New York’s Covid-19 Epicenter Pandemic’s Memories


Astor Place, New York, at the eve of the Covid19 crises. Something is cooking, nobody known, but the sky feels heavier than lead

MANHATTAN, THE LOCATION: Out of this crazy race about building higher and higher, one can find still in Manhattan, NYC , occasionally, constructions spared from destruction. As a result, it still remains in the East and West Village an architecture at a “ human” scale, link to the modest historical origins of the humble. There, no one needs to feel too oppressed, overwhelmed or “full of it” ( as they say). For how long? No one knows, except for the well informed busy betting and planning to figure out what could be twisted to tear ‘this none sense ‘ down … they are the pros, they don’t even view it as ‘ money profiteering’, is simply their game, and besides this, it is argued as being unfitted « old stuff “ … at our modern age of ultrafast internet and cell phone communications. On the meantime the blames goes at the ones who have nothing to do with it: the dinosaurs !

MANHATTAN, THE TRUE DEAL: This is from this privileged location, that my ordinary days go bye. But now, something has shifted, and for the first time I am getting a feeling I could do without it: unsafe and unsettled. I am experiencing this kind of blues, they are labeling with a sense of pride, “The Epicenter of the Covid-19 Pandemic”. As New Yorkers like to think of themselves as tuff , arguing that there is no challenge they could not overcome. In reality, it boils down to a limited view with limited infos generating limiting thoughts … if you manage not to die from it you can always boost ” I was there “, because it would be more honest saying: ” I have been serving time”….waiting and waiting…to be “pardoned”. Once you are into the lockdown there is nothing for you to report from the outside world [ but what you are being fed with]. The mechanism is too forgein for you to grasp, and this add to your own despair – like on a plane, as far as your life is concern, you have zero control, it belongs solely to the pilot. And even so you may try to ignore the facts, this is the undisputable deal you are getting, regardless the destination, even if it happens to be to the Bahamas!

NEW YORK’s CURFEW: The traffic light is going to turn red, and than you will get an “ALERT” on your cellphone screen warning you of tonight’s curfew! As Dylan put it up “ what else can you show me”? – now that we have demonstrated we can stay indoors for days, we have enough endurance to pass the test for not getting into a crazy mood and step out in the middle of the night for fresher air, besides you can still order pizza anytime, thanks to your dear cell that has been for sometime already now managing without getting the least emotional, your entire life which you are its robot… would you rather risk 90 days in jail for disobeying?

BEHIND BARS : A positive move from the mayor to cancel the curfew, At this point we need collective“ healing ”, not only the unfortunate ones who may have contracted the virus, but all of us, nationally, behind borders, globally, from this long stressful situation – except for a few smart ones who have handsomely benefits from it ( like during other historical drastic events acured ). And again, if you keep busy looking at an electronic screen gadget, there is a chance you’ll miss noticing you are, indeed, right now being kept in a well secured …cage.

REPORTING FROM THE TATANIC : From my yesterday’s drawing I haven’t been called a “ dirty old man” yet, no complaints so far. I even got better “points “ than usually in my Instagram account, which for me equal over the 30’s of this silly red things that supposed to identify as an heart sign, a love representative, … if any sign, shouldn’t it be the one of some little brain? It is longtime well agreed that the social media’s is making all of us complete imbeciles, and yet we get along with it, it is so soozing this days and it feels like a piece of wood plank to hold into it now that we realize that our ship is sinking. Now we know why, “Titanic’s ” stories turn into best sellers!

ROUTINE SKETCHING: They have been turning out as dark as it can get, out of my same and only window view. Looking at packages getting delivered all day long around on my street, and I assume similarly in NYC, New Jersey,…as well. Latter on, they returned back into the same street, this time under our ‘label’ of ‘packagING’ …historically enduring friendly rats, [no one dare to have as pets], are getting their teeth onto what their ‘label’ between themselves :”doggy bags”. Without curfew restrictions they are allowed to party from it, all nigh long!

