April 7

How my day started: sawing off a jammed lock.How my day ended: finding the exact garbage can that I needed to replace in the bar bathroom after someone broke it, and that I couldn’t find at any of my local places, in my building’s “free box.”

The dire New York Post headline sums up my general mood. And given the stress we are all under, it’s easy to believe that bells are, actually, tolling.

On my way home tonight, I passed by what sounded like an illegal party, loud music behind closed gates, while I sweat every second I’m open and have to police people to not stand at my bar to talk or order or…stop for even a second… I force people to pay for food they don’t want — and don’t eat — while people wait in line for hours to get food they desperately need.

The incessant worry is taking its toll. I try so hard, every day, to tell myself this will all be over soon. Friends, it better be. Or I will either become completely homicidal or suicidal, neither of which will end well. I simply cannot take this bullshit much longer. No sense, no science, just bullshit arbitrary rules made by people who appear to have never actually been to a bar and who certainly have never run a business.

What can we do to end the incessant threat of surprise inspections and excessive fines? Why are our leaders hell bent on driving us out of business? And why are bars — the city’s living rooms — being vilified? I sure do wish I had an answer to even one of these questions. I just want this shit to end. If only it were as easy as finding what I need in the free box.

Ejected Like Garbage

I’m not usually one to post drama on social media. I’m about to make an exception.

Last Friday night I took an evening off from caring for my mom and went to visit friends. They have a “speakeasy” sort of bar in a garage under their apartment. We sit outside around their fire pit to keep warm while we safely socially distance. It was a wonderful, much-needed respite for me — so much so that it got really late before we’d even noticed, a true testament to how much fun we were having! I summoned a Lyft for the ride back to my sister’s.

I’ve been using Lyft for a few years now, after deleting Uber due to its crappy policies. It’s been my ride of choice throughout the pandemic whenever the situation required a car. I’ve never had a problem with them before, at least not before last Friday night.

My friend walked me to the car. I was wearing my mask and had a bag with me that contained a book, some homemade tea, and my wallet. When I got into the car, the driver demanded that I let him squirt hand sanitizer onto my palms. I was not too happy about this and told him so, laughing at his “COVID theater.” He then told me that he didn’t appreciate the way I had slammed the door when I got in. I’m not sure how it’s possible to slam the door of a compact car, especially getting into it, so I kind of shrugged it off. He wouldn’t let up so I told him it was not necessary for us to converse and to please just get me to my destination.

Then the driver pulled over and kicked me out of his car. It was after 2am and I was nowhere near my sister’s. This, in and of itself, was dangerous. I did my best not to freak out and summoned another car, which arrived in minutes and quickly took me to my destination with no problems at all.

I, of course, reported the ride, using their “click the boxes” complaint form and decided I would wait before I pushed things further. When they only offered me a $5 credit, I decided to escalate and wrote a more detailed note directly to their customer service department. Their initial response was to refund the cost of my brief ride and I thanked them, asking if I could speak with someone on the phone instead of continuing with email correspondence. Sadly, I missed their call and they left no way to return it, but I soon received notice that I had acted in an unsafe manner. The driver told them I had refused to wear my mask and that I had thrown fruit at him when he pulled over to eject me. They suspended my account.

First of all, I am caring for my cancer-stricken mother, so there is no way in hell I would get into a car with a stranger and not wear a mask. Second, I didn’t have any fruit anywhere on my person. In other words, this guy had completely fabricated his reason for kicking me out.

I will admit to giving him shit for forcing me to accept his hand sanitizer. I will admit to be a mouthy fucking New Yorker. And I will, quite obviously, admit to being drunk. But I wasn’t violent. I wasn’t abusive. I wasn’t throwing up or physically accosting this man. I did not refuse to wear my mask. And I most certainly did not throw anything at the guy. I also let Lyft know that if this man has trouble dealing with the public, perhaps driving a cab isn’t the job for him. Especially if he’s working the post-midnight shift.

My friend who walked me to the car has emailed her account of the evening to Lyft’s customer service, confirming that I was wearing my mask when I got into the car and that I wasn’t carrying any produce. I haven’t heard back from them so I’m assuming they believe the driver’s story.

I am posting a photo of the driver, whose name is Raul, so that if any of you wind up in his car you are careful about what you say to him. I am so very disappointed about the whole thing; I have enjoyed using Lyft. While they did decide to reinstate my account, I will be deleting their app. As I said in my final email to them, now is not the time for anyone to be treating their fellow humans like garbage.

Currently

The oxygen machine is hypnotizing, the whir, lulling me to sleep. I think I may be losing my mind.

