I’m Virge Randall, Managing Editor of seniorplanet.org, and lifelong New York City resident. Living in the epicenter of this epidemic presents some unusual challenges – some familiar to people in similar urban settings, some completely foreign. Here’s a quick look at a typical day in Plague Central.
I wake up between 7 and 8 am. After coffee and a quick check of the weather, I walk in the park near my apartment. Since the gyms are closed, my daily goal is 8000 steps a day on my pedometer, in two or three passes. (If I don’t get my steps in during walks, I pace in my apartment or the hallway.) I appreciate sunny days a lot more now! I’ve also started working with resistance bands.
I wear a mask and gloves whenever I leave my walk-up apartment, since droplets linger in enclosed spaces. The mask doesn’t filter out the skunky pot the people in my building prefer, though. Sometimes I wish my neighbors would switch to cocaine because at least it doesn’t stink.
Before I head out, I load up my MP3 with fresh music, and put on my pedometer and my heart rate monitor. Even at 8am, runners and bikers zoom past me huffing and puffing without masks and without social distancing; if I see ’em coming I’ll run with my arms extended like I’m playing “airplane.” When I can, I yell “MASK!” at them and point to mine. Yes, I’ve become a “Karen.” I’m not going to get sick because some entitled, asymptomatic asshole wanted to feel the air on his or her face and sprays the air with germy droplets as s/he runs past!
I really miss the small dog run in the park. My day’s highlight was watching them from the railing. Often, some dog would catch my eye and run to me like I was made of ham. I could feel my spirits lift physically; I felt lighter inside. But who wouldn’t when a miniature Australian border collie runs up to you in near deranged joy to lick your face? Or when a black Lab comes over to you, wriggling with delight to show you his toy and get – and give – some doggie love? I enjoyed the show….until the Mayor ordered the dog runs closed. I really miss it. I compensate with videos of dogs from the internet. I will never get tired of this one:
I can report that when I feel sad, I eat spageters, and it works (see right). I felt much better! (It’s spaghetti with spinach pesto, peas, and tomatoes.) I am indifferent to golf balls, though. I’ve also been listening to a lot of comedy clips (Mel Brooks and Louis CK are the current favorites).
Outside of the morning and evening walk, I only leave my apartment once a week for food, coffee, parmesan cheese (hey, I have Sicilian blood), or to add to the Strategic Toilet Paper Reserves. (20 rolls now!) I still can’t find hand sanitizer but the stores are much better stocked than when this all first started. (It reminded me of stores in Miami just ahead of a hurricane.) There are no casual errands now. I have to ‘suit up” with mask and gloves, and join the lines outside of stores (standing six feet apart) until a bouncer lets me in (one at a time to avoid overcrowding). This type of waiting on line is a far cry from my days at Studio or The Mudd Club.
Laundry is problematic. Like many New Yorkers, I live in a walk-up (no elevator) apartment. There’s no washer/dryer in my apartment, or even my building. The laundromat is three blocks away. It’s an enclosed environment full of metallic surfaces, with customers who may or may not be effectively masked or wear gloves. Although it’s ridiculously expensive (4x the cost of doing it myself), I finally dropped off my laundry to have it done by them. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
My workaround is to wash stuff at home. Last winter, I tired of carrying my laundry through the snow, I created a makeshift home laundry.
I bought a new toilet plunger and turned it into a low-tech agitator by drilling some holes in it so water flowed through it, (like at right). Now I fill a bucket with water and soap, toss in some clothes, and move the plunger up and down. Lather, rinse, repeat, wring out and leave out to dry by a window. It actually works!
I don’t order in because I like to cook. I tend to snack, so focusing on mealtime helps (sometimes) keep me in line. I’ve been taking pictures of the main meal each day to create a sense of occasion, and when I sit down, I pray.
I am really grateful to work for Senior Planet! Most of my day is taken up by writing, editing, and more. I especially enjoy doing the Open Thread on Sundays – it’s a great way for everyone to get to know everyone else!
I’d like to say that I’m using this time to learn Sanskrit or something, but I’m really not. I sorely and deeply miss going to museums and cultural events. I miss visiting certain paintings the way I miss certain friends. (And similarly, I can ‘visit’ them online but it’s not the same as an in-person experience, like “Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer,” detail at left.)
My mental state is better when I don’t watch news all the time, but I do watch a lot of cartoons (Bob’s Burgers and Futurama). I focus on long-neglected projects like cleaning “junk drawers” or organizing my music collection. I’ve got vinyl, cassettes and CDs, plus MP3’s, WMAs, M4as, and other formats in three different laptops and two towers. I’d like to digitize everything and store in one place. Meanwhile, I’m rediscovering music I’ve loved but forgotten about along the way.
Lately I’ve been going through my comedy CD’s. “The Two Thousand Year Old Man” never, ever disappoints!
I also make it a point to call two or three friends every day; so far I haven’t been able to convince ’em to try Zoom or Google Hangouts, but I will keep trying – and I have dinner with them in my dreams (literally). Meanwhile there’s always Facebook, but it’s tough to see pix of friends with backyards and decks, when I’m stuck in a 600 square foot apartment with direct sunlight in one room from 12:45pm to about 4:30pm.
Sticking to a routine, getting regular exercise, having a project, and staying in touch with friends are my lifesavers. That’s one reason why I really the Open Threads on Sundays. It’s like I’m meeting new people as they share their own unique answers in the comments, and hopefully, readers ‘meet’ each other, too.
But what about you? What’s it like where you are? How are you handling it? Let us know in the comments!
