Vingt-Huit

“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping.  You probably can’t.  You know the month, the year, the day of the week.  There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car.  You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie.  Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late.  A dog does not check its watch.  Deer do not fret over passing birthdays.  Human alone measures time.  Man alone chimes the hour.  And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures.  A fear of time running out.” ~ Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper

Today is the 28th day of the quarantine for me.  Today is also Easter Sunday for the Roman Catholics and the Christians.

Yesterday was also my 49th birthday.

It is difficult to not feel despair and hopelessness during these uncertain times.  A general wave of gloom and irritation washed over me yesterday, and it was not lost on those who called to greet me a happy birthday.

One of my friends texted to wish me a happy birthday, and she asked, “What are you going to do today?

I was not angry with her at all, but I knew my response was snippy and mean as soon as I hit the  SEND button.

I’m going clubbing tonight.  Wtf do you think I am going to do?  My choices are limited to what side of the couch I am going to sit today, or what part of the apartment I will spend my day.”

I felt badly for being so bitchy, so I picked up the phone and called her.  She also felt badly and we talked about some of the difficulties she is facing in her own life with this COVID crisis.

As a little bit of a treat, I ordered pizza and seafood linguine from one of the few neighborhood restaurants that are still open for delivery.  For dessert, we had carrot cake that I defrosted from my Omaha Steaks order that was delivered on Thursday.  It was not the best birthday celebration, but neither was it the worst.  We just have to make do with what we have, right?  And always remain grateful no matter what.

Twenty

I was tired of doing much the same thing everyday. My friends pursued their course with uneventfulness; they had no longer any surprises for me, and when I met them I knew pretty well what they would say; even their love-affairs had a tedious banality. We were like tram-cars running on their lines from terminus to terminus, and it was possible to calculate within small limits the number of passengers they would carry. Life was ordered too pleasantly. I was seized with panic. I gave up my small apartment, sold my few belongings, and resolved to start afresh.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence

I just finished the twentieth day of isolation/quarantine.  I did not leave the house this entire week.  The CV situation has reached a devastating level – over 3,500 have died already, with over 680 deaths in a 24 hour period.

I went outside today, only the third time in the twenty days that I have been in isolation.  It was a quick stop to the food market, and when I saw that the line was wrapped around the corner, I headed back home.  It took all of twenty minutes.

I have to admit that I had a hard time this week.  I know – I am not the only one.   This has been rough on everyone.  I still feel grateful in my heart that I am working and that my family is safe and healthy.  But if I am being honest, being grateful does not mean that I cannot hate being in what feels like house arrest, and feel anxiety for the uncertain future that we all face.

G was so bored this week that she cut her own hair.  Surprisingly, it turned out quite nice.  I was not happy at first that she did that, but after some thought, I realized that she has had to adjust to this quarantine life, and if something as innocent as cutting her own hair makes her feel better, than how can I be mad at that?

I dreamt last night of G.  She was younger in my dream, maybe six or seven.  I was standing in my living room, aware of the chaos outside, and saw that she had sneaked outside to play.  Behind her, as she was blissfully unaware of her surroundings, a Neanderthal-looking man was swinging around his firearm.  I screamed through the glass sliding door for her to come inside, but it was as if she could not hear me or the Neanderthal circling around her.  I frantically kept screaming for her to come inside, and I woke up right as the Neanderthal was about to close in on her.

 

Arithmós Dekatria

“There are many who don’t wish to sleep for fear of nightmares. Sadly, there are many who don’t wish to wake for the same fear.” ~ Richelle Goodrich, Dandelions: The Disappearance of Annabelle Fancher

I’ve lost count, but I’m pretty sure today is day 13.  Days 9 through 12 were uneventful and were spent inside the apartment, working eleven hour days and not much else.

I ventured outside today and ran to the store to get some essentials.  The streets were even more empty today than they were last week.  I actually walked on the street rather than the sidewalk and kept a considerable distance from other people.  Nearly everyone on the streets and inside the supermarket had masks.

The supermarket shelves were also more sparse than last week.  It was a sad, sad spectacle.  There was not even one roll of toilet paper to be bought.  The frozen vegetable freezers were also empty, with the exception of maybe two bags of frozen peas and frozen corn stuck together.  I thought to take a picture of the empty shelves, but then decided against it.  This is not something that I ever want to see again, and I really did not want to document this, not even for posterity.

