Walking Waiting Worrying Weeping: my corona diaries

Walking helps the weeping. Springtime brings a little something new to notice each day. Mostly I’m swept up in that touch of green-gold on just-budding leaves.

Typically halfway into my walk around the lake endorphins kick in. My gaze shifts from the ground to the trees and sky. Nests show themselves. The worrying, intrinsically linked to the waiting, eases up. Today I passed a mother walking with a two-year-old. “Oh what I’d give to see the world through his eyes,” I said from a safe distance. The mother smiled.

“A seed knows how to wait,” writes Hope Jahren in Lab Girl.

“After scientists broke open the coat of a lotus seed (Nolumbo nucifera),” she notes, “and coddled the embryo into growth, they kept the empty husk. When they radiocarbon-dated this discarded outer shell, they discovered that their seedling had been waiting for them within a peat bog in China for no less than two thousand years. This tiny seed had stubbornly kept up the hope of its own future while human civilizations rose and fell.”

An odd irony to be reading these words in these times. Waiting tests our patience, whether in a doctor’s office or sitting in my home office wanting to scream about an Internet that seems slow today, no reason other than a traffic-jammed information highway.

This waiting is about wanting to wake to tomorrow with the promise of an end to corona in sight.

* * *

Just now a sigh. I’m looking out my window, leafless tree branches swaying. I’m waiting for words, the right ones.

Don’t words too often fail us when we most need them?

Jill Lepore, in a recent New Yorker piece:  “Every story of epidemic is a story of illiteracy, language made powerless, man made brute.”

There’s a higher frequency both in the nature and number of text messages. One day a friend sends me a link to a man speaking Italian while demonstrating how to use a sanitary pantiliner as a mask. Another day she alerts me to the death of Bill Withers.

In texts with my daughter we can go so easily from conversations about shoes and trinkets and the local stores we want to make sure survive to despair over the need for convention centers to be turned into makeshift hospitals.

I glaze over numbers—is it really possible that the death toll in China is closer to 40,000, not the 3,500 reported?

It’s the individual stories that get to me most: The single mother holed up with her two-year-old. Patients struggling to breathe with lungs that sounded like sandpaper.

I suffer from supermarket stress. Get in and out as quickly as possible. Hope that I’ll find what I need. I hate wearing this mask. I hate that I have to ask the woman at the checkout counter to repeat what she said. Her mask muffles her voice.

 The other day there were three pairs of swans on the lake. Over the years just one pair.

Today it’s a swan convention, five pairs of them.

I hear more birds each day. They keep me from thinking. They remind me of something I read many years ago. Before words, we communicated through sounds. We made music.

My husband knows just the thing to make me laugh at night. Seinfeld reruns work like a charm. The other night a Netflix special, Dave Chappelle being honored with the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Today my husband tells me he was kept awake during the night with thoughts of a Russian takeover of our country. He’s convinced The Manchurian Candidate is in the White House.

“You’re starting to scare me,” I tell him. He’s troubled, too, about the rise of anti-Semitism worldwide.

I’m troubled that I can’t get a kosher chicken and brisket from the local butcher. Passover is days away. There won’t be the usual gathering of close friends and family at our seder, just the two of us.

My mother died during Passover. For years I could not recall the solar calendar date (April 8), only the lunar (Jewish) calendar date, 15 Nissan. This year brings synchronicity to the two ways of marking my days.

My daughter amuses me with a text about how Larry David, our favorite curmudgeon, copes during corona times. Today she texts me an alert from the White House COVID-19 coordinator re: avoiding supermarkets and pharmacies.

I take it all in, the worrying and the weeping. And I ask myself, by not rushing out to buy chicken and brisket a week ahead of time, am I simply being my normal, pre-corona-anxiety-stricken self? And isn’t that a good thing? If it turns out I don’t get what exactly what I want for a Passover meal, I’ll. make do with what I get.

New York State reported a drop in the death toll (594 new deaths, down from 630 the day before). The governor says it could be a ‘blip.’

April 6, 2020

The things we do for love

Saturday afternoon finds me in a crush of people at the Brooklyn Museum, the next to last day of an exhibition already extended two weeks by popular demand. Clearly I’m not the only one with a curiosity re: the cultural place/history of high-heeled shoes. Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe really is a killer of an exhibition—an experience I shared with, yes, the reluctant husband.

It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy an outing with me, especially on a weekend afternoon with no added snow in the forecast. But the thought of traveling an hour and a half for an exhibition on shoes elicits a groan, do I have to? His idea of a nightmare is shoe shopping with me and/or my daughter (mine is going to Home Depot) so an added ounce of persuasion is called for. It’s not about shoes, I tell him. It’s about art. The fact that I find the need to explain myself is precisely the reason he needs to go with me—even if we both know I could more readily cajole a girlfriend or two into joining me. A little enlightenment goes a long way. Besides, a man with as fine-tuned a design sense as his is bound to pick up on the details, the trends, the materials, the workmanship, the suggestiveness, never mind the hint of eroticism or fetishism.

