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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My grandson recently graduated from 3rd grade and I was invited to watch the morning ceremony which the school managed to stream online. I’d just had breakfast and read a number of the articles in the New York Time’s news section. I read articles about Ukraine, and its desperate fight for its independence. There were articles about 2020 election deniers and their success in several states to control voting procedures along with articles about primary wins by Trump supporters. There were articles about the Supreme Court and its impending decisions, including the reversal of Roe v. Wade. One article I just managed to finish before the time of the graduation ceremony was about Poland and the absence of women’s rights to any decisions regarding abortions, which are completely illegal. I didn’t get to read the articles on climate change, which didn’t look encouraging at all.
So when those high voices of the third graders in my grandson’s school sang an optimistic song about “always learning” and “always growing,” my eyes just welled up with tears. At least they were able to reach their graduation, I thought. Unlike all those kids, including the children about the same age in Uvalde, who got shot. It should be enough to bring any grandparent –or parent– to tears as well.
Before the pandemic, I took the subway in NYC all the time. It was always my first choice for transportation. Then there was the pandemic. If I needed to leave my neighborhood during the pandemic (usually only for a doctor’s appointment or the occasional Covid shot), I would resort to a bus or, sometimes, a taxi. Taxis have a very reassuring plastic barrier between the front seat and the backseat. As a senior citizen, I really appreciated that. It wasn’t that I was that concerned about Covid transmission on the train, since I knew ridership would be way down. I was much more concerned about crime. Fewer riders to me meant more possibilities for criminal behavior.
Since March 2020, and with all the dramatic news stories involving subway incidents, that concern hasn’t dissipated at all. I’ve spoken to some friends and acquaintances, who are also senior citizens, who don’t have any problem riding the subway. Although some said they’d seen passengers on the trains and platforms who looked a bit “unstable,” they said they were “harmless”.
I’m not sure I can summon the courage to see for myself and am wondering what it’s going to take to get me to go down those subway stairs again.
I don’t know about you but the past few months seem to me to have been full of even more bad news than usual. I was, and am, devastated by the stories and photographs coming out of Ukraine and this senseless war brought on by an autocrat. Add to that, there have been some extremely disturbing stories of New Yorkers who’ve been shot or knifed for no reason at all. And now we have the horrific news of the racist shooting at the supermarket in Buffalo and the unbelievable shooting at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. It’s interesting that Covid has been pushed out of the front part of my brain now, where it occupied a center seat for the past 2 years. I suppose that’s one benefit from all this otherwise gutting news.
I think often of how my parents must have felt watching the world spin out of control during the Great Depression and, later, Hitler’s advance through Europe. I suppose they did not have the relentless 24-hour news cycle and all the devices which keep us in constant touch with the headlines.
I have a group of friends who recently shared how they cope with all this. The answers were interesting. One person said she only listens to one newscast a day, the evening news at 11:00 pm. Another said she takes very long walks. A third said she cries. At this time, none of those remedies are ones I’ll adopt. But I don’t have any others. So my fate is simply to be very upset and wonder how this gets better.
There are, unquestionably, many benefits to volunteering. Some of the ones that are most often mentioned are: it provides you with a sense of purpose; it provides a sense of community; it teaches you valuable skills (including social skills). As a senior citizen, it helps you meet new friends and provides a bulwark against loneliness. That’s especially important during this pandemic, as many of us who are senior citizens are spending more time, isolated, at home.
I live in NYC and I’ve had various volunteer jobs over the years. Some lasted longer than others because some I enjoyed more than others.
I decided at the end of last year that I wanted to add a new volunteer commitment to my schedule so I Googled “volunteer opportunities”. I could search in countless ways for volunteer work (in NYC, in my neighborhood, by type of work, etc.). It was somewhat overwhelming.
I’ve been on several Zoom calls recently during which some of my Zoom-mates (isn’t that what we are?) shared their travel plans. Many people seem to be planning trips, and to some faraway places.
Clearly, I haven’t been bitten by the travel bug, especially as the BA.2 variant seems to be spreading.
To my knowledge, I haven’t had Covid. I’ve just completed my 3rd week after my 4th shot, when I think my immunity is as good as it’s going to be. However, the thought of possibly getting Covid, and, in particular, long Covid, is keeping me from contemplating potentially maskless experiences and any kind of travel.
The concern I have, however, is what it will take to give me courage to do that again, since all indicators point to this being a disease we’ll be living with forever.