Off to Austin and Back

I wrote this piece the first weekend of November as my son and I headed to Austin, while on the plane taking us there. As always, life took me over, and I’m at least three posts behind — all about this trip. It was a good way to go back to a semblance of normalcy after almost two years of being in the Covid bubble.

On our way to Austin

(November 6, Saturday) We’re two hours into our flight from New York to Austin, and while I am dying for some shut eye, I can’t sleep. I brought a magazine and a book to read, and a postcard swap list I need to work on over the weekend. I’ve so far read 2 articles in the magazine which is a feat — considering my magazines usually go unread. I read a couple of chapters of the book. I’ve checked the swap list and just need to send out the pairings. I will do that when I land or maybe when I return to New York.

We’re heading to Texas to attend a wedding on Monday. It’s a small party and I have known the groom since he was a baby. And the best part of it is, I have the 17 year old son with me. We are both sooooo excited!

It’s our first flight together since the pandemic began. The airport was abuzz with people and the lines were long but moving. American Airlines has a self check in system that is new to me, but I found it rather efficient. I have not flown domestically since 2012 when I went to a cousin’s wedding in Chicago. I was with the son then, as well.

Bag drop off was slow but it was tolerable. I maximized my one free bag and we carried the rest. We’re in Texas for only 4 days. One night will be in Austin the city, and the last two in Marble Falls where the reception will be held. I’m guessing it’s their version of Tagaytay or the Hamptons, so I’m looking forward to a bit of exploring. I had ordered a free copy of the Austin Visitor Guide which arrived in the nick of time. And I just remembered I left it at home, of course.

On our way to Austin

I thought I had my packing plan in place. Still, I ended up doing it the night before. I wanted to choose my outfits for the walk around town, but even that ended up being done last minute. The only thing that was predetermined was my outfit for the wedding. Dress, check. Shoes, check. Jacket for the Uber low temps of Austin nights, check. Sparkly gold bling platform peep toe slippers, check. Fancy satin scarf, check. Purse, check. The only thing I really bought for this wedding was the jacket and the purse. Everything else was already in my closet.

Just another one of the many things that made everything fall into place. I was meant to attend this wedding even if it was being held on a Monday, with the chapel and the reception an hour away from each other. How can I say no when the universe was screaming “Go!”

The flight was unbelievably reasonably priced. It was also relatively short so covid fears aside, I figured I’d survive wearing the mask for the three hours or so I’d be up in the air. Besides, I could always take a drink if I needed a break. (We were actually served snacks.). The hotel in the city was understandably pricey, but the hotel close to the reception (as recommended by the bride) was reasonable.. All systems go. It looks like the bigger chunk of the expense will be transportation between the city to the next town, and then to the chapel and the reception on the day of the wedding. I can take a local taxi for the reception back to the hotel, then one last big fare to the airport. See, I don’t drive. But figuring all that on Uber, car service, etc., vs. what I would’ve spent on a car rental, I’m not really off by much. (That’s me justifying to myself.).

On our way to Austin

The last plane ride I took was my Manila- Legazpi – Manila – Sydney Manila vacation in July of 2019. It feels like a lifetime away, more so as the homesickness creeps up on me, followed by a deep frustration over the quarantine requirements in Manila. I have stopped trying to look at what is possible in the near term. I am trying to assuage the pining for home by thinking of December 2022. That way, any opportunity to travel like this one, comes as a gift.

It seems that planning for a vacation to any other country or state is going to be easier, so trips like this one provide a welcome break from the cabin fever of covid.

The scene at the airport was almost normal in terms of the crowd, but most people were complying with fully wearing their masks— a mask was required everywhere. Some people took it off while waiting at the gate, and some had it over their mouth but not over third nose which I personally find so irritating. But on the plane itself, there was even an announcement to make sure to wear your mask even as you sleep so they wouldn’t have to wake you up. So far so good.. but then again, the flight is only half full. (I have situated myself in my own three seat row across from the son.)

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(November 9, Tuesday) On the way home on a Tuesday evening flight from Austin to Néw York. The plane is barely half full. I tried to situate the son across the aisle in his own row, but he naughtily defied my seat plan. Yes, he’s next to me.

I am leaving Austin with happy memories of a vacation spent with my soon-to-be college boy. There was no ditching me to hang out with his friends this weekend. He was stuck with me. We tried some homegrown faves in the two places we visited, and the last meal we had in Marble Falls has changed the way he looks at barbecue ribs forever.

