Opinion

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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Disclaimer: The following column is intended to provide a lighthearted response to the ongoing pandemic. In no way does it diminish or ignore the suffering or the unimaginable horror for people who have lost loved ones or who are on the front lines of the crisis. I continue to be grateful for all the help, support, and work everyone is doing to keep us safe, fed, and cared for (see last week’s column). This latest column, however, is designed to offer comic relief.

I was thinking about how life has changed in small, and largely insignificant ways. Please find below some “before coronavirus” and “after coronavirus” trivial differences for those of us fortunate enough to be inconvenienced and not irreparably harmed by the virus and when we’re not focused on the anxiety of shuttered businesses and lost income.

Where should we eat?

BC: Do you want to go to the Italian restaurant with the cool music and the frescoes on the wall, or the Chinese restaurant, with the incredible dumplings and the endless supply of hot tea?

AC: Should we go back to the kitchen, the dining room or the bedroom, where there are so many leftover crumbs that we could eat those for dinner without going to the refrigerator?

What should we wear?

BC: We could take the newly pressed suit that’s back from the dry cleaner, the slightly wrinkled suit that we wore a few days earlier, or the jeans and casual shirt that works on a casual Friday.

AC: We could take yesterday’s sweatpants, the ripped jeans that don’t smell too bad, or stay in the pajamas we wore to bed.

What should we do when we see people we know on the sidewalk?

BC: We slow our walk, smile, shake hands or hug and ask how they are doing.

AC: We run across the street, yell in their general direction and wave as we make the same joke we made the day before about the need for social distancing.

How do we start emails?

BC: We might dive right in, ask an important question or ease into it, hoping all is well.

AC: We often start emails by hoping the person we’re writing to and their family are safe.

How should we check on our college-age children?

BC: We can call them or FaceTime to see how they are doing and listen attentively as they share the excitement about school.

AC: We can call or FaceTime them from behind their locked door in our house and ask them how they are doing.

What do we do about the polarizing president?

BC: If we love him, we can find others who admire him. If we hate him, we can blame him for climate change, relaxing regulations, and changing the tone of discourse in Washington.

AC: If we love him, we can thank our lucky stars that he’s leading us and the economy out of this pandemic. If we hate him, we can blame him for our slow reaction and hold him to account for everything he and his administration haves said or didn’t say in connection with the COVIDcovid-19 response.

What do we do if someone sneezes?

BC: We offer a polite “God bless you” or, if we’re fans of “Seinfeld,” we say, “You are so good looking.”

AC: We drop anything we’re carrying and race across the room. When we’re a safe distance, we turn around scornfully, particularly if the person didn’t sneeze into anhis or her  elbow.

What do we think is funny?

BC: We follow our own sense of humor, reserving the right to laugh only when we feel compelled.

AC: We look at a picture of Winnie-the- Pooh and Piglet. We see Winnie telling Piglet to “Back the f$#@$ off,” and we laugh and send it to everyone who won’t get in trouble for receiving an email in which someone curses, after we ask if they and their family are safe.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

If you are feeling a mite anxious these days, just know that you are like the rest of us. According to a Siena College poll released Monday, New York State residents are “deeply worried,” with 92 percent of those polled saying they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about coronavirus. That’s as quoted by The New York Times. The poll was conducted between March 22 and 26 and surveyed 566 NYS registered voters by telephone.

Maybe we would feel better if we thought of this time as extended snow days? After all, remarkably we had no snow days this winter. I confess that’s something of a disappointment for me. I enjoy snow days — if they happen to occur on days when no one is inconvenienced. I accept them as a gift of time, like maybe one or two days to be homebound. That’s a chance to answer emails and cook a new recipe. But this coronavirus distancing is too much of a good thing; rather it’s a wicked thing. It’s scary because people are sickening and dying, and the governmental projections of casualties for the next two weeks are pouring oil on the fire.

There are two parts to our fear. 

Health, of course, is the first. We should all do what we are urged to do: Stay indoors to the fullest extent possible, wash our hands, use hand sanitizer when we can’t, don’t assemble in groups of any sort, even neighbors or relatives beyond our nuclear families and stay occupied — with work or entertainment.

The second part is economic. We read or hear that thousands are losing their jobs as business slows to a crawl or stops altogether. Businesses have no revenues with which to pay their employees. When companies like Macy’s and the Gap are furloughing most of their 125,000 and 80,000 workers respectively, how about the small business owner? They are all wondering how they will pay their rents, utilities and vendors. With no rents coming in, landlords worry about how they will make their mortgage, taxes, maintenance and insurance payments. And on and on, it’s a game of economic dominoes.

