What Price Love (Agape)?

When we do good in the public interest, like serving food, delivering goods that r particularly necessary in times of COVID-19, donate money to the worthy causes, including especially those who make masks and other medical grade personal protective equipment for those on the front lines…food banks, pantries, donating needed blood, for those especially who need it, like sickle cell patients, accident victims, those who bag your groceries and ring them, the educators who had to learn in a hurry how to make lessons for distance learning online…and keep doing that, day after day, w assignments sent via email, to be graded probably pass fail now, but maybe harder, because u have no time to catch your breath, to change everything….first responders everywhere, police, firefighters, EMS (Emergency Medical Services), the RN’s and MD’s, all aides, who do backbreaking work, turning patients who r hooked up to machines, semi-conscious or unconscious, dead weight then, because if u don’t turn people every 2 hrs, they will get a pressure ulcer on their skin…emptying urine bags for the catheterized in ICU’s, imagine even the simple task of changing soaked sheets, due to leaking unconscious humans, w a person who is dead weight, and u can see those people r heroes too. Even the janitors, who keep the environment clean, who r essential! Changing diapers too. “For the last will be first, and the first last”…alpha and the omega, Greek alphabet, 1st and last letters, as to who makes Heaven, and what their positions will be…Biblical injunctions made real in today’s world. Those who had little to nothing r dying faster now, due to overcrowding and socioeconomic realities of the Ghetto.

I know from whence I speak, having had little to having much, the difference is stark in the statistics of my current zip code and the one I came from, both in epicenter City of New York, 10467 in the North Bronx, and 11375, Central Queens, Forest Hills. Tho Queens is hard hit also in the Pandemic, the big death zip codes r all around me, but not as much in my current neighborhood, which is 39.2% not white population. Only 9.1% below the poverty line here, which is relatively low, compared w citywide averages. Cases per 1000 residents of COVID = 19.4 as of May 14, 2020. Positive testing rate of the disease = 37.67%. COVID case rate: 1423.

And now 10467: the Bronx. Cases per 1000 pop: 29.7. + testing rate of disease: 43.12%. 77.4% not white population. 27.9% below the poverty line. Actual incidence of cases: 3085. When u r poor, and/or a minority group, u r much more likely to get the disease and even die. That is the wages of sin, death. Even tho we all die, rich and poor, it is unjust, the disparity. I literally went from desperately poor to struggling to wealth, all due to the perfidy of my ancestors, who shall remain nameless. I have forgiven them. But it was a function of divorce, blaming, judgment against me and my mom, for whatever we did or didn’t do, even tho the system is set up to make especially women fail. Especially women w children, and maybe insufficient skills, or maybe birth defects, due to being born in the throes of the Great Depression, my mom was, in 1935, when my grandparents didn’t even have enough money to move out of grandma’s small Bronx apartment…even when that baby came, there was no health insurance, no prenatal care, and a mother who smoked all thru the pregnancy…my mom was born into unequal status, through no fault of her own, just an innocent baby in the womb of a poor couple. Born w lifelong limitations, my mom even managed to somehow graduate high school and go to work as a secretary afterward, and all that her life goal was to capture a man, to have a marriage and a baby with…it was all we could hope for, at the time, for her.

Desperate to find such a man, and escape very strict rigid parents, poverty too, going from apartment to apartment, probably because rent was a major burden to overcome, and keep paying…My father however came from money, from his parents as immigrants even, w their own business, which was growing…but they were a bad match, my parents, and it became clear rather quickly, not only in backgrounds, but also values, money management, how many kids, well, ultimately just me, from that union. Dad didn’t even know that mom had borne another daughter before me, before he met mom, even tho she had visible stretch marks on her abdomen. And also, if he had any education like I had, he would have known that fast labors r atypical for first time mothers, and this writer was born in a mere 4 hrs of labor. But he was not educated thus. And the prior daughter was given up for adoption some 7 yrs before my arrival, a closed chapter. At least until I was in my 42nd year of life, when we found her!! And mom’s parents were both dead, and I wanted a sister, really a lot! We both cried for joy, even tho it turned out that we were lucky to have an 8 year interaction w my mom still alive, and we met several times over those years, mostly happily, even tho there were a few judgment problems between mom and her first born daughter. I was the bridge between them, to bring them to a place where they could coexist and accept.