On our way to Austin

The wedding was heartwarming and touching. I am glad I decided to go and be there for the new Mr. and Mrs. Lim. I suddenly felt old as I realized how the baby now has a baby himself now, and was taking that big leap at his bit of forever.

As for me, I feel as though the universe just reminded me life goes on. And it did. And I’m glad I ventured out and took the chance to have a fun weekend with my boy. Happy memories aplenty!

Monday Musings: Another Covid Fall

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Hello, autumn. Another fall and we’re still in covid country. I’m writing this while I’m on the bus, heading to work, wearing a mask. Not the most comfortable 45 minutes, but it’s necessary.

I’m currently mulling about my booster shot. And I need to think about the flu shot as well. This time around last year, I had gotten a flu shot and a colonoscopy, and was anxiously debating about what I would do if and when the vaccine became available. I eventually got the dual jab in the spring. But back to the booster.

I know I’m going to take it– it’s a matter of when. Why the reluctance again? I guess it’s the absence of an absolute mandate that I have to. But I will.

Stumped on the sewing. My free patterns have been cut and taped together and set aside, and I’m trying to make up my mind about which one to “attack” first. I was thinking of making a cropped blazer for a wedding I’m attending in a couple of weeks — then I found the perfect velvet kimono which I think solves my problem.

As of today, I haven’t gotten it yet so I still need a contingency plan. At the very least, I might need to fashion a light lining. I’ve been warned of chilly autumn evenings where I’m headed, so just getting ready for that. I am still hoping to do at least 1 coat this season, and retire my current outerwear wardrobe a coat at a time.

A wedding in November. I am definitely excited to go and attend the wedding of one of my favorite “nephews” who actually isn’t a blood relative. I’ve known him since he was a baby and he and the love of his life are tying the knot. I am so excited to be with him at this important juncture, more so since covid restrictions are preventing his immediate family from the Philippines from attending. And what’s more, Angelo is coming with me! Soooo excited! There’s something about weddings that makes it such a heartwarming thought, don’t you think?Then add to that the bonus of doing this with my favorite date..

And so another week begins..

A month’s silence

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Nothing irritates me more than finding myself absent from this space for long period like a month. What makes me even more upset is the fact that I keep drafting blogposts in my head, practically every day. Sad.

My weekend has ended and I’m getting ready to start the week off. Nothing much has changed.

Manhattan still seems to be on “holiday” mode. The crowd in Grand Central hasn’t grown appreciably, but there are people going to work like myself. Still sticking to the 2-3x a week in the office and working remotely for the rest. Many companies, like mine, have further pushed out their return to work initiatives for the regular workforce to January. (Some even later.)

While I do appreciate being able to have a semblance of normalcy in my work routine, I find myself envious of those still working from home 100% of the time. Many aren’t in a rush to get back to the regular commute and grind in the confines of the office.

The new skyscraper lording it over the Manhattan skyline, One Vanderbilt, has finally opened for occupancy. They’re actually boasting of yet another observation deck which I hope to visit when it opens, more so since it’s literally a hop, skip and a jump away. The nicest find was that Epicerie Boulud has opened at the corner nearest to me on 42nd Street.

Epicerie Boulud

Their almond croissant is a treat! Flaky and yet not crumbly, and the almond filling is not like any other.

Meanwhile, school has opened with 100% in person attendance in New York. My high school senior has promised to be vigilant with the mask. So far, so good. While I had pessimistically projected that school will probably return to hybrid learning soon after it opened, the system seems to be poised to go back to normal. Fingers crossed.

Saturday Brunch in Manhattan

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This previous weekend, I had made plans to have brunch in the city and I knew where I wanted to go. Fell in line to be seated, and this being the first time I’ve gone to dine in the city since the new vaccination requirement, I saw firsthand how it’s now a thing in Manhattan. Proof of vaccination, please. I flashed my excelsior app which I had just added to my apple wallet this month. Done. I was told to take my seat to wait for my table to be ready.

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

The group behind us chose to forego dining here because of that— it seems one or two of their party had yet to be vaccinated. There’s actually a move to reverse this mandate, with some restaurateurs alleging their business is being singled out to enforce this requirement, at the risk of losing potential customers who cannot meet it.