Photo by Emiliano Bar on Unsplash
December is here…almost. Finally I took time off from exercising…. (too much exercise is also detrimental to health) ….to relax and read. Your article reminded me of Anne Frank’s Diary…. I am keeping one too….through my camera, and the one and only window I have in my apartment. I do feel this pandemic didn’t have to last this long…if only some people had some self-discipline and some wisdom. Seems like we are coming towards the end of this year long chapter in our lives, but it also seems things are going to get a bit worse before they get better. Fingers crossed.
This made me nostalgic for NYC, where I lived my entire life until Jan 2009! Wow, you’re truly active. I walk in San Francisco’s many hills, and along ocean where I live, but, sadly, lack a pedometer. I hear pets are enjoying “shelter in place” (What, another walk? When will you leave for work?)
Your story gave me such a sense of time and place. I’m on the left coast but try to wake up in time for Cas and the morning stretch via Senior Planet…from NYC so your story fleshed out how it is to be there. Thank you for such a good story for my Sunday afternoon. I just finished Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation’s Zoom service so all things are changed. At the same time, I feel your humanity. The birdsong is over the top now and the earth is taking a breather, at last. We share this crisis the planet over and while we are apart, we are together. PS My junk drawers are still untouched. Sigh.
Your junk drawers will still be there when this is over! thx for the comment.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Virge. This is especially valuable for those of us who don’t live in NYC or any big city. I love your ingenious home laundry system!
My best to you and the whole Senior Planet community.
Thanks for interesting article and insights. My wife and I live in suburbia and feel blessed to have 1/3 acre, small waterfalls and lots of birds (the food store does curbside – the gal there says she enjoys the workout of throwing 20 lb bags of seed in the back of the SUV (which honestly embarrasses me to have her do!)). Glad to hear of parks to go to… I think we picture endless streets (although that is what we do 3-5 miles / day on, just get to look at unkempt lawns rather than cityscapes). Saddens me to think of the laundry situation you have! We too only go out 1x or occasionally 2x always during senior hour if offered (hardware stores do not, but the yard still requires fertilizer, mowing, etc.). Maybe once each week we do a curbside pickup meal… trying to keep our neighborhood Italian place in business. I’m in IT so actually have worked ‘virtually’ on and off for years (my customers are around the world). Being laid off 6/5… decided to bite bullet and officially retire 7/1…. Many think I am crazy but…. Good Luck to all of us during this, and especially to New Yorkers from we in Seattle. STAY SAFE!
Interesting article. It answered some questions that I had actually been pondering about life in the center of the plague. Can’t say I’d change my life in rural Louisiana for what you’re experiencing. I have closets larger than your apartment. My house is on a lake with wonderful views, access to the water, daily interaction with a variety of wildlife. But, to each his own. I wish you, and all the people of NYC, the very best and hope you stay safe and healthy.
As a fellow New Yorker, I can certainly relate. I’m in a 600 sq foot loft but it gets good sunlight all day. I live in an elevator building- only one at a time in the elevator and masks must be worn in the hallway. I hear what you are saying about the laundry and dropping it off. We have a laundry room, but I try to go there as seldom as possible. I’m wearing mismatched socks and I bought more underwear online. I totally agree with you about the runners who don’t wear masks. They really make me upset. I go grocery shopping during the senior hour when the store is less crowded. Stay safe.
I’m lucky to live in a small suburb in Massachusetts. I take a daily 2 mile walk by crossing the street every time I see someone coming (which sometimes adds a quarter mile). I’ve lost 52 pounds since October following Weight Watchers and doing you tube exercise videos (check out Fabulous Fifties). We have a small yard so I’ve been getting my garden ready for planting and I too am tackling long put off jobs like reorganizing and labeling my pantry and organizing closets. As my Mom always would say “this too shall pass” and once it does I definitely don’t want to be stuck in the house doing my spring cleaning!
Thank you forthis article, Loooove the Samoyed, used to have one, adopted him from ASPCA in NYC of all places, they said he’d come from North Shore Animal League LI, that that’s how they try to keep animals alive, pass them along to other animal shelters:)
Keep to a routine 2 w/groceries (1-2x out per wk) cleaning, reading, music, including music of old and just started w/exercise (indoors) w/SP classes, Thank you SP!
Been hoping SP would help those of us who want to do a Will at this time of COVID-19 as they did last year n year before – hint, hint!!??
Grace n Peace, Lucy
I’m not good without structure and schedules so it took a while for me to find a rhythm. I am working from home but even that has it’s limits because I work with students at a college and there are no students. So I began doing things I had been avoiding like cleaning out my closet. I finally began to work out with YouTube videos. Instead of ordering food or eating out, I am learning the basics of cooking for one. I’m trying to use the time to work on myself. I also enrolled in a couple of graduate courses because my brain needs some sort of challenge.
Sounds like an interesting life and time to learn more about yourself. This time of self quarantine has allowed me to do something I should have done years ago. I ordered the booklet My Life Directory (web site same name) that guides me to fill in the location of all important documents and contacts I use to manage my life. Then if there is an interruption (health, accident, stroke, dementia, etc) my spouse and family will know where everything is. The Directory has suggestions that cover over 100 topics (passwords, tax returns, deed, birth & military certificates, etc.). COVID 19 is another reminder that life can change suddenly for folks of any age.
A very interesting article! Good to know how other people are managing life during this pandemic. Thank you!
As for doing laundry, I had seen an eco-friendly washing machine called “Drumi” a year or so back in a Japanese consumer product article. I believe Drumi was originally designed for a young single urban dweller in a high-density city like Tokyo, so it wouldn’t handle a heavy load, but if it might do the trick for those who don’t mind doing laundry everyday in a one-person load.
Just Googled for the product and found the following link:
Not sure how readily available this washer is in North America, but it’s worth investigating? Or perhaps you can make a similar device based on the mechanism of this product? You may be able to do your laundry while reading papers in the morning while adding more steps to your daily exercise????