CONFINEMENT- confinanti – confining. A tant nous restreindre pour notre bien et le bien commun, tant bien que mal on s’occupe à travers le cadre étroit de nos fenêtres a découvrir un monde inattendu! Même les limitations mène à des surprises…

NOT JUST SNOW FLAKES FALLING: My kind neighbor show me a video of himself he took today with snow flakes flying around him, it was not done an the newest app trick, but real. Temperature as well as sky are dropping, and so my jar… explosive luminosity at sunset to glorify about and still from some reason it didn’t feel right getting up at dawn. Maybe because I remain news free during weekends, the ‘let’s wait Monday’ kind of attitude to hear how many deaths were add to the count! I remember illustrating an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times with the upsetting title: “ 2000 Death in Contest “, (it was at the beginning of Iraq’s war, and it was consider like an outcrying news)… and now we have lost 75 000 lives and we are told “ we are doing fine”! Maybe the worse disease is not this latest “virus “ but rather how we have been taught to rely on “ rational “ and “algebra “ like if tossed into a reddish colored kind of salad. This day’s news have been about asking to be stomached as a normalcy, like ‘collateral damage’ ..rythm with damn and “domage” { ‘to bad’ for French}.

AS A LAST RESORT: For the many years I have been in my New York studio have I ever consider the views from its windows? Of course, hardly at all, since there were endless better options elsewhere! For one point, one of this window’s view that has been disrupted me the most, it is the one where one can see only less than 1/2 ( vertical) of the most NYC’s landmark: The Empire State Building. Still, I have made a duty to be as accurate as one can be to represent it on my drawings. (Maybe some may even argue that I went out of my way to be extremely creative? )

CHALLENGE: This days the sky above the city is full of fury… the temperature has been dropping low for the season… adding more than one cerise to the covid-19 of our pound cake’s brains! For working purposes, there is not such a thing as one view better than an other, one should accept the challenge of the moment and situation…still, if given the choice, I will always prioritize the “ grandiose “ or the ” gripping ” ones!!! And the “get me out of here”.

DANTE’s HELL: Once again, one of this terrifying New York’s days where the sky is so low it eats up ( for breakfast) all this tall high rises, vanishing them, pining them to no further existence! Does it matter anyway? Days have been belonging to Dante’s hell, pounded endlessly by the media obscurity to reduce deeper to pulp our grey mattered minds …no where in the world have I seen in the very heart of a city entire facades thickly covered out of viscous black asphalt… it is true that we are driving ourselves nuts plunging straight down into the vertical emptiness, while showing proudly with immense arrogance our middle finger to the “ esthetic’s”!

BANGING POTS and pans began at 7:00pm, is a tradition that endures, and so endure as well the people self imposing themselves, [or for most of them], the regim of remaining indoors…after this chaotic noise to my sensitive hears I turn off my hears’ senses to switch to my eyes one. Facing, as a result, even a more chaotic city view … make no mistake, it is compose of the straightest lines only. True, the governor explains how much we need to “ flattering the curve “ [ of the virus]. There is none to single out around, except, maybe in the faraway distance…the one from a long time gone feminine’s silhouette [ in my eluded mind]!

LOOKING THROUGH FRAMES: certainly the “ virus “ has not “upset” ( so to speak) my usual working methods, except that now my vision range has been limited by what can be watched though buildings window’s frames. It feels very unnatural during a Spring season, still how could I dare complain while I’m neither lying in an hospital’s bed, nor a member of the cleaning team in a contaminated facility … therefore having the privilege to be useless and spoiled ( for lack of better accurate words).

FACING WINDOWS: Behind this street’s facades there is a grid of “ boxes” with living souls in it, hanging there hopping for better days [how ‘better’ would be their lives then? No-one knows because the use of philosophical thoughts, for a fact, never have been able to be transform into beer containers, the solid base of a NYC’s social live] … we all live now in a world of “facing windows” which includes, as well, our computer devices screens and the app… our world reduced to the size of a rectangle, with only variation is to be vertical or horizontal…they have figure out the oval yet, our designers an architects being reluctant to the odd and none contemporary shape.

SHE COULD CARE LESS: I just finish using the Skype app to converse with a journalist in Italy, and now time has come to do my supportive cheering waiving to the girl across the street, who could care less! Because after all, more likely having lost her job, she is wandering how to pay her rent. All my offering resluting to my nervously agitated, empty of cash, and useless far away hands. It is just a matter of days … her fate could very soon be mine. This is a different kind of contamination, but and efficient way to get rid of people using an other scale and style…

INFANCY: while waiting 7:00pm to play “ pots and pans “ ( no musical skill required) from our windows in our street… thanking those who work hard for us all over the city exposing themselves, meanwhile we are hiding all day long like scared rabbits …what symphonic music would be required to wake us up and rippen ?

