it's pissing rain, as the missus would say, but i hollered from the balcony tonight for #ClapBecauseWeCare (and felt like a real fool for getting rid of the vuvuzela i brought home from my sister's wedding years ago). traffic whooshing down the drive along the river made it difficult to hear folks who were more than a building or two away, but it felt good. last night someone cranked "new york, new york" out the window as i was walking home from the store and i cried into my n95 mask.

if i had the mask thing to do over again (we found a three-pack in the bug-out bag my stepfather gifted us for christmas a few years ago; "i want you to live!"), i'd have sent ours to a local hospital. we've known for about a week that coronavirus is in our building, but i worry more for our elderly and immunocompromised neighbors than i do for us; as far as i know, we're youngish, healthyish. we cracked into them, though, and have been wearing them on grocery and pharmacy runs, along with some gloves i bought ages ago when our hands still felt things and we were dicing a lot of habanero peppers. C, a retired teacher two floors down from us who gave me a key to her apartment and occasionally asks me to collect her mail when she travels, asked for farmer cheese, wheat bread that's 70 calories a slice (remember when bread was a thing you could buy?), and three cans of pineapple chunks in juice; i am dying to know if she's making sandwiches down there, but i couldn't bring myself to ask. a friend of mine in ohio says her husband used to pick up food for seniors and once shopped for wonder bread, jalapenos, and head cheese.

i gave my name to a social worker who's arranging deliveries for isolated households and got hooked up with F, whose husband answered the door in a three-piece suit when i came by to pick up their credit card the other day. they are extremely interested in chocolate-covered macaroons from trader joe's,* and the day after my first delivery, F texted to ask if i could pick up the four packs (she wanted 10, but the manager could only promise four) set aside for her. when i brought them up to the door, her husband insisted i take one for myself, and i didn't think quickly enough to say that, oh, i was allergic to coconut or something. "but i know how much you love them," i said, "and the manager said he could only give you four." this was clearly not a detail F had shared with him, and i watched him panic and then double down on his offer. i thanked him profusely and darted back to the door to take one as F began to billow like a storm cloud behind him. i really hope i didn't just end a 48-year marriage by accepting cookies.

G, one building over, asked for lots of singles: one potato, one sweet potato, one piece of salmon "for cooking." what does a good piece of salmon look like? i was reminded of working the sandwich counter at the stanford coffeehouse and trying to figure out which deli meats were which. coworkers were of no help; all of us were vegetarians. i don't know if G lives by herself; there were two names on her door's nameplate, but no one ever updates those, and most of my neighbors are very, very old (my social-worker contact reps our local NORC, or "naturally-occurring retirement community"). i didn't want to give her a potentially-pestilent note from our apartment, so i just wrote "for G from lauren" and drew a bunch of hearts on her shopping bag.

*F mentioned on the phone that she was disappointed that she wouldn't be seeing her children and grandchildren for passover, and i can only conclude that she and her husband have some kind of cool hand luke macaroon plan for weathering the pandemic.


the dirty dozen-ish {excerpts from yelp reviews of times square}

01 Smell the smells - like nothing else I can describe - a mish mash of hot dogs, fries, donuts, smoke, coffee, nuts, traffic smog. I said to my husband 'wow the smell is so, so, so" and he interrupted me and replied "that is the New York smell!"

02 We arrived 6am to be in the front row next to the MTV building. We shook hands with everyone from Carson Daly to Rudy Giuliani, from Jessica Simpson to N'Sync. Across the street at a Planet Hollywood event some months later, we met P Diddy, N'Sync (again), Sly Stallone, Sandra Bullock, and others. My enduring memory is that I was taller than Stallone and he had a river-full of cologne on. Good times.

03 Spiderman will cook you dinner on the right street corner if you find him. It's true! There is a guy in a spider man costume that has a sheesh cart! It's pretty awesome to watch.

04 And who regulates how many Elmo's are permitted to be circulating ? And how can those Nepalese woolen hat places afford their rent on such a huge space ?

05 But watch out for the ones dressed up as characters; ie elmos, Batman's, hulks, and especially the Minnie mouses, THEY ARE RELENTLESS and they will straight bombard you in a mob like demeanor . Karate chop for Minnie Bro.

06 I'm not fond of cats, but the show is great! 

07 There was also a big police presence in every corner around Times Square with automatic weapons out and ready to use. So I felt very safe around Times Square.