In the end, I was able to only buy one package of chicken, two bottles of water, and one small bag of rice.  Even with that paltry amount of groceries, I felt thankful that I was able to get anything at all.

It started to rain on my walk home from the market, and I suddenly had the urge to burst into tears.  Not because of the rain, but because as I looked around at the empty streets and at the other people walking the street, I could see the level of fear and despair in their eyes, and I could tell from their gait that like I, they were feeling like this is the end of the world as we knew it.

Szám Hat

“This is a good place,” he said.

“There’s a lot of liquor,” I agreed. ~ Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Day 6.

It was a good day.    The official “lockdown” of New York City begins on Sunday, March 22, so kind of as a last hurrah, I accompanied a friend into midtown.  She had to drive another friend who is a cleaning maid for one of the buildings in the city.  She had time to kill while she waited for her friend to finish her work, so I took the opportunity to go to my office to pick up a few files.

The city was empty.  Not deserted, but empty for its usual standards.  According to Wikipedia, “approximately 330,000 people pass through Times Square daily, many of them tourists, while over 460,000 pedestrians walk through Times Square on its busiest days.”  As we passed by it yesterday, there were less than fifty people there, and this is a generous count.

My building was also empty, with the exception of the armed police in the front, and the man at the security desk.  I took the elevator upstairs to my floor, and when I stepped out of the elevator, I was assaulted by the antiseptic smell and blinded by the brilliance of the shining floor and light fixtures.  I don’t want to say that they went overboard with the cleaning, but well, they really did go overboard.  It smelled like a hospital, and the extreme brightness of the lights gave me an eerie feeling of a mental institution, or what I would imagine a mental institution would be like.

I went into my office and picked up a few files and folders to take home.  I felt sad when I  was leaving and wondered to myself as to when I would be back again.

After her friend was finished with work, we thought to brave the grocery stores.  We drove to about five different stores and all of them had long lines wrapped around the corner.  To the crowd’s credit, they all practiced social distancing and everyone stood a few feet apart from each other.

We didn’t feel like waiting in the long lines, so we decided to just go into a Walgreen’s.  I had already done my necessary shopping earlier this week, so I only ended up buying some plastic ice cube trays and a bag of chips.  Our next stop before heading home was a little Vietnamese sandwich shop where we were allowed to enter only one person at a time.  I ordered a pork belly sandwich to go.  Next door was a wine shop where again, we we were only allowed to enter one person at a time.  I bought two bottles of Prosecco and then went home.

No exercise for me today.  I opted instead to catch up with my cousin in Chicago and went to bed early.  I’m saving the Prosecco for a rainy day.

Quinto Giorno

“Human beings are so destructive.  I sometimes think we’re a kind of plague, that will scrub the earth clean.  We destroy things so well that I sometimes think, maybe that’s our function. Maybe every few eons, some animal comes along that kills off the rest of the world, clears the decks, and lets evolution proceed to its next phase.” ~ Michael Crichton, The Lost World

Fifth day.

Because I didn’t do any panic buying, I was forced to go to the store today.  I had to buy a few essentials so I went around noon.  The streets were not exactly empty, but they were not as populated as they would be normally.  I received a few nasty looks and one woman at the store grimaced when she saw me, and she purposely made a dramatic turn to walk as far away from me as the store aisle would allow.  At first I told myself that it was just all in my insecure head, but when she allowed others to walk close by her, I knew that I was not being overly sensitive.

Because of this virus, most people either hate, fear, or blame the Chinese/Asians, or maybe a combination of all three.

As I was walking down the street, I suddenly became aware of my Asian-ness.  I felt a bit frightened when I saw a group of teens walking in my direction.  I had just heard of an Asian couple who got stomped by a group of teens on the subway platform in Philadelphia.  Their motive: they are angry at the Chinese/Asians for this virus that has become pandemic.

I quite imagined that I was feeling very similar to how Jewish people felt during WWII in Germany (but of course not as extreme): scared of being negatively identified simply by the color of your skin, the slant of your eye, or the religion that you believe.

