COVID Be DAMNED: Risky Behavior, from hugs to kisses.
In the time of COVID, during the first month or so I wore my hood mask when I ran outside, “microbanned” every surface from the Step I would use in the garage and in the park, to my doorknobs, and wore gloves or use sani wipes on everything I touched at grocery stores, and the like.
But I am a musician. And as I am unemployed like so many millions, part of the way I supplement my income is playing music on the street, in subway stations, parks, and boardwalks.
At first, I played with my mask on, and people seemed to appreciate that. In fact, there is a viral video of me doing so, as well as a previous article I wrote about being able to connect with a mask.
In May, I went down to Nashville to record my latest album, “Everything In Good Time”, which was released on June 20, 2020, Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5RHPPSDhiiYpmt55p1ONeL?si=-WQaDYe9Ttu9eoj73sTNqg. On the way, I passed through NJ (mask heavy), PA (mask heavy), VA….this is where mask use dropped off a bit, and TN (mask?). My wonderful studio and musicians did not wear masks, and neither did I, but everything was professionally sanitized before I came. My lovely piano player, Tony, tapped me on the leg after we made a joke, and I said, “Wow, that was the first human contact I have had in months!”. Masks were required in the grocery stores, and in the hotel lobby, but beyond that, it was the wild west.
I took my time coming home so that I could add to my freelance photography portfolio. I visited Carvins Cove, Burgess Falls (NO ONE wore masks, and it was VERY crowded! A man even SPIT publicly!), and Natural Bridge. I carried my mask, but no one was wearing them, so neither did I. I did not, however, shake hands or let anyone touch my camera, even when someone offered to take my photo. I just used my tripod and timer.
Coming back to NY was an emotional blow after experiencing a taste of freedom: lines that wrapped around the block to go into Trader Joe’s, masks were the norm, and the general mood was angry and tired. I just wanted to escape again to where I could be free.
I continued to play my guitar with my thin mask in the Bronx, Tuckahoe (Bronx Park), and eventually, I realized people were disappearing from the park, as Bronxville had just opened to outdoor dining.
I then started busking on a corner in Bronxville, and people were most appreciative! “That you for doing something positive!”. This was all fine, until a skinhead cop harassed me: “You’re PROMOTING! YOU’RE SOLICITING!!!! PACK IT UP!!!” ( see my article entitled: Coping with CARTMAN:
It took until July for the Jersey Shore to be warm enough to attempt busking there. I started in Point Pleasant, NJ, and then eventually Seaside Park. There were no fireworks, which would have drawn the best crowds, until maybe August. Crowds started thinly, but then grew as the summer went on. Mask wearing fell by the wayside. We wore them to go to the bathroom, or 7–11 or Shoprite, but outside of that…people showed their faces. So did I. Why hide my face when I was singing my heart out. I sold over 200 CDs this summer. I unfortunately was harassed yet again by another skinhead cop in Point Pleasant one Sunday night, but I realized if I do not play while it is light out, and never on a SUNDAY, all should be fine.
Although I did not shake hands, there was once a woman who was a good listener, who also bought 2 CDs. She told me her son had gone into rehab the day before. We hugged. She would not be the only person I hugged that summer. One day, I was working out in Bronx Park, and I left my keys on the ground. I only realized it when I was talking to someone who recognized me from working out in the Park (we exercisers all started to know each other, as gyms were closed, and the regulars like me would run, in my case, do STEP AEROBICS and WEIGHTS by the 233rd entrance, and other dips, lunges, pushups, etc.). I bolted back down a steep hill, and Gregory had my car key! I was SO thankful! I gave him a HUGE hug. “Covid be damned” is the phrase I would say before doing so.
I had my first COVID test on Thursday, when I was scheduled for a fitting for a TV show I would be working on in October. First you had to fill out a form on your phone. Then you go to a tent, and a nurse sticks a long swab in each nostril, making 10 circles. Then you are given a KN95 mask, and a bottle of hand sanitizer. And off to the fitting. For the rest of the day, all I did was sneeze. I swear the test must have triggered something. I had to take a FULL CLARITIN vs a HALF, and an oscillo. I went to Brighton Beach afterwards. I was THANKFUL that there was a small park with an open bathroom. It was dirty, but functional. I then did my YOGA WORKOUT on the grass, and ran the boardwalk, watching for raised screws. I bought my AMARETTO COFFEE and pita bread, and while I was heading back to my car, a handsome man on a bike started up a conversation with me. At this point, I had my guitar, and was looking for a place to play. We walked and talked, and he situated me in a huge circle where he said “people will know you are here to perform”.
He then rode off, and I proceeded to play. A nice man who only spoke Russian handed me a $5. Then another man $2. The first man kept trying to communicate with me, although he could not speak English. He was showing me his music videos on his phone. He was quite talented. The videos were shot well. I didn’t get much playing done, unfortunately. I downloaded “Google Translator” to try and explain that he is welcome to email me. But he only wanted my phone number. After about 20–25 minutes, he and his friend walked away. My handsome man came back on his bike to see how I made out. I explained what happened, and he laughed. He said, “Be careful, he may be looking for someone to marry who is a citizen”.
Sergei, my handsome man, then offered to buy me something to eat. We at first went to a store that had all kinds of things, including salmon kebabs, but the man behind the counter said that he was done for the evening. We instead went to Sachiko, my favorite and inexpensive sushi place I like on Brighton 1 place. I got my sashimi to go, and we sat on the Boardwalk and talked. We have so much in common, the love of the beach and summer, the dislike of noise/street noise. I showed him my Jersey Shore photos to show him how beautiful the water and sand is. He was sold.
He walked me back to my car, and at first we hugged, and then we kissed. We also sat in my car and kissed some more. Maybe this is considered “RISKY BEHAVIOR”, but Covid be DAMNED! I am NOT going to be alone when I don’t have to be, I am going to live my life, and spread as much love and music as I can, and I am not going to let a beautiful man pass me by when he could very well be my soul mate. COVID BE DAMNED.
Kama Linden is a singer-songwriter with 4 studio albums, the newest being, “Everything In Good Time”, releasing in Summer 2020. She is also an actress, fitness instructor, freelance photographer, and has a fitness book: “Healthy Things You Can Do In Front Of The TV”.