Conversations, Pt. II

November 2020

Friday after Thanksgiving was quiet around here. No scheduled calls or zoom meetings. The office calendar was empty. Nothing to do but relax. This was difficult for me. I need structure. My mornings are usually filled with people wanting advice which is “time sensitive.” My afternoons are busy videoconferencing with clients, architects, and engineers. But Friday was all mine to do as I wished, and I decided on something I have been meaning to do since I returned to Florida a month ago: a run in the wetlands trails that fringe Lake Okeechobee. It is a short run but there is a good mile and a half of natural track with plenty of roots and mud to make it satisfy an old athlete. I wore a mask the entire run and am pleased to report that all but a few stragglers on the trail wore masks as well. I kept my social distance when I passed walkers.

Lunch afterward, then on the way home, I stopped to get my old ’62 Jag cleaned. The car wash was mainly an open lot that appeared to have once been a service station–abandoned garages are a common sight along Dixie Highway in Riviera Beach. But this one was manned by a woman named Jeannie. Her hair was purple, she carried a lot of keys, and she ran the place with the assistance of a couple of obedient men. Jeannie is superb at what she does and dropping off the 60-year-old Jag was like delivering a sirloin steak to her for lunch. She attacked the job with all the enthusiasm one can muster for a car wash. When she opened the hood and saw the grime around the fuel pump, I heard a distinct OMG. She practically climbed in to examine the engine. The men assisting just followed her commands, wiping and scraping inside and out until Jeannie was satisfied. With 60 years of wear and tear, the Jag usually doesn’t shine much when cleaned up. There is rust in all the usual places. But after Jeannie and her crew were done, I saw a glimmer of how it might have looked when it rolled off the Jaguar factory line. There were a few folks passing by who popped in when they saw the unusual car. One fellow, Wendell, told me about a vintage Jag he restored but had to sell to meet mortgage payments. When he saw the interior of mine, he recommended a friend, a tradesman, who specializes in car woodwork. The old Jag needs it.

Riviera Beach is an up-and-coming area. Businesses like Jeannie’s, among the empty lots and repair shops, are the green shoots in a still mostly depressed area. I was happy to support Jeannie and give her some car joy. She told me she usually details used cars for sale out of back yard lots off the side streets in the area. I told her I would return soon. Given that the car is such a draw, maybe she could use it somehow as a marketing tool for her car wash. Time to get back to business.


November 2020

Thanksgiving 2020. A day that we will all remember for one reason or another. My prayers go out to the homeless that roam the streets of New York City, unable to find a regular meal, or a safe place to sleep for fear of violence. I think of the good folks who usually spend their Thanksgiving serving the homeless in the shelters. Are they wary of the close contact due to Covid? It is a cruel conundrum: the need versus the threat to everyone involved. These kind people are frontliners as are those serving in the Emergency Ward at Lenox Hill Hospital at 69th Street and Lexington. The EMT drivers leaning against their chariots of life, smoking under their cloth masks, waiting on the shrill beeping sound from their radios. The doctor who left his family early this morning to drive into the City to relieve his friend who has been on duty for the last two days, attending to a deeply scared patient on a respirator. And yet so many folks are troubled that they are not able to be with family. Yes, it is a sense of loss when you cannot spend the traditional holidays with loved ones. Get used to it buddy! We may all be in the same place next year per Dr. Fauci. Make the best of it. Compared to those living on the street, you are 1000% better off. Some people spent the summer at your Hamptons home on a new boat. Others went camping in their Range Rover. Those who are privileged to work remotely should be thankful they have a job to Zoom about. I am grateful to have a roof over my head, my health and my family – even if we can’t spend Thanksgiving 2020 together.