I was both relieved when I returned home but also anxious for when I will need to go back out again and possibly face more prejudice.

This afternoon, my cousin texted me an article of how dolphins and swans had returned to Venice Canal amidst the quarantine, and although the article has since been debunked, the reports that the Canal has improved is not untrue.  The mayor of Venice did state to reporters that “the air is less polluted since there are fewer vaporetti and boat traffic than usual because of the restricted movement of residents.”

I consider that a small win for Mother Earth.

Here are some photos of beautiful Venice from my trip nearly three years ago:

Sending all my love to you, Italy.  Forza Italia.

Numara Dört

“I wonder if rooms in an insane asylum have Do Not Disturb signs for the doors. I should hope not, because knock or no knock, every occupant in those rooms is already disturbed.” ~ Jarod Kintz, The Days of Yay are Here! Wake Me Up When They’re Over

Day 4.  I was itching to go outside today, but the grayness of the day convinced me that it was best to stay indoors.  I was happy that I listened to my inner thoughts because awhile after that decision, I heard a man screaming outside in the street in front of my building.  The sounds coming from him were unintelligible.  It was unclear if he was singing loudly, rapping loudly, or just making guttural noises.  I looked out through my window and saw that he was moving spastically on the sidewalk, almost like a toddler first learning to walk.  His face was in a grimace as if he were in pain, but he also appeared angry, and his arms were flailing, seemingly punching something unseen in front of him.  He did this for a few minutes, and then he continued down the street, the sound of his battle cry fading into a hum.

Tonight I hung on the pull-up bar and did reverse crunches.  I’m starting to get callouses on my palms, and I like it.

Nummer Drei

It is best to erase all personal history because that makes us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people.  I have, little by little, created a fog around me and my life.  And now nobody knows for sure who I am or what I do.  Not even I.  How can I know who I am, when I am all this?” ~ Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan

Day 3.  I felt grateful today to be at home.  My stomach had been bothering me all morning, such that I had to run to the bathroom a few times.  It was a good day to be grateful for what I have.  I live in a beautiful pre-war apartment in New York City and with the freedom to empty my insides and clean up myself afterwards.  I thought of all the poor and homeless people who don’t have such luxuries that I do, and I immediately felt ashamed for my attitude the last two days.  Hopefully I’ll remember this at day 27 or even at day 192.  I mean who knows how long this health crisis will last, right?  I just have to keep reminding myself that I am truly one of the lucky ones, and that boredom really is the problem of the privileged.

I had another busy work day today.  I sat down to work at 8:30 a.m. and didn’t stop working until 11:00 p.m. (except for a few bathroom breaks and a quick 15 minute break to eat dinner).  After work, I forced myself to do some leg exercises.

For those of you who have been reading me from the beginning (2003!), you might have noticed that I’ve deleted (hidden) my prior posts.  Before I started this home quarantine, I archived all my old posts, which totaled nearly five hundred.  It was an emotional roller coaster reading through them.  Some posts made me cringe, some made me laugh, and a few more made me cry.  My only wish after having read them is that I should have written more.  There was a stretch of a few years when I wrote nothing.   Not one word.  I remember what I was doing during those years, but I cannot say for certain how I was doing.  Feelings fade and memories are fickle.  I wish I had my own words to give an accurate portrayal of those lost years.

I hid my past posts because I wanted to start a new chapter of my life.  A clean sheet.  A fresh start.

Little did I know that life truly would be forever different.  Welcome to the black plague of the modern world.

Numero Dos

“Reality continues to ruin my life.” ~ Bill Watterson, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes 

Today was slightly better than yesterday.  I actually left the apartment and went downstairs to the mail area.  My shipment of canned goods had arrived as well as G’s bags of hot cheetos.

It’s a sad state of affairs when that becomes the highlight of your day.

The mayor announced that a “shelter in place” order may be put into effect.  That would mean that movement would be limited to people with essential jobs like police officers, firefighters, and health care workers.  It would require people to largely stay at home except for essential activities and it would forbid people who do not live in the same house from gathering anywhere.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been thinking about Anne Frank a lot lately.  I keep thinking about how she and her family were holed up in the secret annex.  She was in hiding for 761 days.  She had written about how she considered Sunday the most miserable day of the week.

