Late Rent, Apt. 5A
Friday, April 10th, 2020
Awake, I lay still, taking in the quiet, again. After a while I wonder if it has ever been this quiet here on the southern part of this island. It seems unlikely 50, 100, or even 150 years ago. Maybe 200 years ago, but I doubt it—not as it has been recently; the stillness is as though no humans, or animals live here.
Lying in this urban isolation chamber, I recalled the feeling of being alone last night, of pedaling into the cold wind on Greenwich Avenue, a common route home for me. Suddenly I had the sense of being lost, not knowing where I was as though my surroundings were unfamiliar. The hiss of the apartment radiator, a reassuring steady note of warmth, brought me back to the comfort of my bed. The discordant knocking and clanking had worked its way out of the heating system by late January. That was back when only the Chinese were suffering—not our problem.
This quiet is both delightful and confusing. “Where am I?” is always the first question when I wake into the silence. It continues to be hard to believe that I am in Manhattan. After a while, a car goes down the block. I notice its speed, almost its attitude. Everything is so distinct, even more so with no anticipation—both the silence and the sounds remain a surprise.
Yesterday morning, sitting quietly, a squall blew north providing an unlikely and enjoyable symphony. The sound of falling rain, each note, was as clear as if I was in a concert hall or on a country porch. The oversized drops woke my neighbor who immediately made a call; the sound of his overly-loud voice carried through the wall as though it were only a screen.
Farther from this city, the virus continues to spread. The first case of Covid-19 was reported in famine-ravished Yemen. Thirty-one of its forty-one food and medicine aide programs have already been reduced or are no longer functioning.
A Good Friday service was held in Notre Dame, the first service since the great fire of last April. A minister with a few music-making associates gathered in a clear area of the 12th Century cathedral—some in hazmat suits and hard hats. Luckily, it was not raining, or they would have needed to add umbrellas to their protective gear. Instead of breathing and coughing worshipers, there were hundreds of tons of silent charred timbers and melted scaffolding. On the banks of the Seine the bookseller stalls are closed.
Goldberg variations, prelude 1, interlude in a quiet city.