And then, one year after my mom died, in 2015, my half sister and I had a knock down drag out email fight, and we became estranged as a result. That continues to this day, but I remain open to reconciliation, especially knowing that we live in an age where death is surrounding us, especially me in Pandemic Central NYC, and I have several pre existing conditions such that getting the infection would likely = death, so I try like hell not to be exposed to anyone, unduly, fighting every single day, even tho it’s lonely and hard, day in, day out…And she is also at risk, being very isolated also, w only a spouse for backup, and a few friends, neighbors, but who will be close enough to save her, to be a health care proxy, in case of either her or her spouse’s death or incapacity?? Eventually, we all face those questions. I keep admonishing friends here that they need life insurance, desperately! Because accounts get frozen upon a person’s death, unless u r a joint tenant w them. And no one has confronted the reality of death, or how to pay for it, or even how to survive post death, when your significant other is gone…can u pay the rent, or the mortgage, or do u have enough life insurance to tide u over?? Or pay for that rising death bill…just days ago, one of my closest friends lost her elder sister, and there was no money, and also no life insurance…and only but for a large credit line of the surviving brother, who refuses to pay also, but did, ultimately…Anna would have gone to an unmarked mass grave in Potter’s Field otherwise. No possibility of visitation evermore either. Not everyone has a wealthy brother w a big credit line. Get on it, while u still have your wits, because Alzheimer’s Disease runs deep in our family, dear sister. And u can’t escape your genes, believe me. She is 7 yrs older than me, now going on 63 yrs old, this June. And I stay open as a loving and forgiving sister, if she wants to reach out. Life is short and it’s important also to go to one’s death w a clear conscience.

Ask anyone who knows me: I am a very loving, kind person. The kind anyone who would be glad to have, generally. When people give me up, it’s usually due to some issue within themselves, that they need to do the self work, because I am reasonable. When they won’t do such work, well, it’s on them then. I tried. Love is not just a function of money, but really the heart.

The Crown (A Netflix Series)

I was very satisfied w the way this series has developed over its now 3 years of broadcast, and am anxious for the 4th season, which is quite the accomplishment 4 Netflix, to have a fan so rapt. I am however disappointed that 10 episodes constitute a season. I have further read that new seasons usually begin in November or December most years, and that there will be 5 in total…

As to acting, quite splendid, especially like how I pictured Queen Elizabeth II acts in real life: cold, imperious, stolid, dutiful, maintaining order above all else, dour, conflicted at times, because she does have some emotion, and grieves the necessity of making those close to her miserable, especially in matters of love. The Church of England is much like the Roman Catholic Church in its strictures, especially unmodern ones, like the need to maintain marriage at all costs, w only very few exceptions. “Turn a blind eye,” recently spoken by the Queen, in order to remain sane and happy, in marriage…

I recently imagined an intimate scene between Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, conceiving their later 2 sons, Andrew and Edward, w the Queen being so matter of fact about lovemaking: do it, get on w it, and while she lies unmoving, w a bored look on her face, thinking of how lovely England is in the springtime, the time of Elizabeth’s birth, which is April 21st. One imagines that sex is only a rare occurrence in Buckingham Palace, and then only for approved purposes, like conception, provision of bounty of heirs to the throne….even though it’s clear u only need two, in any case. I doubt they ever had sex again, after those two sons were born, in 1960 and one 1964. Dutiful Elizabeth might have borne the desire of the Prince, but it was clearly just a chore she needed to bear, which over time, the husband would clearly tire of. And his own cruelty w regard to his first borne son Charles would also point toward sexual non-fulfillment. U can go back in your own lives to remember those pathetic spinster public school teachers, who took particular delight in assigning miserably large parcels of homework, and who were cruel in classroom exchanges also, attempting youth public embarrassment. I remember.

