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17 Far-Flung Correspondents on Life During the Coronavirus

42nd Street at Grand Central Terminal, March 22, 2020. Photo Gayle Potter.

Reports from Honolulu, Paris, Portland (ME and OR), Madison, Israel, Amsterdam, New York and other places on daily life during these challenging times.

Everett Potter, Pelham, NY

From my perch in southern Westchester, I’m about a quarter-mile from the first containment zone in the US. No matter, it’s not containing anything anymore. The genie is out of the lamp and there are four cases of “it” next door. The eerie photo above reminds me of The Day the Earth Stood Still (the still moving 1951 Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal version) and was taken this past Sunday on 42nd Street at Grand Central Terminal by my wife, Gayle.

New York is a major hotspot and getting hotter by the minute. Self-containment is a given and  I find that wife, daughter, books, long games of Settlers of Catan, a good supply of wine and judicious glimpses at CNN get us through the days.

My wife is an inventive cook so we eat very well. Slowly. At a table with a lit candle. The three of us talking, the youngest of this trio on the verge of her college adventure. If there’s an upside to this unsettling time in our lives, it’s these moments.

Daily exercise is a given, getting out and about (and maintaining the requisite social distancing) is not only healthy but provides much-needed structure to the day. We also happen to live in a place where spring arrives early, so June is busting out all over even though it’s still March. Cue the pear trees and hyacinths. I’m deep into seed catalogs (and partial to Pinetree Garden Seeds in Maine). I expect one side effect of this moment in time is that the country will see a boom in Victory Gardens this summer.

But everyone has their own tale. I’ve discovered with calls and emails and texts with friends around the world this past week that everyone’s situation is slightly (or radically) different from mine. So I asked a bunch of my writers, travelers all, what life was like on their doorstep. Their viewpoints are illuminating.

Sempione, Italy, completed. Photo John Grossmann.

Coronavirus Coping

John Grossmann, Portland, ME 

Time was a scant week or so ago when my calendar was chock full of upcoming trips.  A three-day stay on a catamaran docked in St. Augustine.  A guys’ week in Ft. Meyers attending Red Sox spring training games and drafting our 2020 fantasy baseball teams.  A Norwegian cruise.  A family gathering on the Big Island.  All now x-ed out for March, April, and May.

It was hard not to bemoan these lost travel experiences and time with friends and family.  At least until the severity of the coronavirus pandemic became a stark reality and self-quarantining at home became necessary.  Early-stage coping strategies include daily phone calls and Face Time chats with friends. Email and texts simply don’t cut it.  Voices and faces matter. Typing LOL? A feeble facsimile.  Real laughter, even gallows humor, helps plenty.  My book group plans to hold its next meeting via Zoom.  A trial run, with its digital conferencing, Brady Bunch array of talking heads, worked wonderfully.

Like many, my wife and I are talking daily walks.  Confession:  we’re blessed with a spectacular route, as our windows look out at Fort Gorges and Peaks Island in Casco Bay. Five minutes from our front door and we can stand on a coastal Maine bluff that affords, with a mere turn of the head, views of three lighthouses.  Bug Light.  Spring Point Ledge Light.  Portland Head Light.  Soothing postcard views.

This past week we’ve revisited Venice, thanks to my wife’s fortuitous, pre-pandemic purchase of a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle called Sempione, Italy.  The cuts are tricky.  The canal scene, depicting the Trattoria Sempione, is gorgeous.  Here’s something you can control. The ever-dwindling pile of unattached pieces slowly brings a stunning picture into view (no looking at the box top, please).  The task takes days and days, reinforcing patience when each dawn presents another run of mostly unscheduled hours.  Moreover, the pastime requires a focused concentration that temporarily overrides the day’s news.  Another 1,000-piece puzzle will arrive later this week.

By then, we will have rebooted a misplaced weekly dining tradition:  Candlelight dinners.

 

March 22, 2020. Photo Gayle Potter.