08 Times Square and its table were also home to my worst NYC experience, where an angry woman flat out stole my friend's chair for no other reason than to spite us. 

09 I came once when I was 17/18 and got burped on (I say "on" because the lady was really close to me and I felt her burp vibration on my skin) by a beggar.

10 Stay away from the Disney store unless you plan to go in it. 

11 Does anyone even know the words to Auld Lang Syne? My Grandma and Grandpa sure did. 

12 I take away one star because of the FACT that there were con artists on the sidewalk.

13 Don't even get me started on the subliminal messages.

14 Pricey, but what else do you make money for, right?

15 [O]n any given Saturday night you will see hordes of shit faced drunks stumbling around the area looking for either sex or a subway.


i found some songbird shit on our stump/table on the balcony this afternoon! this is a huge deal: we're up on the eighteenth floor, and we're lucky to see an occasional gull wheeling by on its way across the river, like, once a fortnight. pigeons like to roost and even nest on our neighbors' air conditioning units just a floor or two down, but not ours, never ours.* why they will not let us love them is beyond me. but: a pea-sized clump of healthy songbird shit (nice hue and consistency, buddy)! some little fella made it all the way to our place and took some time for reflection! it was, in all seriousness, thrilling—even when i spaced out and plunked my glass down on top of it, then carried it inside and to our coffee table. passerine traveler, i salute you.

i haven't been up to the bird hospital for—checking my volunteer login calendar—two months, and only twice this year. i was traveling in january and february and scrambling to file articles before and after each of those trips; i then got a tattoo at the end of february and felt i should take a week or two to myself before splashing it with bleach and, you know, songbird shit. i'd get messages from the volunteer coordinator (for the first time since i started working there!) saying that they had so very many interns that, for a couple of weeks, they didn't need any more hands on deck. then the city started taking coronavirus seriously.

as of last week, the word was that two volunteers could share the basement space with staffers at a time, and the hospital was eager for those volunteers (and the interns were long gone). i am not worried about what would/will happen to me, but i am very concerned about my many elderly neighbors, so i was trying to game out a way to commute a hundred blocks uptown without taking public transportation. a citibike halfway, then a couple of miles each way on foot? all of it on foot? i could do that, joe and i have walked the length of the island several times, but i'd have been tired-ish by the time i got to the upper west side, and it's both intensely physical and very delicate work. you can't do injections or tube-feed babies when you're wobbly. then we got a note from our building saying that several of our neighbors have tested positive, and that we should spend as little time as possible in the hallways and elevators. i'm already buying groceries for one of our friends downstairs, and i decided that i couldn't justify being a potential vector. i don't know how new city policies are going to apply to the hospital now that most of new york is shut down. i realize that worrying about baby birds at a time like this probably makes me a monster. it has been so long since i've been able to take care of them.

we are about as comfortable as two people can be in a pandemic: two adults who've been together for donkey's years, two dependents we outweigh quite handily that are satisfied with meat-paste and Warm Objects That Hold Still, one job with benefits that can't disappear and another that is flexible enough to carry on plausibly for now. three of our parents seem to be behaving sensibly, and the other seems at least sort of susceptible to peer pressure from me, my sisters, and my stepsister. i am keenly aware of the privilege dripping from every bit of that.

i still think, every now and again, about the website reviewer who called me trite and insular back in 2001(-2?) when my posts about 9/11 didn't acknowledge world events to her satisfaction. nothing about what i do here has ever been a particularly snappy rejoinder to that; all four of you know that this is something else.

our friend TJ is/was the house DJ for the red sox, the pats, and the bruins, jobs he began to cobble together after years of writing the sox to say "here i am!" in what i imagine was a very frank black voice. in this new world of ours, he's started streaming uncertain times, a radio show he started last week and is now helming from 10-noon(ish) ET so far on weekdays. he has always been very gracious about my distant exhortations to play bowie at fenway, and he played "peace, love and understanding" after we talked about it online a few days ago, and i cried. have we talked about competence porn here? TJ's show is competence porn.

here's a song for les and / here's a song for les and ray.

*neighbors two floors down have gone so far as to hang a plastic owl from their kitchen window to try to keep the pigeons away. i don't know if it's working, but it's an utterly delightful silhouette to see when i look out and down from our kitchen window.