Prince Philip had his own misery in being a son of privilege too, preceding marriage, in his youth. He dealt w it perhaps better than Charles did, however. He bit his lip, and carried on, calmly, like the modern sign reads: Keep Calm and Carry On….all over England. And you’d imagine him smoking cigars and drinking fine cognac or some other whiskey of choice, to drown his sorrows in other areas. He wasn’t given a choice as to what his fate was to be, just a behind the back of Her Majesty, forevermore, and a stud horse, for the purpose of those 4 children. That was mostly it. Eating and drinking thru life…it is impossible to stomach being 2nd, behind the Queen. No power, not enough influence even. It is like our modern day life of President Donald Trump and Melania, who is merely also a figurehead, a means to an end, beautiful yes, another womb to bear yet another heir, one of three women so used such. Now, just a pretty face behind him, seen and not heard, mostly. Her work is done, for the most part, except u need to be married, 4 the people to trust u, so he stays w her, for the political purpose only. He is also old now, and as such, he will be 74 this year, while she is just recently 50 yrs old.

But back to the House of Windsor and Mountbatten, at Buckingham. The series gives the hint of being unauthorized, as the Queen wants to keep silent and hidden, the skeletons in the closet, especially. The miseries of those around her, all of them, the parade of Prime Ministers, of 10 Downing St., her tortured relationships w Uncle Edward VIII, who was King for a mere 11 months in 1936, when he gave up the Throne, in order to marry his love of his life, one Wallis Simpson, who was at the time a divorced woman, and an American.  It was quite the scandal and he was banished to live the rest of his life in Paris, w Wallis. Or her scandalous rivalry w her own son who would be King one day, Charles…as she has to be dead for him to accede to the title of Sovereign. She is now 94 yrs old, still practicing her role. And of course mercurial sister Margaret, who wanted to be Queen, or at least be given some important role in the family, which she was mostly denied. And delays in matters of love, as to dates of marriage, or to grant such, due to political considerations, and the role of Head of the Church of England…conflicts. And of course cheating on both sides, Margaret and her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones, Earl of Snowden. What happiness? No wonder they smoke. Let’s be done w this life already!!

It’s like being trapped in a gilded cage, w duties, constant paparazzi trying to photograph u, being in any way not staid, boring. Imagine true love being thwarted, because u have to uphold a role as eventual King or Queen, and your model is Queen Elizabeth, now Sovereign since 1952, and it’s 2020 now…and be quiet, button your lips, accept your fate. NO HAPPINESS 4 U!! U R THE HEIR APPARENT TO THE THRONE…ACCEPT YOUR FATE! SHUT UP! STAY MARRIED NO MATTER WHAT…well, Charles and Diana did divorce…and eventually, tragedy struck, and would it have, had they stayed miserably together?? We will never know. In 1997, August 31st, in Paris, France, Princess Diana died tragically, at age 36, in a drunken car crash, by a chauffeur, being chased by the paparazzi. That’s coming up in season 4 of The Crown. I wept then, when it happened, England’s Rose she was, and a very great woman, who left her mark on her two beautiful but still young sons, William and Harry. Also 2 grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II.

Yup, I’ll be eating up The Crown, as an apt American of English ancestry. I know which great grandmother was actually born and raised in London, in a wealthy home. Her picture is here in my home, her and her husband Sam, married to the former Fannie Krieger, now married as Fannie Bergner…my maternal grandmother’s parents. She died in the year of my birth, Fannie, 1964, same year as Prince Edward, who is of course, my own age, as well, the youngest of Queen Elizabeth’s 4 children. I met up w her spirit in London even, and she was pleased one of her many great grandchildren had made it to her place of origin. And so it goes on and on…from 3 surviving daughters came 6 grandchildren, then 14 great grandchildren…and it balloons from there, even tho many of those great grandchildren became dead ends, including me, as no children were given to several of us.

IMG_5573What was unknown to me was also surprisingly, that Camilla Parker-Bowles had herself chosen her first husband to be NOT Charles, even tho he was quite besotted w her, and wanted her, knowing her to be THE ONE, upon their meeting and having a romance as young people, but they were thwarted by behind the scenes machinations of other relatives…Yet, she did love, but not enough, and she was obsessed w another man, the aforementioned Parker-Bowles…and so, Charles was left needing a consort, as the eventual King, and so to produce those crucial heirs to the Throne, so Diana Spencer fit the role and met muster of the Queen. So goes English Royal History, life in the gilded cage, a fishbowl, no one would likely choose, preferring ordinary anonymity…not being chased in a tunnel, ravenous photographers, looking 4 illicit relationships, gossip…and death, before your time. RIP, The People’s Princess, Diana. We loved u!

