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. 

Who Will We Be When this is All Over?

25 Mar

The other day during a press conference, New York Mayor Andrew Cuomo said, “if you want to go for a run, God bless you.” So, I went. I ran in the middle of the empty streets and, when cars turned up, I headed to the sidewalks and gave others a wide berth. I dashed back and forth from one side of the road to the other in an attempt to have the sidewalk to myself, to give the appropriate and responsible social distance. I felt a certain amount of guilt through the entire process, wondering whether the people in the occasional passing cars were looking at me thinking I was selfish, careless, putting others at risk. I got nervous when rounding corners, afraid of being face to face with another person, trepidatious in a way I haven’t been since walking home through the French Quarter of New Orleans late at night, my restaurant-issued suspenders dangling down my legs. There were a lot of robberies in the Quarter at the time, not so much of local workers as tourists, but still, you had to have your wits about you. I have felt safe in New York City for a very long time now, this dense city where I feel most comfortable around throngs of people. Now though, I feel safest alone, when keeping a reasonable distance from everyone else.

It’s strange, to walk along empty streets, surrounded only by shuttered businesses and empty-looking apartments. Stranger still to pull close to a building when another person approaches, giving them plenty of space to pass, making eye-contact in a sad, weary way. We all have a common enemy but we don’t know who among us carries that enemy inside, who among us leaves it behind on door knobs and grocery store shelves. We are fighting an invisible executioner, one who lies dormant in some while it ravages others. We are left asking these huge questions: who do we know that we will not see again? How will we let people know we love them? When will we be able to mourn those deaths? Will we ever be the same?

There is something about going through a collective trauma, it seems. A population, a place, is never quite the same after. New York City – no, the world – post September 11th was a wildly different place. New oversight, new expressions of racism, new fears, a new mayor who shuffled in businesses and legislative changes that altered the face of the city forever. New Orleans was vastly different post-Katrina. A city was drowned, and terrorized and those in charge largely looked the other way or celebrated the effects wrought by the changed population. So many people who had made their homes there, who had lived there for generations, fled and never returned – whether they hoped to or not. And many of those who did return came back to destroyed houses, changed neighborhoods, and a bureaucratic nightmare.

So I am left to wonder: what will become of us after we “flatten the curve,” after we make it through the heat of the summer months and assess the losses? The lost friends, family members, favorite businesses, people who left to ride it out elsewhere and decided against coming back? What replaces all of that? How do we move past this experience?

Trauma changes you, we all know that. It alters the fabric of your being. New York, despite what people say, is a friendly place. Blunt perhaps, but friendly. A smile and nod on the street is almost always returned in kind. Streets are neighborhoods, people working at local businesses are friends, sometimes even akin to family. We love hard and we love deeply because, when you’re surrounded by so many strangers day in and day out, finding a familiar face in the crowd feels like magic. The longer you live here, and the more people you meet, the more magic you experience. And let me tell you: it never gets old.

So again, who will we be? After months of staying home, crossing streets, taking precaution after precaution, fearing the enemy that might dwell within, and whether it will be your undoing, will we go back to normal? Will we crowd bars and restaurants, congregate in parks, walk close to strangers on the street and exchange a handshake, a high five or a hug with people we know? Or will this fear embed itself inside of us and turn the friendly, helpful, community-oriented New Yorkers that we know we are into the rude, avoidant New Yorkers people have always claimed us to be?

I don’t have any answers, of course. None of us know how long this will last, what sort of wreckage will remain when we emerge from the safety of our homes on the other side. But I really hope that, after this is all over, I don’t cross the street to avoid someone heading my way, that I proceed without fear to my local bar and grocery store, that I am not afraid to leave my home. I hope we learn from this, that we love harder, that we lean on one another and we proceed with our crowded, overwhelming, busy existence, staking out a place in the grass on a sunny day to enjoy a moment of solitude in the company of thousands of people we haven’t yet met.

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.