No Chicken Below Canal Street

Shari Hartford, Battery Park City, NY

Dateline: Lower Manhattan, 17th floor, overlooking the Hudson River. Just finished today’s activity…cleaning out the underwear drawer. Tomorrow I’ll clean out the sock drawer. One should always have something to look forward to. Yesterday I foraged for groceries…got a bit here, a bit there, but no chicken below Canal Street…weird.

The eerie silence is what gets me the most. While my hood is generally subdued, the absence of ferry traffic, cruise ships, tourists and just amblers is disconcerting. BC [Before Corona] it seemed that everyone was scurrying to go somewhere or do something. There is almost calm now, a sense of manan͂a. After all, we really don’t have any place to go, anything to do that can’t be done tomorrow or the next day or the next.

I worry about the hotels I have visited and loved, will they still be there when this is over? I worry about my beloved Montauk, will the beaches be deserted this summer and favorite restaurants shuttered?

But we are New Yorkers. We are resilient, we are tough and we survive. If the rats and the cockroaches can survive, so can we. And we will rise like the phoenix to be stronger and, maybe, kinder. I want the world to be like New York…don’t cave, stand tall and live again.

 

The Tree House

Alexander Lobrano, Paris, France 

It’s a beautiful cusp of spring day in Paris, with blue skies and sunshine, and the city is so quiet I can hear birds chirping. The air is actually clean in the center of the city for the first time in years, too, but as I look out my window at this pretty day, it suddenly reminded me of the last time I was a shut-in observing the seasons change.

This was as an eight-year-old boy who’d had his tonsils removed after successive childhood diseases, including chickenpox and scarlet fever. Why anyone thought removing the tonsils would help is beyond me, but both my brother and me were operated on the same day, and then spent weeks confined to bed, because we were healing so slowly. I overheard the doctor telling my mother that he was worried about us after he came on a house call, which left me terrified, too.

Then one Saturday morning, we heard a power saw in the backyard and looked out the window to see a pile of lumber at the base of the huge forked willow tree in our backyard. My father was there chatting with Mr. Schmidt, the carpenter, and then Mr. Schmidt got to work with my father helping. By the very end of the day, the tree house they’d built was finished, and my father came upstairs to tell us we could get out of bed and look out the window. We had to feign surprise, because we’d been stuck to the window all day watching them, excited behind belief by what we saw.

“Now get back into bed, and do not get out again for any reason except to go to the bathroom, which means slippers and your bathrobe,” my father said. “And when you get better, you can climb up into that tree house. It has a trap door and a rope ladder that you can pull up behind you.”

It worked.

 

Joe and his Honey-Do list. Photo Julie Snyder.

 

Cabin Fever Update

Julie Snyder, Portland, OR

Snug at home in our peaceful Portland neighborhood, Joe and I are reminded of the San Francisco earthquake aftermath we experienced in 1989. Then, like now, the world outside our windows looked the same. Then, like now, countless lives beyond our view were severely impacted. Then the earthquake was behind us. Now, it seems, the tremors are just beginning with no clue where the COVID-19 quake will register on the global Richter scale.

Neighbors check in to see if we need anything from the market and we do likewise. Nature nurtures my mental health—spring cleaning in our backyard and long walks through our tree-filled streets and lush local parks. Fellow walkers’ wave. Their befuddled dogs don’t understand what happened to my head rubs and chin scratches.

I’m wrapping up work on a book of haiku while an article for EPTR on a recent India trip awaits my attention. I’m cleaning closets, teaching the cat new tricks and creating a “Honey-Do List” for my husband. He’s listing ancient climbing gear on E-bay and avoiding my now-lengthy list. We’re both making a dent in our bedside reading stacks. I’m currently in Africa with Rick Ridgeway through the pages of “The Shadow of Kilimanjaro.”

We’re watching our 30th anniversary plans—a transatlantic cruise, two weeks in Italy and a week in London planned for late August/early September—fade a bit more every day. But we are sadder for all those workers negatively impacted by the crash of the travel industry than we are for ourselves.

Other travels, near and far, are also in limbo. I wonder what the world will look like when it’s safe to hit the road again.

