In February 2020, I bought this One Line a Day five-year memory book in which each page has a section for one calendar day, to fill out each year. So when May 16, 2021 rolls around, I can look at the entry above it on the page and see what I was doing on May 16, 2020. I had recently started work at Kobrand Wine & Spirits and already traveled a lot by February, just a couple of months in, so I was excited to fill the book up with trips that were planned throughout 2020, with great big chunks of travel in April and May.
We know how that turned out.
Instead of notes about wine festivals or trade events in Chicago, Las Vegas, or Nantucket, it is filled with what I bake, where I bike, zoom chats with friends, and…notes about the weather.
Apart from this memory book, I found something else I’d written on March 16. This was the day before Cuomo announced that all bars, restaurants, and stores needed to close. It was also the day when they recommended that no more than ten people gather in one spot. All of this still felt completely unreal and not likely to happen. It felt unimaginable.
Then, I found something I’d written April 16. So today, two months in and watching as some states reopen, here is a timelapse of the beginning, in the thick of it, and…maybe nearing the long, drawn-out end?
March 16, 2020
Is this how anyone imagined a post-apocalyptic world to be: sunny, clear skies, stockpiling food you haven’t eaten in fifteen years anyway (not to mention…the toilet paper), and a gradual warning that feels far away one day and at your doorstep the next? Then pulled away, again. After all, it’s happening all the way over the Atlantic.
New York City is forced to slow down. Everyone is. It is a gentle “apocalypse” (I know, strong word. Just let me use it). There are no zombies nor soot-ridden air, the world isn’t icing over or burning up (not yet, at least), people are hyper-connected via social media and work-from-home networks, and alcohol sales are soaring. It is like a staycation with the low threatening rumble of “look what happened in Italy” underneath. We look at Europe and China and worry about it happening here, too, but perhaps like climate change, like most things, we won’t do anything about it to prevent it until it’s upon us.
April 16, 2020
No one would call this a staycation. I wrote that during the first week of suggested social distancing. There were no facemasks and people had only just begun to bump elbows instead of shake hands (imagine getting close enough to bump elbows!).
I baked an okay-ish lemon buttermilk cake, which may have been “meh” because of ingredient substitutions. Like everyone, I want to avoid going to the store as much as possible.
A list of things I want to do during stay-at-home: write more, get this blog going again, dive into WSET studying, cook, read.
I finished a small cross-stitch bee, my first cross-stitch. I thought it took so long, but it was actually less than two weeks. Time is stretching.
I was craving style, just getting dressed nicely and having anyone but my mirror appreciate it. This is where a brief online shopping spree started, which ended in receiving clothes exactly one month later. I hoped that by May, I’d be wearing nice clothes out in the city.
May 16, 2020
I finished Doomsday Book by Connie Willis and, no spoilers, its parallels to the coronavirus pandemic are uncanny, from the toilet paper shortage to the groups of people who protest against the government making them wear masks… This book was written in 1992 and has been on my To-Read list for several years (yeah, it’s a long list), and I checked it out on Kindle without reading the backcover. So the fact that I picked this book seems especially…fateful? Ominous? Just coincidental? I dunno, I’m searching for some spice in my life, give me a break.
Cuomo has announced the stay-at-home order will be extended for another month. The main thing on my mind is the same on everyone else’s: when will this be over? And how is it going to change the city we love?
A woman just passed by my open window talking about “community spread” and the risks of being on a subway. I’ve written about the “word on the street” before, how writer Elizabeth Gilbert noted it’s what’s on everybody’s mind, influencing everyone’s actions (Rome: sex; Vatican: power; Stockholm: conformity). Before, New York City was “work.” The most common conversation I overheard was always work-related: a colleague who can’t do the job, a prospective client, and once, for a solid 45 minutes outside my window, a poor girl lamenting where she was in life (this encompassed her romantic relationships and apartment, but mostly her job. Her mom was a great listener). Now it’s always about the ‘rona.
Two of my favorite aspects of New York City, and probably many people’s, have utterly changed: the everyday interactions that occur in this mix of nearly 8.4 million people; and the sensation of every single person you cross paths with leading a separate, unique life—all those stories behind every window! Everyone mixing and growing and creating, sleeping, eating, crying, living. If I cross paths with anyone now, a safe six feet away, they are a) going to the store, or b) going for a walk.
The next month might tell us what the city will look like this summer and fall. It’s hard to imagine long-term changes to the fabric of NYC, like dining partitions and no crowds anywhere (what even is New York without uncomfortable physical closeness to strangers?). But then again, everything that’s happened up until now was hard to imagine, too.