Week Nine: Life in the Epicenter of the Coronavirus

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Hello, as usual, writing to you from my couch, here in the epicenter of the coronavirus, New York City.

The weather is evolving, getting warmer, but still a bit cooler than it normally is in May, and that, that is a blessing in the time of Corona, because that means New Yorkers, who have a severe case of cabin fever, are not inundating the sidewalks, which seem to become narrower and narrower as the pandemic wears on. Yesterday, was a sunny day, in the sixties, and we were out; my friend Michael rode his bike from 114th street down to wear I am, on 18th, a workout for sure, for a socially-distant visit. We walked along the East Side River, along the curated pathway, dotted with parks and benches, and packed with joggers. We sat at a two-top table, nearby a pair of police officers, wearing masks they were, enjoying a quiet moment with a view of Brooklyn before them, at their two-top, public park style, grassy knoll surrounding us, and a stream of people passing by. Our tranquil moment was interrupted by a pair of men, probably in their sixties or seventies, yelling at one another, one masked, the other not. I haven’t seen people argue in such a manner in a while, there was a panic to these men, a frustration. They were loud and angry, cursing at one another, the masked man threatening the unmasked man, “I’m going to throw you in the river,” what prompted the argument, I have no idea, but we watched the drama unfold, these two pale, very tall strangers peacocking. The police officers stood up, calmly separated the men, and sent them in opposite directions, shaking their heads at the idiocy of these two men. The pandemic’s effects in full bloom.

I am on my third week of being unemployed (hire me please), and I have yet to receive an unemployment stipend. I am now one of 36 MILLION people who are unemployed in the wake of the pandemic. And, I haven’t gotten the email or text  from the Department of Labor, as is cited on the website, to verify my claim. After I had my second actual tearful pandemic moment (the first one occurred on my final day of being employed), I buckled down and started down the rabbit hole of how to get through to the unemployment line. I dialed the 1888 number 1000 times, did not get through. I went to the Department of Labor website, but no direct email address to someone in particular. I found a news report advising if I am still in this situation to reach out to my Senator or Assembly Person. I figured I’d try to do that.

I found my Assembly Person’s website online, the person overseeing the district I live in, and I sent an email to him, as his email address is displayed prominently. He replied within a half hour, and put me in contact with the person in his office who is in direct contact with the Department of Labor regarding this exact kind of case. So I feel hopeful again, that I will find resolution, knowing I have someone advocating for me.

Last night, there was another flare up (a few weeks ago, a man—obviously in terrible psychic pain—ran out of the building, naked, punching people before he was apprehended; he has since moved out) in the courtyard of the building I live in, around ten pm; I looked out my window, my neighbor whose apartment is beside mine, our windows perpendicular to one another, did as well, and we both peered down, not seeing another, looked back up at each other and shrugged our shoulders. This is the only way we have communicated in the past weeks, at the window for the 7pm salute, or when there’s a kerfuffle in the middle of the night. Sometimes when I work at my desk, which is by the front door of my apartment, I can hear the music he is listening to (he’s a fan of classic Makam music), or his frequent phone calls to his mother; like me, he is alone, in this apartment, in this epicenter, waiting for the world to find its footing again.

As I go into the weekend, I remain hopeful. I hope you will as well.



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