Christmas Trees on NYC Sidewalks

‘Tis the season for NYC sidewalks to smell like forests.

At least for one month of the year, beginning about a week before Thanksgiving and extending through Christmas, many New York City sidewalks smell really wonderful. That’s because for that month or so, they smell like forests, thanks to the sale of Christmas trees.

You can actually stand next to a sidewalk display of trees, close your eyes, and imagine you’re in some faraway woods. You do need a very active imagination to block out the sound of honking horns, sirens, as well as other pedestrians talking, yelling, cursing or otherwise making noises not typical in the woods.

Despite all that, I inhale deeply, something I’d never think of doing the other 11 months of the year.

Me, Viruses and Living My Life

For almost 3 years now, I’ve been in the demographic for “high risk” for Covid and now, it appears, for the flu and RSV. I don’t have an underlying condition; I’m just over the age of 65. I know plenty of people in my high-risk age category who have simply chosen to ‘get on with life.’ They don’t want to avoid large public indoor settings and have gone to the theater, the opera and movies. However, in those places, they can continue to wear a mask. Where mask-wearing in an indoor public setting is difficult is, obviously, in restaurants. I’m not sure if anyone has invented the mask that permits the wearer to keep it on and still eat. Even a nasogastric tube requires access through your nose.

It was one thing to be able to meet people for meals outdoors when the weather here in New York City was warm. Today, December 13, 2022, the temperature is averaging the mid-to-high 30’s. The forecast has wind chills getting it down, at times, to the 20’s. Dining outdoors at restaurants, even with well-positioned heat lamps, requires fortitude.

So the existential dilemma is whether to throw caution to the wind and eat indoors. Obviously, that decision comes with hoping for the best.

I’m eating with my family indoors in a restaurant this evening. I’ll keep you posted.

Election Day Angst

Election Day jitters.

There are days you know are momentous, and today, Election Day 2022, certainly feels like one of them. I’ve been braced for it for some time now. I don’t think it’s been great for my nerves. Some friends offered this advice, namely, if you can’t control something, you shouldn’t be anxious about it. Instead, you should focus on the things you can control.

I’m going to try very hard to do that but, in my head, there’s this tiny voice from my grandchildren asking, “What did you do to make things better, Grammy?” I phone banked. I donated to some candidates. I voted. Could I have done more? Yes. And then there’s the nagging question of why didn’t I. I tell myself that the election outcome will be what it will be. And then my nerves coil up again.

Communicating with Grandchildren

It’s a new experience when they can text or write!

I have 5 grandchildren–ages 9 to 4. I wrote to them many times during the first year or so of the pandemic when everyone was locked down. I’d usually include a stamped, self-addressed envelope so they could send me back a letter or a drawing, if they weren’t writing yet. I’d see them on FaceTime calls and, if their parents let them use their phones, we’d exchange some easy-to-read texts. Subsequently, of course, after we were all vaccinated, we’d get together in person. Even then, though, those visits might be one or two times a month.

Now, it appears, the oldest 4 (ages 6, 7, 9 and 9) have their own iPads. I believe they can all thank the pandemic for these since the iPads were the link to online classes.

Although none of them have their own phones yet (I know both my son and daughter, and their spouses, are looking to postpone that inevitability as long as possible), my grandson is able to send me texts on his iPad. I’ve gotten them every morning now for the past few days. I think he squeezes them in, sometime between 6:30 and 6:45 am, after he wakes up and before he has breakfast. All 3 texts so far have been about the Yankees.

I’ve also received two letters in the past 2 weeks from two of my granddaughters (ages 7 and 9). Both were sent in their own envelopes (not SASE).

All I can say is that it’s pretty wonderful to hear from your grandchildren, when they spontaneously reach out, in whatever way they do.

Eating Outside at NYC Restaurants During Covid

Sidewalk cafes and faux sidewalk cafes

It appears there are many ways people are navigating the Covid world now. I’m not talking about the under 65 crowd, many of whom appear to be socializing and returning to work, largely unmasked. I’m focused more on the 65-and-older demographic, where I belong. Based on many conversations with friends and family, there is still a decent percentage of us who are fearful enough of long Covid that we’re trying to minimize our Covid risks.

Under the heading of ‘reducing risky behavior’ would be eating outside at restaurants.

In New York City, in which I and this blog are based, there appear to be some interesting ways restaurants have created outdoor eating space. Many have the traditional outdoor cafes, where you sit at tables situated on the restaurant’s adjacent sidewalk in the open air.

A number of others have taken those outdoor cafes and put panels around them. Some of the panels are left open at one or 2 ends. That same configuration of mostly-closed-but-a-few-open-panels has been applied to sheds, usually located in the street adjacent to the restaurant.

And then there are the cafes and sheds that are completely closed with panels to form, in effect, another room of the restaurant. I would argue that the ventilation in those closed spaces could be worse than in the restaurant itself, which might have a central HVAC system to help move around the air (and Covid germ particles). Many of the outdoor restaurant sheds I’ve seen in Manhattan, where I live, have no HVAC. So when you close them all up, your air quality might not be so good.