In Memory of Mama Harriett

Death visits, and I write, only days later, because it did. The lady who was 67 did in fact not beat the 80% against odds of living…but happily, without knowledge, someone coughed up the money so she doesn’t go to Potter’s Field. She will be laid next to her younger sister, in a dual plot they got back in 2016, last minute purchase. When someone dies, I inevitably go back to my mom. She was a towering figure, and I remain her loving daughter, 4 eternity, even tho we live on separate planes of existence now.

I hear her spirit occasionally, as we were quite close, even tho quite different also. She was calling to me recently, “why don’t u get rid of that garbage mail, on the cart, I’ve been dead some nearly 6 years now!” And so it became a thought not entertained long, as it was rubbish, and someone nearly 6 years dead ought not have their paper rubbish clogging up space. I am a compulsive neatnik. The place has to be spic and span! And so, in my dealing w the shelves of junk on the cart, some envelopes were opened, to verify no sensitive information within, and a mere 2 envelopes survived the purge, as sentimental: 2 copies of a Community Center newsletter, signed by 2 of mom’s girlfriends there, who had reminisced about her vivacity, her party jolly, her dancing, even lasciviously, at times! Yeah, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, on that….

But on w it, Harriett would not have wanted to live much longer anyway, because she was an adherent, like I am, of quality of life being of supreme importance, well over quantity of life, as in longevity. What the bloody hell good is living a 100 years, only to become enfeebled, or functioning at a low level?! No, not 4 us. We’d just as soon be done w it, when the physical side of things, or the mental end of it, as in dementia, was too far advanced. And to know that u have dementia, and that it will take your personhood, all your memories, your faculties, your very physical functions, well, I don’t know many who would choose to be in that fate. So it’s entirely reasonable to want death, when u have such genetics. So it was w dear mama, whose father had it quite badly, among other co-morbidities (disabling conditions, concurrently occurring).

But Americans avoid such talk, and not many people will want to read my essay here, because it deals w an inconvenient truth. Let us have our Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary, and go on living and drinking, never mind tomorrow…No day but today! (A song from my beloved show, Rent). We saw that show on Broadway at least 4 times already. We were enraptured, transported, from the original cast, 1996 onward….and I went w mom, and 2 of my dearest life friends, John and Maria. They came too, and we were all uplifted then, dissecting the characters and songs, lamenting Jonathan Larson, the playwright composer of score, who died at age 36, before it reached Broadway…alas!

Maria is the one who lost her sister, and by way of being a long time family friend, of course I knew her elder sister. And then when someone I know dies, I go back in time, in memory, and feel the whisper of the wind against my cheek, and see the clouds parting, and perhaps a blue jay is spotted, because pollution is down due to a drastic traffic reduction….and her spirit is w me, and consoles me, and I just go thru the catalog of my life w Maria, and Anna, the times we traveled, and did my mom know her? Yes, of course. We used to say some critical things about her character, but death is the great equalizer. No more shit talk anymore, respect 4 the dead! Even if they r no better than a mass murderer or serial rapist. Not saying that about Anna! No. Just by way of example.

When someone passes, i imagine my mom as part of the Greeting Committee at the Pearly Gates, w a clipboard full of significant acts of the deceased, that she will have 2 answer 4, before admittance to Paradise. But in this case, i am merely imagining: my mom would not have that job. Hell no! She’d be the young belly dancer in a cafe in Morocco, w lush curls and flowing brown hair, looking like I Dream of Jeannie. Well, she did perform 4 an admiring crowd at Tango bar, Tropicana Hotel, Atlantic City, NJ, at 70something years of age, and she could still whip those hips, man. Hips Don’t Lie was another favorite, Shakira…And she got applause too. We used to dance and get money thrown at us, in Paradise Nightclub, 80’s Trax, in Disney, Orlando. Yup, a good life.

So go on, dance and sing, even if u really have no voice rhythm, because it’s late, and man o man, Harriett would have had the biggest shit fit of Eternity in this here pandemic. John even said so, boy Marsha, r u lucky or what?! She could never take this isolation and quarantine. She lived 4 the crowd! And if u r alone, be glad, it’s better than a sonnamabeech (son of a bitch, Italian accent) driving u crazy day and night!

