Friday April 17, 2020
The beginning and end of each day are where the oddness, the stillness of this time, is most distinct. Those two points have recently moved closer together for me. In the first weeks, I slept more than I have in years, perhaps fighting a mild case of the virus. Last night, I did not even head home until after midnight. Dressed for the cold, I opened my loading door and backed my bike out onto the sidewalk of West 21st Street. I marveled at having the entire city to myself – no longer unbelievable, and at the same time, fully, totally unbelievable. Inconceivable.
But now a familiar strangeness; strangers can become familiar with each other. All of our friends were strangers at some point. At the impressive New York Yacht Club on West 44th Street there is a small room by the entrance called the Strangers Room. That is where you wait until a member comes to claim you, at which time you shift in from stranger to guest.
Riding down Seventh Avenue, I was surprised to see the gigantic graffiti tag, which appeared a few days ago on Barney’s street-level shop windows was gone—well cleaned, barely a trace left. Barney’s displayed auspicious timing in closing the store; they finished their “final sale” (which was extended several times) just before the entire city shut down. There were 3 multicolored tags, each 5 feet height and 10 or more feet long. Who removed them and why? Was it the landlord, or does Barney’s still hold the lease and its responsibilities?
The bike lane at 14th Street was blocked by construction barriers. I use the lane by habit, however, with no traffic, there was no point. I acknowledged the mobile morgue on 12th Street as I passed. The compressor hummed in the cold. They call these “refrigerated trailers,” but bringing my attention to it, I realized they must be freezers.
No one was around in the Village, and only every third change of lights from red to green yielded any cars. Village Cigars at Sheridan Square was open. Could they be an essential business? Drugs are needed to keep a type of order. Regular drug stores, liquor stores, coffee shops, and smoke shops are open. Along with some pizza, what else would anyone need?
The last part of my ride, typically the part where the streets are the most empty, offers a chance to shift my route. I turned east on Vandam, a westbound street. Riding the wrong way allows you to see everything differently—from a new angle and these days, no one is ever coming toward me.
I am happy it is Friday, that day still has meaning in my week.