I’ve been in California since November 18. I was supposed to be here for the holidays till sometime after New Year’s, a vague departure date because life itself has become so very vague. But a few days after Thanksgiving, while staying in Stinson Beach, my mom couldn’t get out of bed. She was weak and nauseous and eventually required an ambulance. With the fthht-fthht of the careflight helicopter hovering over our heads — just in case the twisty-road drive would take too long — I watched as she was wheeled away.

Being in the hospital during covid is not ideal. No one can visit. A week went by with differing diagnoses; she was barely strong enough to speak. Her return home lasted only 24 hours, when extreme nausea and distress necessitated a return trip to the ICU. In addition to a random intestinal infection: stage 4 lung cancer. She was out in time for Christmas.

Since then I’ve been in a guest bedroom at my sister’s in San Francisco, across the hall from my mom.

Every morning I make her tea. Then I reheat the tea. Then I reheat the tea again. I’ve pressed the buttons on the microwave a million times. I try and talk her into eating…something, anything…and I bring her jello or toast or celery. I dole out the drugs. There are a half-dozen, to be taken once a day, twice a day, as needed. At night, I tote her oxygen machine upstairs and apply her lidocaine patch. She’s been through 10 radiation treatments and just started what will be 18 weeks of chemo. I suppose it goes without saying that it hasn’t been a picnic and doesn’t appear it will become one.

I hardly leave the house. I barely move. I’ve been wearing the same exercise pants since, well, Thanksgiving, and have worn holes in three pairs of socks. When I packed, it was festive holiday attire and beach clothes, as I anticipated Christmas celebrations followed by New Year’s Eve in Mexico. The Bay Area went into lockdown and Cabo was cancelled. No need for those flip-flops. Long past time for my holly and ivy turtleneck. I may never wear red again.

We have watched hundreds of hours of TV: movies, documentaries, entire series. Since there isn’t anywhere to go, we don’t go anywhere. I don’t go anywhere. I’ve seen friends four times. Four. Times. (YES, safely. YES, outdoors.)

I no longer feel anything. I’ve become numb. I can’t even cry. I suppress missing my life — friends, work, my own bed, privacy — by turning off my brain and consuming as much chocolate as possible. Unfortunately there isn’t enough chocolate in the world to fix this.

The situation has made me call on parts of myself I didn’t know existed. If you know me even a little, you’re aware that I am not a patient person. And if we are actually friends, you know I’m terrible with illness. In short, I am NOT the person you’d want taking care of you if you were sick. Yet. Here I am.

And yes, I know, in years to come I will be grateful for this time spent with her. I am fortunate to be able to help. I just wish she had more good days than bad days. That she had the energy to chat instead of nap. That she wasn’t disoriented on an assortment of medications. And that she wasn’t so helpless and frail.

Sure, she’s strong. But this is her fourth cancer. And she’s 85. And we’re still living in a dystopian horror movie. It is difficult to be optimistic. It is mostly just difficult.

January 12

I feel like we are all struggling with lockdowns and crazy politics and boredom and despair. I need a distraction. Let’s fantasize!If tomorrow were magically pandemic-free, what’s the first thing you’d do or want to do?I’ll start:I would be hosting a party at Lucky, helping one of my staff (which usually means being in the way while helping myself to PBR and maybe doing dishes), hugging everyone, singing along to the jukebox and, ideally, introducing friends to new friends.How about you?

Photo of graffiti art in San Rafael to provide a bit of comic relief.

December 14

Hello! As of December 14, Lucky is closed for the Winter. We couldn’t justify — or afford — the expense of building an outdoor structure, buying heaters, paying the exorbitant ConEd bills, and exposing our staff to condensed virus (not to mention the increased scrutiny of a dozen state and city agencies) that would’ve been necessary to remain open through the colder months. All of which wasn’t even taking the increase in cases under consideration. In the interest of safety and fiscal security, we made the decision to hibernate for the next few months. Please stay safe, friends. Do your best to enjoy your holidays, usher in what we hope will be a FAR better New Year, and keep each other healthy and sane! We want to see your smiling faces again very soon, ideally and eventually without masks (when conditions improve, obviously). These next few months will likely be the most difficult, even more difficult than the initial lockdown, so we are sending you all strength and hope. Let’s visualize a beautiful, breezy summer day in our back yard, toasting our collective fortitude and resilience! Cheers!

December 10

Happy Hanukkah! The accompanying photo is from last year, when we were able to gather and light the candles. I’ll admit, I’m having a pretty tough time. I came out to CA to spend time with family. We had all sorts of festive holiday plans. Those plans have all been cancelled due to the Bay Area being locked back down. And my mom is still in the hospital, with something unknown causing a backslide and much concern. (No, STILL not covid…she’s had multiple tests.) The bar will be open today, with Tracie to take care of you, but these will be the last few days before we button up for the winter months. My hope is that we will reopen in March, when things are somewhat more optimistic. I don’t suppose I need to say that optimism isn’t all that easy right now and given my current circumstances, even less so. I’m not one to ask for prayers or fucking hippie vibes, but if you have a few to spare, please send them my way.