A Ton of us Lost Our Jobs on Monday

18 Mar

And I was one of them.

A flurry of text messages, one after the other. We’re closed as of Tuesday at 9am. That was quickly changed to Monday, March 16th at 8pm when they realized everyone would go out eating and drinking. I was expecting it, waiting for it and, as I wrote a few days ago, urging the government to do it. It still didn’t take the sting away. No income for the foreseeable future. And no guarantee that I will have a job to come back to when this is all said and done. I, along with a ton of other people across the city, country and world, are unemployed by absolutely no fault of our own. And, not to raise more anxiety than people are already experiencing, I fear we are only the first wave.

I also want to say that I know restaurant folks are not the only ones being effected by this. Gyms have also been closed which means all your personal trainers, fitness instructors, front desk workers, cleaning staff members, back of house office folks are also out of work. Salons are closing. So there are stylists, waxers, eyelash extension affixers, manicurists, massage therapists who also find themselves suddenly with no income. There are bicycle maintenance people, theater performers, costumers, freelancers, janitors for shuttered schools and office buildings, landscapers, event planners, florists, DJs, musicians, dog walkers, childcare professionals, Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers and so many more people I can’t think of off the top of my head. And then there are small business owners. The people who employ the aforementioned folks in some way or another  (I know this doesn’t apply to gig workers because that is a whole other story) and all of a sudden find themselves with bills, unusable stock, taxes, rent and a complete and total halt of sales for…who knows how long. Just today I thought to myself…wait, what happens to all the perishables bought by restaurants for the coming week? What do they do with that? Can they donate it, legally, even with whatever liability issues might accompany the potential for food borne illness? Do they just, toss it, when grocery store shelves are void of all kinds of random shit people have been hoarding? (Side note, does anyone have some extra garlic they could spare?)

There are so many questions, there is so much uncertainty. There are so many people who cannot spare one paycheck. They have kids who are suddenly home from school, parents who they care for, families they send money back to. Or maybe they don’t have good health insurance, any health insurance, or they live in a high rent city, they have student loans, credit card debt, they are in the middle of a move and all of a sudden find themselves with nowhere to go. We have created this economy where people have no safety net, and at the same time there is this weird tendency to blame people for this even while we spend money on the exact same services that deny people the benefits and security we all need to survive. We blame them for not getting a college degree when those degrees are insanely expensive. We blame them for not getting high-paying jobs, or founding businesses, when so much about opportunity is tied to who you know, when so much funding is about having rich friends. The rags to riches story is the exception, not the rule, and we often forget that. There are entire sectors of the workforce where people who maybe couldn’t get a job anywhere else rely on a strong market, rely on wealthier people with disposable income, to hire them to do things. But when things get tight for those wealthier people, when the stock market crashes, that portion of the workforce is deemed expendable, they are largely invisible. And they need the money more than a lot of other people because they are so much closer to having nothing.

I am also worried about our prison population. What happens if, no when, this virus takes hold there? How about the homeless? There is a man, Daryl, who visits me at work every week. I don’t know where he stays. I am terrified I will never see him again. What about all the people in the concentration camps along the borders? What about them? Why have we heard nothing? How will we help them? Will we be able to? Will the people in charge even want to? What about people with non-elective surgeries coming up? Our medical professionals? Sanitation workers? Delivery drivers? Postal workers? Public defenders? Ruth Bader Ginsburg?!

Please trust me, I am not trying to blame any of you for this. I am not trying to make people feel guilty. I am not trying to scare anyone more than they already are. I am literally taking you on a journey through my brain over the last few days, through all of the things I have been thinking about and worrying about. About all of the people who are the backbone of our daily lives who fade away when the money dries up. But the thing is that they don’t fade away, actually. They lose their jobs. And we don’t see them anymore. But they continue to exist, to live and to struggle. If it is okay with you, I will continue on documenting what I am feeling. If I am being too preachy and annoying, or if I am causing you too much anxiety, you don’t have to read my future posts. I won’t blame you. We’ve all got enough to worry about.

