Well, it finally happened. I’ve run out of words. Like most cataclysmic events, it happened suddenly and without warning. At this time last year, I was out and about, being the ubiquitous and …
Well, it finally happened. I’ve run out of words. Like most cataclysmic events, it happened suddenly and without warning. At this time last year, I was out and about, being the ubiquitous and effervescent chatterbox with a dog (aka man about town) that you’ve all come to expect “good, bad, or indifferent” as my mother was fond of saying, wagging a lacquered nail in my face.
But now? It’s as if the past six months have taken their toll and I often find myself silent, a mere shell of the guy who normally (c’mon, you’ve all thought it) “just won’t shut up.”
To be fair, it hasn’t been as sudden or out of left field as I would like to think. The accumulation of not-so-recent events has stealthily crept into my psyche, causing discomfort, tears and some not-so-irrational fears. As my view of the world around us continues to morph under the dark cloud that is COVID-19, each day presents new challenges, and there are times when I’m (for all intents and purposes) struck dumb. Such was the case last Friday when I drove to the firehouse in Monticello, NY in order to observe (and photograph) the memorial tribute to those who lost their lives in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. that occurred on September 11, 2001.
There were a lot of people, (a lot) more than I expected to see. The ceremony itself was somber, of course, but laced with hope for a brighter tomorrow. My experience was a weird one—because of the virus, because of the political climate, because of the reason for being there, but mostly because of the masks. There were firefighters, their families, spectators and scouts, all (thankfully) wearing masks. I recognized people, of course, but not without effort. Were it not for the dog, I might have gone unnoticed, since I was, you know... at a loss for words.
“Are you coming tomorrow?” asked Jeffersonville, NY’s Jack Costello the next day in a message, referring to the town’s annual duck race and always-festive hoopla which had been COVID-altered to reflect the times. “I’m not 100-percent sure yet,” I said in response, not wanting to disappoint yet conflicted about my participation. Normally, I’d be strolling around, interacting with the crowd, giving the kids a chance to pet Dharma and darting into the street to snap pictures of the tractor parade which traditionally draws a very large crowd. I went back to Jack’s message.
“I have to be careful because of the virus,” Jack, who turned 80 last week, wrote, “But I’ll be around. I’ll find you. I want to wish Daisy Duck [Wurtsboro’s Mickey Maher] the best and thank her helping us for 14 years! Now she is retiring and off to North Carolina to be near her great-grandkids, her family and the ocean!” Jack wrote.
“Has it really been 14 years?” I asked the dog, who growled in response, reminding me that she’s “not a one-trick pony and can’t count.” Suddenly at a loss for words, I acquiesced. “Okay, I’ll swing by,” I wrote back. “See you then.” It was a gorgeous day and there were a lot of people, yet nothing like the normal throngs that flock to Jeffersonville for what is traditionally an actual jamboree. I saw folks whom I know but remained unwilling to get too close, choosing instead to create a veritable “cone of silence” around myself and the Wonder Dog. I took photos from the sidewalk and eschewed my normal schmoozing, shouting through my mask only to those nearby, which resulted in me feeling more than a little subdued.
Attending another event with even more faces behind masks provided fodder for weird vibes that were (IMHO) all-pervasive and the mood, while hardly somber, was not as festive as in previous years. Even the photos have a “Twilight Zone” tinge that perfectly matches my newly skewed view of the world as I stumble through it, often scratching my head for the right adjectives to describe what I see.
Before you pop the cork and begin celebrating my silence, I feel it’s only fair to warn that it’s likely I’ll find my voice again, sometime after the dust has settled. Sorry, but all good things must come to an end. Meanwhile, I’m still at a loss for words. You’re welcome.