 

Frederick Douglass Circle in Manhattan ©MRNY

A Fine Mess

Mark A Thompson, New York, NY

T’is a fine mess we’re in now is a phrase that keeps circling in my mind (which I initially attributed to The Emperor’s New Clothes—before realizing that it was actually a paraphrase of Laurel and Hardy).  On the other hand, there’s the quiet.  Quiet in the city that never sleeps.

For the first time in decades, New York appears to be the city where everyone sleeps. The streets are empty, everyone inside. Which has proved a boon for cooking soups such as Greek lentil and spinach with lemon (which one medical professional has eaten every day for the past 17 years…) and a verdant creamy spinach soup that ushers spring into the kitchen.

Reading novels like Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous serve as a reminder that, for many of us, our shelter-in-place routines hardly constitute deprivation. The homeowners’ forum in our building in Manhattan buzzes with offers of assistance for those in need of shopping and daily chores.

As the stay-at-home days pile up, I am reminded of rainy days during my childhood when my mother would toss a tablecloth on the kitchen floor, proclaiming, “Let’s have a picnic.” Hence the jigsaw puzzle (British manor houses) in our apartment alongside the Cribbage board, both of which are possible while bingeing on Schitt’s Creek.

And if you missed Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir in the theatres, it’s beautifully acted by Tilda Swinton’s daughter (and Tilda, too), the two of them as mother/daughter reveling in a lapidary screenplay with lush cinematography. When you need a house party of bong-filled escapism and infectious laughter, Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! is his big-hearted follow-up to Boyhood. There’s also Knives Out, which is wonderfully entertaining and mordant in its humor. Perfect for the moment.

 

As Empty as the Dish of Cashews at a Bar

Ed Wetschler, Lords Valley, PA

As a travel writer who covers the Caribbean for a Florida-based magazine, I find myself in an unfamiliar situation, holed up at our NE Pennsylvania house instead of dividing my time between this house, our Manhattan apartment, and the islands. And make no mistake: Because of the elevation, our PA environment is no tropical getaway. You know that when you see me freezing soup on our porch.

Three things strike me during this interlude from normalcy:

Instead of following the zillion press releases and Caribbean newsletters I normally read for hours every day, I’m obsessed with the coronavirus news. A month ago, my wife would have bet the bank that I’d never cut out all my daily travel biz reading, and I wouldn’t have bet against her.

Our community is half weekenders from the New York Metropolitan Area, half full-time residents, but suddenly, I see lots of people walking on the roads. Walking?! The full-timers don’t walk anywhere. So who are these walkers? Those stories you’ve read about city people fleeing to the hinterlands are true. No wonder the grocery store is as empty as the dish of cashews at a bar. When there were bars open.

I sometimes cook Caribbean dinners at home, but now I’m doing it about four out of seven nights. Thus, the plantains, the cassava, the broiled red snapper with a jerk rub. And even when a dish is not really Caribbean, I’m flavoring it as if it were. For example, pan-fried pork chops get a colombo sauce (something like a curry, but with mustard seeds rather than chiles providing the heat) and chicken quarters baked with Walkerswood Jamaican Jerk Seasoning.

And yes, we also have rum. The good stuff, from the French islands.

 

Social distancing in Vondelpark, Amsterdam. Photo Richard West.

A Few Small Serendipities

Richard West, Amsterdam, NL

In Amsterdam where my wife and I have lived for seven years, the usual closures—schools-restaurants-bars-gyms-sex clubs (including the city’s famous Red Light District), hairdressers, etc.

But a few small serendipities: our supermarket now is open an hour earlier (7 a.m.-8 a.m) for 70+ customers; the shuttered pizza restaurant round the corner offers takeaways and deliveries; the American Book Center bookshop, only open for pre-ordered pick-ups, also will deliver books free for 70+ customers. And, above, a sign of the times in Vondelpark.

