Boarded Up

Just as the City was about to take its first cautious steps towards un-PAUSE, the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25th in Minneapolis under police custody, led to worldwide protests against police brutality and racism. All of New York City Boroughs took part and, while most of the demonstrations were peaceful, some became violent, with reports of shootings, lootings and vandalism. The City was placed under curfew starting at 11pm on June 1, which became even stricter the following day, starting at 8pm. The curfew ended on June 7 but the protests went on. Store windows would remain boarded up for much longer owing to fears of more unrest and financial hardship due to the pandemic – smaller retailers being the hardest-hit.

June 2nd, 2020

PAUSE… Covid-time

Schools, restaurants, gyms were closed. There was a gradual lockdown until March 20, when all non-essential workers were ordered to stay at home, and the City went on PAUSE. Shut in our glass tower, we spied on the Port Authority traffic (significantly reduced, yet there were still buses running), communicated with signs on windows and a 3-minute clapping every evening at seven (to cheer the frontliners, but also a get-together of sorts, as if to reassure each other we weren’t alone), learned how to work on Zoom, a platform no-one had ever heard of pre-Covid, but was now quickly becoming our new workplace.

We got sick and very wary of the ways the virus could evolve, with only mild symptoms fortunately; I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so insecure, but then again, I’d never been sick with a potentially deadly virus and no access to a doctor, let alone testing, save for a phone call and daily updates by sms(!).

We got our hopes high with the arrival of USNS Comfort on March 30th, which was meant to alleviate the pressure from the City’s hospitals, only to depart exactly a month later having treated only 182 patients(!!).

All the while, we watched a ton of movies and TV series (”What We Do in the Shadows” was a highlight), tried to find disinfectant alcohol and wipes in vain, observed Amazon deliveries becoming a necessity and no longer a luxury, cooked a lot despite the loss of smell and taste which took about a month to return and even then not completely, because some things with strong aromas like lemons, onions or sandalwood now smell funny; turmeric and ginger became our new staples.

We witnessed the silence of empty streets the few times we had to work from the office (once no longer infectious) – and I mean really empty, as in people-playing-tennis-on-42nd-St.-&-Third-Avenue-at-nine-o’clock-in-the-morning empty; and I sported my new Covid-19 hairdo, which may or may not have triggered some stunned looks, but I’m still keeping it nonetheless.

Hell’s Kitchen Towers, NYC

March 15-31, 2020

Grand Central Terminal Two Minutes To Nine

On my way to work, walking crosstown and taking a shortcut through the Terminal.

Normally absolutely packed at this time on a working day, it was almost empty. New Yorkers were being asked to avoid public transport and, those who could, were abiding by the guidelines.

Only the previous day, on March 11th, WHO had finally declared the outbreak a pandemic.

Infection numbers were on the rise, and new guidelines were issued daily: events with more than 500 people had to be cancelled or postponed.

Broadway went dark.

The City felt numb.

New York City

March 12th, 2020

This dazzling virtuosa

Yuja Wang, in an unforgettable recital. It would be our last pre-Covid-19 one.

“I believe that every program is a living organism, so it should be in sync with how I’m feeling in that moment, so it is truly alive. I want the music to surprise me and to surprise the audience” – said Miss Wang as she entered the stage, and she proceeded to do just that, changing the sequence of the printed programme and keeping the audience hanging from every move of her flying fingers hitting those notes, for the next two hours.

Carnegie Hall, New York

February 28th, 2020