Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
The Big City
I spent the last week in New York City.
I arrived there on Saturday morning, driving through the Lincoln Tunnel. I took the streets East through Midtown to Union Square.
On Saturday the city was still shut down, they were in Phase One, there was no sitting down in a restaurant to eat. But there was some street life, and there was curbside service for pick up, there was delivery.
The corner bars, of which there are many, those who had not shuttered their doors completely were serving drinks directly to their patrons on the street, through make-shift to go windows.
People gathered at those places where they would have gathered normally because in New York the average person lives their life outside of their apartment. Dining out, being out gathering together for their social life.
I have been travelling to New York once or twice a year for the past decade, and it is the friendliest city I can think of.
When I drove in last Saturday at about 2:30 pm. The streets were practically empty. Instead of vibrant, teaming, bustling Manhattan I might have been in downtown Minneapolis. That is how sparsely populated the sidewalks were…and the quiet, it was eerie.
Ninety five percent of the people I encountered were wearing masks. No body complained. To complain would have been unthinkable. There was a point at which New York was experience its greatest loss of life when 1,000 people were dying every day, and everybody knows someone who has passed away from having contracted the COVID-19, novel corona virus.
On Monday the city entered Phase Two, restaurants and bars opened for patio dining and limited capacity. We had breakfast outside at a Ukrainian diner, called Vaselka on 9th Street and 2nd Avenue in the East village, pierogis with eggs and kielbasa and a blintz.
It was delicious.
We were interviewed by a reporter for Univision who wanted to know how we felt about being able to dine out again; my friends were happy, and nervous and guarded. The instinctive mood was to be cautious and not let the rediscovered freedoms go to your head.
On Tuesday we went to the beach. We drove through Brooklyn to Far Rockaway. People were returning to work, the streets were busier, noisier, but still everyone was masked, social distancing, following the rules, getting along.
I saw it as an extraordinary exercise in civic mindedness, and I hope that the rest of the country can learn from it before they to have to experience the incredible loss of life in their own communities as New York has. Even on the beach where the wind was blowing hard, those people who were not wearing masks, had them ready to put on if they should get close to other people, or have the need to go into a store.
That kind of conscientiousness was not evident on the drive to New York, or back. I only saw people masked in the stores and gas stations that belonged to national chains with national policies to guide them.
During my time on the road, the virus has taken over the South and West on the United States, our fat is in the fire and things are only getting worse.