Week Five: Life in the Epicenter of the Coronavirus

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Oh hello, writing to you from my couch, from the Epicenter of the Coronavirus, in Stuytown, New York. I refer to this little pocket of where I live as Stuytown as it is its own ecosystem, perched on the island of Manhattan. Eighty acres, filled with apartment buildings, parks, and humanity. A lot of humanity.

Layout of Stuytown / Peter Cooper Village

The Oval is where the residents converge. On benches underneath the trees, on the white Adirondack chairs on the green lawn, on the perimeter where dogs are walked by their owners.  It is where the fountain, ever celebrating its spout, during the day flowing water up and down, at night the same but with lights illuminating, and every so often, I stand in front of the fountain, enjoying it, headphones on, Frank Sinatra playing, “New York, New York.” I love this that I am living now, at this point in my life, in Stuytown. Of course, I wish I moved in here in my twenties, and could enjoy this phase of my life with a rent-controlled lease, but alas, I was a punk-ass then, and I am so not now.

Stuytown, as I have said in previous post, is a gorgeous anomaly in this city of millions; it’s its own ecosystem. In the era of COVID19, the shift is felt as well in Stuytown, so anchored it is in the community spirit—and a lot of it surrounding The Oval—from the cafe to the wellness center to the library to the children’s center plus the playgrounds, courts, and mini-fields. These are the places where Stuytown’s residents gathered with abandon, where parents allowed their children to run, where sunbathers lay on their blankets, where the elderly kibbitzed on benches. Here in week five, almost all of that has dissipated, well those activities that put us in close proximity.

We still sit on benches, we still stand in front of the lending library looking for a book, we still sit at the chess tables our only opponents ourselves.

My real hero for me has been Rocky, my dog. There’s a lot to be said for living with a pet; you take care of them as they take care of you, it’s a reciprocal relationship. Rocky is eleven years old, grey in the face now, his black fur slowing showing bits of salt. I have been sitting on this couch, with him at my side, almost exclusively for thirty-five days. Oh, yes, on occasion while I’m doing yoga via the app, he’s sitting on the rug waiting for me to complete my asanas, but otherwise, always with me. It’s resoundingly comforting. There was a moment when I considered allowing The Teenager, ensconced in suburbia, to come into the city to take him to where he could run the fields, but who I am kidding? Rocky would merely looking at the backyard and go, I don’t think so honey. He is a sedentary sweet potato.

The depth of comfort he provides is in the infinity range. I listen to his pug-labored breathing, the snore growing in volume, and it fills me with joy, to hear this symphony. When I wake in the morning, he nestles under the covers with me, his burly body heavy and heaving, the squishy face of his planted and serene. When the worry seeps through my skin, infecting the room, he puts his chin on my lap, a Reiki heal taking place. At night, he spins in a slow circle, finding his sweet spot on my bed. He’s the constant, he’s the companion, he’s the cool one.

We walk, leash in my gloved hand, through Stuytown, not engaging with other dogs as we once did; I make eye contact with my fellow neighbors, our faces covered in masks, all of us making up survival with each step. In the mornings, when my spirit is higher, we walk the corners of Stuytown, up steps opening up further enclaves of playgrounds and workout spaces, benches galore, the flora of Stuytown’s team blooming, oh those cherry blossom trees, heralding the onset of Spring. Soon, all of Stuytown will be shrouded in greenery, as Rocky and I continue to mine the terrain of this enclave, survival always top of mind.

My life raft is a 26 pound pug.


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