Tag Archives: coronavirus

Fuck You, Donald.

6 Oct

I have found myself dealing with a fair amount of anger over these past few years. An anger that has grown stronger, in equal parts productive and self-defeating. I have felt anger for and at myself, yes, but for and at others as well. I have felt at times ready for the battle that wages on in every corner and at others wanting to hide inside my apartment, coloring, reading, drinking wine, literally anything to distract me from reality. And then I find myself angry that there is no way to actually distract, there is no reset button, no unplugging, no avoidance. And then, very, very early Friday morning a small reprieve. Finally, some comeuppance: Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. I felt a small surge of glee, that finally, finally, this man who has led us maskless into the fire got burned by a pandemic he himself claimed was no big deal, a deadly pandemic that “affects virtually nobody.” And then the old anger seeped back in. Anger that this man, this absolute piece of shit, had the power to make me rejoice in the pain and suffering of another human being. That has never been who I am, but now? I am hoping the change isn’t permanent.

I am not someone who particularly believes in karma. I don’t think that doing good things means that good things will automatically happen to you just as I don’t think that doing bad things mean that bad things will automatically happen to you. Case in point: our stupid fucking President who has been a terrible human being for his entire life and has mostly gotten his way. I try to do good things not for what it might give back to me down the line, not for the ways in which I might be repaid later, but because doing good things, regardless of how you do or do not benefit from them, is just part of being a member of a community. It is what adds to the overall well-being of yourself and those around you. And one of the good things that we can do is to wear a mask during a goddamn pandemic. At the very least, wearing a mask shows that you have respect for the health and well-being of those around you. At the most, it could save lives.


Let me rewind for a second. Back in February of 2016 I was sitting on the ground in a park in Austin, Texas with a friend of mine, watching her dog run around when an alert came in on my phone. Antonin Scalia had died. A modicum of hope for the future of our society crept in. Surely Obama would be able to appoint a new justice and every single Supreme Court decision wouldn’t feel like we were teetering on the edge of some group or another losing a good portion of their basic rights. (Oh, what a fool I was!) I remember that feeling of relief being immediately followed by a feeling of guilt: how could I be happy about the death of another human being, regardless of how I reviled his damaging interpretation of the Constitution and the law? As I thought deeper into it, it wasn’t his death that I was happy about. It was his leaving the Supreme Court and the huge opportunities for advancement that presented for all kinds of marginalized people. To think one man could so use his power to disenfranchise millions and convince himself that he, somehow, was upholding some sort of Constitutional, if not moral, right? To think that people are so unimaginative that they would whole-heartedly believe that the rights we were granted (or not granted, depending) upon the establishment of our nation would be largely unchanged over the course of hundreds of years? That the words of men long since deceased should be upheld and largely unchallenged? It’s maddening. Antonin Scalia was a terrible justice and maybe a terrible man. I don’t know, I never met him. But his death was a loss to his friends and family and it felt wrong to me to celebrate the pain they were undoubtedly experiencing. I felt sad for their loss and even though I saw his death as a potential gain for the court and, subsequently, our rights, I did not see his death as good. He could have left the court due to health reasons and still been alive. His simply living didn’t strike me as a threat. Death is a horribly permanent thing.


Now let us travel back to current day. To this President, this man. When he was diagnosed with coronavirus, I felt a certain amount of relief and happiness. Like now maybe, just maybe, he would take this thing that has killed 209,000+ Americans seriously. Maybe his base would start to realize the err of their ways; that if their great leader could catch this virus then anyone can. (And again, what a fool I was!) And then he went to the hospital and I felt a whole mess of emotions. Fear for our political future; questions of the accuracy of the information we were getting; curiosity about the information we undoubtedly weren’t getting; worry about the steps of governance should he be incapacitated in some way; concern about the stunts he and his Administration might play to stay in power. I never hoped he would die.

Well, until now.

