lost and we will work to improve upon what was not working, what got us to where we are right now. Because right now? Right now is everything but normal.


If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing. To those of you who caffeinated me, I send you so much gratitude. And I send gratitude to all of you who took the time to read this piece and helped me hold some of these thoughts. 

Smiling During The Times

23 Apr

Just so we’re all on the same page, I am calling this current period of our communal lives “The Times.” There were “The Before Times,” there will be “The After Times” but The After Times won’t be the same as The Before Times because of what we are living through right now. The Times. With me? Great.


I know that there is this idea that people in New York City don’t make eye contact, that we don’t smile at each other. But that is simply not true. That might partially be the story of those of us who, over the years, have tired of the throngs of tourists making the city so crowded that we cannot enjoy some of the amazing things it has to offer. Try walking, running, cycling or driving across the Brooklyn Bridge at any time that isn’t a pandemic and you’ll see what I mean. But more than that it is the story told by the many visitors to this city who have, over their lifetimes, been told countless stories about the coldness that will greet them when they visit here. The people who have not realized that New York City is one of the safest big cities in the country. Those who somehow don’t understand that there is a symbiotic relationship between a city and the people who live within it. People visit New York because the city is amazing. The city is amazing because the people who live here have made it so.

In The Before Times, I would walk around the city and make eye contact with people and then I would smile at them. Not a smile that would invite conversation, mind you. I didn’t have time for that because I was for sure running 5 minutes late for something. But a small smile that said,

Hey, I see you.

In a crowded place sometimes we struggle to be seen.

But now it is The Times. And during The Times people are wearing all manner of face coverings. Surgical masks, N95s, scarves, bandanas, homemade things, those creepy ones that I think maybe are gas masks – Eric says respirators – but either way they make people look like they are either underwater explorers or serial killers. I hate the masks. I hate all of them. I hate wearing them and I hate seeing them. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why they are needed and I wear one because it is the only option if you give a shit about anyone other than yourself, but I still don’t like them. They make it hard to breath, they make it look like we are at war (which I suppose we are) and, perhaps most troubling for me, they make it hard to smile at people.

Today, for example, Eric and I took Goose for a walk and got the things we need for the next few days at the store. Eric did the shopping and I stood outside on the sidewalk with Goose, mask firmly in place. For those of you who are making all the wrong choices and have never met Goose, here is her Instagram page. You’re welcome. Point being, Goose is very cute. People LOVE Goose. Usually, in The Before Times they would smile at her when they walked by and then I’d smile at them and then Goose would wag her tail and everyone would be happy. But now they walk by and I look at them and try to figure out if they are smiling and in the meantime I smile behind my mask and then maybe they are trying to figure out if I am smiling and maybe they also are smiling behind their mask and so there we are, blankly staring at each other, smiles completely obscured, not knowing what the fuck to do. We just make a lot of really intense and confused eye contact. So I wonder, Should we all just print out pictures of ourselves smiling in The Before Times, laminate them, wear them around our necks and then hold them up in front of ourselves at the time when we normally would be smiling? And maybe actually are smiling but no one can tell? Do we force everyone to watch America’s Next Top Model and spend their time standing in front of a mirror practicing their smize? Do we use the Defense Production Act to force companies to create see-through masks so that we can be safe out in public and also be able to communicate nonverbally? Do we walk by people and just say “I am smiling at you right now?” I don’t know. I am truly at a loss.

Yesterday, I went for a drive in my car. I was the only person in the car so I wasn’t wearing my mask. When I stopped at stop signs and people crossed in front of me, I would smile at them and they would know. And even though they were wearing masks, I believe they were smiling at me because they could see my smile and read my nonverbal message of

Hey! I see you!

Honestly, I felt so free just being able to interact with the world in a way I was accustomed. I was able to speak the language of facial expressions that involved more than my overly expressive eyebrows for which I currently am more grateful for than ever before. And it was weird because never in my life, in all the time I have spent thinking about the privilege I have, did it ever occur to me that smiling is a privilege. That smiling at someone, and being smiled at in return, is a gift to be treasured. I have caught myself a few times, while wearing the mask, not smiling when normally I would. I have caught myself wondering what the point is. But there is a point. Because there will be The After Times. And even though The After Times will be so different than The Before Times, at least we will be able to smile at one another on the street and in the store.  I am really looking forward to that. Because for all the things I feel sad about, I feel most sad when I smile at someone and they don’t know. I feel sad for the smiles I haven’t knowingly exchanged. The ones I haven’t received and returned in kind. Or the ones I just didn’t know I was given because I couldn’t read what was happening underneath the mask. I deeply feel the loss of those random moments of brightness. I miss strangers. But more than that, I miss their smiles. I can’t wait to see them again.


