By Joe Enright
As 2020 dawned, most Brooklynites continued to be astonished by Trump’s megalomaniacal corruption. Yet we were grateful the country had avoided a grave crisis because everyone knew our golf-happy President could never manage it. If we could just make it to November and elect “any functioning adult” we told ourselves, everything would be OK. And then this happened…
January and February were snow free in the Big Apple…Our economy was booming…Brad Pitt won an Academy Award for playing a character, he said, “who looked for the best in people – expected the worst but looked for the best.” Once Upon A Time in Hollywood rewrote history to have Pitt repel the barbarians of 1969. If only his character had come to life in November 2016 to save us again…But then, as if it were even possible, politics became more heated with televised impeachment proceedings and Presidential primaries…And more and more we heard about China dragging people sick with a new virus into quarantine tents or something.
In March we learned a lot more about that new virus, COVID. No big deal the President assured us time and again while privately freaking out to Bob Woodward that we were probably all doomed. By St. Patrick’s Day, people here were getting sick. No parades or bar crawls. No Broadway, no BAM, no movies, no restaurants, no haircuts, no schools, no travel, no nothing.
In April a lot of Brooklynites started dying of COVID. My wife and I were lucky. For us it was like having the flu, although with lingering symptoms like persistent night sweats. But for Susan Ingram, a dear friend of my wife for the past 50 years, it was much worse. A very fit working attorney, Susan progressed from a cough to death in a week. As my wife started drafting Susan’s obituary notice for the Times, we thought that maybe we could donate convalescent plasma. Susan would have done the same if our fortunes were reversed. I tested positive for antibodies but unaccountably my wife tested negative twice, so it was all up to me. Gulp. I began donating at the New York Blood Center in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, thinking of a scene in Midnight Cowboy when Joe Buck gave blood to make a few bucks. Maybe if they renamed this joint “The Ratso Rizzo Memorial Blood Center” they’d get more customers from film buffs.
These donations aren’t for those antibody cocktails the rich and famous brag about getting. No, this plasma provides intravenous drips in New York COVID wards for patients who weren’t able to call ahead and reserve a room. They say it’s beneficial. After every donation, they check your antibody levels and if they’re still good, they ask you to donate again. And I do. Eight months after recovery, I still have strong antibodies, even with an infection I was able to weather at home. Frankly, I think my consumption of single malt Scotch has a lot to do with this – my wife doesn’t drink Scotch.
In May, more concerned with a second term than public health, the President scoffed that nerds could wear masks if they wanted, but not him. When a lot of people lost their jobs, the President blamed it on shutdowns caused by mask-wearing pussy Democrat governors as Trump shifted blame from his egomaniacal focus on reelection to local leaders’ reluctance to overwhelm hospitals. His supporters agreed: better to triple the death rate than close bars and wear a mask.
My son and his girlfriend lost their jobs too. While they stayed up all night in their Astoria apartment trying to log on to the New York State web site to apply for unemployment benefits, I stayed up all night in Flatbush trying to get through to supermarket web sites that would deliver.
Meanwhile, nurses and doctors struggled with the emotional pain of caring for so many who had to die alone while worrying about bringing the sickness home. On my block we all went out to bang pots and pans at 7:00PM to show our support as passing UPS, FedEx and Amazon drivers honked their horns while we dodged mini-bike delivery guys.
And a lot of people stood on food lines, testing lines and all sorts of lines, six feet apart…Buses were fare-free for months…Many businesses and restaurants closed for good, Fairway became Food Bazaar, Century 21 went bankrupt, but liquor stores thrived.
A lot of kids skipped virtual school while a lot of their parents logged in to their jobs dressed in underwear, skipping Manhattan offices and the subways. Many fled the City, yet with less cars on the road, rush hour traffic still sucked.
Many Brooklynites marched for racial justice. Some of them wanted to defund the police. Veteran cops cursed those police clowns in Minneapolis and wished it was late 2001 again when all New Yorkers pulled together.
People who needed help didn’t get any, resulting in a lot of overdoses, suicides, and assaults on the street and in the subways. A lot of young people got shot. By late Spring fireworks and guns were so loud and plentiful, it was difficult to tell whether the Revolution had started or just more people were getting shot.
By the Summer my son and his girlfriend had found new jobs and New York/New Jersey/New England were being hailed for reducing new infection rates to the lowest in the country, thanks to their governors’ leadership. Dining outdoors was the new thing as some blocks started to resemble Paris.
In the Fall infections started to creep up again and the Haredi in Borough Park, which already had an estimated 43% infection rate, doubling the rest of the borough, rebelled against renewed City and State restrictions. (By the way when I donate, I see a lot of Orthodox doing the same.) Other signs of pandemic weariness started to spring up as schools closed, opened and closed and cold weather chased us all indoors once again.
Mail-in and early voting was an unexpected success as the election workers overcame some initial miscues to effectively handle an overwhelming turnout. And despite it all, some neighborhoods who voted for Trump in 2016 did it again, although seeing him getting cheated out of another four years must have been especially galling. One of my lasting memories of 2020 will forever be hearing the commotion out on the street on Saturday November 7th around 11:30AM.
“Why is somebody blasting that Elton John oldie, Philadelphia Freedom? Why are people dancing and car horns honking?”
“Oh! Thank you, Pennsylvania, thank you, Philadelphia, and thank you, Jesus!”
Thanksgiving was tough. Christmas was even tougher. Susan was always here for dinner, often with her son, Scott, mingling with my crazy family. But then, nobody was here for dinner this year…Now, at year’s end, with Trump’s press coverage starting to dwindle, more Brooklynites are finding it easier to get to sleep. Although many of us still need a shot of booze to calm down before slowly drifting off, thinking of our vaccine shot. And a return to normalcy.