I personally feel that everyone has a right to know who is and who is not vaccinated, because not being vaccinated is a potential risk to those of us who are. While I respect this as a personal choice one is free to make, I think I have a right to know if I’m sitting next to or in the same space as someone who isn’t. To paraphrase French President Emmanuel Macron, it’s about time that those of you who are not vaccinated stay home, while those of us who are can move with more freedom. Of course, this is not to say that we move around without the mandated precautions of masking (now required in many establishments although optional in some), and maintaining social distancing.

We cannot let our guard down just because we have been vaccinated. We all must exercise caution and continue to safeguard ourselves and our family against the dangers of covid.

A 30 minute wait? I have had my mind set on brunch here for a while, more so since I’ve always only taken pastries to bring home. Today, I’m going to sit and have brunch.

Menu options give you two breakfast packages and a brunch option with choices, and of course there is always the alternative to go a la carte. I wanted to enjoy the Angelina Paris experience, so I went for the brunch.

Brunch Menu, August 2022

I’m not really a breakfast person. I used to skip eating breakfast, but I’ve come to realize that my body tends to binge when deprived, so smaller, more sensible meals made better sense for someone like me. When home, I am happy having avocado toast and coffee. I’ve developed a liking to simply mashed avocado seasoned ever so slightly with a dash of pepper and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

Today, it’s Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon for me. The other options were spinach and feta, avocado or Canadian Bacon. I tend to gravitate towards salmon to go with poached eggs, which to me, is the better pairing for a flash of flavor. I’m glad I made that choice.

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

Can I just say I’ve never seen such perfectly poached eggs that look like they were shelled and boiled? They were so divine to slice into and the over easy yolk oozed out and melded so well with the Hollandaise sauce. The homemade smoked salmon sitting atop a crunchy toast was just heavenly..

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

My nutritionist is trying to make me rethink eating by making me stick to a set of foods that would be healthier rather than being calorie conscious. It’s worked for me mostly, except when I deliberately indulge in my devilish treats. Today’s brunch is half and half of that, and I’m not apologizing! It’s affirming when the one you dine with tends to order the same thing you order..

Brunch was capped by a White Chocolate Praline Crepe with pistachios, raspberries and Chantilly (whipped cream).

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

The flavors just melded together with a flavorful sauce that wasn’t overpoweringly tart nor sweet. Perfect to cleanse the palate of the hints of smoked salmon that lingered after. I must warn you that this might be too big a meal for people who prefer to eat light. If you ask me, it was just heavy enough to satisfy.

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

Besides, I tell myself, I’ve been pretty good for the most part. I saw French Toast on the a la carte menu which is what I will have next time I stop by for brunch. Looking forward to that in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, I can’t really pass up on picking up a treat or two for the next day’s breakfast.

Take home

Monday Musings: Wet start of the week

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It’s been raining in New York. I woke up to the pitter patter of rain and grey skies. So I’m grateful that today was a Monday that I had the opportunity to stay home, instead of schlossing my way into the city. It did stop for a bit last night, affording me a chance to go and walk in the evening. It’s not quite as easy walking in rain boots but I didn’t want to punish my sneakers. That pair has served me well since I started my 10,000 steps a year ago.

Focusing on the sewing. While I still wasn’t able to fully stay away from the postcards this weekend, I did devote a fair amount of time taping together sewing patterns for two pieces I hope to work on in the coming days. I almost succumbed to getting more fabric because of a sale on sale over at Mood Fabrics, but a glitch in changing passwords kept me from buying more. (What a relief!). I’m going to do some practice pieces and see how they turn out.

I’m working on free patterns from Mood Sewciety where you can pick up quite a couple of staples. These are essential pieces that can get you going as you try to practice your sewing skills.

I’m getting on with Tom Clancy’s “The Cardinal of the Kremlin.” I have been a lifelong fan of Clancy and can boast of an autographed book, and actually having met him in person before he died. It’s just surreal listening to this audiobook which is partly based in Afghanistan and set during that time when the Mujahideen was fighting their Russian occupiers. Although a work of fiction, the book gives an insight into that part of the war ravaged history of that country which is now in crisis. It is a very emotional issue even for someone who is just a spectator many thousands of miles away. I cannot imagine the sense of fear and chaos in that part of the world right now. I try to check on developments in the news at the beginning and end of my day, and I’m not taking sides. All I know is my heart goes out to the people now caught in the turmoil in that part of the world.

