Saturday, March 28, 2020

5 Things I Miss in These Crazy Times

Today it’s cloudy and rainy in New York City. In an earlier time (like, maybe three weeks ago), I would have welcomed such a day to stay home and hunker down. After two weeks of doing just that, though, here are five things I’m missing in the age of COVID-19:

1. Browsing for Books: Even with shelves of unread books, browsing for new ones is one of my all-time favorite activities. I can’t wait for libraries and bookstores to reopen, so I can get lost in the stacks once again.

2. Hanging Out at Union Square: Although it’s probably OK for my sister and me to hang out together as we often do on weekends, we’ve refrained from visiting each other except by video chat. Right now, I’d like nothing better than to stroll to Union Square, spend some time in Barnes & Noble, and then visit with her in Apt. U21F, which overlooks 14thStreet on one side and south down Broadway on the other.

3. Spending Weekends at Del Boca Vista: Amy and I go out to New Jersey about once a month, and it’s a highlight in our world. We have it down to a science: We meet at “our Dunkin’” in Penn Station on Saturday morning just before 11 a.m.—in time to take the New Jersey Transit 11:14 to New Brunswick. (We both purchase e-tickets on our phones, but we activate them differently: one upon boarding the train and the other when she hears the conductor’s ticket punch. Can you guess who’s who?!) Our dad meets the train, and from there it’s on to Frank’s Pizza for lunch and then home to “the new 12 Webster Road” in DBV. A trip to Labyrinth Books in Princeton and dinner out are often on the agenda, as is breakfast at the Somerset Diner. We’re nothing if not predictable!

4. Sitting in “My Pew” at Minyan: No, my pew doesn’t have my name on it, and no worries if someone else sits there, but when all’s right with the world, Isabelle is to my right, Harriet and Albert are in front of us, and some combination of Sandra, Laura, Jesse, and/or Charlie usually are behind us. From her voice alone, Joanne makes her presence known; I don't even have to turn around and look to know when she's there. I’ve been shunning virtual services (and several invitations to “meet up” virtually with friends) thus far—mostly because my eyes are so tired from a week of work that regularly includes eight or 10 hours of screen time that I just want screen-free evenings and a screen-free Shabbat.

5. People Watching: This pastime of mine is right up there with book browsing, and except for the little bit I can do while standing in the check-out line at Fairway, it’s mostly off limits these days. Soon, I hope, I’ll be taking in lots of good people-watching on my bus ride to minyan, browsing in Barnes & Noble or visiting in Union Square after services, and that when we’re able to find a weekend that works for all of us, Amy and I will be back out at DBV, and I’ll have a chance to people-watch in Penn Station while I wait for her in front of “our Dunkin’.”

Stay healthy and safe, my friends—and if you’re so inclined, let me know what you’re missing in the age of coronavirus. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

5 Things I’m Grateful for During These Crazy Times

I’m tired of the word “unprecedented,” which has been overused in recent weeks, so here are five things for which I’m grateful in these never-before-seen days:

1. Dunkin’: The Dunkin’ on the corner of 33rd Street and Second Avenue has remained open thus far. Although the store has shortened its hours, I can begin or end my daily walk with coffee—or occasionally a latte.

2. I.M. Pei’s Garden: I’ve always enjoyed the private, well maintained green space that separates the buildings of Kips Bay Towers, but even more so now. Today, the space bustled with couples, families, and others, out for a stroll, some fresh air, or just a change of scenery. We maintained our distance and our neighborly ways. It was lovely.

3. Technology: I have new appreciation for technology beyond the phone and have used FaceTime more in the last few days than ever before. As my sister said to me earlier today, “Why did it take a pandemic for us to start video-chatting?” A fair question…

4. Sunshine and Fresh Air: I’m not sure I ever fully appreciated the feel of fresh air on my face and in my lungs the way I do now, each time I step outdoors. Today’s brilliant sunshine was an added bonus, its warmth a welcome complement to the brisk spring air.

5. The Daily Vort (Yiddish for word): One of my new colleagues has been writing and sending a daily email to the staff that he’s entitled the Vort. No more than three or four paragraphs, each message contains timely Jewish content and a bit of inspiration for these troubled times. Reading them brings routine and comfort to days that don’t have enough of either.

Stay healthy and safe, my friends—and if you’re so inclined, let me know what you’re grateful for as you make the best of your time at home.