 

Not Heli-Skiing

Brian E. Clark, Madison, WI

As I pen this, I’m sitting at my dining table, where I spend a lot of my time reading and writing when I’m not on the road. I was supposed to be in Alaska today, heli-skiing in the Chugach Range, flying to remote peaks and floating down steep slopes through knee-deep powder. Then came the coronavirus.
So I’m in Madison, WI, glad that the tightness I felt in my throat last week was nothing. And thankful that my children and those who are dear to me are healthy. So I write and edit photographs, trying to keep to a normal schedule and hope that a story on family rafting trips in the West that I’m working on now will see the light of day in the Los Angeles Times. But maybe not.
I soldier on, take daily walks in the nature preserve near my home, visit an 89-year-old retired internist who is lonely and who gives me free medical advice and the nursing professor who is my sweetheart. (More free medical advice.)  But I sure wish I were skiing in Alaska. Then again, there’s always next year. This is what I tell my 19-year-old daughter when she asks about the trip we have/had planned to the Amazon in June.
We’ll do something closer to home, I say. Maybe camp in our backyard, like we did when she was little.  The important things, I remind her, are to stay well and take good care of those around us. And don’t forget to tell them that we love them. Lots.

Dreams of Elsewhere on Hold

Mary Alice Kellogg, Greenwich Village, NY

Normally on weekends, my Greenwich Village neighborhood is alive and loud: bars and restaurants full, tourists declaiming their walking routes, and the sing-your-heart-out gang at Marie’s Crisis Cafe doing justice to every show tune ever written.

Today my nabe is still alive but very, eerily, quiet.  Just now the blessed silence was shattered when a morning dove cooed. Three of ten apartments in my building are occupied; the rest, like many of the single-family townhouse residents, have decamped to country homes. When I do grocery shop or sit with a friend – six feet away – on a bench in Abingdon Square, we greet one another like survivors of the Titanic.

Like many travel pros, I have had to put all dreams of elsewhere on hold. This living very much in the present and taking the health crisis one day at a time has actually been an unforeseen gift. My time is spent cleaning closets, painting apartment corners that need it, tackling that stack of bedside books we all have, and gorging on Netflix and TCM. I am transcribing years of fiction to my laptop and getting rid of paper files. I no longer have CNN or MSNBC on all day, choosing to watch Governor Cuomo’s enlightening press conferences and evening network and BBC World News.

But I am still writing, every night listing in a journal all the good things that happened that day, from a long WhatsApp exchange with friends in France, the white blossoms of the pear tree outside my window, thanking the staff at the local grocery for stocking the shelves, the latest Randy Rainbow video, the hysterical Talking Yorkie on YouTube … all things great and small that give hope, laughter, comfort. This – along with a virtual cocktail appointment every night with a friend either near or far – keeps spirits up. I check on friends and neighbors and they check on me. Michelle upstairs left hanging on my doorknob a Margarita-in-a-pouch from a local bar yesterday: a high point!

In short, this crisis has made me realize the gifts I’ve been given. One at a time, my days are full with the things that truly matter. And that is the biggest gift of all, which I will carry with me, forward and forever.

Honolulu shrine. Photo Tom Passavant.

Virtual Cocktails

Tom Passavant, Honolulu, HI

Where you are: Self-quarantined in Honolulu.

What you’re doing to stay sane and busy:  Virtual cocktails with friends from all over, via Zoom.

Can you get outside? Yes, although elevator etiquette is not well established yet in our building.

What’s your block or neighborhood like? A mix of big high-rises and small businesses. More things open that you might imagine given Hawaii’s shelter in place order. And the surfers are out in force.

Any random acts of kindness? It’s not really random, but kupuna (older folks) are treated with great respect in Hawaii, at least when they’re not being run down in crosswalks by careless drivers. Kindness is considered a daily virtue, not an aberration.

Any major displays of selfishness? People were stealing the toilet paper and the hand soap from the building’s public bathrooms, so they had to close them down.

What are you reading or watchingSee You in the Piazza, by Frances Mayes. Highly recommended.