It makes me stop and think and wish that people who enjoy the freedoms that they are born with would appreciate that more. And that they would cherish and responsibly exercise it, but not to the detriment of others.

I don’t want to get political. I never have, or tried my best not to. Human lives are at stake here, and any human life in whatever shape or form, is precious.

So we are off to another week– the sun is supposed to come back and bring the heat back on.. in a few days, we welcome September .

Postcards: What to write

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A regular postcard is around 4″ x 6″, with a dividing line in the middle to denominate where the address of the recipient should be, along with the postage and airmail sticker as needed. The lines on the right side of the dividing line show us where to write the address — although I usually ignore those.. To the left, there would be the caption or description of the photo on the reverse, and some space to write something.

With roughly 3″ x 3″ of space to work with, a lot of people still find themselves in a quandary about what to write in that post-it size space. And should you actually be working with a bigger card, like say, 5″ x 7″, that becomes even more daunting for some! So below are a few essentials and writing prompts, in case you are at a loss as to what to write..

Date your postcard. Whether you will write it or use a date stamp, you are doing the recipient a favor by giving them a sense of when you wrote whatever you will write. As a collector, I’ve been thrown off track by vintage postcards whose postmarks are not easily discernible, either because the original was not that good an imprint, or because time has caused part of it to fade.

Affix a return address label, or write your address in smaller print, somewhere on the far left. Do not make the mistake of affixing a label right next to your addressee, because sorting machines and the humans who sort will sometimes make the mistake of returning your postcard to you. I use many of the free address labels that are used for fund raisers here in the US, but trimming it to its absolute borders so it doesn’t occupy too much space. If you will print, do it in 8pt or less. If you will write it, make it smaller in print than the body of your dedication.

This will also help the recipient identify the actual sender– more so if you tend to sign with a scribble or you have a nondescript nickname unfamiliar to the recipient. You also cannot presume that you are the only John or Ces sending to that person, and you’d want him or her to know it was you.

Introduce yourself in 10-15 words. I always like to know who sent me the card even if it’s a random swap like those we do on Postcrossing. In my case, that would be “I’m a Filipina who moved to New York 20 years ago.” (10 words). If I have space, I mention that “I’ve been collecting postcards for almost 40 years now.” (+9 words). If I have the space, I will put my collecting interest next, or if I’m sending a card based on a collecting profile, I make reference to what I collect in common with the recipient.

Another relevant fact to mention would be your family or work. I sometimes mention I’m a mom to a 17 year old or that I have a 17 year old son. If you have pets, and you know the recipient has them or is collecting postcards of those animals, you can put it in as well.

Say something about what’s on the postcard. I usually send a postcard of Times Square which is, literally, a hop, skip and a jump away from my place of work — and I mention that. “Times Square is just a few blocks away from where I work and is walking distance.” If you’re sending a landmark or iconic tourist spot, explain it in one sentence. “Mayon Volcano is a few hours away from me, and is a perfect cone volcano we are all proud of.” If there is a caption describing the front of the postcard, no need.

Postcards available for trade/Seap
Mention something you know about the person’s country or location. More so if you’ve already visited that place or province. It makes a connection — and makes the card you send out more personal. For recipients in France, I always mention I collect postcards from there because Paris is my favorite city outside of the US, having visited twice. Or if it’s a destination that you’ve always wanted to visit, again, it makes it personal.

I always smile when I read that the person sending me the card has been to New York or has always wanted to visit New York. It makes the connection.

If you will mention the temperature, please indicate in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. Again, thinking about the recipient who might be on the Fahrenheit scale as compared to your Celsius or centigrade. You want him or her to appreciate how hot or how nice it is where you are.

Embellishments vs. more words? My preference is the latter. The washi tape and stickers are fun to assemble on a postcard as artistic expression, but the truth of the matter is, I like receiving meatier and wordier dedications. I like hearing about the person sending me the postcard, because for the most part, the postcard speaks for itself.

When you write me, I want to hear about who you are–

  • Are you a young postcard collector or like me, a golden girl who works and has a grown up son? Maybe you’re a stay at home mom or do you work and if you do, what do you do?
  • Do you live in the city or in the suburbs or a small town or village? (I have a personal curiosity about the latter..)
  • Where did you get this postcard?
  • Do you collect a specific category of cards?
  • Do you collect stamps? (I don’t but sometimes it explains the fancy stamps on the postcards.) Stamp collectors tend to be more deliberate about the stamps they use.
  • How is the weather where you are as you write — how is the season going?