If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing. To those of you who caffeinated me, I send you so much gratitude. And I send gratitude to all of you who took the time to read this piece and helped me hold some of these thoughts. 

Welcome to A Post-Apocalyptic Hellscape Nightmare, A Comedy

14 Apr

We are living through a very strange and terrible time. Shit is awful. And even while coronavirus is ravaging us, other annoying things are happening. For example, I am still getting my very heavy period which feels like a huge injustice. Just an FYI, this post is going to be about stupid shit like that. It’s for laughs. A vacation from the insanity. A small reminder that even though everything is especially terrible now, life is still as annoying and stupid as ever! Like, yesterday one of my cats threw up her entire breakfast all over my carpet and it was a nightmare trying to clean it up. I almost vomited. Lesson learned: there is value in consistency.

 

Okay, so, I lost my job on Monday, March 16th, same day as all the other restaurant folks here in the city. Two days later, on Wednesday, March 18th it rained really hard. Like really hard. Side note. If you’ve spoken to me much in the past 3 years or so you would know that we have a bit of a leaking problem here at the old homestead. And by “little” I actually mean that one night the ceiling opened and it rained all over our bed and we had to be moved into a vacant apartment for about 6 weeks while our entire bedroom was ripped apart and rebuilt. Well. The problem was never entirely solved. Random mostly minor leaking has just become a way of life for us. Fast forward to about 2 months ago, my neighbors toilets stopped working and all their plumbing exists in our basement so we had a bunch of plumbers as roommates for a few days while they traipsed around the apartment with tools and muddy boots and jokes. I kind of loved them if I’m being completely honest. I STOPPED loving them when they ran a sewage pipe along the beam in our bedroom ceiling, resulting in us being able to hear every time our neighbors flush their (now working) toilets. Eric and I lie in bed and whenever we hear the poop water running above our heads we both shake our fists at the ceiling and say “WHYYYYYY?!” Literally every time. It’s basically tradition at this point.

 

Okay. So. That’s where we were at until Wednesday, March 18th. The day when it rained really hard.

 

There I was, in the bed, sleeping. It was like 3am. I had my sound machine going to try and drown out the noise of my cats meowing for food at an ungodly hour. I know they think they are starving but I can assure you, they are not. I have had these cats for 9 years and never once in all that time have they not been fed. But I digress. Sound machine. That particular night I happened to be listening to the soothing sounds of the rainforest. You know, some light thunder, big, melodious rain drops landing on over-sized leaves, birds chirping. And then, in my sleep, I heard a sound. Click. Click. Click. I thought Goose, my dog, was standing by the side of the bed, needing to be taken out, whacking her tail against the wall. Click. Click. Click. I looked over. No Goose.  And then I realized. It was the <click, click, click> of dripping water. Shit. I woke up Eric. We assembled an arsenal of pots, buckets and beach coolers to collect the water dripping, in some cases even spewing, out of the ever-growing number of breaches in our ceiling. At one point I stood on the bed, pot held high above my head, while Eric ran for more reinforcements. In that moment another hole appeared, right above me. Brackish water started falling on my hair and running down my face. Ugh. We set out pots as best we could, blew up the air mattress and slept in the living room. By the middle of the following day, we had collected at least two gallons of gross ceiling water.

 

**Important detail: this water does not contain poop. I did not have poop water in my hair or on my face. It was a separate leak from the pipe in the ceiling.**

 

The next morning, the ceiling of our bedroom was still DRIP DRIP DRIPPING. Eric, being the problem solver that he is, came up with a plan to affix some intense plastic to the ceiling to create a sort of funnel situation, so if the ceiling were to leak we could at the very least direct it into a vessel. And boy howdy did it leak! The next day, a day in which it was not raining, we collected yet another gallon of gross ceiling water in the cooler that we had precariously balanced on top of a wooden Ikea room divider. What. The. F. Where could this water be coming from? Is it trapped somewhere? Did someone forget to turn a hose off? And then it hit me like a bucket full of dirty ceiling drippings: our neighbors washing machine. Could it be? It could. And it was. Somehow in all their pipe fixin’, tool carryin’ and joke makin’ the plumbers had somehow fucked something up so royally that our neighbors’ washing machine was draining through the beams, the light sockets and also just some random other spots in our bedroom ceiling. During a pandemic. Cool. The solution? Whelp, since having plumbers come through doesn’t quite match the social distancing requirement, our landlord is paying for our neighbors to do laundry pick-up service and we have some unsightly plastic duct taped to our bedroom ceiling. Good thing we’re not having guests over any time soon, am I right?