There are federal loans available, ranging from a maximum of $25,000 as bridge loans for disaster-related purposes to $210 million for disaster loans. These are made possible through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and for more information go to their website, www.sba.gov/disaster, or they can be reached  by phone or email for an appointment and advice. The trouble with loans, of course, is that they have to be repaid and with interest. That is more than most small businesses would be able to do, especially those already hit by the retail downturn.

While this is all incredibly worrisome, it might help to project into the future. How will we live differently? How will we work differently? Even, how will we shop for food differently? The world will change. Can we make it for the better?  

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Hello. Here we are again, one week later and still in the midst of COVID-19. In fact, we are in a lot deeper. I’m sure, even if we here in New York are used to being the center of everything, that it doesn’t make you a little bit happy to know we are at the epicenter of the United States pandemic. 

By the way, have you figured out how novel coronavirus morphed into  COVID-19? It was pointed out to me that the CO comes from corona, the VI from virus and the D stands for disease. The number 19 represents 2019, the year it emerged and flung itself on the unsuspecting population of the world. In fact, this new coronavirus was named by the World Health Organization.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Robert Burns wrote that saying, and well before COVID-19. Only he said it more elegantly in “To a Mouse.” What the Scottish poet wrote was, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft awry.” Well, I suspect you too, like me, are feeling awry or off-balance. 

This past Sunday was to be our 44thth annual People of the Year celebration at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook. There we would have handed out certificates and expressed appreciation to those who had worked to make our lives better during 2019. Instead all such gatherings were shut down for fear of contagion. Breakfast and luncheon appointments were cancelled, meetings were postponed indefinitely, children were home from shuttered schools and colleges, and supermarkets were swept clean of all animal protein and, would you believe, toilet paper.

This whole subject has got to be the dark comic relief of the times we are living through, as I have mentioned before. Who would have imagined that social status could be determined by how many rolls of toilet paper one possesses? Never mind Rolls Royces! Open your bathroom cabinet and let’s see how many rolls you’ve got in there. I’m happily receiving all sorts of cartoons on the subject. The latest one shows a typical family of four: — husband, wife, daughter and son, — in a subterranean room, up to their waists in rolls of the stuff, and the father asking, “Did anyone bring any food?”

There are things I have learned since this all began. I’m not talking about the big stuff, like what’s really important in life. No, more basic things. I never thought, when washing my hands, that I should also be including my wrists. I considered washing my hands to be just my hands. Now I soap up to above my wrist bone for the requisite 20 seconds, then rinse thoroughly. So if you see me and the front of my blouse is a little wet, you’ll know that I was diligent.

But you probably won’t see me, and I won’t see you because of self-isolation and social distancing. From six feet away, you won’t be able to judge the condition of my blouse. 

And by the way, how is your unsocial life going? Under the heading of learning new things, I have participated in my first Zoom session. And my second. And my third. The meetings were with the sales staff, and although we couldn’t share the cookies or pretzels usually brought by sales people to the meetings, we did get to see each others’ faces and hated the sight of our own necks.

All joking aside, I am as worried about the survival, among others, of small businesses in our villages as I am about the virus. That includes our business. It is short-term survival when revenues only trickle in and expenses continue rushing out. 

We know what we do, by delivering the latest news and vital information, is essential for the community. And in fact, so is what the other businesses do, for they make up the hearts of our villages. The government has just offered help for us to survive. We hope it arrives in time. 

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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know those glasses you wear at the eye doctor when you have to identify images that stand out on the card in your hand? These days, I feel as if I’m wearing them everywhere I go.

Take, for example, my trip to the supermarket. Before coronavirus, I often nodded to the people who stock shelves and chatted with the cashiers, acknowledging them but perhaps not appreciating them sufficiently. Nowadays, the entire food services crew stands out.

The people who worked on the farms that grew the products, the ones who went to the factory that refined it, the drivers who transported it to the stores and, eventually, the residents of our community who placed it on the shelves are making it possible for us to feed our families.

Each time I shop, I would walk around giving the local supermarket workers a hug, but that would violate social distancing, and would be pretty awkward.

Then, there are the pharmacists, who stand in their white lab coats mixing our medicines. We need them, now more than ever, to ensure we get the right amount of the right drugs.

