The NYC Pandemic Experience

More people are fleeing the city than have since after 9/11. Young adults in search of more space — older adults for more security — rents have actually gone down — all under the logical premise that outside the city life is cheaper and easier. My question is whether logic is always applicable.

Outside the city they have backyards and patios, more space to walk around and be unafraid of coming within 6 feet of who knows what — who knows who, and why aren’t they wearing a mask, these people? Outside the city you don’t only get your own indoors — you get your own outdoors. Imagine that!

Outside the city the streets are quieter. The illness rates are lower. Literally everywhere outside of this city there was less disease. Get your ass out of the 212 or 718 and your chance of survival immediately spikes. Outside the city you’re safe, like Rick Grimes in the first episode of TWD. Objective #1: Get out of the city!

Outside the city you can go to the doctor to get tested without waiting on a line of thousands. You can go to the grocery store without standing on a line wrapped around the block because outside the city there is no block. There’s just… space. So much space and nature and the air smells fresher, even from behind a mask. Outside the city six feet is effortless, as you’d be lucky to get within six feet even before the pandemic! Outside the city you can be alone — alone together… but really just alone.

Inside the city there’s a party every day. Every single day at 7pm my wife and I throw a different song on our Sonos, blast it out the window, and in the first historic example of an international display of gratitude we clap with neighbors for our healthcare workers. As is the case with any party, there are certain regulars we’ve come to expect: Two women across the avenue with whom we exchange nightly waves and they clap along to our song of the day. A couple of girls across the street that always use their pots and pans and two guys catty corner southwest that have some sort of incidental terrace on the second floor and get especially vocal when the MTA buses drive by.

Some parties are quieter, colder and dreary, but the better nights feature the welcomed honking horns of cars, MTA bus and taxi drivers passing our intersection, and how heartwarming it is to observe a bunch of New York City drivers honking out of love, out of unity and appreciation. And don’t let an ambulance happen to be on our corner — suddenly the cheer volume surges to new heights — like when Derek Jeter used to be introduced by Bob Shepherd. Some people stop at red lights, hear our music playing, look up and we exchange smiles. We miss one another even if we don’t know one another. We serve as a reminder that we’re all still here, all still waiting with the same agenda and same attitude of appreciation. Even the homeless man on my block cheers along and I enjoy wondering if he’s consciously aware of what the hell is going on. Does he care? Does he have it? Is he OK? Looks OK from my point of view, as he smokes away on his cigarettes, two-stepping and singing to the song of the day, maybe he’s better off than all of us.

Then again, the same man shouts incoherencies on the block throughout most afternoons. OK, fine, he’s not better off than us all. But he doesn’t bother anyone unless you don’t care for human noise, in which case what are you doing in New York? You want all of the good without any of the challenges — without any of the edge and grit of character that define New York as much as Carnegie Hall and $100 steaks? You have no business here. We’d like you to leave.

One day my dude was singing for hours on the corner. When we finally opened the window I recognized the song, It’s Your Thing by the Isley Brothers. I went onto Sonos, brought it up, blasted it out the window and appeared to provide a gift arguably even better than money (especially right now when most places aren’t accepting cash): His own personal one man jam. Outside the city this is practically impossible. I kept the Isleys’ station on for an hour and every time we peaked out the window, there he was, dancing away, singing to any passer by who’d listen. I think it may have given us even more pleasure than we gave him — a good example of how the energetics of giving works.

Inside the city it is easy to give. There are endless opportunities for charity and people going out of their way to cook, purchase or send food and supplies to the hospitals. More people equal less space and more potential for more danger is one way to look at the world. Another way is that more people equals more community and potential for love and generosity, which means more potential to receive. Inside the city we have the beauty of trees, grass and nature, admittedly about 5% of that which they have outside the city. Instead, we have the beauty of character and connection. We have the pulse of humanity, marching to the beat of existence. They have this outside the city as well, probably at about the same 5% as much.

Upper West Side nightly serenade of New York, New York

At the end of every 7:00 party our intersection is serenaded from an 11th story window by a woman as generous with her voice as she is fearless, hanging one third of her body out the window to ensure she’s heard. What a New Yorker move. A nightly a capela rendition of “New York, New York,” most times complete with performance salutations, either top hat in hand or shoes placed on each of her hands for an upper limb can-can dance to accompany the tune. It seems everyone keeps their windows open until she’s done, tourists (with bad timing) look up and take notice and I feel proud they have this experience of New York.

What’s most awesome is in this town she is only so original. From what I see on the local news there is one of her in almost every hood. From uptown to the Lower East Side and outer boroughs there are performers still performing, passion still pounding the pavement, perpetuating the pulse of the greatest city in the world. Even in quarantine, the beat goes on. This is why I love New York. This is why everyone who loves New York loves New York — and our love is unconditional. Tear down the buildings, build them back up, ruin the subways and rip us all off, spike the rents, float a viral pandemic through every nook and cranny, and like our countless rats and cockroaches we don’t die. We don’t leave. We’d rather be abused by you than not have you. You are my everywhere and everywhere else is nowhere. Outside the city they have nothing.

Acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese medicine in NYC, but my first loves are writing, stand-up comedy, yoga and old-school hip hop.

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