 

But it’s fine. Really. We are doing great. Until last night.

 

It was about 11 pm. We were sitting on the sofa, marveling over the fact that one of our cats was actually sitting ON TOP OF Goose. Goose, at that moment, was covered in a blanket and so it is entirely likely that Grete did not in fact know that she was perched atop a dog but instead thought she was relaxing on an exceptionally warm pile of…rhythmically breathing pillows…? It was like a dream come true. And then, all of a sudden, in the middle of an especially funny episode of Schitt’s Creek there was a loud

 

BANG!!!

 

And everything shut off. And then, just as quickly, turned back on again. (Or so we at first thought.) The cats retreated underneath various things, Goose looked around confused, Eric ran to the door to see what had happened and I sat there, shocked, useless and probably stammering something involving a ton of swear words. It turns out a transformer had exploded and almost the entire block was left in complete darkness. While I waited on hold with ConEd, fire trucks, police cars and ambulances came racing down the street. I assume someone reported an explosion which, there was. It was so loud I basically thought someone had dropped a dumpster from 1,000 feet up. People in PJs and half-full glasses of wine stepped onto their front stoops, bleary eyed and confused. Firefighters in full regalia walked from door to door, documenting who had power and who, like us, had some weird patchwork of electricity that made absolutely no logical sense. Folks in masks wandered the through the darkness. With everything going on, and everyone distrustful of the health of those around them, it felt like we had been attacked by something. Which, of course, we have been but the power outage was a completely separate incident. Once I knew the explosion was a mere inconvenience and not a danger, all I could think about was everyone’s fridges, now not working, stocked with slowly warming food. A literal nightmare at this current moment when going to the grocery store has become incredibly stressful. Our refrigerator was spared, unlike our oven, and so obviously Eric was busying himself doing electricity things with a drill and “grounding wires?” which was making me extremely nervous. I don’t know about you all but playing around with electrical wires after an actual electrical explosion seemed like an unnecessary risk given the circumstances but, what do I know.

 

Once Eric was done swearing at some screws in the wall, we headed to bed. We brushed our teeth by flashlight and wondered whether our hot water would be on by morning. I personally wished I hadn’t taken a vacation from showering for the day. And then, at about 1:30 am we heard a small <beep, beep, beep> and a slight rush of poop water above our heads. For once, we did not raise our fists in the air and yell. The electricity was back. One crisis averted.


If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing. To those of you who caffeinated me, I send you so much gratitude. And I send gratitude to all of you who took the time to read this piece and helped me hold some of these thoughts. 

Why is This Year Different From All Other Years?

9 Apr

Growing up, there were a few holidays the paternal side of my family used to get together for. Thanksgiving (or Franksgiving as we have taken to calling it), Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover. After Papa, my grandfather, passed away in 2010, we stopped convening for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We continued doing Franksgiving and something chill for Hanukkah – although now it features less presents and more pot brownies. The one holiday that has changed very little is Passover. We have the same brisket-stained Haggadahs from the 1960s, we make the same jokes, we fill our table with food, family and friends and, even though there are no young children around, we still search for the afikomen that my father, rather than my grandfather, hides somewhere in the house.

This year, however, is different.

This year, instead of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic crawling my way through Staten Island to get home for our pre-seder drinks, my boyfriend Eric and I cruised back to New Jersey in a cool 30 minutes.

This year, instead of walking into a house filled with delicious smells, loud voices and big hugs, we hung out in the driveway at a safe distance, a paper bag full of brisket, salmon, flourless chocolate cake and vegetarian matzoh ball soup occupying the space between us.

This year, instead of staying up late goofing off with my siblings, Eric and I sped through the Lincoln Tunnel to leave brisket on my brother’s stoop, my sister reported to work as a nurse in a hospital in North Carolina.

This year, instead of seeing extended family and friends, everyone stayed hunkered down at home.

This year, instead of my grandmother holding down her spot at the head of the table, we are without her; she passed away this fall.

This year, instead of getting together we all stayed apart.

