Thirty-fourth Entry



Monday, April 20th, 2020

This morning, lying in bed, I was enjoying the now normal quiet, when, after a while, there was a horn honk and then another. Not loud or annoying, just a change, like the leaves on the ginkgo trees outside my windows, which have become noticeably larger every few days as the city sounds are returning. Slowly.

Yesterday evening, I thought there were more people out, but I was not sure; it is hard to judge since the change is very slow. That is why people record temperatures and rainfall, why they count birds or mark liquor bottles—it is hard to know what was there, what changed, without some record or point of reference.

By the time I rode home after midnight, the number of people out was the usual few. Car traffic had slightly increased from several days ago – maybe. Each cycle of green lights would bring 2 or 3, even 4, cars, but then there would be no cars for a while; the light would change, and then not one vehicle moving in any direction.

When I parked my bike, there were more cars on the block than I had seen in a month, and the Empire State Building was again pulsing red—a bit more steadily than when I first saw it weeks ago. The two rapid pulses were followed by a very short pause. After 1:00 am, a low flying helicopter began to buzz the area – for social distancing enforcement?

This morning, you could buy a barrel of oil for less than $12.00—like a glass of wine. If you had a place to put some barrels, in a really big garage, for example, you could stack them until you could triple your investment. However, a few hours later, as the cost kept going down there was an announcement of FREE OIL – come and get it. By sunset in the mid-Atlantic, the price had gone negative. Instead of a profit, you would need to pay someone to come over to your garage and take the oil away, like hiring a junk carter.

You cannot make this stuff up. Oil dropped to negative $34 a barrel—another reminder that things change and that these are odd times. Long ago, maybe in the 1990s, people said that someday water would be more expensive than oil. Certainly, in this century, people in the US routinely buy bottles of water that are far more expensive than the same amount of oil.

Over the weekend and continuing today, there have been “get back to work” protests in cities from PA to TX to CA. Reminds me of the Tea Party a decade ago.

Mayor de Blasio canceled all permits for outdoor public events in June. It was not clear what was included. Later I discovered that the NY Police Department issues permits for parades, while a street activity permits office (SAPO) deals with rallies, farmers markets, street fairs, block parties, almost anything you could think of. We will see what is allowed when June comes.