Of course, even when I’m not seeing the doctors, nurses, police, and other first responders, I’m well aware of the front line in the battle against the pandemic. Each one of these people is putting their lives on the line when they interact with people who may carry an infection for which their bodies have no resistance, no matter how much coffee they drink or how much they hope they are invincible. With coronavirus glasses, I see them perform their heroic jobs each day, despite the concerns they may have about bringing the disease home to their families or limiting their contact with their relatives.

Fortunately, we are not so isolated that most of us can’t see important people in our lives through FaceTime. Many people contributed to the development of the phones that have become an extension of our bodies. The ones who made the futuristic Jetsons’ notion, in the animated sitcom, of seeing people as we talked to them have made it possible for us to connect from any distance, even if the ones we wish to hug are waiting out the storm in their living room next door.

Scientists throughout the world are working tirelessly to figure out the best ways to treat people lined up in hospitals or to create a vaccine that will protect us in the future. I am privileged to talk to scientists every day, although I haven’t spoken to any of the ones working on a treatment or vaccine. These researchers come from everywhere, are indifferent to national borders, and often are driven to make new discoveries, help humanity and make a difference in the world. Those of us who receive treatments or a vaccine for which they made a contribution can assure them that what they do matters.

The entire team involved in heating, cooling and lighting my home also stand out, as do the ones who created magnificent and inspiring films, books, and home entertainment.

Each day, people like Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and County Executive Steve Bellone (D) work tirelessly and visibly on our behalf. On Bellone’s daily media calls, he has remained level-headed, determined, and focused during the difficult balancing act of trying to protect our health while working to revive the economy, once the crisis clears.

I’m sure I’ve left many people off the list who deserve appreciation. In fact, if you, the reader, would like to share a few of the people whose work and dedication you appreciate, please write in and share your thoughts to news@tbrnewsmedia.com.

From left, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). Photo from the governor’s office

In the panic of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed, by several differing estimates, 50 to 100 million people worldwide, nobody trusted anybody, whether it was their neighbors or even their friends or family. The distrust started early when the government started lying to them, telling them it was just another standard flu, not to be worried about. 

Once people saw men and women bleeding from their mouths and noses in the middle of the street, they knew it wasn’t just a mild influenza. The level of trust was so bad there were reports people starved in their homes, with nobody willing to bring them food in the most rural areas of this country.

A crisis requires clear leadership. It cannot be politically motivated. It cannot be muddled in the daily sparring of political actors. It has to be precise, meaningful and factual. 

We here at TBR News Media are thankful that some officials are doing just that today in our time of crisis. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has to be commended for his response to the coronavirus crisis. Cuomo laid his cards on the table. He has been upfront about getting people statistics and updates on what the state is doing. He has made more and more drastic decisions in order to curb the number of infected people within the state.

“If you are upset by what we have done, be upset at me,” he said at a March 17 press conference. “County executives did not do this. The village mayor did not do this. The city mayor did not make these decisions. I made these decisions.”

Cuomo added, “The buck stops on my desk … I assume full responsibility.”

By owning the problems these executive decisions have caused, the governor has accepted the responsibility for everything that is happening and will happen. 

That doesn’t just take guts, that takes a true sense of civic responsibility and leadership.

We agree with that. We need only look at Italy to see just how destabilizing the disease can be if it’s left unchecked for too long. Doctors and nurses there have been made to triage, making decisions that mean life and death for some patients rather than others. 

We should also laud County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who on his daily calls with the press has been forthcoming in all details related to COVID-19. His answers have so far been consistent, and we hope such reliable communication continues.

There is no way to know the true impact of everything going on here long term. As expansive testing makes its way onto Long Island, finally, the number of known cases has spiked. We have not seen the end of it, nor really the peak, medical experts have warned.

That’s not even mentioning the economic impacts. Companies, both large and small, being shuttered for weeks on end could mean many thousands of unemployed people in just a few short months regardless of stimulus packages from Congress. Business owners have had to limit hours and foot traffic, or otherwise close completely. Many of those storefronts may never open their doors again.

There’s something strange about how mankind seeks strong leadership in trying times. There have been more than one book and movie about how people have handed power over to tyrants when the stage is set for mass upheaval. 

But this is a case of officials doing what they were elected to do. Every measure is instigated with a calm reassurance with a note of trying to make things better. This is New York at its best. We saw it with 9/11, and we’re seeing it here again. 

That is the kind of leadership we need now.

Photo from METRO

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Welcome to the home office. I have been working from home for years and would like to offer a few tips.

For starters, pets are generally awesome. They can reduce the stress from deadlines and from abrasive calls. Much more often than not, they seem absolutely delighted to see us and to give and receive positive attention.

