There is battle underway in New York. With the virus surging toward its peak I am starting to feel like I am living through something akin to what I know of “The Blitz” in the early 1940’s in England, during World War II. A terrifying reign of terror, coming relentlessly at me with no conscience, is what I am feeling. I watch as brave people hold the line and others try to contribute as best they can. People are emerging to whom we owe much. Doctors for sure. Also the delivery guys, most of them Mexican, on their padded bicycles; the cashiers at Citarella and Food Emporium markets. My doormen Javier, Willie, Larry and Tom. Yeah, I am under siege, and the only weapons are a healthcare system renowned for the quality of its research and advances in the most exciting areas of science. But we also have a community hospital system and its challenges, as the world is seeing, are profound. We are also armed now with extreme civic cooperation and access to the rest of the world online. These are useful, but they are inadequate for the real job ahead.
Most of the sirens in my neighborhood tonight carry gasping COVID-19 patients to overcrowded, understaffed ERs at New York Presbyterian and Lenox Hill hospitals. There are medical tents rising in Central Park, although I have not seen them. My brief walk along the avenue revealed only the pink blossoms of the trees celebrating the arrival of Spring. Both hospitals are within walking distance of my apartment (located next door to Trump Palace). We learned a few nights ago that the head of the NY Police Department’s Anti-Terror Department is in Lenox Hill with the disease. And this morning we learned that Harlem-based Detective Cedric Dixon (48 years old) passed away as had one of my favorite playwrights, Terrence McNally.
Why the officers and service workers and delivery guys still are not wearing masks is a big question. It’s stupid. The head of Korea’s equivalent of the CDC says it’s a no-brainer that we should be wearing them. I wore my first one yesterday. And I added a Yankees cap to the wardrobe, somehow hoping that by putting it on the season might be back soon. The ironies pile up as do the cases.
Sick bodies are piling into the hospitals. New York’s EMS received 7,000 calls last night. The frontline folks in the ERs are throwing everything they have to try and preserve our health and whatever sense of dignity that can be mustered. There is truly not much. Inside NY Presbyterian hospital, they are going through as many as 70,000 masks per day.
Bombs throw all kinds of shrapnel. A theatre director and friend calls me and he is panicked. He has been a recovering alcoholic for 32 years but cannot get to an AA meeting. The churches and basements usually reserved are closed. We talk for a long time. He calls me again today. He found a global meeting online. He “attends.” He will adjust. But it is a close call. I can tell.
Remember what I said about the social index and its inevitable decline?
New York Times reporter Corina Knoll nailed it when she wrote, “New York is a city suddenly forced to be everything it is not.” This is more than a tourism economy crisis. No one on their deathbed ever said they wished they had made more money, I am sure. This is a personality schism from within. Who are we if we are not the place with the high energy mojo that makes us New Yorkers?
In solidarity with the brave ones, the Empire State Building flashes red like a siren. You have seen it. Everyone has seen it. This is New York, after all.
Does this schism impact New York more than other places? It is no doubt the same in Madrid, Bergamo, Columbus, Ohio and Toronto. But New York, it is said to me often, has a special energy. Here we are a mixture of density, diversity and often a neurotic but theatrical and creative thrust of human poetry and collisions. This will be a tough place to live for a long time. A freaky “war zone” with 10 million couch potatoes – the exceptions being those in the ambulances, on the bicycles in the cold wind and the guys in their uniforms ensuring that my building runs smoothly.
What will your community become when it goes indoors and the blitz starts? What will you be doing?
Today we begin our series of dialogues with Intelligent Communities and others from around the globe and ask them to share with you their story of their battle with the “Netflix Plague” or “The New Blitz.” Call it what you want. We are calling our series: “No Place BUT Home.”
Thumbnail photo by Christopher Ebdon
Other “No Place BUT Home” Blog Posts: