Behind the Mask: Daily Chronicles of Quarantine

I’ve never been able to start a “diary” of my daily thoughts. That always felt weird to me. I do, however, keep a notebook to fill with tips, quotes, life goals and so forth but I can go months at a time without putting pen to paper.

I think it’s important for all of us to take notes about our thoughts during this time. It’s definitely something I’ll regret in 20 years if I had not. You’ll try to recall what it was like and what you remember and it may go something like “Well, we watched a lot of Netflix and drank a lot.” But I think it’s important to actually write in detail what’s going on each day. This is SUCH a weird time. Our children and grandchildren will want to know what we did and what we thought. Not just what documentaries you watched, but how you coped. How you handled not seeing your parents, not being able to hug your best friends or live any sort of “normal” life.

Here’s my start. I wish I had started sooner…

Background: On Wednesday, March 11th my office at One World Trade Center shut down indefinitely due to two cases of COVID-19 at the company. That night, Donald Trump announced a travel ban on anyone flying from Europe to the United States. On March 12th, Lauren and I reluctantly flew to Mexico for a trip we had planned and were tempted to cancel. We enjoyed four days drinking margaritas on the beach but feeling guilty. Lauren, a healthcare professional, did not want to post any pictures for her coworkers to see. 

We landed back in New York City on Monday, March 16th to a new city. We’ve been in quarantine in our Long Island City apartment since.

April 25th, 2020 – Jones Beach, New York

What’s our value?

As I walked along the expansive wind-rushed beach on the sandy shores of southern Long Island I began to consider my value in this world. As the global economy comes to a screeching halt, we start to think collectively: who is essential and who isn’t? What’s important right now? Where should I be focusing my energy?

Communication, connection, care, empathy, and leadership. Those are skills that you don’t go to school for (you can, technically speaking… but you know what I mean)

When else would we ever have gotten an opportunity to just stop? Literally.

Isn’t it almost weird to think how your life would’ve been playing out had this not happened? We joke that life in quarantine is like Groundhog’s Day, but is it really that much different to the monotony of life pre-quarantine? Not to sound like a hippy knocking down the “rat race” of life but do you see what I’m saying?

Of course you had freedom to go places and do whatever you want, but did you really take advantage of it? Or was every day a repeatable, predictable rut to get through to the other side?

I think that’s one of the most positive unintended side effects of this pandemic. We can no longer and should no longer take any of the small freedoms we used to have for granted. The freedom to walk into a subway car and grab a pole. The freedom to walk into a barbershop, smile and shake the barber’s hand . The freedom to book a trip across the country a week in advance and sit in between two strangers without fear (unless they brought weird food onboard). The freedom to buy tickets to a ballgame the day-of and grab a beer or a hot dog from a friendly, mask-less vendor.

We never would have appreciated those things as much as we will from this point on. Sports, hugs, smiles, handshakes, group photos, crowded bars. They’re going to be awkward but we will be so freaking grateful to do them again.

It’s a cliché but you really don’t know what you have until it’s gone…

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April 26th – Queens, New York

Why do we need this? We need struggle. Humanity needs to survive. We adapted to overcome.

In the book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger explains how times of struggle, war, famine, and terror are oddly when human connection is at it’s best. We have a tribal connection and a need to adhere ourselves to groups of like-minded people. This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival. Remember how people respected each other after 9/11? The two months after 9/11 were some of the greatest times of connection and care in New York City and arguably the country. Everyone looked each other in the eye. There was a mutual respect for anyone doing anything. Taxis stopped honking at each other. People waved at firefighters and police officers in admiration.

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The other day, walking along the water at Jones Beach, I felt that in some sense. Everyone was there for the same reason. Everyone felt the same awkwardness. Like we were doing something naughty but something that we need to do. We all needed that release.

April 28th – Queens, New York

The Blue Angels flew did a fly-by to honor first responders, healthcare professionals, etc. It was the only thing I had to look forward to all morning. It’s insane how close they fly to each other.

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April 29th – Queens, New York

I don’t care if it’s selfish or not following protocol, I can’t run with a mask on.

April 30th – Queens, New York

I can’t escape the circuitous mind-bends that accompany life in quarantine. One day I’m enjoying myself – optimistic about the possibilities of remote working: a better work/life balance, seamless communuication, reaching out to old friends more often, learning to cook, reading more, writing more, being focused and developing a consistent workout routine while eating healthier throughout the day… You know the feeling.