The wag, wag, wag of a dog’s tail is almost as wonderful as the squeal of a happy toddler when he sees the ice cream on his plate or learns about a trip to the store — ah good times, remember when stores were open? — or to a visit with a favorite relative.

But then there’s the dark side. My big dog offers quiet companionship most of the time. He does, however, have an uncanny knack of barking at what appears to be absolutely nothing outside when I’m on the phone with someone who is coming to the point of a long and deeply moving anecdote.

Nothing takes the professional veneer off an interview with a Nobel Prize winning scientist, the chairman of a department or the head of a medical school faster than the unwelcome sound of a dog barking.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have exacerbated that dilemma. You see, I thought I hit the mute button on my phone and shouted unpleasant words at my wonderful four-legged companion, only to discover that, in my haste, I missed the button, giving my professional contact an earful of seemingly out-of-my-mind comments. 

So, there are two lessons: Keep your barking dogs far from the phone when possible, and make absolutely sure you push the mute button before breaking character and insisting that your beloved buddy stops barking at the squirrel that tortures him — and you — during important calls.

OK, so the next tip is fairly obvious, but bears repeating. The refrigerator is not calling you. While you’re home, you will undoubtedly have competing impulses that you might not have indulged in at the office with a trip to the kitchen. One of them is to fill the momentary lull between calls, or the period when you might otherwise chat at the watercooler about the latest sports games — ah, remember when we used to watch sports in real time? The kitchen is fine and doesn’t need a visit, especially given the dwindling supply of basic items that might be harder to get the next time you go to the supermarket — ah, remember the good times. OK, you get the idea.

Create signals with the rest of the family, who are home with you or back in the nest to alert them to the most important work-related tasks of your day. If you are on a conference call with people who are signing up for off-site responsibilities for the next few weeks, the last thing you want to do is have someone come to your work space and ask if you’ve seen the blue sock to match the one he’s holding with an exasperated look at your door.

Finally, remember that the kind of things you might say in the context of gossip or jokes don’t always translate through texts and emails. No matter how some emojis might indicate that you’re joking — a winking circular blob, perhaps or a shrugging face — the person on the receiving end of your witticisms might not get it and might not find your brilliance so charming, especially if she’s still upset at the words she screamed at her barking dog earlier in the day.

Photo from METRO

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Do you feel like you are living in the “twilight zone”? Our current world would make a riveting episode for Rod Serling’s 1960s television series. Here is an example of life imitating art, with our deserted village streets, our closed schools and our shuttered shops. Only residents popping out of restaurants with takeout orders offer signs of normalcy. I keep pinching myself, but nothing changes. This is not a bad dream. This is real.

What to do besides washing our hands? Don’t know about yours, but mine are already chapped from my conscientious response.

For starters, those not in essential businesses or services are asked to stay home. What has been deemed “essential” is interesting: pharmacies, restaurants — takeout only, gas stations, banks and liquor stores. Although we are not on the list, we journalists consider ourselves committed to providing factual information for our communities during these unprecedented times, and we remain at our posts although in a somewhat reduced number to honor the new phrase “social distancing.” For more about how we are functioning, please read the adjacent editorial. We are dedicated to bringing you a regular dispassionate update on the website and of course in the newspapers.

What else?

Certainly don’t check on the value of your stocks if you own any. Better to leave your 401K and IRA out of sight for now. No need to heighten the hysteria. And how long can we bemoan lost work hours, disappearing paychecks or sales revenues that have evaporated, even as our expenses continue unabated? For whatever consolation it may offer, we are all in this together, which means rules will be adjusted. 

The federal government has made some pledges of emergency cash, perhaps within two weeks, to keep the wolf from the door. There may even be subsequent payments. The infusion of such cash should stimulate the economy albeit briefly because it would probably be immediately spent. But for most families, it won’t go that far, which is frightening. Surveys have shown that four out of 10 Americans don’t have enough cash on hand to cover an unexpected $400 emergency expense without borrowing. Since the Federal Reserve has dropped rates close to zero, it is almost painless but always dangerous to borrow. Or perhaps it is an opportunity to renegotiate a loan or mortgage?

It is easy to be afraid. Society, as we have known it, is being altered — by government officials urging us not to touch or even be near each other. We can’t send our children to school, and now child care becomes a huge headache. But perhaps it won’t be because we may not go to work either. At least we can take care of the children. We are advised to maintain in our homes the same sort of schedule as the children follow at school: study hours, physical activity, playtime. More time with our families may be a blessing in disguise. Consider that we are being isolated from each other in the age of the internet, which means access to unlimited educational and recreational sources. The idea of learning remotely and working remotely is now going to be put to the test. There could be opportunity here.

