I’ve always hated pandemic movies but the live show is much worse. Today is Day 14 since my livelihood was put on hold due to the COVID-19 crisis. I’ve had some anxious days wondering how I’m going to pay the bills. But I’ve also shifted my thinking. The forced quarantine is necessary.
The streets of Los Angeles are virtually empty. My wife and I woke at 7:30 to a beautiful sky filled with Cirrus clouds and wayward seagulls headed toward the sea. Normally our neighborhood is crowded with morning dog walkers. The only walker we saw today was the crazy John Carpenter lookalike up the street who always asks if he can borrow some blueberries. As he approached I said, “No blueberries today, sorry.”
The sidewalks are littered with used rubber gloves and empty cigarette packs. On the positive side, I haven’t seen the Bird and Lime scooters I’ve come to despise. More stores have closed, possibly for good. These include the Kosher butcher on San Vicente, the vintage furniture shop on Fairfax and the Latino barber on Pico. Public buses continue to run but they’re mostly empty. I haven’t seen any taxis or Uber drivers.
We did a supermarket run this morning. We found a parking spot and only had to endure a 10-minute line to enter. Gloved-employees sanitized the shopping carts while the manager informed us of two-items limits on toilet paper, water and dairy products. Canned tomatoes and frozen vegetables were gone. But fresh tomatoes and vegetables were plentiful. This made no sense. Shouldn’t fresh produce be at the top of everyone’s list?
We’re not wearing masks but we’re keeping six feet away from everyone. When someone gets too close, we’re not afraid to say, “Please back off!” We avoid using cash since dollar bills are viral repositories. When touching card machine buttons, I use my knuckles. I open doors and gates with my foot and carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my back pocket.
Driving home from the market, we noticed several homeless encampments were gone. We assumed they were forcibly removed by social services but we don’t know where. We saw a distressing number of homeless men walking aimlessly. Most were clearly agitated. I can’t imagine how they are surviving these times. It feels like a horror film.
Hardware stores and banks remain open. Weed shops continue to prosper as do gun shops, I’m sad to report. Restaurants are “take out and delivery only.” Chinese restaurants are closing in droves as if people believe they can contract the virus from Kung Pao Chicken. Donuts shops remain viable. This includes the donut shop on Venice with the busted neon sign that now spells “DON---TS.”
Neighbors are working from home, at least those who are still able to work. The actor who landed a role on CSI must now wait until television production resumes. The hair stylist is predicting a new generation of “longhairs” since people can’t get a haircut. The dental hygienist told us her clients have cancelled teeth cleaning appointments. She gave us a tip. Gargle with one-part water and 10-parts bleach to maintain proper gum health.
As expected, the crisis is bringing out the best and the worst of people. Neighbors are kind to each other, trying to prop up collective spirits. We’re all keeping tabs on the local seniors. Unfortunately some douchebags remain. At Whole Foods, a British guy in front of us at the register couldn’t find his wallet. He stared at my wife accusingly (she’s black) as if she were the culprit. I lost my cool and asked if he wanted me to check her back pockets. He stepped forward ready for a fight. A Whole Foods clerk intervened.
I’ve felt genuine moments of darkness and terror. It’s clear this crisis will continue a long time, possibly a year or more. My brother is convinced we’ll only return to normalcy after a vaccine becomes available. I’m trying not to speculate on the future.
My maternal grandparents survived the depression. My paternal grandparents survived the holocaust. This crisis is undoubtedly the defining event of our lifetime. But it will come to an end one day. And God willing, we will survive.
Addendum: It's 10 parts water and one part bleach. Oops!