There is a part of me that wants him to live so that he can face justice for all that he has done. I want people to bring murder charges against him for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones. I want civil suits to make up for loss of income, loss of business, loss of home. I want criminal cases for…well, everything. But a big part of me knows he will never pay for his crimes, regardless of what cases the Southern District of New York tries to bring, because you know it’ll be them. He will ride it all out with his pal Bill Barr by his side, either from the White House or, hopefully, from outside of it. But in the past few days something in me has shifted. I have realized something that many others realized far earlier. But, what? What is different? What has changed? Over the past few months I have watched as Trump has overseen the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, many of them attributable to his intentionally shitty handling of the pandemic. He has enacted policies and made countless statements that are in clear opposition to public health advice and I believe that thousands upon thousands of sick or dead Americans can be directly linked back to those lies. Not that “false information,” mind you, the fucking lies. Even then I felt ugly in my soul for hoping for his demise. (I did not at any point, however, begrudge anyone else wishing for his death because I totally get it. He’s very clearly a monster.) At this point, this mother fucker, this viral time-bomb, has left Walter Reed Hospital and, maskfree (!), entered the White House and the orbits of hundreds of people and their families. And I am not even talking about aides and government officials, although of course them too. I mean the cooks, the janitorial staff, the Secret Service agents. All of the people who are simply doing their jobs and whose lives the President has decided he can threaten. Because he is doing exactly that – he is threatening people’s lives with a deadly infectious disease because he doesn’t want to appear weak to his base. He is not causing death by incorrect action, or inaction, he is causing death by breathing on or around people. It feels to me that the only way we will truly be safe from his carnage is if he is dead and gone. Let his family and his closest allies and advisors pay for the crimes he committed, crimes they enabled him to carry out. That’s okay with me. This man is a menace and a murderer. He must be stopped.

I never thought I would say such a thing but I would not only not be sad if he died, I would be actively happy. I would raise a drink and toast whomever was near. I would hope that he was alone and afraid, that his loved ones, if he actually has any, could say goodbye to him via Zoom. As an American citizen, as someone who cares about her community, this is the very least I can do.

Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: Indoor Dining, WEEEEE!!!!!

26 Sep
Getty Images Stock Photo

Good news, everyone! New York City is about to restart indoor dining at 25% capacity just 6 hellacious months after we were abruptly, and belatedly, shutdown due to the spread of the coronavirus. Since that day in March, those of us who remained here in New York City watched horrified as our overwhelmed hospitals teetered on the brink of collapse; as our frontline workers lacked proper PPE and sufficient medical equipment; as refrigerated trucks parked outside hospitals to house the pileup of 23,792 (and counting!) deceased New Yorkers whose deaths were officially attributed to the coronavirus. We listened to silence punctuated by ambulance wales, never-ending fireworks displays and calls for defunding the police. Thinking back to those earlier days of the pandemic – to the desperate pleas by a governor I usually despise, the empty streets and the feeling of impending doom that hung heavily over every exit of my apartment – I can’t help but think of our collective trauma but also how far we have come from the worst days. By and large those of us who stayed behind followed the ever-changing directives given to us by Governor Cuomo and Dr. Fauci, even as they oftentimes came in direct opposition to the bullshit seeping daily from the White House. (Coulda used those tapes earlier, Woodward!) But remember: we are not out of the woods yet.

This is why the opening of indoor dining causes me such alarm. Back in March, in the long days leading up to the slowdown, I saw on Twitter an uptick of people berating those still going out to bars and restaurants. As a person who makes her living off working in a bar, it was really hard for me to stomach. There they were, people in office jobs with the option for remote work and a continued paycheck, citing the selfishness of people going to bars without engaging with the very real financial catastrophe service industry professionals were facing. Remember, this was before the CARES Act passed, and there was no guarantee that a Senate run by Mitch McConnell and an Administration staffed by Donald Trump would acknowledge the very steep cliff we were all about to tumble over. Let us not forget that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, worth $300 million, thought $1,200 would last people 10 weeks. HA. But even with the threat of impending financial ruin, many of us urged the city to close bars and restaurants. We all knew that if the bars remained open people would continue to go out; and that if people continued to go out, the death toll would rise precipitously.

It took people weeks, some months, to get through to the New York Department of Labor to register for unemployment and to get that additional weekly benefit of $600 that for many of us was an absolute life saver. And then, just like that, the benefit ended. Many of us, myself included, returned to work once the state deemed it “safe.” We projected our voices through masks and plastic sneeze guards, over the noise of fans and music, while we figured out what it meant to leave our homes again and how to interact in this new world. We were tasked with policing the behavior of our customers (and this, remember, is on top of the regular policing of behavior that we have to do in normal times which is made considerably more difficult when half of each person’s face is obscured by a mask):

  1. Make sure they are wearing their masks indoors
  2. Masks must be worn unless the customer is seated
  3. An item of food must be sold to each customer in a party with the purchase of the first round and no, I don’t understand why so please don’t ask.