“I wander from one room to the next, down the stairs and back up again and feel like a songbird that has had its wings torn off and flies against the bars of its cage in total darkness.”

Meanwhile, I’m only at day 2 and I feel as if I am crawling out of my skin.

To keep my mental health in check, I decided to focus more on my physical health.   Yesterday, I exercised my arms, and today, I exercised my core.

My goal is to come out of this isolation with a ripped body.

Day 1 of What Feels Like Forever

“Everybody is waiting for the end to come, but what if it already passed us by? What if the final joke of Judgment Day was that it had already come and gone and we were none the wiser? Apocalypse arrives quietly; the chosen are herded off to heaven, and the rest of us, the ones who failed the test, just keep on going, oblivious. Dead already, wandering around long after the gods have stopped keeping score, still optimistic about the future.” ~ Jonathan Nolan, Memento Mori

Today (now yesterday) was day 1 of isolation in New York City.  Schools are closed until April 20.  Offices have imposed mandatory work-from-home policies.  Restaurants are open only for delivery or take-out.  People have panicked and have emptied store shelves of basic necessary items such as toilet paper, canned goods, and frozen vegetables.

Words like social-distancing and self-quarantine are the most used terms in recent weeks.  Travel to nearly every point on this planet is banned.

Life as we knew it came to a screeching halt.

We didn’t step out of the apartment today.  I woke up early and made my bed.  I showered and went straight to work in my living room.  I spent nearly ten hours straight working on my computer, stopping only for a few minutes for bathroom breaks, and to quickly boil some pasta and whip up some sauce.  We’ll probably eat that all week.  The television stayed off all day.  I heard the kids in nearby apartments playing video games.  Another kid was practicing piano, playing the same Christmas tune over and over and over again as though he or she did not know any other songs to play.  My upstairs neighbors, who I hear on a daily basis, were also home all day too, their heavy footsteps seemingly becoming louder and louder as the day progressed.

At 10:30 p.m., I finally got up and did a few arm exercises with my kettle bell and hand weights.  I turned on Pretty in Pink and watched some of that.

Has it really only been one day of isolation?

2020

“Every period of human development has had its own particular type of human conflict—its own variety of problem that, apparently, could be settled only by force.  And each time, frustratingly enough, force never really settled the problem.  Instead, it persisted through a series of conflicts, then vanished of itself—what’s the expression—ah, yes, ‘not with a bang, but a whimper,’ as the economic and social environment changed.  And then, new problems, and a new series of wars.” ~ Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

I had high hopes for the start of this new decade.  This past decade, while better than the one before that, was still a period of my life that I was ready to leave behind.  It was a decade marred by loss and misplaced expectations, broken hearts and shattered dreams.  But, by the end of the decade, I grieved over everything I had endured and lost, took all my baggage, turned it over, and dumped it all out.  I was ready to start fresh this year, this decade, and then..

… the coronavirus hit.

Life has changed dramatically all throughout the globe.  The world is at war, but the enemy cannot be seen.  Biological warfare.  The virus is silent and deadly, and as of now, there is no known cure.  

Entire nations have instituted lockdowns.  Sporting events have all been cancelled.  Broadway has gone dark.  Schools and colleges have closed campuses.  Stores and malls have been shut.  Many offices have instituted remote work from home.

We had planned to visit the Philippines for Easter and to visit my aging parents.  Yesterday, the Philippine president issued a lockdown in Manila.  I may enter the country, but then I’ll be quarantined in Manila for two weeks.

This morning, I went to the market to do my normal weekly food shopping.  The shelves were nearly empty as panic-buying apparently started two days ago.  The streets were nearly empty though, as many people are fearful to step outside their homes.

Anger and hatred towards Asians increased exponentially, especially here in New York City.  Earlier this week, I was on the subway platform waiting for my train to go to work.  A man screamed in my face as I walked down the platform, “It’s your people’s fault!”  I was fortunate that I was only verbally assaulted.  Some have not been as fortunate.  A twenty-three year old Chinese woman was walking near the Empire State Building when another woman punched her in her face simply for being Chinese, and earlier in the month, a Chinese man was pushed and sprayed with lysol while being berated for being Chinese.

It has been such a dark and tumultuous start to the new decade.  The decade is already looking so bleak.