Tag Archives: covid19

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. 

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. 

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.