Bars and restaurants spent money trying to get their outdoor seating in order and hustled to get their staff back to work. Some of us, myself happily included, are fortunate enough to work for people who seriously care about our well-being and have bent over backwards to make sure the conditions are as safe as possible for us and for our customers. Some other folks are not so lucky. But even the most careful among us cannot guarantee 100% safety against a deadly airborne illness. With a return to indoor dining – even at 25% capacity – there are dangers, and those of us who remain in a room for hours on end with unmasked revelers are particularly at risk. You’ve all been to bars – the drunker people get, the more they yell, and laugh loudly, and project tiny potentially infected aerosols out into the air. And, in the opinion of someone who has been in the industry for well over a decade (yes, those are quiet sobs that you hear in the distance), the people who are most likely to want to return to indoor eating and drinking are those who are less risk-averse, and those are the people I am least excited to share recycled air with.

So I guess here’s where I am. Throughout this whole pandemic, if you were to listen to people (gestures widely), you would think that the bar and restaurant industry was somehow guilty of manufacturing and spreading the virus. It was bars – not lies from the White House – that was responsible for the surge in deaths here in New York City. Those of us who worked in the service industry before the shutdown were selfish for wanting to try and make money before we were catapulted into the unknown. Some people returned as “essential workers” to their previous places of employment, putting themselves at risk to give their fellow New Yorkers some semblance of normalcy in an otherwise upside-down reality. Then, the government closed the coffers, cutting off the unemployment extension and throwing small businesses to the wolves. The choice was clear: stay closed and go out of business or find a way to operate. The early rhetoric spewed by people like Dan Patrick about how old people should essentially volunteer to die in order to save the economy, a thing that we were all horrified by, is spreading, albeit in less direct terminology. The current administration did the calculation of economy versus safety and decided that the economy is more important. They cut New Yorkers off and we are forced to fend for ourselves, even while the pandemic rages across the country and people continue to travel into and out of our city.

It’s a hard pill to swallow. Bars were super spreader locations but now all of a sudden, right when it starts getting chilly and New York City remains at 16% unemployment, it’s safe for them to open indoors. Maybe I’m being cynical but it feels as though this decision was made out of financial desperation as opposed to solid public health advice. We’ve been told for the past few months that wearing masks and avoiding spending time indoors with people was a great way to slow the spread. So what changed? I know that our infection rate has remained low but isn’t that more because people and businesses have been abiding by public health guidelines and less because we are actually safe now? And what does this mean for those of us who continue to go to work because, essentially, our financial reality tells us we have no choice? Do we stop seeing the few friends we have met up with, safely, in recent months? Do we stop having dinner with our parents? Do we essentially quarantine between shifts because we have no real way to guarantee that the people we are spending time with indoors have been making good choices? (I would venture to bet that they have not been.) I just feel like the federal government’s lack of swift, concrete, across-the-board action has made it so that we – small business owners and those of us who work for them – don’t really have much of a choice between financial survival and, well, survival.

I don’t know what the answers are to any of this. What I do know is that I feel pretty damn expendable and, in turn, that makes me feel like I am losing my mind. Is it actually unsafe to return to indoor dining or is that the March-May trauma speaking? I know the economy has to get moving, but how do we in good conscience decide when the risk is low enough to try, and whose health is most important? Why did the 643 richest billionaires amass $845 billion in the last 6 months while the rest of us don’t know how we will pay rent? (Elon Musk’s wealth 273% increased to $92 billion over the course of the pandemic. Good for him!) How can the Senate start pushing a judicial confirmation days after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death but they couldn’t bother to pass another legitimate aid package to keep us above water? And how THE FUCK is it possible that this murderous white supremacist might get another four-year term?

It’s true, I am just a bartender, not a public health expert. But I have spent quite a lot of time around drunk people to know that, very often, drunk people make poor choices. So why are we trusting them with the most valuable thing of all – our health? I don’t know, but I guess we’re all about to find out.

Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: What Happened to Time?

8 Sep

The other day I sat out in a backyard drinking wine out of plastic cups with a few friends. We were appropriately distanced, masked-up when we couldn’t be, grasping for some semblance of normalcy. We tried to talk about everything other than our current reality but, inevitably, reality crept back in. It is a constant companion these days. It has ripped so much from us. Friends, loved ones, idols, jobs, vacations, mental health, time. I know that in the grand scheme of things floating in a time warp for 5 months isn’t the biggest deal, but right now it feels like everything. I mean, it’s the 8th of September and it could just as easily be May…or August…or March. I am afraid that if I blink we will be back again at March 15th, the anniversary of when our world shut down and nothing about our battle with the virus will be substantively different, except that we have lost every single day since we acknowledged it’s existence. It feels like we are all on a hamster wheel and the only way to orient ourselves in time is to make connections with the past.

