Thursday August 26, 2021
Day 1: No Baby, No Cry
North toward Harlem.
Eventually you realize there are no babies crying. You're on a packed plane, a red-eye bound for New York, and it's pretty quiet. Where are the babies? Then you realize in the waiting area beforehand there were no babies. A few kids running around, but on your flight? It's adults. Because why bring an unvaccinated baby on a flight in the middle of another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic? You can be vaccinated, and you have to be masked, but babies can't be vaccinated or masked. Sure, I may be stupid enough to risk the journey but why would I put my baby at risk? So no babies, no cry.
There turns out to be a lot less conversation between seatmates, too. The person sitting next to you isn't someone who might make the hours go by more quickly, it's someone who might make your life go by more quickly. No one's doing it. The masks get in the way anyway. In the end, everyone is just steeling themselves for the flight. It's a planeful of people, flying on a red-rye in a crash-prone Boeing 737, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, heading toward a hurricane.
We're not the smartest people in the world.
We'd made the plans months ago when there were maybe 70k cases of Covid per week in the U.S. and it was in steep decline. Since then, the Delta variant has been wreaking havoc among the unvaccinated, and worry among the vaccinated, and it's back up to two million cases a week, according to Johns Hopkins. But we went through with it: my wife full of confidence, me full of dread.
The pilot tells us we'll have a smooth flight with a bumpy landing. It's the opposite. In the middle of the country we experience a lot of turbulence but flying into Newark is pretty smooth. The red-eye is a good way to go if you can sleep on flights, and in the past I could a bit, if I nibbled some Xanax and had one of those neck pillows. I didn't and hadn't, so my wife and I both arrive bleary-eyed, complaining of lower back pain (hers) and hamstring tightness (mine). Then we don't make much of the rest of the day. Too tired. We're staying with friends on the upper east side. We do walk west across Central Park and down Broadway to Zabar's and pick up stuff for lunch, which we're thinking of eating outside somewhere. But we keep getting flash downpours. We try to hail a cab on Broadway. No luck. We walk east to Amsterdam Ave, and no luck there, either, which is when Patricia sees SaraBeth's, a restaurant she knows and likes. And that's where we have lunch, under a constructed transulescent roof, our Zabar's bag at her feet, sitting next to former SNL alum Tim Meadows, our first celebrity siting, whose order was misplaced and he has to order again. A late afternoon attempt at a nap goes nowhere. I think of Kramer: “I missed my chance.”
Another memory: Arriving in New York, getting a coffee at the airpot, then heading outside and being able to take off our N95 masks after, what, nine hours total, and breathe the fresh air. Yes, even Newark is fresh after nine hours masked. Then the cab ride into Manhattan, our cabbie dodging every which way through narrow spaces. I'm reminded again of what New York is: cramped and quick. The former makes the latter necessary. You've gotta make space for you. I would never survive here.