Dear Outer Cape friends (and the rest of yooz who live where city folk have country homes),
I’m a New Yorker, who has spent part of every summer in Wellfleet since 1965, and lived there for an all too brief year in the early 90s. It’s my favorite spot on the planet (and I’ve traveled far and wide). When I’m sad or anxious and need to picture my happy place, I’m swimming across Slough Pond. I’m a teacher, so a house of my own in your lovely town has always been out of my range; I’m a perpetual renter. But Wellfleet is as close as it gets to a home away from home, for me.
I’ve been following the charge by full-time residents that non-resident homeowners stay away during this pandemic. I've been following the angry comments on social media. And I understand. NYers escaping to their second homes are spreading the virus. Buying up precious food and supplies. And soon, taking hospital beds and ventilators from locals who have nowhere else to go. I get it. But. Hear me out.
I need to backtrack for a second. New York City is like a giant a cruise ship. We live on top of one another, and we can’t get away from each other. Buying groceries or descending to the communal laundry room requires pushing elevator buttons or working door handles touched by many. It’s abnormally quiet, here, without honking horns or the cacophony of voices that normally drifts up to our windows. But the silence is constantly punctured by ambulance sirens. We're indoors, in small apartments with no outdoor space. (A fire escape puts you in the one percent, these days.) We're allowed to go out for a little air and exercise, but the parks are often too crowded to practice safe social distancing. Those asshats on fancy bikes in spandex shorts who race up and down the back route from Wellfleet to Truro in August? Their exercise is more important than staying six feet away from you in Central Park. And our essential workers--the supermarket clerks and handymen and other heros--are riding public transportation to work. We’re infecting each other. We’re getting sick. And there are long lines outside every hospital to get into the ER. Once inside, there are no beds or life-saving equipment left. Our doctors and nurses have no protective gear. I’m scared to dea--well, maybe that’s not the best turn of phrase to use, right now.
So, I can also understand why second home owners are leaving town. I might do the same, in their pretty shoes.
What about making some new rules that work for everyone?
Full-timers and summer people working together (social distancing style) to keep everyone fed, sheltered and healthy, might even help shake off some of the town-gown tension that simmers beneath the surface of those gorgeous summer days.
And yes, I know this is simplistic. And idealistic. Downright dumb. Irresponsible. And it wouldn't work. (Even in Wellfleet, where I’ve watched the community model how to take care of its own.) I know any movement spreads the disease. And in the real world, we all need to stay the fuck home.
So. Maybe I wouldn’t decamp to my second house, after all. Maybe I’d be an upstander and stay put. Close the bridges, if you must. But please understand that we're terrified, and do it without rancor.
Stay well, friends in my little Paradise. I hope we’ll see each other this summer, if it’s safe enough to cross the bridge.
I've been blogging since 2010. When I've got writer's block in every other way (frequent), this low stakes riffing to think has been a constant. Over the digital years, I've had a half dozen or so blogs including a travel blog and a reading blog, both on Blogger, and an all-purpose blog on tumblr where I wrote about education, social equity and anything else that sparked me. I also posted some of my published print work on my website. My shit is all over the internet. I'll be using this space for the occasional blog post, now.