By Hank Rosenfeld
On a recent Saturday we were bicycling up Main Street thinking, there are still too many cars on Main Street. Then we noticed something else going on. Pedestrians looked up as we rolled by, and there followed greetings: “Good morning.” “Hey.” The head-nodding acknowledgment. A “howdy-do” felt like we were in an America town a hundred years ago.
I usually ring my bike bell to provoke the locals. This was different. Something in their eyes. Granted, you focus on the eyes when a mask is covering the mouth and the nose. But why were they looking at us riding past? Everyone gave up their glance.
“Only connect,” is the famous epigraph from E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel, Howards End. When we find ourselves yearning disabled, skin hungerers (an actual condition where a human desires physical contact), what do locked-inside-in-a-locked-down-city dwellers with nowhere to go but back in do?
We got free. We flew the cooped up and lived inside an E.M. Forster bubblilicious fiction of affection.
On Friday night, I was with a friend at Urgent Care on 9th and Wilshire. He’s seventy-one, was feverish for two weeks and lost his sense of smell – time for the swab, right? Everything looked pretty good, they said, after blood pressure and temperature checks. No need for the test.
Next was UCLA Immediate Care, after a quick stop at Hank’s Liquor for a not-unrelated emergency. Streets empty the whole way to 16th and Arizona. Parking a breeze. They didn’t look at my friend’s Medicare card. They didn’t want to read the note from his doctor. The entire exchange was conducted outside the automatic sliding door my friend never made it through. His doctor’s voice on speakerphone held to the glass –
they didn’t care. They suggested the Emergency Room right across the street.
ER: open 24/7! A Friday night and only one person in the waiting room! My friend came out four hours later waving nine pages confirming chest x-ray, CT scan, liter of saline, script for Albuterol. And the Covid-19 test.
The other day I slipped through the snow fence near Lifeguard Tower 28 and illegally sat on the sand. Staring at the Pacific, I thought, is there compassion out there in the deep? What must the sea creatures think of us?
“Told you so”?
A guy in a wetsuit breaks my reverie. We’re sheltering in the same space and gently acknowledge each other. He says I should take care – the beach being closed and all. Just before diving headfirst he shouts back, “You can’t close the ocean!”
I wonder if he knew about the surfer fined a thousand dollars because they closed the ocean in Manhattan Beach.
Hank Rosenfeld is a folk journalist in Ocean Park.