I admit it, I worried he might just turn around, if not explode, when he inadvertently missed the turnoff to the RFK Bridge that cost us a good twenty minutes in traffic, but he took it in stride. Then there was the unanticipated line getting into the museum (so many people clamoring to see the exhibition before it closed), but it moved quickly. I confess, too, that the galleries were a tad too crowded.

In the end he could say he did it for me, and I would have no problem with that. I took as much pleasure in the show, which included some specially commissioned short films, as in his appreciation and commentary, especially in the section focused on architectural referenceKiller heels 1s in high heels. And we both learned a great deal. Funny thing how the notion of standing, as in stature, strikes you when you learn that elevated shoes were first worn by actors in Greco-Roman times. Next time you’re in a museum, take note of those sweet, stacked heels worn by upper-class men and women alike in the 1600s, a marker of status. A number of the more fanciful shoes on display may not really be for walking but there’s no arguing what they symbolize. Yes, it was my date who captured the striking play of shadow and light in the photo of Tamar Areshidze’s ‘Walking on Water.’

And let’s not forget something else: this is the same man who took me for a pair of Christian Louboutins on my 65th birthday.

Speaking of which, in the best of all weather worlds, I might have worn them two weeks earlier when we celebrated thirty years of marriage and Valentine’s Day in one fell swoop. My husband is not an easy person to buy gifts for. Besides, anniversaries are really about shared experiences. All the more reason to be tickled silly to discover, back in November when our anniversary was approaching, that previews for Fish in the Dark would be starting in February.  Oh, inspiration! What a perfect gift for a Larry David fan (whose sense of comedy, not to mention his countenance and initials, could make him a near twin of LD). I scrambled. I bought (face-value, I’m proud to say). And, in the buying, apparently I join legions of Larry David fans in making this Broadway show set records for advance sales.

This time the husband opted not to drive, what with yet another winter weather advisory lurking. There were flurries as we walked across town from Grand Central. I finally got him to a favorite nouvelle Mexican restaurant of mine.  He got to schmooze with Larry David fans sitting in front of us at the show. And even if we agreed that the star himself lacked a little star power when it came to delivering lines, he did write a funny play that took his typical schtick to another level.

All in all, a pretty pretty good night.

Killer heels 2

LD Fish in Dark

Why I’m not a Hannah, Marnie, Shosh, or Jessa

SomethingSara copySometimes I can’t help identifying with TV characters. When I wasn’t even close to Carrie Bradshaw’s age, my friends and I always assigned each other friend roles (I was once comically assigned the role of Comet the dog from “Full House”—I was not happy about this).

When a TV show is based on characters my age, there’s even more reason to see myself in one of them.  I’m talking about “Girls,” the popular HBO series.

I hear a lot of girls say that “Girls” is soooo their life or they are soooo Marnies or Hannahs or whomever.  I’m sorry but since when is that something to be proud of?  Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the show week after week to see how these girls are going to fuck up their lives even further, in almost the same way I get a laugh out of watching Larry David offend everyone he’s ever known on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but that’s all it is to me—pure entertainment.  Sorry, Deborah Lippman, I like your “Girls”-inspired nail polish set but I am not a Hannah, Marnie, Shosh or Jessa, nor do I want to be.  The sad reality is I do know some girls who are like the girls of  “Girls” and I pity them. GIRLS

Lena Dunham is smart.  I’m sure she knew exactly how her show would be perceived.  How can you not compare a show about four women living in New York to its predecessor on the same pay cable network?  She’s also smart because she knew she would reach not only the audience that wants to be just like her and her characters but also the audience that appreciates a good critical commentary on her generation.  She’s got that right, too.  And with her show she becomes, unfortunately, the voice of her generation—my  generation.

I know what it feels like to enter the world at twenty-two and have it not be at all that you expected or were told it would be; hell, I even did it at the worst of economic times. Unlike a lot of my peers, a few years younger than I am, I worked my ass off to get where I am today—something that Hannah and her friends don’t really seem to have done because they don’t really do a whole lot of anything.  They bring a feeling of entitlement to new heights.  They don’t even listen to each other.  Most importantly, they make you wonder why they’re even friends—something  you never questioned on “Sex and the City” because it was always so clear that, despite their mess-ups, they were always there for each other.  On “Girls” it’s every girl for herself.

Yet there’s something keeping them all together, despite their selfish antics.  They’re BFF’s and the “forever” is real.  They’re growing up, and while sometimes that means growing apart a little, on “Girls,” it’s more about whether their friendships will survive than their relationships and whether in their grown-up lives there will be room for each other. These girls, the “Sex and the City” girls, like the rest of us in the real world, have been through so much together: break-ups, make-ups, camp, high school, college, life after college, marriage, babies and sometimes it’s just hard to let go of that connection to someone.

Lena Dunham still doesn’t want you to think you’re a Hannah, Marnie, Shosh, or Jessa though.  Let’s be clear about that. These girls are certainly not role models.  Carrie Bradshaw, on the other hand . . . a girl can never own too many pairs of shoes, and that’s a perfectly okay aspiration to have (as long as you don’t think you’ll achieve it by being a sex columnist for a cheap newspaper).