I am a Bartender. I Am Begging NYC: Close the Bars

15 Mar

I have seen a lot of folks on social media griping about all the people packing into bars and restaurants in the face of this growing public health emergency. And I get it. Given everything that is happening, given what we know about the spread of this thing, this could prove potentially lethal for a lot of people we love.  We should stay home. We should self-quarantine. We should take the necessary steps not to keep ourselves healthy if we are young and low-risk, but to make the responsible choices for our neighbors, family members and high-risk friends. And on the other hand, as a service worker myself, I  need people to go out to bars and restaurants so I can continue to pay my rent and my bills, to buy food, to live. But as some one who has maybe 2-3 months of savings before I am basically scraping the bottom of the barrel (I understand this makes me very privileged compared to other workers in my position), I am begging Mayor De Blasio, Governor Cuomo and President Trump to mandate the closing of all non-essential businesses, even if those businesses are essential to my financial well-being and the financial well-being of a lot of people who I love.

Here is the thing. You can spend your time online telling people to stop being so selfish, to stop speeding us towards a very dire situation, to think about others but they will not. We have been raised not in a community-oriented society but rather one that is very individualistic, one that focuses on what is good for me not what is good for us. We cannot expect people to, on their own accord, undo all of the training that we have received over the course of our entire lives. Activists should understand this better than most. We spend a lot of our time advocating for the betterment of those underserved by society to see gains made at a glacial pace. People who are “on our side” oftentimes do not spend their time trying to be anti-racist or anti-sexist. They don’t want to make themselves uncomfortable. I get that. Being uncomfortable sucks. So I don’t know why, in this instance, so many activists are asking people to make themselves uncomfortable for the betterment of the rest of society and expecting those people to listen. Why would they start now? And I also don’t know why, in this instance, many activists have turned a blind eye to the real financial disaster looming just around the corner for those of us who will be effected by these closures.

So it is imperative that the government steps and makes it happen. And it is also imperative that the government takes steps to help those of us who will be affected by this. And I am not just talking about service and gig workers, but also small business owners who can only forego a few weeks of loss of income before they have to shutter their businesses. And with those shuttered businesses will come a huge loss of jobs. Mine very well might be among them.

It has been really frustrating and scary these past few weeks and, if I am being honest, it will only get worse. And I am angry. I am angry that while me and a lot of people I know – as well as millions of folks who I don’t – are staring down a very, very bleak spring and summer financially speaking, a lot of people working from home, advocating for quarantine and social distancing haven’t taken a step back and realized how fucking scary that is for a lot of us. It’s not that I want to go out and be in crowded places, touching things that other people are touching. It is that I have to. So while I am advocating for the closing of bars, restaurants and other “non-essential” businesses, I am also advocating for people to take a second and recognize that there are a lot of layers to this disaster. This city, and many cities and towns across the country, are going to look very different in a few months. Loss of life, absolutely. Also loss of livelihood and very different looking business districts. I am just begging you all to be aware of this fact. Ask your friends who walk dogs, work in bars/restaurants, are cab drivers, fitness professionals, small-business owners whether they are okay and what you can do to help.* Maybe just FaceTime them. All of us could use a smiling face in times like these, whether we can work from home or not. Plus it seems like we will have a lot of time on our hands. I know I will! My phone line is open to everyone.

But to get back to the original point, the sooner we close everything down, the sooner we can re-open. The less time this takes, the better off we will all be. If bars and restaurants stay open, people will go there to eat, drink and blow of some steam. That is just a given. So if we don’t want that happening, then they need to close. As I said before, we cannot expect people to make themselves uncomfortable until they are forced to. But until that happens, and mark my words it will happen, I guess I’ll just keep going to work. At this point I don’t have much of a choice.

*Super thankful to all of my friends who have been doing just this. You all are amazing and I love you.

So, About the Coronavirus….