 

Pushing the Boundaries

Steve Jermanok, Newton, MA 

Jake is working at Wayfair from home and Melanie just arrived from Indiana University, which sadly canceled her graduation this May. So all four of us are pushing the boundaries of this suburban Boston home. From a travel advisor standpoint at ActiveTravels, this has been an incredibly stressful month, getting all our clients home from around the world under strict deadlines. It included an older couple in Rome who were supposed to head on to Sicily before we cut their trip short, a younger couple on sabbatical who were about to go sea kayaking in the Galapagos with ROW Adventures, and a college student from Barcelona on her semester abroad. As a travel writer, I’m taking a hiatus from my travel blog to focus on a new book, tentatively titled New England in a Nutshell, a compilation of my favorite stories I’ve written on the region over the past 25 years.

Yes, we can go outside for walks, or to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, and hopefully not the hospital. Lisa and I started a #ShareYourHeart campaign on Facebook, in solidarity with all our friends around the world suffering from this pandemic. Simply create a heart using images from your own photos, magazines, poems, and place it on a poster board to hang on your front door. It’s our own little way to send love and hope to our neighbors and delivery people who stop by.

Regarding literature, I just finished Alice Hoffman’s soul-stirring The Museum of Extraordinary Things, about two unusual and highly original characters who meet up in Coney Island in 1911. Next up is Hoffman’s The Marriage of Opposites, based on the life of the Impressionist painter, Camile Pissarro. On TV, we’re in the midst of watching the wonderful My Brilliant Friend on HBO.

Stay safe, stay strong!

 

Grand Central, NYC, March 17, 2020. Photo Gayle Potter.

Rolling with the Punches

Ruth J. Katz, New York, NY

To paraphrase Mark Twain, I am writing you a long letter, as I don’t have time to write you a short one.

I should have been leaving today and would have been in Germany tomorrow, on a river cruise, to mostly small ports, as it was a wine-related sojourn. While I was looking forward to all the lesser-known stops near vineyards, I was also eager to return to Vienna and Budapest.  Alas. That is kyboshed, along with two other European trips and two domestic trips. There will be no way to duplicate these journeys at a later date—one was tied to a literary festival that obviously cannot take place. This is just the reality of life right now, and we all must roll with the punches.

We are all going to have to be even more creative about how we earn a living. But, on a deeper level, I am horrified and deeply saddened to think what this will do to the entire, global travel marketplace, and on the microcosmic level, to individuals who depend on hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions for their living. I worry about my own ability to meet my overhead.

I think we Gothamites have taken this more seriously than others have in disparate parts of the country. To think just a week ago, I went to the Lower East Side to do an interview and then came midtown, to the hair salon.  (I’m not saying I color my hair, but let’s just say my roots needed tending. LOL) The appointment had been made weeks before and I was desperate.  I wasn’t even sure the place would be open…and I was, frankly, shocked that there were as many clients there as there were.  (My niece says that in three weeks we’re going to know everyone’s natural hair color!)  In hindsight, I think it was madness. At the time, as things were slowing down, ultimately grinding to a halt, it seemed OK—just required to be prudent.  I actually went to the theater two weeks ago, March 11 (my birthday), and who knew that it was going to be The (figurative) Last Supper, before Broadway dimmed its lights?  Well, that was, indeed, my last foray into my old life.

And I am surviving with the opera. Every day I take advantage of the Metropolitan Opera’s live streaming. I am so buoyed by the efforts that so many cultural institutions from around the world have made to bring us theater, museum tours, concerts (Did you see the Rotterdam Philharmonic video?  Google it.), ballet and opera, and lectures in our inboxes. It is heartening.

 

Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, NY. Photo Gerrie Summers.

My New Normal

Gerrie Summers, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, NY 

Saturday night. I’m unable to sleep. I’m anxious. Too many bad thoughts are entering my head. I need to go to the grocery store in the early morning, to avoid, I hope, too many fellow shoppers. A five-pound bag of Idaho potatoes and a 20-pound bag of rice are on sale. I need to get the remainder of the food stuff that I’ll need to last for at least fourteen days. But I’m up tossing and turning, thinking about how to keep from getting COVID-19.

Is this real?

On a normal Sunday morning, I’d be cranky because I’d have to wake up early to take qigong at HealHaus. My teacher would joke about my needing my daily “fix” of caffeine. Afterward, I’d stop by Dunkin Donuts for a much too sweet Signature Latte.