Happy Mother’s day in Heaven, dear mama. U cashed out your chips at the right time.

The Time Machine, no, not HG Wells…

If u could time travel, would u?

Fond of sci-fi, I am, and dreaming what ifs….

Creativity in midnight hours, insomnia, a burst of shouting I am here, still, but 4 my beating heart! The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allen Poe, comes 2 mind, even tho read eons ago. He had a home in the Bronx too. Very ordinary and spare, in what is known as Poe Park, near E. Kingsbridge Rd.

Methinks the would-be time traveler wants escape from dreary daily existence, present time frame. Jokes abound: do not set car engine 2 2020, Delorean car in Back to the Future! U really don’t want 2 be here! Yikes. At least Michael J. Fox is still alive.

Would u have the gumption 2 time travel 2 the future of now?? Confront the Armageddon in progress? Too dramatic? OK. We r making headway in the statistics now, and vaccine development is feverish, worldwide, literally. We flattened the curve. We make time 4 what’s important, varying our daily activities.

But I see bread lines, lines snaking around the block of the nearest pharmacy, limited hours, food pantries overflowing w the needy, and insufficient 2 meet demand, despite platitudes from the Mayor, Hizzoner we call him. Most businesses still shuttered as my roots grow in, and I have not the eyes in the back of my head 2 see my roots back there, so no hope 4 an even handed hair dye job, which is coming on the 2 month mark of necessity….I have literally NEVER dyed my own hair, because I know that it’d come out badly, w roots still showing, in back. Haven’t got anyone 2 do it 4 me either; hairdresser locked down too. No pedicure 4 u!!

I can cut toenails and polish them, but that does not a pedicure make. And it’ll be hot out soon, necessitating that finished look…4 who? Will they see your toes on the ZOOM screen? Nope. No one 2 see, nothing 2 do, but your own create an activity daily, at home…Waiting interminably 4 what?

Nah, I’d not go on my time travel journey 2 the future, hell no! Better the past, as I am aware that the past had some things going 4 it, if not the internet and video chats, ZOOM, young people gaming on consoles, in competition, maybe dreaming of being a sponsored channel, making money even! We used 2 hang together in pizza parlors, chewing the fat…talking and singing, practice dance moves at the community center, learn darkroom photography, yeah, “those were the days, my friend! We thought they’d never end…” I can hear the tune in my mind of that song.

Maybe go back 2 pre-industrial days, density of population way less, farms and dirt roads, the occasional house, and hitching post 4 your horses and carriage…clean air. Today u can still see that, a semblance of it, in Amish Country, Pennsylvania, w those farmers wearing their duds, long gray beards, ladies in little hats, homespun, dresses long, beneath the knees, making these incredible hand spun quilts, they take months 2 make, and r beautiful. Mennonites permit the usage of electricity and a phone at home, but other parts of the Amish do not. And their cooking is just extraordinary too.

Family style dinners 4 20 and up, and reasonably priced. Went all about such area one summer not too long ago, but u lose track, as every day feels endless. “Sunrise, sunset, quickly go the years…” Another song I hear in my mind. Music played a central role in my life.

I have 2 go back to being born in the late 1940’s, w the beginning of the Baby Boom era, because we were going 2 change the world, and did. Ask the millennials if we did a good job. Sure, griping, that climate change is boxing us in, and these same Boomers r cashing out on their lives soon…so no payback 2 them, but instead unfortunate future generations. Figure 120 degree heat in New York City, taps running dry, insufficient food, rising prices, scarcity, power outages because infrastructure was always a second thought…What of big city high rises, houses w 30-40 stories of people living up there, w no elevators??

Nope, going 2 the past I am, time traveler. Make a few Boomers disappear and change history, current. Or prevent someone’s parents from the crucial connection they made, just that, no sex, no this person! Easy, right? Tell my dad that my mom had a baby out of wedlock in 1957, gave it up 4 adoption, u can see the stretch marks, right? If so, my dad would have broken up w mom, and this essay wouldn’t exist, because neither would I.