CON ED: my neighbor across the street display the similar agony as my own…it seems that the electronic toys have never been so praise. As we are tending toward being reduced to locked indoor slaves, we are certainly getting and encourage to be more and more addicted to them, luckly we never had any shortage of electricity, and the neirbourgs have generously let me access to their internet … I have already experienced blackouts in the city in the past, it would have just add to the present disaster.

PART TIME GARDENER: I was asked if i could come to a apartment to water few plants, they became my only friends/buddies this days to pay a visit to. Sometimes I even stay overnight, it is helping me to survive the harsh and unforgiven heat. Out of one window, down below, an oval pool stand like a big eye checking on me. I have boycott the elevator, climbing 12 floors emergency stairs at each visit …to be add to the 4 ones at my place. The restricted animal is jumping out of me, but it is only an amusing sign of my desperated illusion, who is unable to make a master from me, but rather try to reinventing the stair master.

CAOTIC MUSIC: I had heard of “ pot luck” and of “ bad luck”… but this a premiere for me when everyday at 7:00 pm my street transforms into a “ banding pot” band. Are we reinsuring ourselves or wishing to scared away the virus? After all, anyone of us could be the next “ victim “… and we could find ourselves like the chicken pulled out of its cage to get its neck chopped out to provide for our next meal! Of course “ I” don’t chop any longer chicken’s heads, this days I sprout my monk beans … that I chop on my cutting board when they have grown taller and beautiful !!! What’s the difference? I’m sacrificing a young living plant that is not asking for this cruel sentencing. Same like I won’t want the “ virus “ to send me to a masse grave to be eaten up by my worms… at least not yet, because who says I don’t “deserve” the right to stay ….a (little longer) alive.

HYGIENE: signs of “evolution” on my empty street, here and there someone got this excuse to walk his/her dog, or rather to let it do in the street what we would be arrest for not doing it in our only allowed spot of our indoor bathrooms. Meanwhile toilet paper is getting harder to find… i learned that washing my butt in my cast iron tub works as well…and save a tree (?)

REGRESSING: This « virus « that is consuming us all in like fire ( physically or mentally) leave us with the only clemency to sticks our heads out of our windows, delimited territory of our fire escape cage. And it is like we all are « Waiting for the Barbaric to Come home »! Like lost children we are not sure if we should be hoping to make a “pronto” return to our kids’ facilities and be allowed to move on with our games or for a “ brotherhood“ world that would end our suffering and humiliation? Ora none esiste più una grande mela, tutti en gabbie com’è conigli, nessuno si va de via!

THE VIRUS POINT OF VIEW: how does one manages to go over those ever higher brick walls? Even the highest trees from this park didn’t seem to know how to proceed, although they have been trying hard for number of years…men don’t see any advantage to harmonize with nature, their desire of controlling or just ignoring it is too threaling… still, an invisible to the eye virus is, nevertheless, bringing this Babylonien city to its knees ! Unconcerned by any length or heights…unstopable from brick and mortar, a place where a full size steel war tank becomes a Santa’s toy.

MAKING MY DOUGH [GO NUTS]: Once I acknowledge my frustration to a libertarian of the NY Public Library : “ I feel that my work is like an 1/2 baked bread”. Her reply: “ Better 1/2 baked than not at all”! Certainly this virus help to find the type of excuse such «  I have to ask my wife » or «  Let me ask my husband « for delivering nothing but an 1/2 « product « for the value of a whole… !

WHILE STILL INTO “DISTANCING “ , today it wasn’t possible resisting to move back closer to “color. “ The attraction was too hard, like magnetic – regardless, nature, insensitive to our human’s affairs, is moving its course to what is nevertheless , “with us or against us” : Spring time.

THE FAKE AND THE REAL: Drawing sketch before the final linoleum cut commissioned and published by the San Francisco Magazine ( some time ago) titled “Barometer “- a ‘fiction’ story on illness … today becoming ‘real’!

EXIT: On a NYC Spring afternoon an 1/2 Sun dares lighten our spirits behind its mask, leaving us with the ambiguity of our talks – while the fire scape remains useless on helping us from running away from our burning captives thoughts!