In the morning, I walk out into the unknown. The wheels of the shopping cart squeal in the unsettling quiet. From a block away, I see a man walking towards me and I admit I’m wondering…Coming closer, he veers to the left, almost off the curb to avoid being too close to me and covers his face with a scarf. I feel a little insulted, even though I know the six feet rule and I’m holding my breath. That’s what I do. Hold my breath as I pass by the few people on the street.

The whole world is holding its breath.

It’s 9:30 am. More people are coming out. I’ve finished my shopping. I rush home. I think about The Omega Man and I Am Legend. I’m acting like I need to get home before they come out. Once inside my apartment, I shed the outdoor clothing like I’ve come in from a radioactive wasteland and don’t want to contaminate my home. I wash my hands for 20 seconds. Wash my face for good measure.

One day ambles into the next. There’s no feeling of relief when Friday moves closer to Saturday, or workweek dread when Sunday begins to fade into Monday.

Since January, I had become a homebody, tired of airport security and cramped airline seating. Even three trips offering sun and fun, didn’t move me. I was fine with taking a break to write, slow the pace and, ironically, staying away from crowds, until, that is, it became mandatory to stay home. I have too much time to think about my new state of being:

A travel writer with no place to go.

Deep Conversation

Cathie Arquilla, Pelham, NY

To combat being bombarded with scary news and Covid-19 data, I’ve been distancing myself from media. Then Instagram became Covid infected, and Facebook has been a no no for a while, so I’ve shunned social media for now. I’m getting intel from girlfriends who I’m talking to by phone or Facetime. I don’t think I’ve had so many long phone conversations with friends since talking about boys in high school. Their news is about the news, but it’s also very personal.  And I’m doing a lot of sharing too. That feels right, right now.

With my adult daughter and husband working from home, we’re trying to maintain office hours (sort of). We are accessing different online exercise classes. Qigong has been particularly helpful with stress reduction for my husband and me. My daughter likes Pilates. It’s weird and delightful to have them around, especially since I’m used to having Monday morning staff meetings with my dog Peaches. I’ve been working for myself since 1989.

This weekend my daughter and I found a short wooded trail through Pelham Bay Park down to the Long Island Sound. On the way, I asked a big question, one that only a pandemic would elicit since we have already exhausted so many subjects. “What’s your timeline for your life?” “God, Mom…” and then she just spilled. All her dreams, ambitions, concerns tumbled out, and I was there, hopefully, with some helpful, encouraging responses. So there is the silver lining. Time to talk, share, connect, even though we’re supposed to be distancing ourselves from each other.

 

 

Indian chef in Tel Aviv. Photo Buzzy Gordon.

The Ingenuity of the Start-Up Nation

Buzzy Gordon, Tel Aviv, Israel

I actually am not 100% sure whether I had the virus and recovered or not. Back in the days when it was virtually all in China, I was on a press trip in the Philippines, which had only one case in the whole country. It turns out, though, that it was on the one remote island we were on: Negros. Then we flew Manila-Istanbul (Turkish), via airports with plenty of Chinese and other nationalities. The day after we landed, I was sick, with a bad cough, low fever, loss of appetite and fatigue. But I was not coming from China, so I could not get a test. The doctor said bronchitis, and indeed my cough was not dry; but I was weak for more than three weeks. In retrospect, I hope that I was exposed and now have antibodies.

Meanwhile, the current situation in Israel is like in CA and NY: everyone told to stay home, only essential services allowed to operate, mass transit cut way back. In fact, Israel was an early adopter when it came to hard-line restrictions, in particular not allowing any foreigners to enter, and making all Israelis returning from abroad — anywhere overseas — self-quarantine.

This led to severe cutbacks in flights. At first, I was outraged: I was angry that Israel was in effect keeping me from flying somewhere there might be 0 corona cases. Eventually, however, I came around, as the strategy seems to be working: only about 1,600 cases; and more importantly, less than 30 people in intensive care, and only three fatalities — all over age 80.