But he didn’t see, and so was oblivious to that life secret, and so the connection was made. No undoing what is already here. Getting me a nice wood frame house, Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park, the Arch at the very beginning of 5th Avenue, at 8th St. The fountains, the lights, pushing a luggage thru the park one sultry fall night, 2 visit my friend at NYU, and a huge rat runs past me! Whoosh! I must have courage, didn’t scream, even tho it was quite big! We didn’t expect much, even a bed and breakfast was enough 2 make us happy, traipsing the Village, thinking Macdougal St and Bleecker St were our own Hollywood and Vine. Literary types in kaffeeklatsches, bars, Italian joints, it was a cornucopia of creativity in the 1980’s. CBGB, the Limelight, Red Parrot, Xenon, Danceteria, the Studio 54…Copacabana, slides, pillows, cushions, sex joints pre-AIDS (which arrived in 1981; I was an early bloomer).

Yup, 2 have lived in the past was the way 2 go. Big dreams, big fantasies, big boobs, long legs, brains and barbs, jokes and comedy, Saturday Night Live! Seeing stars on Broadway, up close, interacting w them even…the 70-somethings today were born in the 1940’s. Yeah, I’d time travel 2 be one of them, I would. Before the smoke got too dense in the current atmosphere. And I’d make different choices too. Do I get 2 hold onto my current brain and life history when I time travel?? Can I get a do over?

I made a list of Favorite Performers & Age at Death, because I am wondering where I fit in this paradigm. Who mattered 2 me in the Performing Arts? Happily, lots of my faves r still alive, but wearisome too, as so many have also passed. I am on #67 on my list so far. Who mattered 2 me? What criteria do we use, merely emotion towards their passing? Is this banal or creepy? Yup. People cannot accept the talk of death. Witness huge overflowing refrigerated trucks of the dead, outside hospitals and funeral homes. Even ones that aren’t refrigerated, undignified, stench rotting in the air, human remains…greedy morticians. U Haul trucks of the dead, sheesh!

I keep urging my one friend that she needs life insurance 4 herself, her husband and 80 something mother, plus the sister now intubated in critical care at the hospital, all w no money, and no insurance to pay 4 funerals when they come…It’s foolish 2 not see the inevitable, and consign the dead 2 Potter’s Field, 4 failure 2 plan. Just $9.95 per month I tell her, for a basic plan, Colonial Penn Life Insurance, maybe bare bones, but better than this situation. Payments made inside of a week, can be applied to burial costs, usually. I sound like a saleslady, chiding her 4 her irresponsibility. Do u know that unless u both have check writing privileges on a joint account, death freezes your funds? So u being a beneficiary will not pay 4 the funeral, as u need court approval 2 switch accounts over 2 your name….probate, many steps, and how do u pay the rent either, when the accounts r frozen upon death??

I know, having done several estates before this event, so I can be an information source on the problems, and how 2 avoid them. My friend has no such experience, even tho her dad has died, she wasn’t the one handling business after. So no frame of reference. Is uncomfortable w death, and won’t buy life insurance, even if desperately needed, 4 that funeral, her own plus others, coming all too soon. We live in a Pandemic now, and life is cheap. The sister on the ventilator hasn’t got a dime either, nor any life insurance. So mass grave 4 u, that which u didn’t plan 4 or want, and once there, no digging up the grave. No visitations either, as it’s unmarked, mass graves, seen on TV repeatedly, Hart Island with millions of lined caskets, stacked atop one another, w only a number on them. Seems grisly, that fate, that lack of planning. Once intubated, the stats say 80% that u die, and this woman is 67 years old, w many pre-existing medical conditions.

Maybe that woman would want 2 go back to The Time Machine too. Do it over again, maybe drop dead before the Pandemic. Funny how u can think the dead r the fortunate ones. But we r still living, and bemoaning living in these times, always saying it’s temporary, it’s coming out of it, reopening soon, going back 2 normal…But the science doesn’t support that. Science is hard 2 digest, so just feed me bits of bull, and I’ll make it through, thinking just tomorrow is all I need 2 make, even tho no one knows really how long, till normalcy, till theaters, restaurants full capacity, flying again…and toilet paper on the shelves too!

I’ll take my Flying Monkey w a pack of 12 rolls please! And can someone fix me a Sombrero too, that’s a Kahlua w milk, yummy! Just a drink b4 I go….

