Archive for the ‘Pandemic’ Category

Service of a $200,000 Watch and Nowhere to Go

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

Patek Philippe sports watch Photo: Luxury of Watches

Excess at a time when so many citizens suffer strikes a wrong note.

The pandemic opened eyes to hunger and financial distress in this country exacerbated by furloughs and firings. Sigal Samuel on vox.com wrote: “56 percent of US households gave to charity or volunteered in response to the pandemic, and the first half of 2020 saw a 12.6 percent increase in the number of new donors to charity compared to one year ago.”

Nevertheless spending on luxuries goes on more than usual. The capitalist in me says “That’s good–people are employed and businesses thrive” followed by a but….

Photo: bestbridalshop.com

A few days after I heard about a bride from a hardworking middle class family paying $6,000 for a wedding dress I saw Jacob Bernstein’s New York Times article “Here’s How Bored Rich People Are Spending Their Extra Cash.” I wondered if for every luxury buy the purchasers sent an equivalent amount to a charity. I did a hasty Google search to find articles about individual charitable donations in the $200,000 to $6 million range equal to some of the items identified below. I didn’t find any– which doesn’t mean none were given.

About the $6,000 wedding dress, a contemporary of mine said that the price tag is expected and only a starting point, though other friends knew of brides who looked heavenly and recently spent in the $1,500 range.

Bernstein reported that big spenders once called themselves collectors but now refer to themselves as investors. He wrote: “Rather than elbowing past each other for reservations at the latest restaurants from Marcus Samuelsson and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, or getting into bidding wars for apartments at 740 Park Avenue, they are one-upping each other in online auctions for jewelry, watches, furniture, sports cards, vintage cars, limited-edition Nikes and crypto art.”

740 Park Avenue. Photo: streeteasy.com

Retailers are sensitive to the situation. Some wouldn’t speak with him on the record about sales. One admitted almost selling out $90,000 earrings. A Patek Philippe sports watch that retails at $85,000 “can seldom be found on 47th Street for much less than $200,000.” [47th Street is the jewelry district in Manhattan.] An expert told Bernstein that demand for these watches remained as Switzerland closed down due to the pandemic. He said that the money spent on travel is directed to collectibles–uh, investments.

Bernstein reported a 1973 Porsche sold for $1.2 million last year when before the pandemic the same make and model sold for $560,000.

“In February, a digital artwork of Donald Trump facedown in the grass, covered in words like ‘loser,’ sold for $6.6 million, a record for a nonfungible token, or NFT, so called because there’s no physical piece for the buyer to take possession of.”

You get the gist. Bernstein shares many more examples.

Have you heard of record-breaking charitable donations during the pandemic?  As for collectors of pricey items calling themselves investors: Does paying outrageous prices during extraordinary circumstances sound like the makings of a very good investment to you? But what do I know? I think paying $6,000 for a wedding dress is over the top. And you?

Porsche 1973 Photo: opumo.com

 

Service of Favorite Films II

Monday, March 8th, 2021

Photo: indiewire.com

As of Friday, New Yorkers are allowed back in movie theaters at a pandemic-safe 25 percent. Will they go?

“Brief Encounter.” Photo: nomajesty.com

So many films are available on demand or on streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu. I only subscribe to Netflix and have loved series like “Lupin,” “Marcella,” “Heartland” and “Anne with an E”  and films like “The Intouchables,” and “Midnight Diner.” I can’t keep up with all the entertainment. On my to watch list are “Made You Look,” “Captain Fantastic” and “Sister Sunshine.”

I’m still enamored of favorites on Turner Classics such as “Chariots of Fire,” “Roman Holiday,” “Brief Encounter,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “The Way We Were” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”

“The Intouchables.” Photo: npr.org

Will people be happy to stay home or are folks desperate to get out? For a year we’ve watched movies from the comfort of our sofas accompanied by our choice of snacks. On streaming services we can watch whenever it’s convenient–there are no show times–stop a flick or episode to text a friend, wash a dish, grab a nibble, replay a missed section or visit the loo.