The ingenuity of the start-up nation is also being tailored to the fight against the virus: someone came up with the idea to automate in a simple fashion the manual ventilators used in ambulances, a development which may lead to mass-producing ventilators quickly and at relatively low cost; the military apparently has a robot that can analyze 20,000 corona tests an hour — if only they can administer that many.

Solidarity is fairly strong: I think we were the first to get people out on porches to clap for medical workers, and there are lots of impromptu Sabbath services on neighboring porches. (As a warm country, most people live in apartments with porches.)

Israeli entertainers have stepped up, too. One local channel is televising nightly concerts by leading musicians and bands, playing live on stage before audiences of — none. Another is televising classic Israeli sitcoms late at night — shows that are generally shown only on the premium cable comedy channel.

In the final analysis, I must admit that I have it better than most when it comes to still enjoying the perks of the job. I am at the nexus of journalism, defined as essential work, and food service, an essential service. I am Israel’s most prolific restaurant reviewer writing in the English language; and while we are not running regular reviews, since restaurants are closed when it comes to seating, they are allowed to remain open for take-out and delivery. My editor has me writing columns on “restaurants that are feeding us during the crisis,” so my refrigerator has never been so full: Thai, Indian, grilled chicken, Asian, Italian — and I have not even had to resort to pizza. I always go for take-out, rather than order delivery, so I get out every day. However, it looks like take-away is being revoked, to be replaced by delivery only.

 

House Arrest

By Michael Kiefer, Phoenix, AZ

By Wednesday, I will have lasted out my so-called 14-day quarantine since escaping from Spain just before all hell broke loose, a misadventure I’ve already chronicled for this site (see Travel in the Time of Coronavirus).

My significant other, who is a TV news producer, was kindly asked to leave the station, because Spain had become a Covid-19 hotspot in the 24 hours since we left.  But it didn’t really matter: by the next day, nearly everyone was working remote, coming up with ingenious ways to do interviews and hold meetings from their living rooms.

So in Phoenix, we are essentially on house arrest as the virus starts to make its run, day-to-day from eight to 50 to 108 to however many cases by the time you read this.  The schools and gyms and bars are shut down, the restaurants can only serve takeout, most stores are closed, and who wants to go to any of them anyway?  We work at home, go to the market, take walks, making sure to practice Safe Social, and feel a queasy panic every time we break out in a sweat.

Who knew how much a pandemic could take the fun out of travel?

My friends in Spain and Italy assure me they are still fine.  My friends in Aspen can only gaze forlornly at the fresh snow on the slopes and the empty, unmoving chair lifts a block from their house.

My younger daughter canceled spring break in Vegas with her kids, which shut down before she would have gotten there anyway.  My older daughter, who is a sommelier, was on a wine education junket in Australia.  I urged her to come home as soon as possible, watching how fast things went from “no problem” to “big problem” in Spain. She had no choice but to wait out a few more days before she made it back to Los Angeles and started her own quarantine, unlikely to go back to work in the near future. Within four days she came down with a fever.

One friend in Phoenix has been sick since she got back from the Dominican Republic a month ago.  Although she has intermittently shown all of the symptoms of Covid-19, she has been unable to get any doctor to test her for the disease.

As for me, I’m teaching my journalism classes at Arizona State University over video conferencing software.  Whereas I used to see my students seated sleepily around seminar tables, now they beam in from their bedrooms in their parents’ houses all over the country.  Dogs and cats and the occasional mom wander past their cyber cameras.

One of the more creative students announced one morning that he was attending class from an aquarium.  It looked as if he were in a cel from The Little Mermaid, but he had, in fact, discovered the virtual backdrop function in the software.

The other students asked how he had done that, and after he explained, I saw the bedrooms flicker as the students transported themselves to real and imagined virtual places: the press box at the ASU football stadium, an enchanted garden, a home-home on the range, the Aurora Borealis.

It lifted the moment.  Virtual travel is better than no travel at all.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Pat
    March 28, 2020 at 7:43 pm — Reply

    Ev: GREAT roll up. Love to you all.

    • March 29, 2020 at 12:03 pm — Reply

      And best to you and Tony!

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