After Shopping

Hey, I’m blogging again! Yes, a little bit here, but much more at After Shopping, my new site keeping track of the changing landscape of retail and storefronts as America grapples with the economic impacts of covid-19.

This is familiar territory for me in an unfamiliar environment. Longtime readers of this space will recall Timely Demise, which I spooled up during the financial crisis, just over a decade ago. I had a good run with it and learned a ton.

I’d thought about rebooting the concept for a few weeks and got set up in just the past few days. Once I found a name that resonated, and an appropriate angle to pursue, I was off and running. And run I shall: just to baseline the news to date for launch, I penned nine blog posts in the span of a few hours.

With effort, determination and a bit of good fortune, most of America’s retail footprint will persevere, but we’re already on a trajectory for an unimaginable amount of change. I’m hoping to capture as much of it as I can in one space and understand the forces and trends behind it.

I’m excited for this project and hope it proves interesting and enlightening. I wrote a little more about the concept over there, but readers can also just start at the top and explore.

Day 67

Yesterday my wife and I had a brief argument over what day of the week it was.

I’ve started adding little things to my calendar just to keep track of time. Normally, it keeps track of what I do: non-work activities, kid stuff, social plans. Now, of course, most of that is shot. A few weeks ago I looked at my calendar and saw nothing. And suddenly, I had no idea what went on those days. It was unsettling.

We joke about how life has become a blur, how days of the week no longer have meaning, that maybe I need to bring back the “Feels Like” Forecast, only it won’t say anything. But it’s true: without pacing, life really does blur together, sometimes for good (two-week vacation, anyone?) and other times, not.

So now my calendar includes the mundane. “Finish jigsaw puzzle.” “Costco delivery.” “Cronchy potatoes.” Things that otherwise wouldn’t matter, but now do. Because they give life structure: meaning, progress, momentum.

I am grateful for work, for my wife’s work, for my kids’ school, not just for the obvious (growth, interaction, income) but because we benefit from the pacing. Even intra-day: when the boys have class after lunch, the whole day feels better, because there’s a reason for them to engage in the afternoons. Yesterday they managed to while away 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in sprawling online playdates, more or less, and came out of them dazed and blinkering. Should we spend the summer in WFH and without camp, we’re going to have a robust activity schedule. Again: structure.

As with my last post, though, I have little to complain about. The boys are doing great in school, the missus is producing amazing things, the dog has learned how to fist bump, our extended family is safe and sound. I’m at peace with the monotony while we await our emergence from it.

Day 47

In our household, the key to keeping spirits high is soft drinks.

Since heading into isolation mode, we have spared no expense in keeping the carbonated and sweetened refreshments flowing. It’s an easy way to get a kick of energy, or a happy little mouth tingle, or just a change of pace from the pitcher of Brita in the fridge.

It would be hard to overstate our saturation. We have, in the house right now, one or more of the following, many in cases: Diet Coke, Coke Zero, caffeine free Diet Coke, Honest Tea, diet Snapple, Arizona Arnold Palmer light tea, Sparkling Poland Spring, Vintage seltzer, four flavors of Polar seltzer, three flavors of LaCroix, three flavors of Bai, Gatorade, Coca-Cola and Canada Dry ginger ale. We had some San Pellegrino, too, but we ran out.

Since March 14 we have been in the suburbs, my very busy wife and our rather accommodating sons and our food-stealing dog and me, rather comfortably ensconced in a large house with a ping-pong table and plenty of space and decent wifi and, thanks to some quick last-minute thinking, a brand new basketball hoop in the driveway.

Of course, like everyone else who left city apartments for houses as the crisis approached, we only have parts of our existence, despite the surfeit of seltzer. Limited clothing, limited toys and games, no household projects to take care of, a general sense of mild displacement. On par, though, we’re really quite okay.

When 9/11 happened, I was an active blogger in the early days of blogging, and that activity was core to my existence. My posts came daily, a way of communicating, a way of coping. When we began to experience life in the novel coronavirus era, I expected to do the same.

Yet I have not. I’m posting a little bit on social media, and chatting: on various forums and in WhatsApp and Zoom. But that’s all. It turns out my emotional strength is being utilized differently. I’m supporting my children, my wife, my colleagues and extended family, including some who have dealt with the virus.

Also, unlike 9/11, which was a shock, the coronavirus is a rolling tide, with a continual worry about the near future, yet very little that’s imminent. I often find myself completely spent by 9 p.m., wanting only to watch old reruns on cable TV and assemble jigsaw puzzles, rather than expend more effort into, say, extemporaneous composition. (Case in point: when I began drafting this essay, the title was Day 38.) Unlike September 11, when we literally watched and smelled the disaster, my experience has been more removed. I am grateful for that, and for my six family members and friends who have already recovered from the virus.

In my household, we are all healthy; we’re sleeping in a bit; we are at work and at school, in routines that are starting to feel routine. I’ve been very good (read lucky) at securing food delivery slots. The ping-pong and basketball are great. And, because we left home, we have less of our own stuff to fuss over, which leads to lots of time spent just playing games with the kids and cooking. And consuming soft drinks.

So, yeah, I’m doing okay. I hope you are, too. Stay safe in there.