I know that if we want this disease to pass over us, we did the right thing. We are doing the right thing. Staying home – or staying a safe distance from our loved ones – is what will allow us to gather for events in the future. It is what will make Passover next year so much sweeter. But it certainly doesn’t make it suck any less right now.

So here is to hoping that as a result of our actions right now, next year will be like all the other years, for my family and all of yours.

Happy holidays, friends.


If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing. To those of you who caffeinated me, I send you so much gratitude. And I send gratitude to all of you who took the time to read this piece and helped me hold some of these thoughts. 

A Lesson from the Past. Thank You, Mary

2 Apr

I had this customer years and years ago. Her name was Mary. Mary was a breath of fresh air, the customer we wish all of our other customers could be. There was a lot about Mary’s life that I didn’t know, but what I did know was that her bar friends were her family. We were her family and she, in turn, was ours. She was a light and part of that was because she always cared. She asked us how we were and then she listened, she remembered, she followed up. And we listened to her. Which is why I bring her up today, in the midst of this pandemic.

Mary lived here in New York City through the 80s, 90s and beyond and throughout all that time was a mainstay in the LGBTQ movement. My first real understanding of the ways the AIDS crisis ravished the gay community was through the stories Mary told me. One story in particular. She explained to me the fear people felt, the conflicting information that was shared and the lack of desire that companies had to do extensive R&D, all of which was brought about largely due to the anti-gay bigotry that permeated society at the time. And she told me what it was like for a woman who cared for ailing friends at home, who visited them at St Vincent’s and who went to their memorial services. She went to so many memorial services. She told me once, and this is something I will never forget, that when the deaths slowed and she looked back at the previous decade she felt as though a plane had crashed. There were so many people gone.

Today, I just sat back and imagined that: a plane full of people you know, or your friends know, lost over the course of a decade. It has always, thankfully, felt so impossible to me. Until, all of a sudden, now.  A friend of mine said to me earlier today, “This thing just keeps circling closer and closer.” She was right. I got cocky. My friends who had it were experiencing mild cases or were, after weeks of sheltering – and coughing – at home, finally seeing a light at the end of the sickness. It was terrible, they said, but they would be okay. I knew, intellectually, we were only at the beginning of this surge but still I was counting my blessings. Hoping that somehow this scourge would pass me and my friends by, leave us unscathed. I knew, also, that it would, without a doubt, effect us all. It would, in the end, reach all our doorsteps. And it has.

The thing is, and I truly believe this, that when someone we love loses someone they love, we lose someone too. It is our job to protect our loved ones from pain. We can’t always do that, of course, but we can hold some of it for them, we can lighten the load. We can hear the stories they tell and share the tears they shed. We can give them an audience, give their person another place to be remembered. And I think we are going to be doing a lot of that going forward. For a lot of people. And maybe we will need people to do that for us.

My head is all over the place. I feel like my brain has been taking cues from those news alerts my phone has been getting constantly. So much news. So much to digest. So many people to check on. How do we keep track of it all? How do we manage it?

We just manage, I guess. Right? Unless you have some ideas?

I guess before I go I will just say a few quick things. Most of us, even if we get sick, will be okay. Most people will recover. That isn’t a comfort to those who don’t, and it isn’t a comfort to those who lose people. And that is not at all to say that we shouldn’t celebrate the good things that happen, that we shouldn’t enjoy our exciting moments (like the fact that my sister Lucy got accepted to Duke’s NP school for September!). I just can’t stop thinking about Mary and her airplane analogy. I truly never thought there was the potential that I would live through something like that firsthand. Yet here I am. Here we all are. And although Mary isn’t here for me to sit and talk to like I did so many times in the past, the fact that she taught me that lesson, that she took strength and perseverance from her experiences, and that she continued on with open arms and an open heart gives me hope. So I am holding on to that as tightly as I can.


If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing. To those of you who caffeinated me, I send you so much gratitude. And I send gratitude to all of you who took the time to read this piece and helped me hold some of these thoughts. 

Our Grief Journey Alone…Together

29 Mar

I have been thinking a lot about grief over these past few weeks. I am certain I am not alone in that. Because the reality is that even if we don’t personally lose someone, or we don’t have a good friend who loses someone, there will be a collective grief that is shared among all of us. For those of us in epicenters like New York City, New Orleans, Wuhan Province in China, massive swaths of Italy and Spain, parts of Iran, the chance of us getting out of this unscathed is miniscule. We will all experience personal loss and we won’t be able to do it together, sharing the same space. So with that sad and depressing mood set, I am going to carry on with some of my thoughts and worries about this very topic, in hopes that some of you can relate or that, perhaps, we can have more open conversations about what this feels like and how we proceed. Maybe we can move forward as the community we are, regardless of how physically separated we all currently find ourselves.