Before sharing an indoor space with strangers for two hours with masks on–or off-and-on between handfuls of popcorn and sips of soda–some will wait for 70 percent of us to be vaccinated or at least to see if any venues require proof of covid-19 vaccination.

Is New York being too cautious to the detriment of the economy? Mississippi and Texas have lifted all pandemic restrictions including mask-wearing in all venues.

Going to the movies makes for a perfect date for teens and college friends, for folks who want to get out of the house and as an excuse to meet a friend and grab a bite before or after. I’ve loved going to the movies alone or with a pal. When my husband watched football or golf many a Sunday I’d be off to the flicks. I’ll expect I’ll return but not yet. And you? Are you waiting for herd immunity to kick in? Are you happy to forever cocoon in place to satisfy your flick fix?

Photo: cinemablend.com

 

Service of Fear III

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Photo: theconversation.com

How do you determine when to be afraid? Has your fear gauge changed over the years?

In 1972 we were booked for a week in St. Croix. A few days before we left eight people were gunned down at the Fountain Valley Golf Club in what turned out to be the worst murder in the history of the Virgin Islands. We thought, “We live in Brooklyn. Are we going to let a few murders stand in our way?” Nobody else felt as we did: Our hotel was empty and there were few tourists on the island. Did we take a chance?

These days the incidence of murders, stabbings and injuries on New York City subways has increased so much that 600 additional policemen and women are being assigned underground. In a New York Times article Andy Newman, Edgar Sandoval and Téa Kvetenadze reported “Even though the subways have only a fraction of the ridership they had before the pandemic, violent crimes have persisted and at times increased. For 2020 through mid-November, there were more incidents of felony assault, rape, homicide and robbery in the subways than during the same period in 2019.” Meanwhile ridership is down 70 percent.

Photo: curbed.ny.com

Because of Covid-19 I’ve not been in a subway since March 2020 and didn’t plan on using it soon. The latest information isn’t going to accelerate my return to a convenience I’ve counted on for decades. I’ll wait for the all clear.

A server in a Brooklyn restaurant who worried that the vaccine might impact her fertility or her future child, should she become pregnant, was fired because she refused to get a vaccine. Rogge Dunn, a Dallas labor and employment attorney and professor Dorit Reiss, University of California Hastings College of Law say that private businesses have this right according to MacKenzie Sigalos on cnbc.com. There are exceptions such as when an employee is allergic to vaccine components or when a union has negotiated other rules.

Has the pandemic–or life experience–changed or impacted your fears? Does it make a difference if there are others to pick up the pieces should something happen to you? Are you generally fear-free? Do you hesitate before taking a subway? Should employers force employees to be vaccinated? Would you be more comfortable entering a business where you expect to stay for a time if it claimed all its employees are vaccinated?

Photo: rewards.com

 

Service of Come on Over Sometime for Dinner or the Weekend–Just Not Soon

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Photo: jetsetter.com

I declined tempting invitations to visit friends for a weekend in the country last fall, family at Thanksgiving and Christmas and dinner at a friend’s apartment yesterday so when I saw Ronda Kaysen’s New York Times article, “When Can I Be a House Guest Again?” I stopped everything to read it hoping for a free pass.

She quoted Doctors Ashish K. Jha and Ingrid Katz of Brown University’s School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School respectively. They’d chimed in throughout the piece which ended: “So what happens if two adults are vaccinated? Can they get together without masks? Can they rent a house for the weekend? The answer to those questions, according to Dr. Jha and Dr. Katz, is a tentative yes, assuming everyone is at a low risk for severe illness and the community spread is low.”

Photo: popsugar.com

Translation for me: I’m not packing my bags or buying a bottle of wine to bring to my friend’s place just yet even though I have an appointment to get my second vaccine.