So, folks, if you’re interested in safely eating outdoors, choose wisely.

The Future for my Grandchildren

It’s hard to read the newspaper these days.

I have a very difficult time reading the newspaper these days with accounts of anti-democracy activity occurring, it seems, everywhere. It’s certainly been happening in other countries. As I write this, Italians are voting, and opinion polls suggest that Italy’s next leader could be a far-right leader with “post-Fascist roots,” according to “The New York Times” today.

Apparently, Europeans who don’t support the far right are worried. Added to that is, of course, the authoritarianism in Russia and China.

Those of us who watched in horror as the US Capitol was attacked on January 6th are also worried with every report about election deniers doing well in the polls, and with the restrictions being placed on voting rights by many state lawmakers. Certainly, the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade by this Supreme Court was a blow to the freedom of our reproductive rights. I have 4 granddaughters and this decision will clearly affect them.

We all would like to think that we’d leave the world a better place for our children and grandchildren. I’m not optimistic that we shall.

Getting the New Covid Booster!

Maybe this is the beginning of not wearing a mask!

Three days ago, on September 8, 2022, at 3:10 pm, I got my “New Covid-19 Booster.” That’s the new “bivalent” one that targets BOTH the original Covid-19 virus as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants. So, possibly…maybe…perhaps, in approximately 11 days from now, I can stop wearing a mask indoors! That.will.be.big.

That might mean when I’ll feel comfortable eating indoors in a restaurant again! It might also mean when I’d feel OK going to see a play or a movie.

I know many people have moved on from the pandemic, but I haven’t. I know people who are still getting Omicron and who are currently dealing with quarantining, stubborn positive test results and lingering side effects. I really don’t want to get Covid and so I’ve been wearing a well-fitted mask every time I go indoors to shop, or visit a museum or take a city bus or subway. I don’t love wearing the mask for long intervals so I haven’t gone to see a play or a movie for 2-1/2 years. And since eating requires removing a mask, I won’t eat indoors.

But, perhaps…maybe…hopefully…on September 22, 2022, the pandemic ends for me–at least until the next Covid variant comes along.

I Love This City!

The “New York Story” 18-minute film at the NY Historical Society should the required viewing.

As part of my return to museums, I recently visited the New York Historical Society. I went primarily to see the small exhibit of media efforts undertaken by the American Jewish Committee to combat anti-Semitism between 1937-1952: https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/confronting-hate-1937-1952. It’s an excellent, and sobering exhibit, and I highly recommend it.

On my way out, I stopped into their auditorium to watch the 18-minute film called “New York Story”, narrated by Liev Schreiber. It’s the story of New York City from early outpost to vibrant center of the world. But it underscores the energy, resilience (especially after 9/11) and tolerance of the city toward migrants. After all, the Statue of Liberty is in the harbor here. It’s a stark reminder, especially now, as busloads of migrants are sent daily from less tolerant American places, of the values that permeate the city. I’ve never loved it more.

Living in the Pandemic

My first visit to a museum in 2-1/2 years.

I’d like to emphasize the word “living” in my title for this post. Despite the fact that NYC’s Covid positivity rate this first week of August is showing up at 13.5%, I decided it was time for me to visit a museum again. I’m not sure why it took this long to make that decision. It just did. In one word, it was wonderful.

Based on my conversations with friends, many of whom are over 65, we seem to be crawling out from under our pandemic rocks at our own speeds. As we all know too well, the pandemic and the variants are constantly changing. So what might have seemed safe a few months ago, may not now. For me, personally, I just don’t like wearing a mask indoors for the time it would take to watch a play or a movie. So that has eliminated those options from my return to any semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy. As with most of us who have been double-vaccinated and boosted, we’re reassured that even while our vaccinations have likely worn down in efficacy, they’re still useful enough to keep us out of ER’s and off ventilators. Frankly, that’s pretty reassuring.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was crowded when I got there Monday afternoon. The Met no longer requires proof of vaccination or even a face mask. Many people weren’t wearing one. However, I had my KN95 one on and, if I got to a place in the museum that wasn’t too crowded, I pulled mine down.

Walking around some of the featured exhibitions and seeing some of the magnificent art was simply wonderful and reminded me why New York is such an incredible place to live. It was one of the best afternoons I’ve had in a long time.

What Ever Happened to Civility?

When did we become so mean to each other?

I witnessed this scene recently on a sidewalk in Manhattan. It was very disturbing, and it seemed to be a small enactment of a much larger trend happening in this country. We simply can’t seem to be civil to each other.

We have become so divisive nationally and are about to become even more so. As a country, we’ve never not had divisive and painful cultural issues but, somehow, there was some dialogue, agreement to respectfully disagree (without name calling) and, occasionally, compromise.

I don’t know how we get back to those values and that willingness to treat each other as human beings again.