I know this is tough to hear, but being upset doesn’t help anything. If we can calm down and manage the things we do have control over while we wait for the uncontrollable to settle down, we will have a good action plan to see us through these “interesting times.” There are, after all, closets to clean, desk drawers to sort, new recipes to try, books to finally read, movies to watch — even binge on if you have a series like “The Crown,” pleasurable moments to enjoy with family and the certitude that this, too, shall pass. 

This is the time that the Earth slowed down. The frenzy of everyday life is gone. Appointments, lessons, carpools, timelines, plans are all put on hold temporarily. It is a time for us to slow down, too, take some deep breaths, perhaps permit ourselves a nap in the afternoon. The tide has gone out and we can’t pull it back. But it will return on its own and just as strong.

Of one thing we can be sure: There will be a baby boom in nine months.

TBR News Media temporarily closes its offices to the public starting March 19.

At TBR News Media we remain committed in our responsibility to our communities.

That’s why in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and following the advice of health experts, until further notice our office will be closed to the public.

Our employees will be working from home as much as possible. As always, we will be checking our voicemails and emails and answering those messages. So, of course, keep on writing and calling. 

If you do see us out in the community, just as we have been doing for more than a week, we won’t be shaking hands and such, but all of us are more than happy to offer you an elbow to bump.

It’s important for each and every one of us in the office to do our best to stay healthy, as we need to be here to give you the news from the local perspective, and if we do run into you, that we don’t pass on anything to you.

When it comes to reporting the news, it will be business as usual. You will see our papers in your mailbox and local newsstands, and our website will be updated with the most recent news related to the COVID-19 situation in between editions.

We will also keep in touch with elected officials, local hospitals, school districts, organizations and more to bring you the most accurate news possible.

This is all unprecedented territory for all of us. However, modern technology will help us get the job done.

For example, just the other day Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) held an update on the county’s coronavirus response on a conference call with local journalists. With not only telephones, but FaceTime, Skype, and for those who are busy, emails, we will ask questions and track down answers.

As for our office outside the editorial department, our employees will stay connected through text messages, emails and Google Hangouts.

Speaking of joining forces, as always, readers are welcome to send in photos of anything interesting they see during their daily lives around our coverage area, whether it’s a house fire, car incident, wildlife at play or a beautiful sunset.

We would love to hear how everyone is doing during this time of temporary closures. Let’s hear your perspective, whether you’re a parent trying to balance work from home while monitoring your children’s studies, or a student trying to figure out what to do during this time outside of school buildings. Send us 400 words or less, and you may see your words on the Letters to the Editor page. Have more to say? We may just print it as a perspective piece in our news section.

We encourage our readers to keep up on the news, look for those pieces that attribute information to respected health organizations or experts — and heed their advice. That’s not to say there’s a need to overdo it and become panicked. Take the time to read respected and trusted sources, and don’t trust everything on Facebook as there are numerous rumors and falsities going around. Remember, always look toward trusted sources and fact-checking websites to get to the bottom of such rumors.

As we have been for more than 40 years, we will be here for our readers now and in the future.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Leave the coronavirus, Biden and Sanders behind for now and come with me to a delightful place. I will take you on my magic carpet to the largest private residence in America that is also a historic landmark: the Biltmore.

Located in Asheville, North Carolina, amid the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Biltmore is a country estate built by George Vanderbilt III in the style of a great European manor. To do so took six years of work by an army of artisans, and when the home formally opened Christmas Eve, 1895, it had four acres of floor space, 250 rooms, of which 33 were family and guest bedrooms, with 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens and an indoor swimming pool. In addition there were elegant furnishings, tapestries and artwork from Europe and Asia, and the home was ahead of its time with an elevator and
a refrigerator.

The mansion sat on 125,000 acres of forests, farms and a dairy, a 250-acre wooded park, five pleasure gardens and 30 miles of macadamized roadways. The architect was Richard Morris Hunt and the landscaper was Frederick Law Olmsted, known to us as the designer of New York’s Central Park. The cost to build such splendor was nearly $6 million out of Vanderbilt’s inheritance — that is about $1.6 billion today. He was then 33 years old.