I’m way behind others in socializing yet I’m still not ready to invite anyone inside my apartment for a glass of wine or pot luck. Not entertaining impacts what’s happening in my apartment. There’s a pile of shoes by the front door [supposedly keeping the virus off my floors but that’s not happening because inevitably after I’ve put them on to go out I realize I forgot something and walk all around the apartment to fetch it.] I used to keep a pin-perfect place should someone drop by and because I liked returning from the office to a neat home. I go out for short bits now but not long enough to require a welcome home to a perfect place.

But I digress.

What are you planning to do about weekend visits and entertaining indoors? What if your friends or family members refuse to be vaccinated? With my approach will I have a friend in the world by the time the pandemic is under control? Is your home as neat as it used to be?

Photo: southernliving.com

Service of Good Things that Happen When Nature Obliges

Monday, February 8th, 2021

I shake a finger at nature after a destructive hurricane, tornado or fire started by lightning. But at times good things happen when she intervenes–even as a result of a murdering pandemic.

Photo: staradvertiser.com

As I stood in line at the post office, six feet from the man in front and woman behind me, I thought, “Social distancing during the pandemic discourages pickpockets.”

Speaking of discouraging, jaywalkers are also out of business in NYC after a big snowstorm. The photo, above, of Third Avenue between 41st and 42nd, taken a few days after last week’s snowstorm, illustrates the point.

As I ran an errand on a very cold morning my mask kept my face warm. Imagine that–something else to thank the pandemic for!

Last, I welcome the photos taken in backyards or around the world that I see online or that friends send of extraordinary landscapes and animals, [such as the shot pictured below].

Even as the pandemic rages and more snow descends on the Midwest and temperatures drop below zero in North Dakota and Minnesota, nature smiles. Can you think of more examples?

 

Service of Armchair Travel

Monday, February 1st, 2021

Photo: news.un.org

Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that this isn’t the time for air travel, vaccine or no. She was on a CNN Global Town Hall on January 27 with Dr. Anthony Fauci hosted by Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Right after she’d said this we saw a videotaped question from a grandmother who was about to get her second vaccine. She wanted to know when she’d be safe to fly to see her grandchildren. Even though the benefit of the vaccine would kick in seven to 10 days after the injection, Dr. Walensky stuck to her guns: Unless an emergency she didn’t recommend air travel.

Photo: vikingrivercruises.com

The Viking cruise commercials always intrigued me and I like Rick Steves’ travel tidbits on PBS. Some of the Netflix series I enjoy–The Crown, Call My Agent, Lupin, Broadchurch, Marcella, Bloodline–take me to favorite or unknown places here and abroad. Traveling the Internet are extraordinary photographs of places I love or will never see.

Tourism and business travel are lifelines to survival of so many countries and cities. Businesses are crushed as a result of the stoppage from restaurants, hotels, boutiques and tourist sites to souvenir vendors.

The CDC orders travelers to wear masks. In future will they need to show proof of vaccination before being allowed on board planes trains and buses?  Hospitals and businesses can ask employees to get a flu shot but they cannot be forced to do so. Given the seriousness of the pandemic, will the Supreme Court make covid-19 vaccination a passport to public venues from theaters, sports stadiums and concert venues to cruises?

How are you satisfying your wanderlust? Are you planning to take a plane once you have been vaccinated or are you waiting for the all-clear?

Photo: theguardian.com

Service of Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose–Redux II

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

I interrupt my planned post for today to write this morning about a serious state of affairs regarding Corona-19 vaccine distribution: money can put you at the head of the line. I heard about it this morning.

Money impacted Vietnam War deferments. Sons of the wealthy who sought them got them. That was nothing new: deep enough pockets to hire the canniest lawyers have always plucked scoundrels off the hook for crimes committed.

How naive I was to think this wasn’t the case for today’s crisis. Here’s why:

NYC Housing Authority Photo: nyulangone.org

Thousands of New York City Housing Authority development residents have been given the vaccine so for once, while I and my computer-savvy friends are struggling to wangle an appointment online, some with few resources or ability to do this were being served first. I was glad.