Think of 3 words that would describe you and build on that. Mine would be

1) crafty, “I like to do crafts like crochet, jewelry, journaling and sewing.” ;

2) chocoholic, “I love chocolates! Do you?’ ;

3) blogger, “I blog at pinaynewyorker.com”.

Have a personal tag line that is self explanatory. Mine is “I am a perpetual tourist in NY.”

And if you are a postcrosser, don’t forget the Postcrossing ID!

I tend to write a lot into that little space even if I know it will be a one-time swap or send. It’s my way of sending a piece of me beyond the postcard that will carry my thoughts and words across the oceans. So next time you’re tempted to load on the stickers, try writing more than you usually do. Think of what you would want to receive and read if this postcard was being sent to you instead.

Don’t be scared of that empty space. The words will come and before you know it, you’ve filled up the entire card. I hope these postcard writing prompts help you to write with more ease, next time you find yourself sitting down to write on a postcard.

Monday Musings: Hopeful

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It’s a cloudy day in New York today. I’m not complaining. It makes for a cooler day which I don’t mind at all. The day went by so quickly. The speed with which it went by left me exhausted at the end of it all, and here I am.

Postcards on hold. I know. Trying to wean myself from the load of the hobby, and almost succeeding. It actually takes a bit of time to send out postcards– from picking the cards, addressing, stamping and writing on the cards themselves. I’m preparing a special set of cards to send away via an even more special route, but work and other plans today put a dampener on my plans. I need to focus more on the collection than the swaps. Over the weekend, I sorted my newly acquired vintage postcards over the last couple of weeks and I have quite a heap to work with. And if I’m to pursue my other passions, something’s got to give.

Outgoing postcards
Trying to resist the urge to crochet. I’m really trying to focus more on the sewing, and hopefully start on the jewelry again, before I pick up another crochet hook. It’s helped that the project I’m thinking of will require new yarn, and the thought of buying more yarn is a big deterrent to beginning the project. I have quite a yarn stash and I would rather start on a project that uses up what I have, than begin a new one which will require additional spending.

Gothamchick, the blog, will be back soon. I am always saddened when I see how few and far between my posts are, but heavily disappointed that I haven’t written anything on that side since December. THAT has got to change. I am almost tempted to totally reformat the space, but that has been around for quite some time. Another major project that needs tweaking.

So there’s my Monday and I can’t believe I’ve been writing as much as I have. Maybe the meditation on creativity has indeed provided a much needed push. Whatever it is that has stirred my creative juices, I do hope it keeps coming.

My Weekend be like..

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A Work during the week makes weekends a special treat, even if it means just staying home. And I usually prefer to do just that— just chill. Of course, there are always the many chores that need to be done over a period of time that weekdays cannot accommodate. There are weekends when I do make plans, but this wasn’t one of those weekends. For the most part, weekends are all about relaxing and recharging for me. Yes, even during these very challenging times.

As a divorced mom to a 17 year old, there are weekends and there are “me” weekends — those that are just about me, myself and I when the son is with his dad. This is one of those weekends.

I didn’t make any plans except where to insert the not-so-welcome task of schlepping to the corner laundromat to do my load. (The son has been tasked to do his laundry with his dad. So it’s MY clothes only.). The Co-op laundromat has been out of commission the last couple of weeks. Not worth ranting about here, so I won’t dwell on that.

Here I am trying to write about the weekend while sipping my iced green tea at the neighborhood Starbucks while waiting for the laundry cycle to complete. That I am actually sitting here inside the store, maskless as I am drinking, IS a big deal. Indoor seating was not allowed by Starbucks not so long ago, masks were ALWAYs required, and they promptly observed shortened hours and closed at 6pm. Not to say that I’ve relaxed with the masking. I’ve been wearing them everywhere— even outdoors— EXCEPT when eating or drinking.

At Starbucks this weekend

The best part of the weekend is sleeping in. Saturdays and Sundays are really the only days during the week when I have the luxury to do just that. That means waking up later than 8am — but sometimes, the body just can’t let go of the 6ish or thereabouts stirring. I think it’s age. No matter how late I turn in, I’m preprogrammed to actually wake up as the sun peaks into my heavy drapes. (I know, I don’t like blackout curtain, so I suffer through my sensitivity to sunlight.)

