Archives for the month of: April, 2020
Day42

Day 42 4/22/20 Lilies lit up by the setting sun a reminder that my sense of smell is still working as their intense fragrance penetrated my mask. I stopped and remembered to acknowledge that in a little over a month 40,000+Americans have died with 10,000+ of those in New York

(Day 50) I hesitate to name it out loud, but after five weeks or so, I’m feeling my energy resume and the weird cycles of symptoms are now at the outer edges of diminishing impact, or so I hope. In mid-March, during the first official week of sheltering-at-home, I noted my initial symptoms – a low grade cough that remains somewhat with me today, if now only as a faint trace of a scratchy throat, but lingering still after all these days. That first real week at home, so different from the confusing one that preceded it – the week “before” – when I attended a school event at Carnegie Hall just two days before our campuses closed, a confusing threshold as New York City entered a transitional cycle that was already “too late” to be ahead of the virus, and it was half a week more until, finally, that weekend’s late announcement that the NYC public schools would not open on Monday. Later in the week that followed, amidst the disorienting first real stage of the shelter-at-home process, I started to keep track of my symptoms, mostly out of a silent fear.

In its first cycle, despite no fever nor trouble breathing, it felt like something was pressing down on my chest, and the sporadic cough established its mild but persistent pattern. Without two of the major symptoms then reported as coronavirus indicators, we mostly assumed I was just run down as the tough semester met “spring break” with our now postponed honeymoon trip letting the days open with a mix of disappointment and anxiousness. 

But I knew. Knew then that even though I wasn’t horribly sick, I was sick in way I’d never experienced before, and over the weeks that followed, even as it never crescendoed in the ways I feared, there was a bizarre series of cycles and shifting symptoms that, though fortunately not terrible, were also never really gone. 

All kinds of generational memories from my early NYC years during the peak HIV AIDS crisis surfaced: Do I have it? How to navigate the unclear guidelines and mixed messages and homespun preventions to survive this? Am I in danger of passing this on to others, and are we already “all infected?” I slept poorly for several weeks, unable to get to sleep, waking with nightmares to the sounds of sirens of the ambulances, trying to calm my frayed emotional state while tending to the deepening exhaustion and realities that my body was fighting something… different.

Day34

Day 34 NYTimes4/14: “The numbers brought into clearer focus the staggering toll the virus has already taken on the largest city in the United States, where deserted streets are haunted by the near-constant howl of ambulance sirens.” 

(Day 40) Virtual doctor’s appointment confirms what I’ve been experiencing as a low grade or “mild” version of the virus. 

The doctor and I discuss my symptoms: 3-5 days experiencing the initial chest pressure and the start of the cough followed by two weeks or so of really low energy and a rollercoaster of “I start to feel better” and then a set-back; next, my eyes were red and irritated, my lymph nodes swelled, and my throat ached for 3-5 days, and those symptoms eased and returned and then eventually reduced its hold, followed by weird aches that felt like random “light” pulses of pain beyond the midlife norms, and finally(?) a disorienting cycle of auditory symptoms, a fairly present ringing like someone had boxed my ears that made my all day-virtual zoom work meetings even more exhausting. The cough remained throughout the month + as an underlying layer to it all; but no fever, thank goodness. 

Doctor suggests no testing recommended at this point, given the high density of the NYC crisis and the risks of going to the test sites; Joseph’s not experiencing any symptoms, and we’ve been isolated at home for more than a month. When the antibodies test is approved by our medical care providers we’ll go get tested. In the meantime, rest and hydrate and sleep.

Day35

Day 35 Dogwood blossoms + Plague Doctor Mask: I’d made us masks, mine with the Plague Doctor print and anatomical hearts I’ve been working with since October, feeling a little Cassandra-like in my eerie pre-trend fabric choices

(Day 30) The presence of the sirens / tracking the rising deaths / the closeness of the virus to all of us / accumulated anxiety

Watching teachers pour their energy and hearts into online teaching in virtual classrooms, connecting to our students through these small box-like windows 

The presence of such unrelenting fear, not only of the coronavirus but the disastrous mishandling of our government’s lack of response, negligent lack of leadership, and dishonesty – the failure of our nation in this crisis

(Day 50) It has been more than five weeks since I’ve entered a store. My car sits exactly where I parked it the last time I drove home from work, never anticipating the prolonged absence of a commute. I have a neighborhood walk at the end of each work day of virtual school, always masked and with very intentional, protective social distancing. My husband carefully follows guidelines when he makes a skillful trip to the grocery store, masked and gloved. As the crisis unfolded with its unnecessary and tragic misinformation and mixed messages, we’ve done all that we could from the moment it was obviously descending upon the city. The more conversations I have with friends and colleagues the more I realize how prevalent this low-grade to “moderate” level experience is, the hidden realities of the not-yet actually tested but sure we’ve been sick, which just escalates the rising numbers we read in the papers each day. 

The staggering impact on us all and the free fall of how different our lives are from the start of March.

CompostingOurFears+CommittingtoActionMSRdetail

Day 7 (March 17) Detail of “Composting Our Fears + Committing to Action” begun in Oct. ’19 during my residency at Textile Arts Center, NYC. sculptural garment h: 30″ x w: 95″

Day 21 (Wednesday, April 1) Three weeks ago, the school I’m an arts administrator at closed both its campuses, and we made an initial trial run of virtual teaching practices before our Spring Break began. In this present crisis, I am grateful for the leadership of the institution that was reasonably prepared with plans and resources for the move to virtual classrooms. The city closed in fairly dramatic, but not quick enough, stages; on the weekend that followed, the beautiful weather seemed to call everyone outdoors, but the following Monday the public schools finally closed. Every day since, it becomes more evident to New Yorkers that we’re going to need to hold tight and keep caring about each other; this is not the first crisis our big diverse city has weathered.

