It’s not been that long and people are seriously showing some agita. Until now there’s been an air of “we’re all in this together” but New York is too full of complaining, entitled, selfish, aloofly-wealthy asshats for that to last. Maybe I said that already.
Certain video clips of things like sporting events or concerts make me think, for as long as many of us have left, that this world might never be like that again. Arenas and stadiums filled with 50,000 people going joy over bazillionairres hitting a baseball? Catching a football? Whatever one might think of the wacky economics of professional athletics it has historically been sports and entertainment that set the pace for normalcy after national traumas. Will it even be possible for the sports gods to
step in and calm things this time?
On 9/11, in the hours when it was unclear to me what the hell had just happened, I walked home from CNN at 9th Avenue and 34th Street to Astoria, a very long-ass walk for me in those days. I saw the windows of the tall buildings in the garment district as eyes that wanted to blink but could not. Hovering over one of the buildings I saw what I thought was a cloud. It was smoke from the towers. It made me ask, to no one present, from the void of not knowing when the next shoe would drop or what would happen when it did: “Is all this going to be gone soon?” I thought the
same of 5th Avenue last week, deafeningly silent and deserted. First I asked the same question, if it would all be gone soon. Then I asked, “Is this all gone already?” Are St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockfeller Center already Legoland pastiches of the city I knew 2 months ago?
I am happy that my music meant something to you. I’m working on some new things, having not been at the piano much lately. I took to the piano last week for the first time in months. At first it felt like
I had never played the instrument. But the muscle-memory kicked in and I became that youthful virtuoso again. Haha. More like virtuo-so-so.
I wandered through familiar territory. There’s a 4-hand Schubert Fantasia arranged for 2 hands that I really love, even if it’s a little awkward in places, as arrangements often are. It’s borderline bombastic at times but, as always with Schubert at his finest, still feels like never a single note is wasted. I often find myself asking why Bach left certain notes in place, or why he left others out. There is a particular spot in his famous Invention in A Minor, where he repeats A and C in the left hand, that puzzles me every single time I pass through it. Why didn’t he do A C E A? Seriously. It perplexes me. With the exception of his juvenalia I rarely have such thoughts with Schubert.
The neighbors here say my piano playing cheers them up when they hear it while passing through the hallway and stairwell. Some years ago my sister, when she was moving back in to the house in which we grew up, said an elderly woman approached her and said she used to stand outside the house and listen to me practice. Such a sweet, positive memory for that woman to have shared.
I went out to St. Michael’s Cemetery last week, or rather I tried to. The yard was closed, surprising since cemeteries were sanctioned as essential businesses. I learned later that they locked down because they are doing cremations 24 hours a day, and the bodies being hauled in are still infected and contagious. Under normal circumstances state regulations prohibit doing cremations ’round-the-clock. I had decided St. Michael’s would be my final destination, then changed my mind in favor of a burial at sea. The latter seemed like more of an equalizer, or anonymizer, which is what I came to prefer over a singular vanity burial or columbarium niche. As the pandemic unfolded I warmed to the idea of being thrown into a mass grave, anonymous and essentially invisible. Previously, of course, funeral homes did not offer mass graves as a low-budget option, though there is Potter’s Field on Hart Island.
But when I heard about the ’round-the-clock cremations I upped the ante, if you will, and embraced the possiblity of being cremated and thrown into a pit with the cremains of thousands of others. (“Cremains” is the worst word ever. Sounds like a fucking brand of cereal.) If it were possible I would want my body to completely evaporate, leaving no evidence I existed. At present the only procedure I know of that approximates evaporation is Liquefaction, where you basically get flushed down the toilet. I don’t think that’s legal in New York yet.
I am going into Midtown tomorrow. My PO Box is at Rockefeller Center. Last time I was there the postal workers were laughing, cackling even, yelling “WE MAKIN’ AMERICA GREAT!” They would trill on the “R”. “Grrrrrrrrrrrreat!” I wouldn’t know what led up to this chorus but I sensed bitterness. -mt