THERE NO MORE WORLD, CREATE YOUR OWN: in my backyard, it’s a little bit quieter . still not too joyful, no leaves on the branches, view of rare birds hoping for spring to come, color are reduced to red brick and dark black tart…some landlords are no fearing to cover their wall buildings with asphalt, what ever is cheap an does the job is good enough, too bad for your eyes if you can’t take it! Go back to your laptop for fancier design, to glow and sink it down to your brains and everyone else’s you wish would agree with you.

TO BE COMPARED TO: [“ inside a square where everything is squared ”] what do they use in labs to conduct experiments on? Rats! The same creatures that live underground, appearing and disappearing from dirt hole. Is it our true “nature” imitating them on routine rounds and commutes?… even so in our despair for survival or mating, endlessly checking on meeting points… [endless checking checklists for ‘ like’]. There is always a big mouth ready to swallow us in… no difference between a Subway city entrance or ashore when the ocean choose to catch on us with a gigantic wave.

BEING TIMID: drawing from my window’s firescape, the only place I dare venture to pick out doors, nothing truly is going on, finding myself not smarter than everyone else hiding behind walls…

FLASH BACK: From my NYC 1995’s charcoal drawing period, view looking at the Hudson River, from way up the rooftop of my studio in TriBeCa, the colors are reduced to black and brick, which translates the basics of the original architecture of this city before it turned into steel and glass…then i though being on constant struggle, now realizing i never at it so good.

DAYS HAVE GONE: My guess? This drawing must belong to the 1995 period , when my studio was still in TriBeCa and I was at a short distance from the Brooklyn Bridge ( while I was skating for transportation around NYC). Obviously, charged with more electrical energy than my today’s iPad’s ones. The larger format and grayish pencil allowing more expressive momentum. This days I ‘m becoming way more ‘classic’ with my approach. As I am caught with this urgent need of reassurance rather than hazardous exploration. While still the desire of escaping out of my own self is enormous.

WALL LIKE SURFING WAVES: we are not talking merely of “buildings”, rather than a range of hight walls.. behind which there is an other range of them, and it goes one and on, like this, into the infinit…if you don’t ” build” up any insanity right there, you are imute for any type of virus as well. Otherwise, this view along increases the feeling of being caught into architecture’s disease !

STRONG DESIRE to escape is growing , even if it means dreaming to be at the edge of a roof top, just to allow you eyes to see as far as their can … how vision is our remaining and only safety net.

NO REPLY: returning to normalcy seem to be a question without answer… just hope or pure craziness seem to be the only options….still it seems that nothing will ever be the same again! This is only one more illusion to add to the former one[s].

BAR’S CULTURE: La bella giovinezza non si frega più niente delle mascherine e delle parole del governatore, di ancestrale italiano, che tutti devi rispettare la régula che lui solo à inventato, e orari dell’aperitivo, basta e virus, l’alcol è un disinfettante, vero?… [ the youth don’t give a damn any more about the mask and of the governor’s talk, by the way of Italian ancestry, what’s the purpose of respecting his invented rules? During the happy hours’ time, let’s forget about the virus, alcohol is a good enough disinfectant, right?]

BAR’S CULTURE: the bar’s owner opens up in a semi strange way as he knows the governor ask his place to be shutdown, it displays outdoors on the edge of a table something that looks like he is selling legitimacy solid food [ only], while in fact it is the liquid one that he truly wants to serve us…it is the only surviving way he has taught himself, and besides the landlord is on his case, ready to sallow him up at for breakfast …just in a matter of days, as he is aware there would be no clemency! Never, the immense power of man upon an other man hasn’t been more obvious… it took just a little tiny, invisible to the naked eye, virus to expose so vividly our stage of vulnerability.

BOTTOM LINE: the tender new green leaves are returning no matter which new human diseases are floating around, unconcerned, live seem to move its course. To be possible once again…even if it shuts down short for some of us. Could it be said, that ‘nature’, that we praise, is as unconcerned of our fate than all those combine righteous folks keeping on billing us?

Dessin . drawing . disegni . original linoleum cut and woodcut . linogravure originale et gravures . xilografie e incisioni – iPad [works-travail-lavoro] . Copyrights © Raymond Verdaguer 2020

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