Stay safe, stay healthy, I love you.


A few months back I listened to an episode of the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking that dealt with the aftermath of September 11th. The short description of this particular episode was, “A lot of people share a national tragedy. But not everyone shares it personally.” The woman being interviewed, Babs, lost her husband in the attacks on September 11th and through the episode she made this point that really stuck with me. She said that September 11th is a day when we all mourn; for her, though, it is the anniversary of the day that her husband was murdered. It’s hard for her to share that date with every other person; it’s hard for her to demand the space that she needs for her own personal grief journey when she feels a pressure to leave space for the grief journey of so many millions of people. It makes her angry. And then, in that anger, is a sense of guilt. Loss is… so much to process. I have thought about Babs a lot. And the tons of other people who are like Babs. Those who lost their loved ones on September 11th, but also those who lost their people on other dates that have, to varying degrees, become national days of mourning. I’m thinking of the Sandy Hook parents, the family members of the Oklahoma City Bombing victims, the survivors of all the mass shootings we have had over the years, the victims of hurricanes, earth quakes, wildfires. How hard it must be for those people to share their grief date with so many strangers, that day that changed their lives forever the day that catapulted them into the holding pattern that is so closely tied to loss. Yesterday, someone was here. Today, they are not.

And now, here we are, all of us alone…together. We are in the midst of a pandemic that has already killed tens of thousands of people worldwide. Those numbers are rising very, very quickly. Estimates are that in the United States alone we could lose over 100,000 people, more if we don’t contain the spread and protect our hospitals from complete collapse. New York is being pummeled. There is so much grief, so much heartbreak. And I just wonder, how do we process it all? How do we survive this? And how do we, in this time of worldwide trauma, find our own space to mourn our own losses? How do we share this trauma space with so many millions of others?

I’ve been thinking back to when my last grandparent, Bama, passed in the fall. I have been thinking about how lucky we were to lose her before all this, and how awful it must be for those people who have loved ones in old folks homes and care facilities who cannot go visit. How hard it must be if those people pass during this time – whether related to COVID-19 or not – and how they find the space for grief. I have guilt about this sense of relief that I feel, that we lucked out somehow, losing her when we did. A lot of the comfort I got when Bama died was in welcoming people into our home for Shiva. It was in hearing the stories of others who remembered her as she was, before her mind started to go, before she needed round-the-clock care. It helped me wash those last few months from my memory, even if for a moment, and remember her laugh, her humor, her giving spirit. I don’t know how I would have waded through my grief if it weren’t for that shared space, those stories. Would I set-up a zoom meeting? I am afraid that I will soon find out. That a lot of us will.

What do we do? How can we be here for one another through this when we cannot sit across a table from one another, when we can’t embrace? How do we share our stories? Mourn our loved ones? Carve out our own grief journey amidst so many others? How do we potentially take a few different grief journeys at the same time? How do we hold the pain for our friends so they can get a small bit of relief? How do we bury people? When do we bury people? How do we share our news? And how do we, in the middle of all of this, make bit of space to be happy? How do we laugh? Tell me: how are you laughing?

I keep thinking forward, into the future when all of this is over. I think about the sun shining, of all of us emerging from our homes with bleary eyes, stretching our arms above our heads looking around us and realizing the world is still here. In this vision in my mind, it is as if we have all woken from a long, terrible night sleep. It’s as if we were at war and one day, in one moment, that war is declared won. But that is not how it will be, I don’t think. There won’t be a singular moment of triumph. There will be a petering out, and then slowly, slowly we will all be forced to reckon with what is left, with who is left. We will be navigating our new reality. Getting whatever closure we can for our experiences, for our loss. We will finally be together again only now we will have this new shared trauma among us. At the same time, each of us, to varying degrees, will be carrying our own unique piece of it. We will be on our own grief journey alone…together.

It is so much. So very, very much. I am feeling helpless, afraid, sad, angry, worried about what the future looks like. And I really, really miss hugging my friends. So in this time I am doing push-ups so when see each other again I can hug you so much more tightly because we will have a lot of hurt between us, and a lot of time to make up for.


If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing. To those of you who caffeinated me, I send you so much gratitude. And I send gratitude to all of you who took the time to read this piece and helped me hold some of these thoughts.