Life Burdens and Reflection

It is very odd to know that Armageddon is in progress, even as u r still living, living history, where the present and the future r converging. Of course, even as the modern life is imploding, there is also exquisite beauty. Just yesterday, only 289 deaths in New York State due to COVID-19, which is a new low, but still stubbornly high.

We take our good news in small doses, as of death rate slowed, new cases dipping, reduced hospitalizations, talk of reopening businesses, parks, thoroughfares however closing, in order to permit socially distanced ambulations. Schools all closed statewide. Colleges too, but 4 the few exceptions, of students for whom going home to do online distance learning isn’t feasible: international students with no flights to escape USA, bad domestic situations, where learning is an impossibility.

I am reminded of a home of close friends, a 1 bedroom walk up tenement, both parents aged, in order to be parenting a now 11 year old girl, where all 3 sleep in a tiny bedroom, where dresser drawers have insufficient space to open fully, and the space between the queen bed and the dresser is a scant 6 inches. In this bedroom, contagion flourished, twice this winter and spring: all influenza, strep throat and COVID-19, where the parents were particularly at risk because of pre-existing medical conditions. I gave at best a 25% likelihood of the father’s survival of COVID, but he beat the odds. And they own property, already in liens, due to non payment of maintenance, that they mostly can’t visit, as Atlantic City is shut down also, and food delivery is pretty much non-existent, as most businesses shut down. International properties too, inaccessible, as no international flights these days. U r trapped in your home country, whether u want 2 be or not.

One bedrooms w tiny cramped kitchens, insufficient cabinet space, doors ajar, not enough closets, overflowing clothes on floors, on furniture, no linen closet w shelves, no built in light fixtures, no wiring 4 them, no separate outlets to allow 4 safe operation of an air conditioner, so u hook up to an extension cord, which is not advised, due to high voltage, and then risk of fire…life is cheap in tenements. I know, I grew up in one, north Bronx, long trapped after all friends left, and riff raff moved in, the drug gangs, even the Guardian Angels, whom the community had to pay to support, w food and rent.

I know from poverty, and commiserate. Even tho my father’s family was rich, and they doled out crumbs to me and my mom, by virtue of the inevitable divorce. It went on and on, over many years, w me only escaping to college, away from home, and then struggling to make a living, in occupations not valued enough by society, like now applauded nightly, 7pm, the health care providers on the front lines, risking their lives, even teachers, whom now parents have some idea how hard it is to control children en masse, day in, day out, in your house, w need 4 help, online learning…not in person in a classroom. These were my two principal life occupations, and no, they were never valued enough, not then, not even now, by financial compensation and benefits anyway.

I couldn’t escape the Bronx until the inheritance came in, the first part of it, when my father died, in 2010, December. 1st priority was to escape, as my lungs were already damaged by the asbestos exposure, peeling paint, garbage incinerations over many years, soot in air, now moved in w me, on my oil paintings, one of which was damaged by moving. Numbers 2, 4 and 6 fuel oils in tenement heating systems, belching thick pollution, add in environmental racism also, by virtue of a protested water filtration plant, sited just a half mile from my then home on Tryon Avenue, which had attached to it an Environmental Impact Statement that listed an increase in the 1 mile radius death rate due to respiratory causes, directly related to building said filtration plant. Asthma was already endemic to the area, due to this same environmentally based racism. I testified in public hearings against this filtration plant, to no avail. Built it, it was.

In October 2011, we had done the necessary steps to get me a home that was not only large enough 4 me and my mom, but also safe, and it had handicapped accessibility, which prior housing did not have. An aging mother w ambulatory difficulties was a problem we needed relief from also. She deserved better than life had given her, previously. She paid for her sins in full way before. And so, it was a comfort to me that my mom spent the last 3 years of her life in comfort and safety, in Queens, away from what had plagued us before in the Bronx. And so we moved over a period  of three weeks, from the Bronx to Queens, in the City of New York, and sold the cooperative apartment in the Bronx, some time after, a few months later.