The decade in cities

Hitting publish on my annual Year in Cities post made me think it’d be interesting to compile the past ten years of overnight travel into a single entry.

I suspected the first decade of the century was arguably more interesting—I got my passport in 1999, and in the ’00s went to Europe, China, and Central America. But this decade I seem to have ventured as far as Australia, and to twenty-one states (plus the District of Columbia) and ten countries, so there’s some meat on these bones. Let’s see where I’ve been:

Domestic

Akron, OH
Alexandria, VA
Arlington, VA
Athens, GA
Atlanta, GA
Austin, TX
Baltimore, MD
Bellevue, WA
Blue Bell, PA
Bolton Landing, NY
Boston, MA
Chicago, IL
Cleveland, OH
Dallas, TX
Denver, CO
East Hampton, NY
Edgartown, MA
Gloucester, MA
Grapevine, TX
Groton, CT
Hanover, NH
Hawley, PA
Hershey, PA
Jacksonville, FL
Lake Buena Vista, FL
Lakewood, NJ
Las Vegas, NV
Lenox, MA
Livingston, NJ
Longboat Key, FL
Madison, WI
Montauk, NY
Mooresville, NC
New City, NY
New York
Newton, MA
North Creek, NY
Orlando, FL
Palenville, NY
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Plymouth Meeting, PA
Portland, ME
Portland, OR
San Diego, CA
Santa Monica, CA
Saratoga Springs, NY
Short Hills, NJ
Washington, DC
West Tisbury, MA
West Warwick, RI
Wheeling, IL
Williamstown, MA
Winter Haven, FL

International

Avignon, France
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Hong Kong
London, England
Paradise Island, the Bahamas
Paris, France
Positano, Italy
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla, British West Indies
Rome, Italy
St. Thomas, USVI
Sydney, Australia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The year in cities, 2019

Now in its fifteenth year! Not a very exciting year, as it were, we had enough going on at home that there wasn’t much venturing going on. Next year is setting up to be more interesting.

As always, here are all the places I went in 2019 and spent the night. Repeat visits denoted with an asterisk.

New York *
Palm Beach Gardens, FL *
Plymouth Meeting, PA
Lenox, MA
Edgartown, MA *
Lake Buena Vista, FL *
New City, NY *

As you do

The scene: a crowded 1 train at rush hour, boarded at 14th Street. I am standing by the door, people crunched in front of me. 

To my right are a man and woman sitting in the seats. They look a little confused.

The train stops at Christopher. The woman half stands up, looking around over many commuters’ heads, nervously. 

From across the train, a disembodied voice calls out. “Not yet! You’re at Christopher Street.”

Relieved, the woman sits back down. The couple gets off at Houston with a thumbs-up to a woman standing by the other door. 

9/11/19

I now live around the corner from the Fireman’s Memorial. The streets were blocked on Wednesday morning; many somber uniformed officials passed by while I walked my dog into and out of Riverside Park.

My walk left me in a wretched mood, and a few hours later, still grouchy at work, it dawned on me why: this is the closest I’ve been, emotionally, to 9/11 in a long, long time. The sadness persists.

Several of my old-school-blogging peers like to post every September 11 about the events of 2001. I do not. I had plenty to say back then, and it holds up. In the years since, I’ve gone about life as any other New Yorker, quietly somber each anniversary. I lost people I knew on that day, too. But I chose not to dwell, publicly or privately, beyond my own quiet acknowledgement.

Walking into the remembrance this week–quite literally–hit me much differently. This wasn’t floodlights downtown leaving me in a bit of awe, this was real people commemorating their own pain and loss. This was my reminder of the policeman’s son who my circle lost that day, and his cousin, the suburban cop, my lifelong friend, spending days in the rubble, searching not only for him but for everyone else that would never be found. The remembrance came to me, and I almost didn’t know what to do with it. I’m glad it made me sad, glad I was able to process it and remember and mourn.

On Saturday, I took my dog for another walk past the Fireman’s Monument, this time with my eight-year-old son in tow. We paused to take in the fireman’s cross made of carnations, still intact and proud, a sober “343” in white flowers in the middle of it, for all the colleagues lost that day. I explained it in gentle terms to my son, then turned away to blink away my tears.

There’s a reason the common phrase around 9/11 is “never forget.” I know I never will.

An incomplete list of things our year-old Labradoodle chewed up while left home alone, July 2019

Cardboard boxes
Loose papers
Padded envelopes
Several hardcover books
A paper towel cylinder stolen from the recycling bin
A pre-chewed hardcover book cover stolen from the recycling bin
A bag of bagels off the kitchen counter (specifically, five bagels, and some of the bag)
TV remotes (two now, one so badly it doesn’t work anymore)
The protective cover off a limited edition Yoshi Wii remote
Some plastic toy Eli left on the ottoman
A bag full of new dinner plates
Two baseball caps
A box holding a dozen golf balls, and a couple of the balls
Treats he stole from a pocketbook after leaping on the game table (caught on video)
My prescription sunglasses
A variety of Legos, both boxed and loose
A dollar bill
And occasionally, very occasionally, a chew toy

(Previously.)