It was brought to my attention by a friend in that yard that I am coming up on the year anniversary of the death of my last grandparent. I am grateful that she went before the virus took hold. I am certain that her death was scary enough without her lungs turning to crystal in the process. And selfishly, I am thankful that we were spared what so many people have been suffering through – the loneliness of a grief spent isolated from loved ones, of funerals broadcast via livestream, of the obvious absence of the hugs and closeness that sustain us through painful times. I wonder how many people went earlier than they should have – not just due to coronavirus but other things as well – without the lifeblood that is love, company and human contact. We used to hear uplifting stories of people hanging on to life because of connection, so where do those stories go in our present? How differently do they end? I worry about what this will mean for the thousands of people having to navigate their way through grief, through recovery from illness, through the trauma of working on the frontlines during this crisis. Do virtual support groups work as well as in-person? How about online therapy sessions? Or therapeutic happy hours with friends over zoom?

I guess time will tell. If that’s what we are calling it these days.

As I reflected on the privilege my family didn’t know we had in being able to gather in close quarters at the cemetery, in having hundreds of people through the house, in debating about the whereabouts of a missing chocolate babka, I realized something.

*This is going to sound really weird, so be prepared.*

What I realized is that I long to return to those two days of shiva where people roamed through my parents house, concerned about sadness and remembering, but not concerned about contamination. I want us all to take food from communal plates and stand close to one another talking, regardless of whether we knew who the other person was or just pretended to. I want to put down my wine glass and pick up…maybe my wine glass? – or perhaps it was my mom’s or my sister’s – and not worry about one of us falling ill from anything other than a mild hangover. I want that feeling of unquestioned, non-threatening community that I fear we won’t have again in the same way. I want those two days of time-dragging, exhausting, grief-stricken company back.

Or maybe it’s just that I want time itself back. I want to know what time feels like, what it means. I don’t know about you but I’ve been grieving the loss of a lot of things these past few months (are we still measuring “time” this way or…?) but I haven’t grieved the loss of the concept and feeling of time. So, I guess I’ll add that to the list. It’s a long one but…I guess I’ve got time. Or something.


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: Eat The Rich and Steal Their Houses

29 Jul

Just two small pieces of housekeeping before we get started:

  1. Thank you to my very good friend Carrie for helping me come up with my new mantra, “Eat The Rich and Steal Their Houses.” I am currently accepting t-shirts with this slogan.
  2. I have a Ko-Fi account where you can buy me coffee AKA give me some money for writing this blog so I can go out and buy coffee or get beans from the store to make coffee myself because it is more cost effective. If you want, and if you have the ablity, the link is here.

And now without further ado, the latest meandering post.


As many of us are very aware, the extra pandemic aid, which has been a lifeline for a lot of people these past few months is about to end. That means a lot of folks who have been kept afloat since March are about to be shoved off the end of a fucking cliff. (I would like to take this moment to say that I hope Mitch McConnell develops a never ending itch somewhere deep in his anus from which he can never achieve relief.) For his part, Steve Mnuchin, the US Secretary of the Treasury and also a colossal dirtbag, when asked about whether or not there would be a continuation of the unemployment extension said, “it wouldn’t be fair to use taxpayer dollars to pay more people to sit home.” So, just before I get into the other things I want to write about I would like to direct a few questions to Mnuchin, if I may.

Steve. You are aware that people receiving unemployment payments are themselves taxpayers? And that those same people pay taxes on the money they receive from the government? And that those people use the money they have received to buy other things which often are taxed? And that an economy cannot function if people don’t have money to spend so by giving people money you are staving off a much deeper and more painful economic downturn?

Yes? No? Maybe?

Listen, I’m not an economist. I was never all that good with things that involve numbers. But what I do know is that in March my job disappeared for 4 entire months. Because of the nature of my job, I don’t receive the maximum amount allowed in NY State ($504). If it weren’t for the additional funding, I would not have brought in enough money over the course of one month to pay my half the rent on our reasonably affordable (by NY standards) one-bedroom apartment. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to pay rent and also feed myself. As far as I am concerned, the length of this shutdown lies squarely on the shoulders of our elected officials and they owe it to the American public to continue helping us pay our bills until they can remove their heads from their asses and stop the spread. I do place the vast majority of the blame on the federal government, but the states have done their fair share of botching things up as well. Before everyone twists themselves into pretzels to tell me what a great job Cuomo and(?) de Blasio have done consider this. In an article in ProPublica, it was asserted that the 6-day time lapse between when San Francisco shut down and when New York City shut down goes a long way in explaining why NYC was ravaged in a way no other area has been (so far). And I know, I am saying this and basing it on articles that were written with the benefit of hindsight. We know now what we didn’t know then. But, government officials knew more than us. And while I do believe that Cuomo did a better job than basically any other state leader in terms of hitting the gas on a shutdown and communicating with the residents of this state, I also believe that if he and de Blasio weren’t so engaged in their damn pissing contest we would have had a far better outcome. But, I digress.