I admit that my requirements restrict my chances. I want to walk to my appointment–5 miles my limit–and a trip, alone, to dodgy neighborhoods, as many friends have suggested, is out of the question.

Dr. Arthur Caplan. Photo: twitter

Simultaneously thousands of appointments have been cancelled in NYC this week for lack of vaccine. On his weekly segment on the WOR morning show today Arthur L. Caplan, Professor of Bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, reported to hosts Len Berman and Michael Riedel that people were paying to jump the line. I hadn’t heard this before.

What’s worse: There are no punishments to thwart them he said. Dr. Caplan warned Len, who has a vaccine appointment for next week, not to count on it. He cautioned that it might take a month to sort out the clog in the system. The three men shared anecdotes of people–even from Canada–flying to Florida or lying about their ages to be vaccinated.

To make matters worse, the outgoing administration left no plan with which the current one might run to help sort things out at local levels nationwide.

Do you feel all’s fair in an emergency and people with money deserve to go first because they’ve earned the right? Can you think of additional instances where money overrides first come first served?

Photo: nih.gov

Service of Vaccine Appointment Idiocy in NYC

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Photo: insurancejournal.com

I was stunned at the process to get a Covid-19 vaccine appointment in Manhattan and am shocked that I got one at all–for April 7 late in the day about two miles from home! I walk.

It took me the better part of two days of filling out countless forms to become eligible to make an appointment at a venue only to learn there were no appointments to be had. I repeated the process countless times. I grabbed one date and when I hit ENTER at the end of the process got an error message. My appointment went up in smoke.

It’s not just New York. Retired TV and radio sports broadcaster Warner Wolf, known for the catchphrase “Let’s go to the videotape!” said in a radio interview on Monday that he hasn’t been able to get an appointment in Florida. He’s in his 80s.

If your choice of venue has no available appointments you are told to “click here” for alternatives to get a Covid test. But you want a vaccine!

What infuriates me is how scattershot the whole vaccine appointment business is in New York City. It’s a mess.

  • Why do they increase eligibility when they haven’t taken care of the earlier categories approved to receive vaccines?
  • Why aren’t the locations offering vaccines listed in the city’s website by borough? Instead there’s one in Brooklyn next to a Staten Island followed by the Bronx with a few Manhattans sprinkled in.
  • Why aren’t the venues listed alphabetically?
  • Why doesn’t the search function work?
  • Why do you have to fill out all sorts of information in some instances only to find out in the end that the clinic or hospital or venue doesn’t have any appointments?
  • If your choice of hospital or clinic in the city system has no available appointments you are told to “click here” for alternatives to get a Covid test. But you want a vaccine. [Photo right]
  • I called 311, the city’s information service, for the link to get a vaccine appointment at the Javits Center when I heard it was added to the venues [it wasn’t on the city’s website and Google was no help] and the lovely voice said, “Oh! I didn’t know you could get a vaccine there.”  She had no information.

Saw this too often. By “event” the venue meant appointment.

Once I finally saw an opening, I grabbed it. I felt like a person with scarf over my eyes being twirled in circles before heading off to pin the tail on the donkey. I couldn’t tell you which site brought me to the venue with a free appointment.

There were questions after selecting the date and time. [I had no choice of time.] One wanted your mother’s maiden name if you’re under 16. I left it blank. In reviewing the information before confirming the appointment I noticed that one of my clients is listed as my mother. I use a lot of online websites to promote my clients’ events. So out of the ether his name appeared! Apparently all of these online forms are connected.

I was asked if I feel OK, do I have a sore throat? These questions would make sense if I was getting my vaccine this week. But I won’t see the needle for three months so the question is irrelevant.

I might have booked a reservation a few weeks from now had I been willing to travel to Staten Island or Coney Island or the Bronx. I have been Covid-cautious avoiding transportation since March. I’m not willing to expose myself to the virus to travel to outer boroughs in order to get the vaccine.

