It was the kind of conversation you can only have with someone who's known you a long time, a college roommate, for instance...
"You sound like you just got up, you been sleeping all day?"
"Not all day, I worked until 7AM, but I just woke up."
"What's your address?"
"MUMBLE MUMBLE, Yonkers, NY."
"Google maps says you're a thirteen minute drive from here, I'm in Van Cortlandt Park for a soccer clinic for my daughter."
"The soccer fields are on the west side of the park, along Broadway..."
"I'm in front of a bar named Tortoise and Hare."
"That's across from the Tortoise and Hare."
"You'll find out when you cross the street."
"You coming down?"
"Yeah, I just have to shower."
"You shower at all this year?"
"Yeah, I made sure to scrub away 2020 yesterday."
"Text me when you leave the house."
I met up with Herm, one of my college roommates in front of, you guessed it, the Tortoise and Hare statue along Broadway in Van Cortlandt Park, one of the jewels in the NYC parks system. It had been a while since I'd seen him. In the early days of the pandemic, he and his wife were alarmed at how people in their Upper West Side neighborhood seemed not to be treating the outbreak seriously, so they rented a bungalow in the Catskills, about a two hours drive from the city. They loaded up and hunkered down to ride out the perilous preliminary plague period.
He's had a rough year. His father, whose dry wit was always welcome at various functions and gatherings, recently passed away at the age of 86 from natural causes... my Mom is going to be really upset at the news. His mother needed a hip replacement, and post-surgery went to a rehabilitation facility where she was isolated from other patients, but was visited by a revolving cast of various doctors, nurses, rehab specialists, and nursing attendants... she contract a case of COVID-19, but it was relatively mild, a lingering cough for a few weeks, which she recovered from.
Herm then had the family tested- his wife tested positive, and he figured that he had surely been exposed... He had a form of asthma which tends to resolve itself when sufferers are in the twenties, but can recur when one hits their forties, and his form of COVID manifested in asthmatic symptoms, necessitating a steroid inhaler. His kids are okay, but he lamented the fact that his son had to have a private bar mitzvah, sans party, and had missed out on a lot of the social life connected to his last year of middle school, when next September, many of his school chums will be parting ways when enrolled in high school. His daughter is doing well, she was no worse for wear on the soccer field for two hours. His brother and his wife and kids also had mild cases of the virus.
The conversation, of course, started out with a talk of the pandemic (obviously, considering his own experience) and inevitably turned political, as pandemic talk must. A major topic was the fact that the death toll has been drastically downplayed, and the millions of people suffering post-'recovery' impairments don't even seem to be discussed at all. Of course, our discussion was peppered with old in-jokes dating back to our teen years, so it wasn't all doom and gloom. When five o'clock rolled around, and the sun had set behind the Palisades, across the Hudson River, it had seemed as if we'd only been talking for a few minutes... at the end of the conversation, we were talking about how the novel Dune really wasn't as good as the setting in which it took place.
I joked yesterday that my New Year's resolution was to party more, but I think I should have used the word 'socialize' instead. We didn't end up throwing back pints at the Tortoise and Hare, across from the Tortoise and Hare, we just hung out for an hour and a half shooting the breeze. It has been a while since I've done that with someone who isn't an immediate neighbor, co-worker, or fellow volunteer (while our little sports program lasted in the fall). Hopefully, the home stretch is is sight, so these mundane-but-crucial klatschen can return in force.