12 Mar

I feel like I have been having to start my posts off with caveats recently. This is largely because it seems as though – in my experience – people right now are always primed and ready for a fight and, honestly, I just don’t have it in me. This isn’t an attempt to discourage discourse; rather, it is me making my intentions clear so people don’t jump to incorrect conclusions and then e-yell at me. I’m too tired for that. We all should be. So, with that being said, here is my caveat for this post:

I am not diminishing the risks of the coronavirus nor am I trying to tell people how they should or should not feel or act in regards to it. These are just my worries and I wanted to share them so, here goes.

I want to start out by saying that I, like all of the people I know, am not an infectious disease specialist. I would say that I am pretty unknowledgeable about diseases in general. We are also living in a time where reliable information seems harder and harder to come by. The government doesn’t have any fucking clue what is happening and it certainly does’t help their cause that they put Mike “My Callous Inaction in the Face of Clear Warning Signs Exacerbated an HIV Outbreak in Indiana” Pence in charge of the response. It also doesn’t help that Trump decided to make massive cuts to the CDC budget and, even in the face of a fucking pandemic, seems dissuaded from using that money to….fund a border wall? I think? And all of this while he and his cronies have spent the entirety of his presidency acting like science isn’t an actual thing that matters in the real world. And so here we are! With a gutted Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a media that seems to not fully understand what’s happening, and an entire country in a state of panic. What could go wrong?!

So, with the knowledge that I am not very knowledgable about the spread of disease, I am going to lay out what I do know, or at least what I think I know. Coronaviruses are actually super common – they are an extremely common cause of colds and other upper respiratory infections. This new coronavirus – COVID-19 – is named as such because it is a novel virus that was first found in 2019. A lot of people who are infected with the virus will have no symptoms whatsoever, while others will get fever, runny nose, coughing, sore throat. Flu-stuff. COVID-19 can also cause more severe symptoms such as high fever, severe cough and shortness of breath. Like the flu, a small percentage of people will die of this disease. Also like the flu, those more likely to die from the disease are old folks and people with underlying medical conditions. COVID-19, however, has a higher mortality rate than the flu. So we all need to make decisions to protect the most at-risk among us. This means washing our hands, not touching our faces, cleaning our phone screens, FaceTiming our grandparents and immunosuppressed friends and relatives rather than visiting them in person and not buying out all the stuff at the store that at-risk people need far more than we do. But we all know this already.

So I am not nervous about personally getting COVID-19 and dying. I am very nervous about something else, though. Money. And also people being racist idiots.

For those of us living here in NYC, we were informed that the city, as of now anyway, will not be closing the public schools. It is a last resort. Why? Because we have a homelessness problem here in New York. The NYC public schools serve more than 1.1 million students. Of those students, 750,000 are considered low income and 114,000 are homeless. These are populations who will be disproportionately effected by school closures and it’s not just because they won’t go to school for a few weeks – a lot of these students and their families rely on the public schools for free breakfast and lunch, shelter during the days and other basic necessities. If they don’t go to school, who will look after them? Does this mean their parents can’t go to work? Do those parents then lose their jobs, deepening the cycle of financial insecurity they are already trapped in? What about those people just hovering on the edge of homelessness or financial ruin? Having to arrange childcare could mean the difference between having an apartment and making rent and… not. There are a ton of unintended consequences that occur when we make decisions regarding the more vulnerable among us.

And also, we are seeing a rise in the gig economy and non-office work. People who don’t have traditional, salaried jobs and instead rely on freelance gig work. I am thinking about all the taxi drivers for UBER, Lyft and Via, tutors, music teachers, people who make money off apps like Task Rabbit, personal trainers, dog walkers who all of a sudden lose a bunch of clients because people are working from home. These people don’t have the ability to work remotely and stay away from others. They don’t have paid time off or sick leave. To all the people complaining about having to use vacation time to recover if you get sick – and you are 100% right in being pissed about that, that shit is trash and late-stage capitalism is fucked – there are also a ton of people who don’t even have vacation time. These are people who if they get sick and can’t work, they can’t earn a living. These are people who could, and probably will be financially fucked.

