Wednesday April 29, 2020
Last night I walked home. A wonderful and refreshing stroll with the sidewalks all to myself. I wanted to experience nighttime activity on a west side avenue with traffic heading uptown. Each time the lights turned green, a tiny wave of northbound cars (usually three or four) and often a truck, approached. Admiring the open space, I realized that sometimes the rhythmic cycle – red to green to yellow revealed no vehicles at all. Just emptiness. Walking south I could not see the traffic lights changing; it was hard to determine how often a green light produced no activity at all. I wanted to accurately record the conditions but not give all my attention over to counting. This minimal nighttime activity in the heart of the city continues to startle me.
I heard on the morning news that seatings at dine-in restaurants are down 100%. What ever changes by 100%? Air travel remains down 95%. But 100% feels more stark, even if the number is not that different. Someone on the radio said, “the crystal ball is cloudy.” The future, which is never known, has become significantly more ethereal as the weeks pass.
Boeing plans to lay off 10% of its workforce since they say they are not expecting to sell planes for four to eight years. It is hard to align those pieces of information; it seems like a significantly larger layoff would be necessary to address that assumption.
GDP in the United States dropped by 4.8% in the first quarter. That time period included more than two busy pre-pandemic months. Even with the daily dark economic news, the stock market is up again before opening this morning. I continue to hope that someone will explain the paradox of the rising market to me.
Every day since mid-April, the news has become increasingly partisan and less interesting than it was following the arrival of the pandemic in the US two months ago. The sheer novelty of the entire situation created a curious news microclimate for a while.
New York’s police commissioner, Dermot Shea, announced that crime was up 20% in the first two months of this year, then it dropped considerably when the pandemic arrived. He said there has been some looting, but nothing more than “people taking advantage” – no mention of desperation, though he did say that the number of domestic murders has increased since people have been cloistered at home.
Late night, out of balance, Mister Mister can I have a dollar.