Postcards heading out

Saturday was mostly spent at home. I’ve had a pretty tense couple of days and a rocking weekend before that. I literally crashed when the previous weekend ended as things appeared to settle. Sometimes life totally takes me over even as the world is oblivious to what’s going on in my life.

So here’s my weekend — finally! I tried to avoid touching the postcards but I have some promised swaps that need to go out. I did a couple of masks and resisted the urge to cut more fabric. I made some mask necklaces so that I can wear the mask on my neck while at work. I browsed for the next project. It might be something to sew, if not crochet. I read, I listened and I finally finished the final season on Bosch on AmazonPrime.

And the oddest thing was, while I didn’t make up my mind about the next to do, I did decide I was going to create a rosary to post in the shop. Mind you, not a rosary bracelet— but an actual rosary. I will actually gather the materials Sunday night and tablet for my “down time” during the week. Perhaps it’s all the praying I’ve been doing of late. I had a shortlist of sick friends and family which somehow doubled over the last couple of days. I pray and seek an indulgence as I do my daily walk, after I pray with my favorite prayer app, The God Minute.

I do my grocery shopping throughout the week but wanted to get a few things in the fridge for the week ahead. My son has a pretty fixed repertoire so it’s a matter of (him) deciding what he wants for the evening. I miss ordering out which fiercely resists— saying he prefers my cooking. Forget that there are days when I can really use a break from the second job— but I delight watching him eat dinner and enjoy the food I prepare.

I told myself I’d finally make that cheesecake. I have bars of cream cheese in my fridge which were meant to be made into cakes weeks ago. (I promise I will not risk anybody’s gastric health by offering the cake to anyone else.). I had to wait to get the eggs and the cream, though. Made the cheesecake this afternoon and I defied the conventional wisdom to use my electric mixer and mixed by hand with a metal serving spoon. (The author of the recipe gave this as an option and says this was how it was done in Spain!). I whisked away the last 3-5 minutes to get rid of the clumps of cream cheese. I’m pretty good with following recipes and the byproduct looks promising. It needs chilling for a few hours. We shall see.

Postcards heading out

I did continue with the sorting of the vintage postcards. I am going to put myself on a moratorium for the next couple of weeks as I’ve acquired quite a hearty bunch that needs sorting and putting into the album. Until that is taken cared of, I am NOT buying any more to add to the collection, no matter how cheap they may be!

Just a small batch of postcards going out tomorrow to a special collector who puts so much effort into what she sends out. I figured that the least I could do was try to level up, even if I can’t quite approximate her artistry.

The day is ended and I’m winding down. I am hoping for a good week not just for me, but for everyone who means something to me. I pray for the special mentions on my prayer list— “from all the evil that surrounds (them), defend them..”

Here’s hoping everyone was able to enjoy a bit of quiet and peace this weekend to help us deal with the week ahead. I wish you well..

To those with afflictions, I wish you healing. In my heart of hearts, I pray that your burden be lifted or at least lightened.

New York, these days

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI have been back to work part of the week since April. I would go in 2-3 days during the week, going to and from work via express bus, which is practically a door to door trip each way for me. In that, I am lucky.

On the express bus

Every morning, I’d hail the bus with mask on as the buses flash a sign: “Mask Required”. Arriving in Manhattan, I’d do my usual stop, saying a prayer at the St. Agnes Church. Some weeks ago, I noticed that QR codes were now posted on the pews in place of the missals. Some pews were cordoned off to observe social distancing, and there were huge dispensers of sanitizers outside the inner doors of the church. The confessional has returned to the main church instead of at the basement were there was more ventilation. They were adapting.

New York Today

The usually bustling Graybar Passage I walk through to go to the Grand Central concourse has been sparse with commuters even these many weeks since I came back. We are nowhere near the usual crowds we saw pre-pandemic, both in the morning and what makes for the afternoon rush hour now. I think this is one of the best indicators of how different things are now. Graybar Passage

I sometimes walk in as a train is offloading passengers which mimics a rush of people into Grand Central, but it’s still not quite there. The main clock which is usually surrounded by people waiting for a rendezvous with friends or family is dotted with less than a dozen people now at any given time.

