Shortly after I began my pre Christmas week COVID isolation, my friend Nadette posted a photo of a plaque with the words:
‘'A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe, and fifty times : It is a beautiful catastrophe.' - Le Corbusier.
It's hard not to feel this way, looking at the city, full of policies I detest, and people I adore, parks I love paved over, rezonings turning quirky streets along the industrial waterfront into sites for glossy towers and expensive coffee shops, amidst a sea of identical details.
Much of those things I worked for this year, blew up. Got arrested fighting for the Voting Bills and Build Back Better. They hit a wall in the senate. Went to Glasgow to fight for a climate policy that might help us sustain ourselves and nothing was to be found. There were wins on the edges around banks and fossil fuels; the Gowanus Fracked gas plant was shut down. We made progress on the #NewDeal4CUNY. And, the joy in my comrades persists, the wonder of the city, its writers, offering clues, poems, street theater, meetings, occupying space, defending East River Park with art and community. I think of the people and the ghosts, the shadows and warehouses, the waterfronts and strange ways the light dances in the concrete, making up silhouettes of bodies.
Our isolation took its tempo, the two negative members of the family downstairs, the positives upstairs, reading and writing for much of the morning, before an afternoon stroll with my buddy. Off Second Ave, to secret places, past Red Hood past the lines of people waiting for their rapid tests we stroll, talking about our hopes the days after we are released from isolation, our desire for stimulation, for contact.
The first couple of nights, it was hard to sleep. With a cough and sore throat, it felt like I was hit by a truck, hard to swallow. I can only imagine what it was like for people who were not boosterred.
I talk with my brothers and friends here and there by phone or zoom, tried to keep in touch with others going through their own ten day stepping back from it all.
Make no mistake, you are closer to death when COVID grasps you and you isolate, better make friends with the immortals.
Each day we watch the sun go down, lighting candles, toasting to the day, listening to old holiday songs, the Three Penny Opera, Exile on Main Street, remembering last Chistmas with George and Bob G. And watched Japanese movies, mostly the old Miyazacki anime films; our favorite Weathering with You, an animated story about a high school run away in Tokyo who meets a teenage girl who gives him food; she has magic powers, including the ability to transform the weather.
“I think I became a sunshine girl last year on that day,” said Hina in the film. “I prayed for good weather all day long the day before. I wanted to have one last walk under the sun with my mom.”
A story about lost road trip film footage, Shirkirs blew us away. Something about the search for a lost film felt very comforting in our time with our friend omicron... instead of family.
“Yes covid is a physical ailment; it is also a mental health challenge for those back in isolation.... I see you friends... love you…” I wrote mid week. “If you need a giggle..drop a line... we got this....together.”
At night, Simone de Beavoir keeps me company, Deirdre Blair’s bio taking me along a tour of her thoughts: “Faulkner is too tragic - everything is as pathetic as the next thing - whereas [in Algren’s books] one sees that life is tragic and not tragic at the same time.” Despite this, “one ends up believing in [Faulkner’s] tragedy.”
Tragic and not tragic, right, I'd rather see it all that way, reading, walking, writing, thinking, being, feeling, wondering without really knowing.
“A dreamy Christmas from me to you…” I post on Christmas. “Sitting with the cats and books and kids who are not really kids and German toy figures from Caroline's childhood...feeling the peace in it all... from me to you... you to me... and everything in between.”
Another Covid Christmas, I read subdued posts from friends, many in isolation themselves, or separated in one way or another.
On Anne-christine d'Adesky’s post stood out:
“IN MY THOUGHTS: my parents and grandparents and those friends I miss. Many of you know the Xmas period is a mixed holiday of great joy and annual sorrow-joy for me as it is the anniversary of when I lost my mom. She went into a coma on Christmas eve in 1979 after very rapid cancer return and died on NEw Year’s. That week grounded my sense of prayer. Now I always light candles for
Xmas to New Year’s to invite forth her spirit and my father’s and my many aunts and uncles in France and Haiti and the elders in Rwanda and Belgium and beyond. Their lives infuse mine and their dreams for their children and I never forget that and their sacrifices.
Let the gran moun and the grann espri enter my house of soul.
And let those you miss and love warm your hearts and holidays too.
I’m sending general warmest vibes to those of you in quarantine or feeling sick or stuck feeling alone. We are all rooted in the lives and struggles of our families, blood and chosen. Let the best of their love bless you.
Joyeux Noel Maman (Viviane d’Adesky) et Papa (Raymond d’Adesky) et Grandpere Serge d’Adesky et Nita et Mammy et Dedy et Grandmere et grandpere d’A et tout les cousins et branches de notre familles au Bresil et le Canada et autreparts. Je vous embrasse un et tout le monde. A vous la bonne sante!”
I spent Christmas thinking of them, strolling to Truman's House in Brooklyn Heights. The strange Christmas light dropped through the clouds. A Norwegian tall ship was docked in the marina, strange days; merry Covid Christmas everyone. Looks like this is going to be with us for a while.
My tenth day in isolation finally ended. Ok to go back out into the world. Not sure what I'm going to see there.