Scenes From A Pandemic: March/April 2020

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3/21: Hall table wi/ masks & New York Magazine, Forest Hills

“We are living in interesting times…” That is an understatement. For better or worse, I thought it should be documented here, as a continuation of my previous two posts. The following photos and videos were taken by me as well as my sister Jennifer, an ER nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bethpage, Long Island. Additional photos by my partner Chris Hovanec and my stepdad Mike Turner.

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3/27: St. Joseph’s Emergency Room converted for COVID Triage
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4/1: Jen wearing a donated face guard at work.

Cards and notes of gratitude on the doors of the staff lounge at St. Joseph’s:

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4/2: Before masks were mandatory – a surprise visit to my bedroom window from Mom & Mike.
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4/2: Before masks were mandatory – a surprise visit from Jen.

 

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4/5 Burns / Clyde St. Alley, Forest Hills
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4/8: Jen in a floral mask made by Mom
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4/10: Burns St. Pharmacy, Forest Hills
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4/12 Pandemic Chic: Chris with Samus @ Forest Hills Stadium

 

Snacks and treats of gratitude for the staff at St. Josephs:

 

Every evening at 7pm, New York says thank you to first responders, health care professionals and all the essential people working to keep us safe. This is from local television:

4/17: The 7pm cheer at Parker Towers Apartment Complex in Forest Hills, with a flag bearer and saxophonist playing the Star Spangled Banner:

 

 

 

 

 

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4/15: Participants of the 7pm cheer, Parker Towers, Forest Hills

4/15: The 7pm cheer filmed by Jen outside St. Joseph’s Hospital:

 

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4/17: On her day off, Jen goes to the 7pm cheer with my nephew to support her coworkers.
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4/20: Line for Trader Joe’s, Rego Park
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4/20: Line for Trader Joe’s Pt.2, Rego Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4/21: Baron Von Munchausen, (aka Munch) on a chalk rainbow, Burns St., Forest Hills

Thursday At The Racetrack

I arrive at the Aquaduct Racetrack parking lot where the digital traffic sign announces COVID TESTING. I drive up to the first checkpoint. It’s all military here: everyone covered in fatigues and masks. Multiple signs direct me to keep my windows rolled up.

They yell at me through N95s and my closed car windows. I know they aren’t angry but it sure gives that impression. I am a possible contagion under glass. DO YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT? Yes. WHAT TIME? 1:30. SHOW ME YOUR ID#. PUT IT ON THE DASHBOARD WITH YOUR LICENSE AND LEAVE IT THERE. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOWS.

Next check point. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOWS. My dashboard info is examined and additional paperwork is placed under my windshield wiper. I am really starting to sweat now. It’s a warm day and I have turned off the air conditioning so I can hear what they are saying. I assume someone will take my temperature at some point and I’m going to say that they should really grade that on a curve. Thankfully, nobody ever takes my temperature.

Next check point. I am approaching the testing tent. The windshield wiper paperwork is now held up to the outside of the driver’s side window for me to examine and verify.

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I am instructed to pull up and wait. There are two cars ahead of me. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOW UNTIL YOU ARE INSTRUCTED TO. PUT YOU HEAD BACK ON THE HEADREST. A COTTON SWAB WILL BE INSERTED IN YOUR NOSE TO COLLECT A SAMPLE FROM THE BACK OF YOUR THROAT.

I know. I know. I have been waiting for this appointment for quite some time. I am a week past my 17 days of fevers and fatigue but I thought I should get tested anyway, because who the hell knows what is going on with this virus?

Now it’s my turn. Pull up. Put it in park. Roll the window down. A medical person and his assistant in scrubs and masks approach. The previous information is repeated, just not as loud. I lower my mask. Put my head back. The swab is inserted. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

“Are you a music teacher?” He’s asking me a question while this thing is twisting in my nose.

“Am I a… huh?” I’m trying to figure out what prompted this inquiry. And then I remember: my mask. Black with white musical notes and clefs on it.

I want to say “Oh – my mask? Well… for my birthday back in 2002, my mother used this fabric to make me a wall tapestry depicting the pre-9/11 New York City skyline and now she used the leftovers to sew masks for my partner and I. Can you believe this world we are living in?”

 
But instead I just say, “No.” The test swab is still grinding against the back of my throat.

 
“Was I close?” he asks.

I know what he’s doing. He’s being nice. He’s trying to keep me calm. But it’s like when you are in the dentist’s chair with a mouth full of gauze and suction and instruments and he asks a question that requires more response than a head shake or a nod. How in-depth can I get in the midst of this procedure?

Was he close? My resume spins like a rolodex in my head. I am overthinking this. I finally manage to say; “I was an actor.” Does that sufficiently answer his question? It is the simplest answer. And I still have a stick in my nose.

No other questions are forthcoming. I think about what I said. I was an actor. Past-tense. Before all this. Before we got here. Are we done?

He slowly slides the swab out and I am momentarily reminded of some stunt we used to pull as kids: snorting a spaghetti noodle up our noses and pulling it out of our mouths. Kids.

Once the swab has been extricated, I let out a little whoop that could be interpreted a lot of ways. Pain? Excitement? Relief? The assistant looks a little startled so I assume it is not the normal reaction.

We are done. I can go online in 2 to 3 days to get my results. I smile and thank them and wish them a good day and roll up my window. I put the car in drive and pull out of the tent, following a line of cones directing me back to Rockaway Boulevard.

The sun streams in through the closed skylight window. And I burst into tears.

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Sunday: My results were posted today and I am all clear.

 

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New York Is A Ghost Town

As some of you may know, I have ramped up the blog posts in the last few months. Here’s a little backstory on why:
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I was abruptly let go from a humanitarian organization back on October 1st as my position was relocated to the London office. I spent the next 5 months at home, searching for a new job… and also devoting more time to this blog and other creative endeavors. I am lucky to have a partner and his nephew at home with full time jobs to help get through that period.
I was recently hired into the president’s office of a university downtown – my first day was March 9th. The following day, all classes were switched to online… and you can imagine how it has progressed from there.  By the end of the week, my partner and his nephew – a chef and a theatre manager – were laid off from their jobs.
At work, the number of people on campus dwindled, but we kept working in the president’s offices. I started taking pictures as the normally packed downtown/WTC/Brooklyn Bridge area started to empty out.
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The first picture above was included in an NBC news story about empty New York City.
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The above photos were taken at 1pm on Friday 3/13 – I wish I had retaken these angles today because it would have been much more stark, as you can see from the other photos I have taken since then.
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When I got the office today, I was told that we could now work from home, so I won’t be going back for a while. I’m grateful that I still have a job.