NYC Journal #15 — Sunbathing Cure Day 1 — Wednesday, May 13, 2020
If you get over it, but it isn’t quite gone. If it’s settled into your bones and keeps crawling back up to the fore. So you get all zapped all through and your lungs are spongy by the end of the day. You’re fine. You’ve not had a fever in six weeks. But you can’t quite shake it.
Unless you sunbathe ten minutes a side until you’ve gotten a nice light tan. Then it will be leached out of your bones and you’ll be fine.
[Also there’s the vitamin D. Vitamin D levels appear to play role in COVID-19 mortality rates]
If it is 55F and breezy, wear long johns under your khakis. Roll up the sleeves of your snap-button yellow plaid Westernwear shirt and head out.
I tell you who is annoying, is the shirtless guy lying on the museum amphitheater steps when your little kid wants to run around on those steps. This little boy is a tiny toddly two or three. He leans over the bottom marble step, which is wider than the concrete steps. It is also higher instead of lower than the step behind it. It isn’t really a step so much as a bench. The light brown little boy is quite a bit paler than his mother or aunt or babysitter or friend — let’s call her his “guardian”, but has her curly locks exploding up and over. “Not there! Over here! You can do the same thing over here.”
The annoying sunbathing man is not watching. His face is covered by his hands. He is whispering, “I need to get well, I need to get well, I need to get well” over and over as he, prone on the lowest concrete step, stripped to his waist, twists ever so slightly towards the sun, which is tilted thirty degrees to his left side and ten degrees behind his feet.
The guardian is an attractive young woman, tall and thin, with a long face with a wide forehead and curving a little to a sharp chin. A soft brown, with dark curls up and over and tumbling down. In stretchy black running pants and a maroon athletic top. And white running shoes. She could go running, but she has to keep an eye on the small denim-clad boy totter-step running everywhere.
This man sunbathes exactly ten minutes per side. This man is not here for pleasure. This man is taking his medicine.
What kind of a father not only lets his eight year old son skateboard without a helmet, but shoots movies of him ollying off of curving marble steps while kick-flip-spinning the board, and over and over again failing to land the trick and so sprawling forward on the cool white sidewalk by the entrance to the Brooklyn Art Museum? I don’t know, but the boy has long blond curling hair tumbling out his black baseball (but not of a team) cap, and the dad doesn’t (although the cap’s similar). The boy’s camouflage pants are not baggy like his dad’s tan ones. And the boy has on only a black T-shirt where the dad has an unzippered black sweatshirt over his black T-shirt. The dad sits on the sidewalk to try and get a better angle.
The sunbather by now has put his shirt back on and is watching from the other set of steps. Presently he’ll head to the second scheduled activity of his work-from-home lunch break: purchasing a chicken burrito.
What has happened in his life that makes him only want chicken burritos? What about everything else the world has to offer?
It’s so sunny out! Has the vitamin D helped? Is he cured? He feels better. He feels quite good. He thinks, “If only I could do this three days in a row! Then I’d be at full-health and wouldn’t need to tread so gingerly, stopping always to catch my reflection in storefronts, checking for signs of melancholy and fatigue.”
Today’s black bean, chicken, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese, rice, and guacamole burrito comes from Guatemala. (“add avocado”; “OK”; pause with cogitating eyes and then: “it comes with avocado — with guacamole”; “Oh, OK, great”; “OK, OK”, but then a worry lingers in brow: “you want the rest, right? Bean … “) Well, the small restaurant, all windows and light, has a Guatemalan and travel pictures of Guatemala (a gray Mayan pyramid; a colorful tour bus roaring down the road, wild heaps of green on all sides).
“What is ‘Cantinflas’?” The 20ish girl and 40something man say he’s a Mexican actor. And the man motions towards another man across the room, facing out one of the windows into the sunshine.
The man who’d been facing out the window swivels around to face the man who’d ordered a chicken burrito and had thought perhaps “Cantinflas” was some kind of a pun on “cantina” (because the poster showed a skinny mustached man drunken into a knock-kneed stupor, beer bottle clutched in one hand).
Heavy cheeks darkly stubbled. Somber bloodhound eyes. Fixes the burrito-buyer with a serious steady look (head bent a little forward, so that eyes have to roll up a little in their creased brow): “He was a comedian. A Mexican comedian.” “Oh!” “You remember Charlie Chaplin?” “uh, yeah, uh huh” “He said Cantinflas was the funniest person he’d ever seen — and he didn’t even speak Spanish! That’s how funny, how comedic he was. He’s like … what would be a good comparison?” “Charlie Chaplin?” “No, … I’d put him higher than that. I”d say more like the Marx Brothers and The Stooges. Let’s put them in a category.”
The man with the open blue sweatshirt, his back to the sun-streaming window, liked Robin Williams, though Richard Pryor was greater: “His comedy was more natural; it came out of his life. Williams was all over the place — he was cocaine without even taking it!” This last comment made with pauses, head tilts, and eye scrunches that conveyed, “yeah: he did take cocaine; but he didn’t need cocaine to fly so fast”.
Cantinflas died in the 90s, and you know what he said at that time? What he said was wrong with the world? That it’d forgotten how to laugh, that we’d forgotten how to laugh. That was his thing.
But then recently. It comes out. It comes out that he wasn’t that character. He was more serious; but he made other people laugh.
That happens a lot, actually.
Yeah, take, take Robin Williams: perfect example — hilarious; but he kills himself; he had a dark side.
[It should be noted that, though neither of the conversants brought it up and perhaps didn’t know or at least didn’t know exactly enough to venture mentioning, Robin Williams had a devastating neurological condition called Lew Body Disease. His widow wrote a moving account of its impact on their lives here: The terrorist inside my husband’s brain.]
Author: Walkalong Walt