Also, people working in China Towns or at restaurants and businesses owned by Asian folks. You guys. Just because the virus started in China, does not mean that every Asian person is infected. In fact, there has not been a single confirmed case of an Asian person being infected in New York City AND YET Asian-owned businesses are going under. The media needs to immediately stop using photos of Asian folks in masks when reporting on coronavirus. It is racist and misleading and is having real serious impacts on the livelihoods and safety of Asian Americans across the country. Also, btw, do you know where else there is a huge outbreak of COVID-19? Do you know what country is basically on complete lockdown? Italy! But I don’t see people boycotting pizza! So if you order in, think about getting some Chinese food! It’s delicious! And tip the delivery person extra because I guarantee you they are really struggling right now.

And do you know how I know that? Because I am a bartender. I am a bartender and people are being told to avoid gathering in groups. Do you know how I make my money? By selling drinks to people gathered in groups. We are coming into springtime which is the time of year when I and many of my colleagues make a chunk of our money for the year. This is the time of year we start putting money aside to save for the slower times. A serious and sustained drop in business will ruin my budget for, no joke, an entire calendar year. And bars don’t operate on a huge profit margin. If this panic lasts a few months, my jobs might no longer exist. There are a lot of us out here watching this not just with concern for the health of our friends and families and people we don’t know. We’re watching this unfold with the knowledge that this could cause a massive disruption in our ability to live and pay our bills. This is really scary for those of us not guaranteed a salary. This is really scary for those of us whose income relies on people showing up, not self-quarantining, ignoring health officials. And I am not telling people to do that. I am just saying that while people are concerned about health, keep in mind that there are a lot of people on the brink whose livelihoods could be entirely destroyed over the next few months.

Personally, I’ll be okay. It’ll be uncomfortable but I have a safety net. I have friends and family willing and able to help me if it gets tough. I am lucky. But there are so many people who don’t have that. So while you are sharing information telling people to not leave the house, maybe check-in on the people who rely on others to leave the house in order to survive and see how they’re doing. As I said, there are a ton of unintended consequences when we deal with something of this magnitude. It’s not only about health. This is going to cause a huge economic downturn. And I know it is tempting to be excited about the impact an economic downturn could have on Trump’s likelihood of reelection, but just be aware of who you’re talking to. Maybe…don’t say that. And I know it isn’t just up to us. The government needs to step in and do something. I am just really, really afraid that they won’t.

I’m Going to be Upset about Warren Maybe Forever

5 Mar

I want to start this off by saying that what appears below are my feelings and I have the right to have them. They are valid. You also have the right to have your feelings, and those feelings can be very much different from mine. And that’s okay. So just know while you are reading this that these are my feelings and I am in no way open to you arguing with me about them. So if you want to argue with me, just please don’t. Talk into a pillow. Call your friend. I don’t care. Just let me have these feelings.


I am so incredibly angry. And scared. And frustrated. And defeated. And so very, very sad. This isn’t just about Elizabeth Warren, although it is partially about Elizabeth Warren. This is about being a woman in America. About being a smart, capable woman. This is about being a Jewish person who is constantly afraid. This is about seeing my greatest fears play out in front of me over and over and over again. This is about a lifetime of feeling dismissed, talked over, ignored, under appreciated and under valued. This is about spending a lifetime in a society that fucking hates me and screaming about it and having no one take notice, having absolutely nothing change. I am so god damn tired.

