[I wrote this a couple of days ago and it already seems dated. I thought I’d post it anyway to show how quickly events have overtaken us.]
I got home a couple of weeks ago, ending the popular series “500 hours of solitude (give or take).” My blogpost output in New York falls drastically, not because it’s a less interesting place, but because, I will admit, I lead a boring life here. Call it the uneventful life of the New York native who didn’t move to the city to live out some fantasy of a glamorous life.
So, first off, I’ll come out and say it. I’m a klutz. Call me butterfingers. Remember when people said that? I was reading something on my dear sweet iPad Air 2, a model that first saw the light of day in 2014, when I dropped it onto a hard tile floor. It wasn’t the first time that I’d dropped either a phone or iPad, but this time it was serious. At first things seemed to be ok, but then the screen turned into a series of gray stripes. Once the icons flashed and I thought, great, it’ll self-heal. But the was only a momentary letup in its slide to oblivion.
I’m also a geek, and when I’m here, I tend to obsess over stuff like computers, iPhones, TV streaming services and the like. I suppose it’s just another way to fill these boring days. Sure, I’ve had work to do, but I am a master of procrastination.
Okay, you say, why not go out and do something? Good question. Since I did return from the walled country of Italy, I’ve been trying to do the right thing and self-isolate as much as I can. Screening while traveling back was nonexistent other than being asked if I’d been to China. But I was in Milan for a couple of days, traveling back and forth from Perugia on crowded trains. So I figured I’d do the right thing and lay low. Plus, jet lag hit me hard and I’ve been semi-narcoleptic, waking up at 4 a.m. and needing a nap by lunchtime.
The Italy I left was about a month ahead of the U.S. in terms of Covid-19 craziness. Whole areas of the north were under lockdown and it was only days before all of the north, then all of the country was ordered to stay home just a few days after I got back to New York. It was all people talked about, and I was unnerved by how unaware people in New York seemed to be about what was going to unfold.
I almost wish I hadn’t left. As a journalist, you want to be where the action is, and a whole country of 60 million people basically staying home is definitely the kind of phenomenon you want to witness. Thanks to social media and everyone having a smartphone, though, it’s been easy to see what’s going on there. Italians have adapted with some sadness and, as you might expect, with a fair amount of style and humor.
Some of our friends are lucky enough to live in the country. Angela and Debora, for example, live across the Chiascio valley from us, in a hamlet of Valfabbrica called Poggio S. Dionisio. Their incredible off-the-grid new house abuts some woods, and Angela, who grew up surrounded by forest, is an expert forager. The first days of staying home found her wandering around to pick wild asparagus, which, after a warm winter, is now in season. Here’s one day’s harvest:
Others have taken refuge in books, cooking, drinking. They’re allowed to take walks, but have to maintain a 1 meter/1 yard distance from others. At first restaurants and bars (more like all-purpose cafés in the American context) were at first allowed to be open from 6 am to 6 pm, but they’re all shut down now. Italians can buy food and medicine, but there are rules. Angela tells me that at the local supermarket, only 1 person per family is allowed in, and there’s a limit of 25 people in the store at any one time. The writer Beppe Severgnini has a piece in The New York Times that describes things pretty well.