“No ennui during Henri.” That’s today’s mantra.
Sitting here. Legs stretched across the couch. Ella, Louis, Billie, Duke, Etta, Nat and Frank are on the soundtrack. Apartment cleaned and smudged. Skin soft and glowing from being freshly exfoliated. Lemongrass wafting in the air from the diffuser. Outside, a gray, cloud-filled sky unloads seemingly endless drops of rain — bringing everything and everyone to a calming standstill.
This is serenity and gratitude being experienced in real time in a time of chaos. Something I’ve learned is not a small feat and should not be taken for granted.
I considered this yesterday, while confirming with one of my girlfriends that our Sunday brunch plans were, quite literally, going to be a wash, with the reports of “Henri” being upgraded to hurricane status. It conjured up a memory of the last time I left home during a hurricane — which happened to be notoriously destructive Sandy — during which I reported for work at a private club and hotel that was surprisingly still open and somewhat bustling with members and guests despite warnings and public transit shutdowns across the city. As it became clear Sandy was unrelenting, the members finally retreated to their respective personal spaces, but hotel guests remained. What resulted was an insane succession of hours, in which I’d work a double shift across two departments, partake in an impromptu sing-along of “Hey Jude,” while (appropriately) drinking “dark and stormy” cocktails with staff and guests in a club lit by candlelight as the chef used the fireplace to make cookies in the absence of power, made my way through a pitch-black stairwell using the last of my cell phone battery as light, shared a guest room and bonded with the ladies of housekeeping, had to explain to a guest why she could not plug her iPad into our only generator and later deal with her complaints of our lack of on-site chess boards to entertain her spoiled and rambunctious sons, and spent the next morning and afternoon placing the guests in hotels further north that had vacancies and no power and service disruptions before walking 3 miles to secure a cab back to my Harlem apartment — which had both electricity and no nearby buildings with its façade torn off to the point where it looked like a dollhouse with a heap of bricks in front of it.
Needless to say, when the words “hurricane warning in your area” flash across a screen, my older and wiser self now goes into cocoon mode, and the most adventurous I’m getting is when I’m deciding to use smoked paprika in dinner prep.
But with that experience, as with me documenting my current and very different situation, I was glaringly aware of the privilege it all entails.
Just days after the storm’s end, while volunteering at a housing complex a mere couple of blocks away from my posh workplace, I’d learn the real cost of it from the experiences of people who could not afford to relocate. As we went from door-to-door attempting to do welfare checks and provide much-needed supplies to seniors who had difficulty moving and/or accessing medicine and medical attention, and other tenants reluctant to open their doors for a myriad of (understandable and in some cases justified) reasons, we came away with an all-too-real understanding that not everyone has the option to have options.
I think of that now as I think of the state of the world.
How privileged are we to be comfortable inside our homes, doing whatever it is we feel like doing, while others who are less fortunate struggle to stay dry and survive because they have no home. How fortunate are we to have the choice of working from said homes to avoid contracting a deadly virus as people whose jobs and livelihoods afford us the luxury of having food, medical attention and other services available to us in our time of need. How lucky we are to have free vaccines that keep us from dying from this virus within our reach. How blessed are we that we don’t live in a part of the world where people brandishing weapons are dictating whether women and children can live and learn safely and freely, and impose their religious beliefs on everyone to make decisions that affect who lives and dies.
It takes a whole lot of cojones to blame one person for the self-serving and destructive decisions of many. And yet, in true entitled, unaccountable and hypocritical fashion, many Americans have placed their disdain for behaving responsibly during a pandemic and lack of education about a decades-long and un-winnable war that has cost trillions of dollars and countless human collateral squarely on the shoulders of a man who made it his mission and intention of taking on the fool’s errand of cleaning up colossal messes to restore our country to some sense of normalcy. Unsurprisingly, it’s not going well, because we suck, and don’t know how to behave when an adult enters the room after we’ve morphed into a full-on hybrid of “Lord of the Flies” and “Animal Farm.”
As with most storms, this too shall pass. I’m just hoping to see the sun rise someday soon and we all find our rainbow and peace in the process.
Until then…I’m staying mostly indoors, and plan to have protective gear at all times for the foreseeable future when interacting with this crazy world is absolutely necessary.
Good luck out there y’all. And choose wisely. Please.