I was in New York the other day and had an early dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. Half of us were sitting at tables set up in the street, the other half sat at tables on the sidewalk, as masked pedestrians ambled through what was now the center of the restaurant.

It was okay. In fact it was nice to be outdoors, even on Amsterdam Avenue, a grimy street on the brightest day. The food was delicious and other than the fact that the restaurant had given up its decades old “cash only” policy in favor of survival, it felt the same.

For now.

The cold weather will come and while the patrons of this particular restaurant will no doubt be willing to bundle up into October, then what?

As we wandered down the street after dinner past dozens of vacant storefronts and too many “house-less” folks camped out on the sidewalk, all the church bells in the neighborhood began to chime. And I realized it was 7 p.m. and the city was paying its respects to its First Responders.

And as we stood on the sidewalk and cheered, an elderly woman under a nearby awning ringing a school bell, it occurred to me that we need another ritual.

How about a nightly howl? Of frustration over the inequities and even the countless annoyances created by COVID? Of grief at everything we’re losing as the virus continues to eat its way through the population and decimate our economy?

And yes, we’ve been lucky and prudent here in Connecticut. But no matter how soft or hard your individual community or town or district has been hit, COVID has changed how we live our lives. And along with the pain and grief we feel and the incredible frustration we face every day as we’re forced to do the same things in harder ways, a lot of what’s affecting all of us is that it’s not clear that all the sacrifices we’ve made and frustrations we’ve endured will restore the life we’ve put on hold.

Hence the Nightly Howl.

And yes, I certainly hope we’re able to develop a vaccine or a cure or at the very least a treatment beyond mitigation. But will that bring back all we’ve lost?

And I know I’ve played on this string before. But something feels a bit different as the season changes yet again and the school year is still a bet and Zoom meetings have become the norm and I can’t remember the last time I was able to greet a friend with a hug. It’s begun to feel like the world has moved on and that by hanging on to the implied promise that if we mask up and shut down that life as we know it will be restored, I’m falling out of step with reality.

Hence the Nightly Howl.

Civilizations have been lost, of course, over the centuries. And new ones have sprung up. But I’m afraid this is cold comfort.

Hence the Nightly Howl.

As an artist, I’m seeing new forms spring up, which is always encouraging. But the number of amazing projects that have been scuttled and the artistic communities that have disintegrated is discouraging.

Hence the Nightly Howl.

The cities are hollowing out, leaving nothing but the empty apartments and townhouses of the very rich and the overcrowded apartments and sidewalks of the very poor. And yes, I’ve watched New York in particular come back time and again. But we have never gotten over the thousands of people we lost to AIDS and I suspect we will never get over the thousands lost to COVID.

Hence the Nightly Howl.

The virus has destroyed businesses large and small. And it’s not just a question of “the strong will survive.” Many wonderful business such as not-for-profits or arts organizations or labs pursuing cures or even lovely shops full of handmade goods always hang by a thread. Their bottom lines are not why we depend on them. They are at heart service organizations or passion projects and they enrich our lives. And they are disappearing.

Hence the Nightly Howl.

This new generation has been dealt a really cruel blow. They should be in school with their friends, establishing all the human skills needed to launch and lead brilliant lives. And instead they’re at home with video games or parsing out a day here or there at a school whose routines only enforce just how bizarre life has become. Will they ever feel free and confident and eager to take on a world that has already taken so much from them?

Hence the Nightly Howl.

Our politics is spiraling out of control and the abdication of responsibility by some networks and social media organizations is allowing lies and disinformation to distort reality and make the job of sorting through candidates for every office even harder.

Hence the Nightly Howl.

I’m a hundred percent behind peaceful protesters. It’s what makes us different from dictatorships and tyrannical regimes. But the rioting and looting and arson and shooting down of people in the streets is anarchy – no matter who provokes it or how justified it feels. Because of course both sides feel they are right, which is why violence is never the answer.

Hence the Nightly Howl.

I have called the police several times in my life – when I spotted flames on my roof that turned into a roaring fire, when I was burglarized, when I spotted a man in the neighborhood brandishing a gun. And I was never afraid to call them. And they were always wonderful. And it breaks my heart that my friends of color are justifiably afraid to call a cop when they need one.

Hence the Nightly Howl.

I saw a video last night of reluctant police officers evicting two young parents and their three tiny children. Like too many of us, the parents had lost their jobs and simply run out of money and had nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help. They are on the street. With three babies. In the middle of a pandemic.

Hence the Nightly Howl.

Silver lining? Where are you?!

I have a handmade sign on the wall in front of my desk. It’s from Martin Luther. “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

Luther was an optimist. So am I. Because of faith, yes. But also just because it’s a better attitude in the long run. If you’re a survivor.

So yes, we plant apple trees.

But I also recommend howling.

It really is very helpful. Perhaps not for the neighbors. But if you follow my instructions, they won’t even know. Here’s how to do it.

Pick a time when you’re alone. Find a nice fat pillow, place it on the end of the bed, tighten your abs, bend your knees and then beat straight down on it until you’re exhausted. This way you can’t hurt yourself because who needs to add an ice pack and a doctor’s appointment to the routine. Then pick up the feathery pulp that once was your pillow and place it over your mouth and howl into it.

You can channel Serena Williams or John McEnroe or a pack of wolves if it helps.

Just do it. Howl!

It really does help. And that’s a promise I can keep.

Connecticut Media Group