However the damage was done, as u can leave the Bronx, but the Bronx never leaves u, when u have lung damage that is permanent. And in the time of COVID-19, w maladaptive coping mechanisms of the past, which result in stubborn obesity, and then long standing high blood pressure, suboptimal cholesterol, permanent disability issues, also, due to prior occupations, back trouble, among other things, those lungs, living in epicenter New York City, Queens, which is the highest rate within NYC…u can see the writing on the wall. Prepare 4 death, and warn your next of kin, even while u pray, and accept your fate. So I write and record more, while I still have breath, and ability to speak, and I call and video chat, lamenting my existence. Yes, I have had a good run of it, but I just know, in my bones, that I will be a statistic in this long war.

I have also done good 4 others, all through it all, so I am satisfied. Don’t Cry 4 me, Argentina! It’s been fabulous at times, but all good things come to an end. I wrote up instructions for those next of kin, should the worst happen. I always try to minimize the problems 4 others. I also wrote out when I last saw these friends, in every single case, of my core people. I mean in person, not video chat. I especially miss touching people, as that is now verboten, even the hug, the chaste kiss. And being touched, for that matter. Even in a massage. That too has disappeared due to COVID. I remind myself that I had 2 massages on vacation on the ship though, early March. So not too long ago, even tho it feels interminably long. When u live without a soul in your home, alone, and COVID makes it impossible to see people in person, it weighs on u.

What were u living 4 before?? The socializations w friends, in person, eating out, playing, walking, taking pictures, traveling, all plans canceled, or postponed, shows, theaters, concerts, doing good deeds, contributing by blog, writing, reading, learning, exercising, cooking, making plans all through this year and next…all taken, or postponed, time indefinite, pending availability of a widely disseminated vaccine of prevention, and an effective treatment for those infected. Now, my hope is against all hope that I have encountered COVID and been infected asymptomatically, that I have antibodies, even tho I doubt it, given my fragility and health status. It would be a miracle to have antibodies in my case, just by being in a hot zone, or just off a ship that was implicated in the infection, JUST AFTER I LEFT THE SHIP! EXPLORER OF THE SEAS WAS IDENTIFIED AS A SHIP OF PROBABLE CONTAGION ON THE CRUISE JUST AFTER MINE, WHICH ENDED ON MARCH 8TH, 2020. 

I flew same day, on a packed flight, American Airlines, March 8th. From Miami, FL. I got home just in time to get supplies, prepare a nice lunch for my dear friends, who hadn’t been to my house in some 6 years preceding. It was way past due, and we had planned it weeks ahead. So I was able to find my supplies in order to pull it off. And we did not socially distance during that visit, thankfully. We stayed in, and I walked them to their car, just outside my house. That will likely be the last I see of them in person in this life, even tho I hope not. When will it be safe enough to open restaurants, open those crucial public rest rooms, which I need proximity to, at all times…or go visit people, for fear of spreading contagion, because no one knows who is a carrier, silent, w no symptoms?

And 4 me, I am hi risk, so I really shouldn’t be going out anyway, 4 my own protection. Multiple co-morbidities we call it, or basically toast I am. I go out only close by, and ascertain where there is a bathroom I can use, if not in the restaurants open only 4 take out or delivery…Only Costco has allowed public access. I can’t stand in long lines either, due to my back, and my obesity. Nope. I have a card which says Disabled. I show it, and some employees give me flack 4 it, saying everyone has to stand on line…but I explain myself, and usually get access. I should have a walker w a chair attached to sit on. Especially now. I resist it tho. Probably vain, another failing.

My lungs r so bad that wearing a mask is problematic too, to breathe wearing it, but I do it, to protect others, even if it’s uncomfortable and hot 4 me. My 1st concern is 4 others, not 4 myself. And that comforts me, that I am that person. I will make Heaven, even despite my faults. Because that is the meaning of my life. I put other people first, always. That is my legacy when this ends, either 4 me, or 4 all of us, collectively. I pray the latter, because I still want to do some things remaining.

And I want some birthday cake w my people! In Scandinavia even! Somewhere exotic, never before seen. Not in person anyway. I will likely make my 56th birthday, which is in 9 days. I plan to ZOOM myself to my peeps that day because in person is still too dangerous. And I want a husband too! That is my last wish, a good man, to love and not be afraid and alone, so often. But easier said than done. Same 4 making friends in other places, not epicenter NYC: very hard to do, and make it stick. So where can I go and what can I do?

Well, complaining is an epidemic too, especially in my personal culture. Wah!!!