Thursday, September 3, 2020

My City Was Gone

My empty street in Brooklyn

A group of rats playing near City Hall (only caught one)

We drove to the city to see if it was as desolate as some were saying and if there were changes since the last look around.  Well, no one is exaggerating, the city is definitely void of millions of people.  Shops are closed and all the street vendors are gone.  Here and there we found small pockets showing life but from City Hall to Harlem, you've never seen so much concrete.

Broadway closed off for outdoor dining

To prepare for the journey we stopped for McDonald's breakfast.  I got the Bacon Egg and Cheese biscuit and it did not disappoint with hash browns and coffee of course.  Today especially I honor McDonald's for being a beacon of hope we can count on.  Everything was hot and freshly made and the coffee was perfect and that's what you rely on and expect.  It's very unsettling seeing so many missing bodies in the city.  P reminds me that I did imagine this, in detail.  Not so long ago I would bore him with all my fears at night forecasting gloom and doom until I had to turn off the fear or I couldn't enjoy the present.  I was obsessed with mutant viruses and the fall of big cities in a heartbeat by some horrid event.  And now, as we are in one of those nightmares, it is so much stranger than I pictured. It's as if we went through the rapture and suddenly people are just gone from the streets.  The quiet becomes the horror. Yes, thousands did die but how many up and moved away?  How many businesses closed up shop?  How many buildings lie empty?  There is still very little acknowledgement, probably a hold out of hope that it will just pop back as quickly as it went away.  But to me the reality of the change feels like a big alien ship landed right in Central Park and we just put some caution tape around it and keep looking the other way.  

In my worst conspiracy scenarios, I never imagined this slow quiet burn of nothingness.  I know job loss is a huge problem across the whole country, not just in big cities but a New York deprived of millions of city dwellers is a shocking contrast and does not come without huge repercussions.  It's difficult to even consider what it all means and each little thought bleeds into more fractals.  I probably can't comprehend the half of it.  Driving along the streets, you consider the companies that cleaned these buildings, elevator workers, restaurants surrounding the businesses, coffee vendors void of hundreds of morning customers, cab drivers missing passengers.  No one paying to keep up the electricity and gas in thousands of offices.  How long can all these buildings remain vacant before some type of vandalism or decay sets in?  I heard the NYC rats were starving and in desperation were bothering patrons of outdoor eateries.  We're lucky the garbage men are still collecting regularly.  With so many less people on the streets, we're hearing about daytime shootings which are up 97% over last year.  The weeks are just passing like some ghost train.

How long is this little pause in the action going to last before the next shoe drops?  Will the city recover or need to be entirely repurposed?  Who could know but hopefully those with great minds to imagine will create new beginnings lest we become ruins for some distant space traveler to sort through and ponder what happened to this great metropolis.  

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