December 3

In case you hadn’t noticed, I did the thing. That thing that all the politicians and just about every one of my friends warned us all not to do: I traveled to visit family. I got on an airplane, flew 3,000 miles, and spent time indoors with people who were most assuredly outside my household. (Given that my household consists of only myself and Scribble, if you ever see me in a photo with anyone at all, yeah, not my household.) I’ve gotten plenty of hearts and likes and, surprisingly, not one admonishment. That’s cool because I’ve read enough of the “I see you”s to know how everyone feels. As one friend characterized it, I’m one of the “psychotic murderers” or somesuch. Of course, when I copped to being one of said psychotics, I was asked why I wanted to start a fight. It seems if you’re “being careful” or “taking precautions,” you’re slightly less murderous. Which we all know is bullshit. (And, as an aside, when you post something on Facebook asking people for input/responses/feedback or whatever, if someone actually DOES that, it might be wise not to say “you’re making it all about you,” when, in fact, you asked everyone ABOUT THEM.)

I can’t say I’ve been at all comfortable with the circumstances of the past two weeks. Flying wasn’t too terrible. Check in was a total shitshow (way too many people, horrendous confusion and misdirection, employees being more of a hindrance than a help) and security was a mercifully brief exercise in how not to socially distance. The terminal felt eerily empty. And the flight seemed like a scandalous waste of money and fuel, which meant I had plenty of space to myself with no strangers breathing on me. But once I got to my destination I started to feel less sure. Between my sister and her four kids, my cousin and her two, my mom and I, we were combining four households and four college kids, all of whom had traveled from somewhere else. Granted, three of the four have already had the virus, so I could safely assume they wouldn’t be germ vectors. But still… None of it felt safe to me but what could I do? I was merely a clown in this circus, not the ringleader. I was told not to complain.

I’ve spent the last eight months being relatively careful. Not crazy or paranoid or quarantined in the slightest way. But the people I’ve been physically close with have remained mostly the same since March. And I’ve only been indoors with friends twice, once in August with my “quaranteam” and then again on Halloween. And that was only eight of us in a three-story penthouse with 20-foot ceilings and double doors wide open. So factoring in ventilation, proximity, duration and all those other CDC statistics, we weren’t being too stupid. Not nearly as terrible as being in a room with a dozen people, half of whom are total strangers to me. It’s been making me pretty cranky. It would suck to have spent so many months not being indoors with my people to get sick from someone who is decidedly not my people. Especially with a vaccine looming on the horizon.

Not to put all of this on anyone else. I suppose I could just excuse myself. But I’m here to be with my family. I’d just prefer that it be only my family. I asked my sister to let me know if there would be other people invited to future get-togethers. She tensely pointed out that even if I avoided gatherings with extra people, she was exposing herself to them, so she was therefore just as dangerous. I agreed that, yes, that was certainly true, but awkwardly attempted to explain that I was more interested in spending time with her than these other strangers. Sigh.

Edited to add: I was hesitant to post this, as not only does it out me as a dreaded “traveler,” it sounds like I’m dissing my family. Both of which are true, to a certain extent. My decision to post this (long after having drafted it) was based mostly in having all of this for posterity or whatever. So take it in that spirit in which it was written.

December 5

Sometimes so many things pile up that it’s difficult to deal. Last night’s fire on Second and 7th that gutted the Middle Collegiate Church is devastating in a year that has delivered a staggering amount of loss. We watch, helpless, as our beloved venues, bars and restaurants close their doors for good. It becomes overwhelming. We wish we had more words of solace and reassurance. The looming vaccine seems like a light at the end of a very long and torturous tunnel. It would sound self-serving to say, “But there’s booze!” Yet we are embarrassed to admit that booze has been one of the ways we’ve been coping with this madness. Booze and each other, honestly. And in a time when gathering in our homes with friends is not only forbidden but literally life-threatening, what’s left? Shivering at outdoor tables. We have yet to spend the $10k necessary to “winterize,” for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the possibility of another lockdown, as the restaurants in California are currently grappling with. More money….down the drain. If you stretch your legs to maintain your sanity today, stop by and say hi to Tracie. She will be opening around 3 and sticking around as long as there are customers, against our better judgement. The one thing we have learned through all of this is that offering an opportunity for people to meet, commune, talk to someone other than a pet or a TV, can really be a lifesaver. Please accept our apologies for the darkness of this post. None of this has been easy. And please, stay safe, stay sane and hold on until Spring, when we hope to have a brighter outlook.