I came here to write about unemployment. I came here to write about how there needs to be long-lasting aid to those of us who work in industries that have to entirely reimagine themselves to stay above water. What we have now in New York City – outside tables only, no drinks if you’re not seated, limited hours – is a huge strain on business owners and employees. However necessary it is to keep us here in NYC at a point in this pandemic that we worked very hard to arrive at, it is an unsustainable business model for those who work in the hospitality industry and those who own those businesses. I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that if I feel safe at work – which I do at my place of employment because my boss is going above and beyond to make sure that is the case for us and our customers – I would rather earn my income than receive government assistance. The reality of the situation, however, is that there simply are not enough shifts. Beyond that, the loss of our indoor space and a lot of our outdoor capacity results in a loss of business that cannot be easily replaced. Our incomes rely on asses in seats, but we have less seats now and, therefore, far less asses.

Please do not confuse this with me saying that I think precautions are unnecessary. None of us want to go back to where we were in April. That was, quite honestly, the closest to hell on earth I ever want to experience.* However, it is clear to my through learning about the measures being put in place that the governor has not spoken to enough (if any) people in the hospitality industry in order to ascertain how to keep our covid spread low while also helping to keep businesses afloat. And I know, he is a busy man. But nothing exists in a vacuum. Like I said earlier, if people have money, they will spend it. But if you have an entire industry of people who are struggling to afford rent, food and bills you’ve got a problem. That’s less money spent in other areas of the economy and in my mind that shit runs down stream. Just like the mortgage crisis rippled across the economy, so will this. And don’t get me wrong, the bar/restaurant industry is not the only one in this pickle, it’s just the one I understand best. I truly believe that if nothing substantial is done we are in for a world of hurt and many people in our government simply don’t give a shit.

Here’s what I think. I think we live in a country that not only equates wealth with success, but one which equates wealth with moral purity. That somehow those who have acquired, or, let’s face it, inherited wealth are deserving of it and above any serious reproach. That is simply untrue. What is true is that because of this idea that rich people are morally superior to the rest of us, and because they can afford to pay someone to protect them legally or otherwise, they are not governed by the same laws as the rest of us. It is this line of thinking that tells us that regardless of whatever structural and institutional barriers that we know to exist, that needing government assistance is due to a moral failing of the individual, rather than a structural failing of our economic system, and for that reason that individual is not to be trusted. Because that individual is morally unsound, they will take advantage of the kindness of the state and those in power – those who have received tax breaks, benefitted from ill-gotten government contracts, taken advantage of insider information to play the stock market, paid extra or used nepotism to get their children into elite universities and land them cushy and important jobs – must keep them in check.

Moral superiority my ass. And this disgust that so many (Republican) lawmakers have with the fact that people are earning more on unemployment than they did at their jobs is shameful. We should be disgusted that people are earning more on unemployment than in their jobs. But rather than say they are undeserving of the level of security they currently have, we should figure out how to make sure people are paid a living wage when they are working. It is offensive to me, and should be to everyone else, that we have people, hard-working, good people, struggling to pay rent and feed their families while a few selfish nincompoops hoard mountains of cash. We have a show all about hoarders, and not one episode (that I know of) has focused on people who hoard money. There is this thing in economics called the law of diminishing marginal utility. Basically what it says is that the first unit of consumption of a good or service yields more general utility than subsequent units of consumption. At a certain point, people have so much money that more money simply does not impact quality of life. More money to the super wealthy is absolutely meaningless outside of bragging rights. It’s grotesque. But to people with less, to people living on the edge, a little bit more money means a lot. It means food, it means rent payments, school uniforms, menstrual products, transportation, a fucking social life. This extra $600 is E V E R Y T H I N G.

I guess I’ve kind of gone off the rails here. Super shocking, I know. There is just a lot to think about and it’s hard for me to distill this all down to something narrow and concrete. I know these problems have existed for a long time, way before this pandemic struck. And I know people have been struggling with our economic and political systems since forever. The demonization of the poor is not new. Poverty is not the fault of the impoverished. And success is almost never self-made.

In summation, it is my belief that the only way forward at this point is to eat the rich, (distribute their net worth) and then steal their houses.

*Despite how poorly some other states – and some residents as a response to their local or our federal government – are handling their own outbreaks, I truly, truly hope they do not endure the degree of fear and loss that we did here. I would never wish this on anyone. Except maybe McConnell. Okay, and Jim Jordan. Bill Barr too, actually. OMG I have to stop.

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.

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. 

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.