As a generational Queer activist guy from the peak HIV AIDS epidemic NYC “plague years” I initially found myself reflecting on how much the world had NOT stopped in those past terrible days that turned into years, did not stop despite the countless deaths of young friends and lovers; as a young teacher, I went into work in silent mourning and fear, actually to the same campuses that I serve again now as an administrator. 

Day 6 (Monday, March 16) We drove into an empty lower Manhattan to carefully navigate the Marriage Bureau, grateful for the clerks and officiant (keeping her distance, not touching the lectern), to get legally married. The following day we made a tense groceries run, our honeymoon trip to Ireland postponed. It all seemed so unreal. 

Hands+Rings

Navigating the challenges of the times in which we live, it felt important to formally recognize our lifetime commitment to each other. We went for a simple City Hall civil wedding with our dear friend, Daniel, joining us as witness. We are planning for a future ceremony and celebration to come. Our announcement shared with friends and family fills our newsfeed with joy, coming at the front edge of the shutdowns and fears of the future, the loving responses were a much needed salve during the hard adjustments of that first week home.

Day 16 (Friday, March 27) We watched the beautiful, inspiring Every Act of Life last night, which PBS shared in honor of Terrence McNally. McNally died of complications from COVID-19 on March 24 and is survived by his husband, Tom Kirdahy. I saw the original production of “Love! Valour! Compassion!” several times when it first played on Broadway, remembering how his depiction of gay couples changed culture and theater:

BOBBY. I think you love each other very much. I think you’ll stick it out, whatever. I think right now you’re holding hands- that when Perry has to take his hand from yours, Arthur, to steer traffic, he puts it back in yours as soon as he can. I think this is how you always drive. I think this is how you go through life.

Day 10 (Friday, March 20) We got to the beach for a cleansing walk, keeping our distance from the handful of others doing the same. I shared on Facebook, “Be ready, it will be worse next week, as the delays of last month catch-up to the realities of the crisis.” I caught myself in rising fear, looking at Joseph, my husband, across the sun-pierced, still slightly foggy beach landscape, and felt so choked in despair and anticipatory grief of what might happen that I could barely give voice to it. The generational experience and trauma repeating over and over, “we did not all survive.”

But I also remember that a generation of LGBTQ+ individuals and allies did everything it could to take care of the sick, the dying, and the grieving. Our love for each other taught us how to show up in new ways, developing actions and advocacy. “Greetings, Prophet; / The Great Work begins: / The Messenger has arrived.” ~ Tony Kushner, Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches. 

 

I remember so clearly the moment the Angel crashed through the ceiling at the end of the play and spoke these lines; it was a moment that felt like everything we knew and didn’t know how to survive was expressed through visionary, artful brilliance bringing home deep truths of a generation’s mounting losses and resilience. A lot of losses. A lot of activism. A lot of learning. Follow The AIDS Memorial on Instagram and Facebook and witness the ways so many deaths impact the many many years since for the living, for all of us.

We walked together in Green-Wood Cemetery, a long loop in the bright sun, keeping our distance from others on their own walks. We were married a week ago, managed in the chaos of these sudden shocking readjustments all of us in this city are facing. The walk through the monuments of eras past a reminder of the impermanence of our lives. The first magnolias doing their triumphant blooming, fragile to the quick changes in early spring erratic temperatures. 

I want us to survive this, all of us, but we know that deaths are mounting, yet we must with care and the best of what we can offer each other in the fearful closeness of life-saving caregivers and medical professionals showing up to service, and in the simple housebound units checking on each other, tending and teaching the love that is possible.

Day 13 (March 24) NYTimes 3/24: Mr. Cuomo said that New York was a harbinger for the rest of the country. “Look at us today,” he warned. “Where we are today, you will be in four weeks or five weeks or six weeks. We are your future.”

Day 15 (March 26) NYTimes 3/26: The United States has reached a grim milestone: More than 1,000 deaths have been linked to the coronavirus.

Day 16 (Friday, March 27) When we go out for a walk, I can feel both the positive body care and the vulnerability and heightened uncertainty everywhere. We’re being careful and keeping to ourselves. 

The night before I joined my fellow activists for my very first Zoom meeting, as the Gays Against Guns meeting moved into the virtual organizing direction. Gun sales in the United States are skyrocketing and domestic violence incidents within homes are escalating. In NYC, violent crimes are falling, but many Americans, unlike Europeans, are arming themselves at terrifying rates. During the meeting, I work quietly on a sculptural garment, an art memorial project that will honor those killed by gun violence in 2020. #ourhospitalsarefullstopbuyingguns #prioritizepeopleoverguns #gunviolenceisanepidemic

InRemembrance

Day 15 (March 26) Work-in-progress on this art memorial sculptural garment, “In Remembrance: 2020,” part of my ongoing service in gathering the names and stories of those killed by guns for the art activism of The Human Beings, silent vigil work by members of Gays Against Guns holding the places of those killed by gun violence.

Day 18 (March 29) NYTimes 3/29: New York officials reported a sharp jump in deaths from Friday night, saying that 222 people died in that 24-hour window, bringing the total to 672 people. That is the largest number of reported deaths in a single 24-hour period in the city… More than 2,300 people with the coronavirus have now died in the United States, according to the New York Times database, a figure that has more than doubled since Thursday….

We’ve been hearing the increased presence of ambulance sirens, especially at night. 

Today is the last day of “spring break,” and I am trying to rest and invest in self-care before the virtual school days resume. Connected with community on a zoom meeting after almost three weeks of isolation, and was so grateful for the reconnection, the service and community care, seeing the faces I’d been hoping were doing well and staying alive (for real)

GrievingFigures

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