Grand central by the clock

The streets appear to be alive again with more tourists, but seemingly local, given the international restrictions in place. Kiosks and makeshift “outdoor” dining areas show which restaurants have survived and are trying their best to stay afloat. These, I think, will be here for a while longer as concerns continue to mount about the onslaught of the Delta variant. While we generally feel safer even in enclosed spaces, there is a preference for outdoor dining or seating where it is an option.

I think one of the indicators of change in the pandemic norm is the fact that Starbucks has expanded its hours to end at 9pm, when the select stores that stayed open were closing at 6pm many weeks back. Some of their stores have also allowed indoor seating again, whereas that wasn’t an option in the spring. Still, many of their branches remain shuttered, although it appears it is only temporarily.

On my way home

It’s not quite the same. The city that never sleeps seems to have taken a step back and slowed down. City traffic sometimes approximates the bottlenecks and crawl of days gone by, but you can still sense the eerie thinning of the usual vehicular stream. We are here that we are not. At least, not yet.

Back to Masking up

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I haven’t written about life in the time of Covid not because I had begun thinking we have gotten rid of it and slid back to “normal” as we knew it per-pandemic. I just felt I needed a break from writing about it. Plus, I fell into a lull again. But I had promised myself I will try to move forward and be more focused on the writing. So here I am.

This time, last year, we slowly started to emerge from our self imposed exile and uber vigilance against covid. New York City started to ease up as the numbers began to decline in July. This year, we see more people exercising their option not to wear masks, given that a huge chunk of the local populace has opted to be vaccinated. My son and I are both in that category, and I have the proof in my Excelsior app and vaccination card.

I volunteered to return to work beginning April, but the boss had returned weeks ahead. It was a mix of a sense of duty plus a need to ease myself into some semblance of normalcy that prompted me to go back. For months, everyone had been required to wear masks everywhere except in their own space. I was fortunate that by the time I returned, a workplace adjustment was made that made masks optional in our corporate campus if we were fully vaccinated. Of course, we still had to don the mask in common areas outside our space, as we shared the building with other tenants. (We did occupy floors 2-6 and basically had exclusive use of the elevators accessing our floors.)

In the commute, masks were required on the bus. There were days when I was the only passenger heading home. That was eerie but it felt safer for the most part, and I didn’t miss the sometimes almost full or full bus pre covid, which meant someone would sit next to me. I’m fortunate to have access to an express bus route that took me practically door to door, so I was with the same set of passengers after the last stop in Manhattan and the first stop on Main Street in my part of Queens.

Masking up again

I was making my own masks at the height of the pandemic and experimented with different patterns, shapes and fabrics. I gave some to family and friends, and despite the prodding of some to sell it, I never did get quite comfortable with the quality of my work to do that. Sometime at the start of the year, I ended up setting aside some cut fabric for another time. They lay untouched until recently when the Delta variant surge started to make waves and caused me to rethink the idea that masks would become truly optional.

I may be fully vaccinated but I’ve always been one to be more cautious than laxed when it comes to Covid. Even as I walk out in the open in my neighborhood these days, I carry a mask in one hand and quickly don it when I see people approaching — whether or not they are masked themselves. I have noticed, though, that more and more are wearing masks these days, even out in the open.

When we were deep into the panic and general fear of catching Covid, I had experimented with as many as 5 patterns. After wearing the different iterations in various types of fabric, I’ve picked a favorite pattern which I tweaked to extend the ends and revised how to sew the three layers of fabric together. Although I have not used a filter of any sort all this time, all the masks I’ve made have a filter pocket. To my mind, the three layers of fabric should be sufficient filtering, given that the masks I make are breathable from the top and the bottom. (Else how will you survive wearing them?!)

Once I figure out how to produce the pattern I have altered, I will write a post about it to share.

While I would like for the elastic to be anchored to the mask, I’ve found that providing a channel through which it can more freely be looped through works best and provides the best flexibility. I continue to use cord stoppers to control the tautness of the mask against my face.

Masking up again

So just when we thought that the availability of the vaccine would help us overtake Covid, the reticence of many and the outright refusal of more, added to the onslaught of the Delta variant, have caused us to slide back to putting our masks on.

Even at work, we are back to masking up. But with the way things have been going, it would’ve been a personal choice for me to put my mask back on even without the mandate, out of an abundance of caution. After more than a year of batting the scourge of Covid, not to mention the losses suffered globally, you’d think we would be more United and resolute about which way we would go. Unfortunately we are not.

So back to masking up, folks!