Not 24 hours later am I in existential dread – loathing the same Groundhog’s day routine of rolling out of bed, signing on to my laptop at my makeshift office in the corner of my tiny apartment, loathing the next Zoom call, the backdrop of yet another day of slog and rain. “It’s never going to end,” I think to myself. Not only is New York City going to be the last place to open things up, but white-collar office workers like myself are the last people that will be needed back.

I open a pint of Tonight Dough Ben & Jerry’s and eye the nearly empty bottle of Bulleit Bourbon across the room, daring me to turn it upside down into the nearest tumbler.

May 1st – New Hyde Park, New York

There’s certainly a great divide of suburban vs. urban areas. That’s obvious. But it’s more obvious during lockdown. The Queens I’ve been quaranting in is stark, scary, and more of an every-man-for-himself feel, at times. I can still go for walks and go to the grocery store, donning my mask and winter gloves (for lack of surgical gloves), but I feel judged and eyed down. People are territorial, being there isn’t much “territory” to occupy on the narrow sidewalks and grocery store aisles.

There’s some relief on the nice days, they feel “normal.” Or as normal as normal can be right now. People go for walks, go for runs. But even then, I feel a sense of anxiety if I have to shoulder past a couple holding hands on the sidewalk. That anxiety increases tenfold with the amount of people out on the streets. It’s good and bad.

In suburbia however, things are little more normal. Or at least, you can keep clear of the hysteria more easily. You can walk around the neighborhood without a mask and maybe not even run into another person. You can hang out in the backyard, you can go for a drive. Neighbors wave at each other. The grass is greener…

May 2nd – Hampton Bays, New York

I drove out to my brother’s new home in Hampton Bays this morning. The allure of home-ownership is starting to come into full view. As lockdown progressively gets more cumbersome and the weather gets nicer, everyone in their small city apartmets is dreaming of a backyard, a grill, separate rooms for their spouse to take loud Zoom calls, and fixer-upper projects on the weekends. After my brother gives me a tour of his new digs, I think to myself “this is the life.”

May 2nd – Queens , New York

I was miserable and tired after driving back to Queens. But it ended up resulting in the best night I’ve had in the last two months. Our friends Brittany, Remy and Corey – all in Long Island City – took us on a public drinking excursion. We went to a German bar and got to-go cups of beer in miso soup tupperware. Kind of like the “Huge Ass Beers” from Bourbon Street. We walked down to the East River to watch the sunset, picked up to-go frozen margeritas from a Mexican cantina, cheered on the healthcare providers at 7, hung out with cops handing out free masks and enjoyed the freedom of being amongst other people with smiles on their masked faces.

Maybe this lockdown thing isn’t so bad…

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May 3rd, – Hampton Bays, New York

I golfed today. It’s one of the only things you can do that still has some semblance of normalcy. You really never need to be within 6 feet of anyone, and my ball seemed to be practicing social distancing with the hole.

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Looks straight there. Actually went wide left.

May 4th – Queens, New York

Who would’ve thought? A year ago if you asked me if I wanted a house I’d say “Not now, I have access to the greatest city in the world and all my friends are here – I have everything I need!” Now, all I want is a big chocolate lab to throw tennis balls out the sliding glass door into my in-ground pool backyard.

May 5th – Queens, New York

The nice weather days are the only thing that keep me going. I couldn’t imagine doing this quarantine in a dreary, grey (gray?) city. And it makes me jealous of people doing this in sunny places like San Diego. Life is a little easier when the weather is nice.

The rain is good as it keeps people inside, but it’s not good for our overall mood. We need sunshine and the outdoors in general to keep us stable.

May 6th – Queens, New York… again

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo. We made tacos and margaritas and played Mexican music. We learned Cinco de Mayo is not in fact celebrating Mexico’s independence, but rather it celebrates Mexico’s victory of France in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. I’m sure Google searches for that spiked…

We had a Zoom call with some friends and debated over the best chocolate candy bar for several hours – something we never would have done pre-quarantine. Or at least we wouldn’t have let the discussion go on for that long before demanding a subject change. What else is there to talk about? We didn’t seem to mind.

I don’t think we ever came to an answer…

 

 

-KB

 

 

 

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