Jan Aertsen van der Bilt emigrated to America in 1650 from Holland and was a farmer on Staten Island with his family. But it was Cornelius Vanderbilt ((1794-1877) who made the fabulous fortune. At 16, he borrowed $100 from his mother, or so the story goes, and started a ferry service across New York Bay. That grew into a fleet of more than 100 steamships that went as far as Central America and Europe. Appreciating the value of transportation, he eventually built a second fortune by investing in railroads, including New York Central.

He also believed in philanthropy, donating $1 million to Central University in Nashville that was renamed Vanderbilt University. Continuing with that tradition, his eldest son, William Henry Vanderbilt (1821-85), who in turn doubled the family’s assets, donating generously to the Metropolitan Opera and endowing the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the medical school of Columbia University.

And it was William Henry’s youngest son, George, born in 1862, who built the fabulous Biltmore Estate. He first visited the area in 1888 with his mother, who came to breath the healthy mountain air as a remedy for her asthma. He fell in love with its rugged beauty and decided to build his home, emulating the vast baronies of Europe, in Asheville. It was to be not only a showcase for his large art and book collections but also a retreat for entertaining and a profitable, self-supporting business. And so it is. In addition, with its thousands of original furnishings and artwork, it is an authentic picture of life during the Gilded Age. It is America’s larger version of Downton Abbey, only real.

Visitors can stay at The Inn on Biltmore Estate or other hotels on the property, and take the picturesque shuttles around the estate. There is much to see and do beyond viewing the four-story ornamental French Renaissance château-style mansion. A winery, stables offering carriage and trail rides, farms with animals, gardens, a conservatory and several restaurants and gift shops populate the acres. And flawless customer service from a large staff of some 2,300 accompanies the luxurious setting. More than 1.4 million guests visit the now downsized to 8,000 acres National Historic Landmark house, gardens, winery and village each year. And until April 7, there is an impressive exhibit of Downton Abbey, the series and movie, that further entertains. But at Biltmore, art merely imitates life.

Photo from YouTube

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We take so much of our life for granted. In some ways, it’s natural and necessary. After all, if we got up and stared out our window and marveled at the combination of sun and shade on the branches rocking in the wind, bent down to admire the dew clinging to the grass and breathed deeply of the newly blossoming trees every morning, we might never get our kids to school and ourselves to work.

And yet, all the news about the spread of this new virus and the ensuing reaction to protect the population — from closing schools to avoiding subways to staying away from large crowds — gives us an opportunity to appreciate the things, people and sensory experiences we take for granted.

No one will miss the scent of urine wafting up through the subways during a hot summer day when switching problems make everyone stand four, five and six deep on the platform, waiting for the next overcrowded and overheated subway car to arrive.

Still, we may miss so many other sensory, social and everyday experiences if and when we have to lock ourselves in our homes, waiting for the “all clear” sign.

So, what are some of those experiences? It depends on whom you ask and what time of year the question arises.

I appreciate the joy of people watching. After living in Manhattan for decades, I’ve learned to swing my eyes across the street inconspicuously, while I seemed lost in thought or even pretended to be on an invisible phone. Times Square, with its superabundant tourists speaking uncountable languages, wearing unrecognizable colognes and walking in all manner of shoes, is a great place to start.

But then, the line for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island offers a similar variety of people from all over the world. Instead of billboards of half-naked and incredibly tone and muscular bodies advertising Broadway shows and underwear, the backdrop for the people watching at the ferry lines includes the unpredictable waves of the Hudson River, which has its own personality, ranging from near stillness to foaming white caps.

Closer to home and nearer to summer, West Meadow Beach blends the natural with the call of the seagulls across the enormous intertidal zone and the salty, wind-carried scent; and the anthropogenic with the plaintive cry of babies overheated by the hot sun, the sound of music vibrating from sound systems and the sight of happy teenagers taking their first lick of their soft-serve ice cream cones.

I enjoy watching the end of a hard-fought tennis match, when two or four people come to the net and exchange pleasant handshakes and share thoughts about a good match or a good game.

The crowds at sporting events, many of whom we might not choose from a potential lineup of friends, become a part of memorable games and evenings, as we exchange high fives with inebriated strangers, share insights about what we would do if we were the manager of the team, or congratulate the parent of one of the players on our daughter’s team for the improvement in her game.

Despite the fact that I tend to avoid a crowded elevator car, an overstuffed subway or even an escalator with too many tired bodies waiting for a machine to bring them to the top, I will miss the chance to share some of these experiences with the random strangers who might become friends, the fellow sports fans who might offer a game-within-a-game entertainment, or the chance encounter with a long-lost friend whose winsome smile is the same as it was decades ago in an eighth-grade math class.