After the Election

November 2020

I had my scheduled exercise program shortly after the election. My trainer is a Trump supporter and has been espousing the usual Fox News disinformation: Covid-19 only exists because more people are being tested, Biden is suffering from dementia and the election was rigged. Well, Covid is real, Biden seems able to remember that he won, and Court after Court has affirmed that there is no evidence of vote tampering or fraud. I like my trainer. His political views do not affect his skills as a rehab professional. Now that the election is over, he is quieter, but digging in his heels, waiting for the next Oval Office tweet for proof of election malfeasance. I have numerous friends, college buddies and fishing cohorts who support Trump and each is managing the disappointment in their own way. Some are clearing the trees in their back 40, others have resorted to sending out emails of the Right, stoking rumors of Democratic Party plots to steal the election for Biden. The President will not concede and is attempting to stall the transition of the Biden administration. He refuses to provide the President-elect with the nation’s intelligence reports and has failed to address the rising infection rate throughout the country. This denial phenomenon has a major impact on the well-being of people everywhere. Those parents who refuse to wear a mask when taking their children to the public playground, those who continue to dine at local restaurants indoors and those who shop at grocery stores without masks, despite the signs at the entrance–their right to “liberty” may be depriving others of the right to “life.” How do they justify the danger to those who are more vulnerable? Is it morally right to place your family members or even perfect strangers in harm’s way? What is the moral obligation to look out for your neighbor in times of a health crisis? This is the strain we are all under these days. How can this be happening? The denial starts at the top, or the bottom, depending on how you look at it. The disregard of the science, the facts and the law. What has our country become? Where is the leadership from the Republican Party and its Congressional members? Do they care about their constituents or are they only thinking of their own re-election? There are a few Republicans who have taken a stand against all the misinformation. They are the future of their party and with the willingness of both sides to work together our country may return to sanity. Every day I count down to the inauguration of the new Washington with hope and empathy.


November 2020

The other day I went hunting for the first time in Florida, out on a 3000 plus acre preserve. The environment was magical, evocative of an African savanna. Though I was concentrated on the activity at hand, it was only a week after the election and politics were on my mind. I couldn’t help but see some parallels between my experience that day and some of the larger events taking place in our country. My quarry was the tiny Florida bobwhite quail–the Colinus virginianus floridanus–a small bird with speckles and earth-toned feathers which help it to camouflage in the undergrowth. Though their lifespan can be up to six years, most don’t live past two because of predators, both animal and human. Yet their numbers are steady due to short incubation periods and their prolific egg-laying – up to 300 in a season per adult female. They are individually vulnerable to the vicissitudes of their environment, yet they persevere and flourish as a species. It rained while we were out and the quail is unable to fly if its wings are wet, so it seeks shelter from the weather and its natural predator—the hawk—in bushes. However, its safety within the shrub is illusory, as it is there that it becomes victim to even greater forces: the hunter and his dogs. Our bird dog was able to lean in and grab the quail in its mouth with ease and deliver it to the hunting guide unharmed. The guide then threw the quail into the air, forcing it to fly a bit further, allowing the sport hunter the opportunity to shoot it down.

As Americans, we live proudly in a democratic society and don’t think of our system of government as ever being seriously threatened—especially from within. And yet we are witnessing something going on with the outgoing President that is at the very least dampening the wings of our democracy, making us vulnerable and subject to risks and unintended consequences. Like the weakened quail, we are diminished by these events–temporarily. But the recent voting results spoke louder than what any one person—or President—might say or do to destroy. We will persevere and flourish again because also like the quail, sheer numbers prevail.

Sunday Night at Lynora’s

November 2020

Every town should have a Lynora’s. The modest, Italian-style restaurant housed in a converted two-bay gas station sits tucked between a store that sells raw honey and another that sells lamps, and across from a take-out Chinese shop. With only a handful of outdoor tables on the former gas pump platform, Lynora’s serves mostly take-out, and the covid restrictions have led to a boom in business. They offer everything from fancy focaccia and burrata to humble homemade meatballs and spaghetti and it is all reliably delicious. They have been a part of the local community in Palm Beach going on 50 years now. Though the food is the draw, what I find most interesting about Lynora’s are the people. Young and old, black, white, brown and everyone in between. Alice at the cash register takes payment with the efficiency of a toll collector on the Triborough Bridge. The kids who wait tables and run orders hustle in a well-choreographed scrimmage. No special request is denied. I once heard someone order ketchup on his pizza instead of tomato sauce. Whatever the meal, it isn’t complete without the legendary coconut cream cake for dessert. Lynora’s has become our Sunday night ritual. By 9:00pm the pizza ovens start to cool down and the staff stack the metal chairs inside the pull-down garage doors. The lamp store parking lot empties of customers’ cars. The outdoor lights are dimmed to let travelers on South Dixie Highway know that Lynora’s is closing soon—last order please. The long chains that lower the garage doors are summoned. Time to think about tomorrow’s specials.