Thirty-fourth Entry


Monday, April 20th, 2020

In bed, I enjoyed the now normal quiet. After a while, a car horn honked, then another—not loud or annoying, just a change. The ginkgo leaves outside my windows grow noticeably larger every few days, paralleling the return of city sounds.

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

By the time I rode home after midnight, the usual number of people were out—not many. Car traffic had increased slightly from several days ago (maybe). Most cycles of green lights brought 2, 3, or even 4 cars. Then no cars for a while; the light would change to green, and not one vehicle would move.  

When I locked my bike, there were more cars parked on the block than I had seen in a month. The Empire State Building was again pulsing red, a bit steadier than when I first saw it weeks ago. Two rapid pulses were followed by a short pause. After 1:00 am, a low-flying helicopter began to buzz the area.  

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—a really big garage, for example—you could stack them until you tripled your investment. However, a few hours later the cost had fallen further. By mid-afternoon radio broadcasts announced that the price of oil had fallen to zero. FREE OIL. Come and get it! By sunset in the mid-Atlantic, the price had gone negative. Instead of making a profit, you would need to pay someone to come over to your garage and take the oil away.

Oil got down to negative $34 a barrel. Another reminder that things change. And that these are odd times. In the 1990s, people said that someday water would be more expensive than oil. Now, for more than a decade, many people routinely buy bottles of water that are far more expensive than the same amount of oil or gasoline per gallon.     

Over the weekend, there were “get back to work” protests in cities from Pennsylvania to Texas to California. 

Mayor de Blasio canceled permits for all outdoor public events in June.