November 18

I’ve recently made a few decisions. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t classify them as difficult, but since this pandemic went down, just about everything I do feels like an enormous chore. Getting out of bed. Going to the bodega. What to eat. I’ve been putting off doing my laundry for over a week now. I feel paralyzed by the slightest choices. But the plane ticket has been purchased. I’m going to California to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family.

As if deciding to up and go wasn’t tough enough, every day I doubt myself anew, hearing the media and our local “leaders” advise us not to travel. Not to spend the holidays with our relatives. Not to visit family. Or gather indoors. I’m doing it. All of it. Yes, I will be doing it safely. Well, as safely as is possible. I got tested less than 48 hours before my flight. And I’ll get tested again on the other end. I’ll limit my human contact and wear a mask. But I’m also staying with my mom. Mind, you, I went through all of this back in July, when I went out to the Hamptons. I was way more worried than my family was. And everyone was fine. This time, I’m the one flying — in addition to my cousin and her kids, who are also traveling from NYC for Thanksgiving — and I’m a fucking wreck.

Making the decision to travel was a partial cave to pressure; my mom has been wanting me out there since March. Her summer visit to this coast was nice. But she wants to have me on her turf. I don’t have a problem with that in the abstract. It’s packing that I’m struggling with. As well as the idea of being 3,000 miles away from my entire life. That and, you know, killing her.

So along with deciding to head west for a while, my other major decision was to close the bar for the Winter. My staff wants to keep making money “as long as we can.” And my landlady, who has been pretty understanding thus far, is concerned about my closing; she will be missing out on rent, obviously. “I am surprised by your decision. Why don’t you wait at least till the end of December?” she asks. “Aren’t the holidays a busy time for you?” Well, yes, usually. But given that no one is allowed to sit at the bar and it’s likely to be too cold to sit outside, the holidays won’t be busy for me this year.

Yes, people will still want to socialize. Were I to opt for 25% indoor seating — a number that can be changed at any moment, as the new 10pm curfew tells us — I couldn’t meet my costs. Which is why I haven’t bothered thus far. That coupled with our unseasonably warm temperatures. We’ve been lucky (heh) so far but the warmth isn’t gonna last. Already, this week, it’s feeling a lot more like Winter than Spring. As for building a structure for outdoor dining, even if I had the thousands of dollars to invest in construction, buying the heaters, upgrading the electrical system and paying the exorbitant ConEd bills, I would likely still be losing money. And that is assuming we don’t wind up in another lock down.

What is making any usual thought process so incredibly impossible is that there is truly no way to wrap my brain around this much unknown. Will Biden recommend that the whole country go into lock-down mode? Will there be a vaccine soon? And if one becomes available, will everyone take it? (The quick answer: no.) Probably the worst of all: are our elected leaders doing what is best for our health and well-being? That answer thus far has been a resounding NO. From the White House all the way down. Because if any of this shit — ANY of these rules and laws and executive orders — had been for the greater good, we would all BE good. But we aren’t. They can keep blaming it on the bars and restaurants because blaming it on mob stupidity doesn’t play well to the masses. All of you who’ve been hunkered down and safe? There doesn’t appear to be any respite for you. Those of us who’ve been following all the rules and worrying like crazy about harming people? No respite for us, either. Just more arbitrary rules.

So here I sit, avoiding packing because I can’t figure out what I’ll need. And then just randomly throwing things into my suitcases. Yes, suitcases. Two. When I’ll probably wind up wearing the same outfit for the next two fucking months. California is more locked down than we are so there’s really nowhere to go. Shit.

Here are a few of the NUMEROUS articles about why we shouldn’t be seeing our relatives for the holidays. I’ll spare you all the stupid memes…

https://www.eater.com/21572279/how-to-say-no-to-the-holidays-2020-covid-19

https://www.vice.com/en/article/k7aemy/not-going-home-for-holidays-this-year-covid

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/advice/2020/10/16/covid-19-holiday-travel-guide-and-why-you-shouldnt-go/3652609001/

https://www.vice.com/en/article/bvxg53/should-i-go-home-for-holidays-covid-2020

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/holiday-travel-safety-2020-pandemic/index.html

https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/11/419051/holiday-gatherings-during-covid-19-what-doctors-say-about-traveling-and-family

November 2

Interesting commentary on macabre decor. As Jacme d’Agramont noted in 1348, “In times of pestilence, gaiety and joyousness are most profitable.” It is also interesting to note that NYC, and specifically the East Village, has been doing a truly wonderful job of flourishing in the face pestilence and, in many ways, the celebrations have been free for the neighborhood to enjoy. Concerts in the park, impromptu parades and performances, people selling their wares on sidewalks, art spilling out of apartments…it’s all been very life-affirming. Today, as our anxieties are reaching a collective peak, I am at least able to say that my closest world has proven extremely adept at coping with misery in a colorful fashion. And I hope that there is much less misery for us to cope with in the coming years.