I plan to duck into the system again once more vaccine is available to see if I can get an earlier appointment and perhaps one closer to home. I suspect a shortage of vaccine is the cause of the paucity of appointments.

What about people without access to the Internet? WOR radio interviewed a 90+ year old woman who gave up after a three hour wait on the phone. She’d arrived without an appointment at the Javits Center, the newest venue in the city.

I am disappointed that with all this time to prepare that New York City made such a hash of the crucial step of getting vaccines into its citizens’ arms. Which city/state has a better system? Why aren’t communities sharing their intel?

Got excited to get this far but there was no way to pick a time. Back to scratch.

Service of Looking on the Bright Side II

Monday, December 28th, 2020

Photo: notsalmon.com

It almost feels out of place, with so many friends suffering, to list some bright spots as I look back on this year. I worry that my list might ring a sour note against the backdrop of recent loss–some sorely and freshly missing their loved ones–while others are fighting challenging diseases or conditions, and several are exhaustively looking for jobs. Out of my circle, millions are hungry and/or are about to be evicted from their homes or are recovering from Covid-19–or not. Carcasses of businesses are on every commercial street in Manhattan and in most cities. And this is for starters.

Cheery observations at the end of 2020 might be reminiscent of the Christmas letters of old that often arrived as life imploded. The writers boasted about a kid’s early admission to Harvard, the First Class trip the family of eight took in Tuscany all of August and the sale of the family business for a gazillion dollars. [I don’t get these letters anymore because Facebook boasting took the pressure off.]

Nevertheless, I nod to a few things that brightened my year:

  • I moved my office home in June. By July all the others in the shared space were also permanently working remotely. It wasn’t the lifestyle jolt I’d have expected under normal circumstances because I’d already been home for four months and had adjusted to the lack of companionship.
  • Envisioning the reaction of recipients of the handwritten postcards I sent to support candidates around the country made me smile. Did they think, “Who is Jeanne?” Did they vote?
  • My friends are blessings. I appreciated all their invitations even though I accepted so few.
  • Normally not fond of shots I look forward to receiving the vaccine–the ray of hope.
  • I splurged–and love–my iPad and the New York Public Library e-book collection.
  • YouTube and WMNR [through my laptop] are lifesavers. So is Netflix.
  • I feel safe in my apartment.
  • I enjoy my own company.

If you suffered a loss or are ill, I am so sorry. I rejoice with friends who have battled and won over serious conditions. I trust those looking for work will find promising opportunities early in the new year. And I hope that you, too, can think of a few bright spots as you review this horrific year. Happy New Year.

We hope they will.

Service of Holiday Memories II

Monday, December 21st, 2020

Since 2008, when I launched my blog, I’ve occasionally written about holiday memories. As many will be spending this season without loved ones–Dr. Fauci said it’s the first year since his daughters were born that he won’t be with them at Christmas–I suspect that those who do gather will be saying, “Do you remember the year…..?” Others will recollect quietly.

Photo: pinterest.com

As I draft this post salt-free butter is reaching room temperature in the kitchen. I plan to make the Christmas cookies I’ve baked–or helped make–since childhood [photo above]. I shared the recipe in 2009 in “Season of Seasonal Treats.” One year my mother and I made hundreds which we gave as gifts. Together, on her last Christmas, we baked them so she could enjoy the familiar fragrance in her apartment.

I remember a Christmas Eve my oldest nephews, in their late teens, carved the turkey for the extended family sit-down dinner celebration for 30 I hosted alone. I dipped into the kitchen to check on progress and saw them dusting off soil from the bird. I never asked how they knocked over a plant that hung well above the counter on which they were working, nor did I acknowledge the accident at the time. I was most grateful that everyone pitched in that year.

Were or will your 2020 Hanukah or Christmas gatherings be different? Have you thought of past celebrations more than usual? At every fête, before we dig in, our family toasts “les absents,” those missing from our holiday table. This Christmas I will raise a glass to all of you.

Photo: howtomakedo.net

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