These past few years have been hard. Like really, really hard. And I know they have been hard on every body – I know that a lot of the most horrible moves the Trump Administration has made are not about disempowering me personally, but they are about disempowering my friends and that IS personal. I also feel less safe knowing other people are being stripped of their safety. I won’t be held up at the border and separated from my family; I won’t be erased from a lot of the language on government websites like the LGBTQ community has been; I won’t be kept from polling places. As someone who, like so many others I know, has been sexually assaulted on more than one occasion, it is hard to explain exactly how psychologically damaging it is to have this president in office. This president who fills his key positions with thieves, liars and predators; who is appointing justices hell bent on taking away our rights; who lies about women, smearing their names and reputations, crushing them under the weight of his abusive, hateful language and his unforgivable, unmoving supporters. I cannot imagine how his victims must feel, seeing his face on television every day, one of the most powerful men in the world. I don’t know how they survive. I am so thankful that, somehow, they do. It reminds me that we have a lot more strength than we know, and that’s a good thing to be reminded of on a day like today.

So, today. Oh, today. Today and this entire election cycle. And the one before it. FUCK, I just want to scream. I want to start, actually, with August 28, 2019. That was the day Kirsten Gillibrand dropped out of the race. That one hurt. And it didn’t hurt because I was planning to vote for her. It hurt because she has been such a fierce advocate for women and victims and that’s what tanked her. Al Franken tanked her. Maybe that’s too simplistic, so let me go a little deeper. Kirsten Gillibrand, rightfully, stood up to Al Franken after allegations of him being inappropriate with a number of women surfaced. He resigned his position. And she has been punished for that ever since. You can like Al Franken or not, I’m not here to change anyone’s mind. But he grabbed women’s asses in photographs and Gillibrand is being punished. This is what it is to be a woman in this fucking country. We are constantly blamed not only for being victimized, but for standing up for the victims. It is always our fault. Always. I know he was a good advocate for women from his position in the Senate, but you don’t get to neutralize horrible behavior because in front of people you do the right thing. It’s what you do in the dark when no one is looking that matters. It’s how you treat the voiceless people when you are in a position of power. But it seems like none of that actually makes a difference. And knowing that makes me feel so small.

I felt small the day Kamala Harris dropped out of the race, leaving less qualified people still in it. Knowing that if she were a man, but especially if she were a white man, she would have had a better shot. I felt small the day Bloomberg’s wealthy, unqualified ass entered and he took all the air out of the room. And I felt small every time I noticed a particular someone missing from polling data and articles. I felt tiny watching Elizabeth Warren get erased in real time, right in front of my eyes, knowing in my heart that she was the best person for the job. And it really, really hurt. It is still hurting as I type these words. And I think it is going to hurt for a long time.

It is hurting because, on a much smaller stage, I have experienced this. Most of us have. Ask the women you know. And especially ask the Black and Brown women you know. It is constant. Talk too loud and you’re shrill, too quietly and you’re weak; get angry and you’re a bitch, be measured and you’re calculating. And then you try and point this out to people and they don’t believe you. They simply disregard your entire lived experience. And there is nothing you can do about it except keeping talking, keep yelling even, and hope one day someone hears you. It’s maddening. It really is. To see who we have in the Oval Office and to look at who was left in the end and for it to be so fucking clear who was most qualified and have it not fucking matter. Because people hate women. People don’t trust women. Even women hate and don’t trust women. I am reminded how deeply entrenched sexism is in this country. As if I needed reminding. As if I am not reminded every day.

I really want to indulge my anger right now. My anger at all the people saying that Warren is to blame for how this election cycle has gone, Warren voters “threw out their progressive votes,” that people who voted for Biden didn’t know enough. But I don’t think I am in a place to make that productive right now so I will revisit it later. What I will say is this: seeing another able and exceedingly qualified woman lose to less able and qualified men is like taking a punch to the gut. My whole life I have been told that I can do anything, be anyone, accomplish anything. But that is not true. I can only do what they will allow me to do, be who they want me to be, accomplish what they allow me to accomplish. The sky is not the limit. The patriarchy is. And as much as I know this to be true, and as much as I try to fight against it day after day, it doesn’t hurt any less to be reminded of it again and again.

I am so tired. And my heart hurts so much. When will we get this right?