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Confronting a Downward Spiral: Life, Loss and Sadness in NYC During Covid-19

With more businesses closing daily, the hospitality and entertainment industries crippled, and an uncertain political situation, life has become a daily drama

Barneys NYC, a retail casualty. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Many of us in NYC are now beginning to wonder if our pre-pandemic life may ever return. This ‘new normal’ may become our future. It’s the waiting that has paralyzed some of us with fears of the unknown. My hopes for the future are clear, I simply want a world in which science is led by scientists, health care is an entitlement for all who live in this country, and the environment to be managed by panels of experts educated to combat global warming.

Reflecting on my life so far, I’d say that I’ve been dealt far greater blows than what we’re going through now: the loss of both parents – my Dad after a 6-year battle from suffering a stroke, my Mother due to the loss of her most ardent caregiver. I cannot compare either of these life-altering events to the current climate in NYC, but suffice it to say, there is a cloud of sadness casting a shadow on us all.  A sorrow that I feel every time I leave my apartment.

Dean & DeLuca. Photo: Archipanic

For starters, and perhaps not the most serious but still, emblematic of what many New Yorkers crave, is the inbred need to shop. So, the death of many retailers has hit us hard. Century 21, the beloved discount retailer, is the latest casualty, along with others with an equally long and prominent place in our lives. I’ve just read that Lord & Taylor would be closing all of its branch stores; the flagship on Fifth Avenue at 38th closed its doors several years ago, along with Barneys. The quintessentially New York food emporium of Dean & Deluca was also a serious loss. The list seems to grow hourly.  These decisions to close shop seem the most visible and deepest cut to the familiar landscape of New York city’s retail industry.  Adding insult to injury, is the sight of these long-lost havens boarded up.

The now-defunct Lord & Taylor, beloved for its Christmas windows and displays. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The losses are all related to the tragic and devastating Covid-19 pandemic, which is still alive and continuing to wreak havoc in our lives. As had been predicted, cooler weather has brought us a spike in numbers of infections, mostly in states that either never had, or that have lifted precautionary restrictions.  There are also religious zealots who are adamantly opposed to following the rules and flout them with impunity.  And let us never forget the base of Trump supporters refusing to wear masks and spreading their evil and ignorant germs proudly.

How much longer are we willing to sit back until science provides a vaccine? For most clear-thinking people, the time it will take is irrelevant, as we remain fearful of spreading this ‘tsunami’ knowingly. So, our path to freedom lies in the hands of scientists and pharmaceutical companies who are working diligently to find a safe and reliable vaccine. When that hope is fulfilled, we’ll be able to resume life as we knew it. But many of us in NYC are now beginning to wonder if our pre-pandemic life may ever return. This ‘new normal’ may become our future.  It’s the waiting that has paralyzed some of us with fears of the unknown.

I was recently invited to cover an exhibit at Magazzino Italian Art Foundation in Cold Spring, New York. What would ‘normally’ be viewed as a wonderful opportunity to explore this part of New York, as well as to preview the exhibit Bochner Boetti Fontana, turns out to be an event I may need to postpone. This decision is based solely on the concerns that we currently have about train travel.  In life before Covid-19, I was eager and at the ready to accept invitations such as this, and did so on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, we have been forced to rethink attending social engagements of all kinds—even professional ones– for the foreseeable future.

The list of life-changes grows, as I am currently at a crossroad with a need to make a decision regarding my participation in real estate sales as well. As the regulations mandated by REBNY make clear, in order to show an apartment, the real estate associate must arrive with Swiffer, mop, Windex and other cleaning tools in hand.  Apparently, in addition to the task of showing and representing properties, we have now also added housekeeping on our resume!  A job title I am not ready to include. That, along with the changes in the real estate market, the downturn in sales, and the ever growing exodus out of the city, has added to my dilemma.

McDonald’s at 42 Street, now also closed. Photo: Flickr

As if this spiral was not plummeting rapidly enough, we are on the cusp of one of the single most important presidential elections of our lifetime. As I’ve written previously, I remain optimistic that Joe Biden’s lead will remain strong until November 3rd.  But whether he wins or loses, the aftermath of the election may be monumental: judging from the chasm existing between Trump’s base and the ‘rest’ of the sane nation, the potential for crime and utter chaos in the streets is highly possible. If, in fact, this hypothetical war within our country becomes a reality, we could presumably be held hostage in our homes. If that were to happen, I would seriously consider other options, as for example, leaving the States.  I welcome suggestions.

My hopes for the future are clear, I simply want a world in which science is led by scientists, health care that is a right for all who live in this country, and the environment to be managed by panels of experts educated to combat global warming, and who can deal with the ramifications that have ensued.  The decision to overturn Roe v Wade is no longer just a conversation, with Trump’s nomination of conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, it may become another sad reality. My fervent hope is that Joe Biden should elect brilliant minds to guide him as he appoints his administration, during his term(s) in office.  If these wishes are granted, I am reasonably sure this cloud of sadness will be lifted and I may even start to enjoy New York.

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